Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Let The Grilling Begin

Despite the cool weather right now, it's the start of grilling season. That means lazy weekends flipping burgers or chilling out  week nights cooking veggies or meats. Are you ready for it? Is the grill cleaned? Are the accoutrements ready for another season?

One of the first questions to ask is my grill still usable? Most grills usually last from two to three years. With the right babying and care their usefulness can be extended to four and sometimes five years. If there is rust, then junk it and start looking for a new one.If you are looking for a new one, do you go the thrifty or splurge route? Keep in mind that the more expensive models are made from stainless steel while the cheaper models are lower grade painted steel that may not have a long life. A few dollars more can make a difference. One of the most popular is Weber's Original Kettle. It fits perfectly in smaller back yards and patios.It can be used as a smoker as well if you're into smoking meats.A trendier idea that's taking hold is using a fire pit for cooking meats.It offers a bit more variety with how to cook food. Griddles and pans can be used along with cast iron meat grates. You can also cook the typical camp fire fare such as hot dogs and marshmallows using skewers. Another thing to consider is what you'll be cooking the most. Will it be steaks and whole veggies?Or chunks of them? If it's the second, then invest in a good pair of metal skewers. These last decades longer than just wooden skewers and can be used season after season.

Once the grill is settled, then look at your outdoor table set. Do you feel like you need a new one? Will it last another season? It should if it spent the fall and winter either in the basement or garage.
For  those who want a new set, then think of Target and Wal-mart for new tables and chairs. These big box stores  are always budget friendly and offer a wide variety of styles. An entire set including umbrella and base can be bought for under three hundred dollars. Your best bet is a metal topped table. A glass one can break along with expanding and contracting during hot and cold days. Wicker sets are always pretty but make sure the one you buy has aluminum frames and the woven material is from a  man made material like recycled plastic.Also consider having matching smaller tables where guests can put their drinks and hors d'ouevres.A nice outdoor table set deserves pretty silverware and plates. Amazon has Cutlerex ,a plastic cutlery set that looks like silverware.  It's a set that can be used over and over and has forty pieces of spoons knives and forks. You could also get stainless steel sets too. As for plates, think melamine which comes in a variety of different fun patterns. Target has so many cute patterns along with white ones that look like paper plates! These are a much better choice than paper ones and plastic utensils.

Get the backyard ready for eating out. It's time for grilling and chilling in the fresh, warm air. Have everything ready for the first barbecue of the season.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Spring Cleaning Your Diet

Now that Easter and Passover are over , it's time to Spring clean your diet. There are no more heavy calorie laden meals, desserts and treats. It's the season for lighter fare,not to mention lighter cooking and baking.

One of the best aspects of Spring is foraging. There is a wealth of healthy greens right outside your back door. Think about adding some of  your local woodland's best in a salad.One of the most traditional and most widely used is the dandelion. The slightly prickly leaves can be eaten on their own or with other greens. Dress with a tangy lemon -honey vinaigrette and serve with grilled chicken or scallops. Another woodland green to consider is the tongue tingling garlic mustard which can be made into a pesto or cooked with pasta similar to broccoli rabe.Mushrooms can also come from the parks and forests.Many home chefs are leery about foraging them and with good reason -half are poisonous.Buy a book on foraging (your best bet is Amazon) and read it cover to cover. Think about making your bounty in a light mushroom sauce spiked with garlic and onions. The mushrooms can also be pickled and served as a side to grilled chicken, steak or fish. Those dandelion greens can also be pickled and would be a light and interesting side.

With the weather growing warmer, it's time to get out the grill. This is chance to have delicious meats and veggies simply cooked. Don't stop at the proteins. Try a light meal of grilled asparagus with peppers and eggplants. Ramps from foraging can also be grilled . Spritz them with olive oil and cook on a grill pan until ready. A fun way to welcome in the warm weather is kabobs. Think cherry and grape tomatoes with scallops and shrimp. Or try marinated mushrooms skewers for something light and different. Climbing temps usually mean the taste for grilled burgers. These too can be lightened up. Portobello caps are a great sub in for beef patties.Marinate the caps in canola oil - which is lighter than even virgin olive oil - along with  chopped onions, balsamic vinegar and garlic.Instead of plopping it on a heavy bun, think an open faced sandwich on Italian and French bread. Gardein also has veggie burgers that taste like the real thing. Instead of the usual burgers and potato salad - just have the patties plain with grilled veggies .As for desserts, we're heading into blueberry and strawberry season. Finish the meal with a bowl of mixed berries, sweetened with dark honey and topped with Reddi-Whip's coconut or almond milk whipped creams.

It's Spring. Lighten up your diet. Go for fresh picked greens and kabobs. Get rid of the greasy burgers and try the ethereal portobellos or soy burgers. Invest in the fruits and veggies of the season. You'll feel better- and lighter. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Lamb Experiment

Since mid March  up to today I have baked and iced five lambs, using my Mom's Wilton Easter lamb mold, along with her cake and icing recipes.

What have I learned?
That greasing and flouring any cake pan is vital to having an easy to remove baked product. 
Dream Whip is crucial to producing a dense yet surprisingly light pound cake. I plan on making cupcakes with it.

Crumb coats are very important in creating a smooth first coat. You need this in order to create fancy stars squiggles and rosettes.
Vegan cakes don't work. This little lady's head fell off .Also the taste wasn't as great as the Duncan Hines mixes I used.
Variety is truly the spice of life. I made a chocolate cake with coffee icing for my friends who love chocolate. This is the flavor combination I will be flirting with for the next few months.

As for everyone else, it was vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.I also learned that it takes time to master Russian tips . Mine have come out like pink blobs.Also all lambs require seven cups of icing not five.

Another thing I've learned. Not to bake five lamb cakes and then ice them. It is a lot of work, well received but still labor intensive.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Your Own Tea Garden

A tea garden conjures up pretty images of an abundant garden, rife with a profusion of colors and scents. Anybody can grow this and then harvest leaves, petals and roots for a delicate brew. It's not as complicated as thought to be. A new book explains the basics.

Growing Your Own Tea Garden: The Guide To Growing and Harvesting Flavorful Teas In Your Backyard (Fox Chapel Publishing 2019) is the must have guide for tea lovers who want to create their own blends.Jodi Helmer, a freelance writer  who has written for The Guardian and  National Geographic has compiled the perfect tea and nature's lover's guide. This is a wonderful book, chock full of beautiful pictures and illustrations on gardening. Tea lovers will go crazy over the variety of different botanicals listed to make all sorts of brews.There is the history of tea along with the explanation of tisanes which are not surprisingly mistaken for brews. differences between white, green and black teas are explained (it has nothing to do with different types but the leaves at various growth stages, white is the leaf bud, green is from the tender young leaves that arrive in the Spring and black tea comes from the more mature ones). There are also suggestions on where to plant and recipes for various blends, from  a tasty hibiscus iced tea to a soothing tummy troubles tea made with echinacea and hyssop leaves. The back has growing season maps of the US and Canada along with where to get the seeds.

I love the book, not just for the recipes but also for the cornucopia of information on the different plants.Each root, flower and leaf comes with the scientific Latin name along with what growth zone fits it. The explanations are in depth and will show you how to plant a successful tea garden. Each plant also has a side bar For The Best Brew which explains how to get the best tasting cup of tea from them. What is surprising is that there are dozens of plants , roots flowers and even fruits that can go into a cup.I love the idea of a strawberry tea which is more of a pureed fruit drink over ice. There is also a persimmon tea with the  fruit being simmered with ginger root and turmeric for kick.  A black current tea, is not only healthy but tasty as both berries and leaves are simmered together.Some plants are a surprise. There is witch hazel, which I always thought was for cosmetic use (namely in skin toners)but can also have its leaves and bark made into a tisane to cure sore throats , colds and flu. The same surprise is also for stinging nettles which helps to ease muscle ache and infections.

Growing Your Own Tea Garden: The Guide To Growing And Harvesting Flavorful Teas In Your Backyard is the perfect guide for tea lovers who want their own special blends. It is informative and beautifully presented. Buy it and get started on your own fragrant tea garden,

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Truth About Marsala

Marsala wine has had a bad rap for the last century. Many people associate it with sauces and that's it. A few have even called it a sauce. That's wrong. This sweet , fruit dessert wine is so much more than just an ingredient in a main course.

Charlotte Druckman,a food writer and author of Stir, Sizzle,Bake : Recipes For Your Cast Iron Skillet, wrote an informative piece on this popular dessert wine in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Marsala is a  misunderstood wine. In its' native Sicily it's considered an aperitif and dessert wine where its' mixed notes of dried fruit, caramel, and nuts. According to cookbook author and importer of fine quality Italian products, Rolando Bermendi, "Marsala is still unknown in the US as a good wine. It has a bad connotation and the name has been destroyed." Another  view is from Roberta Corrodin, a Sicilian food writer and restauranteur likens the drink to olive oil. observing the low quality bottles found at the supermarket have become the standard. Maybe this feeling has something to do with the wine's beginnings. It came to America as early as 1773, thanks to English trader, John Woodhouse who docked his boat in Marsala on the island's western shore. He discovered that the wine was similar to sherry. He added brandy to extend its; shelf life along with must, the unfermented juice from whole crushed grapes. Americans and the English love the sweetness of it and it became an after dinner favorite.

By the late 1920s, Marsala lost its glam status . Knockoffs and cheap copies were in abundance. It was at this time that its' popularity took off. Ironically it was granted dispensation during  Prohibition where it was relegated to a medicine, Italian- American restaurants were also putting it on their menus, dousing chicken and veal with a mushroom based sauce. The 1980's saw it being added to the dessert of the moment tiramisu during a Northern Italian craze. Now the regional foods of Sicily and other areas of Southern Italy are being celebrated by chefs ,entrepreneurs and diners. Marsala is having a resurgence. Chef Amy Brandwein of Centralina in Washington uses the wine in a braised chicken ragu. New York eatery Don Angie  uses it  to flavor the dashi for a pink snapper crudo and to pickle the trumpet mushrooms that grace the dish. Marsala comes in three colors - ambra - amber, gold-oro and ruby - rubino. Baking calls for the sweet or dolci while savory cooking needs dry or seco. There are two recipes too. One is a spin on the classic chicken Marsala which also has cremini and shittake mushrooms while the other  is a strawberry Marsala cake. which is a vanilla scratch cake with a kick.

Try a bottle of Marsala , whether to finish a dinner or as a part of a recipe. It is a sweet interesting wine with a distinct flavor. It's worth adding to a kitchen arsenal.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

True Texas Mexican

Ask anyone to name Tex-Mex dishes and they'll probably rattle off a Taco Bell menu. Yet the cuisine, which should be properly called TexasMexican isn't about fajitas and bean dip.It's much more. It's a cuisine that goes back for milennia, full of indigenous produce and rich spices.

Rachel Wharton, a freelance food writer and new to the paper, wrote an interesting piece for today's New York Times Food section. She visited Houston, a city thriving in this Texan-Mexican cuisine.  She spent time and interviewed cookbook writer and chef Adan Medrano who is also trying to get the story out there.Many Americans think Tex-Mex has fajitas and margaritas, finished with fried iced cream. That is far from the case. True Texas-Mexican restaurants such as Cafe Amiga in Brownsville and Maria's restaurant in McAllen serve chicken with striped green squash and corn along with a tomato noodle soup call fideo.There  also the beef and and potato stew called picadillo. Gulf shrimp is mixed with cacti in a stew of red chilis. The name came to Chef Medrano after he enrolled in the CIA - Culinary Institute of America in 2010. He didn't want to use the phrase Tejano which has the "J" from its' colonial Spanish rule. He came up with the description  after learning about the distinct regional cuisines of Mexico.

How did it evolve from Texas Mexican to Tex Mex? It started in the early 1900's when local Mexican-American home cooking was first made in restaurants by Anglos for Anglos.Yet it was in the Seventies when the cuisine was finally given a name, mostly from  food writers. There  it was refried beans, chili made with powdered spices and stock instead of chile con carne  based on whole red chiles and of course fajitas with anything other than skirt steak. Then there was the problem of cheese - cheese everywhere.Even on the other side of the Rio Grande the cuisine held with newer generations, unlike here.They are eating the same dishes their nomadic ancestors ate as they moved around both sides of the Rio Grande for generations.There are recipes with the article that demonstrate the natural ingredients. There is tacos de picadillo with ground beef with cumin and carne giusada with papas or potatoes.The last is laced with Serrano chiles and peppercorns.

Texan Mexican cuisine has been around for centuries. It is making itself known as  vibrant  and flavorful. The colorful dishes will be the true taste of Texas.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Your Guide To London Bars

London is the place for summer vacations. It's a witty, polished town full of style and taste. It is also a sophisticated city laced with bars for the thirsty tourist and native. Yet , like other international cities, there are so many to choose from. Luckily there is a guide to help .

 Travelers need to pack London's Best Cocktail Bars :The Most Popular Hotspots (Lifestyle Books 2019). The author , Susan Cohen, a Londoner herself, has written this extensive guide to the city's best bars. She is the expert on all things British,usually writing on where to go for a proper British tea  and uniquely English subjects such as midwives and the Women's Institute. Travelers and Anglophiles may be familiar with her first guide London's Afternoon Teas:A Guide To London's Most Stylish and Exquisite Tea Venues. This may be good for who else - tea totalers . The new guide is perfect for those who want to try a variety of different quaffs along  being seen in the capital city's trendiest night spots. This is a beautifully crafted book, full of lovely pictures of the bars and their seating areas. One interesting note is that Ms.Cohen also includes recipes for some of the cocktails mentioned. Readers could try them out at home, especially at an at home cocktail party. A big plus is that the author includes dress codes - very important  - and lists the places of interest nearby.

The bars mentioned range from the ultra fun to the classic ones. Those with kids - yes kids - should check out Belowzero Ice Bar, located not far from Trafalgar Square.The seats and sculptures along with the glasses are made from ice. It's a perfect respite if London suffers from yet another scorching summer. Couples or groups may get a kick out of the whimsically named Sexy Fish. It also has the bonus of being within distance of Fortnum and Mason, one of the world's oldest food purveyors and a foodie's dream come true. Their drinks are unusual and the bar offers patrons a flavor map to help them decide what to order. There are also the typically English sort of bar such as The American Bar at The Stafford Hotel.It's the kind of place where you could see upper crust sorts enjoying an after work drink or internationals taking advantage of Tanqueray or Dubonnet cocktails.It was also a hang out of Elizabeth , the Queen Mother.Ms. Cohen also includes the famed and sophisticated Connaught Bar at the world famous Connaught Hotel. Visitors will love the martini trolley along with the drink Fleurissimo, a tribute to Grace Kelly,one of the hotel's famous guests.

London's Best Cocktail Bars: The Most Popular Hotspots is the guide book to have for any one with London vacation plans. It is a must pack and must have when visiting this amazing cities. Like the cocktails themselves, it's full of spark and sparkle.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Your Green Kitchen

Today is Earth Day, a day when we wonder how to reduce our carbon footprints and heal our planet. One way is "greening our kitchen'  making this energy sapping room into an environmentally sterling area.If you think it's hard, think again.It's simple to go green.

One of the easiest way is recycling kitchen waste. This is a good time to start a compost heap since planting season is only a week or two away. You can buy compost bins or buy them at any big box home improvement store and even Walmart. Keep the compost far away from the house  because t does give off  a funky kind of stink. To create what's known as a green compost, start with veggies and fruit. Use any leaves such as what you find on the top of strawberries along with banana peels and grape stems. These break down quickly and won't attract rats and raccoons the way baked goods and meats do (I wouldn't even put in cleaned bones because that still would attract critters. Egg shells can be added. They add much needed calcium and mineral to the blend. You can also us the shells in the soil around peppers and tomatoes. too.Coffee grinds also should go into your heap. They are loaded with nitrogen which helps the dirt. Also toss in the filters if they're biodegradable and made from natural fibers.

Another way to make your kitchen greener is by buying Energy Star appliances. Consider an Energy Star fridge if you're shopping for a new one. Make sure you get a traditional freezer top one. Fridges with freezers on the top won't suck up that much energy. Also size matters. One that is energy efficient should be between sixteen and twenty cubic feet. What about the old fridge? You could get rid of it or use it for storage in the basement or the garage. Your choice of stove also can affect the environment.Gas stoves consume less energy than electric ones.There are three types of gas burners: conventional burners with standing pilots,conventional ones with electric ignition which is the most common, and sealed burners where the burner is fused to the stove top.Another aspect to consider is the self cleaning oven. This sort is saves energy more the non-cleaning ones.What about microwaves and toaster ovens. Both  are vital to  a home chef.A microwave , surprisingly , is more energy efficient. However it doesn't toast or crisp up such leftovers as pizza and french fries. The best bet is buy both and use them sparingly.

It's easy to green your kitchen. Recycle the scraps and leftovers. Buy energy efficient appliances. You may think it's not so big a dent in healing the earth but it is. Keep on doing it for a somewhat better tomorrow.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Easter

To all my readers worldwide:

Have a good Easter , filled with delicious dishes and fun desserts. Enjoy the basket of chocolates and Easter egg hunts with the young ones. Celebrate this season of rebirth and renewal with kind words and deeds. Enjoy Spring and all her bounty of newly bloomed flowers and the first crops.
of fruits and vegetables.

Friday, April 19, 2019

A Thoughtful Good Friday

Good Friday ,Passover and Easter begin and end this weekend. These days should remind us of those suffering in the world. We should reflect on how we can make their lives better in big ways and in small. Think about the good you want to do during this season of hope and rebirth. It could be helping out or growing produce for your local food pantry .It could be throwing a much deserved welcome home party for returning vets or treating them to a dinner out. It could just be becoming a lunch time companion for an elderly neighbor living on his or her own. Or sharing an inclusion dinner with neighbors of different religions and backgrounds.

Have your kids get involved too. They learn by watching and your actions will be picked up and made a part of their routine.

This weekend is a time for worship along with celebrating. Make it also a time for planning good deeds for your community. Give others hope and a reason to celebrate.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Gut Feeling A New Spin On Weight Loss

Everyone know how hard it is to lose weight. It is not the easiest. Worst of all we blame ourselves ,  and let others do the same . After all it's our fault that we stuff ourselves with sweets and burgers, right? There's a new advice book out there that's going to change the way we think about dieting and food.

Gut Feeling:Why Diets, Exercise and Shaming have Failed (Dark River Publishing 2018) will set the whole losing weight experience on its' head. Written by British reporter, Hamish Stuart who has had issues with eating and weight in the past. It's not him - or us for that matter. It's the food and beverage companies along with  governments who allow for sugary drinks and overly processed eats.Early he addresses willpower and diets. The first, he feels , is to make fat or obese people, feel they are not mentally strong enough  and succumb to urges. That could be true in some cases but not all.  Genetics also play an important role in our body shapes.Hormone levels also can contribute to fat and appetite. Another pillar he knocks down is diet. Mr. Stuart is no fan of the Atkins diet or any of the prepackaged diets of Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. They don't do any good or even fill you up nutritionally.He also delves into why we got this way - mostly processed foods that satisfy our sweet and savory cravings. It's interesting to read that sugar stimulates the brain exactly like cocaine. It's all about addiction and trying to break it.Another interesting point is that there should be taxes on sweets and sugary drinks. Would it help? Possibly.It may make people, especially parents more attuned to what soda and juice can do to their kids bodies and health..

Mr. Stuart breaks the book into three parts. The most helpful is the third part. I found myself taking his advice.While the other sections are full of facts and figures along with case studies, the last part is very helpful. He has a set of rules that we don't have to follow per se, but take what we can from them and create our own path to a healthier life.I like the fact that he writes that being overweight is an addiction like any other.Another plus is weighing yourself every day - which I do. It gives you a perspective on what methods and foods work in losing weight. Another plus is cooking for yourself -  which gets you away from fast and processed foods. You get to eat fresh which is easy because there is a wealth of fruits and vegetables that can go into delicious dishes.He cautions against using sauces , unless they're homemade. He also blasts salads out of the water. They're not as  nutritional as the experts claim, and a simple meal would be better and filling. It's even worse if they have gloppy dressings and extras like croutons, You're better off eating a cheeseburger.He also writes that exercise should be pleasant and something you'll enjoy doing on a daily or bi-weekly basis.

Gut Feeling: Why Diets, Exercise and Shaming have Failed is an interesting read. It should be in the library of anyone struggling with his or her weight. It will not only give suggestions but explain why being fat isn't a sin. It's a variety of different factors - from genetics to bad food. It's not us.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Culinary Star's Rise And Fall

There are so many celebrities in today's culinary landscape.They stand out because of a signature dish or a larger than life personality. One, Kwame Onwuachi , is different. He has gone from the lowest depths to the acmes of success and back down again. Now his star is on the rise again and he is turning heads - along with palates with some new dishes and creativity.

Regular contributor,Priya Krishna, interviewed Chef Onwuachi for today's New York Times Food section. His background is interesting. This former problem child had to be sent back to Nigeria because he could not be disciplined. He returned to his Bronx home two years later, unchanged, joining a gang and selling drugs. He even dropped out of college. Then a kind of miracle happened. He turned things around. He sold candy on the subway,using the money to finance a catering business. After graduating from the CIA - Culinary Institute  of America and worked famed restaurants, Per Se and Eleven Madison Park. Next TV called and he was competing on Top Chef. At 25 he was handed the carte blanche for the Washington DC restaurant the Shaw Bijou. Sadly it flopped. What could he do? Write a memoir  "Notes From A Young Black Chef (Knopf 2019). It was then his life turned around.

Chef Onwuachi is now the chef at Kith and Kin. He is cooking homey Afro-Caribbean food, exploring the legacy of the African Diaspora.It also reflects his Nigerian,Jamaican, Trinidadian and Lousianian heritage.It offers even breakfast with curried crab Benedict and a jerk bacon. His family recipes are also there in the goat roti he ate at his Jamaican grandparents Long Island home.it's served with jollof rice, a staple of Nigeria, enlivened with homemade curry powder and Maggi seasoning cubes.There is also his Philly Wing Fry , with two locations in DC and national expansion to follow. This idea came when he was smoking a joint during his time at Eleven Madison Park. These only serve Philly cheese steaks, chicken wings and waffle fries  along with a mushroom sandwich. They may sound like simple fast food but they're not. The cheese steak has dry aged beef and roasted garlic mayonnaise while the mushroom sandwich is graced with herbed labneh,a creamy yogurt sauced, spiked with olive oil and za'atar. The chicken wings are glazed with a tamarind glaze and garlic and the fries come with berbere ,a fiery Ethiopian and Eritrean spice mix. Chef Onwuachi is definitely upping the fast food game.

Young chefs should buy his memoir. It is a template on how to succeed after failing. He is not only a star but a maverick on the American culinary scene.His star is rising again and fast.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Greener Diet

Earth Day is coming up - April 22nd and it's a good time to re-evaluate  food shopping and eating habits. Not surprisingly what and how we eat does affect the planet.We can make it a better place - even with small changes.

You may begin to see grocery stores and nurseries have seed packet displays. This should spur on the thought of gardening and reliance on home grown produce. Think about the veggies and fruits your family likes and buy those seeds.If you're new to gardening, then also consider the easiest plants to grow. Radishes are one of the simplest along with carrots. Both are versatile in salads and hot dishes.Another easy combo ? Tomatoes and lettuce. These are a snap to plant and grow, plus they're palate pleasers. For those who have more knowledge then try the slightly more demanding melons and strawberries along with eggplants and melons. Another very important aspect of gardening is composting. This is where you can do a lot of green good.  Food waste such as rinds and eggshells make for excellent mulch. Surprisingly bones and gristle can also be added to the heap, although be reminded that their smell will attract wildlife such as raccoons, foxes, and even bears.Think twice before you do this. Leftover rice, moldy bread and doughnuts are all good.Even corn cobs are a great toss in.  Make the garden even more greener with grey water - water left over from baths . Also try to buy garden hoses with water saving nozzles.

Grocery shopping has to change as well. Our choices can directly impact our planet and our futures.Meat has always been considered a threat to our health and now it's a threat to our Earth.It can be an agricultural nightmare. Cattle farms require hundreds of acres of land. This means whole forests have to be cut down to make room for them.Also animal agriculture is responsible for  fifteen to twenty percent of total greenhouse gases globally. It is one thing to have a few herds of cattle for dairy : it's another thing to have thousands of them on a global scale for meat. The best bet is go vegan. If this is too much then think about vegetarianism. This allows you to have dairy and eggs. You can keep the malteds but not the hamburgers. Transitioning can be hard but there are products that can ease that.Try any of the Gardein tofu meats. They have a wide variety of products from hamburgers to even faux crab cakes. The taste is the same as the real thing, and sometimes it's even better. Another company with a huge array of soy products is Morningstar Farms. Their fake bacon is just as tasty and crisp as real rashers and their soy crumbles are great in chili and Bolognese sauce. Once you go from real to the substitute, then you can also change from dairy to nut and soy milks and products. These include yogurts, and ice cream  - which are just as delicious as their cow made counterparts.

It's easy to adapt a greener diet. It'll bring you closer to the Earth and make you more aware of what's happening with this planet. You'll not only eat good but feel good about the change too.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Your Easter Recipe Guide

Easter  is fast upon us and it's this week, Holy Week, that should be a balance of observance and preparation. Do you have the main curse settled? What about the sides? Will it be an Easter brunch or a potluck? Holiday dinner or  barbecue. Then there are the desserts.Is it all up to you or will it be a group effort? Will there be an egg hunt with treats too? It's time to start deciding and writing up lists.

One of the most important decisions is the main course. The most traditional choices are lamb and ham. The first is big in Mediterranean households, namely Italian and Greek.  Do you cook a whole lamb (which is not for the squeamish) or leg? If it's a small gathering , then a leg of lamb would be the best choice. Your butcher and some groceries can debone and butterfly it.Keep in mind that there are difference between New Zealand and American bred kinds.The American sort is meatier, fattier and sweeter than the other.You could also go with lamb chops too or the slightly tougher shoulder of lamb. Remember that lamb can also be barbecued.What should you serve with them? Fresh spring greens such as asparagus and peas. Ham is another beloved Easter main course. If you feel that it may take over your oven , then assign sides to guests .Another question to ask yourself, do you want it as part of a formal holiday meal or a brunch? That changes the sides. A more traditional dinner would have sides of roasted baby beet salad and possibly green beans with shallots and hazelnuts.Peas with mint are another lovely  side that's both fragrant and tasty. A brunch would not only have the ham as the centerpiece but also veggie laden quiches filled with asparagus and dandelion greens. Also make sure that there are mimosas and bellinis for the adults and juice and seltzer sparklers for the kids.

Easter is more a time of sweets, more so than savory bites. If you have the time, you can bake and ice a lamb cake.It is labor intensive work ( as my previous pictorial posts demonstrate) and it's easier to do if there are two people. Another festive and a bit easier  project is an Easter egg cake.It's just a one layer cake decorated with three or four dyed icings.  You can also buy an Easter egg cookie decorating set. Stop & Shop sells these and they come with already baked shortbread cookies, icing and candies for decorating.  This can also be part of the holiday activities for the kids. There is also the Peeps Coop  which has six already baked cookies to be assembled and decorated with bright yellow icing.  Sprinkles and jelly beans can be added for more dazzle.  As for the young ones, think about making Rice Krispies chicks and bunnies. It's making a whole sheet of the treat and then cutting the shapes with a cookie cutter. The mix can be tinted with food coloring  to make the pops more festive. Cake pops are another fun bite. Coat them in the various chocolates and dip in festive yellow and pink sprinkles. If the dinner is just adults , then end it with a light yet sophisticated lemon jelly roll dusted in confectioner's sugar. A raspberry trifle is also a sweet classy end to a ham or lamb dinner.

This is the time to make decisions for the holiday ahead.  Choose what dishes and treats will work for you and buy their ingredients. Then shop for the dinner ahead. It'll be easy with a list and a clear vision of what you want to make and bake,

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Your Spring Must Have Arm and Hammer Fruit And Veggie Wash

This is the season when we start to see more fresh fruits and veggies in markets and stores. They may look fresh and just picked, but there may be everything from pesticides to dirt on them - not to mentions germs from squeezers and sniffers. Be extra safe with giving them a quick wash . Arm & Hammer has a new fruit and vegetable wash that will wash away all that bad stuff. Best of all it's all natural so it's safe for even kids to use.

This is a must have for any home chef. Every  household has some form of fresh fruits and veggies. We all want to eat healthy yet our produce can come with either traces of dirt, pesticides and even diseases. The Arm and Hammer wash rinses away these concerns. One of the best aspects of Arm and Hammer is that it's all natural. The ingredients are purified water, baking soda, salt and plant derived cleaning agents. You could concoct this at home but it may come out clumpy. It's best to let the experts make it.

The nozzle is easy to use. Just turn it to open. A fine drenching mist comes out and thoroughly cleans the fruits and vegetables. One spritz does it for an apple, a couple cleans a bowl of grape tomatoes. It's then just scrubbing for larger produce and a good rinse with tap water.

Use Arm and Hammer Fruit and Vegetable wash for your produce. This cleanser takes away any fears and concerns regarding dirt , pesticides and even diseases. It is a must have for any home chef with a kitchen full of produce.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Your Spring Baking Guide

With Easter ,Orthodox Easter and Passover coming soon, home bakers are probably gearing up for all sorts of baking. Make sure the kitchen is prepared, with the right ingredients and pans. It'll make holiday baking that much easier during these hectic days.

Passover start April 19th which is  only a few days away. It''s time to sell or throw out all flour and use ground matzoh. It's also time to buy cocoa powder and honey. Potato starch is another must have because it's used as a thickener in cakes and brownies.Another ingredient in many savory and sweet Seder dishes is matzoh farfel. These are small pellets made from egg noodle dough and is frequently toasted before being used. Also have egg noodles on the ready too, for kugel Make sure there is also fresh fruit such as apples and bananas for baking. Easter follows on Sunday the 21st. This is the time for all those lamb and Easter egg cakes. These cakes can either be made with mixes or by scratch. If you use mixes then make sure you not only have eggs but also oil, either vegetable or canola. The lamb cakes come out perfectly if Dream Whip is added to the mix so have those boxes on hand. (there are two packs to a box).If you go the scratch cake route, there's the need for flour and the leaveners such as baking soda and baking powder. Vegan cakes require corn starch and in some recipe , apple cider vinegar. Make sure you have both. The vinegar can also be used in egg dying and , salads. The lamb cake requires mini skewers in the neck to hold the head on. Please have these. Without them your creation will look like a victim of the French Revolution.

Of course these, along with those Easter cupcakes and cookies have to be decorated. The lamb cake requires five to six cups of confectioners sugar. Here I recommend buying the two pound bags  instead of boxes of it. There's also the need for butter or margarine sticks along with vegetable shortening. Country Crock also has butter flavored sticks that make for a rich tasting frosting. Remember to also have food coloring ad if you're planning on making an Easter egg cake , then add colored sugar and sprinkles to the list. These will be used to create the stripes and dots along with zigzags on the cake. If you're baking Easter egg cookies, then  make sure you have gel icing tubes, the ones used for writing on cakes. These can create perfect lines and polka dots on cookies.  You can also buy white and pastel chocolates for melting and then drizzling onto the cookie tops. If you're also thinking about making cake pops, then make sure you have sticks for them. Both the Greek and Russian Easters center around homemade sweet breads. Again, it's vital that you have yeast along with raisins and candied citrus for flavoring.

Spring holiday season is upon us. Make sure you have all your ingredients to create the perfect cakes and sweets. They will be as memorable as the holidays themselves.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Passover Classic Gold's Horseradish

Passover is a time when generations old recipes are used for Seder. One is Gold's Horseradish, beloved for decades. It is a condiment, full of meaning and importance.

Weekly contributor and cookbook author, Joan Nathan wrote about the holiday table classic in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Ironically the root was never used by ancient Jews and is not mentioned in the Old Testament. They ate their lamb and matzoh with maror, bitter herbs like endives and wild bitter lettuce. Horseradish may have joined the tradition in the 10th century when there was migration from the warmer Mediterranean to the colder areas of northern France and Germany. Horseradish grew in abundance there, a turnip like root whose leaves broke ground in April. It was easy to harvest and the root, an isothiocyanate (a cousin of wasabi) had the symbolic bitterness needed for the Seder. Jews of Sephardic and Middle Eastern descent aren't familiar with the root so they use romaine endives and chicory for their bitter herbs) . Horseradish was brought to the States where it became a staple , not only for Passover but in Polish Catholic Easter dinners where home chefs served the red variety.

Horseradish can be a pain to prepare. Slicing it can cause watery eyes and runny noses.Thankfully there is Gold's already prepared . It started with Hyman and Tilly Gold, grinding the root with vinegar and salt along with a fight and a jail term. According to the Gold's grandson, Jason, the couple had started out selling and repairing radios. They lost the shop during the Depression. At this time. Hyman's brother who was grinding horseradish on a Borough Park, New York street got into a fight which landed him in jail. Hyman bailed him out and got the grinder as a possible thank you gift. This  prompted the Golds to continue the horseradish business. Tilly would grind it in their Coney Island Avenue apartment while her husband filled four ounce bottles one by one. He would later sell them in a pushcart, hitting local stores. Later their sons would deliver the bottle by bikes. The business grew. They relocated the business to a store below their apartment and later to a factory. The family sold it in 2015 to La Salle Capital. Gold's  first used horseradish from Long Island farms and from Poland. Now the roots are grown and shipped from Oregon and Norther California along with Missouri and southern Illinois.

Tradition is important in the Passover Seder. Gold's Horseradish carries on that tradition using classic ingredients. It has been around for generations and will be around for many many more.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

That Easter Tradition A Good Meaty Ham

Ham has always been the meat of choice on almost every Easter table. This centuries old tradition has given ham lovers and home chefs good memories of a delicate salty flavor and an easy cook. It is the perfect dish for the holiday , each slice bringing joy.

Kim Severson wrote about this classic in today's New York Times Food section. Ms. Severson, a southerner herself, is no stranger to this cut of pork. Ham is also served at Christmastime, usually as the main course at the holiday dinner , along with being at baptisms, graduations and funerals. Right now sales are up because of the Easter season. The ham that we're used to is the  spiralized kind, one that is precooked and precut. It's different from fresh ham which is an uncooked part of a pig's rear leg.It's rubbed in  salt and a little spice, then smoked over wood and hung for several months to age. A spiralized ham is is soaked or injected with brine, spice and sugar. There are also curing agents added and then it's smoked a little.It's a quick process that only take four days which makes a tad more popular than the country style.Sales of them have been going up since 2017, even though their prices have also gone up. The price increase is due to American companies sending a lot of hams to Canada and Mexico.

What should a home chef look for in a ham? Check the amount of water listed on the can.Brine,a salty water mix is injected into the meat and can affect its' taste and texture. Top of the line ones are simply labelled "ham" and have to be 20.5 per cent protein by weight. Another classification is one  with "natural juices" listed. It's a good bet that around seven to nine percent of the cut is water. Most supermarket hams are labelled "hams with water added" which means that it has up to ten percent more water. Keep in mind that hams like this can turn spongy and don't do well on a spiralizing machine. Another point is that all spiralized hams have some kind of sweet glaze. The marriage of the meat and sugar is over a century old. Early recipes such as the one from the 1898 Delmonico Cookbook features a scored ham with powdered sugar. Another recipe from around 1940, found in The Boston Cooking - School Cookbook has a ham recipe that calls for frosting it with royal icing! Then there's the classic pineapple and cherry held by cloves stuck in the ham. This first started in 1931 with Irma Rombauer's first edition of "The Joy Of Cooking". The best bet is a rub with ginger ale and brown sugar. You can use pineapple too which breaks down the meat's collagen, making it easier to digest.

A good Easter dinner starts with a good ham. There's is nothing quite like a slice of silky pink meat, perfectly seasoned with spices and sweet. What a wonderful way to celebrate a Spring holiday.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Be Good To The Earth And Yourself

April is Earth month, four weeks where we not only celebrate Spring, Easter and Passover but the Earth herself. It's a time when beaches are cleaned and, carbon foot prints are reduced as we all become a bit more  eco-conscious. What can you contribute? Change the way you eat. Make it good for you and our planet.

That's what New York Times Science section contributor, Jane Brody urged today in her Personal Health column. She writes that for more than a century Americans have been living high off the hog -literally. In 1900 most of the American diet was plant based. Eighty -five years later two thirds of the country were eating more protein, namely in the form of  beef. The cattle that gives us the steaks and filets we crave is also contributing to the destruction of the planet we live on. It takes eight pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Then there's the problem of cows releasing tons of greenhouses gases a year. An editorial in Britain's top medical periodical, The Lancet proclaimed "that intensive meat production is on an unstoppable trajectory comprising the single greatest contributor to climate change." This is scary. Not only are we going to suffer the consequences of our greedy eating habits but our planet is  suffering too. The Lancet suggests  that we don't go vegan or vegetarian, just cut down on our bad eating habits.

What do we do? Limit our amount of red meat such as beef and lamb. Have it every two weeks. Eat more chicken , pork and fish. Ms. Brody , who has written several books on nutrition suggests going one step further. Have a diet that is mostly , if not all plant based, It's easy to do these days. She gives us her recipe  of roasting two cups of butternut squash and one cup of coarsely chopped onion with a tablespoon of olive oil. It's then popped into a 450 degree F oven for twenty minutes.This is an easy cook and can be altered to include other veggies such as peppers  and yams. Ms. Brody suggests adding a can of drained chickpeas. also roasted covered with curry powder and salt. The limit also applies to dairy too. This is then the time to explore dairy alternatives.  Think about switching to either soy, rice, oat or almond milks and their byproducts. Soy Delicious has  so many different products such as ice cream and coffee creamer. The trade off is a good one. You get to still have tasty treats such a soy cheese pizza or a fudgy soy ice cream bar while saving the planet. Also baking  and cooking with soy or almond milk is no different than cooking with milk or cream. I have made vegan cakes with almond milk and have used it in icings. The last turns out perfectly creamy frostings that hold up and don't run off the cake.

Be good to your planet and self by changing your diet. Eat more plant based foods. It's a plus for your health and our planet Earth.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Marie Kondo Your Fridge

By now every one has heard of Marie Kondo, the cute perky queen of organizing. Due to her Netflix show, hundreds of Americans are reorganizing their closets and thanking the items of apparel for sparking joy. Any home chef can do this with their fridge as well. This one did.
To be honest nothing I threw out sparked joy, especially the ones with thick layers of mold. (I know,  I know) I had more science experiments in my refrigerator than a biology lab and enough penicillin to cure half the East Coast. Not good. As anyone will know , it's so easy to buy stuff and then forget about it , thanks to the busy lives we all lead. To prevent this buy small. If you need sour cream for a recipe and you don't normally eat it, buy the smallest cup. All of it will usually get eaten. Even a medium sized tub can wind up be forgotten.You can buy bigger sizes of ketchup and mustard. One, these are used , and two an opened bottle of ketchup can last up to two years while an opened jar of  mustard can still be eaten after two to three years. Honey is another foodstuff that tends to get put at the back of the shelf. It can last six to eight months after its' jar is opened. Remember that it's not just for sweetening drinks, but can also be used to neutralize the acidity in tomato sauce and chili.

Another part of fridge clutter is leftover something. Too many times, we're guilty of even putting a mouthful of soup in the fridge, not wanting to waste a drop. Yet days pass, there are better leftovers to eat, that container gets forgotten. Next thing you know it's a month later and there's a layer of green gook on top of it. If you know you're not going to eat it after two or three days, then toss. Certain leftovers can be repurposed. Leftover chili can be slathered on hot dogs and burgers. Leftover rice can be refried with veggies for a main or side dish. If you've made egg noodles or spaetzle, then have what's left with just butter the next day. It makes for a filling  yet light lunch or dinner. The remainder of that Sunday roast can easily be refigured into not just sandwiches but also salads.Nothing beats a tomato and roast beef salad or a roast chicken laced Caesar one.Leftover ham and its' bones can be easily added to homemade pea soup.Any uneaten mashed potatoes lying around? If there's enough , then dip in beaten egg, dredge in breadcrumbs and fry for a tasty snack or meal.Just keep reminding yourself that leftovers need to be thrown out after a few days. Don't leave a bowl of something in the fridge for weeks. You'll never  eat it.

Konmari your fridge. Getting rid of all those uneaten or never eaten foods will make you feel better. They may not spark joy, but dumping them will give you some satisfaction.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Vegan Lamb Part Two Iced

After baking the vegan lamb and letting it sit  for a day, it was time to ice it. I used the same  Wilton recipe as before however I used Stop & Shop's confectioner's sugar instead of Domino's

It' starts out with vegetable shortening and a stick of Country Crock spread. This was whipped for a few minutes with an electric beater. Vanilla, sea salt and almond milk were added along with five cups of sugar.
                     There was a heart shape in the middle of the bowl.
                      More of a heart shape in the beater blades.Maybe my Mom is looking out for me and this is her way of letting me know she's around , watching.
                I used the bags of confectioners sugar which weighs  two pounds. I recommend  buying this amount  for any big baking project, especially if  there's a lot of icing to do. Also the bag is easier to handle than the box.
 I don't know if it was that or adding a little too much almonds milk (half a cup instead of a quarter) but the icing was runny, looser than what it was the last time around.
   I also mixed  cocoa powder into a small blob of icing  for the mouth, nose and eyes,
 There were also candy eyes from Betty Crocker that I picked up in Stop &Shop's bake aisle.They
 kind of gives the lamb a Raggedy Ann kind of look. I think I'll stick with the blue icing for the eyes
Unfortunately a vegan scratch cake is not as strong as a Dream Whip/cake mix  cake  The
head fell off thanks to the frosting's heaviness. The next time the vegan lamb will just have a dusting of powdered sugar with buttercream features. I realize it's just too fragile for
 a butter and shortening rich icing. The cake was good on it's own, very delicate tasting
 thanks to the almond extract. 

Now I know what to do when Easter comes around and I have to bake a flock of lambs. It's a lot of trial and error but worth the work. It's always good to bake and ice a tester cake. There won't be any bad surprises or tears.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Vegan Lamb Part One

Today I tried the vegan lamb cake recipe taken from the blog ,Vegan Cooking In Colorado (which was taken from  Issa Chandra Moskowicz's great book,Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World). It was kind of scary because I kept thinking the cake wouldn't bake or rise. Yet, this animal friendly pound cake did.

Baking a scratch cake is always a leap of faith.It could go wrong even though leavening has been added. Of course it starts with a greased and floured pan.
It's the same as with the regular (non-vegan?) cake, generously grease with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and then a generous coating of flour.

These are the liquid ingredients. The  1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt and 2/3rd cups canola oil make up for the lack of eggs.The recipe calls for soy milk but I've had good luck with the almond kind so I went with Almond Breeze's.It just takes 1 and 1/3 cup.

I also had to add vanilla and almond extracts too. It's 2 tsps vanilla and 4 tsps almond . It'll give the cake a lovely almond aroma and flavor.

These are the wet ingredients mixed with 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar

This is the almond meal. It looks like polenta and taste like what else - ground almonds. Use 2/3 cup of it. The dry ingredients are the meal, two cups plus 4 tablespoons of flour, 3 tsps baking powder, 1 tsp salt (I used the coarser, grittier Celine's gray  sea salt) and 2 tblspns cornstarch which lends more cohesion to the batter.

 This is the batter thoroughly mixed. You can see why I was nervous. It  looks really thin, doesn't it?
It was easily poured into the mold and all the batter went into it so no extra cupcakes like the other recipe. The mold was tied together with twine. I was so ansty about the recipe that I forgot to put the five toothpicks in the neck area. (the recipe didn't stress adding the toothpicks so maybe it'll be all right and the lamb's head won't fall off 😲😲)

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 50 to 60 minutes. I took it out at 55 minutes and let cool. You can see it's a pound cake because of the splits in the surface.

It's paler than the first box mix one , probably because there's no artificial colors used. I plan on checking out the cupcake recipes and other ones in Ms. Moskowicz's recipe book. This is definitely the recipe for vegan birthdays and for inclusive holiday sweets. 
Tomorrow is the icing - with some interesting twists. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Dark Side of Catering

Any part of the food industry has a dark side.Restaurants are notorious for it.Now, without any surprise the seaminess of catering is coming through. It's not what  people imagine of just putting food in front of people. It's a lot of quick thinking and even quicker cooking.

Kim Severson wrote about this world in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Most of the inside scoops comes from the Lee Brothers, Ted and Matt who usually write cookbooks and at one time had a food of the month club. This new foray is entitled Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World's Riskiest Business (Henry Holt and Company 2019). It is full of revelations, turning out to be a cut throat world that crosses into the A list world of celebrities and billionaires. The industry didn't start out this way. Back in the early 1960's catering was simple. It started with Jean Claude Nedelec who developed the most important invention of cooking - the hot box system. Those are those towers on wheels that hold those many trays of many dinners. It changed the industry completely. Catering expanded in the Seventies and fit the glamourous and gluttonous lifestyles of the Eighties. Any place , from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to The Battery could be turned into an eatery. Institutions like the Metropolitan Opera realized it could make more money renting itself out for catering events.Caterers then grew into event planners.

It wasn't and not as fun as it sounds. The Nineties brought fussier customers wanting better food and celebrity chefs cooking it. Chefs like Daniel Boulud jumped in which didn't work. Cooking for a crowd and cooking for a few are two different worlds. Bobby Flay, had often said that his catering time was the worst time of his life. Now in this Instagram age , food has to not only taste good but look as photogenic as possible. Meringues now float under balloons while waiters pedal around raw bars in bicycle baskets.Caterers have to one up each other in this crazy creativity. Then there is the headache of customized events such as weddings. Couples have very definitive idea of what they want and hand their caterers elaborate lists of foods. Then there is the problem of allergies. There are so many that can put a damper on a caterer's ideas. There are too many special requests which can ruin the assembly line nature of catering. Waiters are barraged with all sorts of questions from is there dairy with the vegan option or is there soy or nuts in the dish.At least some caterers are well prepared for this, coming with soy free dressings and sides, along with other options for the allergy inflicted.

Catering is a hard job. It is fascinating though, with its' stories of survival and triumph. Read the Lee's take on the industry and be taken in by it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Air Fryer Controversy

For some the air fryer is a blessing. It's a handy way of cooking certain foodstuffs without having to rely on the oven. It's small, and compact. There's no preheating and cleaning it is a snap. So what's wrong with it?

According to the New York Times and it's subsidiary Wirecutter, this genius machine has a lot of flaws. Melissa Clark wrote an article about it in today's New York Times Food section. There are also recipes too which highlight the air fryer's good points. To be honest, I don't see why there are any complaints.I was skeptical at receiving it at first but that quickly dissolved with the first use. For me, it's better than using the stove. No annoying preheating time. Just set the temp and the minutes and cook. Since it's  a convection oven ,every part of the food being cooked is perfectly "fried" to golden perfection. Hot air is circulated around by high speed fans in the machine's upper part.The food is placed in a perforated basket and the grease drips down into the basket beneath.It's a simple clean up - another plus. Yet Wirecutter claimed that it was over hyped and overpriced. (Mine was a gift bought during a pre- Christmas sale at Target. $60 dollars marked down from $100)
The machine was first introduced in Europe in 2010 and since it's introduction to the States, nearly ten million were sold. Sales increased 69 % in 2018 alone. Those are numbers not to be sneezed at
. As for the recipes, I feel Ms. Clark gets too elaborate with them, especially the fries.She bakes them twice , first at 350 degrees F for ten minutes and then 400 degrees F for another ten minutes
 . There's a cooling period in between that I think is unnecessary (but that's just me). I would probably go for 360 F for ten minutes then, turn, then cook again. There's also a Brussels sprout one, with them being baked with garlic. The sprouts  sound good and something I would try, but without the balsamic soy sauce. As for the chicken wings, again they sound tasty but , again, Ms Clark puts a lot of work into a simple dish. She coats them with baking powder, salt and pepper, then refrigerated for anywhere from an hour to overnight (really?) Then the pieces are placed along the edges
 of the basket and air fried for 400 degrees F for twenty minutes. One, I don't think it has to have all that overnight waiting and two, placing the wings on the basket's edges is too much. They can be placed on the basket's floor and flipped after ten minutes of cooking.

Are air fryers worth it?  YES! I would urge to get one if you don't have one already. They are definitely worth the money and the counter space. Buy one. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Spaetzles For Spring

One of the joys of Spring cooking is that it means lighter meals.One dish on the light side is the classic Swabian German dish  spaetzles. This versatile noodle can be the side or supporter of different meats and vegetables.It can also be bought or homemade - all are delicious.

Spaetzle originates in the southern German state of Swabia and means "little sparrows.It also goes by the name knopfle which means small buttons. The area was good for raising spelt -a hulled wheat that can thrive in poor soil. The noodles can be made with only water which was good in times of hardship. It has been part of the southern German diet for over three hundred years and is now considered a "specialty" food, only eaten on feast days. You can make them at home.It's a simple recipe which consists of flour , usually four eggs for body and nutmeg for taste. Milk or water is  added as well.(you can even use soy, rice or almond milk).The dough is then beaten until air bubbles arise.You can then roll a slab of dough on a pastry board  and then cut off long noodles using a pastry cutter, letting them drop into boiling water. You can also splurge and buy an expensive one for sixty dollars from Amazon bu they also have cheaper ones between ten and fifteen dollars. Mine was only twelve dollars.I have yet to use it. I discovered Aldi's Deutsche Kuche Egg Spaetzle. It cooks up like any other pasta and has a lovely tender texture.

What I like about spaetzle is that it can go with any thing.I grew up with it, my maternal grandfather was Swabische-American and he brought some amazing recipes  to the family table.It can mellow out tart sauerkraut  - which was and still is not my favorite. It can also transform the bland green bean into a tasty treat.It also serves a great base for sauerbraten and gravy . The Deutsche Club in Clark, NJ has a delicious spaetzle dish, chock full of beef and gravy. This last is one version I enjoy, however try to  recreate it in a primarily vegan household. juice. It was portobello mushrooms with mushroom caps and stems. The gravy was a combination vegan butter, sage - which is used a lot in German cuisine and the juice from the mushroom bits. The dish turned OK, but next time,I'll make the spaetzles with green beans. The noodles can also be served with any kind of cheese. My cousins like theirs with butter and Parmesan which is a southern Italian spin on the dish. Buttered spaetzles can also be a great side to roast chicken and/or Cornish game hens too.They  served can also be chicken breasts in a lemon butter sauce too.

Spaetzles are a versatile addition to any menu. They can be used as a main dish or a side. Have them as part of your Spring dinner plan.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Livfit Super Food A Super Addition

We are always skeptical about what additives are put in our foods. However there's one addition that's can be beneficial to our lives - Livfit Superfood.It is not only chock full of good ingredients but also flavor.It's an ingredient that every home chef should have.

Livfit Superfood is one of Better Body Foods, a Utah based company that has a wide variety of healthy products. There are protein powders and superfood blends that include such interesting ingredients as baobab (!) and my favorite Super Seeds. The company also has baking products such as organic cacao powder and coconut flour for baking everything from good for you cakes to muffins. Home chefs will appreciate their array of ancient grains and natural oils to cook with on a daily basis.
It's a mix of chia , (yes that chia that grows on clay heads and figures)flax and hemp. The last is getting a lot of publicity right now but hemp does have benefits. It's loaded with antioxidants and fatty acids.

This is what the mix looks like close up.

I've sprinkled it on my salad. It has a  nutty flavor, kind of like ground walnuts.I am going to put a heaping teaspoon in my oatmeal, just to get fiber into the daily diet.It's also going to be blended into homemade banana muffins and my mammoth M&M cookies to  make them a tad less decadent. The blend can also be swirled into smoothies. Those can be frozen to create healthy ice pops for the summer. Of course it would be wonderful in loaves of homemade bread and rolls as well as pizza.it Super Seeds can also be used in making fruit crumbles too.

Today's directive is eat healthy.Livfit's Super Seeds can help you achieve that goal. Try some Super Seeds, not just for the taste but for the benefits!