Friday, November 30, 2018

The Allergy Free Christmas Cookie

It's the start of the holiday baking season and with that comes a plethora of cookies. However it can also be a dodgy pick and choose game for those with various allergies. what to do? Create bites that are not only tasty and worry free. The end result is still a large buffet of sweet treats.

All baked goods start with flour and that's where the first problem is. Many have gluten which can be lethal to those with celiac disease. A simple spritz cookie can bring on everything from intestinal  distress to vomiting. Instead of forgoing a sweet nibble, incorporate gluten free flours into the holiday baking routine. Many companies like Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur do sell gluten free versions of their regular flours at supermarkets. There are other flours you can use such  almond flour which is perfect for making macarons or light , fluffy's would also be good for low carb brownies and holiday breakfast waffles too. Its' coarser cousin, almond meal can be used for quick breads and such cookies as citrussy snowballs, fun thumb prints or almond chocolate chip cookies. Another route is making traditionally flourless treats.  Aquafaba meringues are simply chickpea water, sugar,cream of tartar and vanilla. Make them really festive by adding natural red and green dyes. Rice Krispy treats can be molded into cookie like rounds for fun decorating and eating. Rice Krispy treats can even be molded and cut into larger pieces to create a variation of a gingerbread house.

Holiday cookies are filled with all sorts of goodies, such as nuts and chocolates. Yet they can be sheer horror for those with severe allergies. Substitution is the key here. Don't deprive  family of those peanut butter cookies. Sub in sunflower butter instead. This is sunflower seeds crushed and mashed into a type of  spread that can be a great  fill in for anything that uses  peanut butter. The flavor is a bit milder, tasting like  - what else - sunflower seeds. Yet it's perfect for baking. Unfortunately those with peanut allergies are usually allergy to other nut such as almonds and walnuts. These figure heavily in holiday baking. If you still want crunch, then think seeds. Try the crunchy and delicate Southern treat benne cookies. These are buttery wafers made with sesame seeds, brown sugar, eggs, and a cup and a half of butter. Have these and they're sure to be a holiday classic. Chocolate is another cookie ingredient  that can cause problems for those allergic to it. Switch to carob which is the perfect stand in. Surprise the family with carob chip cookies. They won't know the difference  between them and the real thing. There's also a carob cookie recipe with powdered espresso in it for a mocha latte flavor.

Allergy sufferers and those who bake for them, don;t despair this holiday season. The key is subbing in ingredients that are still tasty but harmless. You can still make your cookies and eat them too,

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The App That Fed India

Social media may have many negatives but it also has many pluses. It can reconnect
 disconnected families, It can bring groups together such as the #MeToo. It can promote businesses and offer  knowledge. This is what happened with the messaging platform What's App and India. The two meshed perfectly, connecting home chefs, cooks and farmers.

Regular contributor and food writer, Priya Krishna wrote about this happening in yesterday's New York Times Food section.The app , What's App was able to connect a wide network of different food related groups all over the subcontinent. The Indians have Prime Minister Narenda Modi who  started Digital India, an initiative to increase internet connectivity across the country. It would connect urban areas to rural ones. Whats App, owned by Facebook is the medium of choice, It is free and only requires an internet connection. Most new phones already have it installed.As a result over 200 million (!) or one in six Indians have it, more than any other country. Some have misused it, spreading false news, inciting mob violence and even manipulating votes during elections in India and other countries. Yet it also has done a lot of good too, especially those who farm, cook or care about food. India is a country whose culinary traditions are orally passed down, not written on cards or in notebooks. Whats App allows them to share and arrange knowledge and skills.Some have even made a profit from this.

Whats App has affected all corners of India/Aysha Tanya, a founder of the food and culture publication, The Goya Journal uses it to get recipes from her mother . Saee Koranne-Khandekar uses her WhatsApp created a group with just her family. She even created a cookbook of their recipe  messages and pictures in 2014. Older Indian home chefs tend to be secretive with their family''s recipes, guarding them as if they were gold. Whats App has loosened them up and they're posting all sorts of dishes. .For mango farmer, Noshiran Mistry, Whats App is a godsend. He is able to get an internet connection five kilometers outside his town so he uses the application to send photos of the fruit  as they're growing to vendors all over the country. He also uses it to  pass along lore  about the fruit, preferring to writing a blog.He feels that more will read his messages than that.India's restaurant industry has also benefited. Chef Thomas Zacharias, the executive chef and and partner in the Mumbai restaurant, Bombay Canteen belongs to more than twenty Whats App groups . He uses groups to train employees on the menu and devise dishes, along with motivating the staff.

What's App is  connecting the food world of India. Recipes will not be lost. Farmers will prosper as will restaurants. Best of all people will come together and share their love of food.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Vegan Stew ; When Comfort Meets Healthy

Anything vegan and dairy free is good, especially when you have to cook for a die hard vegan. A recipe in today's New York Times Food section caught my eye. Weekly contributor Allison Roman created a  chickpea stew with coconut milk and turmeric checked all my culinary boxes- meat free, no eggs or butter, full of flavor and  color. Perfect/

These are the star players

The highlighters are the coconut milk and chickpeas, along with the greens. Ms. Roman recommended Swiss chard or kale.I went with a mix of baby spinach and kale.
It's first cutting up the onion.Use a yellow one as Ms. Roman recommends.It does impart a sweeter flavor than the white ones,
Then an inch of finely chopped ginger (mine was a tad too chunky, which kind of is a jolt when you get  it in a spoonful.
Turmeric gives it an Indian vibe.One and a half teaspoons were needed but I felt it was just a little too bland so I amped it up to two teaspoons for a real impact.
Along with hot pepper flakes about one teaspoon, but I love heat, especially on a cold night so another teaspoon was added.
Two cans of chickpeas drained. Remember to save the aquafaba (for cocoa dusted meringues!)

Fry all of these in a large pot using a half cup of olive oil. (it originally was a 1/4 cup but I felt it wan't enough.)
Add the garlic, onion, spices and chickpeas and fry until chickpeas are crispy and brown.
Then add two cans of full fat coconut milk. I used Goya.
and two cups of vegetable broth I used Swanson's.
Onto the greens. My pick - Stop & Shop mix of kale and baby spinach.
This is the stew before.
And after.
It was delicious with naan, with a variety of different flavors melding together. It was a burst of sunny heat on a chilly night. I have a lot left over and it will be even better reheated over rice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Elegant Table

A holiday table is just that,  a dining room table festooned with pretty plates and interesting settings.  Think classy. Think magazine elegant. It's just putting something that's Instagrammable and awe inspiring together to impress family and guests.

An elegant table starts with elegant table linens.Years ago, almost every household had hand embroidered or hand crocheted tablecloths. You can still buy them , namely at craft sites as Herrschner's and Mary Maxim's . I like both these sites because they do offer a wide variety of tablecloths and matching napkins that you can either cross stitch, embroider or both. The two companies sell very beautiful Christmas patterns that would make any table shine. Keep in mind that it does take time to embroider tablecloths, but it's a great way to relax  after a busy day . As far as crochet patterns your best bet is Etsy. This everything craftsy website has many lovely vintage patterns from the classic pineapple designs to the lacy snowflake ones.  Crochet thread can be bought at Herrschner's and Mary Maxim however they only sell white or ecru colored thread, which does make for a simple but tasteful table. Etsy has more colors, and you can easily crochet in Christmas colors.If you're all thumbs with a needle and a hook, then again look to Etsy  for some beautifully handcrafted table linens They also sell matching table runners and place mats too.

Of course a holiday table is not complete without holiday plates. If you haven't bought them by now, then do so. Kohl's has the dainty and famed Pfaltzgraff plates that feature a holly sprigged design. It's a great buy right now at $39.00 for a set of four, Macy's has the beloved Spode Christmas ware and again theirs is a good price: $38.00 for a set that includes matching wine goblets and coffee cups. Bed Bath  & Beyond has the very sweet looking red and white holiday plates. For a set that takes you beyond the holiday, think Waterford. Their patterns are 19th Century sophisticated , with simple and stark lines. Of course with an elegant table must come elegant flatware, Think purity of line, with sleek designs. Crate and Barrel is known for this kind of forks and knives, however Kohl's has less expensive variations. such as several patterns like the sophisticated Joanne and Bordeaux patterns. They also have beautiful sets from Cambridge such as Rosemary and Everdine. What about  stemware? Possibly the chicest comes from the Irish company Waterford. Their patterns and craftsmanship suggest richness and style. Much cheaper are the ones sold at Kohl's, namely Mikasa (you can also go the Mikasa site too). Their balloon glasses are the perfect accompaniment to timeless  dinner and flat ware.

A holiday table should be an elegant one. Think classic and chic as you place timeless recipes on timeless designs. It  will be a table that will be the envy of any holiday host.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cyber Foraging

This  being Cyber Monday, it's easy to turn to the Internet for Christmas shopping and even food shopping. To be honest, you can always find what you want on the Web  as opposed to an actual bricks and mortar store. It's a lot easier , and it does free you up for doing other things. There's also no long lines at the checkout or a dent waiting to happen in the parking lot.

One of the best places to shop for cooking implements and even ingredients is the giant Amazon.It does have everything that a home chef and gift giver want. I've used it for most of my baking needs, from my cake tester to madeliene and cake pans. It has every color of sanding sugar there is where some grocery stores only have one or two colors.Type in"sprinkles" and every color and shape  pops up. Plug in Instant Pot and every kind shows up.The site , is also well known for its' vast array of  cookbooks and there is literally every kind , from the classic Fannie Farmer to Tibetan cooking with every other cuisine in between. Unfortunately Amazon is also a conglomerate and many are turned off by that and rightly so. There are smaller websites that you can buy from. One that stands out is King Arthur Flour. Home bakers may be familiar with their variety of different flours found in their grocery's baking aisle. Yet their website offers a wider choice of all sorts of baking. They have boiled apple cider which give more flavor to apple pies , doughnuts and tarts. There are also stollen kits for ambitious bakers as well as vintage style mixing bowls and cookie cutters. The site also offers Breville toaster ovens along with bread machines and mixers.

It's a well known fact that some of the greatest kitchen bargains come from Kohl's and Target.One of my best buys ever, my Kitchen Aid electric mixer came from there. The price was slashed in half thanks to my Kohl's Dollars and discounts. It works perfectly and I can't even imagine not mixing without it. They also have Instant Pot and you can probably get it cheaper here than on Amazon.The store also has the air fryers which cook and  crisp foods with out having to deep fry them.Another plus with Kohl's is that they have elegant dinnerware and utensils, Need a new set for the holidays? Then go on line and order, and again use discounts and coupons. I did when I ordered a simply classic Cambridge twenty piece flatware set for only $17.00 with coupons. (that/s a little over a dollar a piece!) Target is another great online store for all things kitchen and entertaining. Again there's a 5  per cent discount for Red Card holders. Their gadgets are fun and affordable. I am a big fan of their kitchen ware. I bought their Kitchen Air immersion blender , getting a good price on it, The store also  carries choppers and sous vides. Target also has a huge variety of smaller tools like hasps for grating and strainers for draining pastas. Of course there is Wal-Mart that has everything and bargains galore. Their Pioneer Woman Denim Dinner set is almost half off right now as with  their Baker Eze pan set..

You can do cyber foraging and come up with some great buys and finds. It's just foraging for what you want and compare prices. Take advantage of online shopping .It;s a hassle free way of stocking up the kitchen.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Cookbook For Instant Pot Lovers

The Instant Pot is more than just a fad.Home chefs have taken it to heart, using it for everything from roasts to desserts. However there are very few cookbooks that focus on cooking with it. A new recipe book is going to change that. it is chock full of delicious dishes along with advice.

Marilyn Haugen, author of 150 Best  Spiralizer Recipes and 175 Instant Pot Recipes has written The 5 Ingredient Instant Pot Cookbook (Robert Rose Publishers 2018) Most of them do have five ingredients which makes for easy prep and cooking for busy home chefs. This is a great accompaniment to the cooker itself. The book is not overwhelming and has some great advice for Instant Pot novices. Ms. Hauger shows how to make tent style packets for streaming veggies. She also goes into great detail about the gadget's uses and functions.Her section  on one of the functions, pressure cooking is explained in great detail, dissecting the High and Low Pressure options. Another plus is her list of staples such as grains and different oils for the Instant Pot Pantry. I like the fact she includes all sorts of flavor base mixes such as the famed French,  mirepoix and the Cajun holy trinity of onion, celery and green  peppers. She also has the Italian battuto, mirepoix with fennel,parsley and garlic added   and the Spanish sofrito of  onions, bell peppers and tomatoes.These are vital for successfully recreating some of the savory  dishes. Even more important are the recommended accessories.along with ending the book with  an extensive  table  if cooking times for meats, veggies, legumes and fruits.

The recipes are satisfying and varied.Breakfast and Instant Pot lovers will enjoy Ms. Haugen recipe for classic old fashioned oatmeal and the spin, peanut butter banana. Egg stuffed bell pepper boats.spiked with Parmesan cheese and fresh cut basil will be a brunch classic.For sweet lovers there's the streusel coffee cake made with Biscuit flour. She divides the meat dishes into sections. Poultry lovers will make the Almost Rotisserie Chicken an instant favorite It's steamed in chicken stock and  butter, and seasoned with paprika, salt and pepper. A hearty dish is the beef stroganoff, cooked with spices and sour cream. Pork has many flavorful dishes too such as the tangy  pulled pork sandwich along with a fragrant rosemary and apple roast. Fish lovers will enjoy the summery tasting tomato halibut.Another plus is that she includes bone broths which are perfect bases for other soups. The Instant Pot is great for rice and pasta, and yes, there are many recipes for them. Mac n cheese lovers will appreciate the simple but delicious recipe while grain and veggie  lovers will enjoy the lemony bulgar tabbbouleh and quinoa stuffed peppers along with the beet salad with Dijon  vinaigrette and chevre. The dessert recipes are fun from the old fashioned bread pudding made with egg breads to the lush  Decadent Creme Brulee and Molten Chocolate Cakes.If they're too much , try the yogurt recipe for a cleansing bite.

The 5 Ingredient Instant Pot Cookbook is the best gift for Instant Pot lovers. The recipes are delicious,, the ingredients simple. Home chefs can have fun experimenting with them as they cook a wide variety of dishes and desserts.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Day After

The day after Thanksgiving is one filled with leftovers, from turkey to stuffing  to sides, There's always the same old recipes from turkey tetrazzini to cranberry sauce paninis. Put a different spin on them. Have them the Filipino way for breakfast.

This is an eye opening twist that food writer, Priya  Krishna wrote bout n Wednesday's New York Times  Food section. Instead of saving the thighs and stuffing for a reheated lunch or dinner , think about it as ingredients in a large breakfast. She interviewed Filipino- American brothers  Chase and Chad Valencia  who own the popular LASA  Restaurant in Los Angeles. They have the top modern Pinoy cooking in the States yet it's their mother's recipes that are made with the Thanksgiving Day leftovers. Mrs. Valencia comes from Pampamga , the culinary capital of the Philippines ,  and her influence is felt both in their eatery and home. She whipped up huge breakfasts of longazina, a type of sweet sausage, silog or garlic rice with eggs, fried eggs and pan de sal, a sweet yeast roll.One of their first Filioino-American hybrid meals was incorporating leftovers with familiar standards.It had to be a big do. They always have more than twenty people to feed and it always held in a different relative's house.

What are the culinary mixes? There are traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as honey baked ham, turkey cranberry sauce and stuffing sharing a table with sopas ,a creamy chicken soup, rice and pan de sal. The brothers add their slant  with the addition of asado, a salty, sour complex dish of pork shoulder cooked in tomato sauce, garlic, bay leaf, and calamansi , a lime like citrus fruit of Southeast Asia. The best part comes the morning after. Guests are treated to sandwiches stuffed with their choice of asado, ham or turkey and silog topped with turkey and gravy. This idea solely belongs to the brothers. As Chase put it. it was a tradition born from laziness. "We were stoners' " he admitted and wanted to create a quick breakfast.Chad spotted a pot of asado on the stove - and voila - a new dish was born. Now it's an assembly line of them and hungry friends and relatives who put together reheated asado (made richer by mellowing overnight), eggs and a nutty tasting Filipino cheese all sandwiched between pan de sal. There's also their take on silog with  turkey and gravy.It's more like the super hearty Hawaiian surfer breakfast loco moco, stuffing people  before they go off on Black Friday forays.

Leftovers can be used for lunch and dinner but why?Refashion them into a hearty breakfast like the Valencia brothers cook. It's a great way to clean the fridge and eat heartily for this weekend of shopping and traveling.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanks And Remembrance

The holidays do not get easy with each passing year, no matter how much you're told they do. It is tough going through a holiday without my Mom, even more so this year with my friends losing their beloved mother and our friend. We have to be there for them, guiding them through the tricky waters of sadness and anger to some kind of safe harbor. Food helps. The foods and traditions that our mothers gave to us help. Memories of tasty dishes help.Yet it's not as good as having them there.

For us and many it i a day more of remembrance than of thanks.For those who have their parents and loved ones still at their tables give thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pics Of Hot Birds

They beckon from the cover of top magazines. Their skin is burnished and shimmery, their thighs and breasts plumped seductively. Some even are lying on a bed of roasted vegetables. No it;s not Gigi Haddid or any Kardashian. It's those magazie covers of Thanksgiving turkeys. For home chefs' it's what a Thanksgiving dinner should be. For food magazine editors, it's the jewel in the crown, the raison d'etre for any periodical dedicated to cooking.

Tejal Rao got the fun assignment of heading to various food magazines  for the New York Times food section today. She interviewed several editors from various food magazines and they all agreed that the November issue is a big deal thanks to competing with the turkeys shown on Instagram and Facebook.It's like the September and March issues of fashion magazines.It's the biggest, most ad packed and competitive issue of the year.Editors are attuned to the smallest changes in bird presentation, from sizes and props to angles and colors. The overall picture shapes the issue's tone and more importantly  the reader's reaction. Switch it up and it could cause an uproar.Maile Carpenter, editor in chief at Food Network Magazine once had a carved turkey on the magazine's cover which was a pretty wild thing to do.

Does this make for a hot selling magazine? Maybe . According to another editor in chief,Adam Rapaport of Bon Appetit, feels that an entire bird looks like an emoji. A sliced one conveys how delicious it is, , showing us perfectly cooked flesh. The editors were even more daring in 2014, when the November issue had a split cover.One side featured the classic golden roast while the other had a big bowl of buttery mashed potatoes.It was daring, They didn't track reader response or amount of sales but it probably had a reaction. Analytics have shown that a cover with turkey slices and sides on a plate perform better than one with a whole bird. Covers with pies  have mixed results while cakes consistently under perform. Shooting  a cover bird is not an easy task. Laura Ionotti of Rachel Ray Everyday hired out a team who could handle the shoot with objective eyes.. They fix and arrange every prop so that the entire scene looks perfect but not so perfect that it's off putting.

The November issue of any food magazine is the crucial issue.It's all because of the glam bird on the cover.It's delicious.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Solution For Holiday Picky Eaters

Holidays can be crazy especially for kids. There's candy and cookies  and more candy and more cookies. Nutritious foods may be picked at or given to the cat or dog.Luckily a new book can help parents deal with the kids who just won't eat or eat only snacks and sweets.It's a must have in any parent's library.

Chef Gigi Gagerro wrote this combination advice  and recipe book, Food Fight (Koehler Books 2018). Chef Gaggero specializes in nutritional awareness surrounding children and families to help take some of the stress out of being a busy aware parent.She was also the former academic director of the famed French culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu.. She also launched Kids Culinary Adventures educating kids about food's nutritional values.This is a keeper because she handles toddlers to teens and it's a book that is always needed - and even handed down.Some of her advice will cause a few raised eyebrows. She suggest going to the pet supply store and buying little ones cat or dogs bowls to eat from. The reasoning is they can imitate their favorite animals and eat foods that are only put in the bowls. Another , time honored method is letting little ones feel and play with their food. Eventually the crumbs do get into their mouths.Chef Gaggero is a big fan of Bento boxes,those compartmentalized  lunch boxes from Japan. These are excellent for making lunch fun. It introduces kids to different textures and colors as well as introducing them to portion control.Another good point is having dinner togethers even though kids may not be hungry and engaging them in family conversations.

The big question is will Chef Gaggero 's recipes get those picking eaters eating? The answer is yes! She has some fun and tasty recipes that I want to try out on the fussy adult eaters in my life. The banana rich Bananarama Munkie Bread is a fun group bake , perfect for holiday breakfasts and brunches. There is even a sammie or sandwich involving it, stuffed with whipped cream cheese and honey or maple syrup. A fun breakfast is an ice cream cone (!) filled with yogurts that's been frozen and fruit. Cinnamon and any kind of healthy crunchy topping complete it. Snack time is full of tasty recipes such as the mouth watering Parmesan zucchini fritters that combine the squash with chopped onions and cheese to give it zing.Lunch takes on an international flavor with the Vietnamese turkey pho ga, a zesty soup full of different flavors and  textures.This is a great way of showing kids world cuisines as well as introducing them to new spices and herbs.It may even get the older ones interested in making it for their friends.For dinner she chooses the kid favorite breakfast for dinner with a blueberry pancake casserole along with another kid favorite baked mac. Cayenne and nutmeg spice it up.  There are desserts, healthy ones, such as avocado chocolate mousse along with homemade cake flour  for making cupcakes.Her daughters, Gabrielle and Dakota have also contributed to the book as well.

Food Fight  is the must have book for parents this holiday season. It will help navigate those tricky days of picking around the plate. The end result is a kid who will like food and look forward to  eating

Monday, November 19, 2018

Those Uh Oh Moments

Cooking and baking are not perfect sciences. Stuffing happens and usually on the holiday.Don't panic. There's a solution to every problem and some can even be happy accidents. Never let a glitch shake you. Fix it and carry on to present a fine dinner.

Every home chef will tell you the worst thing that can happen is a still frozen turkey. It takes a day to thaw out four pounds of bird. If you had forgotten about it  in the freezer then use the microwave or cold water.(this is the best method). Depending on the microwave strength's it usually takes six minutes for each pound for thawing. A ten pound bird will take an hour, a twenty pounder will be two hours. A better way is thawing in your sink , using a cold water bath. It will take thirty minutes for  pound of turkey to defrost so again a   sixteen pounder will take eight hours.Another kitchen headache is lumpy gravy. You can go two ways with this. The first is tackling those lumps. Whisking it will work, but an immersion blender will definitely insure a satiny texture and absolutely no lumps of flour. The second method is have one or two jars of gravy on hand.You can just serve these or  mix with your gravy .What happens when a meat eater turns vegan?Or when someone invites their veggie chomping sweetheart? One, try to avoid conflict by not having table talk turn to farm cruelty and two, create a plate that is vegan or vegetarian Beans are chock of protein so think about making up a plate with a side of Boston baked (providing they weren't cooked with bacon) along with Brussels sprouts , and yams. Keep a jar or packet of mushroom gravy on hand to make. This will go well with the stuffing.

Vegetables dishes can also go awry. Those crunchy green beans can turn to limp noodles while the cauliflower can turn to a puddle of white. Add some herbs such as oregano or thyme to spark the flavor. You can also melt some cheese and pour it over the veggies to hide their texture.The kids will love the cheesiness of it. Salt is usually a home chef's friend. However too much can be accidentally sprinkled into any recipe. .If that's the case then add both a quarter teaspoon of both vinegar and sugar or honey.If it's soup or sauce you can add a potato. The starch from it can absorb the salt. Peel one and slip it into the gravy or soup if you're serving it.Everyone loves a springy stuffing with a crispy top.Yet stuffing is made of bread which can turn to mush.Save it by adding a bit of chicken or turkey broth and bake it a few minutes more. Remember it's nothing more than a savory bread pudding so treat it as such. Dessert , usually a sweet end , can take a very sour turn. If your pumpkin or pecan pie burns , then get rid of the crust and concoct a pie parfait.Layer the pie filling, crushed cookies or graham crackers and whipped cream in fancy parfait glasses. You may have created a new tradition  with it.

Any dinner will have its' uh oh moments. Be prepared. It's easy to  fix the mistakes that may arise and still have a wonderful holiday meal!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Welcome Blast Of Cold.Reveri Frozen Desserts

November s not normally a time for frozen treats yet there is one that is a perfect end to holiday dinners - Reveri  a plant based frozen dessert. This healthy ice cream is not only good but good for you. It's plant based with a flavorful blend of fruits and even veggies!

Reveri started with the idea of a good for you dessert. The creators wanted a frozen treat that could "love" the eater as the eater loves ice cream.It had to be plant based, healthy and low in calories. They succeeded ,combining such diverse ingredients as avocados, beets, cocoa, blueberries , dates, almonds, cashews and strawberries The result is an amazing treat you can eat for breakfast , lunch or even dinner as well as for dessert and snacks. I had to try these, as I 'm slowly cutting down on dairy.
The four flavors are  vanilla almond blossom,purple mint chip, chocolate forest and strawberry patch. What I love the most about all the flavors is the mouth feel. It's like a rich creamy mousse. It's so light and airy that it feels whipped. The purple mint chip is my favorite .I love the added crunch of the cocoa nibs.I paired it with coconut whipped cream for a truly decadent dessert.
The strawberry is perfect too, reminding me of a fresh made summery mousse. I also like the vanilla almond blossom, which has  almond slivers in it. Another favorite is the chocolate forest with the crunch of those yummy cocoa nibs. What is a huge surprise is that these decadent spoonfuls have only fifteen to twenty fat calories in a serving. This is the perfect ice cream for dieters who need the comfort of a cold bowlful. and parents watching their kids' fat intake.
Hopefully Reveri will come out with more flavors, possibly coconut and peanut butter, or maybe a wild raspberry or blackberry. They should come out with popsicles along with a line of healthy cones and bowls.
Reveri is the healthy treat that's even perfect on a cold night. Try a scoop and enjoy this lush  mousse like dessert.It's better than ice cream in so many ways.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Change Bites For The Better

We all hate change, especially when it comes to eating. Yet,a  new book can show us that a change to a healthy diet and eating habits  too.Not only will you feel better but any health problems may disappear as well.

Marissa S. Costonis H. C. is the author of Change Bites 5 Change Management Strategies To Change Your Life, (Marissa S.Costonis. Publishing 2018) is the perfect book and holiday gift for those wanting to eat healthier. Ms. Costonis was actually a change management consultant and she brings that philosophy to it.She also includes her own story , and her problems,now gone thanks to giving up gluten and lactose. There are also other people'stories, lives changed thanks to cutting out and replacing. One of the best aspects of the book is the info the readers writes in to the appropriated pages. There are pages  for the reader's health story, their personal vision activity, along with a personal health  page. Readers can also record lists of the food they're eating, and how they can change it to make it healthy. Dieters can also write down the barriers (family, cooking time and shopping) and how they can over come them. There are the five bites themselves - envision health,prepare,commit ,own it and reinvent health. She even recommends readers to change up their grooming and cleaning habits bu using paraben free and all natural products.

This is not a book of recipes. Readers are encouraged to become creative and whip  up new dishes. She does suggest throwing out all the bad foods, like cookies , bread and candy - the usual suspects. Ms. Costonis does provide a "personal best" list that not only are good for you, they can also help you. Readers can  write in either a one for the foods to be tried in the future and two for the foods eaten now. This is a good nudge for those who want to shop and cook healthier.It'll get readers going about what they want to try. There are suggestions instead of recipes. These are  a simple stir fry along with a Mexican fiesta which can include a taco, burrito or bowl. Readers can also experiment with an easy frittata or veggie  soup along with a flexi veggie pasta. Rice lovers will  like the risotto along with the grain and veggie bowl suggestions.Ms. Costonis also includes the fun lettuce wraps and the great way to use up leftovers - the kitchen sink salad. It ends with red and white chili.Anyone can follow these and make them for an enjoyable lunch or dinner.

Change Bites 5 Change Management  Strategies To Change Your Life  is a must have book.It can help you get through the hardest aspect of life - change. You'll eat better and feel better too.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Rethinking Cauliflower

One of the staples of any holiday dinner is cauliflower. It can be served raw as in salad or crudites or cooked with lemon or garlic. Many home chefs are put off by it. They shouldn't be. It;s an easy, versatile cook.

Allison Roman wrote about this beloved veggie in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Her guide and recipes are extensive. The guide is very useful and the dishes are re-imagining cooking and spicing the florets. keep in mind the weight. A fresh picked one will retain water .Also the outer leaves should be compact and have clusters of florets. Avoid those with dark spots and a soft spongy texture. They are way past their prime. You can buy your Thanksgiving cauliflower now, They will last a week in the fridge. Wrap it tightly in plastic though. The florets' size more or less determines what you can do with them. Try to break them into bite size pieces using your fingers or a knife. The core and leaves are edible and actually delicious. Cauliflower leaves taste like cabbage  The core is more meatier than the florets. but its' flavor is the same. Use it as opposed to just throwing it in the trash. You can slice the head into thick slabs to grill,Just keep in mind that the smaller arts will fall offing during roasting. Ms. Roman suggests  roasting them until they're extra crispy or save them for salads.

As for the cooking them, Ms, Roman suggests almost every method to cook them. You can steam . saute , roast or puree them. You could just serve them raw. They're great for dipping and crunching. Steaming is another method which produces a blank canvas. Try the steamed florets with cheese or browned butter, topped with chopped crunchy nuts.Better methods are roasting which gives an even coat of caramelization. Add cumin or hot pepper flakes for bite. You will need plenty of olive oil for the florets. Cauliflower can also be gratined too.Add heavy cream and Gruyere for a really lush dish. You could add onions , garlic and leeks  but that may sully the flavor .Pureed cauliflower is another option. You can start off the holiday dinner with a silky soup, Just remember that it does take more work by transferring the creamed veggie to a blender. You can use either chicken or vegetable broth for a thinner texture or milk or even cream for a thicker potage.For a truly hip dish, think pickled florets.Sub in the cauliflower for cucumbers in any pickling recipe.

Cauliflower is one of the most versatile veggies out there. Pick a good one. Then decide what to make of it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A THanksgiving of Firsts

America is   still a   place of acceptance for people coming from around the world. A new wave of  immigrants, from a war torn and restrictive countries  are now here, They are being introduced to all things American, including our Thanksgiving. Like any other group, they are putting their own spin on the cooking aspect of it.

Julia Moskin  wrote about them and one famed home chef, Mayada Anjari, in today's New York Times Food section. Mrs. Anjari , her husband and four children arrived in Jersey City two years ago after a three year journey from a war ravaged Syria... They settled in and her excellent cooking was being known. People from Manhattan were paying for her kabsa, a spice rubbed chicken with scented rice, along with her stuffed vegetables and her fatayer -folds of phyllo pastry stuffed  with ground meat or spiraled around soft cheese. The co author of the Syrian cookbook, The Bread And Salt Between Us (the title taken from an Arab proverb) was flummoxed by this secular holiday of ours with our different uses of spices and basic ingredients Then there is Dima King, fresh from the Soviet Union came to the States because of the anti-gay persecution and legislation.He is cooking his first Thanksgiving this year. He is a graduate of Emma's Torch  - a nonprofit restaurant in Brooklyn's Red Hook section that offers professional culinary training to resettled refugees. Despite this he is still intimidated by roasting a whole turkey.and will likely try something smaller. He is, however, enthusiastic about making a pumpkin pie with meringue topping.

Our holidays meals can be confusing , especially for those who are new to secular celebrating. Celebrations and feast days are usually reserved for religious holy days. The spices and foods used are are also just a bit strange. Cinnamon is usually used for chicken in Syrian cooking. Mrs. Anjari  is skeptical about adding it to a pie.The main meal her three sons love is baked mac and cheese. How can that be a side to an even bigger main dish? Then there are the starches of the holidays - mashed potatoes - yams - stuffing and pie, all served in one sitting along with cranberry sauce, the one sharp and bright flavor of the table. There should be more but a traditional dinner is not built around them. The idea of a gigantic twenty pound turkey is also strange. However familiar cooking ingredients and methods can help with cooking a first time Thanksgiving meal. Mrs. Anjari is planning on making the bird as she would her kabsa. She'll start with whole milk yogurt along with grated  onion, tomato paste and  shards of cinnamon and nutmeg. Instead of a heavy roasting pan, she will use one of her lightweight round tins. The turkey will have the added crunch of almonds toasted in clarified butter called sanna. They'll add another layer of flavor and texture to the bird.

Thanksgiving is a day when all can celebrate. It has a new meaning for immigrants celebrating it for the first time. There are challenges , just like American life, but there is also the joy of sharing traditions  -just like American life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cheesecake Bible Your Holiday Must Have

Cheesecake lovers rejoice! There is a new book out that celebrates this famed treat with a variety of sweet and savory (!) recipes. Everything from just plain cheesecake to taco one is in here. This is a great gift for those who love a good wedge of cheesy goodness..

The Cheesecake Bible: The Second Edition (Robert Rose Press 2018)  was written by George Geary who also created the original Cheesecake Bible  as well as 150 Best Donut Recipes. Mr. Geary may not be known to all, but his cheesecakes are. They were featured on the hit Eighties comedy,  Golden Girls where the "girls'  Sophia, Dorothy, Rose and Blanche would gather around the kitchen table and share a whole cheesecake. At this time he was also a pastry chef at Disneyland where he bake anywhere from 250 to 350 cheesecakes a day for ten years! This  book has everything from  all sorts of flavors for the sweet along with refreshing savory ones, perfect for any upcoming holiday gatherings. The book is a great primer for beginners because Mr. Geary goes into extensive detail about what kinds of pans to use along with the different cheeses used. His suggestions are ones from an experienced pastry chef about what kind of measuring cups to use to what to look for in a perfectly made cheesecake. Another plus is that he isn't fussy when it comes to the crust. You can use the cookie and cracker recipes he provides or just buy the store bought kinds and crush them.

I love this book for many reasons. The savory cheesecakes are on the top of my list for holiday must bakes. I want to try the black olive and herb one, redolent with fresh basil and tarragon.Another one that has piqued my interest is the cheddar chili one  loaded with refried beans and tomatoes  along with an artichoke cheese cake, graced with artichoke hearts and shredded Swiss cheese.  Of course there are the sweet ones. There is  the  well known and internationally loved  Lindy's cheesecake  and the famed Golden Girls one. This last is a classic recipe with a drizzle of  raspberry sauce and buttery crust.I love the variations. There's so many that I want to bake.There's a rich blackout one with a chocolate cookie crust accented with a truffle fudge topping, made with both milk and bitter chocolate. Then there is a South of France one , made with ricotta, along with orange and lemon zest. There are also recipes for bites and bars too, perfect for a holiday dessert table.Mr. Geary has recipes for ones made with the German quark cheese and hoop cheese. Another aspect of the book that's fantastic are the recipes for cookies and crackers. They'd be wonderful on their own and I plan on trying his butter cookies and graham crackers.

The Cheesecake Bible, The Second Edition is the must have book for cheesecake lovers and bakers.It is chock full of delicious sweet and savory recipes.. Get it and start with the holiday baking !

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Year Without The Chef

It has been a year of not having my Mom for recipes and advice. I miss her and I miss her culinary wisdom. The year without her has been sad but interesting. I had to grow and even challenge myself as a home chef and a baker.

The one thing I truly miss is her advice. I always needed it when I was writing about family or Piedmontese or Swabian dishes. She knew. Luckily there are others who can fill me in. I was fortunate enough to interview the Brass Sisters of the PBS show "Food Flirts" and began a foodie relationship with them. It is rare that I do ask for their advice but it i s freely given. I have had to rely on my brother for memories . "Is the taste similar to what they made?" They being our mother and her mother., our Nonna. Sometimes I rely on different websites to help (as any of my readers/ followers will know).All Recipes has been a big help. This is the place to go to for all sorts of recipes from breakfast to snacks.I have also looked at the New York Times Wednesday and Sunday Food sections for inspiration and help. Some worked , some didn't. Making someone else's recipes is not like making family ones. There's no connection  there - no stories and memories of the flavor. Yet cooking is also for trailblazers and that's what I had to become too.

There were also so many highs in the last year. I wish my Mom could have been here to experience them with me. She would have loved the Brass Sisters interview. She may have joined in, offering some of her advice and recipes to them. She would have been thrilled by them as well, because she was a big PBS cooking show fan. I'm sure she would have gently pressured me to interview Lidia Bastianich, or maybe Chris Kimball. She would have been very curious about my interview with Carolyn Robb, Prince Charles' personal chef.My Mom would have recreated the Yorkshire pudding recipe and we would have  doused it with Heintz's roast beef gravy.I think she would have also been amazed that I adapted both her chili and tomato sauce recipes for the crock pot. She was never one for it.Also, how would she feel about me adding California wildflower honey to both? She was more sugar or sliced carrots type of sauce maker. She also would have thought me crazy for baking two hundred cookies, twenty-five cupcakes and one marble layer cake at Christmastime last year. She would have loved the lemon poppy seed cake the oneI made last week ,especially because it was a scratch cake and she loved those.

A year without the chef. She may not be with me physically - but her spirit - her advice and recipes will live on. That's a warm comfort when I feel the chill of loneliness while cooking and baking.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Appetite of War

Tomorrow marks the centennial of the 1918 Armistice and the end of World War I , the war to end all wars. Unfortunately that was not the case. The 20th Century produced many more conflicts. Surprisingly or may not so surprisingly those conflicts influenced the way we cooked and ate.

World War I brought out prejudices and hatreds , buried for a while but then reborn with the US going against the Germans. German delicacies and every day foods were either shunned or renamed. Sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage " while hamburgers received the new name of"liberty sausages" (whoever named the last really didn't think that one through).The idea was taken up at the turn of this century  with the French not supporting the Iraq War, It seemed those "true blue Americans" liked the idea of renaming French fries "liberty fries". It's a surprise that crepes weren't named liberty pancakes or champagne liberty sparkling wine. Luckily German Americans could go back to not only eating the foods they grew up on but also calling them by their correct names too. The Second World War also brought out biases, especially for German, Italian - and Japanese Americans, the last being sent to interment camps. Gone was their diet of traditional Japanese food and in its' stead they were fed a steady diet of spam, hotdogs and soggy potatoes. Cooks got created and made hot dog sushi along with a dish  called "Weenie Royale"made with hot dogs, eggs and rice.

The up side of war - if there is one - is what comes out of it, namely inventions. The soy sausage was one of those byproducts. German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer wanted a nutritious meat substitute to feed the German people.  His first idea was a wheat flourless bread. made from rice flour, barley and Romanian corn flour however that flew out the window when Romania entered the war. It was then onto to soy and creating something that would be filling. Chancellor Adenauer came up with the soy sausage and the rest is history. However , it didn't meet the German government specifications of what should be called sausage (there had to be meat). Funny enough he had better luck peddling it to his enemies. King George V of England granted him a patent in June 1918. Another by product of the Great War was the teabag.It was actually invented a decade earlier by an American tea merchant who used it to send out samples to his customers. Yanks quickly plunked them into their cups of hot water yet it was the Germans who ran with the idea. They copied the idea and gave the small cotton bags to every soldier.. They were  called tea bombs.

Life has to continue during a war. That means eating. There may be rationing, there may be new foods to come out of it. We all have to have sustenance, despite the circumstances.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

I had poppy seeds and I had lemons. What could I do with them? Make a refreshing cake , free of any pumpkin spices. The recipe was from OH Sweet Basil blog, from the writer/baker, Fiona. I have to admit , it is labor intensive. Have one or two people around to help.

  The first step is grating the zest.The recipes needs three tablespoons.
Then it was juicing them both for the cake and the icing. This is where you want to call in your kitchen cavalry. Juicing is hard work.
The cake needs 1/4 cup while the icing uses a tablespoon. Next time I'll just use lemon juice.
Then it 's mixing all the dry stuff
Flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda.
Also butter and flour a 9 by 13 inch pan. I used a metal sugar shaker for an even coat
Then it's mixing the wet. The eggs - three of them
The butter about 3/4 cup
I used the good Neisen Massey vanilla, about one tablespoon

Then it's adding the sour cream and flour and mixing in with the wet ingredients.

The recipe called for two to three tablespoons of poppy seeds.I used Pereg's.
And this is what it look's like all mixed together.
This it it baked.
Onto the icing. Mix the cream cheese and butter first.

Keep these at room temp and cut into pieces for easy mixing.
Then it's the confectioner's sugar  - about three cups along with a tablespoon
 of vanilla and three tablespoons of lemon juice.
Then it's a quick blend with a hand mixer.
It's very gooey and sticky for an icing.
This is a very light , summery kind of cake, I love that the poppy seeds add color and crunch.The crumb is very crumbly, but normal for a scratch cake.
It's a labor intensive cake and icing  but worth it.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Complete Squash Guide

One of the best foods of autumn is squash. This versatile veggie can be transformed into a warming soup, a hearty roast or adelicious side.The only problem -how can you tell which is which and what do you use the for. Luckily there is a guide to help you pick the right gourd.

Florence Fabricant created this for yesterday's New York Times Foo section. It is definitely a  keeper, especially for home chefs , new to cooking squash.. There is a description along with a picture for the twelve kinds which will be helpful for those thinking of serving it for Thanksgiving. The most popular and the most known is the acorn squash. This familiar round globe is covered in a leathery dark green skin.The skin or peel is not for eating. The flesh is fairly sweet and it's best for roasting or stuffing.Ms. Fabricant also recommends cutting it up in chunks and pureeing them.Another popular one is the butternut. Again, this is a popular one, usually a foot long in length. It has a fat bottom and light tan skin.It's sweet and nutty tasting and can be mashed or baked into a layer cake.Cute, round squashes are the carnival and cheese pumpkin. The first is reminiscent of the acorn and has a lovely maple flavor. The cheese pumpkin is more savory and can be incorporated into pies, soups or purees.Another sweet tasting gourd is the delicata.It has green and white stripes with a thin skin.The best use? Turn it into a creamy and thick bisque. The Honeynut is the newcomer in the family. It sprang from Cornell University's labs.It's a hybrid of the butternut squash, but sweeter and richer in taste. It would be ideal for desserts.

Looking for super cute? Then try the squash with the super cute name. Jack-Be-Little. This orange or white ball can be filled with soup, a gratin or even a custard. It is mild tasting, perfect for a strong main dish.Craving sweet potatoes?Try the gourd with the exotic name - kabocha. Its' nubbly rind can be eaten with the flesh. Roast pieces or use in soups and stews.Another exotic cucurbita is the Japanese kuri.This is an anomaly in the squash family. Its' flavor is more like chestnut. This makes it perfect for stirfries and stews. The creamy white mashed potatoes is an albino version of its' cousin, the acorn. The inside is dense and scooped out to be fluffed with butter and salt.Ms. Fabricant also recommends halving them and serving with cheese. Spaghetti squash is the most popular with gardeners.Ir's an easy, problem free grow in almost every summer backyard garden.  It's oval and yellowish - about the size of a football. Its' name derives from its' string like flesh that can serve as a sub in for pasta. Then there is the sweet dumpling.It resembles the carnival squash but is green and white in appearance.The skin is thin and edible and can be roasted , stuffing or baking.

Squash is a must have at any fall meal. Cook or bake it for a delicious side or dessert. It'll add color and flavor to the meal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Melissa Clark's Thanksgiving Issue

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with it brings recipe anxiety. Many home chefs are wondering what to cook and how to cook it. There's also the problem of finding new dishes to liven up the meal. Not to worry. Melissa Clark comes to rescue,

She was the star  - and rightly so - of today's New York Times Wednesday Food section. She has contributed some of the paper's best recipes along with great advice for several years.It's no wonder.Cooking  is in her veins. Her chief influence were her parents who were also creative with recipes. The one that has her father's influence is her roast turkey with garlic, rosemary  and anchovies. He didn't like cooking a bland bird, threatening to sub in something else like a leg of lamb. His daughter takes it a step further and treats the turkey as if it were a leg of lamb. She pierces the legs all over  and stuffs the tiny  slits with a paste of garlic ,rosemary and anchovies. This is also rubbed all over the rest of the bird as well.  This also makes for a more fragrant gravy too.The bird sits for an hour before being popped into a 450 F degree oven.Of course stuffing has to come with it. Hers is made with rich  buttery brioche and roasted peeled chestnuts. As with any stuffing, sage and  thyme are added. Ms. Clark uses fresh for maximum flavor. Another must is chicken or turkey stock,It has to be homemade for the best taste. Season it with leeks and parsley tops .

Sides are always important to the Thanksgiving meal.Again Ms. Clark knows how to elevate the humble cranberry, turning it into a  dinner table star. She takes her Aunt Sandy's recipe, originally from a magazine and updates it. Gone is the orange that gave the berries some tang. In its place is pomegranate There are also pistachios for crunch and more color. Instead of sugar she makes it healthier by subbing in half a cup of honey.Other dishes are mashed sweet potatoes with bourbon(!) and brown sugar along with broccoli with fried shallots and olives. These would definitely be eye openers at any table, thanks to the different spin on them.Every holiday table has to have potatoes and salad. Again, Ms. Clark does not disappoint with her recipes.The potatoes are slathered in a duck fat confit , made fragrant with thyme, sage and garlic. The result is a crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside potato that will sure to be a hit. Her salad has anchovy  - again-blended with lemon juice and parsley. This is a great dressing to make for weeknight salads too. Pie is de rigeur . Her pumpkin pie is laced with rum along with ginger and star anise.Four egg yolks give the filling richness. To gild the lily even more there is a ginger ice cream recipe, zinged up with fresh ginger and cinnamon.It's perfect with the pie, as it's decorated with candied ginger.

Follow Ms. Clark's recipes for a fun twist on a classic holiday meal. The result is a tasty dinner , from beginning to end. Try all of them - or just try one or two for a unique Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Hot Dish For Election Night

The country is all hot and bothered  with mid term fever. The way to ge through it  - with a hot comforting dish to either celebrate or seek solace . I chose the classic Hungarian chicken paprikash - except mine has a twist - it's semi- vegan.

Paprika is the chief ingredient in this creamy strew of a dish. I used Pereg's Spanish Paprika  for an easy paprikash recipe I found on Jo Cooks - a breezy, fun recipe blog, It starts out with chicken  - well vegan chicken,
The chicken strips and chopped onions are sauteed in olive oil.
Then the chopped pepper. You can use whatever color you want. I wanted color so I used the orange bell pepper.
Then it was two heaping tablespoons of paprika. I know I should have used the Hungarian kind but I used the  Spanish.
It was sweeter and smokier,giving the dish a mellower taste.The dish needs two heaping tablespoons along with a dash of chili flakes.      
            Diced tomatoes are also added.The recipe also call for a half a cup of chicken broth. I used  3/4 's  of a cup of College Inn's vegetable broth instead.
A mix of 1/4 cup of sour cream and two tablespoons flour are also added for thickening and taste.
I had no pots to cook the egg noodles so they were zapped into the microwave - which honestly produced a better and chewier noodle.
The end result?
The picture says it all. More sour cream was added for lusciousness!

I definitely will make this again. To be honest I'd like to try it with Gardein's beef tips for a spin on this classic Hungarian comfort food. 
Now if only our elections were this easy!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Pereg Spices Up Your Holiday Recipes

Nothing zings up holiday cooking like spices.Pereg Gourmet Natural Foods knows this and has come out with three interesting spicesjust in tome for holiday cooking and baking.
I'm excited about them, especially my favorite za'atar. There is also paprika  - which will be used in tomorrow's  vegan soy chicken paprikash and poppy seeds - they will be baked into either a loaf or rolls.I definitely plan on using all three during this upcoming holiday season.
Right now I had to have the za'atar with hot crisped naan. To me this is the perfect light supper.I also found out that za'atr is also good with meats .Use it to liven up a turkey salad with Thanksgiving leftovers or add more flavor to a salad Nicoise.
This is what the mix of coriander,oregano,parsley, sesame seeds, olive oil and salt. Ground chickpea and citric acid are added for more body and preservation.
I mixed it with a good glug of olive oil.
At the same time I brushed naan with olive oil and toasted it at 350 F in my toaster oven. Ten minutes later it came out crispy.
I cut it in corners and drizzled the za'atar over it.
It was also good drizzled on ham.Pereg's version had more body which made for a richer texture. I may just try it in scrambled eggs or baked mac for a different vibe.

Holiday cooking needs zing. Pereg's new trio of spices will liven up any holiday recipe. Use them for  a new kind of excitement.