Friday, January 31, 2020

The Cirrhosis Diet

The liver is one of the most important digestive organs humans have. Yet it can be damaged, thanks to bad eating and that means a special diet. The cirrhosis diet can help and can even prevent liver damage.

I am interested in this because i may have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is a the onset of cirrhosis and untreated  can lead to liver cancer or liver disease. It can be stopped or slowed down. The liver won't return to normal but the disease won't progress. How did this happen? Eating way too much sugar and fried foods along with an addictive passion to fast foods.I had been diagnosed seven years ago by a doctor who had a very cavalier attitude towards it. I did try to stave it off for years , taking milk thistle which helps every day.I plan on taking it up again and recommend others with CDL chronic liver disease to do the same. Dandelion also helps. Both can be bought at GNC  chain store around the country. I will also be cutting out fried foods  along with ones heavy in salt and sugar. It's no more cookies and candy - which were my downfalls. Soda and fruit juices are definitely out. In fact they cause more liver damage than alcohol. White grains such as refined flour and white rice are also off the table -literally. Potassium rich foods like bananas and cod should be nixed. Potassium contributes to liver disease so avoid other foods such as peas and sweet potatoes too.

What will I be able to eat? Luckily my favorites - cruciferous veggies are on the list. That means I can have them and Brussels sprouts with a small amount of butter. Other veggies include another favorite Brussels sprouts and avocados. Spinach is another must eat green that can help the liver. Have it in a salad  with olive oil and lemon. No vinegar because it's toxic to the organ.Tomatoes are a must eat and and a must drink. Tomato juice makes a great snack, especially if it's jazzed up with turmeric. If you have CLD please add this amazing spice to your spice rack. It can retard the disease thanks to its' anti-inflammatory properties.Ginger is another spice perfect in helping this disease. It, too has anti-inflammatory properties, namely proteins that help in reducing scar tissue. You can also make a ginger tea by slicing up the fresh root and boiling it. Keep in mind that it's also good for stomach aches and colds too. As for drinks it will be coffee, flavored seltzer and green tea. It will be hard to give up fruit juice and soda but this is something I have to do. To be honest in a few months I'll wonder why I even drank them at all.It'll be the same thing for all those bad foods too. I'll look at them and wonder what i saw in eating them.

I do not look forward to this diagnosis.I do look forward to healing myself with good foods and good beverages. Hopefully I can take myself back to what it was.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Political Hot Dish

Food and politics bring like minded people together. Nothing is more like that than voter house parties that are  popping up all over Iowa.Hot dishes and candidates are becoming part of their diets these days.

Regular contributor Kim Severson wrote about this interesting tradition in yesterday's New York Times Food section.It works in one candidate's favor . Amy Klobuchar is well familiar with a variation of this, the Minnesota church gathering and a dish specific to the state - the hot dish. This is a mix of protein, starch and vegetables held together with a creamy sauce baked until it bubbles. It helped conserve meat a century ago during World War One and helped feed families during the Depression. Nowadays it's topped with Tater Tots and/or mixed with rice. Hot dishes offer working parents an inexpensive way to get an easily made  dinner on the table after a long work day. Ms. Klobuchar 's Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish, named for a rock mined in the Iron Range, located in northeastern Minnesota. Hers is a mix of chicken and ground beef with onion, typical ingredients yet she zings it up with the addition of cheddar jack cheese. Some found it too spicy, others liked it.

It's not the first time hot dish made political news. Disgraced pol, Al Franken created a hot dish competition as a way of uniting the state's congressional delegation. Not surprisingly Senator Klobuchar won. In 2017 an unusual dish won, thanks to Representative  Democrat Colin Peterson. His dish , A Right To Bear Arms had bear (!) meat in it!!!!Representative Betty McCollom, also a Democrat created the Asian inspired Hot Dish A-Hmong Friends that had cabbage and ground beef topped with fried egg roll wrappers. She paid homage to the large Hmong population from China, Laos and Vietnam who made up her district. Controversial Ilhan Omar made a hot dish full of chickpeas , chutney and , of course, Tater Tots. It's called Moga-Hot-Dishu and was inspired by a Minnesota blogger's samosa chaatdish. For something closer to the Midwestern heart there was Republican Jim Haggedorn, Ms Klobuchar's close competition, who created Make'n Bacon Great Again. His hot fish had two pounds of bacon and a pound of sausage mixed with eggs and cheddar. Hot dish can be made fancy as "What's Eating America" host and Senator Klobuchar friend Andrew Zimmer can attest. He has created fancy versions with turkey legs and veloute. He does go back to a more humble recipes of green beans, turkey, beef and Tater Tots.

The Minnesota Hot Dish not only unites families but also Iowa voters too. This hearty dish can help soothe tensions and create long time allies. It's also a good dish to serve on a winter's night too.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Pop Of Tradition

Everyone is always proud of their heritage, including their culinary one. What better way to celebrate and enlighten the community  than with a restaurant highlighting different recipes and ingredients. It's happening - but with pop up eateries in dining rooms, formal and not so formal across the New York City area.It's a way of getting the flavor out there but without the high operating costs.

Regular contributor Amelia Nierenberg wrote about this growing trend in today's New York Times Food section.Home chefs literally - from all backgrounds are discovering their culinary roots and sharing them for a price. It's a fun way to connect with other of the same background along with introducing others to new dishes and tastes. These are happening in not just dining rooms  but also in dorm rooms and even barns. It's not a new phenomena. They have roots in 20th Century supper clubs, the food trucks where where laborers bought their lunches and homes where civil rights leaders were fed. The Great Recession of 2008 closed many restaurants, leaving their chefs turning to pop ups to remain solvent.This new breed is charging for them, however the pop ups are not money makers. Most advertise on Instagram and and sell tickets on line. The food offered reflect  different heritages. There is Trinidadian and Cambodian, Columbian and African-American cuisines. There is also pop up restaurants  featuring the foods of Congo and Venezuela.

Some chefs such as Leigh-Ann Martin went to Trinidad, not just to escape the New York winters but also reconnect with her Trinidadian culinary history. She also visited other islands such as Grenada and Barbados, bringing their recipes to her Union City, New Jersey apartment.From there she created Table For Four, an $85 dining experience.One dinner was beach side themed, with fruit sellers and even soccer games. On a closer to home theme, Omar Tate creates an American meal with six courses with a nod to Philadelphia where he was raised and North Carolina. There was one dish, chicken croquettes with rose hip jelly which is what black caterers and chefs served to their white clients. For a more exotic fare there is Stephanie Bonnin's Le Tropi in Brooklyn. A trained chef, she recently drew on flavors from Colombian's Pacific Coast. There was shrimp with encocado, a coconut sauce. Cambodian food is made at the pop up Kreung run by mother and daughter Kim Eng Mann and  Chincayriya Un in Rhode Island and the Catskills. Linda A. Sebisaho brings her native Congolese cooking in Linda A.Cooks where there are such dishes as chikwangue, a fermented cassava paste along with sakasaka,a stew made from the cassava leaves that also has catfish and grilled goat.  For those who love Venezuelan cuisine, then book a small table at Mercedes Golip's pop up where you can get ham stuffed bread and tamales.

Pop up restaurants are a great way of introducing your heritage to the community. It brings chefs closer to their past and sets their futures. They also bring good and different cuisines to food lovers all over.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Pescatarian Life

People are eschewing red meat in large quantities, preferring healthier and more sustainable eating habits.The problem is that they still crave the occasional burger or filet. There can be an alternative - an in between the carnivore and herbivore diets. It's pescatarianism -  a diet heavily relying on fish.

Pescatarian diets may be the best bet for those transitioning from meat eater to plant eater. It's actually more healthful than a vegan or vegetarian diet. It has all the good green stuff  like veggies but also the much needed omega-3 fatty acids that come from salmon, mackerel, herring, and fresh tuna. Adding more fish means lower risks of heart attacks, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Keep in mind that a pescatarian does have some risks.You will have to either take iron supplements or increase your intake of spinach and broccoli, veggies high in iron. Also consider eating more low sugar cereals which are also fortified with it.Another risk that may concern some is the threat of mercury. It's damaging to the central nervous system so eat no more than four helpings of oily fish a week. Stay away from swordfish and marlin because they contain the highest levels of the substance. Luckily tuna and shrimp have the lowest. As for shellfish, yes pescatarians can have all the "good" seafood like crab, shrimp and lobster. These are usually served with just lemon or cocktail sauce for dairy adverse eaters. Also another thing to keep in mind is that a fish only diet can be expensive, especially if you live a ways inland.

What dishes can pescatarians try? Grilled salmon is always delicious and there are so many different recipes out there. Try it pan fried with just salt and pepper or a squeeze of lemon. You could also add some grated ginger, sliced scallions and soy sauce. This would be a great dinner with rice and shredded cabbage salad. Salmon is also a great sheet pan ingredient. It's good roasted with asparagus and fingerling potatoes. Try it with peppers, tomatoes and eggplant in a kind of ratatouille base.Cod is another fish that's versatile and can be made a variety of different ways. Many love it battered and deep fried but you can also make it healthier with air frying. It just has to be well seasoned, namely with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Just spray the fillets with olive oil for moistness and to get them crisp without battering.. Of course pescatarians can treat themselves to the lush seafood - the crustaceans. Lobster fra diablo is a delicious treat and perfect for a holiday meal. It's a spicy blend of the lobster meat, fennel, garlic and red pepper flakes blended with tomatoes and tomato paste. It's served over spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Another luxe dinner is shrimp scampi. This garlic rich dish is usually made with butter but there are plant based butters, especially Miyokos' (sold at Target) that you can use to cook the shrimp.

A pescatarian life can be a good one. You may be giving up one type of protein but eating another. It's a healthy and delicious transition from meat eating to a kind of vegetarianism.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Lobster Balls Finally

The lobster balls I had planned to make for Christmas Eve finally got cooked today.
They had been in the freezer for six weeks (they came a week before the holiday). I had to steam defrost them in the microwave for six minutes before cooking them in the air fryer.
It was adding water to them and then putting a paper towel over them to steam them.
Afterwards it was then creating a sauce to match the Priano  garlic flavored risotto I bought at Aldi's
These were a quick cook of about fifteen minutes.
The lobster balls were a bit more elaborate. I flavored them in a bath of olive oil, and this trio
,garlic salt, onion powder and dried oregano.
The hard part comes next.  Setting a time and temp on the air crisper. The recipes for tofu balls really didn't help. There were literally none for lobster tofu balls. I set it for 350 degrees.

Setting at 400 might have been too much.  As for the time. first it was eight minutes, checking it 
then another ten minutes.
This was the final product.
I thought the balls would be crispy and brown. They did have a crispy exterior but a soft lobster like interior. The flavorings I added were subtle and the balls worked with the risotto. It would have been the perfect Christmas Eve, or New Year's Eve dinner.  The lobster and the rice were the perfect pairing. There are a lot of leftover lobster balls (and risotto) but I'm chilling these and turning them into a tasty cold salad for tomorrow's dinner.

I may decide to make the lobster and rice for a non traditional Easter dinner. They're really an elegant duo and balance each other. I will be buying the lobster balls again from Vegan Essentials for other dishes too.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

A Summer Cake In Winter

Everyone craves summery flavors in the winter. It's no difference with desserts. There's always a craving for something light in a season full of heavy flavors and weighty ingredients. For a friend's birthday I thought I'd go mid summer in the middle of mid winter.

It starts with a light cake. I used Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist. I liked their Perfectly Moist chocolate cake so much I tried their classic white. What I didn't know that it was an angel food cake that only used egg whites.

The yolks will be used in a ham scramble tomorrow. The result is a light  fluffy angel food cake.
The icing should be just as light and fluffy. I went to my favorite frosting go to site, Two Sisters Crafting. They have a wide variety of different buttercream recipes from vanilla to peanut butter. I love their peppermint one however that's better with a chocolate cake. I decided to try their lemon one, light and summery with this cake.
It is a labor intensive one though. It's made with only three ingredients
Here are two
I used Acme's Organic butter and their lemons. The recipe called for a 1/4 cup of lemon juice which is about the juice of one lemon.

Keep in mind that the seeds have to be sieved out.
Then five cups of confectioner's sugar is added. Only do one cup at a time, then mix, one cup then mix.
To add to the zinginess the sisters also add a teaspoon of lemon zest. This required using the two lemons.

The finished frosting spread on very thickly which is perfect for a buttercream.  I plan on using this one for the frosting on my Easter lambs.

                                           It also holds candles well too. As for the flavors, the tart lemon drop flavor works well with the airy angel food cake taste. It really was the perfect marriage of frosting and cake.

There's nothing like a taste of midsummer in midwinter. This cake is the perfect solution to those wanting a lemony light flavor to remind them of summer picnics and tea parties.Make it and be instantly transported to warm sunny days.

Friday, January 24, 2020

A Sustainable Garden

It may be only late January but it's time to think about vegetable gardens. You can start planning a sustainable one for the Spring. Not only will you help in locavore cooking you'll be helping the planet too.

One of the most fun things about gardening is planning it with your family. Include the kids in it and they will not only learn more about green gardening they'll also take an interest in green cooking too. How to start? Give your backyard a really good look. Where do you want this garden? In a bright sunny patch? Out of the way of foot traffic? Bordering the patio? Of course take in consideration where  what you choose will survive. Then begin drawing up specs and  sketches about where you want the plants. Consider building small protective fences with repurposed wood along with building a compost heap for your food scrape and grass clippings. Next decide what you want to grow. Try opting for native climate-appropriate ones. You may want to check natural areas such as woodlands along with getting advice from local garden experts. The last is also the best bet for shopping for shoots and seeds. Make sure that your chosen veggies are hardy and high yielding inside your climatic soil and elevation.

What veggies should you grow? The ones that you like however there are certain ones that work well in a sustainable garden. Tomatoes are always popular and you can save the seeds for late summer planting or for the next year. They are so versatile, going from freshly eaten with just sea salt to sauces , sandwiches and salads. Cherry tomatoes are a fun grow for little gardeners and just a fun snack. Another easy grow are shallots. They have the same flavor as their cousin - the onion - and can be used in everything from salads to stir fries. A plus is that they take up half the space that the onion would in a garden. They also require less care too. Garlic is another easy plant and can even be raised in pots around the patio. The bulbs are an easy harvest and you can harvest one bulb while letting the others mature. As we all know garlic is one of the best additions to any savory dish. Try fresh bulbs in the famed Italian sauce aglia olio or roast garlic cloves on the grill, adding them to salads or marinades. Leafy greens meaning any kind of lettuce is a plus. They can be Romaine for Caesar salads or iceberg for a tasty wedge drench in blue cheese. Another veggie is the beet. This is an easy grow and can be made into a tasty sweet salad for summer barbecues.

It may be winter but it's time to start thinking of  sustainable gardens. Deciding what you want to do and want to plant will save time later on. Plot and choose now for a veggie patch that will not only benefit your family but also the Earth too.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Fatteh A Savory Reuse Of Pits

 What do you do with leftover bread? You could go sweet and turn it into a lush bread pudding with caramel sauce . Or you could go savory  and turn it into a tasty baked and puffy dinner. Or for the more adventurous  try a chickpea and herb fatteh. This hot and exotic dish is perfect for using up leftover pita bread.

Famed chef and bread lover Yottem Ottolenghi created this tasty recipe for yesterday's New York Times Food section. It's a popular dish throughout the Mideast but it's hard to define, according to Chef Ottolenghi. It is a layering dish using stale plain or whole wheat pita. There are vegetarian versions like his while others contain lamb. Some versions may have tahini and yogurt. One, fattet djaj, has bread, shredded chicken, whole chicken a, layer of yogurt and then topped off with a layer of pine nuts. In Gaza, a think flatbread called saj or makouk dipped in stock which is often loaded with garlic , chilies, and lemon, Freshly cooked rice and toasted nuts top it. It's then finished off with cook chicken or other meats.However ingredients just aren't limited to those. You can add eggplant or tomatoes , broad beans to different pulses like lentils and green peas.

Chef Ottolenghi's fatteh has chickpeas along with the zingy za'atar along with various greens such as chives, parsley and fresh cilantro. Flavoring also comes from garlic and toasted cumin seeds. It's a bit labor intensive with the chickpeas being soaked with baking soda in cold water overnight.Afterwards they're drained and cooked in water with more baking soda. They're then cooked for twenty minutes after which Kosher salt is added. While the chickpeas are cooking, the pita is tossed with olive oil and the za'atar and pepper.This is laid out on a parchment lined baking sheet until golden and crisp. At this point there tahini to be made which is easy and also the chili oil - another easy make. After puree 2/3 chickpeas with lemon and herbs, garlic and cumin. Sieve into a bowl. Add the remaining  chickpeas and then layer everything, from the tahini to the chili oil. It can be served with extra pita and toasted pita on the side. You could add shredded rotisserie chicken to make it heartier.

Fatteh is a great way of using up any leftover pita. It's also a tasty way of cooking chickpeas with za'atar and tahini, Try it for a different spin on bread pudding.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Chef In The wild

You can't find many chefs in the wild. Maybe in a controlled grove or two hunting down truffles but never fully in a forest. Yet that's where chef Iliana Regan could be, somewhere in  northern Michigan. Is this usual?  For this unusual chef yes.

Kin Severson went to this beautifully wild area for an interview with chef Regan for today's New York Times Food section. This is an area located on Michigan's Upper peninsula in Hiawatha National Forest. It's not an area associated with fancy or trendy eateries and innovative chefs. Yet it 's a calming force in the chef's sometimes wild life and a quiet escape from her bad girl past. It's also a place where she can forage, something she's been doing since a child on her parents farm in Merrillville , Indiana, a farm region directly south of Gary Indiana, and Chicago. Both foraging and cooking could have been influenced by her parents, her father a steelworker who loved planting vegetables and her mother, a Gourmet magazine fan who made her own pasta. After a strange incident that involved a tornado, her father teaching to hunt for chanterelles and a child molester uncle Chef Regan  was introduced to cooking.She was saved from the uncle by a family friend while the mushrooms remained unharmed. Her father brought her into the kitchen sat her down on a stool and taught her to cook the chanterelles with red wine and butter. That was the deciding point that she go into cooking. She has no formal training. She worked in small town restaurants. Chef Regan did go to college, studying chemistry at Indiana University , Bloomfield but then found it wasn't for her.

Chef Regan wanted to write. She received a creative writing degree from Columbia College in Chicago. She also worked at restaurants between classes, eventually landing at job at Trio for famed Chicago chef, Grant Achatz. In 2008 she began selling food she made , including her butter infused beet pierogies which won her acclaim from Chicago Magazine. Two years later she started an underground restaurant and also in her apartment. Fans urged her to open a legit one, Elizabeth named for a beloved sister that died during a night in jail. Elizabeth is an expensive eatery with themed menus inspired by such shows as "Stranger Things" and "Game Of Thrones" . The last she pored through all five books , highlighting every food reference. She also opened up and then quickly closed Bunny The Micro Bakery and Kitsune, a mash up of Japanese cuisine and the American Midwest. Now there is Milkweed a B&B Chef Regan operates with her wife , Anna. It's limited lodging with only three rooms however visitors can also rent the tiny Airstream trailer that the couple took around the country in 2018 to cook pop up dinners. There's also a platform tent guests can rent too. Of course all food is foraged and cooked by Chef Regan and she was already cooking wall eyed trout at .

Chef Regan is a new kind of chef, incorporating foraging into her cooking. It's an ancient way of connecting the kitchen and land. The result is interesting and fresh dishes in a delicious and innovative way.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Recettes D'Hiver

France in the winter can be a glorious season. Yes, there are endless ski days in the French Alps and Pyrenees Paris sparkles under a crust of snow while the north and western coasts provide a certain gray moodiness. Even the French Riviera gets a bit nippy but still perfect for a walk along the water. It's also a perfect time for hearty French dishes, full of  wine and rich ingredients. You don't have to visit France for them. They can easily be made in your kitchen.

One of the most famous winter dishes is onion soup. This is a lush blend of caramelized onions thyme sprigs, beef stock and dry white wine.It's usually served in piping hot crocks. Thick slices of baguette topped with a blend of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheeses. The onions are cooked first with garlic until a creamy brown and then beef broth and the wine are added. It's then ladled into individual pots and topped with the bread and cheese. Another hearty and flavorful one is cassoulet. This layered dish has duck legs cooked with cannellini or tarbais beans - which are preferred along with pancetta A pork ragu is added to the stew This is a mix of boneless pork shoulder - Boston butt- along with carrots and crushed tomatoes. Chicken broth and a variety of spices from thyme to bay leaves round out the recipe. More pork sausage,usually Toulouse, made with duck , ground black pepper and pork top it off along  garlic sausage and breadcrumbs . Keep in mind this is a labor intensive dish with the duck confit being made the day before.If you don;'t have the time , the duck legs can be confitted even three weeks before.Then the day of it's cooking the beans and ragu, and then browning the bread crumbs. The whole stew is then baked for half an hour .

For something a bit easier, think raclette. This is a popular ski resort dish  that originated in Switzerland.  Raceltte cheese is used for the dish but if you can't find it then Gruyere or Swiss also works. You can even use cheddar too! Usually a special machine is used to melt the cheese however putting it in a skillet in your broiler also does the trick.It's served with peeled boiled potatoes  along with pickled cornichons and gherkins for some tang.Also have cured meats like ham, prosciutto and slalami. The cheese is melted and then scraped over the pickled veggies and meats. It's a fun, communal dinner, perfect for a Saturday or Sunday night supper.One of the most famous winter dishes is the famed bouef bourguignon. Julia Child had the best recipe for it. This is a combination of cubed lean beef cooked with beef stock, tomato paste and red wine.Thyme, bay leaf and garlic flavor it while two tablespoons of flour thicken it.Ms Child also added braised  pearl onions - an easy make - and  butter sauteed mushrooms to it for more taste. It's the perfect dish for company but also for a Sunday dinner as well. Add hot crusty baguettes with butter and a crisp green salad as sides.

France is  beautiful in the winter. However you don't have to travel there to get tasty and hearty French winter fare. It can be made dans votre cuisine in your kitchen

Monday, January 20, 2020


With today being Martin Luther King Day, it's time to think of sharing. It can be our time , gardens , talent, whatever have you. Food , the growing and preparing of it is a great way of keeping his wish for unity alive. It makes us a family, wed together with ingredients and recipes.

One of the best ways to honor Reverend King is donating time. The best is helping out at the soup kitchens in your area. Many just volunteer during Thanksgiving and Christmas yet it shouldn't just end there.  The needy are hungry all the time. Spend these weekends at your local soup kitchen along with Spring and summer ones  too. Suggest cookouts when the weather gets warmer. Urge stores to donate grills , and wood chips along with barbecue grub like dogs and burgers,along with cabbage for cole slaw and potatoes for potato salad. Donate time at the senior centers too and veterans home too. They made need help with events and parties. Another way of helping out is sharing home grown fruits and veggies. Start planning a slightly bigger garden this year. Any overage can be donated to both soup kitchens and food pantries.  Think about planting popular ones like tomatoes which can be used in everything from sauces to salads and lettuce, good for salads and sandwiches.As for fruit, fruit trees do take time to produce fruit. If you do want to donate some, then think about growing melons and strawberries  which can yield large harvests quickly.

Helping to cook also is a big plus to many kitchens. Another idea to promote unity is proposing community dinners where everyone comes and cooks. Grammar or high school gyms can be used for this as the school kitchens have more than ample room for a slew of cooks and bakers. Community dinners are a great way for new families to  mix with the town's veterans. Different dishes reflecting all the many nationalities can be made. It will be exciting as some taste shawarma and za'atar for the first time while others proudly serve  decades old family recipes such as meat loaf ,stuffed peppers and meatballs. A cookbook can even be made up with the featured dishes and sold with benefits going to the school. Bakers can feel good about whipping up a batch of cupcakes and/or cookies. Donate these to senior centers and veterans homes. You can also bake up loaves of healthy artisanal bread and rolls too which make for  healthier lunches and dinners. If there's a birthday , then bake a sheet cake that can be shared by all. You can also make an ice cream sheet cake during the warmer months too at your local centers and shelters.

Reverend King wanted this country to be unified with us blending together as one. What better way than with sharing food.It 's what brings us together.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Alpha Food's A Vegan's Fantasy Come True

The meatless revolution is real. There's another company, Alpha Foods that's adding to it. The company has a wide array of yummy prepared plant based  meals, strips and crumbles that  will make any vegan smile. It may also convert a few meat lovers to herbivores too.

I tried their Buffalo Chick'n pot pie tonight for supper. It's one of many flavors that I want to try.

This southern California company has a wide array of must taste dishes. The pot pies also come in beef and cheddar, feta and spinach, chick'n pesto, chick'n veggie and pizza. There's also tamales  - and burritos with such taste combos as pizza , chick'n fajita, Philly and Mexicali. The company also produces burgers, crumbles , sausage crumbles and chicken nuggets. I want to try all their products now that I've fallen for the pot pies.Another plus is that even their cheese, from the cheddar  in the pot pies and burritos. to the mozzarella on the pizzas  is plant based and not dairy. The products are perfect for the lactose intolerant along with those with milk allergies. They're relatively low in calories. One pot pie is 580 calories.
The pot pie is small - think doll size, but it still packs a flavor punch. What I really loved was the crust with a taste that reminded me of Pillsbury Grands biscuits. The spicing was a bit fiery but what do you expect from Buffalo chicken. It was still delicious and I can see serving it or the other flavors with a salad for a more satisfying meal. The next one on my must try list is the spinach and feta cheese that also has tomato and sausage crumbles. The pizza looks good too and that will be tried soon. 

Alpha Foods is helping us eat better and just be better. Their wide array of plant based meats and meat dishes are not only delicious but helpful in keeping our carbon footprints small. Give them a try for another alternative to plant based products.

Friday, January 17, 2020

International Heat.

There's nothing like a spicy dish, spiked with heat to warm you up on a winter's night . Most cuisines have different spices to warm up any kind of main course and sides.what's great is that you can easily replicate these fire crackers or even create variations of them.

One of the hottest spice mix going these days is harissa. This  sauce took off a few years ago and it's still going strong. It's an easy make that involves a variety of different chilies from the New Mexico kind to chili de arbol to a tomato paste spiked with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and garlic.Coriander and cumin are also added. Spoon in a dollop to hummus to zing it up or spread on grilled veggies .You could also add it to eggs like the North African recipe shakshouka. This is a tongue zinging poached eggs in a mix of vegetable broth,harissa and feta cheese. This is the perfect brunch dish on a cold wintry Sunday, washed down with a soothing mint tea. A fiery tomato sauce can also be used for a pasta dinner. Pasta arrabiata or angry sauce is another way to warm the palate.It's a rich tomato sauce that can either have oil or butter as its' base and a good dose of red pepper flakes.Most home chefs use a tablespoon of them but you could add a teaspoon more for an angrier sauce. Don't just use it for pasta. It can add an exciting bite to pizza and dipping sauce. Try it with wings and drumsticks too.

The Sichuan province in China has given the world some of the best - and most hottest dishes. This south central province is known for its many tear inducing recipes. It may clear your sinuses but it will also delight your palate.Many home chefs are a bit scared of the recipes, fearing they may be too complicated but they're actually not. Try the tasty ants climbing a tree. This nature sounding recipe is a cellophane noodle stir fry with vermicelli noodles and freshly grated ginger for heat. For more tingliness try the mix called mala wei. This is a combination of Sichuan peppercorns and dried chilies. Ginger garlic and chopped scallions are also added to round out the blend. The cuisine is really not all fire , but a combination of it along with sweet, sour and salty although many of the dishes are eye watering. Closer to home there is Mexican cuisine.Fajitas are a snap to make at home. Bring the fire by adding a spicy mix of different peppers, from jalapenos to Ahaheims to steak and chicken ones. End with the sweet flames of Mexican hot chocolate.It's the classic drink with an added kick of both cinnamon and cayenne pepper. It's the perfect way to end a fiery meal.

It's cold outside. Time to warm the palate up with different spices from different countries. They're a tasty way to bring on the heat during a frosty season.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Crispy Tasty Chicken

A roast chicken is always delicious but imagine if you can make it more so. How? By creating a crispier , tastier skin that only adds to the flavor. There are several different ways but one that stands out.

Melissa Clark delved into this in yesterday's New York Times Food issue. She devoted her  A Good Appetite to creating the perfect skin for a roasted chicken.Like most of us, she prefers a crispy skin, with the crackle and crunch of potato chips.There are all sorts of strategies to achieve this. Some are crazy as in blasting it with a hair dryer (seriously???) to traditional like leaving the bird in the fridge overnight. Professional and home chefs also swear by rubbing down the chicken with salt and even baking powder or a combo of both. Others painstakingly separate the flesh from the fat or poking holes to release the fat. All these methods do work to varying degrees. Yet Ms. Clark wanted a sure fire method. She turns to her own recipe of Parmesan fried eggs and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's one for frico roast potatoes.It's relying on Parmesan cheese  to create a crust. The cheese needed should be a finely ground one. Timing is everything. Ms Clark has found out that adding it early  and it burns a little. This leaves the meat with a scorched flavor. Sprinkle it on too late and you wind up with a leathery skin. It has to be added on halfway through for the perfect texture.

It's an easy recipe otherwise that comes with a light sauce made from the chicken's drippings. It starts with other flavorings such as lemon zest and fresh rosemary, the last used because to her it seemed like a natural fit with the chicken and Parmesan. She also added plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes to add heat and the astringency necessity to cut some of the richness. All of this should be rubbed inside and out of the chicken.It should then be left to sit for twenty minutes at room temperature. If you have the time then set the chicken, uncovered, in the fridge overnight. The bird is roasted in a high oven of 425 degrees F and it can be roasted in a skillet , roasting pan or a sheet pan. The chicken's cavity should be stuffed with rosemary sprigs and then drizzled with olive oil. It's roast for thirty minutes and then the Parmesan is sprinkled all over the bird. Continue roasting until the birds juice run clear (pierce the flash with a knife for this) about thirty minutes more. As for the sauce, use the drippings and the juice from the zested lemon, seasoning with more red pepper flakes and salt. You could serve this with grilled veggies or crispy potato wedges.

A crispy roasted chicken is delight. Imagine making it better with even crispier skin. It can be done, thanks to the addition of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Jean-Georges Vongerichten The Kitchen's Bad Boy

Chefs are like maestros. They can be temperamental yet brilliant; furious yet philosophical, creating masterpieces that will leave crowds and fans breathless. This is true with the famed French chef and restauranteur , Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He may be a culinary bad boy, but he's also a master too.

Chef Vongerichten was interviewed and the subject of a lengthy article in today's New York Times Food section. The piece was written by Alan Richman, famed , himself, for reviewing New Orleans restaurants and winner of several James Beard food writing awards.  A young Jean-Georges was not destined for the kitchen, by any means. He was the typical bad boy in his native Alsace-Lorraine town, near Strasbourg. The family business was coal, thanks to his great-great grandfather coming from Holland (hence the last name). He found land along a canal and settled there The chef to be was an altar boy despite his wild nature, skipping classes at the local parochial school. He was apprenticed young and even turned down a chance to cook in the Elysee Palace for the French president. He wanted to cook on a boat instead. This got him a chef's job aboard a submarine which docked in such exotic ports as Casablanca. Here he learned about different spices such as cumin. He tried the spice with carrots and that changed his perspective completely. From there he went to the Riviera where he discovered rosemary and then off to Bangkok

Now Chef Vongerichten is known around the world. He has restaurants throughout the world, being well known here in New York. His mark is everywhere , including Madison Square Garden where he has a chicken-centric Simply Chicken. Here, Chef Vongerichten elevates both the simple chicken salad and sandwich to another level with pickles and a spicy aioli. There is also the extremely elegant Jean-Georges that's decorated all in white with signature tasting menus. His empire, here in the States, stretches to Las Vegas and California, along with eateries in Miami Beach and Philadelphia. He has created restaurants also in Bridgehampton, the start of the Hamptons on Long Island and in Pound Ridge near where he lives in Waccabuc with his second wife and youngest daughter, Chloe. Despite the success he did have failures, namely the V Steak House in the Time Warner Building in Manhattan. The formula worked well with his steakhouse in Las Vegas but somehow the idea didn't translate to New York City. The same was true with his Chicago restaurant where he charged fifteen dollars for fried rice with fresh crab. Diners could get the same dish with frozen crab for $3.50 down the road. Still he will always have success.It's evident in his many successful restaurants here in New York alone.

Being the bad boy can be a good thing. That rebellious attitude has worked well for Chef Vongerichten. It's given him one of the mist successful culinary careers in modern times.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Fortifying Yourself

This is the season for colds and sore throats. These can be a real pain , especially if they keep recurring. What to do? Fortify yourself and your system with good foods. Forget comfort bites this winter . It's time to go to strength foods.

After the holidays we need to become serious about citrus fruits. One, they're a refreshing change up from all those sweets and treats and two, they are strength foods, meaning they'll strengthen our immune systems.Citrus fruits such as oranges increase our white blood cells which are used in fighting infections.Even lemons and limes do this as well. Unlike oranges, it's hard to eat both on their own, thanks to their tartness. What you can do is sub in lemon or lime juice for vinegar in vinaigrettes. This makes for a zingy and fun dressing that works for everything from a simple salad to a veggie and fish laden Nicoise. Lemons also can be used to marinate different vegetables , giving them a summery, bright taste. Add a squeeze of lime to guacamole or salsa to elevate flavor. Lemon and lime juice can be added to green and black teas for more taste too. Grapefruit is the mega strength food of all the citrus. It not only boosts immunity but also has antioxidant properties that help fight harmful bacteria and viruses. Again this may be too tart . Drizzle dark honey on top for a tasty breakfast or dessert.

Citrus isn't the only strength food There are veggies that can help fight off colds and sore throats too. Red bell peppers are one, thanks to the infusion of Vitamin C.It's also a rich source of beta carotene which is good for your eyes. Red peppers are versatile. Sliced, they can be added to a salad for some color and sweetness. Cooked, they liven up everything from stir fries to meat loaf. They're also good stuffed with Beyond Meat and onions.Another strength food? Broccoli. Again, the florets are good hot or cold. A side of broccoli with just a lemon and butter sauce is great with chicken breasts or even lam chops. A broccoli salad jazzed up with another immunity booster garlic is a great side with everything from pizza to steak. As for garlic, try to cook a lot with it during these germy times. Use a liberal dose of it when you make homemade sauce . Better yet try that light Italian classic aglia olio, the garlicky oil sauce that's delicious with angel hair  pasta or spaghetti.It can also be drizzled on bruschetta too.If you want a bit more spice but with the same immunity booster, then use ginger, especially if you have a sore throat. Brew ginger tea with freshly cut slices of it to reduce a sore throat 's inflammation.

Get yourself and your immune system fortified by adding strength foods to your diet. You won't be a victim to colds and flu anymore. You not only feel healthy but be healthy too.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Piggybacking Restaurants

There's a trend that's happening around big box stores such as Target. It's cutting up the store's parking lot to allow  space for fast food restaurants. Is it a good idea? Will it bring in more shoppers? Or diners?

Most big box stores such Target and Wal-Mart have huge parking lots that take up a lot of acreage. This is fine during the Christmas shopping season.It's really the only time when the area is used. In Bergen County, New Jersey any land, even if it's a parking lot is valuable. The land can be built on with some kind of business that will bring in not only diners but shoppers as well. This is the case with the Hackensack Target . A Taco Bell has been built in one of the parking lot's corners and has just opened. This is great for the area. Fairleigh Dickinson University is across the street and a charter high school is just down the road. Instead of being stuck with cafeteria food or the nearby Boston Market fare, kids can get cheap tasty burritos and tacos with beef or chicken fillings.Unlike Boston Market, and even the FDU Starbucks, Taco Bell offers cold  slushie like drinks that are going to be perfect when the Spring and summer  seasons arrive. There's a lovely outdoor area that's perfect for students as well. Imagine sipping frosted drinks and sharing snacks at the end of this Spring's semester.There's only one problem  with this Taco Bell - it will cut into Target's snack bar. The snack bar has had several blows in the last few years. Its' space was decreased to make way for a Starbucks. It cut back on its' variety. Forget getting their brand of a Slushie and chicken fingers. Hopefully their hot dogs and pizza will still be around.

The Hackensack Target isn't the only one. The Target in Clark, right off Parkway South in central eastern New Jersey  has to compete with not only an Italian restaurant but also a Duck Doughnuts built in their overly large parking lot.. These food hang outs are fun if you want to make a day or night of your visit, yet you can more or less get the same fare in the store's snack bar and Starbucks. A bigger version of parking lot piggybacking is over at the Teterboro , New Jersey's Wal-Mart where there is also a restaurant row plus two chain restaurants, Texas Roadhouse and BJ's Brewhouse. Again, the many diverse eateries, from Blaze Pizza to Panera's bring in not only diners but also those want a quick meal before shopping. Wal-Mart only has a Subway and some others don't even have these. The Garfield Wal-mart doesn't have any place to order a lunch or a quick snack. Their parking lot has an Applebee's and a McDonald's which helps. Most people who go to that shopping center, however, either head for Wal-Mart, Pet-Smart for their animal companions or even My Doc to handle colds and minor ailments. Food isn't necessarily on their minds. Should these eateries be there then? Would more stores be better instead. Or does this save that particular Wal-Mart from the pressure of adding some kind of fast food joint in their store?

Will piggybacking restaurants be the start of a trend? Will shoppers and diners like this combo? It's hard to say.  It all depends on the price and availability of  local real estate .

Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Dash Of Heat

Sometimes all it takes is a pinch of this or a dash of that to zing up a meal. This elevates any bland dish and makes it amazing. It could be an herb or spice, a chopped jalapeno or serrano.

Winter stews are always in need of some punching up. Yes, they're hearty and rib sticking but they can be a bit tasteless. Think about adding something as simple as freshly ground black pepper. Just doing this adds a bit of heat and color. For a bit more color, think pink peppercorns. These add a different kind of heat , similar to chilis and have a sweet fruitiness too.If you want a different flavor, dried ginger give any stew an Asian vibe with a more eye opening fire. This would be a great throw in if your stew has more cabbage and carrots in it. It can also be added to chicken stew too. Don't be afraid to flick a teaspoon into your stir fry either.  It's a nice way to balance out the other flavors. Another fire ball of a spice is smokey paprika. Many home chefs just associate it with dusting it on top of deviled eggs or giving color to roasted ham. Yet it can give layers of flavor and fire to even the simplest of dishes. One of the best recipes is chicken paprikash. This incredibly flavorful dish from Hungary , calls for hot or sweet paprika but you can also use the smoked kind. They're made from the same  crushed dried chilies but the smokey version has been smoked dried with oak. The flavor will just be heightened a bit more, highlighting the other ingredients such as tomato paste and sour cream.

Chilies also add to various recipes. There are so many different kinds that you can vary the same recipe with each one and get a different result each time. Most home chefs use jalapenos . They're fun to stuff with bacon and cream cheese or breaded and air fried. Yet, jalapenos can be sliced and mixed into all sorts of dishes.Try some in a meat loaf recipe. This is a great way to zing up a usually bland dish and transform it into something special. Serve with a side of guacamole or sour cream. Jalapenos can also jazz up any kind of burger.They can be mixed into the ground meat or layered with cheese and bacon for a hot of heat. Chopped jalapenos can also bring up the heat on crockpot chilis too. Other chilis such as the temp rising serrano can do wonders with simple cheese dips and even the famed artichoke one. Serrano chilies come in a variety of different colors and are smaller than jalapenos. The piri-piri is another spicy jolt that's used mostly in South African cooking. Piri piri or peri peri chicken is a delicious and fiery way to zing up an ordinary dish. It's usually a marinade that coats and soaks the meat for twenty-four hours before cooking.You could also use it for wings and thighs too,

Bring the heat to your winter cooking. Any dish can be zinged up with spices and chilies. Try them to liven up a blandly cool dish on a chilly night.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Ultimate Veg The Best Vegetarian Cookbook Ever!

It is still hard to cook for vegetarians, despite the explosion of the Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers phenomena. You can't serve these for every meal. You have to come up with different dishes with different flavors  Thankfully Jamie Oliver comes to our rescue with a new cookbook. There's nothing but meat free dishes in it.

Ultimate Veg: Easy and Delicious Meals For Everyone (Flatiron Books 2020) is the must have recipe book for those home chefs cooking in a vegan and vegetarian household. The book is written in Oliver's in your face style and it's refreshing to see the first pages begin with recipes. There are help pages and guides but they're at the end of the book, not at the beginning. Chef Oliver gives good hints and tips as well as urging to grow our own veggies. Vegetables lose their nutritional values as soon as they're picked. Having a garden, whether it 's a plot of land, bucket, pot or even a grow bag.He also delves into what is a portion along with how much should we eat.(about five portions of fruit and veg per day according to UK standards.) he also urges to eat the rainbow which is reflected in all his recipes. He explains why  as in eating purple veg and fruit is good for maintaining healthy blood pressure and muscle function. why, purple produce  is full of  life saving potassium. There's also a section on fats and Chef Oliver explains the differences between the various oils. He also recommends using organic butter and staying away from margarine because it is hydrogenated.

The recipes are divided such sections as soup and sandwiches, salads,,pasta, and the very fun Friday night nibbles to name a few. I love this book and plan on using it a lot. What is great is that that there will be leftovers which can be served the next day or later on in the week. There are so many recipes I want to try.I especially love the curries and stews section because it has such mouth watering dishes , perfect for the cold days - and nights ahead. The super comforting gumbo is on my radar. This is melange of chickpeas , and plum tomatoes cooked with celery , peppers and cayenne pepper. Another must cook  is his mushroom stroganoff, spiked with whiskey and made creamy with the addition of sour cream or creme fraiche. I do like the Friday night nibbles which can easily also make for a weekend supper. His polenta chips look heavenly , These can easily be made with leftover pulse too. it's roasting polenta pieces for fifty minutes in a 350 degree F oven. There's also a tasty tortilla dip that has cherry tomatoes and red chili mixed with cream cheese. The ploughman's nachos are another must make.It's sliced bread like sourdough, slathered with a mix of butter and HP sauce baked with sharp cheddar on top  and topped with pickled onions. Yum!!! There's also simple pickle recipes I want to try too. Every recipe from the pastas to pies parcels and bakes , along with soups, sandwiches and salads will be created in my kitchen.

Vegetarian home chefs must get Ultimate Veg :Easy And Delicious Meals For Everyone. There are dozens of delicious and fun recipes to make and try. There's no need to have faux beef every night once you have this book.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Lessons From Early On

If you think first jobs have no impact on lives, think again. That first one, whether at McDonald's or Wendy's can have a lifelong effect, especially on chefs and restauranteurs.These may seem menial and meaningless yet they are meaningful and important. They have formed an entire generation of professionals in the food service industry.

Priya Krishna, author of the popular Indian cookbook Indianish and regular contributor wrote about how those first jobs in yesterday's New York Times' Food section. Many who have gone on to culinary school and opened their own restaurants have spent either their high school or college years in some chain restaurant. This is not new. The famed French chef, Jacques Pepin actually had his first US job at Howard Johnson's. Even though he grew up in his family's eatery and trained in Paris, he also received life lessons during his time at the most famous of chain restaurants. He learned how to can ingredients to keep them fresh when transferred between restaurants, and how to cooks meats sous vide.He employed those techniques when he helped open up another famed restaurants, Windows On The world atop the World Trade Center.Chef Pepin believes that if you open your mind you can learn where ever you are.They can learn at the famed and fancy Per Se but also at the upscale chain Hillstone which receives good marks for its' food and service.

Yet chefs to be can learn these lessons anywhere.What is good about the fast food industry is that it is the only sector regularly hiring.The number of chain restaurants opening rose from 1,000 to a whopping 301,200 in 2017!!! Working at any one can lead to a job in food. Tiffany Derry , the chef and owner of Roots Chicken Shack, in Plano Texas got her start in an IHOP. Working there gave her the business skills needed to open her own restaurants. She learned to cost out a dish, do inventory, make revenue projections and input invoices. She teaches her employees the same. Katsuya Fukushima, executive chef and part owner of several restaurants including Haikan and Bantam in Washington DC started in Wendy's where workers are taught to be polite to all customers and taught to upsell meals. Another famed chef, Cassidee Dabney who creates amazing meals and runs The Barn at Blackberry Farm got her start at Applebee's in Fayetteville Arkansas which was considered a fancy restaurant out there. She made salads and cooked french fries which has shaped her experience at The Barn. Now she hires people with similar experiences. Even the influential Southern chef, Sean Brock, started in Waffle House, a place he loved so much he brought the famed chef Anthony Bourdain.

Working at any chain restaurant can be beneficial, especially to future chefs. It's a great way to learn about the industry and you get paid. It's a job worth considering.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Great Indian Pickling Book

Pickling and Indian food are never really mentioned in the same sentence. Yet it's an important part of the cuisine, as Indians, both from the north and the south will tell you. There are so many different ones that complement the variety of dishes the country offers. What's great is that anyone from experienced to novice home chefs can make these tart and tasty sides.

Tejal Rao wrote about this in today's New York TImes Food section. Ms Rao, a regular contributor, also interviewed India's pickle queen Usha Prabakaran who wrote a cult classic cookbook Usha's Pickle Digest.It was on the cusp of being big, when a rare fungus lodged in the front of her brain. She needed surgery to remove it along with long periods of rest to recover. The book and the launch party had to be put on hold. This was in 1998 and through the two decades since the book has picked up a following.It was self published and then the pages were photocopied. It was celebrated in blogs and on podcasts. Ms. Prabakan, who originally studied to be a lawyer, answered inquiries with friendly PDFs which explains how her pickle books hopped the globe. Pickling is big in Indian cuisine. She learned how from her mother in law who preserved  new batches of seasonal pickles every week.The tart fruits and veggies were addictive. She apprenticed herself, learning to turn jars in the sun so the fruit dried evenly and taught herself to combine new and old tamerinds to balance out their acidity levels. Her creations were given to friends who begged for the  recipes. The book also reflects the need to preserve this tradition which is dying out thanks to pickle factories taking over.

 Indian home chefs use almost anything to create these tasty side dishes and condiments. Fruits such as plums and hog plums - a kind of smaller version of plum along with cherries and chokeberries - a berry similar to a blueberry are brined in either salt or a spiced oil. Sprouted fenugreek seeds, bamboo shoots, fat gooseberries and even hibiscus flowers (!) are also pickled. Most of them are brined in salt water but Indian home chefs also use vinegar, citrus juice , tamarind juice and yogurt. Pickled foods are served at every meal, including breakfast and with every kind of dish  including grilled cheese.Anyone can pickle. Ms. Rao gives two of Ms. Prabakaran's recipes. One's a simple carrot one that has a peeled and julienned  carrot brined in lime juice and kosher salt. Fresh , finely chopped ginger and a finely chopped serrano chile are added for heat and flavor. This would be a great side for any dinner.Another is a tomato and fennel seed pickle.It requires unripe or sour Roma tomatoes.It has a sweet and spicy vibe , thanks to tamarind juice and hot paprika. Asafoetida powder is also added. This gives a leek like flavor and is used in northern Indian cooking. This is a more involved cooking which involves cooking mustard seeds also used for more flavor, and then cooking the tomatoes in the spice mixture.It's then cooled and eaten with flat breads or yogurt.

Pickled foods are a great side to any main course. Try  Usha Prabakaran's recipes to give your meals a fun lift. They're relatively easy to  recreate and a nice jolt of heat on a cold winter's night.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Winterscape Cake

This was supposed to be the perfect holiday cake.
Except I made it two weeks after Christmas and a week after New Year's.
This was the cake I had wanted to make, before sickness and life happened. It was going to be a two layer cake with a peppermint buttercream
With the way my schedule is I thought a larger one layer cake - about 13  by 9. It was easier to bake
I used Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Dark Chocolate Fudge cake
This mix requires three eggs which makes for an incredibly moist cake.
Then it was time for the decoration. I wanted to create a winterscape with pine trees.
This was my first time using fondant
It's a white gummy kind of icing that can be used as a covering for cakes or cupcakes. I just wanted to make pine trees.
This required my embroidery scissors and the mini skewers I used for the Easter.
The scissors are used for making the boughs while the skewers are used to spin the fondant around to cut.
Since fondant is white, green food coloring has to be added.
It's then hand mixing the coloring into the fondant and rolling the fondant into cones.
It kind of looks like cotton candy before it's cut.
This is it. Not bad compared to the other three made. Fondant is temperamental. It needs to be kept in a dark cool place once the package is opened.
The icing was a simple peppermint buttercream that I got from The Two Sisters blog. They have the best buttercream recipes with all sorts of flavors. I've used their cream cheese one already.
It's typical buttercream - although I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, confectioner's sugar along with two teaspoons of peppermint extract.
It's Neisen-Massey's which makes the best extracts. This was blended with the confectioner's sugar , I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and a tablespoon of almond milk to get it creamy.
This was frosted over the cake. The trees were added , along with silver sanding sugar for a sparkly snow effect.

This was my Christmas  - winterscape cake. I will make it again. I love the new Duncan Hines' mix. and there's something about peppermint buttercream that's heavenly. As for the fondant, I will try it again. It makes for pretty decorations.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Healthy Winter Snacks

After the excess of the holiday's  - as well as observing Three Kings' day today - it's nice to eat healthy once again. That doesn't mean go back to boring and low cal. YOu can enjoy - and celebrate the Three King's vising the Christ Child with tasty good for you treats.

Many throughout the world today do celebrate when the Three Kings, Casper, Melchior, and Balthaszar visited Bethlehem. There are all sorts of dishes such as the Puerto Rican pasteles, banana leaves stuffed with everything from pork, shredded plantains and potatoes along with pumpkins. A healthier version could be just a combo of the plantains and pumpkins or squash. Use the traditional spices such as the traditional sofrito, a mix of red and green peppers mixed with onions, tomatoes and garlic.Another healthier spin is using Beyond Meat for the pork and spicing it up the same way. These and lettuce rolls are a fun snack on movie night.  Again sub in Beyond Beef or Gardein's tofu crumbles for the real beef.  The traditional recipe calls for just onions but you can also add sliced red, green and yellow peppers along with avocados for color and flavor. Cook the crumbles with the traditional spices such as pickled ginger, hoisin sauce and Asian dark sesame oil. Another fun veggie loaded dish is cauliflower crust pizza. it's using this cruciferous veggie mixed with eggs and low fat or vegan mozzarella for a satisfying crunchy crust. Top with tomatoes and basil along with peppers and olives.

Three Kings Day brings in the famed King's cake , a fixture in pre-Lenten New Orleans. This treat is actually a sweet yeast bread zinged up with cinnamon and lemon zest. The icing is a  simple glaze either dyed or dusted with green , purple,  or gold Mardi Gras colors. Usually a baby or prize such as a ring or coin is hidden's a delicious cake which can be made healthy. Use vegan butter for the real thing along with almond milk for cow's. Honey can be used for sugar so it's not too overly sweet (remember you'll be double sugaring the topping with both confectioner's and sanding sugar. You could also dye the glaze the three colors too, eliminating the need for the sanding sugar). Another idea is making sugarless and flourless (!) cookies and dying them the Mardi Gras colors. There is a recipe that just has peanut butter, stevia and one egg. They're also a nice snack with a hot tea on a wintry night. Vegan chocolate chips are always a sweet treat and you can sub in carob for the chocolate.

It's possible to celebrate this last Christmas holiday with healthy savory and sweet treats. They still taste good and they're good for you. Try them as a change over from the excess of the holidays.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Cotton Candy Dreams

Ever since I was very little - we're talking toddler here - I've loved cotton candy. I don't know why, Maybe the airiness  or the way it melts on a little tongue. It could be that I enjoyed it the first time at the Wildwood Crest, New Jersey Boardwalk after a fun day of splashing in the ocean waves. My love intensified when I received one when I was three (yes, three!)My parents sent away to Boston for it as a birthday gift which I can still remember.

Jokingly I had asked for one for Christmas after seeing it at this cool discount store Five Below.I got it.
It doesn't come with the sugars so I had to order them from Amazon. These were around $17.95
There were a lot of flavors to choose from, but I thought the raspberry - grape - cherry trio was the best choice and the most flavorful. It does comes with the cones. These are a little too big for the machine which comes with long skewers and a scoop . Which one is the best? I do like how the cones look but the sticks are easier to twirl the floss around. This is the machine after a simple assemblage.

It's just adding the sugar with the scoop that comes with it and putting it in the center disc.
This was the first try, using the grape flavor.

It looks kind of thin , I guess two scoops would give it a thicker , fluffier look. Still it's a fun snack and a surprise dessert for company. I plan on getting the watermelon and sour apple flavors next, possibly the bubble gum too.

Marcel Proust  had his madeleines. I have my cotton candy. It's just as fun as getting it at the shore or when I was three. There is nothing like it.

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Amazing Stew Leonard's

There are supermarkets and then there are supermarkets. Stew Leonard's falls into the last. It's is a mind blowing combo of Disneyland and large grocery/deli. This is a shopping experience for any foodie.

I recently went for the first time at the one located at the Paramus Park Mall, in Paramus, New Jersey.I'm sort of reluctant to head into these super stores, because I've always felt  them to be over hyped. After all, you can easily walk into any averaged sized Acme or Stop & Shop and find what you're looking for. I was wrong about Stew Leonard's. Just walking into their huge liquor section was eye opening. I have never seen that many brands or types of wines and liqueurs. There were even different brands of Prosecco which were selling for a reasonable price of $7.45. Just when I was getting over the awe of that I went into the food section. There were animatronic singing milk cartons above the dairy section. Imagine the Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland turned dairy. It was wild!!!! Then there 's this duck that pops out of a giant soda can like container. Again, too wild!!!! It is a kid friendly store. Parents can throw their little ones a Stew Leonard birthday party and there are "cooking" classes for kids. They learn to prepare such dishes as mashed potatoes, chicken tenders, and broccoli and cheddar bites.

I had to try their fried chicken which again was mind blowing. As much as I love Popeye's, the Stew Leonard's version was much more flavorful, with potato chip crispy skin. That was the best part of an already delicious dinner. The legs were so huge that I honestly thought I was eating turkey drumsticks a few times.Again, they were downright delicious. I plan on going back for them again as well as trying out the intriguing chicken cordon bleu bites. These are balls of chicken meat stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese, then battered. I also want to try their cold buffet too. As for the products, it really is a home chef's paradise.I bought their vegetarian seven layer dip which was excellent. Again, I'm not one for those layered dips but theirs changed my mind. It was a tasty blend of cheddar, sour cream, guacamole, and different layers of tomatoes and beans. I really enjoyed it with breadsticks and potato chips. The store's produce department is a home chef's fantasy come to life. Stew Leonard's prides itself on buying fresh from local farms as well as family owned farms in Mexico (hence the avocados). There are a wide variety and again the choices are amazing. I plan on getting their giant onions for stuffing on my next trip (which will be very soon).

If you're in the Paramus ,New Jersey area, please stop in and visit Stew Leonard's. It's an amazing blend of entertainment and grocery shopping. You'll leave, not wanting to visit a regular grocery store ever again.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Year New Meatless Attitude

A new year - and a new decade  - means different and healthier recipe options. This is definitely the year to go meatless and dairyless  to help yourself and the planet. If you're hesitant, think twice. There are some really good meatless recipes  - seriously - that'll help you transition.

Melissa Clark gave a slew of them in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Her drive to help the planet actually started back in the Spring when fellow colleague Julia Moskin teamed up with Brad Plumer from The New York Times Climate desk to report on how our current food system is contributing to climate change. The results were crystal clear and deeply disturbing to her. Meat and dairy production contribute to a staggering 14.5 percent of the world's greenhouse emissions. It's  as much as all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined!!! Ms. Clark has tried to lessen her carbon footprint by shopping at farmer's markets and choosing ethically raised meats. She stays away from most processed foods. Yet this isn't enough.She gives us several good suggestions. One is eat more beans.There is enough varieties out there to have an interesting and varied diet. Also eat more grains, including pasta. Go the vegan route and add more tofu to your recipes. Eat more seeds and grains too.Another must? Go to plant based "meats". These are not only good for you but delicious. Also appreciate when you do cook meat. Add some turkey sausage to spinach salad, Ms. Clark suggests, or have a good concentrated bone broth. Salami and prosciutto can add a salty unami flavor to braised veggies.

What of the veggie dishes themselves? Ms. Clark gives us a mushroom bourguignon, made with two pounds of mixed mushrooms . You can use  cremini, portobello, white button, shiitake and /or oyster types mixed with leeks and onions. Like it's beefy cousin, there is red wine and tomato paste along with thyme. Soy or tamari sauce is added for more flavor. You can serve this over polenta but also pasta or mashed potatoes for a hearty , wintry dish. Another tasty one is a riff on Indian butter chicken - Indian butter chickpeas.It's a spicy , buttery blend of the classic dish, rich with cinnamon, cumin, paprika and garam masala. If you're craving just the tiniest bit of meat then try the maple roasted tofu with butternut squash and bacon.It's a sweet, salty, spicy  sheet pan dinner that a delicious blend of texture and flavors.  There's also black bean tacos with avocado and onions,a sure way to convert those meat lovers to vegan dishes. A healthy and tasty dinner, even perfect for one is the quinoa bowl with crispy Brussels sprouts, eggplant and tahini, The veggies are roasted and added to the grains. A really fun dish is the meatless meatballs made with Beyond Meat and all the traditional meatball ingredients like, garlic, chopped parsley and breadcrumbs. Forget the pasta, Serve these with sauce on hero loaves for a tasty sandwich or with a slice of crusty and oiled Italian bread.

Make this year you save the planet. Decrease your meat and cheese intake. Try these vegan and vegetarian recipes and enjoy. You'll wonder why you ate beef and cheese in the first place.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The New York Times Food Section Predicts

A new year means new predictions. The  New York Times food section has theirs today for the year ahead. Will they be right? Do they have a thumb on the pulse of what America and New Yorkers want to eat?

My predictions yesterday were off compared to the ones Food section regular contributor , Kim Severson , had. She predicts that Japanese food will be the hot cuisine of choice. This is due to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a rise in travel to Japan. Japanese toast is already , made from pan de mie,becoming popular. India also will be on the culinary radar too, namely the spicy Keralan cuisine from southwest India. This is a cuisine heavy on the spices along with being rich with coconut, rice and fish. West Africa, Laos and Vietnam will also be popular too. I thought for sure it would be more Middle Eastern, but maybe that's been played out already. However Ms. Severson also predicts generational cooking where young chefs will be influenced by their immigrant parents and grandparents. New dishes and family recipes, which may include some Middle Eastern recipes and spices.

There is even a predicted color of the year : blue and its' deeper variation indigo.Butterfly pea powder, which could be the new matcha is showing up in moon milk, a sleep remedy based on Ayurvedic recipes.Ube, a purple root vegetable and orach, mountain spinach , a purply cabbage like veggie will also be the stars of this year's tables.. Ms. Severson and I do agree on sustainability. She predicts that restaurants and food producers are and will be doubling down on earth friendly ingredients and practices. Vegan dishes and meat alternatives will show up on more menus. It's what I wrote yesterday about more home chefs will be offering their families Beyond Burgers and other plant based "meats". Also I think more fast food chains such as Wendy's Taco Bell and possibly Chipotle may switch over to Beyond Beef. Ms. Severson also foretells that finer dining places will also offer faux bouef. There will also be a rise in regenerative plants such as chickpeas and buckwheat which farmers use to regain soil between harvests. Also look for more biodegradable utensils from fast food places.

These are just some of the predictions for the upcoming year. There may be something new that arises that wasn't on the culinary radar. Guaranteed this year will be  a year full of interesting tastes .