Monday, October 31, 2016

Three Holidays One Great Party

Halloween, Divali and Dios di Muertos all intersect this year.That means endless arrays of savory and sweet treats to enjoy. They can be traditional or exotic, full of chocolate or full of spice.It's just a fun way to celebrate ancient traditions.

Halloween and the Mexican  Day of the Dead have always intersected. Halloween is All Hallow's Eve is when the spirits come back while the next day is dedicated to remembering those who have passed. All Hallows is a time for fun parties, with usually ghoulishly themed foods and drinks. They can be entwined by having  a ghostly guacamole and vampire red salsa,For the first sprinkle a layer of Monterey jack or crumbled queso fresca, a kind of south of the Border fromage It can easily be made at home using just milk and distilled white vinegar.It's then cooking over a low heat so that curds are made,It's then ready for tacos and fajitas. A fun drink after a chilly night of trick or treating is Mexican hot chocolate. It's just adding the tiniest pinch of chili pepper and cinnamon  to hot cocoa mix or Droste cocoa powder. Add a big puff of whipped cream for a cooling sweetness Day of the Dead also had sweet treats, usually sugar skulls,There is also a bread too,It is a sweet, glazed loaf laced with orange juice and orange zest. There's also the addition of anise to give it more sweetness and a slight licorice taste. Another offertory gift is candied pumpkin, Cubed pumpkin is cooked in butter and sugar until tender, Maple syrup mixed with cinnamon and ginger is then poured over it. and allowed to marinate for two hours in the fridge.

The Indian festival of Divali also intersects with Halloween this year, and is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs The holiday's dishes can be easily integrated into a party.with American treats.One of the most famous and party friendliest is biryani, This is a tasty rice dish made with chicken along with a variety of vegetables and spices.Tomatoes and potatoes round it out along with cumin, turmeric, and ginger.itlaso has the zing of chili powder  , perfect for warming up on a cold fall night. Samosas are a fun finger food that would be great on any party menu.They are baked  turnovers stuffed with peas , and potatoes. The flavor comes from garam marsala which any home chef can make.It's an intoxicating blend of cumin, cardamon, coriander, cinnamon , ground clove and nutmeg. This can also be sprinkled on a Divali- Halloween veggie pizza, and, yes, this is served during the holiday. Doughnuts are always a must at a Halloween party.Divali has its' own too, this time savory.instead of flour its' made with urad dal which is ground, roasted lentils and can be found at any market. The fritters  or medu  vada are zested up with coriander and coconut  along with fresh ground peppercorns and green chilis, It's usually served with a tamarind and veggie sauce called sambar.

This is a triple holiday, celebrating life and the afterlife. It's a time of fun and feasting, of trying fun foods. Enjoy it ,both the savory and sweet side of it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fun And Scary Treats

Halloween is definitely the time for creative baking and decorating., All it takes is cake mix , icing and candies to create creepy treats , sure to bring smiles to big and little monsters. Have some fun making these ghoulish goodies that taste devilishly fun.

There's a big push for confetti cake,  a cake with a good cup of sprinkles added in. You can start off with a white or butter cake and add  black, orange and purple sprinkles. A more Halloween centric cake is a  rich , fudgy devil's food  speckled with just orange sprinkles. The icing is usually a buttercream or chocolate frosting coated completely in  - what else - more sprinkles. Cupcakes can also be done this way too.If you're wondering on where to get sprinkles or jimmies in holiday colors, look no further than your local grocery. Its' bakery department always bakes holiday themed cakes and cupcakes ,using  specifically colored sprinkles. The extra ones are then put on sale for home bakers to buy. Other sweet All Hallow's treats are themed cakes.It's all about the frosting and decorating. A simple idea is  just orange icing, drizzled with chocolate. Scatter traditional or the new salted chocolate candy corn over or arrange in a fun mosaic.  Jack o'lantern cakes are always a crowd pleaser. There are cake molds, usually Bundt pans to give you a perfect sphere. It's then decorating with orange butter cream and making the features and pumpkin stem out of black and green dyed fondant.

Cupcakes are another tasty treat, everyone likes. Home bakers can go wild with creating fun toppings , sure to please the fussiest little trick or treater. A fun idea is the ultimate Halloween symbol, the black cat. Frost cupcakes with bought or homemade chocolate frosting. Add two blobs of green frosting for the eyes. Put a small dot of black frosting in the middle of these. The nose can be a pink Tictac flanked by black licorice strings. The kitty's pointy ears can be chocolate morsels.. Take away the nose and ears , put more licorice strings and you have scary spiders.Tombstone cakes are another ghoulishly great idea. Take Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies , break in half  , then coat with a pale brown or pale grey icing. Use a toothpick to write  BOO! in chocolate on them.For the cupcake frost with green icing and then stick the "gravestones' in them.Party guests can also ice their own if you set up a frosting bar. Have prizes for the scariest and the cutest decorated.Cookies are another fun Halloween delight . Make chocolate cat or bat cookies. They can even be turned into sandwich cookies. Fill with a tasty orange flavored creme  that' can be either made with cream cheese, butter or margarine along with confectioners sugar, fresh squeezed orange juice and orange zest.

All Hallow's is a time for sweet treats and scary fun. Celebrate it with yummy cakes and toothsome cupcakes and cookies. Have a sweet Halloween and enjoy!

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Teen Most's Sweet Mission

Most thirteen-year-old boys barely care about their rooms , let alone the environment. Yet there is one kid who is making a tremendous impact , thanks to  his curious mind and dedicated heart. Not only that he's saving bees as well as giving the food world an extraordinary new brand.

The young man responsible for all this is thirteen (!) year old Jake Reisdorf of Carmel, California. He was eleven at the time of creating  Carmel Honey Company, thanks to a school project. It was a "real world" homework assignment where he researched and wrote about bees it got him an A but also a passion for bees as he learned about Colony Collapse Disorder and  honey. The first is a serious disorder where a majority of worker bees disappear ,leaving behind just the queen and a few nurse bees to care for immature bees. Jake was curious about this and wondered what he could do to amend the situation. After all , there has been a scary decrease in the insect for the last few years.Everything from crops to livestock  will wither without them. Unlike kids his age who have a huge collection of skateboards, Jake put his money into hives and started his own apiary or bee farm.Soon he was selling honey and honeycombs. the profits going to research and educating the public about these vital insects.jake even travels to schools, giving lectures about the importance of bees Even the company website gives tips about attracting bees into yards and gardens.

The bees have also produced delicious types of honey as well. Carmel Honey Company sells honey and honeycombs. The first comes in four plant infused flavors. There is Meadowfoam which  has a vanilla taste and would work well over vanilla ice cream as well as sweetening vanilla chai tea.  Sage honey is another big seller and has a slightly sweeter taste than the average honey.Use it to make holiday mead drinks.There's also wildflower honey , made from the nectars of several different flowers indigenous to the Carmel area. This has a dark, earthy taste, that's delicious glaze for roast chicken or sweetening cocktails and even tomato sauce.. My favorite is the Orange Blossom which has a mellow citrussy tang to it.  There is a sampler pack of the four flavors  which would make a great gift for any foodie.Jake also sells the convenient Honey Stixs. These are long plastic straws filled with the wildflower\version. Each straw holds a teaspoon of honey. and is a great picker upper for those who want a better sweet boost than candy. Jake also sells actual honey filled honeycombs. a  must for any kitchen.It is rich , fresh honey that is a must ingredient for any holiday cooking, sweet or savory,

It's amazing how a school project turned ino a passion and a business. Even more amazing is the young man behind it, Jake Reisdorf. He will definitely be one of the movers and shakers of his generation!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Funfetti Confetti Cake

Cake is festive. That's a universal truth. It usually symbolizes a party , especially if it's a colorful one, dusted with a rainbow of sprinkles. Now those sprinkles are inside the sweet treat, giving a more festive look.

Julia Moskin wrote about a new party classic - confetti cake in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Whatever you call them, whether they're candy confetti, sprinkles ,jimmies, or hundreds of thousands, they are big right now.Pro bakers and even mixologists are using them on  everything from cocktails to croissants.They're even used to decorate phone cases,scented candles and even press on nails ! Now they're exploding all over cakes, turning bland white cake into a Jackson Pollack canvases. Why now?Most bakers were kids in 1989s when a new product burst upon supermarket shelves.Pillsbury came out with Funfetti Cake,a vanilla cake mix that came with multicolored sprinkles.The twist was that they were going to be baked into the cake. They'd melt into streaks and dots of vibrant color which made them into an instant hit. Funfetti cake was then a definite must for every home party.Copycats soon abounded.A year later, Betty Crocker came out with Dunkaroos, a snack pack of cookies with sprinkle laced icing. Even Dannon Yogurt jumped in on the craze.In 1992 they came out Dannon Sprinklins, with candy confetti packed separately in the lid.

Now there are grown up versions of the cake all through Manhattan.Pastry chef , Christina Tosi, of Milk Bar in New York was one of the first to produce colorful cakes. Her passion for sprinkles started when she was young and it was with , of course, Funfetti. She cleverly turned the cake batter into cookie dough. Her current take is still the number one requested dessert, and at the NoLiTa outpost of MilkBar, there's even a wall of sprinkles. She's also put them in homemade tahini ice cream sandwiches and mandelbrot, the twice baked almond cookie.Chef Yeh loves them so much that she even had guests throw them at her wedding.Fancier bakers around the city have even put them in croissants and macarons along with giant Funfetti wedding cakes Some are even making their own hundreds of thousands. Sohla el- Wayly of the Hail Mary Diner in hipster Greenpoint makes her own. These are vanilla and rose flavored, made with egg whites,confectioner's sugar and food coloring. She pipes them in long, skinny lines on parchment paper, allowing them to air dry. They're then  "plastered" on the diner's tall vanilla cake giving it a wild , eccentric quality, like something from the Mad Hatter's tea party. The best bet is to go to your grocery store's bake shop where you can buy medium sized cups of multicolored sprinkles. some even have holiday colors, like black
and orange for Halloween and red and green for Christmas.

Sprinkles amp up a cake's fun factor. Go crazy with them and create an explosion of color with every slice.It's a fun way of celebrating cake.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Your Holiday Cooking Guide

Hard to believe we're entering the start of the holiday cooking season.It's a time when even the most experienced home chefs panic. Don't. There's a guide to help you navigate any big meal fromThanksgiving to Christmas, from New Year's to just a big Sunday dinner with family and friends.

The New York Times put out this special guide in their Wednesday paper today. It's separate from the  Food section but it has some of the best recipes from the Times recipe book plus a day to day guide on getting ready. It is a four-page fold out and the recipes can be cut out if need be. To be honest you'll want to keep this is very handy.It features the classic turkey, sides, and pies.What I like is the timeline in which to prepare. It makes planning for Thanksgiving a dream and can be altered to fit any prep time before a big meal. It starts with making a guest list which will give an idea of how big a bird to buy.A second and definite must do is deciding whether to have a sit-down dinner or buffet., depending on the number of guests.One of the smartest suggestions is taking stock of kitchenware along with the oven. Are there enough pots and pans for the sides? Is the oven big enough for the bird you want? You may have to get two turkeys or have a diner roast your bird. Two weeks before , check t see if you need tablecloths . extra glasses or even a gravy boat. Also The Times recommends writing up two shopping lists; one for perishable goods and one for non perishables. A week before it's time to make the pie crusts and cranberry sauce along with cleaning out the fridge and freezer to make room.

The recipes come from the best. Julia Moskin, Melissa Clark, Sam Sifton and Kim Severson have contributed as well as the famed Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey. Emily Weinstein and  Amanda Hesser have also given recipes as well. Kim Severson gives us a dry brined turkey that's punched up with white wine.Gravy is a must and Sam Sifton has a good one.It too has a half cup of white wine along with the turkey fat, flourn and turkey or chicken stock.Of course, there has to be stuffing, also coming from Mr. Sifton.It has apples and chestnuts along with a cornucopia of herbs and spices. A dash of hot sauce is added for kick. Every holiday meal needs sides and there are some tasty ones here. Guests and family will flip over the Hassselback potatoes made rich with both Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Even the most adamant Brussels sprout haters will think twice about them being served with heavenly pancetta.Thanksgiving is all about the dessert and there are three good recipes to choose from (Or you can make all three).Melissa Clark gives us her double apple pie which is not only spiced with cinnamon but with ginger and nutmeg.She also has a brandied pumpkin pie given a kick with the liqueur and enriched with whole cream and three eggs. There is also Craig Claiborne's cheesecake, a great ending to any meal.

Thanksgiving and any holiday meal should not be a time for panic or fear. Follow The New York Times guide and recipes and watch the big day breeze'll be not only a time of giving Thanks but also for good eating!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tricks, Treats Or Favors

One of the best aspects of any party are the favors. Since Halloween is all about treats then make the favors at your costume party savory and sweet fun. These can be eaten as games are being played or later on as a nice snack at home.

Many party givers lean towards the sweet but savory favors are also a fun gift. Think flavored popcorn. in festive All Hallow's bags.Making the different flavors is easy to do.Start off with about twelve to sixteen cups of plain air-popped corn. For a zingy lemon -brown butter  heat six tablespoons of butter in a skillet until browned.It usually takes about seven minutes. Afterward, stir in one and a half teaspoons of lemon zest and toss. It can also just be a plain buttered, perfect for watching those scary movies. Give your popped corn a Mediterranean twist with the addition of za'atar, that spicy mix of sumac ,dried thyme, and sesame seeds . Or try it Cajun style with  cayenne pepper, oregano, black and red pepper. Another fun party bag treat is the classic  Chex mix. Again this is an easy make. It's a mix of all Chex cereals, rice , corn, and wheat tossed with mixed nuts and bite-sized pretzels, whether sticks or nuggets. Garlic and onion powder along with Worcester sauce is added for flavor. You can vary the recipe or tailor it to suit your guests' tastes with dashes of dried herbs , spices or even freshly ground pepper. The recipe may have to be altered a bit to suit those with wheat and nut allergies. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds can be subbed in. The last would be keeping with te holiday.

A bag full of sweet treats is always nice. Both big and little party guests love a favor bag of goodies.One of the most fun and festive is Halloween bark This can be made with white,tinted, dark or milk chocolate as the base. Candy corn, whether the traditional or new salted chocolate from Brach's is a definite add in.Popcorn is another . Many recipes call for caramel but just plain popcorn would  be better to prevent the bark from becoming too sweet.Some party givers add Oreos but plain chocolate wafers give the chocolate burst without all that sugary creme For some fun toss in a dash of cayenne pepper, however, be sparing with it..For the orange chocolate add the tiniest bit of orange juice for some citrusy bite. Cranberries are another fun and colorful add in.Give a homemade bark a burst of saltiness by throwing in some crushed pretzels. Break the finished candy into small pieces that fit easily into a goodie bag. Dipped Oreos are another fun  nosh . Coat them in white chocolate and then , using a toothpick, draw faces on them with melted dark or milk chocolate or edible ink. This last can be bought online or at craft shops such as Michael's. Oreos can also be dipped in orange chocolate and decorated like jack o lanterns. Encase them up in black or orange saran wrap and then tie with a black or orange bow.

Halloween party favors can be savory or sweet. They're fun mementos to be enjoyed at the party or afterwards. They definitely more treat than trick!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloweenies And Fright Burgers

It's the start of Halloween week and that means one thing  -fun food!! It 's getting creative and coming up with ghoulishly good treats and meals. Make these scary dogs and fright burgers for dinner or for a weekend of parties! They're sure to be loved by big and little trick or treaters across the board.

Hot dogs are one of the best mediums for All Hallow's fun. They can be dressed in as  costumes just as  real dogs can. One of the most fun is mummy dogs, These are simply taking a sheet of Pillsbury crescent rolls and first pressing the perforations to seal them. Take a knife and then cut each dough rectangle into ten thin strips.Also, cut slices of American, cheddar, or Monterey Jack cheese into four pieces..  Wrap four dough strips around the dogs and cheese and leave a 1/2 inch space for a 'face'. Bake for thirteen to seventeen minutes or until golden brown. Use a toothpick and mustard to draw on faces.Serve with any kind of mustard , from honey to spicy Dijon. For a healthier spin use soy dogs and soy cheese. You can also make your own gluten-free dough too.Another cool ghoul idea is monster fingers. It's just simply cutting the franks so  they look like fried, boiled or - really creepy - grilled fingers.Slice a square top layer off so it looks like a nail bed. Then slice two lines an inch below the nail and three lines midway to resemble knuckles. Make it look even gorier by putting a thin line of ketchup along the nail bed and maybe a little oozing out of the "knuckles".Serve on pita rounds cut square  to resemble bandages.

Burgers are another versatile "dress up" dinner. They , too, can be turned into yummy mummies. It's just taking any of your favorite sliced cheese  and  cut it into strips. Place haphazardly across a cooked burger, leaving a space for eyes. Cook burgers and cheese for five minutes or until cheese gets melty. Put two dots of mayo  in the eye space. Top with olive quarters. Jack o lanterns are another fun dinner, Use slices of good sharp cheddar and a paring knife to cut out eyes, nose, and teeth, Place cheese on burgers five minutes before serving or until cheese melts around the edges. You can make homemade devil burgers, patties that carry a huge amount of heat. It's taking a regular hamburger recipe and livening it up a dash of chili powder. This is perfect for teens and teens, but be careful with younger kids - who many not be used to hotness. Sriracha sauce can be subbed in  for the chili powder. Serve your devil burgers not with ketchup or barbecue sauce but with a cool ranch dressing or dip.This ices down the burgers a lot and it also goes well with onion rings and fries which have to be served.You can also make devil meatballs too to go with an equally fiery arribiata sauce.

Hot dogs and hamburgers are even better to decorate than pumpkins. There are so many neat methods to serve them for  Halloween week. Discover the fun! Make them for  tasty treating.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pedialyte? Ugh!! Better Alternatives

I have been sick for the last week. Hopefully, it's nothing more than a bad stomach virus caught from one of my students.The doctor gave me meds but also recommended that modern kid classic Pedialyte. I figured it was just what the doc ordered. I was wrong!

I don't know how the little nippers stand the stuff. The taste is kind of like a melted lollipop dipped in ocean water. The first questions that went through my mind is "Why do kids have to drink this? Won't they spit this out?"Then when I parsed out the ingredients , the taste made sense. There's sodium chloride needed to retain water lost when a child or baby has had diarrhea along with sugar to keep up electrolytes. Electrolytes are needed to hydrate cells and a Pedialyte type drink will do the job better than just plain water. Also giving any little one plain juice or sugar water can result in more diarrhea, Unfortunately, there are some problems with it, It does come with a blend of dyes in it that are questionable along with it being pricey. Another problem is the taste. If I hate it , imagine how a three-year-old or eight-year-old responds to it.Luckily there are recipes up and down the Web that help with the taste.There's always salt and sugar added. Most moms prefer sea salt along with unrefined cane sugar. Another variation uses honey, however, be careful wth this. As we all know children under the age of one cannot process it and it could be lethal. Use Jello or orange juice for flavoring instead.

What about us adults? The company actually puts out an adult version which is perfect for those suffering from illnesses that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, It's also recommended for those recovering from hangovers.Pedialyte adds probiotics too to promote digestive health although that' s probably the last thing you're thinking of when you're surviving the aftereffects of too many pale ales or margaritas.It comes in more grown-up flavors like Blue Raspberry , Strawberry Lemonade and, Cherry Punch and Tropical Fruit. Is it better than that other go to , Gatorade?Both have the relatively same mix of sodium, sugar, and water. For water retention, Pedialyte or even a homemade version will beat Gatorade. Yet it's Gatorade that adults prefer because it has half the sodium, hence not as salty a taste.It does come n yummier flavors such as citrus watermelon, the original lemon-lime  along with variations on berry and tangerine.You can make your own (as well as for dogs and cats too, however, get your vet's OK before creating it). Jello is recommended but I would use organic juice such as Bai along ith both sea salt and sodium chloride .

Is Pedialyte a must when you;re sick? Yes and no. I'm sticking with my doctor' advice for now. When I feel better, I'll make my own.It's stile a vile drink but I think that a homemade version may be a tad better.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Happy Birthday Coleridge!

                                         HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE!

It's not a Devon cream tea with scones and jams and good English tea!
Yet this is how we celebrate birthdays nowadays across the sea!
It is good chocolate cake!
I did not bake!
But it's yummy and tasty, a real treat for you and me!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Duck Aux Prunes

One of the tastiest fall dishes to make is duck. It can be cooked  a variety of ways, whether  braised or roasted. One of the best is the French way, avec prunes or with plums These add an earthy sweetness, perfect for the chilly days ahead.

David Tanis knows this and it seems he is a true duck lover as seen in yesterday's New York Times Food section. His A City Kitchen weekly column featured a meat , dear to many foodie's and cooks hearts - duck, He goes mad for the Five Spice infused mahogany lacquered ones  from Chinatown, He rhapsodizes about how duck is cooked in southwestern France, French home chefs take the large Musocvy duck whose meat is more like veal, is grilled like steak. Duck legs are used to flavor cassoulets or braised with red wine and prunes.The flavorful fat is used for confit.Mr. Tanis likes to braise the legs with fresh plums and red wine, preferably a dry one. The fruit may be a bit hard to come by right now. The big plump ones are going out of season so aim for the smaller, purpler Italian variety. What's left of them is sauteed in butter ad served with the duck legs.

Is this an easy dish to cook? Braising is a simple method. The meat is to be partially pan cooked before braising however. The legs need to sizzle and brown and then chopped onion is added for more flavor. Tomato paste is also included along with wine and  four cups of chicken broth. Mr. Tanis  does like duck Chinese style so there is the addition of clove, allspice, cayenne and star anise that are added in the first step . You can omit them if you want a more Gallic flavor.It's braised for thirty to forty minutes or until the legs are tender.At this time the plums can be sauteed in a separate pan. Mr. Tanis also garnishes with pistachios ,lemon zest, parsley ,and chives.

Duck is a tasty dish on its' own. Add spices and fruit to elevate it to another level. It becomes a truly magnificent dish, thanks to Italian plums and Chinese traditional spices.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Future Of British Baking

As we all know there's nothing as entertaining as The Great British Baking Show. It's a fun yet refreshingly gentle romp through competitive baking. Unlike American reality shows, there's no cattiness or backstabbing. It as soothing as a slice of Victoria Sponge cake with a good cup of tea. Yet, it's future is being threatened. Will it be the same?Or a blander, less sweet version.

That was one of the questions posed by Melissa Clark who took a break from her A Good Appetite column to write this in today's New York Times Food section.. "The Great British Bake Off "or as it's known here in the States, "The Great British baking Show" (the phrase "bake off can;t be used because Pillsbury has the exclusive rights to it). The show  had good anchors and.hosts, Paul Hollywood and  Mary Berry were fair and sometimes strict judges but in the end, they always chose appropriately. The hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins gave us witty, as only the British can, puns and  sisterly encouragement to all contestants.The contestants themselves were an egalitarian mix of all classes and all races.The last winner was the bubbly and skilled Nadiya Hussain. Even though she was born to Bangladeshi parents  and wore a hajib, this Luton born Brit was just sassy and funny as Sue and Mel. She added pop and fizz to such classics like gingerbread - she added cayenne -and oomphing up croquembouches with such flavors as bubble gum and peppermint.

Now the show is in what could be serious trouble. The show is heading over to Channel 4 from BBC.Only Hollywood went with them. The other three quit out of loyalty to the station. How will this affect the show? Who will replace them? There's no talk or even suggestion of replacements. The show has given the world and Britain a renewed interest in such British classics as the Victoria Sponge and Eccles cakes, More and more Brits are baking and getting back into  cake decorating. There has been an uptick in icing and piping tools at Hobbycraft , a UK version of our hobby shop , Michael's  There are also more baking classes being offered and in such diverse recipes as potato farl from Northern Ireland and Welsh fruit and tea loaf.Ms. Clark includes two recipes the aforementioned  Victoria Sponge and Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake. Both are relatively easy to bake and construct. The first is a simple plain sponge with a raspberry jam and fresh whipped cream filling while the other is simple butter snack cake with a crusty lemon sugar topping.

There will always be an England. There will hopefully be a Great British Baking Show. It shows the best of the British people and their loves of cakes. Rule Britannia and the Brits who bake.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rabbiting About Carrots

Mention carrots to young and old and you're bound to get the same reaction - a grimace. Yet these diet vital veggies are tasty,bringing just the right amount of sweetness to any lunch or dinner. They're good raw or cooked, served with dressing or with butter. They really are a treat.

As a lifelong carrot lover, I can only write good things about one of my most favorite vegetable.s I have always loved them cooked and drenched in butter.  Not surprising they are one of the world's oldest prepared vegetable. first being grown in ancient Persia. Their leaves and seeds were valued and then eventually the taproot underneath.They  then spread to Europe.where it grew wild,  being cultivated in ancient Switzerland and Germany.Carrots were  part of the varied Roman diet.The early versions of the veggie were originally purple and , red and yellow. The orange kind was probably cultivated in what is now Afghanistan and were introduced to Europe through the Netherlands in the 1700s. The name comes from ker or horn, It is a biennial plant, usually growing in the summer but some slower growing varieties are being harvested now in the fall. The roots contain high quantities of both alpha and beta carotene along with high amounts of Vitamin K and B6.They're also high in potassium too as well as in lutein.It's an easy grow for novice gardeners and is great first plant for little green thumbs An extra plus is that carrot stems produce clusters of pretty white flowers, similar in look to Queen Anne's lace.

What abut carrots themselves? Again a simple , yet delicious side dish is just cooked carrots ith butter.It's boiling them in water until tender and then adding  a quarter of a cup of butter or margarine. Some add brown sugar,but that's just making them too sweet ad taking away from their natural sweetness. Minced garlic can be added to give it some oomph but be sparing with it. Many home chefs go the ultra sweet route when it comes to them. There are many recipes that call for everything from maple syrup to refined sugar. Don't go this route.Aim for ingredients that accentuate their flavor. Cook them with different herbs such as dill or rosemary.Again be sparing ith them. Too many herbs may give the carrots a medicinal taste. Carrots are also great in combos.Try them with green beans and button mushrooms as a great side to both chicken and beef. Sub in cauliflower for the mushrooms for another nice companion to holiday and Sunday roasts.Raw carrots are perfect in crudite plates. Try them and other raw veggies with such good dips as a classic vinaigrette or a simple Greek yogurt.Anything sweet like a French or Russian dressing dip would detract from the carrots. Carrots also make lovely decorations too. There are carrot curls and carrot roses, both easy to create.

Give carrots  a try. They're great starting off a holiday meal or Sunday dinner or as a side to any roast. They're not only good for you but good tasting, their sunny brightness adding to any plate.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Medicinal Foods

Remember the old saying : feed  cold and starve a fever.It's true. What you eat can help or hinder your illness,whether it's a full-blown stomach virus or a slight sniffle.You need to be prepared since it's cold and flu season already.

One of the best elixirs I can recommend is that Jamaican classic ginger beer. It's great for taming a stomach virus along with helping to relieve gas and bloating.Many confuse it with its' milder cousin ginger ale. The beer is actually brewed and  another tummy settler - lemon juice - is added in.It's much stronger than ginger ale which is nothing more than fizzy water with ginger flavor added.The first was created surprisingly not in Jamaica but  in Ireland in 1851 while the other was created in 1907 by Canadian John McLaughlin. The company evolved into Canada Dry and they still make the mellow drink. Try to have one or the other (not many stores sell ginger beer,Stop &Shop has its;' own brand and Stewart's also makes it).Another must for virus season is any cola drink, whether it be Coke, Pepsi or a generic in house brand.Cola poured over crushed ice also helps soothe a troubled stomach, .All kitchen should have herbal teas, especially peppermint or chamomile.These not only help a stomach that's been ravaged by a nasty bug but great in calming a sore throat.Colds benefit from fresh pressed juices This is the time to get oranges along with apples and pears ad start juicing..

Boullion cubes should be in every kitchen. Individual cubes ca be turned into broths for one,They are a great bridge from not eating to be able to get down some food. It seems vegetable bouillon is the mildest. There's none of that slightly fatty aftertaste that you get with the chicken and beef kinds. They also make excellent bases for simple soups such as pastina, orzo and my all time favorite pompeist, the Piedmontese mix of broth, beaten egg and bread crumbs.Stay away from canned soup. They're not hat your stomach needs. Homemade is better. Have these with crackers and fact these will probably be the only kinds of foods that you'll eat after a stomach virus. What about transitioning into regular food again.  Think dry as in sliced chicken or turkey.If you don;t feel like cooking a whole bird, remember that diners always have these two meats . Order a plain  no mayo sandwich from yours on toast.from your local one. The BRAT diet-bananas, rice, applesauce, toast  is a tried and true one for diarrhea. Bananas are chock full of potassium which will be depleted thanks to  it being forced out fo you. Rice with butter is another good transitional food. For more flavor cook the rice in broth as opposed to plain water. Use the applesauce if you're craving something sweet.

Be prepared this cold,  flu, and virus season with the right foods. These will help you get over those nasty bugs, sniffly noses and scratchy throats.Having them is your best for a speedy recovery.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Front Yard Farming

Imagine taking a step out your door and picking a pumpkin for soup or tomatoes for a salad. You can, thanks to turning your front yard into a garden. It's a great way to save money as well as practicing sustainability. Besides, nothing beats cooking with  fresh ingredients.

Since it's the middle of the fall growing season, you can easily plan your garden for Spring 2017. First of all, decide if you want to do it yourself or leave the initial planning and planting to landscapers who specialize in front and back yard gardens. Also, decide on how much land you want to designate for growing.Discuss it with everyone in the family and also consider neighborhood activities. A front garden may have to be moved to the back or the side of your house if you live in a one with a lot of active kids.It's no fun having to deal with trampled vines or the occasional baseball or Frisbee lobbed into your corner of Cobb lettuce. Your yard's location is another aspect to take into consideration. If there's too much shade, then plan to plant veggies that grow well in them such as beets , carrots, and turnips . Kale, lettuce, and spinach are also shade lovers too.The same goes for plants,such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas that thrive in direct sunlight. If the yard is big enough then draw out sections where you;d like to plant three or four  kinds of veggies. Make sure you include paths for easy access.Another must is carving out space for a compost heap.It's usually in the farthest corner of the yard, far away from the house.

Many towns across the country have bans and restrictions on front yard gardens. Before you even plant, query and see if it's legal in your neck of the woods. Another potential roadblock may be neighbors. There are some who want their block to look like the cover of a landscaping magazine. The idea of  a front yard garden may not be to their snooty likings. Granted it's your property and you can do whatever you ant in it but there may be some opposition. Feel them out.If the all over tone is favorable, then tell them your plans . You may inspire them to start their own and begin a neighborhood collective where veggies and even herbs are traded.. Be prepared, though for some opposition. Gardens not only bring pests such as aphids but they also bring larger pests such as squirrels. raccoons, woodchucks and even bears. Your neighbors may not cotton to the idea of having their street turned into a salad bar for creatures. You could then wind up getting slapped with some kind of citation. What could be done to win them over is just tell you're only going to plan a small garden, They won;t wake up to see a cornfield or a pumpkin patch. A sneakier way of  introducing a front yard garden to the neighbors is planting decorative herbs, sort of the first step in starting a garden. Basil and chives can be used as ornamentals in a rose garden or arranged around fruit trees

A front yard garden is an excellent way to not only save the planet  but eat healthier. It's also a great way of .introdicing veggies to the family diet. Think about it in your plans for next Spring.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Buffet Bonanza

In the last twenty years a phenomenon  has happened with American dining - the birth of the all you can eat buffet. These are all over the US right now, competing with fast food and slow food. Are they all that they promised? Yes and even more.

It seems that every town now has some kind of buffet. They used to be few and far between.I remember going to one twenty years ago for a bridal shower. It was amazing to see , with the variety of meats and sides.I had only ever experienced this in Atlantic City , where there was an all you can eat buffet in every hotel/casino. This probably was taken from Las Vegas where the concept is used to keep gamblers in the casino.Now it's one of the top industries for Chinese immigrants.providing employment for many young Asians..The buffets are taking over from the concept if a sit down restaurant where there is a set menu, usually  featuring Cantonese or sometimes Szechuan dishes or a combination of both.The buffets do offer such classic dishes as fried rice, lo mein and shrimp in lobster sauce but they also appeal to trends such as a sushi station along with other ethnic dishes such as ravioli and kielbasa.I know two local ones that also feature a weekend brunch menu that highlight bacon and sausages, along with pancakes and egg foo yung  (oh, well, they do try). Another non-Chinese idea is dessert. The Chinese usually just have fruit, namely oranges yet most buffets have a whole pastry  tray featuring Italian specialties like panna cotta and tiramisu. There are also neat little squares of vanilla, chocolate and carrot cakes as well as ice cream too. Fruit is there , thankfully, as a respite from all those calories..

Are these buffets good for a country known for overeating and obesity? Actually yes. Unlike most restaurants and fast food joints , people have more healthy choices. Any diner can make a plate of lean meats and veggies with melon or strawberries for dessert. It's just staying away from the sauced dishes and fried foods like chicken, cod, French fries and onion rings. Throw in a good portion of  plain white rice to fill up, This will fill you so you don't go back for seconds , thirds or even fourths. Another smart idea is portion control. Yes , you can have those fish sticks, just don;t pile your plate with them as some careless diners are wont to do. The same for those "fun" sides like crab filled mushrooms, and fried plantains. The idea also applies to dessert too. As tasty as your buffet's chocolate cake is, don't go hog wild and get three pieces. Share it table side.All buffets also offer bottomless drinks. Again choose wisely. Buffet foods tends to be salty which brings on massive thirst. Before you know it you;ve finished off your first glass and want more. Soda and sweet tea is loaded with sugar and calories. Stick with lemon water and unsweetened ice tea.Some buffets do offer club soda  and this is a great choice of having a fizzy drink without all the guilt.

Buffets are now a fixture in America. They're not going away any time soon People love them too much . After all, they are fun to visit and to indulge those foodie passions and crushes.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sous Vide Made Easy

The sous vide method of cooking can either excite chefs or scare them.Yet, it's a really simple way of having thoroughly cooked meats and's also a great cooking technique of sealing in flavor. It's something all home chefs should embrace.

Brian X. Chen wrote about them in yesterday;s New York Times Food section.This is a first for him because he usually writes about new tech gadgets . A sous vide is a kind of kitchen one, although not so new.It was invented in 1799 by Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford and brought back into the cooking world in the 1960s, thanks to frozen food companies. Restauranteur George Paulus was the first chef to use it in his famed Troisgras Restaurant in the mid Seventies.. Since then it's become a restaurant staple which can intimidate a home chef.There's really nothing to fear.It's a pretty simple method of meat being sealed in a bag and placed in hot water as a cylindrical  gadget circulates hot water and the bag around for thorough cooking..Another turn off is the fact that the cooking method takes too darn long!.A piece of meat can take anywhere from an hour to a day to cook. The end result though is worth it . Many home chefs may also be leery about the sous vide price, usually between $200 to $300 hundred dollars however it does pay itself off.It's the price of a microwave or a good emulsion blender.

Sous vide cooking is easy , Mr. Chen had a pictorial for pork or beef roast with his article but directions are easy to follow. He recommends using a 3 to 5 pound chuck roast or boneless pork shoulder. The meat should be trussed with cooking twine. Tie it around its' midsection, leaving one inch spaces. The meat can be preseared in a Dutch oven using vegetable oil.Afterwards place the meat and two sprigs of rosemary inside a one gallon freezer bag. Fill a large pot halfway with water. Attach the sous vide and set it to140 degrees for the pork shoulder for medium doneness 130 degrees for the beef chuck which will turn it medium rare. Submerge the bag when the water reaches the desired temperature.  Remember to seal the bag as airtight as possible. Once the bag is submerged, it has to cook for twenty-four hours. Add more water if it starts boiling off When done ,remove the meat from the bag and transfer to a cutting board. The juices can either be discarded or used for a gravy. For a nice crust season steak on both sides with salt and pepper. The pork can be rubbed with brown sugar Heat in a cast iron skillet with vegetable oil. hen they start to smoke add butter and herbs for flavoring.

A sous vide should be considered a home chef's best friend.It's a great gadget to for cooking roasts for a tender , melt in your mouth texture Its a great addition to any chef's arsenal of gadgets.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pumpkin Season With The Pumpkin Queen

Imagine if your whole life revolved around pumpkins.Imagine growing different types from all over the world and turning them into all sorts of dishes. This is the life of Sarah Frey, the pumpkin queen who is steadily changing the way we think about pumpkins. They're not just for Halloween anymore but for fall dining.

Kim Severson interviewed this interesting pumpkin mogul for today's New York Times Food section. The squash has been good to her as she plants such diverse varieties as the rough skinned peanut and slate green Jarrahdales from Australia as well as the blue green Marina di Chioggas from Italy. Her jacks, industry shorthand for Jack'o lantern, the tradtional bright orange ones are sold at Lowe's and Walmart. Now she's after other big box stores such as Target and Trader Joe's to sell her line Pumpkins of the World for home chefs. She researched and also knew from her experience that only the most dedicated cook would crack open a twelve pounder so she looked into growing smaller ones that would good on the front porch while being tasty and versatile in the kitchen,There's only one problem. Americans can't seem to get beyond pumpkin pies and pumpkin breads. All over the world the gourd is used in a variety of dishes.It shows up in Indian curries. Mexicans make a mole out of it.It graces stews across Africa.It can go beyond pies as any Piedmontese chef will tell you. We've been turning it into a creamy milk and butter laced soup for generations.

Another problem is that some fresh pumpkins don't translate well into pie. The flesh comes out stringy and cloying, perhaps a bit too "squashy" tasting for some. Home chefs should stick with the heirloom variety. These are deep bright orange in color and resemble the quintessential Halloween decoration.Mostly it's best for savory dishes,something Ms. Frey is trying to impress on American home chefs.Professional chefs have also urged this too. Chef Dorie Greenspan, author of  "Around My French Table" has given an interesting spin on stuffed pumpkin. Hers is Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good and features a baked whole pumpkin filled with bread, cheese and bacon.It became popular with food bloggers and also on food shows but then went nowhere. Since then there hasn't been a breakout recipe featuring the many varieties from the Japanese kabocha to the Italian ans Australian ones Yet pumpkin is wonderful in ravioli with a sage butter sauce and it can even be turned into gnocchi.Ms Severson includes Ms. Frey's stuffed pumpkin recipe.It's a mix of scallions and Gruyere cheese heated with red pepper flakes Kale and scallions are added for color and flavor.The article's second recipe is chicken and dumplings with pumpkin from the cookbook, My Two Souths by Asha Gomez.It's a marriage of chicken with not only raw pumpkin but with celery and ginger too, Dumplings are added at the last for more body.

Ms. Frey is turning America into her pumpkin kingdom. It's time we get past those pies and breads and discover just how tasty the gourd is. One day we'll realize what Ms. Frey already knows, that they're versatile and easy to cook with.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Loafing Around

One of the best hot meals for fall is meatloaf. It's an easy cook and it offers creativity.Add this,subtract that, Anyone can master it, from novices to old pros. Best of all it is great left over as a sandwich.

Meat loaf has been around since ancient Roman times and was featured in French cooking in the 1600's. The Germans and Amish brought it to the states in the 1700's here it remains a staple. It has its' origins in scrapple a mixture of  corn meal  and ground pork. Almost every country has their take on it. The Italians call it polpettone and put ham, eggs and cheese in it while the Middle Easterners call it kefta and sub in lamb for the beef. The Vettnamese boil theirs and call it gio. South Africans spice up their  loaves or bobeti with curry, dried apricots  and almonds. They then cover it
with  a whipped egg and milk topping, sort of like a meringue.Americans fill ours with everything  from Saltines, cereal grains and bread, a hold over from the Great Depression when meat and money were scarce. Adding wheat products gave it consistency and made it filling. it's usually served with ketchup . There is a meat loaf sauce, surprisingly, made from ketchup and brown. sugar. Barbecue sauce can be added to the recipe or just served on the side to give it more tang. Some recipes call for hard boiled eggs and gherkins to be included to give the loaf color and flavor.

The recipe is an  easy one that even the most novice of home chefs can follow and create a successful dinner. Basic meat loaf takes a pound and a half o f good ground beef along with one egg for binding and a cup of milk for smoothness.There's also a cup of dried bread crumbs for consistency (without it , it would be too crumbly and fall apart) along with one chopped onion. This recipe can be varied. For fun , try a Tex-Mex style that has a combination of chopped chili peppers and chili powder. Grated cheddar cheese is sprinkled over the top for color and flavor. The slices can be served on a bed of tortilla chips along with some hot sauce for extra fire. For a more grown up version add  three quarters of a cup of dry red wine along with cremini mushrooms. This recipe also calls for thyme, rosemary and garlic. Try this type of meat loaf with wild rice or a simple tomato risotto. if you don;t want to use ground beef, then think ham loaf. This is a yummy mix of ground smoked ham and pork mixed with chopped celery and red pepper. There are still breadcrumbs used as a binder along with two eggs. The spicing is nutmeg and allspice for more verve.Serve with apple rings or applesaucef for a nice autumnal dinner.

Meat loaf may be considered basic but it's a delicious blend of complex  flavors and textures.It is one of the tastiest and easiest recipes to make. Keep to the recipe or add your own spin on it, the result is always a tasty slice.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Turkey And Stuffing , Eh?

Today is Canada's Thanksgiving. Is it the same as ours, with table groaning with family dishes and a big bird?Yes. Although there are some surprises that would shock us Yanks to the south and west of them.

Of course the big difference is the dates. We celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November and it's the stepping stone into  the Christmas season (after all there are some big box stores that open at eight PM that night).The Canadians always celebrate the second Monday of every October.It was started in 1897 with the chosen day only gelling in 1957.Both countries have the English Reformation and the Puritans to thank for the day, since both had harvest festivals and "days of thanksgiving." Surprisingly one day of thanksgiving evolved in Guy Fawkes Day after the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1606. The Puritans , as we know, brought it to America but the Canadians were already celebrating as early as 1578, thanks to Martin Frobisher who navigated his ship through the treacherous Northwest Passage. The French Canadians call it "Action de grace" or an act of grace.Only the Atlantic Provinces such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Labrador consider it an optional holiday. It sort of falls under the Days of Rest Act where government employees and banks have a designated day off. What is great about the Canadian Thanksgiving is that the indigenous people are also thanked for their generosity of food and land. We need to incorporate that into our blessings.this November.

What do the Canadians eat? Is it the same as what we Americans eat?. Yes and no.Many Loyalists left the Colonies after the Revolution and headed up north. They brought turkey and stuffing recipes with them.and tweaked some of our recipes along the way. Their pumpkin pie is a bit spicier than ours with the addition of such spices as ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Ours is a bit more custardy and sweeter. We also have apple pies along with that Southern classic pecan. Canadians are also big on breadcrumb or rice stuffing. while we Yanks also like that,We vary it with oysters and sausage. Our neighbors up north also prefer healthier breads, going for whole wheat loaves while we go mad for those yummy King's Hawaiian rolls , or artesenal breads. The French Canadians have a decidedly more Gallic spin on their holiday meal.Some families may make apple tarte tatin, a buttery, fruity pie with a base of puff pastry,Others may end their feasting with a quartre quatre cake, a twist on pound cake.Varied recipes include adding dried cranberries , walnuts or even extra vanilla.Their dindon or turkey is stuffed with a flavorful mix of pork and beef,, spiced with poultry seasoning and cloves. Russet potatoes give it body.

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers. Enjoy the feasting and leftovers along with family and friends. It is a day of celebration but also of thankfulness and thought.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Food Issue For Thought

Tomorrow's New York Times Magazine is devoted to all things food.Yet it isn't covering trends or cuisines or eve recipes. It has a buffet of interesting and very thought provoking articles. It will definitely make you think about your Sunday dinner along with what you're eating in general.

Again, this is an eye opening issue and focuses on issues big and small that affect the way America eats. One is about what goes on in a slaughterhouse and how the practices there are being secretly recorded. Over a century ago  Upton Sinclair who had worked at a Chicago slaughterhouse in 1906 recorded the horrors in his famed and still effectively  shocking book The Jungle.President of the Time, Teddy Roosevelt, passed The Federal Meat Inspection Act which benefited both consumer and industry until the 1950's, Everything changed in the Sixties and Seventies meat packing became automated.  That's when it went down hill. A spoiler alert you will think twice about eating any and all pork products, from bacon to ham.Another eye opener is the article about the Obama Administration and Big Food. To anyone who though the NRA and the Gun Lobby were powerful think again. These are the powers that stopped both the President and the First Lady from getting America to eat healthier. It's lucky for us that the group spawned the Little Food movement that encourages farms and fresh eating.In the mean time they hurled accusations at the First Couple from demonizing farmers to interfering with food companies.

There are also two other articles that feature bettering food.One has to do with that rarities of rarities blue M&Ms. Mars , the company that makes them along with many other big food manufacturers like Kraft , Nestle USA and General Mills are getting rid of artificial dyes and replacing then with natural colorants. It's easy to do with reds, greens browns and yellow. Blue is different.It's a rarity among animals and nature. When it does occur in the natural world, it isn't truly blue but rather a trick of diffraction or the scattering of light. This is why the sky, water and ice are varying shades of blue.The only plant that could give all natural blue hue is spirulina or blue green algae.If this works then the world and M&M lovers will get the blue hue again, but perhaps not as bright as when it was first dyed. The second article in bettering food is about reducing the salt in frozen  pizza. This is a heavy load. Decreasing NaCL can result in not only a bland taste in the sauce and the toppings but also a flat crust. For a successful crust pizza needs baking soda. Companies like DiGiono use on that is loaded with salt. Even halve the amount and it results in a not so yummy looking pie. The solution lies in subbing in potassium chloride or mineral salts, the last named  for better advertising,It will give pies a healthier makeup  without sacrificing taste.

The Sunday Times Magazine truly has articles that are food for thought. Read them. They are eye opening, food for a foodie's and home chef;'s mind.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Fall Salads

Fall isn't what it used to be. By now, the days would have had a definite nip to them. It would have meant hot meals and hot drinks. Not anymore. Thanks to global warming - and yes, it does exist -s we're having summery weather and balmy breezes right up to November.How to survive? Adopt a summer menu. Eat salads - fall salads.

Tossing together greens and veggies many be a tricky aspect right now. After all,  it's not the height of  summer when there are daily harvests. The tomatoes are riper and have that glow  only a summer sun can give. Vegetable choices are limited. There aren't any fresh ears of corn or bright colorful peppers. What to do? Work with what the stores do have. Yes, there are tomatoes. They're just  not going to be the gems of two months ago. Canned tomatoes can be used in salads but they may be a bit juicy, depending on what brand is used. Luckily California can give us greens all year round. You still can make a lovely mixed greens salad using tomatoes and spinach or arugula. Canned veggies are never as good as fresh but they'll do. Add some canned corn along with sweet peas for some color and texture. Beet salad is always delicious  and the canned kind can be elevated by adding freshly sliced onions. It's a nice addition to even a fall picnic or tailgating party. A  chilled green bean salad is another refreshing side , especially when it's dressed with a crisp , classic vinaigrette. Even canned asparagus can be turned into a salad. Use a citrus based dressing to give it some dash.

What about combining fall fruits and vegetables?. The first is easy to do. Apples , pears and Concord grapes blend very easily into salads. One of the most delicious is a Waldorf salad. It is a blend of chopped apples, grapes and walnuts.Celery is the base of it and this can be bought all year round. It is versatile, Add chicken to it and it's a lunch or dinner. Without it , it makes a nice side to grilled chicken or even  turkey burgers.Apples also pair well with spinach and kale, Combine them in a salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. Pears are also popular right now. A delicious one is where slices are mixed with Roquefort cheese and any kind of lettuce. Be sure to use three kinds of pear,  the sweet, large Anjou, the brown, textured Bosc and the bright yellow tart tasting Bartlett. One spin on it calls for avocado ,or the alligator pear but this can be omitted.The salad is  served with a mustard dressing. Grapes can be added to any salad, They bring an earthy sweetness that goes with any green. Fall veggies are kind of limited however there is a lot to do with carrots and cabbage. These can be the stars of a salad or  supporting players. A chilled carrot salad is a nice palate cleanser at a tailgate party. A vinaigrette dressed slaw is perfect at any fall barbecue or picnic.Add some sesame seeds for crunch and flavor.

Fall isn't what it used to be.We still have shorts and flipflop weather til Halloween. Hot days mean easy eating. Create a fall salad, head to the beach or the park and enjoy a summery October.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Spins On Classic Cakes

Classics are always in need of updating.This applies to almost everything, from main meals to sides to desserts, especially the last.Sometimes it takes a little tweak here and there as seen with snack cakes. Sometimes it takes a complete makeover like turning crepes into cakes.

These two updates were written in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Melissa  Clark wrote about sprucing up the classic snack cake in her A Good Appetite column.. We've all eaten them, whether from Tastikake, Entemann's or home baked.. She creates a more lux one, thanks to the inclusion of pears and a brown butter glaze.It has a moist tender crumb, not unlike banana and pumpkin breads.Instead of baking it in a loaf pan , it's baked in a cake pan, easy for cutting squares. What is great about this recipe is that it can be baked in muffin tins and given extra spice with nutmeg and clove. The icing is optional  if home bakers decide on this. Yet the cake is a  perfect treat, even as a dessert.  What gives it flavor and moisture are the pears.This is the season for them.Use the bigger Anjou kind. Don';t get the  smaller Forell or Seckell pears, These are two small and more intense in flavor than the delicate Anjou. Not only is there flour but also  three quarters of a cup of rolled oats,Toasted walnuts or pecans are also tossed in for crunch although these are optional. Four large eggs are used for body because there's no liquid in it, hence the dense texture. The glaze  is equally mouth watering.It's a marriage of butter and brown sugar combined with heavy cream that creates a kind of caramel. The cake would be perfect at any Sunday dinner or holiday table.

Another classic that's been updated is the crepe.They are good on their own, whether as a savory, filled with chicken or ratatouille or sweet with a filling of ice cream or with butter and sugar. Another regular contributor to the Food section,Samantha Seneviratne creates a chocolate hazelnut  crepe cake. She takes the basic crepe recipe and adds a cup of hazelnut meal. It is richer than a cake  thanks to the inclusion of egg yolks, whole milk and heavy cream. It does have to have body, one to withstand the intense heat of the crepe pan and two able to stand up to the cream.As with any batter it does have to be refrigerated before using, usually between two and forty-eight hours (it's actually easier to make the batter the day before  and spend the next day entirely on the cake's creation). Home bakers don't need a special crepe maker for this. A skillet will do just as well, however remember to use about three tablespoons of batter for each crepe. If there's too much , the result is thick, unwieldy layer. There should be twenty crepes. The chocolate cream is a mix of high quality chocolate (think Valrhona brand) along with good quality cocoa powder (Droste would be the best choice for this) along with milk. Brandy or coffee is added, the choice is up to what flavor is wanted.Stacking it is easy, Lay on the cream then a crepe and stack. The cake is decorated with whipped heavy cream and more hazelnuts.

Classics need to be updated every no and then. As with the snack cake and crepes, the update is a yummy new classic, full of flavor and moisture. They are so good, the original recipes will hardly be missed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Perfect Pot Pie

It's that time of year for  homemade pot pies  These are the ones that are not only flavorful but comforting during those first chilly autumn days. They're full of flavor and filling, perfect for a hot lunch or dinner.

Regular contributor Julia Moskin wrote about this kitchen classic in today's New York Time's Food section. She was looking for one that didn't have that white sauce that most cookbooks recommend and that come with frozen pot pies.It's also called a cream sauce yet it's not that.It's actually a bechemel, the classic French and Northern Italian sauce made with  flour and fat called a roux. It is then thinned with milk.How this came about was that cream was saved for butter in early American kitchens so white sauce stood in for milk.The sauce soon went hand in hand with other chicken dishes such as poached along with canned chicken soups.Unfortunately white sauce is not the best idea. Ms. Moskin realized that it muffles flavors instead of highlighting them.Not only is this a problem for the chicken but also for the vegetables too. All wound  up with a bland, milky taste. The combination of flour and fat is nothing more than a liquid pie crust. It's best on biscuits or added to a lasagna where it gives it body, It does not go into a pie because it doubles the starchiness and blandness.Luckily chefs , such as the one at Manhattan's Nomad has gotten rid of the sauce completely., creating a new generation of pot pies.

The recipe has been updated to kind of resemble a steak and kidney pie.The sauce now can be made using stock, wine or a tasty combination as the liquid in your binding sauce. Ms. Moskin also recommends to aggressively season the sauce She uses chicken stock, Madeira and vinegar that's been spiked with just basic salt and pepper along with parsley. Another must for a tasty pie is just use the thighs. These are the most flavorful. The meat should be coated too before cooking in a skillet  because it not only thickens the sauce but leaves those  stuck on brown bits. This enhances the gravy's flavor.. Use a flour mixed with thyme and paprika along with salt. The chicken is then cooked with bacon or pancetta along with  thickly sliced cremoni or button mushrooms.Remember too that the best pot pie is a single crust, not a double one. it means that there won;t be any gloppy goo at the bottom of the pie. The crust can be either be pie crust, biscuit dough or puff pastry (the last one is the best).What about those carrot chunks and peas that add a spark of Day-Glo  color? They belong alongside the pie not in it.Try roasted carrots and peas with mint. Hot buttered asparagus  is also a great side too to a pot pie.

Nothing is more comforting than a chicken pot pie. Made correctly it transcends all other chicken dishes,with its' flavorful gravy and light crust.It is the perfect fall dish to chase away the chill of autumn.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tasty TV Tidbits

The fall season has most people glued to their TVs and devices, watching and binge watching new or favorite shows.This also applies to food shows both on the PBS and the Cooking Channel. Two stand out , Pati's Mexican Table from Public Television and  Food : Fact Or Fiction.

The first show has been on for five years. It's even received   accolades  worthy of the more well known  Cook's Country or Jacques Pepin's Heart and Soul and has received Emmy and James Beard nominations. The host is the lively and ever enthusiastic Pati Jinich. She actually started out as a political analyst with a Masters in Latin American studies.The show started in 2011, with Ms. Jinich showing how to make different recipes but also trying and tasting them with her friends and sons.Her career, though began in 2007 when she left policy making for her passion  cooking her native food. She launched Pati's Mexican Table, an ongoing series of culinary programs comprised of interesting talks and lectures, cooking demonstrations and tasting tables.What is great about her program is that it's not just a general blanket of Mexican cooking. She shows the various regions and the ingredients local to the area.It's not only tacos and guacamole..It's so much more. Ms. Jinich has done shows revolving around paletas, Mexican ice pops.Mexican brunches, and street food.She combines foods that normally wouldn't go together such as guacamole and steak, along with providing drink recipes too,It's a lively show and informative, especially for those home chefs who want to break out of the typical taco and tortilla box.

The second show is a fun history and food show, Fact Or Fiction.  T Michael McKean is the host., He first started out as Lenny on the Seventies TV show "Laverne & Shirley".along with being a fixture in many Christopher Guest movies.  You would think he wouldn't be a good match but he is. His laid back style , sometimes serious , is perfect for this witty , well crafted and fast paced show. Questions are posed and then there's facts backing them up or if they're fiction. One poser was did the Italians invent pizza?What followed was an interesting collage of history , fact and a pizza expert showing how the ancient Persians made something similar with flatbread and their shields.Another fascinating segment was questioning where hamburgers came from. It was a surprise to know that Genghis and Kubla Khan had a hand in its' invention. How? The Tartars brought it to the Russians where it was transformed into the raw meat dish, steak Tartare. From there it went to Hamburg, Germany via Russian sailors and the rest is history. Again it's a fun and informative  piece that Mr. McKean tells with the enthusiasm of a cool and relaxed history prof, inviting you to share a burger with him at his place.

There are some good television shows on right now., especially those centered around cooking and food. Take a look at both Pati's Mexican Table and Food Fact Or Fiction. They'll het the appetite for good food and where it came from.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Microwaves Which One Is For You?

As much fun as cooking is, shopping for the  perfect microwave that facilitates it is not. There are different sizes and types to think about as well as availability.The best and easiest way to approach this is to be prepared. Go into the store with not just an idea but some knowledge too.

One of the first questions to ask when considering a new microwave is its' use.  Will it be used for reheating lasagnas and casseroles or its it just for making popcorn or heating up coffee?If it's the first then you'll need a bigger model.Aim for one that's over 1.2 cubic feet. If it's just you and you rarely use one then buy a smaller one,, about .5 cubic feet.Another choice to consider is conventional or convection.A conventional microwave oven emits waves that pass through glass and plastic containers to cook all different types of foods.and drinks.Convection microwaves step it up a notch by having a fan to circulate the warm air. This results in more thorough cooking  which translates to juicier pot roasts and crustier pizzas instead of greyish meat and soggy slices. Some convection microwaves have a quartz halogen bulb that emits an intense heat used for roasting  and grilling. This is perfect for those who want a more flavorful chop or crisped burgers and dogs.They also have more cooking modes than the average microwave so expect to pay more.One of the best is from Samsung that even has a slim fry which is an oil-less fryer (!) Cuisinart also has an excellent one that has an outstanding grill , perfect for getting that barbecued taste in the upcoming winter months.

The next aspect to consider is style. Most home chefs prefer the compact counter top ones. These are perfect for reheating or cooking frozen dinners. A typical size for this kind is 18 inches wide by 14 inches deep and 12 inches tall. These are one of the most affordable and can be taken from one home to another. The colors are usual, stainless steel, black, white or red. There are some that comes in aqua ,cream yellow and pink, A handy extra is a microwave cart if you don';t have one already. Target can't be beat for them. It has the most elegant and pared down styles that can also hold microwave accessories and even cookbooks Then there are built in microwaves.These would appeal to those who are planning or thinking about a complete kitchen makeover. They often feature oven style front facing doors. They have a variety of features that make them a luxury item. Look for those with a range hood which makes them better at venting.. Some microwaves have child locks which eliminates any worries and fears about the little ones experimenting.When looking into a microwave , think about how it ill look in your cabinets. Choose one that is stylish and will look good with the cabinet's style.If's it a sleek modern then go with the stainless steel or black , if it's a French Provincial cream, then go with the white. Think about a black one if your ideal kitchen is going to done in fruitwoods  or teak.

Microwaves make home cooking easy. Looking for one should be even easier. Just go in with the right info and a definite idea of what you want. It means fitting the right appliance in the right kitchen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October A Month of Cooking

Now that it's October and the weather is cooler, Its time to start making reals meals and real desserts. - none of this grilled or iced stuff.It's also time for Octoberfests both in Germany and America. The month also brings Halloween parties and treats along with a celebratory tea for Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday.

Octoberfest is big ,especially in the German  .neighborhoods. Many restaurants such as Bahr's in New Jersey's Atlantic Highlands offers a full menu complete with rouladen and potato pancakes. It's easy to recreate any German dish. Rouladen is one of the most delicious to make. It's simply rolled flank steak that's stuffed with pickles and onions although some family recipes  sub in creamed spinach. This last is a fantastic pairing with the beef, each flavor complementing each other.Potato pancakes are another yummy October fest treat.They are labor intensive to make,especially with grating the potatoes but so worth it. Serve it with homemade apple sauce which brings up the other October activity - apple picking. This is definitely the month and the season for it. Remember there are several different types of apples. They're not all the same. Use the correct one for the recipe you want and your pies and fritters along with applesauce will turn out perfect. Apples can also be used in many German dishes too, such as roast pork..They are sliced and usually placed with onions around the roast to infuse flavor. Apple butter and apple sauce can also be used as glazes for these roasts as well as for pork chops.

Many Coleridge fans along, with most English majors, know that the third week of the month, October 21st is is the great poet's birthday. Some celebrate with a Devonshire cream tea, since he was born in the scenic county of Devonshire. Cream teas are a  wonderful combination of clotted cream, scones and jam. It's traditional for the last to be strawberry. Scones are split and one half is slathered with clotted cream,a cooked cream from Devon while the other half is covered with the strawberry jam.They're 'washed down with straight , sweetened or unsweetened black tea. Milk and cream aren't added  because they'll take away from the clotted cream. If  the cream is hard to come by (it can be bought on Amazon) then blend freshly whipped cream with sour cream and a tablespoon of confectioner's sugar.The month ends with Halloween where there's all sort of sweets and treats.This is where home chefs and bakers can explore their creative side with creating dishes such as Monster Meat Loaf or Spider Burgers - basically cooked , and split hot dogs served on a hamburger buns.Then there is Bones and Blood, breadsticks baked in the shape of bones and dipped into marinara sauce. End with Yeti cupcakes that are iced with vanilla icing and shredded coconuts. Candy eyes and fangs are added for the finishing touches.

It's October, a month of fun and feasting.It's also a time for making delicious dinners and tantalizing desserts. Celebrate the festivities with gusto.