Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lasagna And Love

Life is like a box of chocolates , according to Forest Gump. To author Samantha Kendell, life is like lasagna. This may seem funny but those reading her breakout book, Life Through Lasagna Eyes (Piaott Publishing)  will soon see why.It's a filling treat for the soul and the heart.

The author, Samantha Kendell, makes all sorts of lasagna, both as a caterer and supplier for Whole Food Markets. Upon first glance I thought she'd include a recipe or two but her lasagna recipe is of a different one. She compares the tasty dishes layers to ones' life. There is the bottom layer, the base and then the various fillings such as the cheese and meat along with the sauce. I love the chapter about the Ouie Goie.It's all about loving again and how she compares love to the aroma of fresh baked lasagna,This inspirational book is also a valentine to Ms. Kendell's daughter ,Amanda who was sadly a victim of Chicago's gun violence. Instead of crumbling as many would have done, she admirably goes on, incorporating stories of her eldest's sass and strength . These are wonderful  a mother celebrating a daughter's love of basketball and good cooking - actually the reason Ms. Kendell's life took a culinary turn.

I love this book and plan on giving it as a birthday and holiday gifts to friends and family.It truly is a must have and will get anyone  through low points in their lives. I love the different stories of giving and receiving. One episode stands out  - when her landlord gifts her with a bedroom set so she doesn;t have to sleep on the floor. Another involves watching a little boy who swings so hard he can't get off and bubbles up laughing about his "dilemma". This is the balm Ms. Kendell needs soon after losing her Amanda. Laughter is mentioned many times in this book and this is what makes it so uplifting. She recommends we share our good memories and  always have good humor  in our lives like we always need salt and pepper. This is also an inspirational book, as Ms Kendell tells us to go for our dreams as she went for hers.

Life Through Lasagna Eyes is not your typical recipe book yet it does have the best recipe for life. Read it and you will want to improve or add to your own "lasagna". What a tasty treat this book is!

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Bite of Pure Energy

Everyone  needs a pop of energy. Unfortunately those store bought bars are more filled with sugar and gluten than they are anything else. Luckily there's a new recipe book that has dozens of recipes. They're flavorful and low calorie but above all - easy to make.

Energy Bites (Penguin Random House Publishers) is a bright, poppy little book that's chock full of interesting facts as well as recipes. It was written by Kate Turner and Annie Nichols are also blogsters and Ms. Turners is known for her healthy recipes.All are gluten and dairy free so anyone could eat them..Kids to experienced home chefs can make these thanks to the easy how to pictures. It's a simple formula.Nuts plus dried fruit plus plus powders ad sticky stuff for binding. It ends with a dip in coatings.  There is an extra section on how to cook the various components along with how to roll and dip them as well as cook them.The ingredients come from health food stores. There is bee pollen and chia seeds along with raw honey and coconut oil.Luckily , the books starts out with an illustrated dictionary  that thoroughly explains the ingredients, even some of the more common ones like cacao and almonds.

What are the combos? Interesting ones. There is the perfect for after school apple pie.It's mixing rolled oats with pecans. The powdered super fruit from Peru ,lucuma is also added for a boost. Tropical immune boosters are packed with turmeric along with the exotic dried mango and baobab powder. Some bites could actually masquerade as appetizers. Raw broccoli and maca, a South American type of radish . It also has tahini and onion in it for more boost but it would be great  starting off a healthy barbecue. There are also sweet potato spicy bites, perked up with red onion, cumin and turmeric . The bites could also end a meal too as with the raw chocolate energy bites that has mashed avocado to give them a ganache texture. Try the frozen ones too,that involve avocado and banana along with cacao nibs and chia seeds. It's mixed with almond milk to get that creamy iced cream texture.

Energy Bites is a great book for those who want to nibbles to keep them going.It's a fun poppy book full of information as well as recipes. Buy it today for some fun and healthy eating.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mississippi Roast A New Classic

The South is known for classic dishes, such as ham and grits, biscuits and chicken Now there's a dish ,Mississippi Roast that is right up there with them. It's now a Pinterest classic.

Times Food writer classic, Sam Sifton wrote about this amazing dish in yesterday's Wednesday 's issue.It's a simple dish of beef chuck slow cooked with powdered ranch dressing , and butter.There also au jus gravy added and a few pepperoncini added for bite.It was created by Robin Chapman of Ripley ,Miss. She put everything in her slow cooker one day fifteen years ago and what came out is culinary history. It was a buttery stew that her family gobbled up.It was also devoured up by the local community thanks to Ms. Chapmans best friend, Karen Farese put into her church's cookbook. The result went viral .

It was then shared on Pinterest which means it was shared with the world.It was also a hit on Facebook too as well on several food blogs. Mr. Sifton decided to make this on his own. Gone are the mixes with their chemical  flavors. He made his own ranch  dressing using apple cider and buttermilk . Paprika was also thrown in for color and bite. The result? Just as good as the original recipe. His family devoured it as heartily as it was at Ms. Chapman's table. Personally I would go with Mr. Sifton's recipe.I'd rather have the homemade dressing  and only half a stick of butter. You can add the pepperoncini if you like . Again,I'm not a big fan so that's one ingredient nixed.Serve it with egg noodles or in a sandwich.

Mississippi Roast is soon to be an American classic, on the same level as Jello cake or Dr Pepper ribs. It's a tasty dinner that's easily made and easily eaten. Try it and see what the South has been raving about for years

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

African American Cooking Reimagined

African American cooking is not just soul food. It's much more, taken from the two hundred year old disapora that ripped Africans from their countries and roots.Native foods came with them, forever altering American tastes and dishes. Now there is a movement to bring those flavors to  current dining trends.

Regular contributor to the Wednesday Times Food section, Jeff Gordonier wrote an extensive piece on this. There is a new generation of African American chefs that are fusing history and imagination to create dishes that go beyond the typical soul food marriages of cornbread and barbecue or collard greens with ribs.There might be collard greens but they're reimagined  cooked Japanese style with a coating of sesame dressing. This is what Nicole A Taylor did to them in her new cookbook " The Up South Cookbook. There is also more embracing of original vegetables such as eggplant and peanuts, along with spicing, reminiscent of West African spice markets..African cooking is not taught or just ignored in the Euro centric cooking schools.Many chefs have to take their own trips to countries such as Ghana or Nigeria to acquire recipes or base theirs on older ones.

What about soul food? It's there and many chefs will cook it. It's origins are from the farm, with the mantra  "If it grows, together then it goes together."However it does get a fine tuning. Creole Shrimp and grits get a California zing with sweated vegetables at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland,CA.Chef Tanya Holland keeps the richness but adds some baby spinach and cumin for a healthy kick. Some newer soul food restaurants will smoke pork belly on site as well as having shrimp that comes from Baja California as opposed to the Gulf of Mexico. Many chefs make regular visits to their local farmer's markets for the same freshness that 19th and earlier 20th Century  home chefs incorporated in their dishes. For years these dishes were either dismissed or lost  because they were deemed unimportant yet real soul food is healthy and flavorful,It's also a link to the West African countries that served as their basis.

African American cooking and West African foods have contributed so much to American culinary scene, It is finally being celebrated in many delicious ways. It's about time

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Soup-er Fun All Year Long

Imagine having an array of healthful and yummy broths, consommes and soups at your fingers all year long. These help in hydrating and  nourishing, as well as in detoxing and cleansing. It sounds too good to be true but it can be done. A new cookbook can show soup lovers and concerned eaters how to.

The cookbook is called Souping(Random House Publishing) and was written by Allison Velasquez who is an authority on souping or living on soups to nourish and cleanse the body. This is a great book for those who are into the Paleo bone broths  as well as those who detox their bodies on a regular basis. There is an entire guide on that with helpful hints about how to ease in and out of one. Readers should keep in mind that the cleanses are not just for losing weight. They're also geared for improving both body and mind. The ingredients are not only seasonal - all four seasons of souping are here - but natural. The author recommends using purified water  along with coconut oil. There is suggestions about what herbs to use for flavoring along with using sea salt. What not to use? Bouillon cubes. If you have to make your own broth, use chicken or beef, whether from leftover roasts or from your local butcher.Soupers will fi d it easier to make the spring, summer and fall broths and soups . Winter is a bit trickier,because all the ingredients must be fresh.

How is it making soups and broths by season? Spring and summer sound more like drinks, Many are fruit based and may take some getting used to by traditionally minded home chefs.There is a bright , sunny colored mango. Serrano pepper gives it zing.This last also figures heavily in a pineapple and kale pottage. Are there any traditional soups? Yes, but they don;t have the chunks of meat, veggies or pasta that  most are used to cooking and eating.A winter root vegetable soup is the perfect chill chaser. There is a nice mix of sweet potatoes, butternut squash and parsnips, flavored with onions and garlic. A vegetable broth will basil can be made year round and it's brightened up with the juice of four lemons. What about the bone broths. These are the best for you. and Ms Velazquez gives a good one, a mix of beef and turkey zinged up with tomato paste and apple cider vinegar. Home chefs could also try a chicken broth with jalapeno peppers, not the usual consomme.

Souping is not just  making and eating soup on a cold winter's day.It's also cleansing and fortifying the body.This new cookbook and how to will help you do that. with guidance and car

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Trip To The Tropics

Saturday's monster snowstorm has us all longing for balmy breezes with a pina colada in hand or a plate full of chicken jerk under a Caribbean moon. Even though we can't visit Hawaii or Jamaica, we can certainly take a culinary trip to their foods. In fact , there could even be a luau planned despite the snow!

Many think Polynesian and Hawaiian is just pineapple and poi.Its much more than that, we have the Hawaiians to thank for sea salt. They were the first to use it along with various fish and seafood. European settlers brought in pork and chicken which are the backbones of the cuisine.Try the Khal Bi an Asian (the cuisine is also heavily influenced by Chinese, Japanese and Korean settlers to the islands) dish of marinated short ribs. Butterfly short ribs and then let them soak for four hours in a marinade of soy sauce and honey , spiced up with garlic and ginger root. Sesame oil gives it its's smoothness Serve with a variation of somen salad, using the ultra thin  Japanese noodles (vermicelli can be subbed in) mixed with kamaboko, processed white fish  and shredded lettuce. You could also add pepper and tomatoes - yes they're grown in paradise too - and dress wit rice wine vinegar  and sesame oil. Torikatsu is another Hawaiian specialty that uses panko breaded chicken breasts served with a tangy side sauce made with A-1, catsup, along with soy sauce and sugar. You can add a dash of hot sauce for true tradition or omit it for a milder dip.

The Caribbean is another great winter destination. It gives us tongue searing jerks and spicy callaloos. Jerks are a blend of the super hot Scotch bonnet pepper, allspice and thyme. It's easy to make at home,however due to the pepper's fieriness, It's highly recommended to use rubber gloves.. Home chefs can sub in a pepper with lesser heat. Lime or orange juice is added to make it into a paste. For a true island zing  use a slug of rum for some kick and sweetness. Jerks can be used on everything from beef to chicken but it is a standard with pork.Some Jamaican recipes call for lamb and even fish.
Callaloo is a type of spinach, popular in Trinidad and Tobago along with Guyana.Luckily it's now found in markets every where and made with garlic and thyme. Scotch bonnet can be added to give it enough heat for a fireplace along with lemon juice. Try it Virgin Island style with eggplant , okra and sweet potato for a kind of veggie stew.For quick snack food , make Jamaican patties.It's a curry flavored crust surrounding a spicy chopped beef or chicken filling. It's a great weekend dish to  make and have with a chilled ginger beer.

Foodies can turn their kitchens into culinary getaways  by cooking foods of the tropics Try a sweet Hawaiian dish or a fiery jerk to remind one of balmy nights  and warm turquoise seas.It's almost like a vacation to your favorite island!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hunkering Down Cuisine

Now that the entire eastern coast of the US is being blitzed with the worst blizzard ever (thank you, global warming) it's time to hunker down  and eat. Being indoors during a white out means sitting out the storm and chowing down . A lot.It also means cooking  and baking a lot too. Basically a blizzard is a  a free pass to make your favorite foods and eat as much as you want of them.

Pasta is always at the top of the list for snowy days foods to cook. One of my favorites is a family recipe - one pot pasta.

As you can see I've made it with farfalle -butterfly or bowtie pasta. It's any easy enough dish to cook, using only one pot instead of the usual two. It's mixing chicken, beef or vegetable broth - in my case - vegetable thanks to having a vegan family.with plain tomato sauce.This creates a soup that will then cook up the pasta. The last should be a chunky kind. I usually use a kitty one, (it has pasta in the shape of paw prints and cat faces) but went for the bowties for a change.It cooks up in twenty minutes  and then is served in soup bowls. I also sauteed vegan Italian sausages with a blend of forest mushrooms to round it out.This was a nice side, good on its' own with sliced Italian bread . Many others probably made scratch lasagna or spaghetti.These are loaded with good carbs, the ones we need to tackle snow shoveling or digging out our cars from ten feet of snow.If the usual pasta dishes sound boring. then fry ravioli.It's a simple process of taking already made ravioli, dipping them first in buttermilk and then dredging them in bread or panko crumbs. Fry until crisp and golden in olive oil and serve with cooked pizza sauce.

Grilled cheese is both an American and snowy day classic.I'm sure a few thousand kids got to  chow down on it , accompanied by Campbell's tomato soup sometime today.Grilled cheese is an easy cook in the oven or toaster oven. What makes it so much fun is that the recipe can be tweaked and tinkered with to make a better sandwich. My way is turning it into a croque monsieur, I love this recipe .It's buttering two slices of bread, then adding sliced Gruyere and ham. The whole thing is then fried in butter.Yes, it's everything wrong but the taste is so right. There is also the somewhat healthier diner style grilled cheese that has cheddar on toast , baked in a toaster oven for ten minutes or until the cheese is bubbling. Add sliced tomatoes and bacon for a Happy Waitress. Hunkering down cuisine also means using the crockpot to make yummy chilis and stews. These are also staples for cold blustery weather eating. Some home chefs add hot sauce to turn up the heat a notch for the first while gourmands add a generous slug of good red wine to the last to amp it up.Either ways, these are good dinners to eat from a bowl as you're watching yet another round of  weather updates.Any snowy day meal ends with a hot chocolate followed by about five more cups of it to get through a night of Netflix binging.

The weather outside is frightful, the food inside delightful. Settle in with a hearty plate of pasta, grilled cheese or chili and watch that snow pile up. It's the perfect night for hunkering down with favorite foods.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow Day Cooking Fun

It's another blizzard in another January. Luckily a snow day in means a lot of cooking and a lot of time for fun treats. Frolicking in the white stuff is fun  but there's also a good time to be had in the kitchen.

Start by making a fun breakfast. Omelet cups are super easy and super fun to  make. Take a greased muffin tin Start with a layer of two to three pressed Tater Tots and bake for five minutes at 375 F. The second layer is beaten eggs with a variety of different additions, from chopped ham to broccoli florets/ Top with a hearty sprinkling of cheddar cheese and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes  again at the same temp. Breakfast sandwiches are another fun way to start the day. Vary it with either soft boiled or scrambled eggs along with sausage sliced lengthwise or bacon. Finish with a slice of cheddar. Pancakes are always in demand too. Make it fun by adding chocolate chips and bananas or layering them with peanut butter and Nutella. Consider yourself lucky if you have a waffle maker. Nothing is better than fresh ones with butter and syrup. If it's just grown ups at breakfast add a slug of bourbon to the syrup to make it fun and frisky. This can also be swirled into a bowl of hot oatmeal or farina to jazz it up a bit, French toast is another tasty treat. Give it some oomph by stuffing it. This s just making a sandwich using sweetened cream cheese as the filling. The whole sandwich is then dipped in an egg and milk wash and baked  for ten to fifteen minutes in a  350 degree F oven. Serve with maple syrup or a homemade fruit coulis.This syrup is made by just heating  up jam and a few teaspoons of water in a sauce pan to create a smooth sauce.

A day inside means cooking and baking too. Lunch or dinner can be a homemade pizza. (which is always better than the frozen kind) Pizza dough is easy to make, being an easy blend of flour, yeast and water.Top with pizza sauce and mozzarella for a traditional one. Add anything from bacon bits to sliced onion for a more exciting pie.Use this blizzard to stay indoors and play with all those gadgets you received  for Christmas. Try out that pasta machine by making spaghetti or better yet, ravioli. The new crockpot can be used to make a pot of  chili or stew with dumplings. Bored kids will love making and decorating homemade cookies.. A simple sugar recipe is the easiest and the most versatile.  They can even make sandwich ones too , stuffed with buttercream. By now moms across the area should have the ingredients to  make a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie. Nothing beats a  full plate  of them with milk after a romp in those flakes. Cake pops are another fun treat to try at home. Kids will love decorating them  as much as they'll love eating  them. Make sure there is plenty of  white, milk and dark chocolate chips to melt into  coatings along with different colored sugars, candy confetti along with silver dragees, shredded coconut and chopped nuts for decorating. You can also do this with cupcakes too. End the day with homemade cheese or kettle corn, again easy to make as it is to eat.

Don't worry about the cabin fever that accompanies a blizzard. Iit's a day to have fun in the kitchen. Be creative , whether it's making a meal or treat!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Summery Treat In January

As we anticipate the Blizzard of 16  we long for those summery meals , full of of fresh veggies and fresh flavor. We can have that, not surprisingly  with  a California style pizza. Make it ,  have a cooling drink and think  of sun soaked days on a hot beach .

David Tanis thought of this in his A City Kitchen column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. He gives us  the recipe for a California pizza, one topped with fresh vegetables than sauce. The main star is the dough, Mr. Tanis gives instructions on how to make one that will result in a light delicate crust with crispy edges. According to him the best pizza dough is a relatively soft one.Resist the temptation  to add extra flour or the result will be a heavy crust - not the end result you want.Don;t heavily flour where you'll be kneading it. Go for lightly dusting the area. It
is is a great exercise for novice home bakers. It is an exercise in using yeast as well as kneading, discovering exactly what the phrase smooth and elastic means. You can make double the amount . Pizza dough can be stored  for three to four days in the freezer. it makes for excellent calzones and garlic knots, the last the perfect mate for a wintry minestrone soup.

As for the California topping(this type of pie is sometimes called pizza primavera or Spring pizza), Mr Tanis uses sliced bell or sweet peppers. He also throws in a jalapeno one for excitement and heat. All of these should be thinly sliced because they need to thoroughly cook up during their short time in the oven ( the pizza only takes a mere five to seven minutes to cook up )He also adds sliced red onions along with fennel rich Italian sausage,This should be crumbled all over the top so every
 piece has an equal amount. For cheese lovers, don't worry. You can either opt for mozzarella or Fontina with another helping of extra mozzarella for the cheesy topping.It is a layered pie with the grated cheese going on first, then the peppers. The sausage is then sprinkled on , and the pizza is finished off with a mozzarella covering.Fresh marjoram is then dusted over this, although if you want a more traditional taste go with oregano.Vegetarians can sub in soy sausage and soy cheese as regular meat eaters can use chicken or turkey sausage instead.

Bake this California style pizza when the snow is piling up outside.It 's a sunny taste of the garden that will melt away those winter blues. Have a slice, along with a cooling drink, and pretend you're on your favorite beach.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Turkish Treats

Turkish cuisine is usually full of savory exotic dishes, laden with spices and nuts. There is also the sweet side of it,, influenced by the variety of different people who lived there from the Greeks to the Turkic tribes. The end result is an array of delicious desserts that can be recreated in home kitchens.

Melissa Clark not only wrote about Turkish delights for today's New York Times Food section she went to Istanbul to sample the many different treats.Their pastries are just as sublime and complex as any French pastry yet are little known here in the US. Their origins, in part, come from the Muslims ban on alcohol. Syrupy fruit juices called sherbets along with other confections subbed in for wine used in various ceremonies. There is the actual Turkish delight, a citrussy gelatin square that's dusted with powdered sugar. Baklava ,  a favorite throughout the Eastern Mediterranean area is much more delicate than the traditional Greek one.Instead of using honey , bakers pour a simple syrup over the layers of pistachio and baklava. This highlights the nuttiness . another difference is the pastry too. Turkish baklava is made with yufka, a hybrid of strudel dough and phyllo. The layers are brushed with ewe's milk butter instead of cow's milk butter to give it a richer, fuller taste.Ms. Clark gives the recipe but it's more like the Greek with using regular butter and phyllo dough.

The Turks are also known for their fruit desserts that are loaded with poached or candied apricots, pears,cherries mulberries, quince and melon.Pumpkin is also candied, made with calcium hydroxide or slaked lime.One of the most popular in Turkey and worldwide is helweh or halwah. These range from the sesame seed variety to buttery flour and semolina homemade kinds.One of the oldest of the desserts is milk puddings. , A variation is ,tavuk, gogsu, actually has shredded chicken breast in it. The meat, usually from a fresh killed capon, is ground into a fine powder and mixed with milk, sugar and cracked rice.There is also a burned kind, kazandibi, that Ms. Clark makes. The flavor is similar to  a burnt marshmallow with a crusty smoky caramelized shell surrounding a mellow, creamy middle Cooking it involves using mastic, a tree resin used in  Middle Eastern and Greek cooking and baking. The recipe is tricky but easily learned. Bakers must put a metal 9 by 13 pan directly over an open flame  to burn the bottom of the pudding. The blackened side is then flipped over when it is served.

Turkey has an interesting array of sweets. The recipes are ancient and exotic, yer fit right in with modern Turkish cuisine. They are delicate and subtle, a perfect ending for dishes  rich with spice and flavor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Hot Cup Of Healthy

The temps are dropping . The knees are knocking. That means one thing - time for a hot  drink to warm the body and spirit. The problem is what's the best drink?Is it a hot toddy or a hot herbal tea?  The answer  -the last. Keep it healthy, while keeping it hot.

Many people reach for a hot brandy when they feel chilly. That may work in a cartoon or sitcom when a convenient Saint Bernard comes bounding through the snow with a keg of brandy around his or her neck. In actuality , it actually causes our body temps to drop. Blood vessels dilate allowing it to come closer to skin.  This dilation makes the blood flow faster so to speak, allowing us to feel that warm rush. . However this is a temporary feeling, You could mix brandy or whiskey even with steaming hot. coffee or tea.Hot cocoa is another cold weather must drink. The best kind is from scratch. Start with  powdered dark cocoa like the Dutch company Droste' or an organic cocoa powder such as Rapunzels' Sweeten it with dark organic honey instead of granulated sugar. Many will protest this, saying those marshmallow packed  packets are easier to make. That may be true but you;re also getting you a mouth full of preservatives and corn syrup. Stick with the all natural kind, especially if you're having it after dinner. Too much of any sugary drink will keep you up at night,

What about coffee and teas? Again go for healthy. Nowadays people love their coffees extra sweet ,loaded with syrups and blobs of whipped cream. That's great if you're into liquid cake. A better choice is just hot and black.or if you must skimmed milk with a sweetener such as honey(!) or agave nectar. The last can be found in the health food aisle in your local grocery store.Teas are another great way to get rid of that frosty feeling. There are some tasty herbal ones out there. Try Twinings's Nightly Calm ,a soothing spearmint and lemongrass blend. This is the perfect tea to  sip on a cold night, when you're bundled up in flannel jammies and robe. Their lemon ginger tea is a good one also , bright and citrussy to  thaw out to when the temps hit the single digits.. Add a dollop of honey to bring out the lemony flavor. Twinings also has pomegranate and raspberry ,an all natural blend , guaranteed to both warm and wake you up.  If you want a cozy night time drink, again go for the natural instead of the alcohol. A hot buttered rum may sound nice but a better choice is warmed milk with a teaspoon of honey added. This is the best way to relax and keep warm on a cold winter's night,

The temps are dropping. The knees are knocking. Conquer the chill with a hot  and healthy cup of something natural. It's good for your body on all levels.

Monday, January 18, 2016

King's Example

Today we celebrate Matrin Luther King's birthday , man who wanted to unite the country and make segregation an archaic idea. Unfortunately we still have the great divide, even more so with the poor of all colors and creeds. Thankfully there are a few small actions we can do to have some easement.

I cannot express the importance of helping out in food pantries across the U.S.. Assisting is not only good way of getting in touch with all of your community but also seeing what needs to be fixed. Sometimes it just takes this to push oneself into politics and community service. Bring the kids along too. The earlier they learn about helping others, the better. Too may kids feel entitlement  and they need to be shown not to take anything for granted Another idea is also bringing a festive air (if that's possible) to a soup kitchen by having a decorative cake or baking cookies to go with after meal tea or coffee. One idea to consider is a pantry garden. This is taking a little more of your yard to grow  bumper crops fruits and vegetables during the spring and summer months. The overage can be donated to your local food pantry or soup kitchen Of course it's too early to plant but it;s not too early to draw up plans or look into planting veggies you haven;t grown before.

For those living in urban areas, it time to protest for more urban farms. The concept is in full bloom in Newark , New Jersey where a variety of benefactors such as Goldman Sachs are contributing. It's refurbishing old warehouses and factories into indoor vertical farms. All sorts of vegetables and greens are grown inside , tended by locals. This creates not only ingredients for nutritional dishes but also jobs for the immediate community.Every city throughout the US should have at least two or three. It's up to the townspeople to help bring these vertical farms to their towns. Teachers in these urban area schools should also urge for nutrition or better nutrition classes too. Another idea to push is pay or help restaurants. If patrons don't have money, then they can help out , whether clearing tables or aiding around the kitchen.The concept was first instituted by rocker Jon Bon Jovi in his Red Bank, New Jersey restaurant JBJ Soul Kitchen. They also need volunteers to help out as well if you live in the area.Again this is an excellent restaurant idea in big cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

Reverend King may have been impressed with the progress we have made, however it would have dismayed him to see the great divide between this nation's upper and lower classes. We can come together foodwise  It only takes a helping hand to start a change .

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Feasting With Meaning

Feasting usually means a meal full of lush food and drink, with all sorts of revelry to follow. Yet there  is also a religious aspect to it, a facet that gets pushed aside.Old Testament readers will know  about these, along with their meanings and place in yearly celebrations.For those who don't there's a brand new book to aid in deciphering each feast.

Sonya A. Mozingo is the author of that book, A Year Of Feasting:Manual On The Seven Feasts Of God, Seen From a Christian Messanic  Jewish Perspective(2016 Archway Publishing). This is not the usual cookbook that has recipes for Passover or Succot. It's an explanation of the different feasts  occurring throughout the calendar. The author had many years of troubles before she turned to religion to help reunite her family and give her purpose in life. Feasting and celebrating has helped her understand basically why we are on this earth and what is our purpose in the eternal scheme of things.Ms. Mozinga explains foods' symbolism and their connection to a particular dinner. For those looking into a deeper historical meaning, with Old Testament references, this is not the book for you. The preparations and rituals are explained in simple terms. This is a great book for churches and youth groups who want to have interfaith celebrations. It can be used as a template when conducting services as well.

So, are there even any recipes in this book on feasting? Yes, but not in the traditional cookbook sense. Ms. Mozinga gives broad ones. For example,  the Feast of Pentecost or Shavout , there are the traditional loaves of wheat bread mentioned along with the individual cups of mixed herbs  blended with oil and vinegar.Tables also have trays of barley, olives figs, pomegranate and and grapes. Then there's a mention of cheesecake from Sam's Club. It would have been nice to have a home made  cheesecake recipe, perhaps one flavored with pomegranate juice or figs. Rosh Hashanah has the traditional apples dipped in honey along with a loaf of challah bread and a tray  of sweet potato muffins. There are also carrot, dishes integral to the ceremony, Again, it would have been nice if Ms. Mozingo had included a challah recipe or a salad one for the carrots., The Passover feast is pretty exact. Celebrants must have unleavened bread or matzoh, along with maror or bitter herbs. There is also matzoh ball soup but she recommends getting packets at Harris Teeter, a local Southern grocery chain, I would have liked to have seen at least one matzoh ball soup recipe and some variations on it.

A Year of  Feasting :Manual On The seven Feasts of God is an excellent book fr those wishing to recreate the different Jewish feasts .This book shows how Judaism  has always influenced Christianity and how the two are interwoven. Buy this book,, its' more food for the soul and spirit than it is for the body.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tabanero Hot Sauce Fire With A Healthful Kick

Nothing takes away the winter chill than a few drops of hot sauce added to any dish.It's a great way of making a meal exciting while warming foodies from head to toe. Tabanero Hot Sauce is this sauce.It can provide flavor and heat to any dish , from scrambled eggs to even cupcakes.

Hot sauce affectionados will love this brand.Tabanero. comes from an authentic Mexican recipe,directly from the Tabasco region in the lush and rainy Yucatan Peninsula. This provided the sauce's manufacturers with fresh ingredients to create a hot sauce that has a home made flavor.It's a delicate balance of spices such as habanero peppers mixed in with carrots , onions and garlic.What makes Tabanero unusual is that it also has lime juice as well as agave syrup in it , unlike other sauces. What it doesn't have is vinegar which many other hot sauce companies add to theirs along with preservatives. The result is a fresher tasting flavor that doesn't overshadow or even overpower a dish, Another plus us that the sauce is gluten free and low in sodium perfect for those allergy prone sauce lovers or those watching their salt intake.. It comes in three flavors:extra hot,  picante and agave sweet and spicy. The pricing is good too.$6.99 for a eight ounce bottle that will last for a few months.

I was never a big fan of hot sauce until I tried Tabanero's sauces. I love the almost fresh garden taste of  the picante. It doesn't have that throat searing heat that I deplore in other hot sauces. It was great as a dip with soy chicken nuggets,only enhancing their  flavor. It would be excellent  in meat loaf along with zinging up the sauce. Use it as a marinade for chicken wings and ribs along with turniing it into a dipping sauce for them as well. Put a liberal few drops in guacamiole or salsa to really give excitement to chips and dips. Tabanero's picante sauce is a good brunch buddy too. Bloody Mary's will never be the same, once this is added to the mix although fr a real eye opener use the extra hot flavor. The picante or the extra hot would be  excellent in huevos rancheros or even zinging up  baked eggs. I also am a big fan of the agave sweet and spicy. It makes for an excellent dipping sauce  for soy chicken bites and  would also be good as a sweet marinade for chicken wings and legs,Try it ,brushed on  pork ribs or pork chops too.. Many bakers would use to make a fiery Mexican hot chocolate  cake or cupcakes. It could even be used in icing as well for the ultimate surprise.

Tabanero hot sauces are not your usual hot sauces. They are made with fresh ingredients that have a just from the garden flavor to them. Try them today for an original and unique flavor. They're not just lively, but all natural and good for you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Don't Let Them Eat Cake

What do you do when you want  to celebrate a birthday? Have a lovely cake made up and then enjoy it with friends and family. That works -except in some restaurants. A new trend is discouraging patrons from bringing in their own desserts, whether by banning cakes all together  fees or charging for plating them.

Kim Severson wrote about this in yesterday's New York Times Food section. The practice is called "cakeage" a play on the word corkage, the fee a restaurant gives to open a bottle of wine brought in by customers. It's surprisingly a common practice around the world. A restaurant in London charged the equivalent of $14.00 a person in cakeage fees.(well, leave it to the English to know how to ruin a joyous occasion).On some levels it is understandable,The staff has to cut and plate the dessert. Diners are using the eatery's plates and cutlery. All that has to be cleared away and  washed afterwards which takes time and energy. Bringing in any kind of baked good is an insult to the restaurant's pastry chef as well. He or she spends hours , even days creating the perfect torte or tart . Favoring a store bought over a much thought out creation is a slap in the face.Also pastry chefs do not want other patrons to think that a garishly decorated birthday , anniversary or any other celebratory cake came out of their kitchen,Some chefs don't mind. They accept those supermarket cakes and cupcakes brought in. Their philosophy is people go to a restaurant for a good time and good food. Why spoil that mood by copping a diva attitude over what's served at the end of a meal.

What should you do if you want that cake after a birthday dinner? The old fashioned answer would be have the dessert at home after dinner. Everyone has to agree it's a more relaxed atmosphere. he group can linger for hours over second helpings without being pressured to "wrap it up" from testy waiters.You can also call the eatery a few days in advance and ask if they can make you a special cake (mind you, this will cost).Some chefs and pastry chefs may balk at this, some may see it as challenge to create something memorable and cater to the customer's tastes. Doing this is an excellent form of publicity because everyone usually posts their dining experiences on Yelp these days. Another idea is just ordering two or three desserts , stick a candle -those are allowed - into one of them and then celebrate..What diners should not do is antagonize the waitstaff,no matter how politely they ask for plates. Famed cookbook writer and baker, Rose Levy Beranbaum brought a box of her  deep chocolate passion cake to the  pricey Breslin Restaurant in the Manhattan's Ace Hotel. She wanted her friends,both food professionals, to taste it,it didn't go as she had thought it would. They were humiliated and rebuffed by haughty waiters who refused to serve her creation. A better move would have been skipping dessert and just handing the sweets over to friends after the expensive meal.

So, should you bring or not bring cake to a restaurant? If the restaurant says yes, then fine, if not have it at home. You'll save money along with keeping your favorite eatery's waitstaff and owner sweet

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bean Time

A cold January day means a hot , home cooked meal and what better than simple beans themselves. They're an easy cook and can be made a variety of ways. Best of all, they're not as challenging as some think. Any novice home chef can make them with very good results.

Melissa Clark knows this and offered her advice on them in her A Good Appetite column in today's New York Times Food section. Beans are the perfect meal for those watching their diets and budgets. They're a healthy alternative to meat along with being one of the cheapest foods to buy. Already cooked beans are also perfect for freezing for later consumption. Some home chefs prefer using the canned variety simply for convenience's sake. Don't. Buy dried beans and just let them soak.It's an old wives tale that it takes anywhere from four to twenty-four hours for a good bath . Home chefs can soak them for however long they want to.The  practice does have its merits, so don't rule it out entirely. Soaking will help beans cook faster along with leaching out the sugars that can cause intestinal distress.If that's the case, then soak. Just remember to add a good tablespoon of salt to the water.It speeds up cooking by breaking down the beans' skins..Keep in mind you could wind up with old beans (many grocery stores are guilty of selling ones that are past their sell by date). Their meat may not be tender and there could be a bit of a chew to their texture.

One of the great things about beans is that they're incredibly versatile. They can be cooked up in herbs rosemary and thyme broth, or for a more flavorful dish, bay leaf, oregano or sage.Putting a bouquet garni into the pot also will yield up a flavorful dish of beans. What are known as soft herbs such as cilantro, basil , parsley and chives can be used not only for enhancing the dish  but also for adding some color and decoration, Beans and spices are always a good pairing. Think cumin  and coriander.for an Indian vibe. Cinnamon and allspice are out of the box suggestions but they add a kind of smoky sweetness to the dish, To get the spices' full effect, do what Ms. Clark does :toast them in the pot for a few minutes until they release an aroma  before adding the beans and water.Of course, the best seasonings are the aromatics. Cooking with  celery or  carrots along with any of the members of the onion family such as garlic leeks and shallots to create a savory broth . Ginger gives beans a fiery kick , perfect for a cold night,Most people love adding a huge chunk of ham or bacon to any bean dish, but especially to Boston baked beans,Usually beans are served over rice but feel free to try them poured over polenta or faro.

This is bean season. Pick out whatever one looks appealing ad get creative with spices and ideas. The end result is a tasty filling dish that will warm you on a cold winter's night.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fortfying The Pantry

This blog was under attack today ,thanks to an opinion piece that I had published in today's The Guardian online. To be honest. I thought I had been doing a relatively good job writing about recipes and food trends for the last eight years.However there were several horrifically mean people who have nothing better to do than rip my blog to shreds.

Unfortunately anyone is shark bait to the online haters.  ,I thought Foodie Pantry was immune because there's only a small cadre of readers. There was never any flak  or criticism. I felt comfortable writing whatever I wanted.Readers seemed happy with my various recipes, from my family's zuppa pane pesto soup to French bread pudding,Public relations people thought my articles on their clients ' books and products were spot on. One  company, San-J, even printed out my review of their gluten free soy sauce, framed it and hung it in their lobby.Then there my entries  saluting our troops and remembering them with gift certificates to their favorite restaurants along with the entries dealing with food pantries and community gardens helping inner cities. Luckily the sludge didn't attack those. I did fight back . I had too and any blogger would do the same in similar circumstances.. When the haters start hating, then it's time to roast them like pigs - slow and with a searing heat that makes their flesh fall off the bone.(except the pig flesh is a lot tastier and much much cleaner than theirs)

This experience was an eye opener. however I am not changing my style, or blog for these holes. I like Foodie Pantry  the way it is. This is advice for any of those neophyte food bloggers out there. Write the way you want, not what people dictate. Never read the very hateful and caustic remarks. These are made by people who are jealous of you, the ones who have absolutely no talent and are complete nothings in the real world.Commenting is the only way to draw attention to themselves. If they were talented , they would have their own blogs and not spending their time criticizing yours. Another must, grow a thicker skin. Most of what people write on the web is just envious rantings Ignore them. If you want constructive criticism, go to family and friends. They know you and how you write.They're the best sounding boards for entry ideas and plans.  Some blogs have pictures of the authors, some don't. I never did because I want my privacy. I was even criticized for that today. There's nothing wrong with privacy  and people have to respect your wish for it.

I am proud of this blog,proud of what I've achieved with it and what it's done for cookbook writers, new foods and inventors. No one puts an ax to my pantry. I'll put an ax to their heads long before that.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Hearty Winter Casserole

Winter meals mean hearty meals.There's nothing like a rich , layered  dish that's filling and tasty like a homemade casserole The best part is that they can be varied with ingredients so any one that's made is both unique and delicious. One could have cheese and bacon in it, while another can be made strictly vegan.

Many novice  home chefs balk at the thought of casseroles. They feel that the dish may be too complicated or too labor intensive.As with any dish start off with the easiest..Tuna casserole, despite all the cliches about it, is an easy bake and one the whole family can love.It is basically three or four  cups of cooked elbow macaroni  layered with one can of drained tuna(use the one with water, not olive oil). Cream of chicken soup and shredded cheddar cheese top it . If you want crunch add an layer of French fried onions on top. Classic baked mac and cheese is another simple dish that can be varied,Many people love a layer of crisp bacon on top or have the cheese and pasta layered with sliced ham. You can also use different cheeses mixed together like Cheddar and American. Toppings can be breadcrumbs or the more crunchier panko crumbs.Vegetarians can appreciate the easy as pie squash one. This is cooked yellow squash layered with layered Gruyere cheese and a thick mayo and Ritz cracker kind of sauce. It's then topped of with more crushed  Ritz cracker crumbs and baked until golden>if you want to make it completely vegan, then use soy cheese  in flavors like  Cheddar or American and sub in Nayonaise an non egg vegetarian mayo substitute.

Once home chefs have conquered the easier casserole recipes, it's time to move onto to the more complicated. The Italian classic , lasagna is always a favorite for all ages It can be made with beef or chicken along with pork for a really ric  flavor.Veggies such as eggplant and peppers can be subbed in for a meatless one while uncooked or precooked lasagna noodles can be used, Definitely add in mozzarella for some gooey cheesiness. Casseroles can be fun like a hamburger potato one, enhanced with Cheddar and cream of mushroom soup. It's like a cheeseburger without the bun, with every bite containing juicy beef and creamy cheese,There's also a chiles rellenos one, perfect for those who love Mexican food, This is a layering of green chile peppers along with a tasty mix of Monterey and Cheddar cheeses along with a custard made from eggs, milk and flour . Tomato sauce zings it up wit  more flavor and color.As much as turkey tetrazzini is considered a cliche, it's actually a really delicious dish made with buttery spaghetti in a thick chicken broth based roux . Crispy Parmesan cheese tops it. You can add peas, but also try broccoli florets for some variety.One of the best thing about any casserole is that it makes great leftovers, that is if there is anything left.

Nothing beats a hearty dish like a casserole on a cold winter's night. Make one that will stick to your family's ribs and keep them warm and cozy. They're fun, they're easy and best of  any one made is a truly delicious one.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Roll With It

One of the best parts of winter is staying indoors on a snowy day and baking. Even better baking rolls and buns. They're a nice departure from the usual snowy day baking line up along with challenging skills. Another good thing about rolls and buns, they're perfect for any meal or snack.

Many novice home bakers may balk at using yeast dough. They feel that it's unreliable and can ruin a recipe. The key to that is proofing for usually half an hour. It's all about letting the dough rise. This produces fluffy  light rolls or loaves when they 're baked. Rolls are easy to make and have a simple recipe. It is usually is margarine, white sugar , eggs yeast and refined white flour. Baking time is between thirty and forty minutes. For a healthier bread try whole wheat,Some recipes would be  bit richer because whole wheat rolls usually have milk and butter included.Add some variety by sprinkling on sesame seeds or poppy seeds. This is done right before you put the tin into the oven. Brush tops with melted butter and then sprinkled on the seeds.More experienced bakers can try their hand at brioches, those buttery, heavenly French rolls. It's an involved recipe that has four eggs and a cup(!) of unsalted butter.There's also half a cup of milk to to add to the roll's richness.It's a double rise meaning that the dough is let proofed once after kneading. An hour later the process is repeated and then the dough is put into those special tins.Then there is the "head",a ball of  dough which is put on in  a certain way.Then there is a third proofing that lasts an hour, along with a preliminary egg wash to get that golden glaze before baking.

Most people love homemade buns. especially the cinnamon ones, thanks to Cinnabon. Those instant ones are good in a pinch however you can easily make your own, tasting exactly like the ones at the mall.The dough has a tangy richness thanks to the addition of buttermilk.along with the seven tablespoons of butter. Of course it is the filling and melt in your mouth icing that makes these treats sing and shine. The filling is a mix of cinnamon and brown sugar along with corn starch and again half a cup of butter (Cinnabon sells the cinnamon if you want to use theirs). The icing is made with cream cheese along with more butter- a mere quarter of a cup this time- and lemon juice. It's an elaborate bake with many steps however the end result is definitely worth it.A regular bun recipe is , of,course much simpler ,similar to the roll one. It just has more sugar, namely anywhere between one third to one half cup sugar. Try currant buns for a different twist. This is a big British favorite, appearing often at teas.Currants are basically dried red seedless grapes, a bit different from raisins. They  can also be made with regular raisins or sultanas. a dried white grape. Saffron buns, popular in Sweden on December 12, St. Lucy's day are also yummy.treat.It's a regular bun recipe with a 1/4 teaspoon of saffron added.

A cold snowy day is the perfect one for making rolls and bun. Bake a batch to be served with dinner or just as a snack.They're tasty treats to warm you inside and out.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Tweak Here, A Tweak There

Sometimes even the most delicious of recipes needs a little oomph.A tweak here , a dollop there can elevate any recipe from tasty to memorable.This is what makes a good cook, whether in a restaurant kitchen or in a home one.

This is my mantra.If I can make a recipe better,I will. Dishes and meals should not only be filling and nutritious but extraordinary . Even simple breakfast dishes can be turned into ambrosia with a tweak. Takes eggs for example. Even the simplest dish involving them can be boosted up by a dash of tarragon. Add this versatile herb to scrambled eggs for a nice brunch main dish. It can work wonders in an omelet au fine herbes. too.One of the best tweaks is adding club soda to beaten egg before scrambling. This results in the lightest, fluffiest scramble ever.I've also added whole cream to eggs which resulted in a more dense, custardy but insanely delicious dish. A cup of chopped ham also added oomph too.Waffle and pancake batters can also benefit from tweaks. Add a healthy dose of nutmeg or cinnamon  for a spicier , earthier flavor. Almonds and pecans are another great add in, giving both crunch and texture. Syrups can  be made special too. Add a squeeze of orange juice or  for a different spin. Drop in some blueberries and strawberries right before serving for color and flavor.

Lunch and dinner recipes always benefit from a tweak. Everybody loves a grilled cheese however make it like a croque Monsieur for a truly memorable meal. Instead of baking it in an oven or broiling it, fry it in butter . I do my own spin on it by buttering the inside, subbing in Gruyere along with a layer of sliced ham. The traditional recipe claims that  bread should be dipped in a flour and egg mixture before assembling but I feel this takes away from the crunch and flavor. Another favorite to tweak is the savory Italian bread pudding.The recipe has been in my family for decades. It's a flavorful layering of Italian or french bread,and Swiss cheese , baked or steamed with a good helping of beef broth. The last has been replaced by vegetable broth to be more vegan. Cabbage is added for crunch and color. Now I've been experimenting with aged Swiss will will give this usually mellow dish bite. Homemade Italian sauce is always deserving of a little twist. With mine , there comes a generous amount of oregano and vegan Iitalian sausage. The last is loaded with peppers so it gives the sauce a great zing.I love it on refried polenta but it can be perfect gracing rotelli too.

Tweaking here and there is perfectly fine.It add zings to everyday recipes, giving them pizzazz and zing. Go  off the beaten path and revamp that family or favorite recipe.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Skillet Chicken Redone

Any skillet dish can be a boring one, especially if it involves chicken. Yet suppose it was livened up with tomatoes and crispy pancetta.It would turn from a snoozefest to a lively celebration. It can be done - and easily too. A novice home chef can even have fun with this.

It was the subject of Melissa Clark's  A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section.She takes's a beginner's dish and elevates it to something quite special. skillet chicken is simply taking cut up chicken brown it in  wide skillet, add a splash of water or chicken broth and then finish it in the oven for a nice golden brown look.For variation, sometimes a dash of white wine is added or rosemary.sometimes American cheese  or Velveeta is added, A few recipes call for Campbell's mushroom soup. However these tend to detract  from the chicken however a simple recipe may beg for more flavor. - and that doesn't mean more broth a a discreet pat of butter added.

Ms Clark turns on the flavor,There is pancetta that is crisped in the pan before the chicken. the chicken is cooked in the rendered fat giving it much more taste. after that's been thoroughly browned save the pan along with the combined fats from the chicken and pancetta for plum tomatoes, garlic and pepper flakes. The wild card addition is anchovies which gives it depth.The final touch in this pizza like dish, balls of mozzarella , known as bocconcini. Grated mozzarella can be used  instead to create a more blankety covering for the chicken. If anchovies aren't your thing, Ms.Clark suggests olives or capers for  saltiness and richness. Swap onion for garlic for sweetness along with rosemary for basil.Also sub in all legs or breasts  if you want. Wing lovers should just go for wings along with making it all dark or all white meat. I would serve this with a huge crusty loaf of Italian bread too to sop up everything.

Skillet chicken need not be boring.Add some tomatoes, mozzarella and pancetta, along with garlic and anchovies for an exciting dish. It's a different spin on a classic dish,

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Baby Cauliflower A Dish Is Born

One of the best winter dishes is cauliflower.It's versatile and beautiful, a creamy alabaster that can be turned golden brown by roasting and baking. The heads are large and can be either the star or supporting player. Either way it is  dream vegetable and being celebrated in a new dish, a roasted style that'st taking the culinary world by storm.

Julia Moskin knows this and wrote about it in today's New York Times Food section. The veggie can be made a variety of different ways.It can go Italian,Indian, French or Middle Eastern.It's even becoming elegant, with chefs all over the world. It is the  internationally reknowned Israeli cook, Eyal Shani who is famous for this new healthy phenomena. He blanches it in salt water and then its' oiled and charred in a wood fired oven. It has fans such as other famed chefs such as Jamie Oliver,Giada deLaurentis, and Rachel Ray.It's an easy dish that even home chefs can make as a weekday dinner or an impressive dinner party centerpiece.If there's a worry about cooking it in a wood fired oven, don;t A regular heated 375 dgree Farenheit  oven will do the job nicely.Just make sure there is a pan of water with it to create steam.I imagine it could work on a closed barbecue grill too come Spring or summer.

Cauliflower is a lot like meat. It has a rough , outer surface like  beef roast that can grab onto flavor elements like fresh herbs, lemon juices and crushed spices.. The whole head can be marinated or dry rubbed,  basted, crusted or browned while the inside remains silky and tender.It can also be served ceremoniously at the table where it can be carved with a flourish.It can also be cut up and served as individual servings. It can be served with a sauce and Ms. Moskin makes an am anchovy, garlic almond sauce , kind of like a bagna calda one.This is an anchiode, a Provencale born one but you could also make a garlic tahini one with it.. Home chefs can also just have a lemon infused aoli one or or maybe an olive oil based za'atar infused sauce.

Baby cauliflower is the new star of the 2016 cooking scene. It can be easily recreated to produce a show stopping main dish or glittering sides. It is one heck of a baby!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Yup, It's Virus Season Again

This is going to be a short entry. It's January and that means virus season. Since I am a magnet for all things bacterial,I have fallen to the newest strain . It's been a RA diet, rice  and applesauce .A sleepless night was spent Googling all the foods I should be eating and drinking. at 2 AM I was quickly guzzling down hot peppermint tea and then finally got to bed.

This is a foodie nightmare.There are ao many things I would love to eat right now but can't . The thirst that comes with dehydration is awful  - luckily there is the tea and Pepsi(I shouldn;t have it, i know - extreme sugar and caffeine are off limits but a cold glass of it is refreshing and good on my stomach).

Ginger also helps, and thank heavens I have a few ginger chews to calm my innards., The spice  also aids in digestion so it;s highly recommended for  any stomach flu or virus.. Also take fresh  ginger root , slice and then steep in boiling hot water. Fresh ginger tea is excellent in soothing an irritated stomach wall. Also ginger ale, and preferably the much stronger brewed ginger beer is another must have.

Anyway, it's back to the tenth cup of mint tea. wish me well. This only the beginning of the trip through  scary stomach flu land

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Fun Diet

Yes, January is here and with it comes the dread of a diet. No one likes to give up that fun holiday diet of roasts and cookies, champagne and caviar. Yet suppose we could have a diet that's fun, one full of tasty dishes and treats that makes us want more?Is that possible? Yes!

Everyone love pizza and tacos. A low calorie  homemade pizza is both healthy and fun. Start by making a whole wheat dough. It will be a denser, chewier dough but will be chock full of vitamins and minerals along with fiber. Use fresh tomatoes or other veggies such as broccoli, kale, and yes even cabbage. As for meat, think leftover chicken or steak. Tuna is another good topper and works well with tomato. Cheese can be held to a minimum unless you're using low cal mozzarella. Try an unusual and colorful topping of chopped scallions. Tacos re another fun meal that can be turned into a yummy diet treat. Instead of having iceburg lettuce, try red cabbage or arugula, Keep the tomatoes  but zing it up with fiery tomatilloes and peppers. Fresh chopped onions add crunch, zest and sweetness. You can also saute the veggies fajita style before adding them to the tacos. definitely use guacamole but nix the sour cream (unless you use the low fat kind). Make a heart healthy guac by  adding two to three tablespoons of olive oil. It not only is good for you but definitely makes the dip satiny smooth and super creamy.

Chili, done healthy is another yummy treat. Go with chopped turkey meat or vegan crumbles. This is a better fat free version. Serve with cornbread which surprisingly is not that high in calories. A fun dinner idea is taking corn muffins , splitting them in half and  then pouring chili on both sides, kind of like a spicy sloppy Joe. Salads , a diet must , can be livened up simply by adding a flavored vinegar, Try infusing crushed blueberries or a dash of pure pomegranate in a regular red wine or apple cider variety. Textures make those greens sing. Toast some sesame seeds  or almond slivers to sprinkle on. Dried cranberries add bother color ,tartness and chewiness. A great diet treat along fridge cleaner is getting rid of that leftover roast. Add cold cubed  London Broil or chicken to just spinach and grape tomatoes. Dress with just oil and vinegar and serve with bread sticks.Everyone love breakfast sandwiches at any time of the day. Make them heart healthy by just using egg whites, soy cheese and soy bacon on an English muffin.It makes just as good a lunch or dinner as it does a day starter.

Don't be discouraged by the thought of a diet. Make it fun with fun good for you dishes.  You'll still have a good time but will be losing weight instead of gaining it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The New Age Of Saffron

Saffron is one of the world's most ancient of spices. It has been in use since Cleopatra and Alexander the Great. Now after over 2,000 of cultivation something new is happening ushering in a new age for the spice. It is being scrutinized as never before.Why? Because , like anything lux product  it is being upstaged by cheaper, less purer variations and forms.

Elaine Sciolino wrote the investigative piece for  last Wednesday's New York Times Food section. It seems that these much prized pistils of the crocus plant is under some controversy right now. The grains have been tampered with, cut , the same way cocaine is cut or diluted down to sustain the harvest.This creates an inferior grade product which leads to it ruining dishes that require it(think of that luscious recipe, risotto Milanese with inferior grade saffron.It would lose that amazing , unique flavor). Today there is a battle to stop this along with the halt of cheap substitutes, diluted shipments,and false labeling.It is  called Saffronomics. This is where scientists and growers get together and improve saffron production along with determining purity and place of origin. They also impose order on a wildly unregulated market.After all some manufacturers are a little more than family farms, more or less off the grid in small farms.some of these go to the local market, Some go to Spain., all unregulated.

There was a global conference in Almagro , Spain back in September.There was discussions of the huge amount of fraud saffron being sols worldwide. According to Professor, J.S. Heslop-Harrison who teaches genetics at England's University of Leicester this is a major problem that is robbing foodies , chefs and home chef's worldwide of the spice 's exotic tangy taste and highly aromatic smell.Luckily diluted saffron doesn't pose a health hazard.The meeting also produced talks about fraud detection through a variety of more sophisticated tests from simple spectroscopy  that tests the pollen's color to  more sophisticated DNA tests.They want to know if samples were artificially dyed or if plant compounds such as corn silks or safflower thistle has been added. Saffronomics is in the process of developing detailed databases of adulterants and regional varieties (Spanish and Iranian saffron widely differ yet look the same).As home chefs know the spice is one of the most expensive on the market.It can sell for up to $10,000 a pound.

Saffron is still the most desired spice as it had been in Cleopatra's and Alexander's day.Yet now the financial stakes are much much higher.There is intrigue and illegal deals Luckily there are now Saffronomics to rein in this new age of spice trading.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What Will The New Year's Bring?

What are going to be the trends and tastes of the new year? Will we be beset by another year of Middle Eastern spicing? Will a new gadget spark our interest? What will 2016 bring? 

One trend is getting back to our culinary roots. In other words that General Tso's chicken and buffalo wing pizza will be foods of the past. Foodies want authentic food not Americanized versions. You'll see more regional dishes in restaurants of all ethnicities. This may also lead to discovering one's culinary roots and a push to delve into  family cookbooks for the real thing.This may have lead to the next trend -less processed food.TV dinners and microwave snacks will no longer have artificial coloring or flavors nor will they have preservatives.This will lead to another predicted trend of the new year - organic fast food. Amy's has already opened up their first fast food joint, enlisting local farmers to help them out .Hopefully the big guns, McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King will also follow suit.The big flavor of the year - pineapple. The tropics are coming back and in a big way.

Another trend is baby chefs. We're going to be inundated by new waves of Junior Master Chefs. Foodie babies have come of age and they're hot on the trails of their elders to slice  dice , and inherit the family sous vide. That said, there may be a rush to enroll's one's to, not in tetherball but  in baking and grilling classes.They'll probably be going gaga for gadgets like their home chef folks however there's a twist in this.The thingamabobs are not brand new. They're what our grannies and great-grans used to create delicious dinners and desserts. Get ready to swoon over (again) for baking sheets and broilers. More dinners will be cooked on a baking sheet than in any pot or pan. This makes sense because you can roast the main and the sides together for an evenly cooked meal.

These are just some of the predictions for the new year. We'll never really know until the trend is literally on fire. New ideas and recipes come along all the time. The trick is will they be the spark that lights up the foodie world in 2016?