Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Oven It's Not Just For Cakes And Cookies

Most home chefs just use the oven for making sweet treats such as chocolate chip cookies or red velvet cake.. Yet the oven can produce  such savory masterpieces as crown roasts  and baked sandwiches. Using this way is a nice departure from stove top cooking.

Of course one of the best savory oven meals is the pizza. It's a nice departure from the pizzeria and frozen kinds. Some purists get a pizza stone, a round disc made out of soapstone or marble. These help to create a crispier crust, however, a round baking sheet or even an oblong one . The crust won't be as crispy as one baked on a stone but it will still be delicious. A homemade pie can be customized to fit everyone's needs, wit extra sauce or more cheese. Then there's the toppings which can feature the traditional pepperoni and olives or the unusual like buffalo chicken and pineapple chunks. Another Southern  Italian treat that's oven baked is the calzone. It's a pizza turned inside out. Calzone translates into big sock and it is just that. It's filled with everything from ricotta and mozzarella to spinach, ham and, chopped pork sausage. Baking time is a quick fifteen to seventeen minutes. Sandwiches such as grilled cheese actually taste better oven baked than they do fried, They're also a very quick bake too. It's only five minutes in a 450 degree F. oven.. Another plus is that you can make six to eight sandwiches at a time. This is great if you have a hungry crowd to feed and there's no time to wait.

Baked sandwiches are wonderful lunches or Sunday suppers. Grilled cheese in the oven has so many variations. Try sharp Vermont cheddar on white bread. Jazz it up with some bacon slices and sliced tomatoes for a diner special  The Happy Waitress. One of my favorites is a Piedmontese dish from my Nonna's side. Leeks on toast is a tasty and filling combo of cooked leeks on buttered toast. More butter is added on top of the leeks along with a heavy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, The average sandwich can also be baked. Think baked club sandwiches for a hot Saturday lunch or a baked ham and cheese for a Sunday supper. One of the biggest oven trends right now is sheet  pan meals This is an easy way to cook the main dish and sides all together. There are so many variations from vegan to hearty meat lovers, Many home chefs combine chicken with different vegetables.Small red potatoes are the veggie of choice along with broccoli and peppers to create a tasty and filling meals.Cut sausage makes a wonderful main ingredient in a sheet pan meal, Try it with peppers and potatoes cut into cubes..Pork chops are also wonderful in a sheet pan dinner. Pair with string beans and sweet potatoes for a real rib sticking meal.

Ovens are not just for baking sweet treats such as cakes and cookies You can create delicious, savory meals that are baked to perfection. Try them and get hooked on this ingenious way of cooking lunches and dinners.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Future Of Our Imports

What will the  new administration be like for food importers and overseas growers? It's going to be a tough time however long it lasts. What should we do? That's a good question and there's not a solid answer.

This blog has stayed away from all things political - that's not my direction with it. I write about trends and recipes, nutrition and new products However with the new American administration, Americans are going to be hurt by certain bans, Our fruits and vegetables that come in from Mexico will now be higher in price thanks to our president wanting to build a wall on our border  with the Mexicans paying for it. How does that affect us?  Mexican farmers will charge more for the vegetables they grow. That means tomatoes and avocados will cost more and to many families that means going without. Some fruits such as strawberries will also be in the crossfires along with bananas and raspberries. The Chihuahua region gives the US most of it' pecans, contrary to the popular belief that they come from Georgia. Pecans are usually used in pies around the holidays so many  home chefs and bakers won't be that affected by them. Restaurants, however, do use them, namely in salads and some chicken dishes. This will increase in pricing. with the larger chains and smaller, privately owned ones.

Beer drinkers will also be affected. Corona and Dos Equis both come from there as does tequila. These along with drinks made with them, across the US will also go up in price thanks to the building of this "wall". Agave syrup, now popular with hipsters and health, will also be affected. Organic agave is expensive enough with prices ranging from eleven  dollars to fifteen may go up  in pricing starting at sixteen at the cheapest and twenty at the most expensive. If all this occurs what can we do? Luckily the US has some great summer harvests with fruits and vegetables coming in from all areas of the US. The winter will be a little more trickier. We'll have to rely on Hawaii, California, and Florida for produce. Americans will probably be returning to  using Georgia raised pecans. Since New Mexico and Arizona have the same kind of desert conditions as most of Mexico, they can be the producers of both agave syrup and even tequila.  We can also protest the wall and stop all this nonsense too.

Hopefully, this new president  will renege on his pledge to "build that wall". It will not only create animosity with the Mexicans but also hurt our trade and eating habits. He should come to his senses and realize a wall is not the answer.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Following Directions Or Not

As any nervous or perfectionist home chef  will tell you directions are crucial in everything - well sort of.Sometimes you have to go on your gut feeling about a certain recipe or cake. There are times when being a bit of a rebel helps in creating the perfect dish.

I had to go off course when I baked gingerbread today. It was the Pillsbury brand and usually their directions are pretty exact. Everything went well I add the required one egg and one cup of water. I beat it close to eighty strokes, making sure all the lumps were broken and the batter was silky smooth. I poured it into a throwaway cake pan - I used one that fit their requirements 8" by 8".Then I baked it in a 375 F. degree oven for the required twenty-five to thirty minutes. At the end of that time I tested it with a cake tester, expecting to see a clean probe. Nope! The middle was still runny!!! That was a shock. There is always panic and the instant thought of "what did I do wrong? Was it because I used an aluminum foil pan as opposed to a metal or glass one? Of course, I put it back in for another fifteen minutes. After forty-five  minutes in the oven, I did the test again. The probe came out relatively clean. I was happy.At least I wasn't going to serve a cake with a raw middle.

What could have gone wrong? Was it my oven? I don;t think so. Mine is almost brand new. What I think did go wrong? It could have been a misprint which does happen from time to time. Initially, I thought that twenty-five minutes to half an hour was too little time for a thorough bake. A scratch version would take an hour to thoroughly rise and cook through. Surely someone from Pillsbury's test kitchens must have realized this when they tried out the mix and wound up with a runny inside.If this is the case for many home bakers just go with your gut feeling. Always have a cake tester handy as well. These are invaluable  in seeing if any cake or cupcake is done. They help to prevent a half baked baking project, vital if you're making a special occasion cake. Toothpicks and even a straw from a broom can stand in if you don't have a tester yet.  Another great help is reading the directions a few times to make sure you'll get it right. Sometimes we transpose numbers. and those stick in our head. We think  the cake or cookies need to be baked for 25 minutes when the directions actually reads 52  to 55 minutes.

Should home chefs and bakers follows instructions. In most cases, yes.. However follow your gut instinct if you think your recipe isn;t quite right. It results in a thoroughly baked cake instead of a half baked disaster.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Any Time Is Pie Time

Everyone thinks pies should be baked and eaten in the fall. After all it's a perfect time to use up the apple and pumpkin harvests. They go well with the heavy feasts. Then they disappear after Christmas. That should not be.Pie should be made all year round.

For those who don't want a labor intensive kind, think a premade crust and instant pudding. Both Keebler and Nabisco sell a graham cracker and Oreo crumb premade ones. You can even buy a box of crumbs. enables home chefs to make their own crusts. Then fill with any pudding. One of the best is the Jello brands. Chocolate cream pie can be jazzed up with a few drops of mint extract for a cool chocolate mint flavor. Top  a chocolate cream pie with mini marshmallows and put under the broiler for a s'more's pie. A vanilla cream pie is another sweet treat that 's easy to make for a dinner party or a Sunday dinner.  Experiment with different   pudding flavors such as butterscotch and pistachio.  These can even be made into tartlets too. If there's more time , then make a homemade graham cracker crust.You can use any flavor, from plain to cinnamon to chocolate. It takes about twenty-four squares ,a quarter cup of granulated sugar and one-third melted butter or margarine. You can crush extra crackers more crumbs to sprinkle on top of the pie.

Homemade custards are the next step. Lemon meringue and Key Lime pies are sunny treats for a gloomy winter's day. If the lemon meringue is too daunting, then just try a  lemon pie. It's basically a custard, thanks to the addition of four egg yolks. Flour and cornstarch act as thickening agentson. There is a  good dose of lemon zest and lemon juice in it. It's not topped with meringue but whipped cream.The classic lemon meringue is not as lemony, only employing just two. It's the topping that makes it so special. It's a classic meringue with just egg whites and sugar and baked for only ten minutes. Key Lime is sort of similar. and easier to execute. It's not as citrusy, with only having a little more than half a cup of lime juice. There's no zest added and condensed milk is the binder here. The topping is simply whipped cream while the crust is graham crackers. A really elegant pie is one  with a mousse filling It's not as complex as it sounds.It's simply a mix of any pudding with Cool Whip or if you want a more homemade one ,use cream and gelatin along with chocolate chips or cocoa powder.

Pies shouldn't just be a fall treat. Think a mousse one for an elegant dinner party or a Key Lime for a SuperBowl party. Make a chocolate creme decorated with whipped cream and strawberries for Valntine's Day. They can be enjoyed now in the heart of winter.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Riffs On recipes

Some of the best chefs are the most creative ones. They can take a basic recipe or basic ingredients and turn them into something special.Is it magic? Alchemy? No, it's just thinking outside the culinary box.

One of the most versatile mediums to work with is rice. It's good on its' own, but cook it in any kind of stock, add butter or margarine and it's a light meal . Add some veggies such as peas and broccoli some herbs and voila - a great side with chicken.It can also  be part of a main dish , soaking up stews and chiles. Rice also is a tasty filling in stuffed peppers. Try mixing it with ground beef, and tomato paste, two other basics. For zip  add chile powder or ginger that's been grated. Rice can also be deep fried for a real treat of a lunch or dinner. Throw in chicken or beef  along with some water chestnuts and broccoli. Pasta is another simple ingredient that can be made a variety of ways. Everyone knows spaghetti, It's usually served with meatballs and either a marinara , Bolognese or butter sauce. However , it can turn up in a soup. Try it with a beef based vegetable one or have it as the surprise ingredient in a minestrone. Fried ravioli is a new spin on a very traditional dish. They're easy to cook up that way, Use olive oil or even vegetable oil to deep fry them in a fryer or skillet.. Serve with a side of hot marinara sauce.

Basic meats such as chicken and beef can lend themselves to a variety of different and unique dishes. Chicken cutlets can be turned into something exciting such as pulled chcken. Try cooking it with a smoky barbecue sauce and serve on potato buns. Cutlets can also be oven fried, It's first dredging them in melted butter and mustard mix and then coating them with crushed Saltines. Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for only twenty minutes.Everyone loves legs and wings.Marinate them in a mix of pinapple juice , orange zest and garic along with such spices as ginger and crushed red peppers for a fiery twist onBuffalo style wings.. Every loves any cut of beef. Suppose it's added on top of a pizza for extra oomph? It's a nice way of marrying two classics and making them even better. A steak salad is a nice alternative toa regular one.Use a hearty greens like romaine or spinach along with deep red grape tomatoes. Salt and pepper almonds are a must to add crunch and more flavor.Steak strips can also be subbed in for roast beef in a chef's salad for surprise and flavor. It can also be turned into a club sandwich with lettuce  and,tomato served on toasted pumpernickel or rye bread.

A good chef is a creative one. Think outside the culinary box.It will result in more delicious dishes, using just basic ingredients.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Burn Method

Burning is the nightmare of  any chef, whether at home or at a restaurant. Yet,  overcooking and charring actually can help a dish, giving it a new layer of flavor and texture. It's a method not for the fainthearted but for the more daring cook.

The famed blogger, Tejal, Rao, wrote about the method in today's New York Times Food section. Burning food is long a tradition in Mexican and Caribbean cuisines,along with Southeast Asian. Caramelized sugar helps chefs with a limited arsenal of ingredients. According to cookbook author and cooking teacher, Andrea Nguyen, the Vietnamese use the mix of sugar and water overcooked to a golden russet on a regular basis. Nuoc mau. , as they call it, is made in clay pots over simple stoves.Once made,it's used in marinades and pots of simmering meat. The result is a kind of replacement for the Maillard reaction, the chemical swirl of amino acids and sugars which results in distinct savory notes in browned foods.It's big in West Indian cooking too. Chef Rawlston Williams employs it in many of his, learning it as a child in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.It's a major ingredient in his marinades and braised lamb shanks at his Brooklyn restaurant , Food Sermon. It also plays an important part in black cake, a molasses colored fruitcake.

Mexican cuisine also chars and toasts.. New York's famed Mexican restaurant ,Lalo features it , thanks to its' chef and owner, Geraldo Gonzalez . He uses it in his moles ,starting with toasting almonds,cashews, peanuts and pumpkin seeds to a deep , deep brown. He chars tomatillos too along with citrus because it produces an intense , almost meatlike depth of flavor. He  does avoid charring meats because doing such does pose a health risk. According to Britian's Food Standard's Agency starchy foods such as potatoes and breads should not be cooked at high temperatures. This produces acrylamide which has been found to cause cancer in animals. Our own Food and Drug Administration does not know at what level can this occur. It is safe for anyone to eat burnt, crusts in small amounts which makes it okay to try the accompanying recipe from chef and cookbook author, Jennifer McLagan. It's a burned toast soup, based on a French country dish. It involves over toasting
 sourdough bread, then soaking it in chicken stock.It' blended with steamed milk, vinegar and mustard. for a different take on cream soups.

Any chef, especially home ones should walk on the edge and try charring or burning. Start small and then work up to creating sauces with it.It'll give a different layer of taste and texture to any dish , savory or sweet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Stove Or The Microwave

Nothing beats food roasted or baked in the oven. The aroma, The taste The texture. Nothing beats a microwave. The convenience. The ease. The thing is which one is better? It's an interesting debate.

Since I had my new stove installed, I have only used the microwave -which was only bought in October mind you - a handful of times. The toaster oven - once used almost every day - now sits  collecting dust. I';ve forgotten the last time I needed it. The stove, a sleek Frigidaire  unit, is like a new toy, I love the computerized oven and the fact that it dings loudly when preheating. I used to think it was a hassle to bake a meat pie in the oven.It took too much time. There was a chance of burning . However,q1 I was wrong about that. Baking a meat pie  does take anywhere from forty-five minute to an hour, but that gives me enough time to finish up the day's laundry and cleaning chores.Plus the aroma. Nothing beats that aroma, the rich smell of chicken, beef or turkey with gravy. Then there's that crust. Delicate and golden, the perfect foil for the lush inside. Another plus is baking again.Microwave cakes tend to be more like puddings. Anything oven baked has a fine crumb and holds its' shaped well. I am excited , especially since I received a madeleine pan for Christmas. The oven sparked an interest in not only cake baking but cake decorating. I've bought a cake icer which I can't wait to use and all natural food coloring.

I do like my microwave. It's a Haier., the company that manufactures all sorts of appliances from televisions to air conditioners to all sorts of kitchen appliances What is great about their microwaves is that the timing can be fine tuned right down to the second. I didn't have this with my previous one. It was hard to program in the half minutes. This one allows me to exactly time the dishes. Microwaves are also great in saving time, especially when there are gnawing hunger pains. I can have a whole dinner done in five minutes. Microwaves are also great in helping to quickly melt ingredients such as butter and chocolate for cake and cookie recipes.I know I'll need it when I make madeleines which require two sticks of melted butter. It'll also be good when I have to melt chocolate chips for fudge. What is problematic is that microwave dishes tend to go either under or over cooked.  . Sometimes the required cooking time is not enough.which results in meals with ice cold centers or it's too much cooking resulting in a black inedible mess. Also some dishes such as meat pies  along with some leftovers don't taste as good.There's a paleness to them as well as a mushiness. I think any leftover pasta and Chinese food tastes's better reheated in a microwave. along with baked apples and poached pears. The last two are quick and easy desserts that I like to make, especially when i want a hot dessert in a snap.

In the end which is better. The stove is good for most cooking. It's the one home chefs should rely o all the time. As for the microwave , use it when there's no time or ingredients have to be melted. They should be copacetic with each other, helping to create excellent meals , desserts and treats.

Hey everyone,\

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Winter Storm Basics

January usually brings a whole host of weather problems. There's either blizzards, Nor'easters or just bone-numbing frigid cold. That means stocking up and staying in. What to get? basics? Fun stuff? Or a mix of both? A balanced mix is the answer.

Many home chefs freak out when they hear blizzard. They rush to the store and get the necessary, bread milk and eggs. This is great , These are the staples that you'll need, whether on their own or used as ingredients. Yet, you'll need more protein than just eggs/What you can do is buy a roast a day or two before a predicted monster snowstorm. Make it along with hearty sides such as mashed potatoes and broccoli au gratin. These leftovers will keep the family happy and fed until you can dig out. Also, a cold roast can be sliced into sandwiches for a couple of days afterward. Also, have cold cuts ready if there's a blackout  - which does happen during a heavy windstorm. Canned goods are a must. There's a lot you can do with canned veggies turning them into main dishes or sides. Try not to get fresh breads which either get moldy quick .  If the bread gets stale, don;t fret.They can be repurposed into breadcrumbs, stuffing or bread pudding A snow day in is also a good time to bake homemade loaves and rolls. You can also get those canisters of biscuits,  and breadsticks too. They're a nice side with a bowl of homemade soup. Save the cinnamon buns for a breakfast or brunch with the family.

Fun stuff can also be bought too. A snowy or blustery day inside can mean a fun baking or even candy making day. A day off can be spent making homemade pizzas. Be sure to have a can or two  of pizza sauce and mozzarella,,whether balls or shredded for topping. The kids will get a kick out of  baking cupcakes or cookies. Have confectioners sugar, butter,and food coloring handy to make colorful icings, along with sprinkles and  icing gels for writing., Buy a few tubes of slice and bake cookies  for   a nice, fresh from the oven batch. Candy making is a great way to keep tweens occupied during a day in. . Keep the pantry stocked with a bag of unshelled peanuts, granulated sugar and corn syrup to make peanut brittle and condensed milk and chocolate chips for making microwave fudge Flavored honeys are great in hot teas and for sore throats.  They can also be used to make tasty lollipops.Another must is having hot cocoa,the perfect warm up for after shoveling. Stock up on the premade mixes or tins of Drostes. Cut back on sodas but definitely have a pantry full of juices, especially orange. It's not only refreshing but gives the  family an extra boost of Vitamin C.

The pantry and fridge should be well stocked during a winter storm. Keep it balanced with nutritious and fun foods. It's a nice blend for a few days inside.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Political Power Of A Cookbook

One hundred years ago women across the United States and the United Kingdom marched for their freedom and rights. Now, one hundred years later we are forced to do the same, thanks to the new administration down in Washington D.C. .We should take a page from those earlier feminists. They  turned to cooking to get their message across and wrote cookbooks that emphasized women's rights.

Many would think that would be counterproductive to their cause. After all, cooking, especially back then, tied a woman tightly to the kitchen. However many books  - and there were many - offered advice about what to do about pointed barbs and innuendos aimed at these heroes. Most of the male population,  starting as early as the 1880[s harassed these brave feminists, claiming they were " kitchen hating harridans who couldn't cook" and let their children starve when they were busy protesting.The message that these books conveyed was that "good cooking and sure voting went hand in hand.". Even famous women, such as Louisa May Alcott, contributed to it, albeit not a recipe but a wry description of the statute of, Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Her shield had a "Woman's Right " slogan on it  while her helmet sported a tiny  mortar and pestle - a sly nod to the compatibility of cooking and voting. Another famed write , and male feminist, Jack London, contributed two of his recipes, roasted duck and  celery stuffed with a mix of Roquefort cheese, butter and sherry.

What were the other recipes? They reflected the tastes of the times for sure. There is a recipe for terrapin or turtle soup that's somewhat brutal in  its' description.The creature was boiled until the feet could be easily pulled off. The recipe's contributor was the famous Anna Ella Carroll, a Maryland political writer who freed her slaves when Abraham Lincoln was elected. She also served as his adviser during the Civil War, scoring one of the first important positions for women in the White House. Cora Scott Pond, a militant  prohibitionist  and realtor gave her Irish stew recipe. She was also famous for nixing wearing a corset at the age of sixteen.Chicago gynecologist and obstetrician, Alice Bunker Stockham, the fifth woman to become a licensed doctor in the United States offered up her recipe for Coraline cake., a cake filled with boiled cream and infused with  strawberry or raspberry juice. A veal sausage recipe was contributed by Julia A. Kellogg ,a devout feminist and student of Henry James Senior, The two fell out  because , even though James was a universal feminist, but he said that women wouldn;t avail themselves to voting when it was granted. This incensed Kellog and the  two parted ways. There were also snarky recipes, outright jabs at the men who suppressed them.

We are just beginning the second Suffragette Movement. Can we use the power of our cooking and baking blogs to make a point? By all foods sweet and savory, yes. We can band together, providing  nourishment for the spirit and the body.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Michelle Obama's Great Legacy

First Ladies are not known for their rebelliousness. They have to be genteel and not rabble rousers. Yet our former First Lady , Michelle Obama rebelled - making our kids more diligent about what they ate. She gave us a generation of kids who will be healthier and wiser in food choices..

Her Let's Move program started out with parents protesting themselves about the interference of a First Lady. From all corners of the country they yelled and made snide remarks. Unfortunately, as they did this, their kids became fatter and lazier, junior candidates for diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. Folks acquiesced when they saw she was right, and only was emphasizing what their pediatricians had already told them. It was also what Alice Waters' credo
was too. Not only were parents starting to change their kids' diets but schools were too. Gone were those mystery meat lunches and sweet extras such as cookies and cake slices.Fresh veggies and fruit became the fuel that young minds needed. Sodas were also frowned upon with kids now reaching for bottles of spring water.Mrs Obama even applied these principles to her own girls. Malia and Sasha. The White House chef created tasty and low cal dishes for all the Obamas and may have even started the food craze of riced cauliflower. The girls definitely benefited , with them reaching for apples when other kids reach for chips.

Mrs. Obama even carried it one step further by turning  part of the White House lawn into a veggie garden. She invited school kids to help her plant and water, infusing them with her enthusiasm,. It also led her to have the first White House apiary where honey was produced. This was a great message too - to use natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar. The site is still up.It's still vital and important. It shows how schools can start their own gardens, teaching kids how to eat healthier along with learning about sustainability.There is also a section that features nutritional  meals from such sites as Good Housekeeping, Food Network , Delish, and Cooking Light. Parents can visit these and pick out fun recipes that are packed chock full of tasty recipes.Mrs. Obama also made those kids burn off those calories by starting the Let's Move movement. She emphasized the importance of families playing together , from taking jogs to a game of baseball. She also emphasized the importance of towns and cities have adequate and enticing play areas to get kids moving.

It's doubtful that the current First lady will continue on with this. Yet there are those who can and will continue Michelle Obama's legacy of good eating. It will not die, but continue on, helping our kids grow healthy and strong.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When Restaurants Give Back

Any eatery is a vital part of any community. It not only provides good food and happy memories but jobs, commerce for local suppliers  and even food for soup kitchens. Many are a vital key to a town's and chef's success.

This was explored in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Kim Severson interviewed Vivian Howard, who not only is a chef and restaurant owner but also the quiet star of the PBS show "A Chef's Life." This is a reality show and a sedate one that's been on for five seasons. Her restaurant Chef & the Farmer. has helped the area , once prosperous with tobacco production and shirt manufacturing. Thanks to the show that Chef Howard and her husband, Ben Knight have brought tourists to the small town of Kinston, North Carolina. a small town located in the Carolinas coastal plain.It hasn't' always been like that. She had wanted to leave the area, heading for boarding school at age fourteen and then heading to North Carolina State. and ultimately to Manhattan. It was only when she became a chef and asked back to the area by a brother-in-law who wanted a restaurant  in the building he owned. Vivian and her husband brought prosperity back to a town that had been badly hit by Hurricane Floyd. Factories closed. It was hard for locals to find any kind of work.

They were able to bring life to a destroyed town. Chef Knight not only has the restaurant but also  an oyster bar and burger joint. There are plans for a bakery. Kinston, itself, has undergone a renaissance of sorts thanks to them and the show's popularity. A local investor has opened up a boutique hotel along with the well regarded Mother Earth Taproom and Brewery. Chef Howard sources from local farmers and butchers, The woman who taught her how to properly bake biscuits has turned this talent into a lucrative baking class. Local restauranteurs, no matter where they are should take heed of this, A restaurant can bring much prosperity to a town, especially in blighted areas. Those who are thinking of opening up an eatery should take into account their effect on the local community. Hire the neighborhood kids and seniors. Look to local farms for produce. Ask about local recipes or better yet go to church socials or community center parties.to see what they 're eating.Another important factor is don;t make too snobby and cater to one class. That'll mean a sure ending to both restaurant and chef's reputation.

Chef Howard knows that a restaurant feeds both the locals and the local economy. Hers should a model for future chefs looking to open their own eateries. Her inspiration  should be a fuel for these future restauranteurs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Few Simple Tweaks

Vegetables are good . They are  chock full of nutrition and low in calories, yet many people avoid them. They complain that the flavor is too bland or they're not prepared in an appetizing way. The solution? Add a few tweaks here and there.

That's basically what Dave Tanis did and wrote about in today's New York Times Food section. His A City Kitchen Column is devoted to making those tough to swallow veggies zesty and fun.Think dirt candy. He targets cauliflower and broccoli, Cauliflower is a versatile veggie. The hot trend right now is ricing it, which makes it exciting to eat.It's also delicious as a soup and heavenly  breaded and fried. Mr. Tanis has many suggestions,  a few of the celebrating Sicily' love of it. The Sicilians bake it  under a topping of soft sheep's milk cheese and olives.Mr. Tanis perks it up with a dash of anchovy, garlic and hot pepper. Mozzarella and pecorino cheese  stands in for the original choice. He also subs in romanesco broccoli, a bright chartreuse spiky kind of cauliflower, but the recipe can be used for any kind of cauliflower. He also gives a pan roasted recipe that has the florets roasted with such herbs as parsley and rosemary, zested up with garlic and red pepper flakes. It's easy to create and would be great accompanying any roast. Mr. Tanis suggest serving it  with a lemon wedge.

Broccoli also gets some spiking up too.It is good on it's own or with a squirt of lemon or melted butter or margarine.As he states, the fresher it is, the better the taste.He also recommends getting the organic kind, right now coming in from California.Look for the smaller and multi-stemmed ones. The
way the stalks are cut can also influence the taste. Don't chop large,puffy florets. These will end up overcooked. Aim for longer, thinner spears. Mr. Tanis usually butter steams  which is essentially simmering them in a butter water bath. This will yield firm but tender stalks. .It is a great way to cook them because the broccoli soaks up all that savory cooking liquid in just five minutes.It can be jazzed up even more with a hearty sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs that have been spiked with red pepper
flakes. . It's topped off with shaved Parmesan cheese. Mr Tanis suggests interchanging these recipes between the broccoli, cauliflower and its' fancier cousin the romanesco broccoli.

Cauliflower and broccoli are good on their own but sometimes need some spiking up. Try them these ways, jazzed up with bread crumbs or oven roasted for a new spin. This will liven up the ordinary, turning them into something extraordinary.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

All The Fixings

One of the easiest and fun dishes to make is a salad. Make it as healthy or as decadent as you want - although the main motive is healthy. It's a great way of adding fresh veggies to the diet and can compliment any dish from  a simple pizza to an elaborate roast. Another plus is that it can stand alone as a main meal too.

A salad is composed of basically three parts. The greens , the dressing and the embellishments. The greens don't even have to be - well - green. Tomatoes can also be used as a base along with broccoli, string beans or beets. Luckily supermarkets such as Stop & Shop and Acme have bags of all sorts of blends. One of my new favorites is Stop & Shop' spring greens and baby kale. This is a flavorful, mix without ay bitter aftertaste - which makes it a great base, It's also a nice departure from the usual Romaine and arugula blend, although these are versatile too. They also hold up nicely to some of the heavier dressings . Other veggies play an important part too. Carrots and broccoli add a nice crunch and flavor as do peppers. Of course the old standard tomatoes give any salad a certain unami and sweetness. Grape tomatoes are my go to. They don't have to be cut and they have a lovely almost sugary flavor.Tomato salads, however, demand a heartier kind. Vine ripes, that are sold with the vines still attached to them are the best. They have to hold up to olive oil, and garlic along with mozzarella at times.

Dressing is the much needed oomph that makes a salad special. A simple vinaigrette always suffices, especially if it's a dinner co-star The perfect one has three tablespoons of oil to a tablespoon of vinegar. What oil works? Olive oil is the most preferred however vegetable oil is just as good, with its' clean light taste.As for vinegars, red  wine is good. Some have garlic added for extra flavor. I'm partial to apple cider vinegar which has a sweet, fruity taste that takes away from any of the green's bitterness. Now that I 've rediscovered my cruet ,I've been creating my own yummy homemade ones. I've made a honey tarragon using the Carmel Honey Company's orange blossom honey.There's a citrusy tang to it that works well with the tarragon. Another tasty one to make is an oregano garlic one, with a vinaigrette base. I added crushed garlic to it and it was one of the most delicious ones. I have also discovered Fresh Gourmet's Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper sliced almonds. This is a wonderful, crunchy add-in with a peppery bite. It works well with the kale, greens and tomatoes. Think about other add ins such as sesame  seeds, walnuts and pecans. There are also cheese wafers that give salads a chewy , fun boost. Also think of sweet addins such as dried cranberries or Mandarin orange slices.
Salads are what you make them to be. Create lush or spartan ones, depending on your appetite. They tasty and delicious, along with being nutritious and good for you.

Basic Vinaigrette, Three parts any kind of oil to any kind of vinegar. Add sea salt and fresh ground  pepper to these in a cruet . Shake to mix.

Honey tarragon. Add one teaspoon any kind of honey and a tablespoon of dried tarragon to the vinaigrette .

Garlic Oregano. Add freshly pressed garlic and a heaping tablespoon of oregano to the vinaigrette. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Day Of Service

Martin Luther King wanted everyone in this country to be treated equally. Sadly there is still a divide with many , including children going hungry or not getting the proper nutrition. What needs to be done is more volunteering and giving , and not just time but knowledge.

Food pantries are a great way of showing your care. If you're a retailer, grower or manufacturer then donate healthy foods such as fruits and veggies along with whole wheat breads and rolls. Many families tend to go  after what's known as "convenient foods", quick and tasty frozen food or snack foods, especially if they're on a budget. Instead, have recipes printed up with homemade recipes for everything from turkey burgers to salsa. Kids will certainly love making healthier versions of their favorite foods and snacks.Another idea is having your food pantry give out samples of  all-natural dishes and treats such as vegan chili or mango chutney. If you can get a nutritionist or nutrition professor to speak about food choices and the consequences of eating poorly. There could even be samples and fun games to emphasize the point. There could even be a kid's day, with different "lectures' aimed at various age groups , from kindergartners to high schoolers.

All of this can also be applied to senior groups and veteran's organizations.. The elderly have special nutritional needs and that needs to be reinforced. Again, any nutritionist or nutrition professor can give up a Saturday or Sunday. There could even be informative trips to the supermarket or even local farm if the audience is up to it.Even church groups can definitely benefit by this knowledge too.The last can also benefit with parishioners and volunteers chipping in to create gardens and mini orchards so fresh veggies, fruit and even herbs can be grown. Manufacturers such as Whole Foods can also be contacted  to donate organic meats and poultry, along with veggies and fruits. Use their products too, for making dinners and parties for meals and celebrations with less salt, sugar and fat. Instead of cookouts with burgers and franks, think turkey burgers on whole grain buns with fresh roasted corn and salads bathed in  vinaigrette instead of heavy mayo. Birthdays and holidays can  be celebrated with angel food cake and berries instead of an icing  drenched confection.

This is a day of service. Donate your time and knowledge in making people's lives and diets better. You 'll feel better and so will they,

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Taste Of The Tropics

One of the best parts of January is all that tropical fruit that 's in our groceries right now. They are not only good for you but versatile.Any of the fruits from grapefruit to mangoes can go into a breakfast, lunch,  dinner. and snacking.

As we all know from the television ads, Haloes are hot right now. These seedless beauties are being marketed to kids because they're seedless. Yet adults can enjoy them too. They have a lovely sweetness that's more intense than the average Mandarins are usually used in salads, adding both color and flavor to bland ones.Try them in a grilled chicken salad along with a liberal sprinkling of almonds. They are also good with sliced tomatoes and onions for a nice side. They can also be used as a glaze for chicken , pork and even salmon. Of course, the best use for them is dessert. Try them in a cake or trifle.They make a tasty sorbet, perfect after a fiery chili or Sunday roast. Their larger cousins, the orange are also versatile.Of course, there is orange chicken but there are also several pork recipes that call for the fruit as well. Try a braised pork ribs with a soy  sauce  - orange juice marinade. Garlic and ginger spice it up.Spare ribs get zinged up too with a dash of juice. Make a tangy orange-butter sauce to spoon over peas or broccoli.Again, oranges are great ingredients in any baked good,from muffins to cake. Orange juice is also a nice addition to buttercream icing, cutting  the overt sweetness.

Lemons and limes are other tropical beauties that liven up any winter diet. Besides adding a much and well-needed dose of Vitamin C, they add spark, flavor, and color. We all know that lemon is great with salads, subbing in for any kind of vinegar but did any know it's also great with pasta? Lemon linguine is a refreshing break away from traditional sauces. It's made with lemon juice, whole cream and egg yolks,  along with butter. The sauce is poured over the pasta and it cooks from its heat.Grilled chicken can also be added too. Lime is usually associated with Mexican recipes but it is also good as a marinade for salmon and swordfish. Try it in a salad dressing instead of lemon, or even better as a main ingredient in a lime buttercream frosting.Mango is another tropic wonder and again versatile. There are a million recipes for mango salsa and chutney along with for smoothies.Think beyond the mango tree and pair it with shrimp and lime in a tasty pita.Toss in some mango slices along with onion slices and fresh orange juice for a tasty and exotic dish, perfect with white rice.Pineapple , which makes us think of blissful pina coladas, can also be used in a variety of different recipes. too, from it traditionally gracing ham to  healthy kabobs.

It's easy to have a taste of the tropics. Bring home any of these exotic fruits such as lemons and limes, mangos and Mandarins. They'll add juice and fun to a blah winter diet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Another Round Of The Gallbladder Diet

The last few days have not been the best. Thanks to stress and a rich holiday diet, the old gb kicked ad created problems from intense pain  to sorry - vomiting. If you're new to gallbladder problems, don't despair - and don't be pushed into THE operation. A good diet will save you -literally,

One of the foodstuffs that did me in was butter, namely my favorite the Irish Kerrygold. A few days ago, on Tuesday, I wrote all about icings and cakes. Not anymore. Butter is off the table as is any product made with it, including homemade frosting. I have to return to I Can't Believe It's Not Butter which can be used a great butter substitute. Yet this I will use sparingly, namely on baked potatoes.Luckily I was not one for milk or cheese but I do have to cut out those subs such as soy milk and tofu.Almond milk is fine.Baked goods, whether home baked or store bought are on the taboo list.The good part of this is I will be eating more fruit such as tangerines and oranges along with strawberries and apples.These are not only better for me but they're also much more refreshing than a snack of cookies or cupcakes.Fresh fruits work for drinking too. Colas and any carbonated drinks are definitely off the table as is any alcoholic beverages.  Bottled juices are very good too but choose ones that are lower in sugar. Coffee and hot cocoa are not to be consumed either. Herbal teas are your best bet.

The gallbladder diet allows me and anyone the chance to eat leaner meats. We can eat red meat such as flank steaks that don't have fat. Those lush marbled cuts are no more,but it's better for us. Another plus is that we can have turkey and chicken breasts minus the skins. There are some great recipes out there that accentuate the fowl's flavors.Try grilled turkey with herbs such as parsley and tarragon or grilled chicken with lemon, sea salt and pepper. If you want a sandwich then have it on any toasted whole wheat or dark bread such as pumpernickel. Nix the mayo, but try bruschetta on top of it or sliced tomatoes. Salmon is a must. It's not only perfect for soothing an irritated gallbladder it's full  of Omega 3.s It's also easy to cook and grill. Think of one grilled with herbs, lemon and garlic for a satisfying and healthy dinner. Sides are always important and a gallbladder diet demands them. Think fresh salads with simple vinaigrette of just olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Add some raw cherry tomatoes, along with broccoli  and cauliflowers florets. Walnuts are the only nut we can eat so think about adding a few freshly shelled ones to your salad. Steamed broccoli and baked potatoes also make good sides. Just keep embellishment simple,Just toss on some margarine and chives for both .

Going back on a gallbladder diet is always annoying at first. Yet a simple, paleo diet will be worth it,It means a healthy gallbladder and no surgery. There's nothing better than that.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Rising Of Rye

Rye bread has been around for millennia, providing sustenance to all of Northern Europeans.It is popular here in the States,however a paler version of it. That's all changing, thanks to a new movement

Julia Moskin wrote about it in yesterday's New York Times' Food section. American's are about to get their tastes bud blown away with a return to traditional ryes.These are more like pumpernickel, the color of a chocolate cake with the spiciness of gingerbread.It is a dense, chewy crumb that requires a slow rise in a hot steamy oven to rise. Icelandic bakers put the rye dough underground to be baked in geothermal springs.Norwegians repurposes it, frying it into crisp crackers. American bakers have made rye pound cakes such as the baker at San Francisco's Bar Tartine. Concord Massachusetts Bondir serves rye in stews, with the chef , Jason Bond, gets the rye in bales.Most Americans are used to the Jewish sissal - or caraway rye, a pale yellow..Massachusetts Brown Bread was the colonists attempts at rye , using it after their wheat crop failed.

Rye bread is not for beginner bakers. The Times recipe calls for two to three days of prep along with getting a buttermilk  or  yogurt starter.There's also getting the rye berries or meal which some groceries have and can also be bought at Amazon.com. The dough is not the usual sticky kind but more like a runny batter.It's an eggless recipe that requires malt syrup or molasses.The loaf pans do have to be very thickly buttered too. An easier version is the recipe for the Jewish one.It's a mix of bread and rye flour,Honey and oil are also added and the whole dough is kneaded with a bread hook.The only labor intensive part is oiling a bowl. The dough is baked in a 450 oven on the lower most rack.  Three knife slashes from a paring knife. have to be made across the top. and then a cornstarch glaze is brushed across it to give that nice glaze .

Rye bread is a delicious chew.They may be a bit labor intensive to bake but worth it. Try this ancient grain and it's dark richness.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Day Off

Sorry readers. I have a really bad case of gall and have to take the day off

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The ideal Icing

The icing or more appropriately the frosting makes the cake. It's the selling point that can either give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down moment. The question is what is the best one? Buttercream? whipped cream? Or just a simple dusting of confectioners sugar.

I've been obsessed with this since I started serious baking again.To me, one of the best frostings came from the famed Magnolia Bakery along with Jane's Off Seventh The second , sadly, isn' t
t there anymore, due to high rents and the owner passing. The owner made the best cupcakes, a tender moist crumb with a deliciously creamy buttercream Magnolia Bakery, has so-so cupcakes but ones with a really good, homemade tasting icing.This is the icing I long to make. I found a website Two Sisters Crafting, a craftsy site that features everything from knitting projects to baking. It was created by two sisters, Laurie and Nancy who have recipes and ideas for almost every holiday and football teams. Their buttercream icing recipes are varied with flavors I would have never associated with this sort of frosting. There's butter rum (!) and peanut butter (!) and even cookie dough (!). I just wanted a simple buttercream one one that I can dye and make a pretty icingand   with  even prettier decorations.It also seems to be really creamy too. Another plus is that it has chocolate buttercream icing ,a perfect go to with yellow cake - the ideal combo according to one friend,

Many (such as my Mom) prefer a whipped cream icing.It's lighter and less sweeter tasting  than buttercream that sometimes can taste like divinity fudge. Two Sisters has this which is a combo of two cups heavy whipping cream, white chocolate pudding mix and confectioner's sugar. There is also a sturdy (?) whipped cream icing recipe .It is a mix of heavy whipped cream and cream cheese. It
doesn't have the usual confectioner's sugar but granular white. It's non-meltable which means it will hold it's shaped if it's piped on a cake or cupcake's surface.Is there a pure cream icing, similar to what bakeries put on their cakes? It probably has some kind of gelatin to make it solid. instead of running down the sides. Th best example of this is  Charlotte Russe , a disc of vanilla, angel or sponge cake topped with a puff of whipped cream. It's served in a push pop kind of cylinder  where you have to push the bottom up to get a mouthful of cream and cake, Another idea is just getting a can of Reddi Whip and spritzing the cake or cupcakes with it. A simpler idea is just dusting the cake and cupcakes tops with a fine dusting of sifted confectioner's sugar. This is an elegant way of serving both and does appeal to many people, including myself.

What makes the best icing? The creamy sweet buttercream?  The light and airy whipped cream? Or the plain yet classy dusting of confectioner's sugar? It depends on taste - not simply on look. The most memorable treats are the ones that taste delicious.That's what makes the ideal and best icing.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Creating The Perfect Pantry

What makes a perfect pantry? Is it canned goods like soup and beans? Dry goods such as flour and baking soda? Jars of this? Containers of that? Not surprisingly it is a manageable blend of  variety of different foods, Have the right amount and you'll never go through a shortage.

Canned goods are always important, especially now in the cold weather. Homemade soup is good but it pays to have several cans of prepared soup. They make a quick lunch or supper and can also be used in a variety of casseroles too. Always have everyone's favorite , from tomato to chicken and stars. Take advantage of sales at the local grocery too. If they have a twofer sale, then definitely get more of them, Packets of soup mixes are a pantry plus. They have the flavor of homemade soup without all the work.  Another pantry must are bouillion cubes. Get all three kinds, chicken, beef and vegetable, to make a variety of different soups and sauces.Sauce packets such as chili and Hollandaise are also worth having along with instant meat sauces for roasts. Jarred sauces can also be put into the pantry too.Canned veggies and fruits are a must too. The canned veggies come in handy if there's a blizzard and you can't get to the store. They can also be added to soups and soup mixes. The fruits are perfect for making pies and turnovers.

Tomato sauce and paste should be prominent on any pantry's shelf. These always come in handy for when you're making homemade sauce for pasta. The same goes for pasta, itself. Have a variety to suit all tastes. Spaghetti is the most popular and easiest to cook so have a few boxes of it at hand. Also on the shelves should be the versatile pastina and orzo style. These are excellent in both soup and sauces. Slip in a box of the drinking straw like bucatini and thicker fettucini. If you have kids or still hold on to those childhood faves, then have a few cans of Spaghetti-os too. The pantry should  have plant based oils . Olive and vegetable are the ones of choice, especially the last because it can be used for everything from cooking to salads to even baking. Cake mixes along with flour and baking powder should also be included as well as decorating items such as sanding sugar, food coloring and various types of sprinkles. Sweet sauces such as chocolate and caramel along with  jams and jellies need to  stored there in addition,.

A good pantry is a well stocked one, Make sure there are the basics to help you get through everyday eating. It'll make cooking and baking that much easier.it'll also cut down on how many times you go food shopping in a week.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Epiphany Treats

Yesterday, January 6th was Epiphany, the day the Three Wisemen visited the Christ Child with gifts. The day and the treats that go with it can be extended for more celebrating. There are a variety of different dishes that celebrate this joyous day.

Different sects of Christianity celebrate the day with unique and diverse customs. Roman Catholics and Episcopalians celebrate with a King cake. This also makes appearance at Mardi Gras too, it's more of a cinnamon bread rich with cinnamon , nutmeg and butter. Raisins are also added too for color and added sweetness. There is usually a charm or even just a simple bean added  and the person who finds it is crowned king or queen. The Episcopalians have their version of this, namely any kind of cake but a light colored cake enables eaters to see the trinkets. Tiny plastic babies, representing Baby Jesus are added as well as dimes, symbolizing money, toy rings that symbolize the church's blessing, thimbles for increased industry, buttons for increased spiritual knowledge, shoes for waking in Jesus' path and fruit to reap the fruit of Christian living.One or all can be added. Germany and Mexico also serve similar cakes. Again the German version is more of a lemon and orange infused sweet bread with an almond hidden inside. Mexicans put candied fruit such as figs , raisins and citron in theirs.

Italy has the tradition of La Befana, the witch who visits with gifts.Mostly these are sweets being put into a stocking (sound familiar?) and the occassional lump of charcoal (again - sound familair) There is a savory dish made, namely a rich lasagna made with seafood and Cognac, whiskey and white wine. The seafood is shrimp and clams  enrobed in a rich bechamel sauce. The Greeks too have put their spin on this time honored and ancient holiday. Young men  dive into whatever body of water is nearby to retrieve a cross their priest has thrown in. Afterwards, they eat a dish made with wheat and peas called fotokoliva to ensure good health and fortune in their homes. They also fed their livestock this too, for  a prosperous and fertile year, The Northern Greeks make a giant bean and onion casserole that consists of fava or cannellini beans and baby onions. Fresh and canned crushed tomatoes are added for more flavor and color along with paprika and sugar. Bay leaves give the stew a nice earthy kick. The Greeks also serve several sweet breads such as Saint Basil's bread, all with a hidden coin tucked inside for luck.

This is a weekend to continue with holiday feasting and gift giving. Celebrate Epiphany with different dishes and sweet, along with lsitening to the story of the Magi.It's a nice extension of Christmas and New Year's.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Baking Fever

With the cold weather and new stove I've been gripped by baking fever - and cooking fever as well.It's the baking though, and visions of  cupccakes wth a buttercream puff and loaded pizzas that are doing me in I now know I'm happiest by a hot oven, with mouthwatering aromas swirling about me.

Today it was the Stop and Shop brand cinnamon bums.

I like the  in house brands. To me they're much more flavorful than the national ones and these were no exception. There were a few glitches. It was impossible to get the dough out of the cannister. Unlike the Pilsbury version where you just thwack the canister against the sink, the Stop & Shop ones require peeling the wrapping and twisting the  paper tube  underneath. .It proved to be just a tad messy with the icing packet flying out  and the dough almost falling out. Then the buns themselves were stuck together in a long continuous spiral. They had to be cut and then wrapped in tight circles in a greased cake pan. Another problem was the baking time. The directions said twelve to sixteen minutes or until they're  golden brown. in a 400 degree oven F. It took twenty minutes for them to bake, eight minutes more than recommended. Icing them was easy. It was a small  
bag, no bigger than a turnover and quite easy to handle. The end result was a nice gooey, manageable roll, definitely better than the Cinnebon kind. - without all that gooey cream cheese icing and overdose of cinnamon.

I am not stopping there. It's on to cakes , pizza and cupcakes. I do have to stock up and refill my baking arsenal.Thanks to my previous one that was slightly younger than me agewise, the oven was on the fritz. The days of baking were over. Pans rusted, Gadgets were lost or tossed out. I just ordered an all important cake tester which I don;t have. I had to use a barbecue skewer to see if the buns were baked. Not good. Another package from Amazon will be the Wilton cake decorating kit.. This I am really excited about.  there's nothing more fun that creating buttercream roses and swirls on cakes and cupcakes.My one goal is making a snowball cake. Basically, it's like the Hostess Snoballs, with a devil's food cake coated with marshmallow and coconut.The marshmallow may be too  sweet so maybe a whipped cream icing followed by a coating of coconut flakes.Of course I am also longing to make cupcakes with a Magnolia bakery icing(I even bought all natural food coloring to create pretty Easter egg colored toppings)  and a pizza with all the works, from soy pepperoni , extra sauce, and a crisp , crust.

Baking fever has gripped me.I'm on the verge of creating all sorts of goodies and good stuff. Will it ever end? Hopefully before I hit the next jeans's size .

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Winter Stews

One of the easiest and best dishes to make during a snowy day is a good stew. It can be a simple or fancy , depending on your tastes. One thing to remember - make it rib-sticking. A hearty meal is needed to help in shoveling all that white stuff along with managing a sled or snowball fight.

Even the most novice of home chefs can whip up a stew. Stick to the most basic of recipes. Most beginners try a beef one before they move on to the more complex ones. It's two pounds of stew meat, cut into chunks along with beef bouillon and simple vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. Celery stalks and chopped onion are added to the mix to give it more flavor along with rosemary and dried parsley. Cornstarch is a must. Two tablespoons of it binds the stew together and gives it a rich thick gravy. Chicken stew is another easy and basic recipe. It's really the same as the beef save for the addition of mushrooms and poultry seasoning. Dumplings are always a treat and they're easy to make.They just cook right on top of the stew. You could also use those frozen biscuits too. Pork isn't
necessarily thought of as a stew meat yet it can be the star of a particularly tasty one. Surprisingly it needs beef bouillon as a  base  and needs stronger tasting veggies such as bell peppers and corn to compete with the meat's unique taste. Lamb stew is the all time classic.It is usually made with tomatoes, Thyme and bay leave along with carrots and potatoes give it that classic taste . Serve with a crusty bread  and a good Irish beer..

Once the basic recipe has been tackled you can move onto the more complex stews. One is the time-honored beef bourguignon. This is a rich melange of  beef, tomato paste,  red wine and bacon.Onions give it that sweet flavor as garlic zips it up. Unlike the simpler stews, this one needs butter , usually four to five tablespoons for richness. A hot crusty loaf  French bread is always served with it to sop up the gravy along with a good red wine. The French also give us cassoulet, a delicious blend of tasty duck meat, salt pork or sausage, and cannellini beans. A confit or duck fat is added too. Thyme, bay leaf and garlic accentuate the variety of meats' flavors. Another dish that's sort of stew like and still fancy is beef daube. This is a boozy mix of  Cognac, bacon and cubed beef roast with the fat and sinews removed. Garlic, shallots and a bouquet garni, a blend of dried thyme, rosemary, parsley and celery leaves.Veggies are carrots and parsnips which give the stew more flavor. Another almost stew again belongs to the French. It's coq 'au vin, chicken pieces heightened  again by Cognac and lardons along celery and pearl onions, the last giving it some sweetness.

Stews are the best dish to eat on a winter's day. Whether simple or complex one, they are rib sticking and hearty, perfecting for thawing out. Make one and enjoy their comforting flavor and cozy warmth,

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Culinary Iconoclast Ruby Tandoh

Cooks, bakers, and even food bloggers tend to be sheep. They follow and write about what's trending, trying to keep up with the culinary hipsters who make our eating rules. Luckily, there is a rebel, the famed British chef, baker and blogger Ruby Tandoh to break the rules. She believes in eating what mothers and grans have said for centuries  -eat what you like. The heck with what everyone else tries to tell you.

Ruby Tandoh's name may sound familiar to fans of The Great British Baking Show.Times contributor, Tejal Rao, a regular contributor and food blogger herself., wrote about this phenomenon in today's New York Times  Food section. She was one of the final contestant on the Season Four competition. This former art and philosophy major turned to cooking and baking as not only a passion but as a way of life. She has written food centered essays for The Guardian, British Elle, and other magazines along with two cookbooks. Her latest book, "Flavour: Eat What You Love" is due out here in the States next month. It was first published in the UK last August  It's a celebration of a skilled home cooking enthusiast. The book also touches upon on the feminist concept of "shine theory"  which values female friendship over competition. She eschews diets and wrote a lament in an essay  that food writers have gone from feasting and flavor to cleanness and lightness. Chef Tandoh has created a dialogue and somewhat of a revolution in Britain. She also has misgivings about the benefits of some diets and their promises too.

What does she cook and bake? She has been exploring her Ghanian roots. Her grandfather had immigrated from there, bringing a wealth of recipes.There is ground nut  or peanut soup spiked with chiles along with tilapia in a garlicky marinade. Fried plaintains round it out this a meal full of memories and flavor Her blog is full of yummy recipes for cakes , doughnuts and creme brules.made with raspberries. She has recipes for rye rolls and a mouth watering banana upside down cake. The new cookbook is a reflection of this as well. There's a creamy English fish pie, made with smoked haddock and peas topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes.Lentil soup is sparked with lime . She includes an opulent meringue, rolled up with cherries and cream. As we all saw on The Great British Baking show, she is an excellent baker. She relies on everyday sweeteners such as honey, sugar, dark brown sugar, golden syrup and treacle or molasses to create amazing sweets such as a marbled chocolate almond Bundt cake and steamed panettone.

Cooking and baking need rebels to keep it fresh . Ruby Tandoh is just that iconoclast to make us break the bonds of all these  diet recipes and fads. She setting us free in a very delicious way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lose That Holiday Fat

The worst thing about January is dealing with all that post-holiday fat and bloat.The best thing is making a resolution to eat better and healthier. It's just  matter of adjusting and making wise choices.

We're probably all cookied and candied out. After all, our nibbling involves every kind of holiday cookie, from sweetly decorated sugar cookies to homemade chocolate chip with maybe a few shortbread and oatmeal types thrown in. It's tempting to continue this, for dessert or snacking. Resist. Thanks to the wonder of importing, we can buy all sorts of fresh fruit, from blueberries to pineapples. Finish a meal with some watermelon or cantaloupe chunks. Snack on some blackberries or grapes.If you don;t want to deepen your carbon footprint by buying any of these imports, then think about canned fruit in water or a light syrup. Also, a cup of hot cocoa,is only one hundred fifty calories. Have it with low fat whipped cream for a decadent dessert Better yet , consider yogurt as a nice alternative. Yoplait has those mousse like Whips which taste and feel like a more decadent dessert.Chobani has the fun flips, a mix of yogurt, nuts and chocolate or fruit. It's a way to indulge that sweet tooth without gaining a  pound.

Chobani also has saviory yogurt mixes, perfect for those of us who still crave holiday party chips and dip.Their new Meze style dip is a smart combo of veggies and Greek yogurt. Best of all they 're only twenty-five calories  and have only ten fat calories. The flavors range from roasted red pepper to chili lime to three peppers to Parmesan onion. Dip the ever low calorie Triscuit in them for some crunchy fun. Pretzels also make a good low-calorie snack too as does popcorn, During the holidays we tend to reach for sodas or mixed cocktails to celebrate. All that sugar will only add on an extra jeans size. Go back to water and seltzer. They 're also much more refreshing, even on a chilly day.Go for refreshing and calming herbal teas after a season of pumpkin spice or peppermint lattes. After three months of ingesting basically liquid cake,a soothing cup of chamomile or green peppermint is a nice way to end a busy day It's also a good time to go back to eating, healthier meals, Instead of continuing with gravy laden holiday roasts. Think a lower calorie ratatouille instead of roast beef or turkey with gravy. if you want still want roast, think of a chicken with rosemary and no gravy.

 The holidays were culinary  fun  but it's time to get back to decent eating again. This means better and wiser choices with nutritious foods and drinks. Not only will you feel better but lighter too,

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year Challenges

A new year sometimes means a new diet. let's face it, After a season of feasting and excess maybe it's time to pare down the diet. There's a new sugar challenge out there where people cut out products that contain any type of sweetener  from honey to refined sugar. The theory can also be applied to cutting salt and fat.

The sugar challenge was the topic of an opinion piece in yesterday's New York Sunday Times. David Leonhardt, a Pulitzer prize winner and Times columnist penned  "A Month Without Sugar" after he did the challenge himself. It's not just giving up soda and doughnuts. Almost every food, he writes, save for pita bread and Triscuits have some kind of sugar in them.Our salad dressings, our breads, even our fruit juices and granola bars are loaded with unhealthy sugars. Going sugarless means enjoying more fresh veggies and scratch meals.it also means appreciating fruits and enjoying their natural sweet flavor, heightened by the lack of the processed stuff. Home chefs have to be diligent. Eschewing sugar means carefully reading ingredients and switching one brand for one that's healthier. Mr.Leonhardt  has found it to be helpful in a variety of ways, He lost his taste for sugar and all that goes with it as well as developing a keen appreciation of any kind of fruit's natural sweetness. It was hard at first but itsoonn became acceptable and then a part of his life.

Can salt and fat be given up for a month? It is possible. People have done such for both, Devin Ellsworth wrote about his seven day  foray on his vegan blog Plantiful. It's actually more healthful because a salty diet brings  about headaches, fatigue and headaches.it's also a crucial component in retaining water and bloating. Those disappear when the sodium intake goes down. He felt lighter and more clear-headed. Going saltless is good but there is a caveat. It's almost impossible to eat out. Mr. Ellsworth went to Chipotle, perfect for satisfying his vegetarian diet , however imperfect for finding salt free foods. The only fast food item that has almost trace amount of salt is a plain baked potato from Wendy's It only has twenty-five milligrams of salt and has to be eaten plain. The extras' such as sour cream and chives add on fifty milligrams. Fat is about the easiest to give up.If anything it's eating more fruits and vegetables and giving up dairy and sweets.Carbs can also be cut out too and more lean protein can be added in to for satiety.

Challenges can be a good thing, Doing ones that bring about a better life is definitely worth it. See if can be done , week at first, then a month  without sugar, salt and fat.