Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year Leap Foods

Today is truly a special day. February 29th only comes once but every four years. Some people celebrate,  and why not.There's nothing like an extra day of fun eating and feasting. Be creative with tonight's dinner. It won;t come gain until 2020.

Since the theme is all about leaping, think toads - not the real kind - but the British classic toad in the hole.This is a baked dish that features cooked sausages in a Yorkshire pudding base. You can use the traditional English sausage or bangers which have  good dose of breadcrumbs or try it with chicken or turkey sausage. Vegans can add in soy sausage instead. Since four is an important number in thiss, think quarters. You can serve marinated chicken quarters with mixed veggies and potatoes (hence four different kind of vegetables) or a four cheese baked mac or pizza. These last two can have a mix of different cheeses. The pasta dish can be drenched in fontina, ,Parmesan cheddar and even the cheesy Velveeta. Try the pizza not just mozzarella but also with Pecorino and Asiago for bite and Monterey Jack for heat. You could also add four toppings from the veggie artichoke hearts, onions, peppers and spinach to meat - sausage, pepperoni , chicken and bacon. Another fun idea is breakfast for dinner with serving four grain pancakes, chock full of whole wheat, oats and corn meal along with regular refined white flour for the fourth grain.  Serve with butter and brandied maple syrup.

It is a special birthday for those born on this day. After all it only happens every four years so make it a good one. One of the best birthday cakes is a surprise one. Cut a slice and be surprised by the pattern inside, It could be polka dots , stripes or leopard spots. For Leap Year kids celebrating their first second or even third (namely fourth ,eight or twelfth birthdays for the average kid) could have an pinata cake. This is simply baking a round cake , whether vanilla or chocolate and filling it with candy,like M&M's gummy worms, and jelly beans, . When the birthday child slices it open he or she will be agape with joy at what spills out. It can be made for adults too. Bake a devil's food cake and fill with Godiva chocolates or homemade truffles. You can also bake cupcakes in this theme as well. Another special treat is champagne cake, a moist white crumb made with 3/4 of champagne. It's an elegant way to celebrate a day that only comes once every four years.

Leap into a special Leap Year party or birthday with themed recipes and  fun cakes. Celebrate the uniqueness of the day. It's a rare time to have fun.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Healthy Oscar Noshing

Tomorrow night is Oscar night, a time to celebrate the year in film,It's also a time for parties, whether small family ones or large ones with fellow move buffs. Celebrate the way those Hollywood celebs do, with healthy dishes and snacks. It's a great way to nosh as the count down for best picture begins.

Pizza always tops the list of any Oscar party, whether it be the Vanity Fair do or the one in the family living room. Think of the chef to the stars , Wolfgang Puck, when making your own. He introduced the world to such diverse toppings as duck and shiitake mushrooms. Home chefs can easily come up with their own healthy versions. First sub in whole wheat flour  or rice flour for the crust. Just remember that it will not produce a light ,crisp one. It will be a bit dense and chewy.As for the toppings, slice up fresh tomatoes or for a more traditional one, puree them. You can add low fat mozzarella or the soy version. Toppings can be sauteed soy beef crumbles or chicken strips. Add a layer of garlic sauteed spinach or kale. Sprinkle on some mushrooms or just have sliced black olives or onions. You could also use the dough to make fancy and savory toppings. Try caramelized  onions with the cashew cheeses  or a fragrant ratatouille.Sliders are always a fun party dish  and thanks to Gardein, you can have the soy version Serve on whole wheat toast rounds with home made salsa. Have a slide of organic baked potato or sweet potato chips on the side.

Those chips will also be good with a healthy spin on onion dip. Take plain Greek yogurt and mix in some fresh diced onions along with a small pinch of sea salt. Blend thoroughly and serve with the baked chips. Another  fun dip is salsa. Finely chop up two to three (you may want to increase the amount if you have a large Oscar party) vine ripe tomatoes   and blend with finely chopped yellow onions. Bring heat to the party by adding one finely minced jalapeno pepper. Home made dumplings are another good party nosh.Make them healthy by creating whole wheat skins stuffed with shredded cabbage, ginger and carrots. Set them out with little bowls of Kikoman sauce for dipping. Popcorn and movies go hand in hand. Set up bowls of them throughout the viewing area. Have different flavors, from hot pepper to Italian style with a drizzle of rosemary infused oil. Caramel corn is always a good munch and an all natural one is an  easy make. Use melted coconut oil (try the  Lou Ana brand for this) to pop the kernels. More coconut oil i s then boiled with maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt to create the caramel. After this has been cooked it is then poured over the popped corn and tossed. Serve in popcorn boxes for extra fun.

Whether you're rooting for Leo or Eddie, Cate or Brie, sit back and enjoy healthy Oscar noshing. You'll be the winner , enjoying good for you appetizers and snacks. its your ticket to nutrition and nominees.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Paleo Muffins

Muffins are one of the healthiest ways to start off the morning. Well, they were until certain  national coffee chains turned them into sugar and fat bombs. However they can be returned to their original heart healthy goodness with adding all natural ingredients and home baking.Nothing beats a fresh from the oven muffin bursting with benefits..

Julia Moskin realizes this,being an expert home chef and baker,, and wrote about them in Wednesday's New York Times Food section. The paper dropped their breakfast issue then and it was centered on everything AM. Muffins are another aspect of the morning routine. Unfortunately most of the ones eaten are usually purchased through a drive through window and has more sugar than doughnuts and even Twinkies. As Joanne Chang, owner of several Flour bakeries in the Boston area puts it, muffins are nothing more than cake batter poured into muffin tins.How to make them paleo healthy again. By going back to paleo flavorings and ingredients. Instead of using refined white sugar, rely on maple syrup or honey. Make sure there are nuts and whole grains mixed in  Sadly muffin recipes  do need refined white flour in order for the bake to be successful. White flour gives not only taste but lightness.Its' gluten  content also allows the batter to stretch,  rise and give the muffins their rise.. Whole grain is the preferred and it can be varied with the ancient grains of millet, spelt and bran, just to name a few.Buttermilk is the preferred liquid because baking soda needs to be activated by liquid and acid. Try to use newly bought baking soda too . An older one will not give the desired effect.

What else is needed to create the perfect home baked muffin? Ms. Moskin recommends doubling up on the baking soda and baking powder to increase the size of the muffin tops.It also gives the batter a  better chance of rising correctly.Stay away from over beating. Doing such will inhibit leaveners from working. Also ignore that age old advice of not filling up the tins to the top. Do so, but remember to grease the pan's top. This will prevent the muffins from sticking and breaking after they've been cooled.Another old baker' s rule that can be broken is don't rush the batter into the oven directly  after mixing. Resting it allows the grains to soften and absorb the liquids. It produces a  tender crumb and lightness. Baker Chang stores all of her batters overnight in the fridge to get the ultimate best  texture. If you are making muffins are home, just leave the batter on the counter for an hour.Just resist the urge to stir it This will  cause  air bubbles which will expand  cause the baking powder to reactivate and the baking powder to redouble its efforts. This will cause the muffins to have a small or little rise.

Muffins can be both healthy and tasty. The secret is baking them at home, where ingredients can be monitored . Try  making a batch today and enjoy the benefits.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lou Ana Coconut Oil - Go Coconuts For It

One of the most trending food and beauty items right now is coconut oil. It is everywhere with both home and professional chefs clamoring for it. They should buy LouAna's Coconut Oil. It's is a kitchen necessity, with uses for everything, from cooking to beauty maintenance.

The century old Lou Ana Company has jumped on this trendy bandwagon.The 122 year old company has been producing a variety of oils for Southern California kitchens and most of the US. Generations of home chefs have been using it for their family's fried chicken recipes as well as for the recently popular  holiday fried turkeys. The company started out selling  the usual every day  oils, safflower, peanut and vegetable. All  are fat free and rid of transfat. Their latest foray , coconut oil, is no different.It is non-hydrogenated, worth 0 percent transfat, ideal for frying and sauteing. It can be used for baking too. It makes for a better and relatively healthier buttercream frosting than the ones made with butter or margarine. Using it will definitely improve one's health.Coconut oils aids in heart health, being high in lauric acid which helps prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol.It's great for those on diet because it speeds up metabolism, and helps to burn calories. Everyone knows about its' beauty benefits.It's excellent in softening rough skin and works better than fancy skin cremes in diminishing fine lines. This all purpose oil gives hair an amazing shine and is an excellent cuticle cream. (especially if you use those nail stickers  that dry out the nail bed.) LouAna has the regular coconut oil but also sells an organic kind They have just come out with a non stick spray for grills and griddles. This last can also be sprayed on poultry too, before roasting to give the bird a nice evenly browned skin.

Lou Ana has teamed with chef and The Chew host, Carla Hall for recipes. Chef Hall is a huge fan of coconut oil.It's highlighted in every one of her  dishes from main meal to dessert Her famed hot fried chicken is fried in it.  Hers is a healthier recipe than the traditional fried chicken, because she sautes the breaded pieces in the oil, rather than deep fries them. As I've found out  coconut oil gets hot very quickly and can also smoke too. Be cautious when using it,.She also uses it for crisping up her Dijon tarragon salmon and  braised short ribs. It's also in her eggplant casserole  as well as in her pear cranberry pot pie  Chef Hall even makes yummy walnut cinnamon cookies with it. I liked working with the oil however I used a bit too much the first time - not a good idea. There was a heavy oily aftertaste thanks to an over enthusiastic home chef. Some home chefs are put off by coconut oil, fearing their main dishes will taste like Mounds Bars. Not the case. The oil is tasteless and odorless having been distilled from the kernel or meat of the mature drupe, eliminating the distinct, tropical flavor. The purified oil is   then emulsified to produce the solid form. It melts at 76 F so keep in a cool place come summer.

Try Lou Ana's new line of coconut oils and coconut oil sprays.It's healthy and good , despite being trendy. Use it for delicious dishes and better baked treats.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Breakfast Issue

The first meal is always the most important meal of the day. Sometimes, however, it can be the most boring. The New York Times Food section knows it and today's section is all about breakfast. There are how tos, recipes, and even a report on America's breakfast capitol , Los Angeles. Home chefs will love it, foodies will adore this salute to our most necessary meal.

Everyone has weighed in on the subject.There are some great how tos, especially concerning eggs. Julia Moskin gave us this , and it's an eye opener. Surprisingly many people don't even know how to scramble eggs , let alone discern the time between  hard boiling and soft boiling them. She gives the perfect recipe for eggs sunnyside  up too. It's letting the eggs sit a while from their stay in the fridge along with properly heating up the skillet. What goes with any eggs? Toast and the perfect cup of cofffee. The toast  article comes from Emily Weinstein and it is an eye opener.. we shouldn't be using  those sliced loaves from our local supermarket. Go to the bakery and get the loaves with sturdy crust and fine crumb (the interior texture). These will give you the perfect morning crunch. Those afraid that fresh, bread made with no preservatives won;t last, not to worry. Ms Weinstein suggests slicing and individually wrapping them in sandwich bags  . They're then put into the freezer. This method works well with bagels too. A perfect , delicious cup of coffee would top this off. Oliver Strand gives us this in his piece. It starts with fresh grinding the beans at home for a richer aroma and flavor. It does require buying a pricy grinder. and exact measuring. Foodies will go for this , not caring about the price of an electric grinder or the labor intensive work that comes with it.

On the trendy side there is Melissa Clark and David Tanis.Ms Clark has a good yogurt recipe in her A Good Appetite column. Yogurt is an excellent dish for breakfast, especially if it's mixed with fruit and honey. This recipe is good on it's own and it's an easy one for any home chef. Best of all - there's no yogurt machine involved. It's just  two quarts of whole milk,  a 1/4 cup of  heavy cream and three to four tablespoons of plain whole milk with live and active yogurt. Its then cooked in a hot pot and then allowing the mixture ferment in a warm area. Ms. Clark even recommends swaddling the pan with a hot heating pad or in an oven. Any warm spot will do. David Tanis gives an entirely different spin with oatmeal. His is a savory  (!) one that includes spinach, garlic  and a Bulgarian yogurt topping. Don't be surprised by this Hipsters are using all sorts of ingredients these days, from bacon to hot sauce -which Mr Tanis also uses. It would make a cool Sunday brunch plate giving guests plenty to talk about. It's  probably served in LA, this country's breakfast haven, Regular contributor Jeff Gordonier got to visit the city and experience its' AM culture. Chefs have gone wild with creating innovative morning starters such as the kimchi fried rice , adobo fried rice and mushroom toast at the famed Republique. The quirkily named Eggslut features cheeseburgers with a sunnyside up egg or the egg slut itself, a coddled egg on top of a potato puree. Moon Juice give Los Angelenos, power boosting different elixers from chef Amanda Chantel Bacon. Many chefs  add an egg to almost anything , from braised ribs like at the Post and beam to grilled kale and Jon  & Vinny's.

Breakfast can be a fun time. The ingredients are simple yet can be made a variety of ways for an exciting start to the day. Try a different AM route for your first meal. It'll make you more alive for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Greek Yogurt - Yasou To Healthy Eating

For the past few years Greek yogurt has been the star of dieting. People rave about its; benefits and its's flavor. Is it a good replacement for regular milk as claimed?Is it just as tasty? Both answers are a resounding yes!

There are many benefits to going Greek.It is a probiotic which means it helps to keep producing good bacteria in your helps to lessen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn's disease and ulceritive  colitis.It's also good for lowering blood pressure thanks to calcium, magnesium and potassium, vital minerals needed to maintain healthy blood pressure numbers.This combo of minerals also aid in promoting strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Many think it's just the first that helps our internal frames, but the other two are just as important.  One of the best boons to eating Greek yogurt is that it helps you to feel full and not be hungry all the time.It has double the amount of protein that regular dairy has.It takes the body twice as long to digest it then and it's great in curbing the appetite.Have it with lunch or as a part of dinner to stop those afternoon or evening munchies.Lactose intolerant people need to have this in their lives.It's lower in lactose than regular milk and the probiotics in it help to break down those lactic sugars. For those wondering why Greek yogurt is better than regular dairy the answer is in its' origins.It comes from ewes as opposed to cows, Sheep's milk is better for you on so many levels.It doesn't cause allergies  and has a greater concentration of  essential fatty acids.

What is the best Greek yogurt? I like Fage (pronounced fy-hee) myself . The plain makes a great sub for sour cream as I recently found out with a baked potato. It not only is lighter in taste and texture, it's truly delicious. It's not as overpowering as the real thing, and makes for a tastier spud. I plan on using it for making onion dip with fresh onions perfect with baked potato chips,It will also be good as a topping for homemade tacos too, as well as being added to mashed potatoes and squash  It can be used in baking too, much like sour cream.It produces a much more even crumb and even taste.Some Greek yogurt enthusiasts love Chobani. This yogurt is the more boutique of the crew with a line called Chobani Flip which  has sriracha blended with mango and chipotle mixed with pineapple. There is also another line that combines the trendy ancient grains with the yogurt as well as with fruit and spices.I'm a fan of their Indulgents, fruit and yogurt mixed with dark chocolate flakes.It's a nice alternative to any ice cream or pudding dessert. Frozen yogurt  enthusiasts will enjoy Yasso. These are made by two non Greeks that appreciate good taste and healthy food. I love their  coffee chocolate chip and salted caramel. Every bar has either ten or twenty fat calories like the salt caramel and chocolate chip.I'm looking'forward to trying their mint chocolate chip  as well as their vanilla bean.

Greek yogurt is definitely the way to go. It has so many benefits as well as having a great taste and texture. Switch to it today and get started on  a healthier , better diet.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gluten Free Goodies

Mention gluten free and many foodies will groan. Goods baked without it  usually are have a bland taste or a funny texture. That's quickly becoming a myth thanks to several companies that have all gluten free lines. They're flavorful and best of all have a chewy or crunchy texture.

One of the best brands for anyone going gluten free, whether for health or diet, is Glutino . It   has every kind of product to help have a full and varied diet, Conscientious bakers will marvel at their many mixes from pizza dough to old fashioned yellow cake.There are also chocolate chip and brown mixes too  along with regular gluten free flour for family recipes.The Boulder , Colorado company also sells loaves of already baked breads and stuffing for holiday turkeys. My favorites are their bagel chips and Oreo style sandwich creme cookies. The bagel chips are tastier than the usual kind, with a good dusting of sea salt on them.They also have Parmesan cheese and garlic as well as a sweet cinnamon and sugar one. The sandwich cookies are so crisp with a smooth creamy filling. I can't wait to try their vanilla version along with their double chocolate chip cookies and animal crackers. Their toaster toaster pastries look as good as PopTarts and those are definitely on the to be tried list along with their pizzas.

Other brands that are getting rid of that gluey gluten are WOW and  Simply Balanced. WOW which stands for with out wheat. Like Glutino the Kent, Washington company has both cake and cookie mixes.The cookie dough is already mixed and waiting to be scooped out onto a waiting cookie sheet. The cake mixes have classic flavors such as vanilla,chocolate and spice, the last perfect for holiday baking.The cookies come in bags,, giant singles and containers. I love their buttery chocolate chip cookies that are riddled with large chips  and am looking forward to trying their lemon burst as well as their maple squares and butter toffee. Wow's secret to a good , healthy cookie is the inclusion of brown rice as well as gluten free flour. Simply Balanced is another gluten free must have snack to munch on. This is a Target in house brand, like their Archer Farms and it has a variety of healthy foods and snacks.Their gluten free sesame flavored brown rice crackers are wonderfully crispy and flavorful, They'd be good with a homemade hummus, perfecting for scooping and dipping.Target also has a flax seed one that's another must try.The store also makes a gluten free all natural fusilli, and spaghetti, which I will be making in future. Their all natural sauce will be topping it.

Gluten free doesn't have to mean taste free or lumpy. Their are brands, like Glutino, WOW and Simply Balanced that give us tasty treats to snack ad crunch on. Try them and join the gluten free revolution.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Africa's Culinary's Contribution

February is Black History  Month,and African Americans have contributed a multitude of inventions, years of service and ideas to the American landscape. They have also contributed a wide variety of food and techniques to our culinary landscape as well. It is am impressive list, with a lasting impact.

Ask most Euro- Americans what African Americans have given to us food wise and they'll all say "Soul Food." That's correct however that's only one facet . They were responsible for much of our agriculture.One of the most important staples the enslaved have given us is rice cultivation. The first seeds came to the North American from Madagascar in 1685. By the 1750's it was one of the biggest staple of the Southern colonies. Senegalese "workers" taught colonists how to plant and cultivate the crop. They also brought cattle raising as well thanks to  the Fulani or Fula people from Semegambia . They were expert cattlemen , and showed white masters the African husbandry patterns of open grazing and artificial insemination.. Our modern term cowboy comes form them. Those that worked with the steer were called such. The Fulani people  also introduced the idea of drinking milk  for sustenance, a food concept so deeply ingrained in our culture , that's it;'s a given that we give kids milk.Food contributions are legendary, from okra to black eyed peas to yams. These have all added to our diets as well as expanding our palates' worlds.Peanuts were their most famous gift, It did start off in Brazil but Portuguese sailors brought it to Africa where it was embraced by locals.

African American cooks and chefs have also contributed a multitude of delicious dishes to the American cookbook. Cornbread is one of their biggest contributions., first having been made as a mush from corn meal. This pone was also similar to a dish called Eba where we get the modern day grits. Fufu is the grandfather of our modern day hoecakes and pancakes, first having been made with palm oil and flour. The ultimate Southern dish, fried chicken comes from plantation kitchens, with the enslaved bringing the traditional deep fried cooking technique to the colonies. Deep frying is actually a preservation technique, similar to heavy salting to preserve not only fowl but also beef.Soul food , of course is another big contribution but it has sad origins. It came from the refuse that plantation owners let their enslaved workers have for sustenance. They were also given a small plot of land to grow vegetables. too. Dinners were usually hamhocks with turnip greens or collards, staples that are eaten today by all Americans.It was washed down with coffee, another African import , from Ethopia's Kaffa region hence the name. Watermelon also came over with the enslaved as did Kola nuts which gives the base for the greatest American invention of all time Coca-Cola.

Without all these contributions American cuisine would not be as tasty or as varied. The African Americans gave us a good portion of our culinary history. They should be lauded for this along with their sacrifices for America.

Friday, February 19, 2016

All Steamed Up

Vegetables are an important part of any meal but especially dinner time. The problem with that is that they have to be made after a busy day when most home chefs are too tired to do anything. Cleaning, coring, paring - they're all too  much. What to do? Get steamed! Steamed veggies are the way to go for a  quick yet healthy dinner.

Many companies from Stop & Shop to the mainstream Bird's Eye are now offering steamer bags full of veggies. They can be put into  the microwave for a few minutes or the vegetables can be removed and simmered for five minutes in boiling water.The first method is the easiest. It works like a bag of popcorn with the bag puffing up after a few minutes in the microwave to signal that the veggies have been thoroughly steamed. The second method, the old fashioned way is for those who don't like the idea of nuked foods.It's a tad more labor intensive with salting and boiling the water ,then adding the vegetables and draining them. One of the best things, besides the cooking time,is the variety.I am in love with the Stop & Shop vegetable varieties, from the peas which are oh so sweet to the Brussels sprouts. They even have mixed veggie bags as does their national rival Bird's Eye.Of course, Bird's Eye has always been the king of frozen veggies and they have the widest choice of steamed vegetables.. They include rice and veggie bags, with combinations such as multigrain blend with tomato, spinach and onions along with brown rice with peas, carrots and corn.

There are many pluses to having a bag of steamed vegetables on the menu.They are a low calorie alternative to calorie dense sides such as baked mac or French fries.The Brussels sprouts are only forty-five calories with zero fat while string beans are around thirty-eight. Any home chef will marvel at the packs' versatility too. One of my favorites is string bean salad, made with the cooled beans . After they've been steamed  they're put into a bowl and then cooled for ten to fifteen minutes.After that, it's adding a finely chopped onion or even a good dash of onion powder, olive oil and red wine vinegar . Then it's back into the fridge to chill some more until dinner.It's a taste of summer in winter, and perfect with grilled chicken. Thanks to the easiness of cooking the Brussels sprouts,I can make a family recipe more often.It's a delicious  side that starts off with a very small sprinkle of Parmesan cheese  on the sprouts followed by a scant  tablespoon of melted margarine (it used to be butter but that stopped ,thanks to my new diet). The veggies can be mixed with instant rice, whether brown or white for simple and filling rice bowls Just add some Kikoman and they're good to go.

Get steamed when you think about steamed veggies. They're an easy and nutritious side to any main meal. Buy a few bags for quick cooking and good eating.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hearty Veggie Soups

One of the best meals on a cold, wintry night is hot soup. It's even better if it's chock full of vegetables.They're not only healthy but tasty too, filled with all sorts of different kinds of greens and fungi. it's a nice way of getting a good dose of nutrients while shaking off a February chill.

Melissa Clark knows this and wrote about it in her A Good Appetite Column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. She gives us three soups, golden leek and potato soup,mushroom-spinach and one that's kind of outside the box caramelized kohlrabi.These can be tweaked with different add ins or whatever can be found in the freezer and the fridge.Just keep the basic vegetables required, in other words, roots for roots, leafy greens for leafy greens , and other alliums for garlic.Another suggestion is  caramelizing the veggies. This eliminates the needs for using stocks or meats to give the soups depth and richness. The veggies melt down to give an intense broth of their own Ms. Clark also recommends using a lot of salt, namely the vastly intense kosher kind.If you need to add stock use the homemade kind.Ms. Clark warns against using the canned or boxed. I usually go for the HerbOx veggie broth cubes which impart a mild yet flavorful taste.Aromatics also count here. Add plenty of them, from herbs to spices to garlic and onions.These are not time intensive recipes luckily , and can be made up within twenty minutes. Home chefs could double the recipe and then freeze what's left for  those busy week nights when cooking is not an option.

The soups are not your usual veggie blends. The first, golden leek and potato starts with a base of golden brown leeks which impart a lovely  sweet taste. There are more of them than potatoes so it does have  more of an  onion-y flavor.Parsley, sage and thyme zing it up, eliminating the usual blandness that sometimes accompanies this soup.You could add chives too as well as scallions for more bite A drizzle of cream is used to decorate the soup afterwards. Her mushroom spinach soup is zested up with Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice. The mushrooms are mixed with a blend of cremini, oyster,chanterelles and shiitake, chopped and mixed with baby spinach leaves. This really shouldn't be changed, The veggies and spices work well together and give a walk through a souk vibe.Ms. Clakr adds a dollop of yogurt on top for more authenticity.if you want. Serve with hot toasted pita that can be dipped into the soup. The wild card in the trio is caramelized kohlrabi. a kind of turnip,Turnips can be used in this too.. The first step is caramelizing them in a broiler s the onion and garlic are being sauteed. The veggie mix is then pureed  using an immersion blender for a creamy texture.It's topped off with a drizzle of olive oil, grated Parmesan and pinch of chili powder.

Nothing beats a bowl of hot vegetable soup, especially when they provide rich, deep flavor. Make any of these, from the leek and potato to the mushroom spinach to the caramelized kohlrabi. These are perfect to keeping away from February's icy chill.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Atlanta The New Food Mecca Of The South

Atlanta is known for a variety of different things, mostly business and entertainment. It's never been  known for food, unless you count true Southern cuisine like creamed  grits and collards.However that's all changing. The city's chefs are still retaining the aura but adding new dishes and and livening up palates with exotic meals made with good old fashioned Southern produce and meat

It was the subject of an article written by Kim Severson in today's New York Times Food section. Ms. Severson,a Southerner herself, visited the city , stopping in on some of its' best restaurants and interviewing a variety of different chefs.For a long time Atlanta was in the culinary shadow of Nashville, and Chalreston. That's all changing thanks to the city coming out of the recession. The core of the city, what locals call intown Atlanta . also has contributed thanks to cheaper rents and chefs who are happy  to stay where they are. There is still a Southern vibe but married with an international one. It's locavore cooking , with an emphasis on produce and meats from farms on the city's outskirts.Uni or seas urchin is served with salsa verde and buttered turnips. South Carolina golden rice is transformed into risotto with figs and sunchokes.Revival restaurant's chef  , Kevin Gillespie. has cornbread that 's been baked in a cast iron skillet., fatback fried Silver Queen Corn and catfish smothered in tomato gravy.It's surprising that his menu doesn't include Mason jar sof sweet teas or Dr Pepper (although he does have dessert featuring Dr.Pepper iced cream).

The food scene does have its' problems. Diners order way too many steaks along with judging a restaurant not on its' food or chef but on its' appearance.Food critics worry that the city is more into chasing trends or turning out a peanut hummus (???). There is also the dilemma of Atlanta being a male chef only kind of place with little or none famous female chefs.The fact that it is a big city, and spread out is another headache. There  re divides too, cultural, geographic and even racial that impede an eatery from being a popular one.Most of the city's 5.5 million residents live on the outskirts and stick to their neighborhood places,If you want exotic food such as South Korea, Vietnam and Mexico along with a few other nationalities remain concentrated on the Buford Highway ,a busy highway that stretches into the city's northernmost , and densely populated suburbs.It will take a few years for Atlanta to truly find itself, according to Tami Cook, a culinary producer and recipe developer who used to work for an Atlanta food luminary . Alton Brown.

Atlanta is a city in culinary transformation.It is firmly tied to its' past with local produce and recipes but strives to create a fresh face. Luckily it  has chefs , loyalty and low rents to help it achieve this

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Use Your Cellophane Noodles

If you want to add an air of authenticity along with excitement to your home cooked Chinese meals throw in some cellophane noodles. They're a fun way of amping up any dish along with helping to buffer  the sometimes strong flavors of Szechuan or Cantonese cuisine. Another plus is that they're an easy cook, perfect for adventurous novice home chefs.

Cellophane noodles are really thin white vermicelli , made clear from their mostly starch composition. They are made primarily from mung beans a, green pea grown in India however they can also be made from yams,potatoes and cassava, a yam type vegetable and canna starch, derived from a tropical Vietnamese lily.Most  cellophane  noodles sold in the States are made from mung beans, having been imported from China. The noodles are generally round and come in different lengths. There is a flat , thick sheet version, not widely sold here or used in cooking. The noodles are sometimes called crystal or glass noodles or bean thread noodles. They originated in northeastern China in the town in Zhangxing in the Zhaoyuan , Shandong province however they are also made in the southern part of the country too. Uncooked cellophane noodles come in nests that slowly unwind when placed in boiling water. They are usually used in spring rolls, stir fries and soups. Some Northern Chinese employ them as the main ingredient in salads where they're first cooked then cooled. You can buy them here in the States, in packs of three in the Asian food section of any supermarket.

Cellophane noodles are as easy as any pasta to make.It's just adding them to boiling water and letting cook for twenty minutes or until the color changes. They will go from white and brittle to clear  and pliable.  They're excellent with a simple stir fry, definitely adding to the dish's texture and taste. Their flavor is mild, not unlike pasta which makes them a perfect foil for the peppery, gingery tastes of Chinese cooking. My mother has been making them since the late Seventies when the wok craze hit the US(we were the only family on the block with a wok,but that's another story) and this recipe is one of her best. The main dish is stir frying  a bag of soy beef crumbles (for non vegans, you can use a mix of ground beef and pork) and sauteing in olive or peanut oil.  I prefer the first, because it imparts a richer smoother flavor and fries up well. Diced scallions and minced garlic are also added for flavor along with three to four tablespoons of Kikoman soy sauce. Again like the olive oil, this is the best to use because of its' rich  intense flavor. I added  two cups of snow peas which give color and crunch, but peas or even shredded cabbage. Mix in the noodles when they're cooked, and serve. It;s a wonderful and simple dinner that's just downright yummy. Usually two nests will satisfy a family of four and you can use  the uncooked ones as fresh cooked noodles when you reheat  the leftovers.

Cellophane noodles are a great and authentic addition to any home made stir fry. Their uniqueness livens up simple ingredients like meat and veggies They are fun to cook and fun to eat.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Recipes From The White House

Our US presidents and their wives have given us some good recipes over the years. They are vast and varied , from LBJ's chili and barbecue to Dolly Madison 's bouillon to Mamie Eisenhower's fudge.However it;s the house it;self, The People's House that has contributed some excellent recipes to the American culinary landscape.

One of the most varied White House eras was during Thomas Jefferson's term.He was huge Francaphile, often bringing home fancy French recipes to a simple , almost primitive kitchen. However he was also an Americna who loved his black eye peas, pasta and a variety of meats from ham to chicken to veal.. Jefferson also introduced ice cream to the country where it has reigned supreme in all sorts of desserts and flavor ever since. Oysters were big at the big house and have been featured for the last two centuries . They have been chilled, enriched by sauce and enhanced by lemon. Households across the country copied these recipes as they also copied roast turkey and stuffing recipes for that uniquely American holiday Thanksgiving. Even decadent desserts such as Mrs. Eisenhower's fudge and current White House pastry chef's Bill Yosses' nectarine pie that has our current president swooning

Of course Michelle Obama brought healthy eating from the White House to America. She's is the gatekeeper to the "Let's Move' exercise movement and encourages healthy eating with fresh fruits and veggies. She brings us minted pea salad, perfect for now, excellent for a Spring dinner . For more green there is a broccoli soup, a puree made even more tastier with onions , celery and a dash of jalapeno infused olive oil.President Obama loves her chili recipe that has just a bit of decadent bacon added along with ground turkey ( you can have it with  ground beef too) along with good for you spices such as cumin and garlic. Their daughters love cauliflower (!) baked mac and cheese. This classic, usually considered a fat bomb, is rendered good for you by cauliflower and skim milk.There is also creamless creamed spinach, a culinary marvel that has just pureed spinach and olive oil with absolutely no roue in it. The Obamas also enjoy a grilled chicken Caesar as we all do , theirs is with the lighter sherry vinaigrette instead of the creamier traditional Caesar dressing. Dessert is a healthier version of apple cobbler that has a tasty mix of brown sugar, cinnamon , and nutmeg added to it for flavor.

Our presidents have all eaten well from Washington up to our current administration. The recipes represent who we are as a collective whole and the bounty that is America. They are diverse, taken form our forests and our farms, made delicious in our nation;s kitchen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Best Valentine's Day Gift Home Cooked

"If music be the food of love play on." Shakespeare wrote in his great play , Twelfth Night and it's true. Nothing is as satisfying as a sensuous meal followed by a sweet treat - meaning a decadent dessert. What better than a home cooked one, made with love for love. It's a simple gift  but with so much meaning.

If you're at a quandary about what to make your beloved tomorrow, then consult David Tanis'  A City Kitchen from this past Wednesday's New York Times Food section. He recommends starting out with a citrus salad, a tart refreshing start to any meal.It's mixing crunchy Belgian endive with zesty cara cara oranges and a blood orange.You could add grapefruit for a really tart punch but that's up to your beloved's taste. if the salad may seem too daunting tastewise, then stick with a simple tomato and mozzarella one but amp up the vinaigrette by adding champagne vinegar (this is not as exotic as it sounds, it can be bought at any super market and even Wal-Mart!).The main dish is one of Mr. Tanis's creation:seared sea scallops with ginger-lime butter. This is searing the scallops  with bok choy and sweet potatoes for a colorful and tasty dish.The ginger lime butter zinged with red pepper, is then drizzled over it.If your love isn't into seafood then think chicken . Feeding each other a whole roast chicken has a kind of Tom Jones, (the Henry Fielding book and 1963 Albert Finney movie)appeal but there is a more civilized dish in the form of chicken Alfredo over angel hair pasta It's blending chicken breasts with a creamy and buttery white sauce served over cappellini.

Of course the piece de resistance for any lovers' meal is dessert. Chocolate is the most desired but the question is in what form. Mr. Tanis gives us the ultra decadent chocolate bourbon balls. These are a marriage of every ones' favorites ; dark cocoa, bourbon and a choice of crushed pecans, pistachios or hazelnuts. I would go for the hazelnuts for a kicky nocciola flavor. The truffles are a ganache , made satiny with a mix of vanilla and bourbon and then chilled, A melon baller is used to make the bite sized treats and then after chilling they're rolled in the crushed nuts For a different spin add s tiny amount of chili pepper flakes and then roll in a mix of cocoa and cinnamon. Mint is another flavor that can be added into a truffle. A really sensuous end is chocolate fondue. It can be made with either milk or dark chocolate however the last is the better choice. It brings out the the fondue's morsels flavors and under notes. Strawberries are the obvious choice in nibbles. They're fun to feet to each other, but you can also try cherries if you can get them, or pineapples. Chunks of cake, whether be pound or angel food can be used but for real decadence  try brownies.

Treat your love to a homecooked meal, followed by a rich , yummy chocolate treat. It's the best gift out there that just trumpets your emotions. Get cooking  then if you want some loving.

Friday, February 12, 2016

One Meal One Pan

Nothing beats a hot meal with all the trimmings on these frigid days. Yet cooking a full meal can be daunting. There's so many pots and pans to deal with  along with trying to have all the dishes ready at the same time. Not to worry. There's a great new cookbook centering on sheet pan meals.It's an easy way to make the main dish and sides without fuss or worry.

Dr. Camilla V Saulsbury  gives us "200 Best Sheet Pan Meals" (Robert Rose Press 2016) and it's a great Valentine's Day gift for any home chef.  It's a wonderful recipe full book of simple and fun meals anyone can make. For those who have qualms about this type of cooking,not to worry. The books starts out with a guide on what type of pans to use, along with the technique's history ( it comes from the British where the meals are known as tray bakes, simple yet filling dinners and desserts that require little prep and little clean up afterwards. Dr Saulsbury , who has a PhD in  Sociology  with a specialization in food studies from the University of Indiana, also explains the different types of ingredients as well as dealing with the  different cooking times of meats and vegetables.Beginners will love her chapter on easy sheet pan meals such as  broccoli cheddar no crust quiche along with yummy desserts like coconut macaroons and frozen chocolate bananas. The book is then divided into different chapters revolving around  brunch and breakfast meatless meals, for vegetarians  along with  recipes for various meats,.There's an extensive chapter on all sorts of desserts, that would be great for bake sales and parties.

The recipes are amazing. I love the wide variety of different dishes and how they encompass all tastes.There's a tasty sunnyside up pizza, perfect for a family brunch .It's an easy bake with the crust being frozen pizza dough layered with ricotta, olive oil and eggs.Non meat eaters will love roasted broccoli rabe with gorgonzola or a vegetable paella , ripe with saffron, artichoke hearts and onions.Those meat and veg lovers will gobble up such filling meals as roasted chicken with butternut squash and apples and the thyme and pork tenderloin with charred corn salad. There are plenty of beef and fish recipes too, such as  roast beef with potatoes, green beans and blue cheese mayo and garlic salmon and green beans. Kids will love the .meatball, burger and breakfast roll recipes that would be perfect at birthdays or pajama parties.The dessert recipes are fun and varied too,, under the cute Sheet Sweets title. A great cake for a dinner party would be the scratch  chocolate ganache cake or decadent carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. There's even a cheesecake recipe, one without all that fuss and some tasty variations such as chocolate chip , lemon and brown sugar. The cookie bar and even candy recipes would be excellent at any bake sale or kid's party.

"200 Best Sheet Pan Meals+ is a great book for those who want a hearty meal or elegant dessert without the fuss.There are so many different recipes, each tasty and easy to bake. This is the must have cookbook for any home chef!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eating In Season Out of Season

Many environmentally conscious foodies and home chefs feel guilty this time of year. Why?It's because we feel like we;re  expanding our carbon footprint by eating fruits and veggies from out of our regions. The problem is if we eat local, we'll basically starve til June.

 Famed Dirt Candy chef Amanda Cohen wrote about this in today's New York Times Food section. Chef Cohen has created one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in the wold. She is known for her fun and innovative dishes  such as her vegetable ice cream salad (!) and portobello mousse with sauteed Asian pears and cherries. She has no qualms about buying imported produce and we shouldn't' either. Sadly we can''t move to SoCal just for the avocados and lettuce, nor can we move to Italy and Spain just for the olive oil. (although some gourmands have on this last).  Face facts. Our fruits and veggies have always been trucked in from faraway places and where they're from, they are in season There. is also the notion that the fruits and veggies that are on display now are inferior. Chef Cohen also advises to get over that.They are not inferior as I've found out with tomatoes and purple grapes.They're just as fresh and flavorful as their local counterparts are during the Spring, summer and fall months.

Her recipe contributions are all about the tomatoes. Chef Cohen loves tomatoes we all do, especially the ripe, red ones of August. Yet they don't have to be in season to taste good. There is a very good roasted winter tomatoes. The ingredients are what you'd expect basil garlic and olive oil. The surprise one is ginger which gives it an exciting zing. Coconut milk is added to another pomodoro dish. which gives it a South eastern Asian vibe. Red pepper flakes zest it up along with garlic and ginger. Chef Cohen suggests serving it over fish, rice or tofu.A third is is a tasty appetizer or an alternative to pizza. is roasted tomatoes and feta  on toast.It's first pressing the water out of the Greek cheese, then pureeing it with heavy cream.It's topped with the roasted tomatoes along with the tomato oil from the roasting. A splash of grapefruit juice along with the zest of a whole one is added for mouth puckering freshness. All this is layered along with half a cup of torn chickery or wild arugula  on your favorite bread that has been toasted. I'd recommend an Italian or French loaf for added flavor.

Don't feel guilty if you buy those grapes or tomatoes right now, It''s OK to eat them right now. They're in season  - somewhere and are ripe for the picking and eating.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday Giving And Giving Up

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Western Christian holy period leading up to Easter Sunday. It's a time of giving up but can also be a time of giving. One of the pluses of this austere time is that our sacrifices can turn into habits that we can take with us through the year.

Volunteering is never really a Lenten idea yet is is a sacrifice of one's time. Many soup kitchens are understaffed at this time because volunteers usually drift away.  Our local media never  emphasizes this as they do around the Thanksgiving and Christmas when more people feel compelled to help out. To get rid of the mid  winter doldrums join your local kitchen and  hang out if you have the time. Get to know the regulars and listen to their stories.Buy them a coffee if you see them on the street, help them in whatever journey they're on. Another idea is baking for these kitchens . Have the offspring help so they can get an idea of what public service is.They can make brownies or cookies and bring them over to the kids (and there are many) that also frequent the kitchens.Smaller soup kitchen sometimes have parties so donate either food or drinks or even bake a cake or cupcakes to bring over as well as assisting setting up and cleaning up afterwards. Also donating seeds and gardening tools to community gardens are a huge help as well along with offering gardening advice. Right now many grocery stores are starting to sell seeds. Pick up a few packets, such as lettuce, peas and squash  to help them start.

Of course Lent means giving up the foods and drinks we love Many give up sweets such as cake or candy for these forty days. The good thing about giving up foods is that you lose your taste for them. These sweets can be replaced with healthier fruits for a burst of sweetness. After a while it's easier to reach for a handful of dark , flavorful grapes than cookies. It's also better for the body as well as for the soul, as we all know. You'll feel springier  after nixing the gluten and refined flours and replacing it with vitamins and fiber too. Many , especially the Greek Orthodox give up meats for Lenten fasting. There are so many bonuses win doing this. You'll lose weight  as well as not ingesting all those harmful antibiotics and hormones that are still being injected into farm animals. It's also a good deed , with saving animal's lives. Fasters will also enjoy broadening their diets by include all sorts of pastas and vegetable dishes. They'll  discover the variety of different faux meats from Morningstar Farms and Gardien brands. Remember though , that if you give up meat you need to supplant it with protein. This is where peanut butter or any nut along with green peas and edamame give you that punch of it. Even unsweetened cocoa powder which can be made into the Mexican mole sauce has huge quantities of it.

Ash Wednesday is a time to start  giving up whether time or favorite foods. It's a time of soul searching and wondering what you can do to make life better for yourself and your community. It's fasting but also also pondering too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Laissez Le Bon Temp Roulez!!1

Today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday a  day of complete celebration and sybaritic revelry before the austerity of Lent. The town that invented it  was New Orleans and with it came a wide parade of delicious foods.These are a blend of sweet and savory  but all united in tremendous flavor.

One of the most famous is the King Cake, This came from Quebec to the Crescent City through French Canadian explorer Pierre le Moyne D'iberville.It is a sweet, yeasty buttery treat, first served at Epiphany December 6th  through Twelvth Night up to Mardi Gras. A trinket , usually a toy baby doll , is placed inside it. This toy, represents the baby Jesus and is considered lucky to find  with the finder  being declared king or queen of that party.The icing is symbolic too, the purple means justice, green is faith while gold is power. Wash it down with two famous drinks of the season, the Hurricane or the Vieux Carre, named for the famed New Orleans hotel. The first is a wild mix of light and dark rum mixed with orange and passionfruit juice with a touch of grenadine.The second is a rye whiskey and cognac cocktail.These can also be great washing down  spicy andouille sausage and dirty rice or super crispy southern fried chicken with a Cajun spice batter. Another must have is cheesy grits. These are grits mixed with scallions and cheddar made creamier with eggs and butter. Depending on where you are gator is sometimes on the menu. The meat from those snappy creatures can be made into fritters to be served with a remoulade,a fiery and easy to make mayo and mustard mix.

Mardi Gras goers may go wild over the many beads they collect but they equally go crazy over jambalaya. Shrimp and sausage are the anchor ingredients of this classic stew but there  also the Cajun holy trinity of onions, celery and bell peppers added for color and flavor.Tomatoes and garlic are included for more taste along with dried thyme and bay leaves.Long grained rice is also served with it to sop up this wonderful stew. NOLA kitchens are redolent with the smell of gumbo during Carnival time as well. This is a heavy stew of shellfish and tomatoes , sometimes thickened with okra Okra is call gumbo too, depending on where you are in southern Louisiana. The dish is usually seafood but it can sometimes be made with chicken, duck or beef and even squirrel and rabbit on the city's outskirts.Andouille sausage is also added to either to give it a piquancy .Of course the Cajun holy trinity is added too along with sassafras for color. Vegans can enjoy gumbo z'herbes, usually cooked for Lent , that is chock full  of turnips, mustard greens and spinach. The day ends with King Cake or the classic beignets. These are fried puffs of heaven made with flour, eggs and milk. Yeast gives them their airiness  and their golden brown coloring comes from a fry in vegetable oil. They are heavily dusted with confectioners sugar and served with New Orleans style coffee, a blend of rich dark coffee blended with chickery and boiled milk.

Laissez le bon temp roulez. Let the good times roll during this festive time. It is celebrated with good food ,good drink and a night of endless good revelry!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Year Of The Monkey

It's the first day of the Chinese New Year, and it's a day to celebrate. The Year of the Monkey  ushers in yummy foods and centuries old traditions. They are easy to make too and fun to eat.Anyone, even novice home chefs can enjoy cooking these delicious dishes!

Dumplings are one of the oldest and symbolic Lunar New Year dishes. They can symbolize both family and prosperity due to their resemblance to purses.Dumpling or potsticker skins are simple to make. They're just a mix of regular flour, water and a pinch of salt.Think of them like ravioli.The fillings can be anything you want. Traditional ones are filled with pork or cabbage but you can also use shrimp or chicken.Spicing is important too. There's a dash of dry sherry or Shaoxing wine along with green onion and ginger for bite.Add Szechuan peppercorns for real fire  and heat or even fresh ground pepper. Cook , like pasta in salted boiling water for ten minutes or until tender.Serve with homemade hoisin sauce which is a mixture of  soy sauce, peanut butter and either molasses, honey or brown sugar for sweetness (I'd recommend using dark honey, it;s the healthiest, however both the others will give the sauce an earthy richness).along with garlic powder and sesame oil. Jalapeno pepper or Chinese pepper is added for heat.Homemade duck sauce is another good dipping sauce. This is simply a mix of apricot jam and Chinese plum sauce  You can also just dip them in plum sauce too.

These sauces would work with another New Year's classic, spring rolls which represent gold bars and prosperity . These are also easy to create. You do have to buy spring roll wrappers to start with, imply because it's hard to duplicate their delicate layers.. These are always vegetarian and are filled with shredded carrots, green onions and sweet bell peppers. Cilantro is also added for color and taste along with Thai basil. The rolls are fried in  a wok but you can also fry them in a regular frying pan using peanut oil.Make sure they are tightly wrapped otherwise two things will happen: the filling will fall out while frying or the oil will seep in and sog up the filling. It's just tightly rolling and tucking to prevent that. Another traditional treat is a dish of noodles.Use egg noodles if you can't get the authentic. These are cooked  first before cooking the  mushrooms and thinly sliced chicken breasts and broccoli florets. Bok choy can also be added as snow peas.Use  scallions and ginger for more flavor along with garlic. Boil the noodles first and then stir fry the chicken with soy sauce. The vegetables are then added as are the aromatics . Home chefs  can also add Napa cabbage too for color and crunch. Eat this to guarantee a long life.

Enjoy the Year of the Money with tasty New Year's moon, Eat the spring rolls and dumplings for prosperity and the noodles for a long life. Enjoy not only their deliciousness but their rich symbolism too!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

An Elegant Super Bowl Affair

Tomorrow  millions of Americans will be awash in greasy chins and Doritos fuzz all over their fingers.Most see Super Bowl parties as an orgy in snacks and fun foods. However there are some foodie snobs out there who will balk  at the idea of heroes and pizza washed down with beer. There can be an elegant side to a Super Bowl party, It can be so elegant that you'll think you're at a Downton Abbey finale.

Sandwiches can be served but think elegant, not the overstuffed kind dripping with oil and cheese. Have homemade loaves of white bread cut , and crustless if you want to go that extra mile. Have fresh roast turkey , roast ham and roast beef along with chicken.(hiring a waiter  to do this is recommended so you can time chatting with your guests.) Also a whole cold chicken or turkey, sliced to what guests what is also a nice turn.Have little bowls of tarragon mayo and mustard around for guests to delicately slather on their sandwiches.Cucumber salad makes a nice change from potato and macaroni salad.It's an easy recipe with sliced cucumber dressed with a simple sour cream and dill dressing. You can sub in plain Greek yogurt for lighter fare.If you want to add a dash of the exotic then serve bruschetta on toasted Italian bread. Again this is so easy to make , with just coarsely chopping tomatoes and onions in a food processor , and then  adding some parsley and rosemary for flavor. The base is slices of Italian bread that has been brush with olive oil and rubbed with garlic cloves.A slice of prosciutto can be added for more flavor.

All SuperBowl games are usually away in beer and later there's some kind of drinking game that involve tequila. Rise above this with glasses of champagne served in elegant flutes. Champagne cocktails can also be served. This is placing a sugar cube well soaked in Angostura bitters at the bottom of a flute and then filling it with your best vintage. Garnish with a lemon or orange rind. Of course martinis are the ultimate sophisticated party drink. This is pouring 2  1/2 ounces of gin and 1/2 ounce of vermouth  into an iced filled mixing glass. Stir for a brief thirty seconds  and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. You can garnish with the usual three olives or lemon wedge, depending upon your guests tastes. A variation is the Gibson , which is decorating the drink with a cocktail onion.Nibble foods should be on hand but not the usual greasy chips or guac. Think spicy nuts and savory shortbreads.The first is taking any kind of nut and lightly baking them with a light dusting of cumin or  finely ground chile powder (don't go too wild with the spices because they'll leave guests with stained fingers- an evening affair taboo). Shortbreads are baked the usual way but with less sugar and more grated Parmesan and rosemary added.

Yes. you can throw an elegant Super Bowl party. Make a roast , open up a few bottles of champagne and enjoy the game in a civilized manner. It's a different kind of fun and a different kind of taste.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Super Bowl Party For Everyone

It's going to be Super Bowl Sunday in two days and by now every party thrower in the country should be well stocked.Or are they? Unfortunately there is no one guest's tastes fits all. There will be allergies and limitations to deal with , let alone likes and dislikes.

Dips are high on any Super Bowl Party list. There's nothing like a creamy, spicy guacamole to enjoy,but what about those guests who have gallbladder and pancreas issues? Avocados , as I sadly found out recently are on the do not eat list.What then? Hummus! Luckily most restricted diets endorse garbanzo beans , along with any other beans. If the taste is too intense, then mix a can of cannelini beans with chichis . Drain and puree the white beans first, then drain and puree the chickpeas. Mix together with a tablespoon or two of light olive oil. You can add the juice of half a lemon for freshness. This is a great , delicately flavored dips that's far from heavy . Serve with toasted pita wedges. Now what about the crunchies? Many have gluten allergies  and again, those with stomach problems , can feel discomfort with regular crackers. It's time then to try the glutin free . One brand, Crunchmaster has excellent ones that are not only free of gluten but also cholesterol and saturated fat free. I love these and they and the white bean hummus have replaced tortilla chips and guac for me. Salsa is another tasty party dish however it can be too spicy for some. Try a milder one with fresh tomatoes and just bell peppers. You can add chopped onion for more flavor but if it's too much then just add a dash of dried onions or onion powder. Have a dish of sliced jalapenos on the side for those who want to add heat to their individual scoops of dip.

Everyone loves wings - or do they? Many people are on diets that ban them. Try roasted ones that have been marinated in lemon or garlic. Grill roasted chicken is tastier anyway and has a nice crispy bite to them. Another point to consider is that some people cant have the skins because they're full of fat. Try grilled chicken or turkey breasts instead. You can serve them on home baked gluten free rolls with a smear of tarragon laced Nayonnaise This last is an egg free soy based condiment that can sub in for mayo. As for the rolls there are several recipes on line you can make If chili is your Super Bowl go to , then you can make several different kinds. Purists will go crazy for a four alarm beef one. However you may have fusspots who are not into having the roofs of their mouths seared or their diets ruined with beef. Try a turkey or chicken one with maybe half the heat. You can also sub in vegan beef crumbles too. Everyone loves a pepperoni laden pizza to much on during the plays. Yet eating it can cause your guests to reach for the Pepto Bismal. Go for the margherita style which has fresh tomatoes, a scant covering of mozzarella and a big  dose of basil. Also the old fashioned  cheeseless or Nonna pizzas are also very good. it's a thick crust topped with a good dose of onion laced tomatoes.  

A good Super Bowl party caters to  everyone. Make sure you;re ready to deal with likes, dislikes dietary restrictions and allergies. It may cost more and be more labor intensive but the end result - happy guests - is worth it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mandarins The Fruit's World's New Stars

Tangerines or mandarin oranges have been gracing tables for decades. Now they're becoming s star player  with different varieties shining in desserts and snacks. It's no wonder. There's nothing like the sweet, sunshine taste of these tasty globes.

New writer, David Karp, wrote about them for yesterday's New York Times Food section.Mandarins are making a big comeback on American tables (although  they never really left)/ Most are being grown in California's San Joaquin Valley, in the middle of the state. California harvests a whopping 92 per cent of the harvest while Florida contributes only 8 percent. It used to be the top producer with 66 percent however crops have been previously plagued by citrus greening disease,a crippling virus that changes the color.along with obsolete seeds.Despite this , mandarins are the most popular fruit in the US with Americans consuming five pounds of them a year..Oranges  on the other hand have gone down in popularity.We have Spain to thanks for the boom along with our desire for easy to eat fruits. The first started to export seedless clementines in the 1970's to the Eastern US. Factor in our desire for snackable produce such as seedless grapes and blueberries and you have the explanation for the popularity . Two companies also jumped on this Sun Pacific and Wonderful Citrus, formerly Paramount Citrus, giving the fruit consumer grabbing  names such as Cuties and Halos. (watch their commercials - you'll be craving them in no time).

Mandarins are worth their difficult cultivation. These ancient cultivars are as difficult to raise as grapes, in their terroirs or environments and sturdiness. At their best they have a juicy tartly sweet flavor but what stores sell are sometimes tasteless and bland. Shoppers should look for the Daisy SL variety These have intensely sweet tart flesh along with a  complex , lingering aroma. Its rind is silk smooth and easily to peel off.Unfortunately the types with seeds are coming back, rendering them useless to sellers.A fierce competitor is the Japanese Dekepon or as it;s known here the Sumo. It's one of the most expensive mandarins.It is larger than the average one, with pebbly skin and a distinctive bump at the top .It's very easy to de-rind and intensely sweet but is balanced by a refreshing acidity.It is also  anywhere from four to seven dollars a pound and is sold in the pricier groceries such as Whole Foods and Wegmans. There is also a hybrid out there called Ruby Tango whose parentage is a Sicilian clementine and a blood orange. It's coming out for the first time around Valentine's Day by Sunwest Fruit Whole Foods , Fairway and Fresh Direct will be selling them. Parents will love the Seedless Kishu, a golfball sized one that's easily peelable for little hands.  The juiciest fruits should have been cultivated  by from November to  mid January in a Mediterranean kind  of climate. The season ends in mid May with Gold Nugget, another sweet and seedless variety.

Mandarins are a delicious burst of sunshine in a dull winter landscape. Indulge in the rich  Sumo or have a few Seedless Kishus with the kids. Any choice is a good choice,  All have a sweetness mingled with tartness and are fun to eat.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Chinese Renaissance

Ask most Americans about Chinese food and they 'll bring up General Tso's chicken or Happy Family. Some of the more sophisticated may mention Szechuan or Chengdu. They're all right - in a way. However there is more to the cuisine than just that and luckily there is a new generation of Chinese chefs that are showing us these different and tantalizing recipes.

Food section doyenne Julia Moskin wrote about this brave new set of chefs in today's New York Times issue. What most Americans have been used to for more than a century is banquet Cantonese that is full of overly sweet and even battered meats. Even Chinese Americans think these dishes are traditional, that's how long they've been ingrained in the US culinary psyche. It is much more ,and now with this cuisine a fusion of old and new. Many of the new dishes reflect farm to table cuisine, however that was cooking from the very beginning. A new book "Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees"is taking ancient recipes and bringing them to the masses. The author,Kian Lam Kho, originally a software engineer , and now chef, has used these texts to show the underlying concepts that have been the perennial building blocks of not only the region but most of East Asian cooking.It will also teach ABCs American born Chinese true , traditional recipes and cooking methods instead of Western influenced ones.It will involve dealing with certain ways of trimming onions or boiling vegetables.

However there is another influence driving chefs too to go back. It is American foods, ones that many grew up on . There's an entire generation  who grew up on Dinty Moore stews, made Asian with soy sauce and hot chili paste or stir fries with Romaine lettuce instead of bok choy.Kids are rediscovering an ancient muse so to speak. They are creating their own five spice powder along with hand cutting noodles/ Home brewing methods, that their great great grandparents used are now being done in modern kitchens across America, and no doubt, the world. Mustard greens, chile bean paste and fermented black beans are being whipped up for a second generation of ABCs. Restaurants are following these trends as well. Expect to see wood roasted chicken wings as opposed to the usual deep fried ones.Diners will be treated to homemade versions of the fiery and funky Shanghai originated  XO sauce , like the one  chef Cara Stadler makes in her restaurant Tao Yuan in Brunswick, Maine. Chef Stadler is a bit unusual, in the sense that she studied and worked with Gordon Ramsey and lived in China, working odd jobs at various restaurants  to gain experience. She is also from Shanghai as well, growing up and cooking with her mom, Cecile. There is also Sheridan Su's Haiwanese chicken rice that is a traditional congee with fried free range chicken, poached organic  eggs and homemade pickles.

Chinese food is about to get a tremendous makeover in this country. It's a refreshing turn to the traditional where cooking methods and spicing reign over  anything General Tso's. Be prepared!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Breaking Free Of Groundhog's Day Diet

How do you get a foodie to change her diet? Make her extraordinarily sick with gall for a week. Being ill and to be honest-  scared  last week.It's time for a change - not the constant Bill Murray "Groundhog's Day"  rote of bad foods.

There are a few meats and types of shellfish that sadly I will have to give up in order to have a healthier, sickness free life. As anyone who reads Foodie Pantry knows I love hot dogs, in particular, Target's. They are juicy and beefy, sheer heaven in a bite. They also are a memory now as are those butter and cheesy croque  Monsieurs that I enjoy frying up. Also on the extinction list Bahr's steamed lobster  which is a summer staple for me. Luckily I can tolerate clam (even though it's not bad foods for gallbladder disease) so I can still have Bahr's famed Manhattan style one. Yet my selection of protein will be deeply narrowed. There will be a lot more of grilled chicken breast which is fine by me Grilled chicken breast is wonderful, if done right and works well with any assortment of vegetables.I can also continue to enjoy my beloved turkey however I can only have the breast and none of that deliciously crispy skin. Gravy and bread are also out.The fat and gluten will kill me Any tofu product is encouraged and I have been using Morningstar Farms for years and am a big fan of their burgers and chik'n nuggets.

Dairy has to be rethought. I was never a big ice cream fan , favoring the more water based gelati instead.As with anything there is a craving. I used to head to Skinny Cow for their tasty cones with the surprise ,blob of chocolate at the bottom. Now I have to eat low fat yogurt , both the cup and the frozen kind. Greek yogurt has the least amount of fat, being made with ewe's milk (the same used for feta) . I found the sinfully tasty but low calorie Yasso yogurt pops. Their chocolate chip coffee ( I know I know I should not have opted for this since both on on the GD do not eat list) is creamy and flavorful. This is definitely going to be on my summer menu,and I'm looking forward to their vanilla and coconut flavors.Thankfully I can still have the Italian and shaved ice, so there's no giving up the Jersey shore's Lighthouse ices at Monmouth Beach, I do have to give up the creamy cappuccinos from Starbucks along with Dunkin Donuts frozen lattes. Both coffee and dairy are off the table but luckily I can still have Starbucks' chilled passionfruit tea.. Cookies are going to be few and far between as well but I returned  the milk and dairy free Barry's Bakery French puffs. These a crunchy multi layered baked puffs that have a lovely maple flavor. They're full of taste and crunch.

Slowly but surely I'm accepting this diet.I honestly don't miss the heavy, bad for me diet or the rut they created. I like rediscovering the healthier foods. They're a change from the usual fat , salt and sugar bombs.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Cleaning Out Your Dietary Closet

I recently went through a rough week of gall and stomach problems. The reason for these problems I had created such a toxic diet  for myself. It took a week of throwing out and skipping all that junky food. Mine was not a healthy diet to begin with, with a overload of salty , sweet and fried. it was time to clean out.

One of the biggest taboos for anyone with gall problems is caffeinated drinks.That meant nixing the Pepsi along with hot cocoa out of my life. Luckily I am a big BAI fan and it was easy to change over to this tasty but all natural juice (also luckily their newest flavor is Kula Watermelon, a lovely light flavor that reminds one of hot summer nights eating chilled slices of melon).Grape and apple juice are also gallbladder diet must haves.Again, I love grape juice so this was a big plus to switch over (another good thing about grape juice - it freezes well so I will be making ice pops this summer with it) The herbal tea switchover takes some getting used to - herbal blends sometimes have a medicinal taste and aftertaste to them. Chamomile is the best  and can be tempered with  a small drop of dark honey. The diet also requires subbing in honey and agave for sugar. Water is a definite must. It helps to flush everything from the liver to the gallbladder. I will have to give up the usual glass of tap to spring water, which is always a plus.

Fried food and snacks are big cholesterol causers, Cholesterol is the main ingredient in gall stones and sludge, a kind of slimy grit that can clog up gall ducts . Potato chips are definitely off the table as are French fries. Surprisingly there is a substitiute. Green beans. Steam them first and then chill with a simple vinaigrette dressing (olive oil and vinegar are allowed, in fact the last is encouraged).Eat them with your fingers and it has that fun finger food feel. You can also just steam and pat dry with a paper towel. They then can be dipped into a homemade vinaigrette for less mess..If you want you can add some fruit  such as blueberry or pomegranate to the vinegar for  a delicate sweet flavor. Kale, along with Brussels sprouts will be turned into tasty chips if I want a fun snack. Garbanzo beans are another can eat.I have already made hummus, a lighter version of what 's sold in the stores. This recipe I found a few years ago on the internet and it is easy to make.I'ts mixing pureed cannelini and white beans with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and the juice of half a fresh lemon.

This is only the beginning of the new diet. Tomorrow I'll be highlighting the new meal plan I'll be following. It's another step to acquiring good gut health.