Saturday, December 31, 2016

Be Your Most Adventurous Self This New Year

What advice can be given to home chefs and bakers on this New Year's Eve?. Be bold. Be daring in the New Year! Broaden your culinary horizons. I know I will and it's going to be a wild, fun trip into the culinary unknown.

This is the year to be bold. Experiment. The worst thing that can happen is that the dish doesn;t come out well. Then tweak it. Don't be afraid. Dare. If you want to try meringues , then do so. Yearning to make that pineapple upside down cake or Dr. Pepper ribs, then do it. If there's a cuisine that you've longed to study in a cooking class , then go for the classes. They're not only informational, they're fun and you'll meet like-minded home chefs that will be instant friends. Turn your kitchen into a lap where you can mix and match different and diverse flavors. Who knows? You make come up with the next hit fo the new year.

The same ideology applies to gadgets too. If you want a mandoline, then buy it. A fryer? Or that frying pan that can cook and bake anything. Definitely add them to your arsenal of kitchen tools. Invest in meat and candy thermometers. These are must haves in any kitchen. They'll even inspire you to try bigger roasts and different forms of candy.If you want that cotton candy machine, go for it. It's not just as a fun party treat, Use it to decorate cakes and cupcakes. Try to make a bacon flavored one  to test your limits.Get the apparatuses to cure bacon at home or create  kimchee  and  sauerkraut. Have your significant other build a smokehouse or curing room for your foray into cold cuts.

The New Year is your oyster. Crack it open. Serve it with hot sauce or baked spinach. Turn it into your signature dish!

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Year To Fly

Every home chef needs to grow. I know I do and that will be one of my many New Year's resolutions . What will I do? What will I try?

Thanks to a new oven, I will be baking a lot. I've already baked Ghiradelli's Double Chocolate Brownies.They came out a little too gooey , so hopefully with more practice I'll be baking much more firmer ones. With baking comes decorating so I am definitely going to be honing my icing - hello again buttercream - along with practicing rose and leaf skills. Savory baking is also going to be high on my list. I want to experiment with strata, and rediscover the luscious leeks on toast ( double yum) and my Swabian zweibelkugen or onion pie (again double yum) a dense quiche like confection, rich with eggs, cream and onions. Homemade pizza will also be making quite a few appearances as well.

Another must is rediscovering roasts, hams, chickens, turkeys and London broils. It's going to be wonderful, with crunchy, crisp skins and slices of tender meat.There will also be sides  that will be cooked ( and all of these will be shown as Foodie Pantry how tos).I want to relearn how to make scalloped potatoes and baked Mac with bacon.As with cuisines, since French and Filipino are going to be big this upcoming year I want to expand into that, especially in creating the perfect crepe.

Every home chef and baker should resolve to expand their culinary arsenal.I know I will.I get to grow which makes for a better cook - or so I hope!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Be The Adventurer

One of the best resolution a home chef or home baker can make for the New Year is to be more adventurous. It's time to learn new techniques or try new ingedients. It's a fun learning experience that has some tasty rewards.

One of the best experience for any home chef is signing up for any kind of cooking or baking classes. It pays to learn from experts. They can show you how to expertly hold knives or use a sous-vide.They can introduce you to such sophisticated cuisines as French and Vietnamese or how to make a pizza or expertly frost a cake.

Make 2017 the year you try new one ingredients. Experiment. Go to Asian markets to sample exotic spices. Taste a fish, poultry or any type of exotic red meat .Go for emu or bison.Or go healthy. Go vegan.It's not only healthy but also tests your creativity as a cook.

This new year be adventurous.Be brave.Be curious. All this will make you grow as a home chef and baker.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Food Trends For The New Year

We all want 2016 to end.Foodwise, it was an OK year.Cheetohs may have made a comeback , thanks to a certain presidential candidate but that's it.What trends will bloom in the new year?

The New York Times Food section wondered this too in today's issue.Kim Severson, a regular contributor, wrote about trends of past years.1997 brought us the exotic wrap, now a staple of delis and luncheon platters every where.2006 brought us the uboquituous olive bar that is a supermarket must
2002 ushered in bubble teas while we have 2008 to thank for the rebirth of kale.Macaroons and whoopie pies were the it girls of 2011.

Trends used to take two to three months to percolate back in the late Nineties.Social media now can birth a trend and grow it overnight. Every December food wonks and PR firms throw out foods and see if they stick. 2017 is promising to see an interest in such diverse cuisines as French and Filipino. Natural grains such teff and sorghum may be in every baked good from cupcakes to breads. Egg yolks ,long under fire for being bad for you, is now going to be a top ingredient.Not surprisingly, hemp is also going to be hot.

What else will be the most trendiest food this year?It could come from any foodie. It could be hemp crepes or a Filipino egg dish. Any guess is a good one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Technical Difficulties

The pantry is having technical difficulties tonight.
Hopefully we'll be back tomorrow night!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best Christmas Gifts

What does a foodie and home chef  want  for Christmas? Anything that deals with food and the kitchen. Well, I don't know about any of you out there but I got my wish in the form of a madeleine pan and n eight piece glass baking set. It has definitely set the juices flowing again.

As you can see I received the much-coveted madeleine pan. I love madeleines and have been dying to bake them for a long time. Now with a tin and working oven I am definitely going to try my hand at this. These cake-like cookies are a bit labor intensive. but worth it the work, The recipe requires melted butter to be gently folded in along with freshly grated lemon zest. Baked madeleines are then dusted with granulated sugar while still warm. There are recipes for lavender infused ones and chocolate. The first is made with lavender infused honey while the chocolate ones are more like miniature baked cakes.Once I master the original recipe I'd like to move on to the espresso ones with espresso  icing. There is even a  savory madeleine recipe that involves  Parmesan cheese and rosemary or chives. These would be perfect for a brunch or an afternoon snack, along with being a bread for salad Nicoise.

My second gift is an eight piece bake set from Anchor-Hocking. This is exciting too because there's a wide range of dishes and treats I can bake. The larger casserole dish has got me thinking and researching chili bakes, those yummy yummy combos of chili and cornbread. They're kind of like a Southwestern shepherd's pie.but with the extra zing of chili powder. There is a covered  smaller sized dish for smaller bakes , such as bread puddings or strata,I am looking forward to making pies and quiches with homemade crusts too,.I've just found an easy quiche crust recipe that calls for olive oil, flour and cold water. Another recipe I 'd love to tackle is deep dish pizza, layered with mozzarella and veggies.I could also make a childhood favorite, Crazy Crust Pizza using Bisquick. The set also comes with two ramekins for custard or possibly for melting butter or margarine in the microwave. There are all sorts of possibilities with this amazing set and I;'m looking forward to trying out  scores of great recipes.

I've got my Christmas dishes and am chomping at the bit to try them out. I can't wait to tackle the complicated but oh so delcious madeleine recipes and the other baking recipes with my new Anchor Hocking set. It's going to be a fun winter ahead, as I try all sorts of new dishes in my cozy kitchen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Merry Christmas and Happy Happy Hannukah

To all my readers around the world have a Merry and food filled Christmas and Happy Happy Hannukah!!!

Enjoy these festive and ancient holidays with the best of friends and best of families

My newest feline foodie , Sunshine aka Sunny,

Friday, December 23, 2016

That Last Minute Frenzy.

The best part of Christmas is the array of dishes and drinks. The worst part is that last minute race to get everything.One of the best moves to alleviate this is to make a list of what's needed. It saves on getting doubles or forgetting a vital ingredient or component of dinner.

Tomorrow is going to be one of the busiest time of year.The roads are going to be clogged. The supermarkets are going to be jammed with home chefs and bakers looking for everything from cloves to colored sugar. It's going to be a mess, What can help anyone is making a list of what's needed. Check to see if you have all the ingredients necessary to create a holiday dinner.Also remember to stock up on the items that you know will go fast. This usually means soda, rolls, olives, and cheese. If you have to go to the store, remember that stores can run out , and the holiday weekend can interfere with deliveries. If that's the case settles for substitutes, like the generic brands. Don't go on a multi store mission.Again the main thoroughfares are not going to be the best, Stay put. Most big supermarkets like Stop and Shop and Acme have enough variety that you can find substitutes.

Another way to deal with that last minute frenzy is think outside the box. Dollar stores can provide you with everything from mints to tablecloths. They're great places to stock up on plastic cups and glasses  along with centerpieces and favors.Any dollar store has salad tongs, meat forks and a whole slew of kitchen tools to facilitate prep time. Also pick up dishwashing soap there too for all that washing up afterwards.If you run out of something during cooking or baking ,don't despair. Do what home chefs and bakers have done for centuries - borrow. If you run out of anything, then rely on friends, family and/or neighbors to supply you with any ingredient.Payback could be a cup of whatever was borrowed. An even better return is a meal in or a plate of cookies.If you can;t borrow - innovate. . Honey can be used for sugar. Nutmeg can be a sub for cinnamon. Create a new dish using what you have in the house.You may surprise yourself  along with family and guests.

Don't be swept away in the last minute holiday frenzy. Do what you can to avoid it It'll make for two days of easy cooking and baking..

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gingerbread House 101

Everyone wants to make a gingerbread house for Christmas. However, it's one of the hardest baked projects to make and even experienced home bakers may balk at baking it. There is one solution - the pre fab kind .That's the one I bought at my local Walgreen's. Was it simple? I 'll let the pictures tell the story
The brand was Walgreen's on brand Savor The Season, costing only a mere $6.99. It looked easy to do, with six pre stamped pieces and an assembly tray.See below.
The house pieces are first put in the four canals or channels. This provides support something a homebaked gingerbread house doesn't have. Icing has to be applied around the pieces edges, acting as a mortar.

This has to be kneaded for two to three minutes to give it a good adhesion to the gingerbread. This is where it gets hairy and the swearing starts. The icing is kind of like a tasteless royal  icing and all that manipulation does nothing.It does come with two kinds of decorating tips, one for outlining the other for creating those snowy mounds dripping off the roof. Except the icing really drips off the roof and onto the assembly tray,It also drips down the windows and doors, giving the house a bizarre Salvador Dali effect. 

See? It only gets worse.

The roof is only slightly better. The decorations are made from Sprees, or Pucker up, peppermint discs, candy beads, and gumdrops. Unfortunately, this went on to the second problem.
The candy proved to be too heavy for the icing and fell off.The box's picture  show cheery red and green decorations, perfectly applied. Yeah, right.They had to be applied a second and third time , thanks to a heavy blob of icing and laying the candy flat against the gingerbread. Luckily it more or less worked out.

It looks cute even though the windowsills are a bit wonky. If I have to make another one, I will decorate first and then assemble.

So how would I rate this?Interesting but frustrating. To any
one getting this kit, decorate the sides and roof first, let the decorations  settle and then glue together, 

All I can say is just get it. It may turn out fairy tale perfect. It may turn out to be a salute to surrealism.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Tasty Holiday Issue

The New York Times has given us some great holiday recipes and today is yet another issue of yummy Christmas and Hannukah dishes. It's a wide variety of different flavors and textures. along with a vast array of diverse ingredients. Best of all any of these can be a holiday tradition made year after year.

One of the best articles is by Food regular , Julia Moskin, She wrote about that rich , eggy dense pudding - flan. Her recipe is the perfect recipe.It is a smooth textured one  with the zing of lemon added. Cinnamon can be subbed in for the lemon, for a Northern Spanish twist. One of the most disconcerting aspects of the dessert is the caramel topping. This is usually a burnt sugar ,made with just sugar melted in a heavy saucepan. Home chefs attempting this should try a "wet" caramel, with water mixed in with the sugar.It will finish off the flan with that burnt umber syrup.What can go before the flan is Dave Tanis of A City Kitchen 's column.It is a classic French dish that also has bouquet garni and carrots.Horseradish can be slathered on them for a sharp contrast.

Hannukah is also celebrated, thanks to Melissa Clark's olive oil challah recipe. along with Joan Nathan's article on latkes..The first celebrates the miracle of the oil thanks to the addition of this classic ingredient.It is a braided bread that can also be repurposed for French toast and bread puddings. Challah dough is one of the easiest doughs to work with for home chefs. If you want the most traditional dish, then think latkes.Joan Nathan wrote about them in her article. These are not exactly the classic ones, thanks to Chef Daniel Rose.They're made with clarified butter along with being transformed into one big , crispy pancake as opposed to a slew of tiny little pancakes.Onions are also added for an earthy sweetness.It's fried in grapeseed oil and served with creme fraiche and an apple compote instead of the usual sour cream and apple sauce.It can also be used a a based for Eggs Benedict too.

These recipes will make Christmas and Hannukah more memorable. They're classics updated for a better , more enhanced taste. Make anyone part of the holiday cooking tradition.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sweet Homemade Treats

One of the best gifts any home baker or candy maker can give is one or more of their on creations. Everyone loves basket filled with homemade cookies or a tin of freshly made peanut brittle or fudge. Even better is a gingerbread house that's not only a fun nibble but a beautiful decoration.The best part is that treat making is relatively easy and not that labor intensive.

If you  have no time but still want to give a yummy gift then go to your local Walgreen's. They are selling Savor The Season Gingerbread House Kits.

It has everything, including already filled frosting tubes along with candy beads and Smarties along with peppermint discs for decoration. The house itself is a "prefab" already baked and cut out.It can be created in six easy steps. Walgreen's also sells gingerbread villages that are also easy to construct. It's three small homes along with a church. You can also create your own by using a mix.Cookies are another big treat . Make a few different kinds like the classic chocolate chip and shortbread along with decorated sugar cookies.Customize them with the recipient's name and even a cookie portrait. Sprinkle holiday candies like Hershey's mint Kisses or M&Ms for an added fancy treat.

Candy also is a treat. Homemade is even better..Many home chefs balk at the idea of making candy , afraid of either getting bad results or burned. Acquiring a candy thermometer helps.It can tell you exactly what temperature the mixture is . As for bad results, look for a clear, crisp day with no humidity. Moisture in the air has a definite and negative effect on candy's texture, creating a very soft texture when hard is desired. Simple candy recipes like fudge
is a great and yummy gift.For a quicker cook, use the microwave. A simple one calls for chocolate chips, and condensed milk. Add nuts such as walnuts and pecans  for texture or mint or brandy for an added boost of flavor.Peanut brittle is one of the simplest and most delicious to make.It's just sugar, butter,baking soda, and nuts cooked together to form a rich syrup. Vary it by subbing in other nuts such as walnuts or Macadamia nuts.Omit the nuts and you have toffee.

Homemade sweet treats are the best gifts in the world. It shows your love as well as your love of baking and candy making. Make a basket of any of these goodies for a wonderful Christmas memory.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Make The Ordinary Extraordinary

With the holidays coming up many home chefs feel too tired to cook this week, many home chefs are taking it easy this week. Meals will be simple, with home chefs saving the more elaborate fare for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yet those simple meals can be made with an easy flourish. It's not even labor intensive. It's just simple food with a few extras.

One of the easiest meals to make is soup. Canned soup is nice.It's easy to heat up and serve. What makes it even better is serving hot rolls with it along with a salad. Some stores such as Acme have in store baked biscuits. These can be turned into, hot just from the oven ones simply by covering them with a wet paper towel and popping them into the microwave for thirty seconds.. This gives them a tender moist crumb along with being perfect for a pat of butter.They go great with any kind of soup from tomato to any cream. A soup that 's quick to make but has a true homemade taste is Bear Creek.It's just adding water to a powdered mix and stirring for fifteen minutes. They have great flavors like potato and cheddar beef along with an instant chili.If you;re still craving true homemade think frittata. This is the omelet's Italian cousin and can be made into a delicate crepelike concoction. Home chefs can add fancy extras such as pancetta or even truffles. Serve with a light Reisling for even more luxury.

Even the simplest of desserts can be turned into something extraordinary too. By no everyone is sick of all those holiday cookies.Try a store-bought angel food cake, such as the loaf ones from Stop & Shop. Pair it with sliced strawberries which can be bought fresh and whipped cream. Sliced peaches can also be used too..It's a nice, refreshing break from all those heavy holiday fruitcakes and desserts, almost like a return to summer.Another simple extravagance is sherbert in citrus. This is te time for oranges. Why not scoop them out and replace with layers of  unseeded orange slices and orange sherbert. The same can be done with lemons and limes too.Just remember to remove the seeds before preparing. Even though it is chilly out, a simple dish of vanilla ice cream can be a treat. Top it with one of Smucker's rich fudge or salted caramel toppings. These can be warmed in the microwave for a warm gooey treat.An even more luxurious treat is drizzling a good brandy over the scoops.It's a nice way to unwind after a hectic day of shopping or work.

Make the simple luxurious just by adding little extras to your meals and desserts. It makes for easy but lush eating. Perfect for this time of year.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Fun Snowy Day In The Kitchen

A snowy day means a lot of fun to kids. It's a day out sledding down hills and making snow angels.It also can be a fun day inside, teaching the kids how to make everything from haute cuisine to fast food favorites.

Before you do anything, make sure you have all the ingredients. It's no fun running out of milk or flour and either braving the weather to go to the store or heading over to the neighbors with an empty measuring cup.If you're making any kind of dough, then have a five-pound sack of flour. Also have other essentials on hand too. Get extra eggs, cheese and tomatoes. Make sure the pantry is stocked with pizza and tomato sauces along with packets of easy to make sauces such as Hollandaise. Also, make sure you have enough milk. You'll need it for both cooking and making hot chocolate. The cooking fun can start with breakfast. French toast is an easy cook and can be made with any kind of bread, from challah  for a rich , chewy slice or whole wheat for a somewhat healthy start the day nosh. Older kids can even make it themselves. Younger home chefs can learn how to make maple butter - an easy mix of maple syrup and butter. You can add pumpkin pie spice for a zippier flavor. Kids can have fun with making omelets, adding favorites such as pepperoni and cheese for added taste.Breakfast sandwiches are also fun and kids can have a ball creating their own combos.

For the more sophisticated little gourmands, introduce them to Eggs Benedict This can be made not only for breakfast but also for lunch and even dinner.Again it's an easy cook that even six year olds can do. Depending upon their skill level, they can toast the Engish muffins or poach the eggs. Packaged Hollandaise sauce is a cinch to make.It's just adding melted butter and then stirring until well mixed. Those English muffins can also make neat pizzas too. Who doesn't love a personalized pizza dripping with tangy sauce and gooey ,mozzarella cheese. Load on your favorite toppings, from black olives to mushrooms to even salami. Stock up on several packages of English muffins because no one can stop at just one mini pie. For a more of a challenge, try tacos Kids not only love eating these , they also love making these as well. Again they can learn safe chopping techniques as they cut up the tomatoes and lettuce to cooking the meat fillings. Other fun Mexican  style treats are guacamole and salsa which again any baby novice chef can whip up. A snowy day also calls for spaghetti and meatballs. They're easy to make, especially the meatballs. It's the perfect time to introduce them to family recipes along with the enjoyment of making a satisfying meal.

A snowy day means fun , especially in the kitchen, Show the kids how to make favorite recipes to while away the hours. They'll enjoy not only cooking but making delicious dishes too.

Friday, December 16, 2016

That Holiday Baking Guilt

Yes, it's that time of the year when all home chefs are expected to magically transform into bakers. That's great if they have a lot of time along with having a knack for turning their kitchen into a Keebler tree. As for the rest of us? Uh oh, here comes that holiday baking guilt.

We all feel that our families deserve the best especially around the holidays. We want them to have the best presents, the best Christmas meal, the best time ever.In other words, a nearly impossible experience only exacerbated by giving them store-bought cookies to go with that Christmas morning hot cocoa or leaving Oreos out for Santa. There are a couple of solutions here. One is the classic  Pillsbury Slice and Bakes which gives the same homemade taste without all that work. As we can all attest the chocolate chip ones taste exactly like the Toll House recipe.The chocolate is gooey, even hours out of the oven and the cookie itself has rich brown sugar taste.There is also their sugar cookie flavor which is perfect if you have little artists who love to decorate. The snaps can even be turned into sandwich cookies thanks to the addition of a super easy cream cheese filling. It's just the cheese (or Neuchatel if you want to go fancy ) confectioner's sugar and a small drop of vanilla. Roll in red and green colored sugar for a fun holiday look.

Of course the second, easiest of the easiest holiday cookie solutions is bakery cookies. Some, such as the century old B&W Bakery in Hackensack, New Jersey have an amazing array of recipes that have been passed down from the bakery's original German owners. What I love about them is that they don;t follow trends. You're not going to see anise curry cupcakes or pistachio basil macarons. These are just simple butter stars and plain almond macarons.
You can see just how home made looking the butter stars are, with just a drop of green or red sugar in the middle, affixed with a simple egg white wash or glue. They are mouthfuls of pure butter and sugar, light, crisp and delicate. B&W's macarons' are the perfect holiday cookie, too. These bite size rounds have just the right amount of sweet chewiness with the perfectly laid back taste of almonds - and nothing else. I don;t feel guilty when I serve these to family and friends as a holiday treat.To me they're a holiday tradition, Also, with the cookies already taken care of, I can concentrate on wrapping and cleaning,No guilt there, just relief that I have more time freed up.

If you;re too busy to bake, don't. There are a few alternatives to scratch cookies, from Pillsbury to your favorite local bakery.Everyone can still have tasty sweet treats and be happy. No need to suffer any regret from not making the perfect cookie.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Easy Breakfast Dinner

One of the most fun and easiest suppers to make is breakfast for dinner. It's a fun way of having all those yummy morning treats like eggs done anyway or French toast. A tasty one that's a crowd pleaser here in New Jersey is the classic pork roll or Taylor ham with soft boiled eggs. It's an easy cook for both novices and experienced chefs.

Before cooking the pork roll remember to make four slits at the edges, usually at the compass points , north east south and west. They cook up better and don't resemble sombreros Or Mexican hats as I used to call them).

They're supposed to be cooked in a minimum of butter or margarine, but I've always loved them swimming in a molten puddle of either one. It's good to fry the eggs in afterward.

I've opted for sunny side up or fried. The yolks are perfectly runny , making a delicious part of a trio of them, Taylor ham and white bread. This last you can use any brand but I prefer Pepperidge Farm. It has a sweetness and chewiness that works well with the other two textures. Pork roll also tastes good with fluffy scrambled eggs too or it can be cut up into omelets.  The choice is yours.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Recipes Of The Year

The New York Times Food section has comes out with their recipes of the year. One of the most favorite and famous was Sam Sifton's Mississippi Roast. This was a vastly popular one, consisting of pot roast, a stick of butter and ranch dressing.. It's a great mid-winter dish, especially paired with egg noodles or homemade dumplings. A variation on that was a plain pot roast, using the beef cut for pot eu feu.Again this is a great chilly day meal.

Another fave was Middle Eastern Herb and Garlic Chicken.It's garlicky and lemony with the right amount of spice. Chicken also stars in an enchilada recipe with a tangy salsa verde.Creamy corn pasta with basil also using fresh corn and scallion. Fresh from the stand corn is recommended but since's it's December, use the frozen stuff.Use orechette or farfalle for the pasta.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Easy Meals For The Pre Holidays

The pre-holiday time can be crazy. It's a time of non-stop shopping or house cleaning. It's when  you're too tired to even chew, let alone cook. What to do?

I'll be honest I head to Acme or Stop and Shop.It's just easier. Look at what I got at my local Acme today.

It's their brand of gravy which tastes exactly like homemade.I paired it with their fresh from the bird slices of turkey

The meat was tender and juicy ,with a nice salty, crisp skin attached ,  tasting as if it came out of my new oven itself. I paired the two over slices of Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread.Yummmy!!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Pantry Is Open!!!!

I am more than happy to announce that Foodie Pantry has reopened!This will be a new era thanks to the new Frigidaire stove below:

This renaissance period means more pictures of different dishes being prepared, definitely more baked goods and decorating . Of course, there will be the same cookbook and product reviews as well as the usual Wednesday and Thursday Times food section analysis. It wouldn;t be Foodie Pantry without all that. Hopefully, there will be more celebrity chef and food entrepreneur interviews as well as reviews of cooking shows and cooking channels.

Welcome back!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Break From The Pantry

Foodie Pantry will be closed for an indefinite amount of  time. I don't know when it'll reopen.or if it will. That's up to the fates.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Burger Wars

Once again there is a new burger joint in the area. Habit Burgers has hit north jJersey, bringing with it cheery Californian interiors and a new way of serving burgers.Is it as good as any of the other burger joints like Jake's Wayback or even Wendy's? Yes  - and no.

As anybody who lives in the Garden State will tell you we have dozens of eateries that feature fast food. Many are diners such as the Bendix in Hasbrouck Heights that cook up any kind of dish, from breakfast to snacks. These also have an element of home cooking  to them. Burgers are not preformed patties that are shipped in from a main distributor. They're ground beef , usually made from  fresh chuck and zested up with chopped onion, parsley and sometimes butter or margarine There's a juiciness  to them,along with that pleasant greasy taste no one seems to mind, The fries are also plank style , some big and meaty; others crispy and golden,Some like the Windmill chain in Central and South Jersey give diners big piles of crinkle cut fries, all evenly fried and deliciously crispy. Their sandwiches, ranging from hamburgers to hot dogs to grilled chicken, are ample and are cooked on the grill like their diner cousins. To be honest the Windmill hot dogs are the best in the state. Charred, with crispy skin, they have flavor and the added bonus of texture. The burgers are OK, filling  but overshadowed by the huge kaiser rolls that they're served on.

So does Habit's famed Char Burger beat these Mom and Pop attempts at fast food? Yes and no.The burgers are nicely charred. The taste is reminiscent of those backyard burgers we grew up on. However, the high heat does dry them out a bit so the texture is not soft but dry and crumbly. There's no moistness there.It does pay to have lettuce and tomato added for some juiciness. The cheeseburger looks good with  the cheese melted and drippy. There are some other dishes that look tasty  such as the fried green beans in batter along with the grilled chicken. Will it beat out the reigning burger joint in the area which is Jake's Wayback? For one thing Jake's is much smaller and , even though it is a franchise, feels more like a Mom and Pop place. The servers know the regulars and make them feel completely at home. The burgers, especially the turkey ones, are so  moist and juicy. that you always need a napkin to wipe your chin. The fries are a mound of golden crisp goodness. Another plus is their  homemade potato chips which are perfectly crunchy and evenly fried.Wendy's is also in the local burger wars. It beats out McDonald's and Burger King for taste. Their burgers are not greasy like those other two. Neither the burgers or the fries have that greasy aftertaste.The chain also has more choice too. with the addition of bacon and different sauces .

Will Habit Burgers beat out Jake's Wayback and Wendy's? That depends on people's tastes. Locals may enjoy the novelty but eventually they'll return to their favorites. Eateries have loyal fans. They return to their favorites in the end.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cleansing Moments

Palate cleansers may sound like they belong in the bygone aristocratic days of Downton Abbey, but they are relevant on today's table. They provide a refreshing  break from a  course that is too spicy or too gamey.They're also  a nice way of slowing down a party dinner, giving guests time to digest and relax a bit.

This mini-course came about from the Italians who named it intermezzo. Basically it's a very small plate served halfway through  a meal of several courses.It's usually a light two  bite affair. A true Italian one features light neutral flavors such as basil, mint or parsley. It can also be any piece of fruit, sparkling wine or a sorbet. The last is usually a liqueur, wine or fruit flavor. The French, too, enjoy palate cleansers. They have a slightly different belief about them than the Italians do. In the Gallic diet, the cleansing plate is not only to wash away any lingering strong flavors from the previous course but also to aid in digestion, avoid heartburn and stimulate the appetite for the next course. In Normandy,  the French province known for their apples, apple brandy or Calvados is used. It is a strong , fiery shot called trou Normand,  Palate cleansers should work with the cuisines.. They shouldn't be overpowering and leave an aftertaste of their own  the next course.If it's a homemade cleanser, then be sparing with the flavorings.Don't go  overboard .The taste buds only have to be refreshed , not hosed down.

What is a good palate cleanser? Sometimes it's just a glass of water, well chilled with ice. Sparkling water can also be used, usually graced with a slice of lemon or lime, Surprisingly enough tea can also be used.Try a lightly brewed green, black or mint tea with the barest of sweeteners.It can be served hot or cold, but for fall and winter feasts serve it hot and save the iced version for spring and summer meals.Celery sticks or sliced Granny Smith apples make wonderful , informal palate cleansers. Serve them on a fancy plate after the first course. A sprig of parsley can also work too. Most palate cleansers are usually sorbets. It's usually lemon, lime or mint and it's easy to make. It's just taking
one cup each of water, sugar,  lemon,or lime juice for the fruit sorbets. The mint requires one packed cup of chopped mint leaves two cups of water and two and a half cups of sugar. A quarter of a cup of sweet wine is also needed.It 's simmering over a low flame and then putting the liquid into an ice cream maker . One scoop is placed in a fancy silver or glass bowl and decorated with lemon, or lime zest for the fruit sorbets. The mint sorbet usually is decorated with a curled mint leaf.

A palate cleanser is a nice way to prepare the taste buds for the next course. Make it a sorbet or a plate of celery. It will be a hit with guests who want a refreshing change of pace.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Leftover Issue

What to do with those scores of leftovers? Not surprisingly Wednesday's New York Times Food section came out with its' leftover issues. After all, it guided home chefs through the prepping and cooking their Thanksgiving meal. It should be no different the day after. There are some innovative dishes to try with what's left of your holiday  bounty.

If you're tired of tetrazzini or turkey sandwiches you may want to read  Samin Nosrat's contribution to the Food section.Chef Nosrat not only cooks but writes a popular blog. She spices up the usually bland meat with a dazzling array of spices and ideas. Turkey is an excellent canvas because it easily absorbs other flavors which only accentuate its mild gaminess.If you're looking for a light leftover then think the Vietnamese chicken noodle soup pho ga .It' a clear broth zested up with star anise, ginger, and fish sauce.It does require turkey broth but if you don't have it  then sub in chicken broth.There's also brown sugar and fish sauce.If you don't have or can't find the last mix up soy sauce with hoisin and use that.The soup also has yellow onion too for flavor and texture. The onions and ginger can either be charred over an open flame or broiled on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pho ga is a fun soup because eaters can customize it from a platter of add-ins such as mung beans, cilantro, Thai basil, limes, and jalapenos. It can be fragrantly herbal or zingy with fire. It's also a comforting noodle soup thanks to also having rice vermicelli added, perfect on a cold November night.

Chef Nosrat also gives us turkey mole verde and turkey tikka marsala. The first is a nod to Mexican cooking and is a great way of combining light and dark meat.It's not the typical mole recipe that requires cocoa  but a green one made up of  tomatillos, chard  romaine leaves, jalapeno,cilantro, and oregano. Again it does require turkey stock but chicken can do nicely here.It also has an interesting paste made from pumpkin and sesame.It can be served with steamed white rice or corn tortillas.For an entirely different spin Chef Nosrat gives us turkey tikka masala.It's marinating four cups of the bird in a bright  and spicy bath of garam masala, coriander ,cumin, paprika and turmeric blended with crushed garlic and plain yogurt.The masala  calls for ghee or clarified butter but you can also use a neutral tasting oil such as vegetable or olive.This is made separately with tomatoes and serrano peppers as the marinated turkey is broiled  until it blackens in spots. This  usually takes five to six minutes..Before combining the meat and masala, the masala has to be pureed for a smoother texture, The turkey is then added to this and simmered for five to ten minutes, with an occasional stir until it's done. Garnish with cilantro and serve with steamed basmati rice.

Don't  let that turkey languish in the fridge.Use it in fun and spicy recipes that will accentuate its' gamey , sweet mildness. It is the perfect canvas for all sorts of flavors and techniques.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers around the globe. Put aside all those political views and slights and relish each other along with the turkey.It is a day of coming together over family recipes and family stories.

Remember to give thanks and count your blessings. There are those out there who can't even and afford. enjoy a simple plate of white meat and gravy. Remember them at the holidays and all year round too.

Most of all, take time to thank everyone,, family friends and even animal companions for their kindness and comfort.It wouldn't be the holiday without them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Eve Prep Time

The night before Thanksgiving is always a fraught time for home chefs.Not only is tomorrow a time for tears and triumphs, the night before can be crazy too. However, the insanity can be lessened just by being orderly and doing some of tomorrow's prep tonight.

This is the time to assess all your ingredients and make sure you have enough and then some. If not, make that trip to the grocery for anything extra, whether it's a couple of bottles of soda or more salad. Also, ask family and guests if they're bringing any last minute plus ones. An extra plate at the table could mean shortages. It's better to have overage than be short and now is the time to go out and get enough for tomorrow. It's the night to make pies too. If you're too tired, always get help. You could make a night of it with friends and family turning the night into a baking party.(just be careful with the libations - no one wants a pumpkin pecan mash up pie). Also prebaked crust or pre made pie dough is a huge help.The same goes for any dessert, from pumpkin mousse to sweet potato pudding. It's also a good time to whip cream and put the butter onto the fancier butter dish. The less smaller chores can be done tonight. If the kids aren't too engaged with their devices they can also help out with polishing the silverware and setting out the plates and utensils. They can also help with decorating the table too along with any last minute dusting and cleaning.

Many home chefs wonder if they can start prepping the night before to save time in the morning.The answer is yes.Veggies can be cut tonight for use tomorrow. Keep them in a bowl of ice water until they're ready to use. This also works perfectly for iceberg and romaine lettuce  too. Any lettuce can also be kept fresh by wrapping a cold damp paper towel around the leaves.It's also a good time to make the vinaigrette or any homemade dressing too, storing it in a cruet  in the fridge. Another must is tearing up the bread for stuffing and then storing it in airtight plastic bags.This will cut down on the time spent making the stuffing and let home chefs move quicker onto the next dish. Pots and pans should all be out tonight too. That way it's easier just to grab them instead of spending minutes searching for them .Breakfast is another meal to think about tomorrow.Unless there are guests staying over, keep it simple.  A bowl of cereal or oatmeal is always a good way of starting .If the whole family is together then just have a bagel brunch where there's a minimum of fuss and bother Let the family cook and clean up after themselves if they want something more involved like scrambled eggs and bacon or French toast.

Don't turn Thanksgiving Eve into a night of panic and craziness. Keep it cool and calm by doing prep time tonight.It makes for an easier holiday tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Antipasto

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the antipasto or first course.Many Northern and Southern Italian families celebrate the holiday with platters of delicious charcuterie along with tasty nibbles. It's actually a nice way to open up any holiday party or dinner.

One of the most important parts of an antipasto is the variety of cold cuts being served. Prosciutto is a must.It's a dry cured ham that lends a delicate salty taste to the course. Most usually pair it  with a slice of cantaloupe but prosciutto shines when it's served on a slice of crusty Italian bread or rapped around grissini, the super thin breadsticks from Torino. Another antipasto meat is mortadella. This is a silky textured slice of heaven made from hashed or ground heat cured pork and lard.Pistachios, myrtle berries and black pepper give it its' unique flavor. Again it shines when it's highlighted on a slice of Italian bread. The classic salami is also featured in the first course. This is a crowd pleaser, because of it's strong ,salty flavor. It's usually made of pork but can be made of beef.The name comes from sale , the Latin word for salt., the meat being heavily salted to preserve it. It's good on its' own but can be served with crackers and flatbread.Certain wines go well with pork based charcuterie. Remember to avoid wines with really heavy tannins. Try a white wine such as Pinot Grigio that also goes well with the vegetables Even though it's a German wine, Liebfraumilsch,a dry white wine originating in Rhine Valley , is another good choice, Its'  taste complementing the charcuterie's dry saltiness.

Antipasto wouldn't be anything without the vegetables and other dishes. Marinated red peppers are always on an antipasto plate. They can be bought jarred at the local grocery or salumeria but they can also be made at home.It's just taking red pepper strips and marinating them in a brine of vinaigrette with the addition of basil and parsley. Artichoke salad can also be added, giving the course sweetness and color.Devilled eggs and stuffed celery are the nibbles that make antipasto festive. Devilled eggs are an easy cook. It's just hard boiled eggs halved and the yolks mixed with ketsup and mayo. The mixture can be piped back into the yolk hollow for a fancy look. Dust with paprika for an every fancier bite..  Stuffed celery is the perfect delicate foil for the rest of the antipasto's spiciness. The stuffing is a mix of hard boiled eggs with cream cheese mashed together. It's then stuffed into celery sticks for a tasty cool treat. No antipasto would be complete without olives. The pitted black ones are great nibbles but pimento filled green ones are also good. Bread is always served with an Italian antipasto,and a crusty Italian one is the best. Save the rolls for the turkey afterwards.

An Italian antipasto is a delicious way to start any holiday meal. The array of flavors and extures hets the appetite for what's to come. Enjoy it with a good bottle of wine.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pecan The Perfect Holiday Nut

Pecans are tasty.Their rich buttery flavor makes them  the perfect add in for both savory and sweet recipes.Use them in everything from snacks to hors d' oeuvres , from stuffings to pies. They are versatile  - the perfect ingredient for upcoming holidays.

Pecans have been around since pre-Columbian days, the name coming from the Algonquin language. The indigenous Americans foraged them and the nuts were an excellent source of energy. They could sustain tribes five times more than wild fowl and there was no preparation.The Spanish were the first Europeans to try them and brought the nuts and seeds back to Europe.In America, Georgia and Texas have the best , with the two states being rivals in producing the best tasting ones. Pecans are an excellent source of both manganese and folic acid as well as magnesium and phosphorous. Be careful though with them, Ten pieces are around one hundred calories and are very high in fat.Pecans can last two to four weeks in a pantry and nine months in the fridge. They're excellent for freezing , lasting up to two years in the freezer. Should you get the shelled or unshelled ones? That's up to you. Of course just shelled ones taste better but there's some work in cracking open the shells and then discarding them. If you opt for this kind, just be careful. The last thing you need is friends and family cracking a tooth or cutting their gums on an errant shell fragment . The nuts should be carefully sifted through before using them in any recipe.

Pecans are a great way to open any holiday dinner or party. Salted ones are super easy to make.It's tossing the nuts with melted butter and sea salt and then baking them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes in a 325 F. oven. Add cayenne for color and heat or even turmeric for savory spiciness.  Chopped pecans can be added to cream cheese for a nutty spread on crackers or slices of toasted baguette.Combine roasted ones with blue cheese to create a topping that will go well with grapes.Pecans are a buttery and crunchy addition to traditional stuffing recipes. Try them and cranberries in filling for a savory and sweet mix or with apples for a crunchy textured one.They're also great rounding out side dishes. Pair them with roasted beets for a sweet textured salad, perfect not just with turkey but also ith  roast beef and chicken. Butternut squash benefits from them and onions, in a yummy saute.Of course, the best way to have pecans for dessert is in a tasty ooey gooey pie. Nothing beats a slice of pecan pie with a big puff of whipped cream. They can also star in cookies too. A holiday treat is a butter pecan cookie or a chocolate chip one studded with pecan bits. Pecan bars are another holiday sweet along with pecan clusters. This last is super easy to make. Just melt chocolate  in the microwave, then mix in pecan bits and chill on a greased cookie sheet.

Pecans are the most versatile holiday ingredient. Try them to open a party or to finish a meal. Try them in savory or sweet recipes. They are a treat both in taste and use.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Twisted Side Of Cooking

Cooking has a fun and creative side. It's whipping up  new dishes or taking everyday ingredients and twisting them into something delicious  and different. There's a new cookbook out there that puts cooking on its' ear and excitement in the tummy. It's a roller coaster of  a culinary adventure.

Twisted The Cookbook (Ryland, Peters and Small  2016) is a neat little cookbook is based on the You Tube cooking show. Both are the creation of Tom Jackson, Harry Bamber, Jamie Bolding and Paul Bieboer.Tom is the one who is the cook and creative force behind these recipes. The book is the perfect gift for the hipsters and young chefs. They will love the oddball recipes.They're easy to create and don't require too many ingredients. The cookbook is divided into four sections , breakfast, party, next level and sweets. The food could be considered a bit hipster, thanks to wild spins on fajitas and ban h mi but some are improvements on traditional dishes The techniques are also tried snd true. There's no need to go out and buy fancy gadgets.You just need the usual kitchen gear. .Another neat aspect is that it combines and marries diffrent cuisines like Indian and Italian or twisting ordinary foods into something extraordinary. These are recipes such as baked mac that have been zinged up with sausage , ice cream made with avocado (!) or peanut butter cups with the surprise layer of grape jelly inside.

I love the recipes in this book.The breakfast section has Eggs Benedetto, eggs Benedict spiced up with chorizo instead of Canadian bacon.The sauce is not Hollandaise but plain Greek yogurt zested with chipotle chili and lime. There is a play on the traditional breakfast sandich , made double and twisted with the addition of baby plum tomatoes. The Twisted crew also has breakfast nachos and a breakfast banh mi. The party dishes are the bomb! There are buffalo chicken party buns. These are peppery hot chicken pieces layered with cheddar cheese and bacon on brioche buns. The pizza donuts are savory little fried dough balls bursting with  tomato sauce and mozzarella. Make the fajita cake for a fun dinner centerpiece. The "cake" is a layering of tortillas , cheese. chicken, salsa and cheese.It's then "frosted" with sour cream and decorated with cilantro leaves. This is from the Next level section along with whole Tikka cauliflower, a neat recipe guaranteed to make kids eat this veggie. The sweets are cool. There is a Snickers salami that actully looks like the real thing. It's a mix of the popular candy bar mixed with graham crackers, dried cranberries and choolate. Another yummy treat is the s'mores cheesecakes. a perfect end to any dinner.

Twisted is a great book for young hipsters and beginner chefs. It takes the ordinary and spins them around to create a new delicious dish. It's so much fun like a wild ride through the kitchen,

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Best Kombucha Guide

One of the best beverages to drink is kombucha. It's  not only good for you but good tasting as well.It's easy to make, being a fermented drink that can be home brewed. Now there's a new recipe book out , filled with refreshing and delicious tea and infusion ideas. All it takes is kombucha, water and favorite fruits,vegetables,flowers and herbs. It's then a variety of healthful, probiotic drinks.

Louise Avery wrote Living Tea (Ryland, Peters, and Small Publishers 2016,) wrote this fascinating and interesting recipe book.Many people are embracing this invigorating drink, as they're embracing other fermenting foods.What exactly is kombucha?It's a naturally sparkling fermented tea full of probiotics, along with beneficial enzymes and antioxidants. Drunk regularly like water it can cure stomach problems, mood swings and bloating.It has been around for 2,000 years , originating first in China and then moving west into Russia and  the rest of Europe. It is easy to make but you need SCOBY or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The book lists a number of sites where you can buy it both in the US and UK. The fermentation itself also requires not only sugar and water but also special bottles such as the brewing vessels along with a thermometer and pH strips for gauging. Ms. Avery also lists the many other essentials needed for creating the drink.There is also a section on bottling and storing as well as caring for the SCOBY. She advises about how much to drink too. Kombucha is addictive, thanks to its' soda like fizziness and sweet flavor.

The book has a wide array of different add ins as well as pictorial how to with Ms. Avery showing the various steps of preparation. The recipes are divided into bases such as fruit,vegetable,flower and herb,spice and tea.She combines pears and ginger for drink full of earthiness and heat. There is a festive blood orange zinged up with bitters along with a.grapefruit and rosemary kombuicha. There are also kombuchas that feature sweet raspberries and blueberries.The last is even blended with lemonade. Veggies aren't really known for infusing teas, yet there  are vital ingredients for a flavorful brew here.Rhubarb, a veggie, usually used in pies,is turned into a tart,refreshing tea when paired with Granny Smith apples. There is a Virgin Mary recipe that combines Bloody Mary ingredients with unflavored kombucha for an eye opening breakfast beverage. Ms. Avery uses a bouquet of different flowers for floral based teas.She even recommends raiding the garden for buds and petals. There is a delicate rose petal that has overtones of the Mideast. Hibiscus petals and lavender also grace delicately scented drinks. Herbs are also used in creating tasty and healthful tonics such as one infused with turmeric. There is a guest recipe from Kombucha Brooklyn  , from owners Eric and Jessica Childs that combines different teas such as silver needle and white peony.for

Living Tea is a wonderful book that introduces people to the joys of brewing kombucha. It's is the perfect guide to creating healthy probiotic drinks that improve one's life. It is the perfect holiday gift for friends, family and even yourself!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Gathered Thanksgiving Part Two

Yesterday's New York Times Food section was full of recipes from Americans all over the country. The beauty of it  was that it came , from all kinds of Americans, some here for generations , some newly arrived. What binds them - and us together is the love of one's heritage and pride in family dishes. Yet these recipes can easily be served at our tables creating a brand new holiday tradition.

The families that the Times wrote about and were covered yesterday here were from all over the world. The beauty of American cuisine is that it is constantly changing, adding new ingredients and flavors.Take the Ling family of Junction City, Wisconsin. They were from Hmong, Laos and always celebrated the harvest around this time. Thanksgiving feasting fits in perfectly and seamlessly with their celebrating. They raise and slaughter their own turkeys, preparing them with Southern  Asian herbs such as lemongrass and kafir lime leaves. The filling is a vermicelli egg roll filling , full of shredded carrots, cabbage and cilantro doused with  a salty fish sauce. In Nashville Tennessee , one would expect traditional Southern dishes like corn bread stuffing and green bean casserole. Not so with the Tayyar family who emigrated from Dohuk in Northern Iran. They will serve the Kurdish  eprax, a carefully layered casserole of grape leaves along with stuffed cabbage, tomatoes squash and potatoes.,nsted of turkey there will be a row of lamb chops down the center of the eprax.There will also be chicken and turnip greens too, as they eat the traditional feast on a rug spread out on the floor.

Jamaican food is not normally considered Thanksgiving food  yet Francine Turone uses the cuisine's spices for her turkey, The island born home chef brines the bird with a mix of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and juniper berries along with slipping clarified butter under the skin. She also serves a roast goat leg along with rice and peas in coconut oil. They celebrate her Milanese born husband Giacomo's culinary heritage. with tortellini in brodo or broth. Some recipes are handed down such as Debbie Himmler from the German influenced city of Cincinnati. Her oma's or grandmother' s rotkraut or homemade red cabbage is a family recipe from southwestern Germany.,a mix of shredded cabbage cooked with red wine and tart Granny Smith apples. Maren Waxenberg' s Scandinavian heritage shines through when she used to have gravlax and herring before the Thanksgiving meal.She continues on with blotcake for dessert. This is a sponge cake with whip cream and berries. Italians keep recipes through centuries and generations and the Conte family of  Wall, New Jersey is no different. They make a fluffy spinach -mushroom stuffing  instead of the usual bread stuffing. Their potatoes aren't mashed, rather roasted in olive oil and garlic They end not with pie but ith fennel and oranges dusted with salt and pepper.

America is a big kitchen ,full of recipes new and old. This was never more evident in yesterday's New York Times Food section. It is full of dishes, both sweet and savory that reflect our many different, cultures and backgrounds,nationalities and heritage.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Gathered Thanksgiving Part One

Despite the great political divide and intolerance that's gripping this country, there is one thing that unifies us as a nation  - Thanksgiving. No matter our ancestry, our skin color, or our beliefs we come together in giving thanks and gratitude. Many have forgotten that nowadays,. The New York Times Food section has it. This week , there are holiday recipes from all sorts of home chefs.

Diversity and the willingness to not only explore but to hold on to ttime-honored traditions is what make's America's kitchens so great. The Tmes interviewed fifteen families from all over the US. There is the taste of somalia thanks to clothig designer sisters Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim of Brooklyn  who have their family rice recipe, bariis iskukaris. This is a rich mix of basmati rice cooked in chcken stock and flavored with various spices such as cumin and fenugreek, Raisins top and red onions. Filipinos have bibingko instead of cornbread. Nicole Ponseca, a New Yorker and first generation American-Filipino creates this tasty dish made from rice and coconut milk. Preserved salted eggs and Parmesan cheese give it saltiness and richness Of course there is traditional recipes such as Sweeney potatoes from the Passanisi family  of Alameda California Theirs comes from grandmother , Florence Sweeney who took the recipe from her Dutch ancestors. she named it after her Irish husband Kevin Sweeney. It's like a scalloped potatoes, lush with cream cheese and sour cheese. Butter and cheddar cheese make it even more silkier.

The history of American food is the history of this country.It was never more evident in african cooking with dishes going back to the enslaved period in American history.. Erika Council  has her grandmother's Mildred Council's pork neck and macaroni. Her grandmother was a restaurant owner and chef  who crried on this simple but delicious mix of bomes and onion simmered in ater flavored with pepper flakes, ground pepper and salt.. It's cooked until the broth is gelatinous and then the macaroni is added. The Latino influence is also strong and vibrant in this country. Cuban american Margarita Velasco of Miami  who combines her two heritages into one pumpkin flan. It is made with calabaza, a kind of pumpkin shaped squash used in  many Cuban recipes. For MarthBeltrann of austen Texas, it pan de jamon, ham bread from Bogota Columbia, It is a labor intensive  and time consuming because the bread that is later filled with butter, olives and ham. It wouln't be a  family dinner without it,.

America is a truly diverse country. Our foods define us and our heritage yet they blend together to form our cuisine. It's varied, reflectng us and who we are.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Low Cal Thanksgiving

Is it possible to lose weight on Thanksgiving? Surprisingly yes! If you cook lighter variations of the holiday plates, you can actually shed a pound or two. It's creating tasty dishes without the excess.

Turkey in itself , is a low calorie meat.Three ounces of boneless skinless white meat is only ninety calories and ten calories of fat. A drumstick with the skin is 285 calories.,If you're a big lover of the crackly skin you may want to just have the wing. It's 229 calories , a little less than the legs. Many people love the skin part and don't want to give it up. If that's the case, go easy with the sides and desserts.f you opt for just the white meat consider making it tastier along with moistening it with gravy. One quarter of a cup of  homemade gravy is only 64 calories.  What compliments the meat and gravy? Stuffing, of course Is it possible to make one that's lighter? It can be.  Instead of bread use bread crumbs mixed with that healthy whole food  mushrooms. You can also sub in toasted  low calorie bread cubes too. These can be nicely paired with apple slices for a unique sweet take. Think about a stuffing made with breadsticks or pretzels sticks. Kids will get a kick out of the last. The pretzels do have to be soaked in a bowl of hot water for five to seven minutes to soften them. You could also try farro which is a wheat grain too.Cook it with caramelized onions and porcini mushrooms.

Those tasty sides can also be made without all that fat and richness. The classic green bean casserole is 160 calories . That's not too bad. however ,a cup of steamed is only 44 calories. They can be steamed with lemon and ginger for a zesty tangy side. They can also be steamed with red and yellow pepper strips and sliced carrots for a colorful  and healthy dish.Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving must. Bake them with marshmallows along with brown sugar and you're looking at  120 calories. That's fine if you only have one serving but most people have two at least. A better alternative is roasted, which are only 68 calories. Serve with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. What about mashed sweet potatoes? They share almost the same amount of calories as the candied ones.  The biggest fat bomb is mashed potatoes. One serving is a whopping 400 calories! Can they be made with less calories? Yes. It's just a matter of using skim milk for whole and a butter substitute like Smart Balance or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. If you feel like it's still lacking in flavor then add chives. Thye not only add color but also some flavor. You could also add garlic too if you want' some oomph along with fat free sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Mashed cauliflower, an Obama favorite is another alternative.It's only 100 calories per serving. Make it with buttermilk and garlic for a flavorful side.

Thanksgiving can be a time for low calorie eating and losing weight.It's just a matter of smart choices and equally as smart cooking. The meal will be healthy but still tasty, the perfect holiday feast.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Your Thanksgiving Plan

It's hard to believe but Thanksgiving is a little ore than a week away. This is the crown jewel of holiday dinners and it has to be done right. Alleviate the pressure and fear by charting out the meal. If you have a plan, then everything, from prepping to cooking to serving will be that much easier.

One of the first must do is write out a guest list. After each name list allergies, dietary restrictions and likes, and dislikes. If a few guests have gluten allergies then think abut making two kinds of stuffing along with having gluten free rolls and desserts.Also think about your vegan and vegetarian friends and family. Do you want to get tofurkey which is a soy loaf usually filled with bread stuffing? Or would your guests prefer no fuss and subsist on just salads and sides?This is a good time to call and ask and write down what they want. Another point to consider is the variety of tastes.If guests want a fresh cranberry jelly instead of a canned one, then think about making a homemade one. Another point to ponder is a sit-down dinner or a buffet where people can pick out where they want to sit.If you feel that cooking an entire meal is too overwhelming , then there are two routes to consider. A pot luck Thanksgiving where everyone brings a dish, while you tackle the main dish or having it catered. Many stores such as Stop &Shop and Shop Rite will cook everything from the bird and the sides. They'll also throw in rolls and pie too. Popeye's and Boston Market can also cook up  entire Thanksgiving meals too. Popeye's will give you a deep fried Southern version while Boston Market has more traditional fare.

Thanksgiving dishes and how they're made are always polarizing. Half the table may want a rich gravy made with roux, while the other half like it just au jus. with a thin gravy. Then there are
 the yam controversy. Do you  make them as a kind of dessert loaded with brown sugar and mini marshmallows or do you just roast them in tin foil. Do you make two types to satisfy everyone or just stick ith one? The best bet is just sticking with what the majority of guests want.Sve the second recipe for Christ mas or New Year's. Thanksgiving is not the day to try out new recipes either. if you do want to experiment try it out this Sunday.That way you can see if it's a hit or a miss and if it's easy or hard.This is also time to hit the stores, from department to the grocery.Get new table linens if the old ones are worn or raggedy. Polish the silverware and dust off the china. Also make sure all your kitchen appliances are up to snuff too.Replace anything that may not work just right. . Sharpen knives. Make sure you have enough essentials such as gravy ladles and serving forks.Now is the time to buy extras like plastic cups and glasses if you're having a big crowd. check to make sure you have enough plates and also make sure none of them are cracked.If that's the case, then think about getting a new set. Target and K-Mart have very pretty sets at good prices.

Thanksgiving prep is a home chef must have.Set a plan and stick with it. It'll make for smoother cooking and serving. That's a holiday in itself.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Versatile English Muffin

One of the best staples of any kitchen is the humble English muffin. It can be used for any meal and even makes a great night snack. If you think it's just a boring little crumpet, think again. It is versatile , going from a classic breakfast treat to a fun alternative  to hamburger buns.

It was Thomas Bath Thomas who brought this Victorian breakfast staple to the States from England in 1877. They were based on the English muffins that were sold in London at the time. They were slightly different in that they were thinner than the crumpets they were modeled on. Another change that Mr. Thomas made was  precutting them so they could easily be split apart with a fork. At first they were only sold to hotels and grocery stores. By 1880 they were so popular that Thomas had to open up a second bakery,One of the best aspects of them is that they're low in calories -only 130 per muffin and make a nice snack, especially with butter. Even though the original is the best, Thomas has other flavors and grains such as the seasonal pumpkin spice and whole wheat. Many love their blueberry and corn flavors too along with the honey wheat  and sourdough. The original, whole wheat and multi grain kinds are the most versatile. They are perfect for both savory and sweet recipes.Another great thing about them is that they're freezable and can be used weeks after they were first bought. Just take them out of the fridge and they can be thawed in the toaster or toaster oven.

English muffins are one of the best things to happen to breakfast. Thi early morning staple is a great starter with just a layer of butter or margarine and your favorite jelly.They're also a nice accompaniment to eggs sunnyside up or soft boiled ones, perfect for sopping up the yolk. English muffins are a great base for any breakfast sandwich. Try a classic of scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage. For zing add a drop of hot sauce to the eggs. A fried egg sandwich is another  light yet filling breakfast.One of the best recipes is Eggs Benedict. The muffin's  spongy texture is excellent for sopping up the buttery Hollandaise and runny yolk. The recipe can be varied with spinach being subbed in for the Canadian bacon for Egg;s Florentine or using a crab cakes for a lush , extravagant brunch.salmon can also be used for Eggs Atlantic or Eggs Benjamin. English muffins also make for great mini pizzas. It's just spooning  olive oil and  pizza sauce over the slices and then topping them with shredded mozzarella. Add fun extras such as sausage or peppers, onions or olives. The muffins also can be used instead of hamburger buns. They're even better because the nooks and crannies hold the burgers' juices , making them even tastier. English muffins can even be used for grilled cheese too for a different spin on the classic lunch bite.Add tomatoes and bacon for a take on the diner classic The Happy Waitress.

English muffins are a must have for any kitchen. They're a great way to greet the day or end it. They are perfect for both pizza and burgers. Best of all , have them hot from the toaster with just butter. Or create your own recipe. They are versatile and fun.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Honoring Our Vets With A Good Meal

Today is Veteran's Day , the only day pf the year when we truly honor our vets. Why take only one day? There are ways to honor them all year long, whether ith a gathering or raising money for them.

This particular day should  be a special day for any vet in your life.Nothing beats a good meal with good conversation. Many restaurants are offering freebies and discounts for our brave men and women. They will need some proof of military service such as a military  ID or VA card but it could also be  a current leave and earnings statement or LES, other IDs that work are a driver;s license with veteran's designation.There's also a new federal veterans ID card  too that's accepted at many eateries. Applebee's is always good with giving discounts and makes vets and  their families welcome. Bonefish Grill is giving our brave and courageous a free plate of their famed Bang Bang Shrimp while Boston Market has free cookies. City Barbecue is offering a free sandwich.  Krispy Kreme is
letting vets try  their luscious doughnuts and coffee while Olive Garden is graciously allowing
 our vets pick out a free entry of their choice. Military families will get a big kick of getting a blooming onion at no cost at their many Outback Steakhouses or a Castle Combo at White Castle. Urge the smaller restaurants in your neighborhoods to do the same, not only on Veteran's Day but all year round.

As for the military people in your orbit, honor them with a home cooked meal or even a  basket of home baked treats.Find out their favorite foods and treat them to it. After all there's nothing like a scratch meat loaf covered in gravy with a side of mashed potatoes or a roast chicken or turkey with all the trimmings.They'll enjoy fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies or an apple pie. Don't  just make them for this day but all year long.We never really think of our veterans in the Spring and summer yet we should. Think of throwing  barbecues fo them  at your local VFW for those ho have served in wars from the second World War to our current conflicts.  Have stores donate everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to ice cream and soda. Another idea is an old-fashioned potluck picnic where everyone brings everything from macaroni and cold slaw to icebox  cakes and watermelon. Kids can also help the military during the summer months by having lemonade stands and donating the proceeds to local families for a dinner out or a day at their local  amusement or water park. They can also help out with delivering meals to elderly housebound vets as well.

We should celebrate our  veterans all year long,Yes, today is special but so are the other days in the year. Treat them and their families to good food and good conversation every day not just today.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A New Way Of Baking

There's a new shift in baking these days. It's getting away from traditional wheat-based recipes and embracing other grains. Many professional bakers, such as Elizabeth Pruitt, are using a wide array of
 other grains. The result? Delicious sweets that are healthier and gluten free.

Famed blogger and food critic, Tejal Rao, wrote about  Chef Pruitt, in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Chef Pruitt  and her husband are the owners of the famed Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco. This is a former warehouse converted into a 5,000 square foot bread factory along with a pastry shop, restaurant,ice cream parlor and coffee shop in the city's Mission District. Chef Pruitt has created such wheat free gems as salted buckwheat chocolate cookies, chocolate almond cakes and apple crisps. The thrust behind it is that she is gluten intolerant herself and was exploring different grains to create heavenly desserts.She is also trying her hand at fermentation too, offering up bright yellow turmeric kefir. tangy with a fine champagne like fizz. The Tartine Manufactory also makes both cow and buffalo milk soft serve ice cream. There is even an ice cream pie filled with Concord grape sorbet  swirled with a fior di latte soft served  in a peanut butter tart shell. This creation is a star on Instagram, thanks to its' swirls of deep vibrant purple. Fans will enjoy her new cookbook, "Tartine All Day, available this April.It has a variety of both sweet and savory recipes including her favorite,pork chops braised in apple cider vinegar with ginger and garlic,

The article comes with recipes from  Chef Pruitt who actually first started off as an actress and photojournalism before heading off to the Culinary Institute of America. Her cakes are legendary, drawing praise from one of her biggest fans, the famed chef , Alice Waters. Chef Waters used to
order  her birthday cake from Chef Pruitt and has nothing but high praise for her, There is a sweet potato tea cake with meringue. This is made with wheat flour in a traditional tea cake recipe. It would be a nice alternative to sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving. It is chock full of such spices as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves along with a sweet topping that's swirled and baked with the cake. The second recipe is a teff carrot cake made with teff, a ruddy looking flour derived from reed grass. It is combined with sweet rice and oat flour. There's also a mix of granulated white and coconut sugar to sweeten it  along with  eggs and applesauce to give it a tender crumb..Walnuts and unsweetened coconut flakes are also added for texture and crunch. It's iced in in a traditional cream cheese icing. Chef Pruitt decorates the cake  with seasonal flowers and walnuts for a rustic , festive look.It would make another perfect end to a Thanksgiving meal.

It is just as easy to bake a wheat free cake as it is it is to bake a traditional one. Experiment, as chef Pruitt did, and create healthier and tastier desserts. They're not only beneficial but also delicious.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Another Thanksgiving Issue

The New York Times Food section  has put out a second Thanksgiving issue. It's different in the than the first, rethinking time-tested recipes and putting new spins on them. There  are traditional veggies done differently along with a new way to cook that bird. It's a refreshing rethink of how to cook and bake for the big day.

All the big guns of the Food section have weighed in and written informative articles.One of the most interesting is Melissa Clark's. Her A Good Appetite  features splaying and searing the turkey as opposed to the traditional roasting. She decided to try the technique she uses on chicken on a much larger bird. Both are similar with the same amount of white and dark meat so the splaying technique that works with the smaller can help the larger. Is it easier than roasting? Yes, and it creates an evenly roasted turkey with silky and juicy white meat and perfectly cooked dark meat.Unlike spatchcocking , which requires intricate deboning, splaying is cutting the skin and then pulling on the thighs until you hear them pop out of their sockets. It's then laying them flat. Ms. Clark also pours wine on  the turkey for braising, although she suggests using any liquid , from cider to beer, diced tomatoes to  even water. What completes this? A platter of vibrant, green Brussels sprouts. Newcomer Alison Roman, a contributor to Bon Appetit magazine gives us them cooked in three tasty recipes. One is sauted with sausage and pickled red onions along ith one for honey roasted ones made exotic by the addition of harissa and lemon relish. More traditional home chefs may like the Brussels sprouts gratin bathed in a lush heavy cream and Gruyere cheese.

 Of course, there is a stuffing recipe. Kim Severson writes about a traditional cornbread one. It's a controversial one, with professional chefs  polarized about what kind of cornmeal - white or yellow - to use. There is a debate - which is sweeter?  She settles on the yellow for color and intense flavor. The recipe also includes  sugar along with buttermilk and butter to give it richness. The stuffing isn't entirely cornbread. There is also white bread used too along with the usual stuffing ingredients like onions,,sage and eggs. She bakes the stuffing separately and gives it extra flavor by pouring the  turkey drippings on it about thirty minutes into the baking time. For extra crunch and taste, there is also the addition of toasted pecans for real Southern flavor. Pecans also figure in David Tanis' A City Kitchen. He makes pecan rolls that have the extra sweetness of golden raisins.Instead of the usually gooey cream cheese frosting, he just dusts them with a mix of sugar and cinnamon. Make these the night before for a Thanksgiving breakfast treat. His other pecan recipes offer savory (!) cookies laden with cheese and sage and a dessert bar . The first is a great side to the first course of soup or a salad. The second is a yummy mix of pecans, dates, spices and rum on top of a buttery shortbread base.These are a nice stand in to the gooier, ultra sweet pecan pie.

Thanksgiving is all about tradition and traditional dishes. Yet , it pays to think outside the box and try new cooking techniques and recipes. It makes for a  more delicious and more memorable holiday meal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Food Issues For A New Administration

Tonight America gets a new leader. This January whoever wins will face a lot of issues, some of them regarding how we Americans eat. There's also  the question of eating healthy and promoting good habits. After all, an unhealthy US is a sad US, not a vibrant one.

One of the issues is who's going to continue First Lady Michelle Obama's Eat Hhealthy/ Let's Move  campaign ? This was a brilliant program, that taught our kids to eat right. She made it cool to eat carrots and spinach and say no to a steady diet of fries and sodas. Thanks to her even the youngest  Americans became savvy when it came to shopping and cooking. Mrs. Obama  even got kids interested in gardening and the importance of growing your own produce. Hopefully, she 'll be allowed to continue this program or some form of it will exist with the next First Spouse. another hope is that her vegetable garden be kept so more school kids can benefit from it. Here's another hope for whoever takes over - try to maintain healthy eating habits. Not only is the US watching  but the world is too.It doesn't look too good when our president is scarfing down cheeseburgers and maybe a bit too much red wine or even harder stuff (although the job is demanding one - but think herbal teas with a lot of valerian). Keep the White House Chef, Sam Kass. He's an excellent chef ho worked with the First Lady in creating the first major garden since Eleanor Roosevelt's Victory Garden.

Then there's the question of those GMOs, those genetically modified organisms that have slowly taking over our groceries. They started out in the Eighties with simple experimentaton wth tomatoes. Scientists and armers then started on the quest for sweeter, seedlesss and hardier hybrids. However more and more fruits and veggies are turning into these pieces of Frankenproduce. Even cows that produce milk have been more or less genetically engineered thanks to RGBH or recombinant bovine growth hormone. This has to stop before the meat industry gets involved . Right now there is a ban  but who knows when they'll cave nd start injecting cows, chickens and even farmed salmon with hormones and chemicals.Our next president should also look into the powerful sugar and beef lobbies.Despite all of our current First Lady's warnings and push for healthy eating , we still have sugary drinks along with endless arrays of candies and snack cakes. The beef  lobby is as powerful as the NRA  and is still pushing a diet of red meat on Americans. We can have pushbacks and protests along with changing our lifestyles.Yet , if it's there and we have a craving we will go for that hamburger or ribs.More and more has to be done to imprive our diets.

Our new president  will have a lot to deal with in January. Yet there's are eating and food issues too, that need to be addressed. America has to be fed nutritious food to thrive and survive . It's just that simple.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Soothing Cup Of Tea

This election has not only been the most contentious in US history, It's also the most anxiety causing too. Many are worried as to what Wednesday morning will bring. The solution to all of this - a soothing cup of tea or any comfort food to settle nerves.

Nothing beats a calming cup of tea  the night before or even the day of a stress inducing event.The herbal ones are the best. One of my favorites is Twinings Nightly Calm. It's a non-caffeine herbal tea made with chamomile. It's a great tea too to have if you,ve got a nasty stomach flu or just ate too much. Chamomile calms the stomach along with boosting spirits - which may come in handy if your candidate loses.It also helps with sleep and insomnia. Another favorite is Celestial Seasonings Sleeptytime  Extra Tea. This is a great tea for those who have problems sleeping, Along with chamomile and spearmint it also has valerian, a natural sleeping aid. To sweeten it try the Carmel Honey Company's Honey Stix. These are plastic straws filled with the company's signature wildflower honey, a sweet earthy taste that pairs well with the tea. As much as you want to indulge in a chocolate and caramel laced latte, don;t. All that sugar and caffeine will make you more wired than a kid with a mouthful of candy,The same goes for hot chocolate. It is comforting to drink when you;re watching the election  however it'll keep you up until dawn Not the best thing, especially if you have a full schedule  or an all important meeting or exam on Wednesday morning.

Are there any calming foods to watch as you're cheering on your candidate or cursing his or her opponent? Turkey comes to mind, thanks to it being loaded with tryptophan. Eat four ounces of it for dinner for a blissful night of sleep. If you can't roast a turkey,, then head to your grocery's deli counter to get it. Serve it with jarred gravy on top of a sliced roll or bread. Sub in Stovetop Stuffing or Arrowhead Mills All Natural stuffing.Have it with a side dish of asparagus which also is a calming food.It not only promotes sleep but also lessens stress and anxiety. Swiss chard is another green guaranteed to calm an antsy voter. It's loaded with magnesium which can also de-stress the body,Surprisingly olive oil is another stress buster. Create a salad with it, greens and turkey strips. Add pumpkin seeds which also help.Grains, too, can lessen that agita over who's going to be in the White House. Have a slice of toast with butter and honey along with a cup of tea as you're watching the intricacies of the electoral college. A big bowl of cereal is another dish that will help you chill. Just stay away from the sugary and chocolate laced ones. Stick with the all natural kinds like Moms Best brand, Plain cereal without milk is a nice nibble too.

Tomorrow the fate and history of the country will be decided. It has been a stressful nineteen months. Destress from it with a sleep inducing meal or a soothing cup of herbal tea.