Saturday, November 30, 2019

My Vegan Pumpkin Mousse

It may have been  Black Friday but for me it was still Thanksgiving weekend, a perfect time to make the much anticipated vegan pumpkin mousse. How would it turn out? Would it be as delicious as promised? Most of all would it hold its'  shape?

Again I got the recipe from the Feasting On Fruit blog. This is what I started with :
The recipe called for two cups of  Soy Delicious coconut milk, yogurt, however I doubted its' consistency so I made it semi-vegan with the addition of Siggis Icelandic yogurt which is more like a creme fraiche.
This is the pureed pumpkin I use . Everything was doubled because I wanted to make this for three to four people. I used one and a half  cans of the pumpkin puree.
It was mixed with the coconut yogurt first along with this.
Two tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and 3/4 of a cup of maple syrup. There was also 3 teaspoons of vanilla added for flavor.
This is what it looked like combined.
It just looked too runny. Time for Siggis which also lightened the color as well as giving it some body.
 Siggis Icelandic yogurt is very much like creme fraiche , however it left the mousse with a decidedly tangy sourness. Time for more pumpkin spice and maple syrup. I added a dash more spice and a small glug of syrup.
This is the finished product. It looks more like a pumpkin pudding and with a few more drops of maple syrup and another sprinkle of pumpkin spice, it was tasty,

As for the extra pumpkin  above  i'm freezing it and i'll go into our family's Piedmontese pumpkin soup.
This is the final product.
It is delicious and a nice alternative to pumpkin pie. I just added a frill of whipped cream and a dusting of more pumpkin spice. 

This pudding like mousse would make an interesting dessert for the holidays or for any time of  the year. I may try it in tart shells for mini pumpkin pies. It's an easy make and a tasty one too.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday Kitchen

If there's ever a time to restock your kitchen it's this weekend, starting with today , Black Friday. There's so many deep discounts that that it pays to replace the appliances and gadgets that you have. Get to your big box stores, malls or internet for some good deals that will benefit your holiday cooking and baking.

One of the biggest and most important items to buy for your kitchen is an air fryer. It really is a time saver and makes cooking dinner that much easier. Right now Target has their air fryer brands such as As Seen On TV (which is what mine is) on sale for half price - only $69.97 instead of the regular full price of $129,99. I can't  begin tell you how vital one is  to cooking. It's something that will get used four to five times a week. Target also has the mini fryer at $39.99 along with other version that can fry up to three and four quarts at prices under $60.00 Another big item on sale right now is the Instant-pot. This another must have for any kitchen and if you don't have one now is the time to buy. Again Target seems to be the go to store for them. Their pricing is amazing, with the store slicing off thirty dollars off of most prices.If you don't feel like leaving the house or waiting for Cyber Monday., then check out Amazon. They too are having a sale on some of the Instant Pots offered. The sales prices are not as good as Target's but you can still save anywhere from $20 to $80 and shipping is free if you have an Amazon Prime subscription.

One of the best stores to shop at for  kitchenware is Macy's . You can buy a variety of much needed gear at very good sales prices. Calphalon is now priced $200 below its' usual sales price. One lavish set has everything a home chef needs from a ten inch frying pan, a five quart Dutch oven with lid and two sauce pans. That kitchen classic, Pyrex is also discounted. Macy's has their mixing bowl set on sale for just $27.00 instead of the usual $47. This is a must buy because you can not only use the bowls for leftovers but for mixing cookie dough in this upcoming holiday baking season.Even Pyrex measuring cups are a few dollars off and again these are important in the kitchen all year long.Martha Stewart has long been a standard at one of the US's oldest department stores. Now all her baking utensils have discounts that novice and pro bakers would love. Her non stick doughnut pan is only $5.99, perfect for those who want to bake those yummy rings for holiday brunches. The madeleine pan is twenty dollars off  at only $11. This is a great gift for those enamored with French pastry. The spatulas and cake pans are also discounted. Cookie makers  should buy the OXO cookie press at only $29.99 The designs include Christmas themed ones with wreaths trees and snowflakes.

Take advantage of  this Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday  to restock your kitchen. The deals are incredible and perfect for the home chef looking for bargains. Start shopping now.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thank You For The Food

As we become more and more woke - we need to give thanks where's it much needed - the indigenous people. They fed our earliest settlers and received only racism and loss of land in return.We need to be grateful for not only their sacrifices but also for their  contributions to our varied  American table.  They showed us  how to grown and collect squash, corn and maple syrup, They gave us salmon and wild turkey, tomatoes and potatoes, cocoa , avocados and coffee.

Yes, we should be thankful for having food on our tables and leftovers in the fridge. We should also be thankful for the first Thanksgiving and what the indigenous tribes generously gave us.

A  happy and thoughtful Thanksgiving to all, whether here in the States or those Americans around the world.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Very Helpful Thanksgiving Guide

Once more the New York Times  Food section has a helpful Thanksgiving guide for tomorrow and even the days afterwards. It's a good issue to have, especially if you need help with the bird or the leftovers.There's also a great article on how to set the table, with help from designers and just ordinary families.  Take a look and take from it what you can.

One of the best pieces is about how to set a lovely, meaningful table. One of the most interesting is from Peter Shire, a painter, sculptor and furniture designer in Los Angeles. His table is graced with cactus shaped candle holders or cact-o-labras, The tablecloth is a brightly cherry red and white striped Mexican oil cloth supporting  handmade plates and gelato bowls. Other hosts such as Agustin Hernandez of Portland, Oregon has beautifully handmade doilies in all different colors on his table. Abbye Churchill, another artist, out of Brooklyn, New York also has her own hand crafted woven place mats from cotton handspun from dead stock textile waste and hand crafted ceramics. The most elegant settings come from Dr. Guna Raj of Dallas and Kerry Moody of New Orleans. Dr. Raj's table is the showpiece.It was shipped to Chicago where she lived in 1983, this wedding gift is inlaid with semiprecious stones by descendants of the artisans who built the Taj Mahal. Of course it also has her wedding china, from Noritake too. Mr. Moody has elegant antiques on his table, from belle epoque damask napkins to 1790's silverware. The Syrian immigrant family, the Rawas Family of Richmond California decorate their table simply with a lace tablecloth and a lovely tea/coffee set.

Of course there are articles about food. One of the most interesting is the Butterball Hotline one, written by Kim Severson. She visited the center where America has been calling since 1981. From November 1st until Christmas , fifty Butterball experts answer questions through live calls, emails, and live chats about everything turkey. One of the men first hired in 2013, Bill Nolan talked a newly widowed man through his first Thanksgiving cooking alone. He spent half an hour coaching the man, the day before the holiday  recounting the story with tears in his eyes. If you do need help you can reach Butterball through the hotline, website and even Alexa! (The New York Times has something similar and you can call in and possibly get advice from Melissa Clark!!) Another article features the ubiquitous Thanksgiving must have Jello. Julia Moskin wrote this interesting article about the history of gelatins in the US - we have Tom Jefferson to thank for them. There's also a recipe for a cherry lemon cream mold that features the likely or unlikely pairing of Jello and sour cream. Consider it a retro dish. Then there are the leftovers. Melissa Clark's column, A Good Appetite, is devoted to what to do on Friday. You can make turkey barbecue sandwiches or stuff pita with the meat. Add cucumbers, and tahini for a Middle Eastern vibe and halved cherry tomatoes for color. Then there's the turkey Cubano, a riff on the classic Cuban ham sandwich , complete with Swiss cheese and deli ham or prosciutto. Mayo, mustard and melted butter along with pepperoncino peppers round it out.

This Food section is a the perfect one to keep. You can get ideas for tomorrow's and even Christmas's tables, along with Jello and leftover ideas. It's a good guide for this holiday season and beyond.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Are You Ready

Thanksgiving is only two days away. Are you ready to handle the year's biggest day of cooking? If not, it's time to assess what you have and also take a break.

By now you should have almost everything. The turkey should be in the freezer and on the way to defrosting tomorrow. The ingredients for the sides should all be bought too. Have you thought about the vegans and variations of that lifestyle? Have you bought the almond and soy milks and whipped creams? What about the family and guests with allergies? Keep in mind that the almond byproducts may cause trouble to those with nut allergies. Stick with soy milk and coconut milk whipped creams. Do you have the ingredients for everyone's favorite dishes?Make the green bean casserole without the fried onions on top and there may be a riot.People love and even swear by tradition. Thanksgiving Day is not the day to get arty or creative with the green beans or any beans for that matter. At best a new twist on a classic recipe may be met with a wrinkled nose and a polite "No, thank you." At worst a tantrum and someone leaving the table with their plate full of just turkey and gravy. Also make sure that you've bought the right amount of wine (although someone may bring a bottle as a gift) along with soda, juice and seltzer for kids and non-drinkers.

As for yourself, use tomorrow as a day off(or at least until it's time to bake the pies). If you have the day off from work, then treat yourself. Have lunch out, whether it's at your favorite cafe or fast food joint.  Feast on the Popeye's chicken sandwich, treat yourself to Dunkin Donut's new Beyond Meat sausage patty sandwich. Go for the mani and pedi, with a huge cup of hot or cold Dunkin's or Starbucks. Hang out at Panera's with a croissant and their signature hot chocolate. Just relax and don't think about the day until the day happens. Dinner should be easy too. It's actually the night when the most pizza is ordered throughout the US. Order the double pepperoni and sauce. Or go for sushi or burgers - whatever make you and your family happy. If you're still antsy about Thanksgiving, you could bring out all the linens and steam or iron them. Doing either is surprisingly relaxing. The spouse and kids can also help by polishing the silver and making sure the crystal sparkles. Most importantly get to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep is your best friend , especially when you have to be bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning. End the night with a soothing mint or chamomile tea (I"m loving the Nana mint teas from Wissotzky Teas) to get you drowsy and sleepy.

Are you fully ready for the Super Bowl of cooking? If not, make yourself ready but don't  sweat it. No meal  - not even Thanksgiving itself - is worth worry and angst.

Monday, November 25, 2019

My Big Fat Tofu Thanksgving

At almost the midnight hour I found out that I'm cooking this year's Thanksgiving luncheon/dinner. Of course it's all going to be vegan with vegan sides. It was a last minute thing but I had the menu in place.  Sort of.

The main course was going to be Gardein's turkey cutlets with gravy but they were nowhere to be found. Luckily this came on my radar.

It's suited more to Christmas but beggars can't be choosers. It's already marinaded in vegan amber ale and supposedly  has a smoky flavor like the real thing. After a 24 hour thaw it's in the oven for an hour at 325 degrees F. I may sheet pan it with some yams.
                                                 The sides will be simple. I bought Aldi's Loaded Mashed potatoes which is flavored with fake bacon (hopefully vegan ) sour cream and cheddar.
This is an instant cook that just requires milk. Then as I researched a dementia diet, I came across a string bean almandine recipe that peaked my interest.
It'll be steamed green beans with almonds sauteed in lemon butter sauce scattered on top. That sounds too good to pass up.

As for dessert, a pie for just two people is just too much. Yet we still want that pumpkin pie flavor. I found a vegan pumpkin mousse on the blog Feasting On Fruit. It seems easy enough, combining pumpkin puree and coconut yogurt mixed with pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup.
I'm excited about this the most. It sounds exciting and if it works out well, then it will be a fall standard in my house. The website has other vegan recipes that look intriguing and you may see my version of them in the weeks to come.(especially for X-mas cookies).

This is what awaits me on Wednesday - for the mousse and Thanksgiving for the vegan ham and sides. As with any meal I just hope all goes well. As the pros say if you can ace Thanksgiving you can ace any meal.I hope I can.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Elder Parent's Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for families and continuing culinary traditions. It becomes more meaningful as parents age. They still want to be part of the cooking and crowd yet there are circumstances that may be difficult. It may be hard to celebrate- yet there are ways of making it a bit easier.

Some older parents are still agile both mentally and physically in their eighties and nineties. They can be helpful in the kitchen and in the dining room. Have them do small chores such as peeling eggs for deviled eggs or uncorking wine bottles. They can also help in tasting and offering their opinion for different dishes as well as reminding you what spices and their amounts to use in family recipes.The important thing is not to tire out the older generation. If they want to nap before dinner, let them,if they oversleep let them. The meal will still be hot when they wake up. To keep a harmonious table, let them talk about what they want to talk about and have the kids engage with their grandparents and great grandparents. (this is a good time for the no phone rule at the table). Also keep an eye on what they eat.  Those on dialysis should have more high quality protein such as the turkey and less processed foods such as Stovetop Stuffing. Make sure they eat some portion of veggies. Diabetics can enjoy the main meal but desserts can be tricky. Try a no bake low carb pumpkin pie that has low calorie brown sugar add for sweetening and a pecan nut crust. Another sugar free dessert is a pumpkin cheesecake with no sugar. It's got the same creamy silkiness of the real thing but it's made with Truvia.

One of the hardest conditions to deal with is dementia. It's is difficult , especially for family members who remember their parents as vibrant people, steering the Thanksgiving dinner with a smile and steeliness. The best bet is just to roll with it. Enjoy this time with them, no matter how trying it will be. You may have to plan the Thanksgiving dinner in the early afternoon. Some sufferers have what is known as "Sundown Syndrome" which as the sun goes down , anger and confusion may set in. Simple tasks such as stirring mashed potatoes or setting the table can be calming for them. Also conversation is important. Ask them about Thanksgiving pasts but don't become frustrated if they don't remember . As for drinks and food, certain ones can actually help. Serve Concord grape juice instead of soda. The grapes boost cognition as well as cardiovascular health. Cut out sugar where you can too. It can make blood sugar levels spike which is linked to the disease. Sweeten pies and cranberries with agave or maple syrup. Try to avoid overly processed foods and ingredients  which can affect the mind. A dish such as green bean casserole is made with mostly processed ingredients such as mushroom soup and frizzled onions. Skip that and make the fresher string beans almondine instead. It has freshly squeezed lemon juice and almonds which improve cognitive memory.

Thanksgiving with elderly parents can be trying yet also joyous too. Make sure mom and dad have a good holiday.If they will you will too.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Soothing Holiday Drink Nana Mint Teas

This is the start of the hectic holiday season and with that comes frazzled nerves and a hectic schedule. The best way to unwind is with a drink. No, not the kind that's ninety proof but with a soothing mint tea.There's a whole new line out there that is the perfect way to unwind. Wissotzky Teas have come out with a line of minty spearmint teas blended with other flavors. Brew a cup and just sit back.

Wissotzky Teas are quickly becoming a power house in the tea industry. They have several different lines, from their wide variety of chai teas to their fruit ones and green tea selection. Now they have a brand new line with different flavors blended with the mild base spearmint. What is great about Wissotzlky's teas is that they can be also be served cold for a refreshing break from all those hot cups.Another plus about the Nana mints is that they're perfect for digestion. Spearmint is good for digestion and it's the perfect end to any calorie heavy holiday dinner.Have a decorative  bowl filled with the teabags on the table when you serve dessert. The flavors are chamomile, great for calming upset stomachs, lemon to wake you up,  andcitrus and ginger which is a must for a mid day wake up. There are also just green and black teas, simply blended with the spearmint for a clean refreshing taste.

I love these teas.What is great about all of them is that the spearmint is not overpowering as it is in other brands. Sometimes those teas taste like Lifesavers or Altoids. Wissotzky subtly mixes in the spearmint leaves. They're also natural. The ginger and citrus has orange peels while the chamomile is made from Polish, Egyptian and German cultivated flowers. The lemon is a delicate blend of lemon peels and hibiscus.. Even the green and black teas are from the finest Chinese green leaves and the best Indonesian and Vietnamese black leaves. That' what's so phenomenal about the flavors. They stand out in a very delicate, non-obtrusive way. I can taste the mint but also them. All of the Nana mints are perfect for breakfast  which is how I start my day.I also like them after dinner , especially if I've had a full carbohydrate heavy meal. The teas ease that full stomach feeling that comes with eating too much.

This holiday season, brew yourself any of the flavors from Wissotzky Teas. The blended spearmint is perfect after a full meal or a crazy day. The flavors are not only delicious but soothing during these hectic days.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Military Holiday

Our service people deal with everything , from mortars to snipers. Imagine spending a Thanksgiving with the threat of attack looming over every bite. Yet that's what our almost every branch of our military has gone through for centuries. The upcoming holiday is no different.

Thanksgiving on duty was the main article in yesterday's New York Times Food section. C.J. Chivers, a Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer prize winner , wrote about how our armed services celebrate. There are also stories from former and current military members, some funny , most poignant and unsettling. As per Mr. Chivers, who writes regularly on the Afghan Conflict, the US has spent nineteen years fighting the war on terrorism with a few million American service members celebrating away from home and family. Earlier in the year, The Times contacted veterans about their experiences and asked for pictures too. Thanksgivings were varied, depending on the base. Troops at midsized bases found that the military or their peers put out traditional spreads.Full turkey dinners were saved at one base thanks with the help of the U.S.N.S.  GySgt. Fred W. Stockham's merchant mariners. Ethan Frisch , an aid worker for Aga Khan Foundation who worked on rural infrastructure in Afghanistan bought two scrawny turkeys and butchered them himself. He flavored them with local wild cumin and coriander seeds.

The problem with a holiday  - any holiday in a war zone - is that the wars don't stop. (although there was the famed Christmas Truce of 1914 where British  and French troops had a temporary truce with the German army). Turkey and phone calls can only go so far. They're basically band aids plastered over an always bleeding wound.Many enlisted know this. One, Sgt Michelle Estabrook Kuranishi did her best to cobble together a holiday meal with a fellow Marine. They managed to put together a traditional dinner, thanks to scrounging through  enough care packages to acquire pumpkin filling for pies and enough stuffing to feed their group. Finally she could briefly forget the recently tragic past where the two peers she had trained were killed in Ramadi in central Iraq.  This holiday meal included her partner, Master Sgt. Brett Angus who was tall ,lanky and enjoyed a good prank, esp
ecially when it came to Sgt. Estabrook Kuranishi. The happiness, if it could be called that was short lived. The next day Master. Sgt, Angus was killed when he investigated their bomb detecting robot that had been blown up. Now Thanksgiving has a resonance  for her, one shared with those who have survived their tours of duty. The fact that she is still alive fourteen years later has made her grateful for the life that was spared.

War is hell.  A holiday spent in a war zone even more so. We can't make it better for our military where they're stationed. We sure as hell can make it better for them when they return.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Your Secret Weapon Celery

It's as common as bread for stuffing and drippings for gravy. Yet we never give it its' due despite it' being one of the supports of holiday cooking. What is this power ingredient? Celery.

It was the subject of an article in today's New York Times Food section. Alexa Weibel, the section's senior staff editor, wrote about this wonderkind veggie. Celery is good on its' own, especially as a palate cleanser. It's even better lending its' flavor to everything from the bird itself to stuffing.The stalks go in and out of favor. Celery entered the American cooking scene during the late 19th and early 20th Century. Raw stalks were arranged in crystal vases made specifically for showing them off, There were even ornate serving sets deemed incomplete without the vases. Soon they were being served in elegant little side dishes. They were also being served on trains and train stations thanks to train boys and messengers. It was the star of Good Housekeeping's Thanksgiving 1900's issue where there were recipes for celery soup and even blended with mashed potatoes, served with peanut butter on brown bread. We have  Dutch immigrants to thank for bringing the vegetable into the public eye. They started farming it in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1847 which was then nicknamed Celery City.  Harry S. Truman put the stalk on the White House cafeteria menu. In recent years , however, it's been dismissed as a diet food, a kids; snack and Bloody Mary garnish.

That's all about to change. Celery is now a cause celebe thanks to Kim Kardashian juicing it. One of the best aspects is that it's a team player. It works well with other and even stronger flavors, yet imparts its' own citrus-y vegetal taste.Ms. Weibel gives us some interesting recipes that work not just for Thanksgiving but also for Sunday dinners too. Try the celery-leek soup with potato and parsley. This is a take on vichysoisse , with a pound of celery being the star. Dry white wine, thyme and garlic also elevate it as do parsley and bay leaves. It's the perfect way to being your Thanksgiving meal. There is also braised celery with thyme and white wine. The celery is cut into segments and deribbed to make it tender It's first boiled in salted water and then transfer to a glass baking dish.  The pieces are then layered  and again dry white wine is  added to flavor it. Herbes de Provence and peppercorns along with bay leaves, thyme  and  garlic add more complexity.For something refreshing and different there is a celery salad chock full of apples, blue cheese and almonds. The vinaigrette has coarse mustard leaves and sugar added for a completely unusual vibe.

Use celery in your Thanksgiving and other holiday recipes. It is perfect in hot and cold dishes. Try it and rediscover its' bright taste and color.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Can You Handle Vegan Cooking

Next week is Thanksgiving and with that the stress of catering to everyone's dietary needs. One of the most flummoxing  - at first - is cooking vegetarian or vegan for those herbivores in your life. It can be a bit of a shock - especially when you try to recreate meaty main courses.

To begin with know the difference between veganism and vegetarianism. Vegans eschew all meats and their dairy byproducts. That means all meats and fish are taboo but also cow's milk, butter any and all kinds of cheeses. That also means no eggs either which can ruin your making any holiday cake or custard along with sweet breads. Vegetarians are a bit more lenient.There are the lacto kind that do allow themselves milk, cheese and yogurt. Some also include butter too. The ovo-vegetarians will not reject any eggs or foods that have them.  The most common type are the lacto-vegetarians which allow both dairy and eggs - and that makes cooking and baking for them a bit easier. There's also the pescatarian whose diet only allows fish and the pollotarian who can eat any fowl. The flexitarian swings back and forth with his or her beliefs. They many only eat meat on special occasions such as holidays.These are not considered real vegetarians like the hard core ones. They also will not make Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's a headache for you. The others will, which means special care when shopping and cooking. Luckily you can find substitutes that will facilitate cooking and baking.

One of the most eye opening is the main course. Tofurky will not have the rich gamy taste of a real turkey and neither will the gravy have the same flavor as the its' real counterpart.. How do you make it palatable.?There is a recipe online that suggests marinating it in vegan beer (Budweiser can be used). Another - and maybe better idea is using the Gardein brand. It and its' accompanying gravy tastes the most like turkey and gravy. The only downside is that there are only four slices and two gravy packets per package. It's fine for two vegans but forget a group. Then there's cooking it which is extra work if you're also making a turkey. Best bet is get out the air fryer which nicely cooks and even crisps the slices. Another headache is cooking for pescatarians. What could work for them? Salmon or halibut with a sheet pan of  veggies. A hearty bouillabaisse with crusty baguettes could also be made. This is a very labor intensive. Not only does the stew have to be made but the accompanying rouille which is the sauce added to every bowl. One of the hardest aspects of vegan meals is baking. Imagine not adding milk, butter and eggs, essential for every cake and cookie recipe. Nut and soy milks do come in handy - as do vegan butters. You can sub in coconut oil for as well and it also works well in creating a faux buttercream. Applesauce also works too , just don't get the chunky kind. There are also egg substitutes as well as aquafaba for creating meringues and Pavlovas. Just bake tester ones first to see if everything gels. It's a lot of work but worth it. If not, just serve fruit.

Can you handle vegan cooking and baking? It's different and will put your tried a true recipes on their heads. Going meatless is noble. Cooking and baking without animal products is daunting. Be sure you're ready for it.

Monday, November 18, 2019

A Foodie Holiday Away

Sometimes the holidays call for a vacation. There's something freeing about spending a day at a hotel buffet and then hitting the slopes or the shops. You don't have to cook and then serve. You just pick what you want and then get served. Now that's the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 It pays to stay in the States considering Thanksgiving isn't an international holiday. There are enough places to travel to to enjoy not just the holiday but the sites too. Of course the gem of any American city for Thanksgiving is New York City. It's where you can see the Macy's Day Parade and then go wild at a sumptuous holiday dinner. If you have the money head over to Dirty French in So Ho. It' is a pricey $98  for a three course prix-fixe meal. You'll enjoy traditional fare but with a side of pate and a savory millefeulle. For an Italian twist on the holiday  head to the classy Gran Tivoli on Broom Street  in Greenwich Village where there's roast turkey and pork belly served. The next day is Black Friday.  Go crazy shopping at Macy's and the new seven story Nordstroms. Both are chock full of restaurants and cafes to sustain you during a busy shopping day. Want quiet and quaint? Then head up to New England, like Snowvillage Inn in Eaton, New Hampshire. near the White Mountain National Forest. You can ski, sit by the fire and enjoy good , old fashioned meal of turkey and stuffing. For a really old,  - four hundred years old, in fact, go to the Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth  to try a dish of turkey sauced and a sallet  along with a sweet pudding of Native corn and  a pottage of cabbage, leeks and soup.

Christmas can be spent anywhere. Europe is the obvious choice. It's where most of our traditions come from. Many of the bigger cities have Christmas markets where you can buy all sorts of gifts and sample delicious foods. Head to Germany , the birthplace of the holiday. Munich has the Christmas mart where you can taste Kletznbrot, a bread loaded with nuts fruit and honey and Fatschnkindl - a pastry shaped like the Baby Jesus in His manger. Of course there's beer and roast pork too - the perfect holiday meal. Paris is another city , famed for its' holiday shopping and outdoor markets. Browse stalls while you sip a cup of French onion soup or nibble on sausages. Rome has the Piazza Navona Christmas mart where you can sip mulled wine and munch on an Italian holiday classic  - roasted chestnuts. Spend Christmas Eve in Vatican City where you can also dine at many restaurants and cafes that feature everything from classic pasta to a variety of pizzas. Of course there is London, where there are dozens of Christmas marts. Some have apres ski themes with hot toddies where you can also munch on candied pecans and a cone of candy floss - cotton candy. This is the city that gave us A Christmas Carol and that giant turkey for roasting. Most of the hotels in the city are offering traditional British fare such as a turkey with the trimmings followed by the lit Christmas pudding.

Treat yourself to a holiday away from your kitchen. There is literally a buffet of cities and towns to visit for good food and fun. Enjoy the time away. Treat yourself to this travel present.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Holiday Dinners Light

Holidays meals, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas can be lavish and sumptuous affairs with enough food to feed an army. Yet what happens when there's only three or four for dinner? Or two? A lavish meal can seem wasteful. Then it's time for holiday meal light.

A whole turkey would be too much for three or four people. Even one as tiny as an eight pound one can be too much and can lead to a week of leftovers.  Think one half turkey breast which is three pounds and will satisfy diners nicely.  Cooking time is also cut in half - anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour as opposed to the two or three hours for the entire bird. For Christmas you could roast a half ham or even ham steaks if you have one or two people over. Many home chefs love a standing rib roast for a holiday meal yet it would be like a huge feast for just four people. A London broil would be better . You can still serve it with gravy  - and even better Yorkshire pudding to sop up the juices.It'll also be good the day after in sandwiches or on toast with hot gravy. Seafood lovers always want a briny buffet for their Christmas Day or New Year's Eve dinners. You can still have this even if it's just the two of you. Think the smallest one  such as a one pounder.It's an easy boil or cook and quite filling.  You'll only need one side really if you serve it. Open the meal with a small sized ring of shrimp cocktail that you can easily buy at your fish market or even grocery store.

One thing about having an intimate holiday dinner is that you don't have to go crazy with the sides. Mash potatoes can still be served. You'll only need about a pound and a half of Yukon Golds to create a small pot. Another idea is having baked ones which is a nice change up from mashed. Add small bowls of different toppings - such as melted butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar and bacon along with chive and different spices. You can also do the same with sweet potatoes. If you're mashing them , then use only two or two and a half. If it's individual ones , have little ramekins of melted butter along with cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on. Of course the holiday meal would be nothing without stuffing. You could go the easy route and use Stovetop Stuffing which is great for a dinner party of four. A regular stuffing could be made but be prepared for a lot of it to be left over (great if you're planning on creating take home parcels). As for green sides,  buy bags of Brussels sprouts and broccoli. These steam bags provide enough for three to four people. They're perfect - easy to cook and no cleanup along with no to little leftovers. They can also be served hot or cold as a fun non-traditional salad.

A small holiday dinner can still be lavish in taste.It's just buying and cooking smaller version of the main course and halving the sides. It just the right amount of food for the right amount of people.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Host Gifts Make Or Buy

The holidays are fast upon us and that means invitations to a variety of dinners and lunches. It is obligatory to bring something - but what? Do you go all out and create a homemade or buy something at a specialty shop or wine store? Each have a huge variety to choose from.

Thanksgiving is the time for such invitations. Many guests feel obligated to bring a home baked pie. You can do this. Everyone loves a slice of something whipped up in the kitchen. Just keep in mind that all pies do require certain levels of work. Another thought is do you bring the most popular flavor and risk it be the second or third pumpkin or apple pie given.You could try that Southern classic - pecan pie. Unlike the other two this can be varied to include bourbon or dark chocolate in the recipe. It's a nice change up from the traditional recipe. Homemade candy is not only fun to give but fun to make too. The most popular given for the holidays is fudge. This is a simple make, with semisweet chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter. You can add any kind of nuts or marshmallows along with toasted coconuts and dried sour cherries for some tasty varieties. savory gifts are also a nice thank you. Think a jar of homemade salsa with a variety of different tomatoes and peppers for color. Another fun thank you gift is a basket full of popcorn spices. This is just mixing different dried spices into appealing sweet and savory mixes that can be sprinkled on popped corn. The  hand blended spices can also be used in baking and flavoring main and side dishes too.

If all this is too much for you then go the store or internet route. Most go for a good wine. Appropriate ones for Turkey Day are the red, fruity pinot noir, and a white Reisling whose sweetness is the perfect foil for a savory bird and gravy. Champagne is another fun bring, with it starting or ending a meal. This is also perfect if the family is celebrating an important event like a raise, new job or engagement. A more sophisticated present would be an aged brandy, excellent for afters. Another idea is bringing dessert.  Yes, you could go with pies but what about platters  of mini cupcakes or brownie cups which can be fun mini bites after a big meal. A nice tray of bakery made butter cookies will not go amiss either. Make sure there are plenty of chocolate dipped ones for chocoholics and kids. Any host would appreciate liqueur filled chocolates.  A box of brandy beans is a nice end to any meal, especially served with espresso. You could also gift hosts with the festive triangular container of the always popular Ferraro Roche. Want to go savory? Then think of flavored oils and vinegars. Williams-Sonoma have a wide array. Some of the oils are infused with basil or roasted garlic while the vinegars are a wide array of different balsamics and lemon.

You do have to bring a gift for your hosts. it could be home made or store bought. If you have time then put your talents to work. If not, no one will turn away a well made food gift. It's your decision.It's your choice.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Kurdish Twist On Tailgating

Tailgating is as American as apple pie and barbecue. Yet imagine if there was a spin to it. There is  - in Nashville where a thriving Kurdish community. The Kurds have not only brought their favorite national dishes to this all American past time but their passion as well.

Priya Krishna, a regular contributor to The New York Times and author of Indian-ish :Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family, wrote about these Tennessee Titan fans. in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Nashville is home to 15,000 displaced Kurds, one of the largest Kurdish populations in the United States. Many have sad and bloody  memories of their war destroyed homeland, Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of the Middle East. Their fierce devotion is a salve, perhaps, for all the bloodshed and destruction they've witnessed back in Syria.  They've fallen in love with the Titans, having an intense love of them. With that love comes the usual love of all things football - especially tailgating. There are hamburgers and hotdogs, cooked on grills alongside of biryanis. Fans much on the spicy versions of Cheetos, Funyuns and Pringles in such flavors as Extra Hot Chili and Lime. What's missing is the usual coolers of beer. The Kurds are Muslim which means no alcohol. The burgers and biryanis are washed down with orange soda and pouches of Kool-Aid.

American tailgaters can try some of the Kurdish recipes (there's a lot on the web). Kurdish style biryani starts off with pan fried chicken but you could easily skewer and grill it. It's served over a rice flavored with cardamon, ginger, nutmeg and ginger. Carrots, peas and potatoes are added. You could also add tomatoes too. The Kurds love stuffed grape leaves and these are always a treat to any gathering. You can buy them already made but they're also good homemade too. The leaves do have to be cooked with lemon juice and boiled water but it only takes three minutes. The filling can vary. You can add meat or not , along with raisins and various spices. Add slices of cabbage for a real Kurdish dish.  You can cook them in a pot filled with water or in an Insta-pot or crockpot for ease (and if you think you can't bring a crockpot to a tailgating party think again. Buy the Crockpot Two quart hookup at Kohl's that you can bring anywhere, from a tailgating party to a camping trip.) . The Kurds also make kutilk, eye shaped fritters , stuffed with chicken and crusted with rice. Serve it with a refreshing cucumber and tomato salad for a different spin.

The Tennessee Titans have the best cheering squad - the Nashville Kurdish community. They not only bring the love but all a wide array of delicious dishes. They are devoted to their team and bring a delicious spin to the traditional tailgating party.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Big Meal Little Kitchen

Thanksgiving can be the most stressful meal to make for any home chef. Imagine preparing and cooking in an apartment, where space, especially kitchen is rare. Alison Roman will do just that. How? Consider it kitchen magic.

Ms. Roman's battle plan was the main topic of today's New York Times Food section. Ms. Roman, known for her Instagram pictures of drool worthy dishes, is a well known internet chef along with being a regular contributor to the Food section. Cooking is her life and she has turned it into alchemy. That alchemy involves cooking in a small Brooklyn apartment. Can it be done? Yes!!! There are clever ways to store food and serve it cooked.There is also a practical plan on when to buy and prep certain dishes along with recipes that can take you from the first course to dessert with ease.It pays to heed her advice. It starts with planning the menu, three days ahead (although you could start planning the weekend before). Then,, of course there is the actual grocery shopping. Ms Roman strongly advises
also stocking up on aluminum foil, plastic wrap, paper towels and resealable bags for leftovers. Also it's a good time to order the wine you'll drink too.  She recommends something sparkling and festive and later on light reds.The day before should be all about the prep, from tearing bread for the stuffing to making the crust for the pies and galette. Another must - going to bed at a reasonable hour to be ready for the big day. The next day she chronicles what to do from eating a sustaining breakfast with coffee to finally sitting down to the eat.

Ms.Roman has a good handful of recipes that anyone can make. Her turkey is dry brined with sheet pan (!) gravy. The brine is more of a rub made with salt ,pepper , brown sugar and red onions along with garlic and onions. Keep it dry brined for a day or at least eight hours in the fridge. The gravy starts with Ms. Roman's own Cheater's Stock or chicken stock with the leftover roasted bits from the turkey. An unusual ingredient, soy sauce is used for saltiness and vinegar is used for tang. What goes with this? Buttered stuffing with celery and leeks. This is a traditional savory bread pudding, made even better by using such crusty bread as sourdough or ciabatta and flavored with a typical stuffing ingredient  - celery and a not so traditional one - leeks. It's a buttery, crunchy delight spiked with celery leaves.Of course there has to be potatoes and Ms. Roman makes hers with sour cream, chives and dill. She also takes the traditional squash dish and caramelizes it with maple syrups. Some home chefs would stop there but she then adds red pepper and smoked paprika for zing. Hazelnuts are also tossed into the mix for crunch.There is the traditional green bean recipe but brightened with kale and shallots. Other sides are fancy canned cranberries zested with oranges or tangerines and red onion and a mixed herb salad with spicy greens such as arugula, mizura and mustard greens. The piece de resistance is the dessert - a deep dish honey apple galette with homemade crust. The crust is buttery with a slightly spiced apple filling, There are even sesame seeds sprinkled on for crunch.

Imagine making all this in a small apartment's kitchen. Ms. Roman has - and quite successfully. It can be made  in a larger with the same results - good food with good flavor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Two Years Without The Chef

Today marks the second anniversary of losing my Mom. It is still tough without the Master Chef for advice, Yet her legacy is with me every day, in every teaspoon and cup.

It is tough to cook on your own, even tougher to cook for one at times. I miss making one of our favorites , croques monsiuers. These are the famed French bistro fried cheese sandwiches of Gruyere or Swiss cheese paired with ham. They're fried in plenty of butter and the taste is melt in your mouth delicious. I miss those over processed chicken and turkey pot pies from Swanson and later Marie Callender. These were part of my growing up and let's face it -  who doesn't love them? She and I used to split one, with me getting my childhood favorite - the crust.It's kind of hard to eat any of that yet. As she used to say "It's time to make new traditions." and that's true.  Yet it's hard. Harder still is recreating family recipes and sometimes forgetting one ingredient. That happened to me not long ago when I made the butternut squash version of our family's zuppa di zucca - pumpkin soup. I freaked out when I didn't have an actual onion and had to use onion powder. I thought for sure it just wouldn't come out right. It did  - with a flavor similar to what my Mom and great-aunt created.

Then there are times when I wish she was here (she is on some astral level) just to see some of the gadgets I've bought and received. What would she have thought of my air fryer?She would have marveled at its' rapidness to cook and its'  whole electronic dashboard. Its' versatility would have amazed her and I know we would have tried everything from steaks to chicken wings and drumsticks in it. How would she have felt about the Beyond Burgers I tried out back over the summer? My Mom wasn't a big beef and burger eater. She may have liked them - maybe on buttered toast as she always liked to have them. Heavens only know what she would have thought about the ice cream loaf I debuted on Memorial Day. I could just hear her saying that I could buy the exact same thing at Dairy  Queen." Yet she may have applauded the fact that I created my signature summer dessert. I know she would have liked my Asian cole slaw because, like me she wasn't a fan of the gloppy mayo soaked kind. She would have loved the salty, scallion packed flavor that had a finishing note of ginger.

The two years have gone by too quickly.  No one can replace this very influential Master Chef.Her advice though is permanent and eternal.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Veteran's Initiative

With today being Veteran's day, it's time to think of what we can do to honor them along with helping them.The best bet is working together as a community to make sure our vets are well fed and tended to. It may eve bring us together.

One of the best ways to honor them is reaching out. You can volunteer at veteran's homes , helping to cook and bake. Another pair of hands will be appreciated , especially when it comes to cutting and paring veggies.Also be on hand when the vets have birthdays, especially a milestone one. If you're a baker contribute a home made birthday cake or cupcakes, If they're on strict diets, then think about creating fruit bouquets similar to Edible Arrangements. They're easy to create , especially if you have metal cut out molds or paring knives. You can also contribute savory dishes such as veggies and dip or chips and homemade salsa. A homemade dinner is also a great way of saying thank you especially if you have vets in your neighborhood. It's also a great way of learning about history from someone  who has first hand experience. Another way of saying thank you is just taking him or her out for a meal or even a coffee. They'll probably enjoy the company more than the food.

The community can also come together to help vets. Think about having large communal holiday themed dinners like Thanksgiving at your schools. The school cafe or even gym can serve as the dining area. The cost can be diffused by turning it into a pot luck buffet. This is also a good lesson in inclusiveness as well. Have students and their families cook up or bake family favorites or heirloom recipes. It'll give vets a chance to try a possible array of Indian, Filipino and Caribbean dishes as well as such Thanksgiving classics as cranberry sauce and stuffing.  The students , especially the older ones, will gleam info about the country's involvement in recent wars. It may even inspire them to consider public service as a career choice. Another way of honoring them is having block parties. If the weather is mild in your area, then think about a holiday one. It's not just a good time for a plate of Christmas cookies but plaques thanking them for their service. Gift them with gift cards to their favorite restaurants or coffee houses like Panera, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

Don't honor veterans just on today. Honor them everyday. They fought  like the heroes they are. Celebrate them always.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Spin On Sides

Right now there may be some nail biting about what sides to serve for the upcoming holidays. There also may be sighs about serving the same old stuff again this year. What do you do? Vary the recipe. There's nothing wrong with adding some zing to tradition.

One of the side dishes most made is a bowl of mashed potatoes. People do love them  and they are good for mopping up gravy. Yet it's the same old bland taste with a mealy texture. You could turn it into garlic mashed with the addition of five to six cloves along with some grated Parmesan. Another variation is herbed with thyme and chives. This type requires the tangy creme fraiche instead of the usual milk. For meat and cheese lovers try bacon and cheddar for a different kind of flavor. A healthier and more fun version is mashed cauliflower. Like the potatoes they need to be boiled or steamed and then mashed with vegan butter or the regular kind. Add herbs and garlic or chives for more flavor. Yams are another veggie than can be smashed as opposed to roasted or boiled. For sweetness add maple syrup but then zing it up with a tiny pinch of cayenne. A different variation is sweet potato fries , perfect made in an air fryer  and an unexpected treat for the kids.

Brussels sprouts have always been a holiday and even Sunday meal staple. Yet they can be a hard sell, with their cabbage-y tang. One of the best recipes is Piedmontese style. It's simply boiling the sprouts and then adding melted butter (or margarine) and a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. You could also make roasted ones which caramelizes the leaves, making for a sweeter taste. Garlic can be added but just sea salt and ground pepper are the best seasonings. If the younger ones and carnivores still won't eat them, then refashion them into crunchy chips. These have the crispness of potato chips but with good for you benefits.  They can be baked with the turkey or air fried. Another idea that involves all the veggies is a sheet pan of sides. Using a big sheet pan, place the yams , potatoes and any greens, whether they be Brussels sprouts or green beans, in designated quadrants. It makes for an easy way of cooking and a novel way of serving.  A take on this idea is having just plain sides and creating different sauces for them, from a honey butter to a warm bacon vinaigrette to pour on them. This works well with holiday and Sunday dinner buffets.

Sides always complement the main course. Yet compliment them with new spins that will make them memorable.Add some zing whether in flavor or in cooking them differently.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Vegan Revolution

It seems Beyond Meat is everywhere - and not just in our supermarkets. Everyone is jumping on the plant based meat craze. Is it possible that real meat will be a thing of the past?Are we at the beginning of a vegan revolution?

It could be. Dunkin Donuts is the latest chain to add Beyond Beef sausage patties to their sausage egg, and cheese patties. Does it taste good? Yes! I've tried it and it's probably better than the original pork one. I never tried that, afraid of all that grease and what it might do to my stomach. Will this lone sandwich convert meat eaters? There is that possibility. It is good tasting and  on it's own, good for you. Burger King was one of  the first of the medium priced chains to add Beyond Meat burgers to its' menus. It was a smart move. Many Burger Kings are located on or near college campuses where there a larger numbers of vegetarians. They can easily increase their sales with this vegan addition. Will it play in the rest of the country, in the strip malls and airports? Probably because it's done in the style of the classic, much loved Whopper. It still has the tomatoes and lettuce along with the tangy pickle slices. There's still the mix of mayo and ketchup served up on a soft sesame seed bun. Many people can't even tell the difference - a good sign. The upscale burger joint Zinburger has a fancier version of this, with vegan American cheese and vegan mayo on a pretzel bun.

Will more eateries jump on this bandwagon? There is that possibility. Vegan meats have vastly improved over the last decade. The taste especially for the Beyond Burger perfectly mimics ground beef along with copying the juicy, tender texture. Chicken nuggets and strips are getting there. KFC has been pairing up with Beyond Meat to create a faux poultry nugget and wing. If both go nationwide with this, it will be a huge with kids. They are the biggest influencers in the way parents shop.The sooner little ones are introduced to vegetarianism, the sooner they'll eschew animal based foods and switch over to the plant based ones. There's also the feeling of saving the animals they love and no tears shed of eating any. They are also attuned more to climate change as are their older siblings who know that going meatless reduces their carbon footprints. This newest generation may be the one to ban all meat and dairy products in fifteen or twenty years. Gone will be our wasteful ways and addiction to meat. Also , there will definitely be more improvement in the fake meat industry. We'll be eating ersatz lobster and pheasant , probably in the next decade or so.

Is there a vegan revolution happening? Yes, but it's one that can save the world - literally. The more vegan or vegetarian choices restaurants have , the better it will be for us. Viva le revolution vegan!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Climate Change And Our Crops

Climate change is affecting everything in our lives. Its' worst impact is on our food. Crops are being decimated. Earth is being scorched. Can there be any hope? Or help for that matter.

That was the subject of an eye opening article in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Eric Asimov wrote extensively on what's happening in Napa Valley in his The Pour column. The famed wine country is under serious assault thanks to the rampant wildfires that are basically ravaging the whole state.It's not only the flames that are threatening the vineyards. There are problems caused by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company , namely no electricity. They have intentionally shut down their power to prevent their equipment from igniting any more fires Wide sections of wine country are shut down for days at a time. Then there are the droughts and cold snaps along with heat waves that affect the plants and soil. What is even worse are some winegrowers of  lack of interest. They are more concerned with competition from nearby cannabis growers along with worry about Chinese tariffs. Add to that there are no government regulations when it comes to wineries and their carbon footprints.

That's all changing, thankfully with the help of trade associations and individuals who care about Napa's future.Unfortunately , they can't demand action: only persuade winegrowers to amend their habits. It is work. Programs have to be promoted in both English and Spanish to reduce water use,along with promoting soil life and health.There has to be habitats for beneficial wildlife and diminish the need for tractor work. One of the most important musts is preventing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the soil.The last will be hard because the soil must be tilled and that releases the gas into the ozone.  Again some winemakers are on board. The Napa Vintners, a winemaker's association has launched the Napa Green program that promotes energy efficiency,conservation and environmental action through third party certification for vineyards and wineries. It also helps that wineries such as  Spottswoode has been farming organically for years.The winery is also adapting for a hotter future too. They may have been influenced by their president and chief executive, Beth Novak Miliken . She is the chair of the Napa Vintners and part of the Napa Green program. Another, Jackson Family Wines have made lighter bottles which enabled them to reduce their emissions by three per cent.

Climate change is affecting everything, but more importantly our crops. Hopefully Napa Valley will battle it as best it can and still produce good wines. Smart green planning and smart green actions will be able to save it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Honoring The Indigenous

We don't give enough credit to the first Americans - the indigenous tribes who introduced the Europeans to their foods. We should and hopefully we will. Sean Sherman , a Lakota chef is making sure modern Americans are tasting the foods of the first Americans.

 Lakota Chef Sherman and his story was the highlight of today's New York Times Food section.It's part of a series of honoring different chefs and their culinary backgrounds. Funny that native foods are never really covered in the Times, when they should be. They are varied, echoing the elaborate rituals of all the tribes. Chef Sherman , with the help of Beth Dooley, recreated dishes from all over  the pre-Columbian US. He is the creator of the cleverly named Sioux Chef, which brings native influenced dishes to the entire country.  He didn't want the recipes he developed for today's article to  ones from 1491; rather he hopes to celebrate the diversity that defines our communities now. It's a look into what Indigenous chefs are making now and highlighting the ingredients from the regions they reflect. Chef Sherman's team connected with other Indigenous chefs along with farmers, seed keepers, academics and leaders to create original fare from Mexico to Alaska. There is none of the colonial ingredients that are part of European cooking. You won't see wheat flour, dairy, cane sugar and various meats such as beef, chicken and pork.  The palate is still bright and inventive yet traditional. Many tribal elders said they haven't tasted these pure flavors like cedar roasted venison and seaweed flavored oysters. since childhood.

Chef Sherman also highlights his own Lakota heritage. He offers a stew of roasted turnips and winter squash with an agave glaze.The original recipe calls for timpsula, the wild turnip that grows on the plains of his native South Dakota Black Hills. Still, it would be a great side to any fall dinner. The veggies are tossed in sunflower oil then roasted. Agave syrup is layered on and the dish is finished with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.There is also a bison pot roast , cooked with hominy and flavored with juniper berries and sage.Other regions are also represented.There is heritage turkey from the Onondaga Tribe from the northern New York State which are raised outside. They're not the hormone laced birds we're used to eating. They have meatier thighs and smaller breasts, along with a higher ratio of dark to white meat. Chef Sherman's turkey is served with a berry-mint sauce and walnuts. It can be served with another recipe, this one from the Great Lakes region.It's wild rice and berries with popped rice. The last is made similar to how we used to pop corn, but in a dry , hot skillet. Hazelnuts and different berries such cranberries and blue berries along with sour cherries give it more flavor. The Pacific Northwest  Muckleshoot tribe is also represented with salmon. It's briny tang is offset with crushed blackberries and seaweed.

 Indigenous cooking is truly American cuisine. Chef Sherman is making sure we know that and start enjoying native dishes. It's much much more than inclusiveness. It's this country's heritage.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Your Fall Kitchen Arsenal

Now that we're swinging into the holiday cooking season, it pays to reassess your kitchen arsenal. Take stock of what you have and what you may need. Having a kitchen that's ready for all that cooking and baking is a plus. It makes for easy, headache free experiences , without any unnecessary drama.

The first and most important task is assessing your bigger appliances. Is the stove working properly? What about the broiler? If you feel your oven isn't working to full capacity, either get it checked out or replace it. You don't want it conking out on a heavy cooking day like Thanksgiving. The same goes for the microwave and the toaster oven. If they're acting wonky, then it's time to replace them. Another must is checking out the appliances that you only bring out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. How is the electric carver working? Again replace it if there's a problem or it's not working right. As for the carving knives, make sure they've been sharpened ahead of the holidays. You can take them to any knife sharpener or buy your own whetstone. Amazon has a wide variety of the last  and they 're all reasonably priced  from $12 .00 for a simple brick like whetstone to a more elaborate one for $34.00. Keep in mind that you can use these all year round and will also come in handy when you have to use your knives on barbecued roasts. Also check your turkey basters. You may need to get a new one or you may just need to wash it after being dormant for almost a year. Again, every grocery store and big box store like Target and Wal-mart sell themThey're an easy find.

With holidays come baking. Since Thanksgiving is a big pie day, reassess your pie plates.Can they hold up for another season. Do you feel like you need pie weights? You can buy these but keep in mind that you can sub in everything from beans to even a metal chain. Pie weights are used for blind baking - that is baking the crust and not the filling. This is good for cream pies more. Also if you're thinking about making sweet potato or apple pies, make sure you have good paring knives to get rid of the skin. Some home chefs like to take this month to test bake Christmas cookies.  If that's the case, then  make sure you'll have a roll or two of parchment paper and baking sheets for cookies. How are your cookie cutters? Plastic ones can crack while metal ones can rust. Replace them if yours are not in the best shape.  How is your cookie press? Again, get a new one if the barrel or nozzle are cracked.  Also if you want to change up the designs , now is the time to get the Christmas themed ones. Try to buy the ones from the company that made your press. The discs will be easier to fit into then gun then. Candy makers should also look over their molds. Are the molds OK and usable? Or are they cracked and misshapened thanks to hot sugar and chocolate being poured into them. If so, then head to your craft store for new ones.

Holiday time is stress time. It can be even worse when your kitchen arsenal isn't up to par. Make sure everything is working and up to par before the big days arrive. You'll feel better along with creating better meals and treats.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Season Of Warm Dishes

One of the best aspects of November and cold weather is creating tasty , warm dishes. The salads days are over. It's time to think comfort food along with heart and gut warming recipes.

The first thing to do is dust off the crock pot. It probably hasn't been used since May or June. Now is the time to make all sorts of chilis and soups. What's so great about the first is that you can make it anyway you want. Feel like a meaty version? Then add ground beef or turkey. If you want vegan, thunk about using Boca's Crumbles which are the soy version of chopped meat. The taste is the same as is the texture.Make double and freeze for those busy days ahead. Another warm dish is homemade soup. One of the most popular right now is the easy to cook squash soup. It's just simmering cubed butternut in a chicken or vegetable broth. You can give it a folksy New England spin with a dash of apple cider and cinnamon. I prefer it Piedmontese style with the addition of milk , butter and rice. This can be turned vegan with the subbing in soy or almond milk and faux plant butters. Minestrone is another home made soup which is the perfect warm dish. It can have a base of veggie, beef or chicken broth. What is fun is using different small pastas such as orzo or ditalini to make it heartier. Add hot crusty Italian bread drizzled with olive oil as a  side.

What are other warm dishes to make during these nippy days?  One is ratatouille. This is a wonderful melange of eggplant, onions and tomatoes. If there are no decent tomatoes to be had, use the canned ones. A lot of the recipes call for squash and zucchini, however those may be hard to come by nowadays. Sub in acorn squash instead for color and some sweetness. As with the minestrone, have a hot , crusty Italian bread at the ready to dip into the sauce. Tomato sauce is another warm dish that can be used in a variety of different warm dishes. Try a crock pot version for lasagna or for a big platter of spaghetti and meatballs. Keep in mind that sauce would also work well for any hot meatball or Parm sub. Make double the amount of sauce for all these dishes. If you feel you 've made too much , remember it freezes well.The UK knows how create a warm dish, especially their shepherd's pie. A plus about it is that you can use leftover ground beef and mashed potatoes for the crust. The filling is a simple ground lamb or beef , cooked with corn and peas. Tomato paste makes it juicy while the crust is  thick layer of a tasty and buttery mashed potatoes. You can add a sprinkle of Parmesan, for a cheesier , crunchier crust.

Relish this season of warm dishes. It's the perfect time to make hot and soothing meals to take away the chill. Enjoy them with family and friends.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Respect and Recipes

Today is All Soul's Day, a day when Catholics commemorate their departed loved ones. One of the best ways is to follow the Mexican tradition and making their favorite recipes. it could be a sweet. It could be a savory. It could be a recipe that's over a century old or some out a magazine.

One of the best way to honor one's ancestors and close family members is to continue with their heirloom dishes. If you're lucky some great-great-great grandmother wrote down recipes that were adapted through the centuries for modern cooking.Most families, including mine, relied on the oral tradition of passing down dishes. Memory helps too. Did any of my generation write the recipes down. I did - but only for the posts. Luckily such dishes as my great -grandmother's and great aunt's pumpkin soup recipe were made often. They were also explained step by step, which helps in memorizing them.The family felt that i would make these centuries old Piedmontese dishes when I was ready. Of course there was a bit of nervousness - actually a lot of it , recreating such dishes as risotto and tomatoes provencale in front of the masters. Heaven forbid you mess up a step or accidentally forget a certain spice or herb. Don't ever think of tweaking the recipe.

When I cook these recipes, I think of relatives long gone. It's a connection that everyone should have. This is a gift to the younger generations, especially those who love to cook. Keep in mind that  all recipes should now be stored on the computer. Google Docs has a recipe template where you can plug in ingredients and directions. For those that haven't compiled family recipes this template allows you to do so. Another plus with Google Docs is that you can send the recipes to family members who also have it and they can tweak or edit the recipes. Every branch of a family has several recipes. Combine these to create a cookbook that can be given out at family picnics or to welcome a new spouse to the family.If you do this , make sure to include a few blank pages in the back for the newcomer to add his or her family dishes. A nice idea  - and to continue a loved one's memory is to make the heirloom dishes for the holidays and important events like engagements and baptisms. There's bound to be a flood of memories as well as great stories too.

Today we remember those we have lost. Another way is through honoring the recipes they left us. We will make favorite and family dishes to make sure they are never forgotten.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Celebrating Dia De Muertos

This is one of the days to celebrate DIa De Muertos, Day of The Dead.It is a huge holiday in Mexico and amongst the Mexican Americans here. Those that have left life are celebrated with their favorite foods and sugar skulls. It's also a perfect time to celebrate Mexican food as well.

This is how I spent the holiday. I made my Mom's classic chili which is celebrating her love of cooking. Hopefully she would have enjoyed my version of it, including the tweaks of turning it into crockpot chili and adding just a teaspoon of dark wildflower honey.
As you can see, not much was left.It was a lovely mix of kidney beans, Boca crumbles , tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Instead of onion and garlic, I added onion and garlic powders for a milder taste, considering both can be overwhelming. Of course I added chili powder - a good two tablespoons along with two to three teaspoons of cumin. 
We only had crackers. I would have loved to have served it with harina de maiz - cornmeal. My Mom always served her chili with it - or as we knew it  - polenta. It would have been nice to have a pan di muertos, the sweet bread used to celebrate Dia de Angelinos, Day of the Angels, celebrating children and babies who have left this Earth too soon.It is a sugar crusted orange flavored bread also made to celebrate adults who have left us.

Dia di Muertos is not a day of tears. it is a day of celebrating the ones who we loved. Make their favorite dishes, cook their favorite recipes. Enjoy them now with fond memories and stories.