Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mitsuwa Market - A Fun Shopping Trip

Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone. This includes going to a completely different grocery than usual. For me it was Mitsuwa market in Edgewater New Jersey, directly across the river from Manhattan., It was fascinating and fun.

The market is full of interesting foods and produce. The Japanese love cute and there is a lot of Hello Kitty around. I found these cute gummy candies along with elegantly wrapped but still adorable

 Confetti checkerboard cookies. The gummy candies were in the shape of little paws and were orange berry flavors.
I am definitely buying these again. Then there are the Melty Blends chocolate mint squares that just melt in your mouth. They remind me of those much beloved Frango mints.

Of course what I really wanted was a sushi mat. The prospect of making  vegan California rolls has been my Holy Grail and so I needed a sushi mat and the right ingredients.
I bought the mat along with the precooked rice and seaweed. I am so excited to create them, and I'm watching all the sushi how to on You Tube.Mine are going to be carrots, avocado and cucumber for a refreshing, summery mix.
Of course I bought ramen too , Sapporo Ichiban which has a large array of different ready to make noodle dishes.
This is the miso flavor and there's five packages in a pack. I'm also looking forward to having one as a lunch or dinner soon.

Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. Go to the different ethnic markets in your neighborhoods. THey'll make you excited about cooking again.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Freezer Bingo, Cooking Roulette

Our freezers have taken on a new aspect in the past few months. They've been vaults to all sorts of frozen foods. Boxes of frozen essentials have been crowding out those containers of homemade sauce and ice cube trays. It's time to use them with interesting combinations for meals.

Many overbought waffles . They are tasty and make for a satisfying and comforting breakfast . However as the weather turns warmer, the kids may want cold cereal to start the day. Not to worry. There's always chicken and waffles.  You can easily make fried chicken or even buy tenders along with fake chicken such as Gardein's. Serve with maple syrup or syrup with a kick of cayenne added like Ree Drummond's recipe. They're also great as the bread for breakfast sandwiches holding scrambled eggs and sliced ham. They are also good stuffed with bacon and cheddar cheese as a fun lunch.  You may have also bought Texas toast during one of your grocery foraging trips. It's very versatile. It makes the base for pizza if you just add sauce and mozzarella. Have the kids add chopped fresh peppers and onions along with pepperoni and olives for a fun dinner. Another idea is spooning sloppy Joe mixture on top for a different take on this classic sandwich.

Your freezer must look like a frozen vegetable garden right now. You may have overbought a ton of those easy to steam packets. Now the freezer is  bursting with them. Luckily many can be turned into salads. Frozen green beans can be turned into a salad just in time for barbecue season. Broccoli can be turned into a flavorful salad or as part of a cheesy bake. It , along with other frozen veggies like peas can be cooked with rice along with fresh cut onions and soy sauce for an interesting side dish. Peas have a versatility too. You can make the classic dish risi e bisi which is arborio rice cooked with frozen peas and garlic. It's a great weekday dinner that's a snap to whip up. You could also just cook them up Italian style with olive oil and garlic along with onions and chicken stock. Cauliflower can also be turned into a salad or a side. Try roasting it in your air fryer or oven after it's been spiced up with turmeric and garam masala, that great blend of Indian spices. You can also pan roast it for a crunchy side or even snack with a ranch dressing.

Forage your freezer. You'll be surprised at what you'll find to make interesting dishes. It's a fun way to create new dishes from all that over buying..

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Savory Babka

By now everyone should be an expert at bread making. Why not step it up a notch and try babka, a savory one that makes for a nice lunch or dinner with salad. It's a fun bake and a different kind of challenge.

Regular contributor Melissa Clark gave us this recipe in her  A Good Appetite Column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. This isn't the traditional cinnamon one or the trendy chocolate laced kind. This is a savory one, with a cheesy herbed filling that takes on a Mediterranean vibe with the addition of prosciutto, salami  or olives.It's the perfect quick meal and you can even bring it along on a picnic. Just remember that babka, like any bread, can be labor intensive. It has to be proofed twice. The first time should be in a cozy, warm place according to Ms. Clark. Think of it like a cat looking for a place to nap, she advises.A bowl of the proofing dough can be placed on top of the fridge, and even in the nook of your couch. It could even be wrapped in a blanket and placed on a sunny spot on the floor. Then there's the second proofing. This is done in the fridge overnight. The long fermentation develop's the bread's flavor however if you;'re strapped for time, then a four hour proof can do the trick.

As for the filling, Ms Clark gives a mixture of ricotta and Parmesan. However if you don't have it she recommends any creamy cheese such as goat, cottage or even cream cheese.It does have to be room temperature for better malleability If you want extra saltiness then add some olives and ham along with alliums such as chopped scallions and minced garlic.Herbs are important in the recipe too, however if you're partial to one or two, then just use your favorites. Try such finely chopped ones as basil mint , parsley thyme leaves or cilantro. Three tablespoons of them should do the trick in flavoring the whole loaf. The one problem with babka is shaping it. There are videos you can watch  but it's just a simple, roll and braid. Ms. Clark assures that the loaf is fine  if the filling is put into the dough, then rolled and baked. Her method is spreading the filling on the rolled out dough. Use an icing scraper for this. Roll it into a tightly coiled log,then bring one end to the other and twist. Baking time is 35 to 45 minutes   375 degree oven. The result is a fragrant , golden brown bread. Serve it warm as a meal with a nice salad.

A savory babka is a nice change up from the regular breads everyone has been making. This is a cheesy , herb rich slice that's perfect for lunch or dinner. Bake it today for a nice break.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Best Recipes From The Best Restaurants

We have been eating family recipes for too long now. There's a  deep yearning for eating out and enjoying our favorite meals and desserts. However restaurant dining is still not allowed in some areas. What to do? Make their recipes.

Today's New York Times Food section gathered twelve recipes from the country's twelve best restaurant. There are dishes for all sorts of tastes, from savory to sweet. Pasta lovers will go crazy for famed Los Angeles' restaurant Felix's tagliatelle with prosciutto and butter. The restaurant also has produced pasta kits that have freshly made hand wrought pasta with a variety of sauces.They come with instructions that are down to the letter with prepping and serving. Another Italian cuisine favorite is Chicago's La Scarola with their Chicken Vesuvio dish.It's chicken cooked with russet potatoes, oregano and white wine. For those who want more adventurous recipes there's Hwa Yuan's  take out style sesame noodles.It's a Manhattan classic, with a fiery peanutty taste, perfect for a weekend dinner. Want a real fun starter for a barbecue? Phoenicia, from Birmingham, Michigan gives us the whipped garlic spread toum. This would be perfect on toasted pita  or even grilled steak. Then there's Atlanta's Taqueria del Sol pork roast with roasted jalapeno gravy. The roast has a spicy rub of black epper and granulated onion and garlic while the gravy has jalapenos, half and half and chicken stock.

Bakers will go wild for the Country Club Bakery's recipe for pepperoni rolls. This is a tasty mix of a maple syrup sweetened bread filled with pepperoni slices. The rolls are a state treasure throughout West Virginia  where the bakery is located in the town of Fairmont. Some add cheese  and if you want  to, do. Then there's Bakesale Betty's cinnamon crunch banana bread. This Oakland, California bakery is popular one.It's an interesting mix of bananas with cinnamon, There's also comfort food recipes such as Bananas Foster from New Orleans Brennans' and baked mac and cheese from Stingray's in New York. Other comfort dishes are Eventide's fish chowder from Portland Maine. This is a great mix of scallops and cod, perked up with dashi, Japanese fish stock. Of course French fries are the ultimate comfort food and there is the Piper Inn's recipe with beer cheese. All these recipes can be fattening which is why there is the salad recipe from Canlis in Seattle. This is a perfectly light mix of Romaine , tomatoes and Italian bread with a kind of home made mayo dressing.

Everyone misses their favorite restaurants right now. These recipes might help ease that ache. They are tasty and delicious, as well as being fun and comforting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

There's Always Microwave Cooking

The weather's getting warmer and that means a stuffy, hot kitchen. Cooking whole meals like we did a couple of months ago is no longer appealing. Yet , there's still the need for hot meal. What to do? Turn to our trusty microwaves.

After weeks of using the oven, crock pot  oven  and air fryer on a constant rotation, it's nice to use an appliance that can give us a hot meal in seconds. It''s also a fun treat because we tend to buy what we like. There are some great brands out there. I've recently discovered Annie Chun's , surprisingly sold at CVS. This company has many Asian influenced meals that can be cooked for a quick lunch or dinner. I tried their Soy Garlic Noodle Bowl and was pleasantly surprised by just how good it was. I was also leery because the noodles come precooked which can sometimes mean salmonella. However  they came out perfect and I loved that it had dried veggies that plump out when water is added.  There was also a sauce that's mixed in afterwards. This is the perfect lunch or dinner, especially on a weekend. The company also has pad Thai and teriyaki flavors that I'd like to try too. Amy's Kitchen also has very good microwave meals. Their's is a little more natural along with offering vegan and gluten free alternatives.I enjoy their organic pasta,broccoli and potatoes bowl. This is a filling dish, full of baked tofu, red bell peppers and roasted potatoes and topped off with an English cheddar cheese.

Another aspect of microwave cooking is creating our own dishes. One is taking garlic knots made from frozen prepared dough and dipping them in warmed pizza sauce. Getting the dough is easy.  You can select Pillsbury or in store brands along with frozen dough. The simpler method is use your air fryer. Baking them in a hot oven on a hot day  is really not fun.  They'll bake up in just four minutes flat. Then it's taking sauce and just heating it until it's hot and bubble. Grilled cheese is usually the domain of ovens and toaster ovens however it can be made in a microwave too. Don't use  white bread because it will become soggy . Try heartier slices of rye or sourdough bread. Also pick a cheese that melts easily These would be any kind of cheddar. You can blend it with Parmesan for a different,  tangier flavor. Add ham for a croque monsieur vibe or sliced tomatoes and already cooked bacon.Another easy microwave is a baked potato. This can be fun because you can add a variety of different toppings from chili to just plain butter and sour cream. You just microwave the potato first for about four minutes, then scoop out the middle. Mix this with shredded ham or bacon along with sour cream, butter, and onion powder, and then put back into the hollowed out potato. Microwave for another two to three minutes.

After months of oven and stove top cooking,it's time to take a break. Try microwave cooking, whether with prepared or make your own meals. It's an easy way to have a hot , filling meal.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A True Memorial Day

This is a different kind of Memorial Day . We can't have friends and family over for the usual burgers and dogs.We can't head to the beach or park of if we can  - not that quickly or that casually.

What we can do is remember those brave essential workers. We can still treat doctors and nurses to pizzas and coffees. We can still offer free gift certificates to those delivery people and grocery workers,as we help restaurants get back on their feet. We can also help out service families and veterans, whether by buying them food or delivering them groceries and hot meals.

This Memorial Day , it is all about remembrance. We need to remember those that have bravely died of the Corona virus and those who have died in our previous wars. We need to remember those essential workers too.

Run free , little Bitty into fields filled with catnip,, chicken, ham and roast beef

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Fun Book About Bourbon

We need fun and promise right now. Along with parties that feature alcohol and good food. There is a book out there. Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon :Setting The Table For Tastings, Food Pairings, Dinner and Cocktail Parties, Forward by Fred Minnick (South Limestone Publishing 2020). It's a fizzy book that chock full of fun facts, interesting history and delicious recipes.

Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler wrote this fascinating melange of facts and fun. Ms. Stevens has a background with bourbon, being founder of the Bourbon Women Association and the first female master bourbon taster in the world. Susan Reigler is a former restaurant critic for the Louisville-Courier Journal and a current correspondent for Bourbon + and American Whiskey magazines. She also has written other books on the subject. There's a lot of ideas and suggestions for bourbon parties but these can be adapted for other parties too. A plus is that the authors offer suggestions for gatherings for all year round and of course the big Kentucky event - the Kentucky Derby. Ms. Stevens and Ms. Reigler give suggestions for both formal and informal gatherings. Bourbon enthusiasts will love this book because it shows how to set up a bourbon bar. There is even a floor plan, perfect if you have enough room or a big yard.Since this is the South , there are also suggestions about sending out the perfect invitation which is crucial to any Antebellum do.I love the coffee table book photographs of classic glassware and silverware along with the decorations  - which Ms. Stevens and Ms. Reigler offer where to buy them.

As for the recipes they give some that I'm familiar with such as burgoo, a Kentucky classic. I'm surprised and just a little disappointed that there were no recipes for that Louisville classic, the Hot Brown. Many have bourbon as part of the ingredients as Granny Hunter's Bourbon Tenderloin or Chicken and Country Ham Crepes with a Bourbon Sauce. Since the drink itself is a mash of fermented corn , there is a  slight sweetness there that makes it an ideal ingredient. It gives kick to the acorn squash recipe, that flavored up with brown sugar and butter. This would be the perfect Thanksgiving side to a turkey.  There's also the intriguing asparagus with bourbon Hollandaise. A tablespoon of the drink is added to tradition Hollandaise sauce along with chopped tomatoes!!! Desserts also get a touch of it. There is a bourbon pineapple pound cake that requires just a store or bakery bought pound cake  with a sauce of bourbon, brown sugar and grilled pineapple. Of course there are the bourbon cocktails which all sound so interesting. There is the traditional Bold Old, a bourbon mix spiked with bitters along with a Baked Apple Pie Old Fashioned that combines apple brandy and cinnamon whiskey with bourbon and maple syrup.

Which Fork Do I Use With My BOurbon : Setting The Table FOr Tastings , Food Pairings, Dinners and Cocktail Parties is the book we need for right now. It give us the thrilling expectation that we can throw parties again. It's also perfect for those bourbon lovers looking to plan a summer of good drinks and good eats.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Protein Bars With A Flavor Kick

Protein bars can either taste too crunchy granola or like twigs. Not so with Unite, a new company out of Yorba Linda, California, They've come up with three flavors that's sure to make everyone happy. There's  PB &Jelly, Churros and Mexican Hot Chocolate. They are unusual too, in the sense that they're the world's first globally inspired flavors. Another unusual aspect? The main ingredients are dates, hemp seeds , nut butters and probiotic fibers, great for your gut.
How are the flavors? The best is the Mexican Hot Chocolate which has a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom.It has cinnamon too and the unexpected kick of hot chili. The Churro flavor has almonds and sweet vanilla with a dusting of cinnamon on top, exactly like the fried doughy treats.
The peanut butter has creamy peanut butter and little gobs of strawberry jam. All three are interesting, a bit intense for my taste but kids should love them. They're also moister than the average granola bar, and very chewy. thanks to the main ingredient being dates. The bars can be the perfect snack for backyard picnics and soccer games.The Churro and Mexican Hot Chocolate are only 190 calories a bar while the PB & Jelly is just 180 calories. There's no trans fat or cholesterol, so they're even good for adults watching their weight or trying to lose weight from being cooped up;
 A different spin would be cutting them up in small chunks and mixing them with either vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream.

Try Unite's globally inspired protein bars. Have the PB & Jelly for a snack and Churro or Mexican Hot Chocolate for a different kind of dessert. They're a nice change up from the usual protein bars.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The New Face Of Waiting

Slowly but surely we will be able to return to our favorite restaurants. We all know how they'll be different. Will the dining out experience be the same?

 Regular contributor Kim Severson posed this question in her article in yesterday's New York Times Food section. As imagined she was ecstatic to eat at Chops, a steakhouse in the Buckhouse section of her native Atlanta. It was a night out, where she got her wedge salad, followed by a rib-eye steak and asparagus. She was a little put off by her waiter, Roberto Velasco wearing a mask. Yet this is the new normal and in a way  maybe it's better. Not just for the virus but for the protection from the usual colds and flus.There's also hand sanitizer prominently displayed. Diners were nine feet away from Ms Severson, which again is good. There's something about being crammed into a restaurant like sardines that can be off putting. You listen to their private conversations. They listen to yours. it kind of diminishes the whole dining out experience with friends. Other Atlanta restaurants are doing the same. Goldbergs, a famed Atlanta eatery that features New York favorites, also takes temperatures of both staff and diners.Another eatery has the servers change their gloves for every table.

Some restaurants are taking it one step further. Patrick O'Connell owner and chef of The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia has his restaurant filled to half capacity. The other half? Mannequins dressed in 1940's garb. It doesn't give the quaint restaurant an empty look, but still - will mannequins give it a creepy vibe? Especially dressed in fashions from the Second World War? Maybe the whimsy of it matches the menu, which is mostly fun regular and vegetarian amuse-bouches. The restaurant is also decorated in period piece wallpaper with fringed lamps overhead so the mannequins do kind of work. Some eateries are letting diners decide whether their servers should wear masks or not. Is this feasable? The Hillstone Restaurant Group thinks it is  for its' Texas servers only. It also has restaurants in forty-five other states, including New York City, so it does honor what state requirements are. Towns on Long Island, like Oyster Bay will have more outdoor dining , thanks to streets being closed for this.

The new normal for eating out may be the best normal. There will be no germy waiters leaning over you. There will be no overcrowding. Maybe we needed this all along, distanced dining with protected servers and cooks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Glorious Grilled Chicken

Memorial Day is coming up and that means one thing  grilled food!!! There's something about the smoky flavor and the crunchy texture. Despite being home, there's something special about a cookout featuring chicken pieces. Another good aspect? Anyone from novice chef to master griller can create a tasty backyard chicken dinner.

Clare de Boer, the famed British chef and co-owner of the Italian restaurant, King wrote about this summer must eat for today's New York Times Food section. She also offers tips about creating an evenly cooked piece. Grilling chicken is a tough tightwalk. It's entirely different in an oven or a stove top. Add some butter or spices along with some lemon juice. It renders the meat tender and juicy which  equals delicious. A grill is not as forgiving. You can't just add a little more heat and liquid to change dry meat into something mouthwatering tender. There is no temperature control when you cook over coals. Home chefs have to be more agile and attentive. Keep in mind that it starts with basic butchery as Chef de Boer states.Even out the bird's thickness with something as simple as a rolling pin. Boneless breasts are best when leveled with it . For whole chickens with breast and bone then spatchcock, flatten and slash. Slashing provides peepholes that allows you to see if the piece is completely cooked.

Seasoning in advance is also a good thing. Chef de Boer gives a spatchcocked  chicken recipe that's zinged up with oregano and Calabrian chili flakes. You could also just salt them but only with bigger cuts. Smaller ones will turn into chicken jerky. Also temper the meat before cooking. In other words keep it out so it becomes rooms temperature. A room temperature one will cook faster than a cold one.Match the cut of the bird to the grill's temperature. This is the most important bit of info. Thin cuts like breasts prefer it hot which they can char quickly, while thicker cuts prefer it low and slow, meaning there should be a cool spot on the griil. Also don't fiddle with it. Wait until there's a crust then you can flip to your heart's content. How do you know when it's done? Chef de Boer recommends poking (!) it . It should feel like a ripe peach. Then it's just resting the chicken on a plate to cool the interior temp and save the juices. If it doesn't work out , then use barbecue sauces. Try some Greek yogurt out of the fridge, mixed with olive oil along with citrus and sauce as Chef de Boer does.

Go wild with grilling this weekend. Buy that chicken and grill it to crunchy, charred perfection. It's definitely a treat worth cooking and eating.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Treat Yourself To A Fun Dinner

By now we're all sick of all those lunches and suppers that feature beans. It's time to liven up meal time with fun and new recipes. That also includes dessert. we need to give ourselves a fun treat now and then.

Since it's getting close to Memorial Day, think hamburgers and hot dogs. Everyone love burgers with all the fixings. Go double and have two patties like your favorite fast food joints. Add sliced onions or better yet caramelized ones. Caramelizing is an easy process.It's just slowly cooking them in olive oil until the pieces turn a golden brown or tan. You could add butter and even balsamic vinegar for more flavor. Avocado slices or homemade guacamole can be layered on too. The bun should be buttered and then toasted on the grill for about three seconds. Hot dogs can also get the special treatment. Slices them and stuff with shredded cheddar. To make sure the dogs don't split either spear them with toothpicks or wrapped slices of bacon around them. You can do something similar with veggie burgers and dogs. There's vegan cheddar and also mozzarella. As for sides there's potato chips for a fun side or you can air fry them. Air fried chips starts with mandolining potatoes and then spritzing them with olive oil cooking spray. You can add some rosemary sprigs for more flavor.

Fruit is good for you but it can also be fun. Think banana  non dairy ice cream. Dr. Oz featured this on his show a few years back and it was a big hit. It's slicing banana slices and putting them in a freezer bag. It;'s then freezing them overnight and then blitzing them in a food chopper. The result is a creamy, low calorie dish that can be jazzed up with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. You can sub in non dairy whipped almond or coconut milk. Add M&M's or nuts if you want. Caramel apples are always fun. For a different take, air fry them with some cinnamon or plain and then dunk the crunchy slices  into caramel. Of course strawberries are big right now, There's nothing as decadent as strawberries dunked in any kind of chocolate, whether in syrup form or melted chips. You can do the same with blueberries and raspberries too. Of course you can also use fruit in tasty mocktails and cocktails.Think screwdrivers either using seltzers or vodka. Try Bellinis and mimosas with the addition of champagne , peach nectar or  fresh squeezed orange juice.

It's time for a fun treat. Liven up lunch, dinner or even dessert. You deserve it.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Taste Of To Go

Most of us are fed up with home cooking. Let's face it two months of isolation , forage food shopping and cooking non stop is wearing. There's something about eating out - well the new eating out.

I know the lure of take out is strong. There's something about someone else cooking burgers and fries that's tempting. Yes, the restaurants are closed , at least in my state, New Jersey until June 1st. However take out and drive through are going strong. Even getting a soup at Panera, which I did yesterday for lunch was great. I'd forgotten about how good their tomato soup was, even a small cup of it. The accompanying mini loaf of French bread was much appreciated too.Of course the day was too nice and I was itching to go out in the late afternoon. That's when Popeyes called. Luckily one of the ones by me has opened their lobby which means that there's no waiting on the long line for take out. The food, especially their chicken sandwich is still super popular. People want it, quarantine or not. However there is a long wait once you're indoors. There was no choice of soda - only Coke - fine - and no extras like barbecue sauce or honey mustard for the chicken tenders. Still, it was one of the best tasting chicken dinners ever.

If you really have that itch for take out - then take out. There's something great about a freshly made pizza with homemade tomato sauce and tons of gooey cheese. Creating homemade sauce and pasta was probably fulfilling a month ago. Now it's a chore. Treat yourself and your family to your local pastaria's scratch made angel hair or ravioli. They usually include salad, bread  and sometimes soup and even dessert. It's still a filling  and delicious meal but without all the forage shopping and headache of making everything. As the weather gets warmer, there's a need for the beach. Take advantage of the seafood restaurants there. There's something about a fresh lobster or crab dinner with all the trimmings, like melted butter and a side of cole slaw. Take advantage of the freshly made clam chowder too which tastes soooo much better than the canned stuff. Also take advantage of the fish and chips. Again , the fresh made is so much better than the frozen stuff. Restaurant's like Bahr's in the New Jersey town of Atlantic Highlands can bring your dinner and a cocktail out to your car. What more can you ask for?

This quarantine is getting to all of us. If you're tired of cooking. go out. Eat in the parking lot, far from the other cars. You'll feel better and happier.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Burgers And Buns For Your Barbecue

We need barbecues right now. There's something about grilling burgers and then putting them and all the fixings on them that's soothing. Patties on buns are the ultimate comfort food. Now there's a new cookbook that's all about the marriage of bun and burger. It's the perfect book for these times.

The appropriately named Gregory Berger wrote Buns & Burgers : Handcrafted Burgers From Top To Bottom (Mango Press 2020). This book has everything in it, from how Mr. Berger got into bread baking, which won him prizes at state fairs to vegan choices.The book starts with the chapter titled Tools which basically explains ingredients and equipment. The last is mostly for bun baking. He also has a page of tips for baking which is a boon for beginner bread makers.What is interesting is the Buy Versus Make page. Should you buy or make fillers such as ketchup - no - or mayo - if you want.He does give an easy pickle recipe that could be served at any barbecue or beach picnic. He also gives a recipe for Dijon style mustard. Mr. Berger also recommends going to the local butcher for meat instead of the grocery store and local farm for fresh, organic veggies.He is also a big advocate of bread being made without preservatives which are what his recipes are. The book starts off with simple recipes to more advanced ones. However you can mix the buns with the different burgers.There's also a fun ice cream burger at the end for a sweet dessert served on homemade mini cinnamon buns.

I love this book. There are so many non-vegan and vegan recipes. Beginner bakers and novice chefs can  start off with simple sesame milk buns and the classic burger to Greek pita bread and English muffins encasing Greek burgers and breakfast for dinner patties. There are some unusual ones too, sure to be the highlight of any backyard get together. Try black charcoal buns made with activated charcoal that  you can buy online at Amazon. The burgers topping them are rather unusual too.Cod flavored with basil and pine nuts, with the patties being topped with avocado, sweet pickle remoulade - the recipe is also in the book and mango slices. There is a recipe for soft pretzel buns that will be topped with a homemade nacho cheese burger. Mr. Berger also includes pickle jalapenos and a nacho cheese sauce made with smoked paprika! There are vegan burgers too. One is made from plantains, forbidden or black rice and sweet potatoes. It give it a Latin American vibe  as it's served on honey corn bread buns.nThere are also white bean and pea shoot ones along quinoa  with bean and corn burgers. The last is served on a sweet topped Dutch crunch bun. For those who love waffle burgers Mr. Berger has those too for a really different take on this classic sandwich.

Buns I Burgers :Handcrafted Burgers From Top To Bottom is a great book for these unsettling times. Make the ultimate comfort food, a hamburger om a bun, whether for lunch, dinner or even dessert! They're tasty and different, fun and soothing!

Friday, May 15, 2020

My Take On Moka Dupont

It was too good a recipe to pass up. Dorie Greenspan wrote up an interesting and what I thought was an easy take on a French icebox cake in last week's Sunday New York Times magazine. The ingredients were simple, Social Tea biscuits, sugar chocolate and sugar along with eggs and butter. I had to make it. What fun! Especially with the warm weather here.

I couldn't find Social Teas so I used  Leibniz butter cookies. I think they come close to the original ones used in 1950's France.They're also a little more buttery too than Social Teas.
These are soaked in espresso with a tablespoons of sugar which I omitted. I felt the French buttercream was too sweet already.
I used Aldi's brand Beaumont coffee. 
The icing was the hardest. I used Lindt's 90 per cent dark chocolate which is almost like Baker's chocolate.
This was broken and melted for one minute and a half in the microwave.

The recipe called for a stick of butter (it is French after all).Instead I used  a stick of Country Crock margarine.It's vegan and does taste like butter.
along with Vegg egg substitute
it calls for one egg with the yolk and the white separately whisked. However this is a vegan household so I used 1/8 th of  a teaspoon  and then fork whisked this with a tablespoon of water.

 It was added to the creamed butter and granulated sugar. The melted chocolate was then folded into all of this.
It's a very gritty , grainy butter cream.
These are the soaked biscuits ,in a casserole pan. Some fell apart.
Then it's layered with icing and cookies.
There was only one problem. The recipe calls for four layers of cookies which I had thanks to buying two packets. However I had to quickly made another batch of icing to accommodate the other two layers. Again I overbought the Lindt chocolate and quickly whipped up another batch.
This is it. A lot of work for a cake that's supposed to be easy to make. As for the taste.I like the fact the icing chilled to a buttery tasting fudge and I do like my choice of Leibniz biscuits just for their buttery taste. The espresso taste works well too. The only thing that does take getting used to is the grainy texture of the icing. 

This is my take on the famed Moka Dupont icebox cake. Would I make it again, knowing all the work involved? Maybe .It does taste yummy for a labor intensive treat.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A New World Of Shopping

It's almost hard to remember what shopping was like back in January. We could go on a whim  just for a pack of cookies  or head out for a last minute ingredient. For the last few months we have to bulk shop and hoard along with figuring out what to do with fifty pounds of something. It's created a new sort of cooking, one we're getting used to now.

Priya Krishna, the author of the popular Indian cookbook  Indian-ish wrote about this new phenomena in yesterday's New York Times Food section.Pantries are overflowing with mostly beans and potatoes these days. People are stress buying, afraid of the shortages appearing and afraid of just heading to their local grocery store. Some, such as Elysia Mann went to the website which sells all sorts of nuts, dried fruit, beans and different flours. She went crazy - although it's hard not to - buying twenty pounds of beans , rice , flour and seeds.She has been living on lupini beans, bitter tasting yellow ones that resemble chickpeas. Some home chefs are even going to restaurant supply stores. Matt Bochneak did just that, buying fifty pounds of potatoes from a local Portland restaurant supply store.He's grilled a few of them and is planning on making gnocchi. Another home chef , Dana Amore , of Honolulu also went to a restaurant supply store where she bought fifty pounds of flour. She had to use an industrial cart to carry it to her car and once home , had to store it in a dog food storage bin.

Buying food in bulk is nothing new. People have been doing it for years at CostCo and Wal-mart. However it hasn't been tinged by hoarding and panic-buying. Consumers did buy twenty-four eggs or a bulk box of cake mixes but that was usually around holiday times. Buying in bulk is cost effective. You do save as Stephanie Ormaeche of Ridgewood New Jersey has found out. It also forces you to cook and not rely so much on restaurant take out food. There's only one problem. Storage, as Ms Ormaeche found out, She and her husband live in a tiny apartment with a tiny kitchen and even tinier pantry. If she opens it, stuff falls out. Certain basics as Ms. Krishna points out have become  coffee, butter beans and canned. goods. Yet others are stockpiling foods not necessarily the basics. Isobella Jade of Houston, has a freezer full of Lean Cuisine fettuccine Alfredo.It's quick to reheat and popular with her and her two sons.There is the worry of waste but many like Manasi Saraswate of Sunnyvale, California developed spreadsheets to help with meals plans and how to use the foods in different meals.

These are strange times for food shopping. Yet there are ways to cook through it. Find fun recipes for all that bulk shopping. It could be hummus for those chickpeas or fresh bread with all that flour. It's a new way of shopping but we can get through it by cooking some delicious recipes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ramadan Apart Yet Together

Ramadan is one of those holidays that demands family eat together whether before or after the day's fast. Yet , now it's become a virtual holiday with families sharing delicious meals with family recipes. it is still a familial feast but done differently.

Amelia Nierenberg, a regular contributor wrote about the holiday of Eid al-Fitr for today's New York Times Food section. She interviewed various families throughout the country. Their backgrounds are assorted, from Muslims of Pakistan to Filipino ones. Ramadan holy days of observance consists of two daily meals, the suhoor meals before sunrise and the evening ones or iftars. Both are important, especially for those with large families who gather around tables groaning with dishes. Now it's all virtual. They're eating the same dishes with each other but miles, and even states apart. For Nieda Abbas of New Haven ,Connecticut has been through different Ramadans in different countries. There were fasts in her hometown of Baghdad during the American occupation, followed by observing the holiday in an Iran splintered in sectarianism. Then there was the refuge camp in Turkey. Nothing is as scary as being in New Haven, where going outside is scarier than being in a bombed out war zone. Yet she persists.There is homemade baklava for her children. During the day she cooks for Havenly Treats, a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants. For Imam Amr Dabour of Sacramento, California, the social distancing means praying on line with Zoom and drive through iftars on Friday nights. They get hot food , catered by local restaurants.

Doctors are have the double duty of caring for Covid-19 patients and fasting. Dearborn, Michigan's Zafar Shamoon is the chief of emergency services at the city's Beaumont Hospital. His schedule is hectic and tiring. He misses his cups of coffee that provide him with boosts of energy. Some non-Muslim colleagues  help him so he can take breaks to fast and pray. His six year old daughter brings him dates and water , what the prophet Mohammed ate to break his fast.Newly converted Shawn Grant and his Algerian wife Samah made North African foods. She made bourek , pastries filled with spiced ground meat, cheese and eggs. Sometimes fasting and feasting occur alone as with lawyer Zaheer Maskatia in Washington along with inmate Hassen Mostafa Hassen in Arlington Virginia.  Both have traditional food , especially dates for Mr. Hassen , the taste of sweetness he needs from his Eritrean parents. Yazan Natsheh of Plano, Texas usually celebrates with his frat brothers at the University of Texas at Dallas. This year he's with his parents making maqluba, a Palestinian meat and rice dish that's flipped upside down,  Then there is the Manhattan housekeeper who creates her Indonesian Ramadan dishes of kentang belado, potatoes with hot red sauce and ikan acar kuning, yellow fish. There is also tapioca to make bubble tea and a dish  made with it , ground beef, egg whites and garlic, salt and pepper.

Ramadan is the most holiest of Muslim holidays. It's celebrated in a variety of different ways. What holds them together is the traditional fasting and breaking the fasts. Food is their tradition, during unusual times and ordinary ones.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Future Of Little Farms

Many states like New Jersey still have small family owned farms dotting the state. It's hard for families to keep them up. What will this summer hold? Can they survive? Will people visit them?

Small farms are still vital. Many provide produce and even meat to groceries in their states. They also provide fresh fruit and veggies to locals in their area as well as visitors just wanting a day in the country. Many also offer extras such as homemade jams and jellies and fresh baked goods like doughnuts and loaf cakes along with fresh from the oven breads and cookies.  These are just starting to open but to what? They won't have the crowds of previous Springs and  summers. There has to be social distancing which mean fewer people inside and out along with less staff. Kids can't have their pictures taken with farm animals as many farms offer nor will families go strawberry picking, the season coming up soon. These two offerings are sure draws and provide a good portion of income. A farm could bring in more by offering essentials such as toilet paper and towels, if they can get their hands on those items. Some stands offer handmade perfumes and soaps from local artisans. There may be more cash coming in if the artisans created scented hand sanitizers and even decorative masks. Yet , it may not be enough to sustain.

Then there is the staff. It's one thing when family pitches in and they all help. Most farms, despite their diminutive acreage, do require outside help for planting and harvesting. Are owners willing to pay as much as grocery stores for help?  Picking is a great job. It's being out in the fresh air, usually alone  and away from people. Everyone is positioned ten to fifteen feet away from each other and the only time to wear a mask and gloves is when the baskets and containers are filled and have to be taken to the farm stand. However when Wal-mart is offering $11 an hour and Target is offering $12.34 an hour plus bonuses how is a farm going to compete when at the most owners may pay only $7 - 8 an hour and  that's without any bonuses or perks. Maintenance also comes into play. Buildings and equipment need to be updated. Luckily New York State had Senator Kristin Gillibrand on their side. She pushed for the CARES Act which has debt forgiveness up to $250,000 for farms with an income of $300,000. This allows them to operate through this Corona virus and well into the fall. This can even get New York State farmers supported into the winter , the slow time for farmers. Hopefully other states will have this  CARES Act too.

What will happen to those small farms that we love? Will they be open this summer? Will we be able to get fresh corn and tomatoes? Hopefully we will for this summer and for many more to come.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Grocery Shopping Gone Wild

By now we're all a little antsy between staying home and going shopping. we're also getting bored with what we're eating. Let's face it , two months of beans and pasta can make any home chef crazy. It's time to go a bit wild at the grocery shopping.

The produce section has some interesting veggies and fruits that are versatile and different. many have jicama which is popular in Mexican cooking. It;'s basically a Mexican turnip but like turnips can be turned into fries and mash. It's a good addition to any diet because of the large amount of potassium it has. and it's low in calories. Try jicama fries the next time you make hamburgers. Depending on where you live you may be able to get nopales or cactus paddles. After being boiled, they can be made in either hot or cold dishes. Since warm weather is coming up, think about a Mexican salad, with them along with green onions, tomatoes and cilantro.Make a zasty lime vinaigrette with it and serve with queso. If you can't find that, then use crumbled feta. Ginger is a wonderful addition to both savory and sweet dishes.Ginger root tea is a wonder antidote for stomach aches or even just for relieving stress. Fresh ginger can be grated and used in everything from stir fries to homemade barbecue sauces.

You can also change up your desserts and snacking. Blackberries are coming into season right now. These are tart and delicious, packed with antioxidants and Vitamin C. Tumble some berries over ice cream or bake them into a rustic tart with blueberries.They're also good just with whipped cream as a decadent treat. Raspberries are another out of the ordinary fruit not many think about. Yet they, too are chock full of antioxidants. Think about having them with dark chocolate syrup for a decadent treat. You can also put a few in brandy for a raspberry toddy.Another idea is a raspberry parfait layered with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and whipped cream.The ice cream can be varied too. Try such variations as soy, cashew, almond or oat milk. These are actually creamier and tastier than  the cow milk ice cream. Soy Delicious has some excellent flavors from mint chip made from coconut milk to chocolate velvet with the base ingredient of soy milk, You can make excellent ice cream cakes with any of these. They work well be mashed into molds and hold the shape. As for the non dairy milks, try these for healthier alternatives in such fun drinks as smoothies and egg creams.

Treat yourself and your family to something different and fun on your next shopping trip. It';s a way t liven up cooking in confinement. Be bold. Be adventurous with your food shopping.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Sweet Treats For Mom

Even though you can';t go to the store to pick up candy for mom , you can still give her delicious gems of chocolate . A homemade treat is not only sweet but memorable. It's easy to create something that will highlight her special day. It can be as homey as fudge or as elegant as truffles. Whatever you make is a gift.

One of the easiest candies to make is fudge. It's a simple mix of chocolate chips, condensed milk, butter and if you want chopped walnuts. Everything is cooked in a large saucepan over a low heat and then poured into a prepared pan. A buttered one would add more buttery flavor but parchment or aluminum foil can be used for easy removal. You can add a few drops of mint extract for a chocolate mint flavor. For mom's who live a nutty treat think a peanut butter fudge.Add  two cups of either smooth or crunchy peanut butter along with peanut butter chips to vanilla and confectioners sugar. This is layered onto chocolate fudge for a strata effect. Haystacks are another easy make. This is a two ingredient candy that just needs melted chocolate and toasted coconut. The coconut is first toasted either in an air fryer or toaster oven while the chocolate is melted in the microwave., You can add a small amount of butter for richness. Haystacks can also be made with milk chocolate and white chocolate chips too. Create all three flavors for more choices.

Surprisingly anyone can create sophisticated candies such as truffles. It's really all about the filling which is a rich ganache. This is simply chocolate and cream but it should be good chocolate in the 60 - 70 per cent. Do not use chocolate chips or chopped bars that can have hardening agents.This can ruin the candy's texture.  Baking chocolate works the best. Use a heavy whipping cream so the ganache can develop a thickness. It's then heating it , in the microwave and pouring the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir to  combine. Then it's whisking it until it's smooth and shiny. After pour into a shallow pan and put in the fridge. To shape the truffles, use a melon baller  and then roll them in cocoa powder, chopped nuts  and sprinkles for a candy box variety. You can fill the truffle balls with candied ginger or a whole almond for a different treat. If mom likes spice and chai tea, you can whip up a batch of chai truffles. It's a mix of cinnamon, ginger, cardamon and cloves. along with star anise and black tea. All of this is cooked with heavy cream. The blend is them mixed with good milk chocolate and more spices are added for zing. These can rolled in grated milk chocolate when they're hardened.

Candy for Mother's Day is always a treat. Homemade candy is an extra special one moms will surely enjoy. Whip up a batch today or tomorrow for a truly tasty gift.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Very Special Mother's Day

This Mother's Day is going to be different. There's no dress up brunches at fancy buffets. No picnics at the beach or the park. We may have to stay in, yet there's no reason why we can't make it a special day with special meals and treats.

Breakfast is always the most important meal on Mother's Day. It can still be festive. Think French toast, always a treat. You could make the usual way with a batter of milk, egg , cinnamon and vanilla but vary the bread. Use Italian or French bread for a denser slice that's perfect drowning in maple syrup and melted butter. Challah and egg bread are also good too, creating a thicker piece that works well with both syrups and jams. A really lush treat is a plate of French toast croissants. These can be split to be stuffed with almond butter or mom's favorite jelly or jam.A French toast casserole is an easy bake.It's an easy creation that's similar to bread pudding. It would be a great dessert after a few mini omelets. A mini omelet is a fun way to add protein to the meal.. Everyone can enjoy a one egg one with different fillings. You don't have to have meat , Fill them with  chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions along with broccoli and spinach. Add a dash of hot sauce for a huevos rancheros vibe. You can even turn them into sandwiches by placing them on toasted English muffins. Add slices of cheese such as cheddar and Montery Jack for extra flavor.

Lunch and dinner can be a restaurant worthy too. A tasty dish  mothers are sure to love is risotto Milanese.This is an elegant meal , great served on fancy china and accompanied by a chilled Chardonnay from Piemonte. Everyone thinks that this type of risotto is a fancy and labor intensive dish, but once mastered, is easily made again.It's sweating a chopped onion and adding arborio rice to the pot Wine is then added and for the color saffron soaked veggie or chicken broth. It does require saffron which is a bit pricey and hard to get however it's really the backbone of the recipe. A simple , yet just as elegant dish is pasta aglia e olio, It's usually angel hair or spaghetti topped with a very easy garlic and oil sauce. It's toasting the garlic in olive oil and then tossing in red pepper flakes for excitement and bite.Sprinkle Parmesan  and parsley on it when served. Have the  barbecue ready if the weather is warm. Even if there is a meat or beef shortage think Gardein Burgers or Beyond Burgers, They taste the same as the real thing, You can even layer them with tomato, onions and lettuce. Add homemade guacamole and special sauce (It's just a mix of relish, mayo and ketchup). As for sides, homemade potato salad is an easy make along with macaroni salad. End with an outdoor movie and popcorn.

Mother's Day can still be special with special dishes. They're relatively easy to make and sure to be a new favorite with the moms in your lives. Try them for a tasty and delicious holiday treat.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Fish Is The New Beef

This quarantine has given us some tough times. Now our food chain is being threatened. Beef and chicken are starting to become scarce. Thankfully there is fish and seafood to provide  us with protein and sustenance. Americans are rediscovering them and becoming adventurous with cooking.

Pete Wells, usually the restaurant critic for The New York Times wrote this informative piece in yesterday's New York Times Food section. he interviewed the Rozzo family , famed for their seafood company F.Rozzo And Sons which goes back decades and generations. Luckily the fisheries haven't suffered like the meat processing plants where whole swaths of workers came down with the Corona virus.Yet the usually $5.6 billion industry has not escaped the fall out. Restaurants and other food service establishments normally amount for about two-thirds of the sale of fresh seafood in the country. When nearly all the restaurants closed save for take or delivery, the entire seafood distribution network froze. Along the Atlantic coast, some fishing boats were dumping fish they couldn't sell. It was also a terrible spring, rife with storms and high winds. Luckily there is a bright spot and that's retail. Home chefs are discovering fish as a great sub in for red meat and poultry. Then there are the seafood lovers who can't dine at their favorite seafood restaurants. They bring that home, as they try new recipes or recreate their favorite ones.

Fish is an easy cook. Many home chefs never want to cook it, because of the smell or they have no knowledge of how to cook it. Then they're afraid it may go bad.Yet any fish is relatively easy to make. What Mr. Wells found out is that a few home chefs are adventurous. It also helps that other fish companies like Pierless FIsh, owned by Robert DiMasco, have begun home deliveries. His new clients are even  buying fish collars which are the area right next to the head. He sold thirty pounds of them in one day , although they are tasty and actually full of fat.They're also versatile which would appeal to the adventurous cook. In addition to the dried anatomical scraps it markets as pet scraps Pierless also offers  Spanish mackerel, skate, silver dory and catfish. All have been sold out. Famed chefs are also big fans of Pierless. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the famed chef and owner of many restaurants from New York to Las Vegas, raved about the company's squid. Frank Rozzo and Sons are also enjoying the uptick in sales. It sold one hundred pounds of drumfish from the Gulf Of Mexico.

There will always be fish when there is no more chicken or beef. It's tasty and easy to cook. Consider it on your next shopping trip.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Empire That Is Gaines

Almost everyone knows Chip and Joanna Gaines.They are the mavericks and mavens behind an empire that covers all aspects of home life. They have furnishings, and design , restaurants and cookbooks. They have made a kingdom out of the ordinary and a following that is legendary. Yet a good portion of the population can relate to them. Their advice , especially when it comes to cooking, is , homey and comforting - just what we need right now.

Julia Moskin, chief writer for the New York Times Food section, explored this American phenomena. For those who love HGTV and home remodeling shows, Chip and Joanna are part of their lives. The couple started out renovating homes on their seven year old show "Fixer Upper", then expanded their Magnolia brand to include everything from cookbooks to house paints. They also have a magazine along with a brand at Target (which does have some nice items- perfect for you or gift giving) that covers a gamut of household needs. They also expanded their food and cooking to cool bakery called Silos built in what else - a silo.Their other restaurant, Magnolia Table features classic Texas farmhouse fare as well as trendy new ideas such as avocado toast.. The last caused a debate between the usually copacetic couple. He thought it was too hip, she thought it would fit in perfectly. It did. Magnolia has a following with a menu fans and food lovers can relate to. There are traditional bacon and biscuit breakfasts alongside freshly squeezed juice blends.

Joanna Gaines also has an interesting background. Her mother is Korean while her father is Lebanese American. The couple met when her father was stationed in South Korea in 1969. They married in Las Vegas in 1972 and settled in Wichita, Kansas where Ms Gaines was born. Her mother Nan, who was 19 when she moved here didn't know much about cooking , even her own kind, and began cooking with ground beef. There was beef Stroganoff and meat sauce. It was only after her mother came did Ms. Gaines finally eat bulgoki and homemade seaweed soup. She tried mandoo, kimchi dumplings when she lived in New York City. She enjoyed being there, working at CBS and sharing food with Korean friends. Yet she wanted to cook the dishes her childhood friends ate. She perfected the recipe s for chocolate chip cookies (which you can buy at Silo) and buttermilk biscuits, Her cookbooks are not as aspirational as they are inspirational. Her recipes in the article are homey  - perfect for now. There are scratch brownies with a peanut butter and marshmallow fudge icing along with sour cream enchiladas. A tasty bake is her kale and bacon hash brown casserole that has both fresh ingredients - kale - and frozen  - hash browns. All of her recipe books have good homey recipes - great for the whole family cooking and eating together.

Chip and Joanna Gaines have an empire. Yet that empire is relateable , with cookbooks that feature comforting and rib sticking dishes. They're what we need right now, both the Gainses and their idea of a cozy home and kitchen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Joy Of Portabella Mushrooms

There is a threat of meat shortages. May steak lovers are worried about that , afraid they may not get a juicy bite. However they can go the vegan steak route. Try portabella mushrooms. They're the perfect sub in and much more humane alternative to a T-bone.

I recently discovered how delicious air fried portabella mushrooms are. In fact, I'm now thoroughly addicted to them.I  don't know why it took me almost a year and a half to discover that they and my air fryer are a perfect match. Not only that , they're easy to prepare and cook up.I was kind of leery about washing them and the amount of dirt that would come out of them. That was wrongful thinking. Not much sand or grit comes out of them and washing them again is simple. It's taking a paper towel and wetting it.Wring it out thoroughly and then gently clean the mushroom top or cap. Some of the "skin" will rub off, Not to worry : this will happen. Then turn the mushroom over and clean the gills, those divisions under the cap. You can run warm water on them to get rid of anything between them. Again gently rub the gills clean. Use a fresh wet paper towel  for each one. You can then pat them dry again with a new paper towel. I usually leave mine  wet. The better to absorb the spices and oil.

You can leave the mushrooms plain however spicing and flavoring adds to them. I usually first brush both sides with olive oil.It's then a liberal sprinkle of both onion and garlic powder and a sprinkle of dried oregano. A light pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper can be added too. It's then air frying them on one side for eight minutes at 370 degrees F. After the first eight minutes, flip them over and airy fry for another eight minutes at 370 degrees F. If you 're cooking a bigger portabella, then cook at 400 degrees F. Another idea is to stuff them with a variety of different ingredients. One recipe calls for cream cheese, frozen spinach and bacon along with Panko breadcrumbs and sliced cherry tomatoes. Keep in mind that these are baked and not air fried. They're  placed on a grease cookie sheet and put into a 400 degree F oven for ten minutes. A lusher version subs in crab meat for the bacon. You can also slice the mushrooms and put them in tacos and burritos for a fun bite.

Portabella mushrooms are the new steaks. They are delicious air fried  or stuffed, served with spices or crabmeat. Try them and be addicted to their delicious flavor and meatiness.

Monday, May 4, 2020

There's Always Online Stores

It's a pain and a chore to go grocery shopping these days. There's shortages galore and you have to be savvy when a particular store stocks up. If worse comes to worse  there is online shopping and the various stores that can offer salvation.

One of the best places is Amazon. There has been some negative criticism regarding how the company treats their workers during this time and the heavy amount of  work  allotted to them. Yet it has a wide array of foodstuffs and items for any home chef and kitchen.I have been buying kitchen wares from them for years. The company has a very good selection of silicon bakeware .There's a wide variety of that , from loaf pans to smaller ones for decorative cakes and candies.  The company is also great for appliances. Air fryers are big and a godsend. Amazon has a wide assortment of different brands and they have their choices as to what's the best. You can always something that suits your needs. The same goes for toaster ovens - which they have many , from simple ones to ones with convection ovens included. If you want fancier gadgets like sous vides and immersion blenders, them Amazon, is the place to go for them. (but you can  also go to Target and Wal-mart too)  Another plus about Amazon is that they do have a wide variety of hard to find and unusual foods. I recently bought Berbere spice there, something I know I couldn't get in my local grocery store. I've also bought clotted cream from them, something I can only get at British specialty stores in Manhattan.

There are other places to go to for specific foods. The Carmel Honey Company is one of my favorites. I buy their wildflower honey for my tomato sauce and chili (yes, I use it for those. It's better than sugar). it was started by teenager Jake who wrote about honey bees for a school project. He became so involved that he started his own honey company  - lucky for us. It's a great source of natural honeys that can be used for everything from sauces (yes again) to cakes and muffins.  For vegan, Vegan Essentials has all sorts of foodstuffs from faux seafood to Beyond Burger if you can't get those at your local supermarket. The company also has Miyoko's  vegan cheeses and butters. These taste like the real thing and the website has a variety of different cheeses like scallion flavored cream cheese and cultured butter. It's hard to get any fancy loaves for family celebrations but Vegan Essentials does have tofu loaves like Field Roast squash stuffed tofu.  Flour is supposed to be up next when it comes to shortages. Not to worry. King Arthur has a wide variety of different flours (along with bakeware and baking gadgets). They also sell gluten free flours which is great for those with celiac disease.  Another good site for flours is Bob's Red Mill which also has nut flours as well along with all natural sugars.

If you can't find it in your local store, then go on line. It's an easy way to shop with out all the worry and the fretting.It';s just point, click and buy without the hassle.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Missing My Take Out Food

After their lockdown was lifted New Zealanders were asked what they missed the most. Many said McDonalds's, namely the Chicken McNuggets and malteds. That's true . We're all missing our fast foods. Yet there is take out. We can still support our favorite eateries and the people working in them.

Quarantines are being lifted  slowly  but surely throughout the country and the world. That means you can return to your favorite chains and mom and pop restaurants. Yet, as here in New Jersey our ban will be lifted in less than two weeks. There's still no eating in restaurants or mall food courts. However we  can still order out from our favorite places. Why not? If you're really craving burgers and fries then head to your local McDonald's or Wendy's. Some places only have drive through with the indoor counter and seating area closed. if that's the case then bring the food home.  Some experts recommend taking the food out of the paper bags and Styrofoam containers them microwaving it for thirty seconds. However there are some that say food containers are safe, especially the plastic containers and cups. It's safe  to eat in your car (although always keep a bottle of hand sanitizer and paper towel in your car for a quick wipe down). It's really the staff that has to be watched with a wary eye. Call and speak to the manager and ask if the employees have been sick lately and what are they doing to monitor their employees health.

What about the larger restaurants? You can still order take out and curbside at such places as Texas Roadhouse and B.J.'s Roadhouse. Family owned ones such as Bahr's in the Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey will bring a tray with your food and drink to your car.  They still give you their great dinners of steamed lobster or sauerbraten along with a side and favorite cocktail. It's like eating inside. You can also get takeout to bring home  also from them. Diners can also give you those home cooked meals too. If you're craving really well made French toast or chicken salad sandwich then head to your favorite one. It's also a boost to the diners that had to scale back their twenty-four hour around the clock hours to only three or four a day. More orders mean more work and that could bring back sous chefs and assistant cooks now on furlough. What about the meat shortages that are hitting some parts of the US? Order your favorites when you can . Prices for burgers and chicken dishes may go up at national chains like Burger King and Checkers.  You could also switch to vegan alternatives found at Dunkin Donuts and Burger King. Beyond Burger is at such chains as Hardee's and Carl Jr's as well at Subway's.

Fast foods and restaurant fare from our places are sorely missed right now. Yet you can still get the dishes and drinks that make you happy. Take out today. Support your local eatery. Support the workers there too,.

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Comeback Of Community Cookbooks

We have so many cookbooks these days. There are the  glossy , almost coffee table books, and celebrity ones , more full of anecdotes than recipes. Yet there is one, one full of recipes and love that is making a big comeback this quarantine. It's the community cookbook. This classic is returning, much to the delight of home chefs all over.

Priya Krishna, regular contributor  to the New York Times Food section and author of the Indian cookbook Indian-ish wrote this in The NY Times Food section
 on Wednesday. It seems that more and more coworkers are exchanging recipes and this is an easy way to do it.The idea is far from new. In fact it goes back to 1864 in this country when Maria J. Moss. created "A Poetical Cookbook" to raise money for injured Union soldiers during the Civil War. Later in the century suffragettes produced cookbooks to spread their message. Since then, churches,libraries and local governments have relied on community cookbooks to raise money and share recipes. In recent years  the format grew less popular as platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become immensely popular. They have encouraged home chefs to use them, as well as creating  glossy magazine ready pictures of their culinary creations. Even  New York Times Cooking hosts large activities on both. However that's all changing.

For the pediatric residents at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston , it started in mid-March. They were isolated at home, waiting to be called as back up. One of the Cyrelle Fermin, started posting recipes to the residents' WhatsApp group, turning that into a spreadsheet where about twenty of her coworkers submitted recipes along with pictures of themselves making them. Then there is the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving Texas which usually brings together one thousand Muslims  is creating a similar cookbook. Nye Armstrong , the mosque's creative director has asked members to email recipes and photos so she can design a digital and print cookbook. Some cookbooks have drawn in strangers. Alicia Cohn started sending a culinary newsletter to friends. Soon friends of friends were signing up for it which lead to the Quarantine Recipe Club. Strangers inundated her with recipes.  Many of these books are filled with comfort food, such as the one created by the Seattle Ladies Choir. The members have such diverse backgrounds, from Indian to Italian to Texan. The recipes reflect that. One neat idea is a family community cookbook.Justine Santa Cruz has her Filipino family contribute their favorite ones. Some cookbooks like Bone Apple Tea have a homey laid back vibe..

Creating a community cookbook within your community of friends, colleagues, family or parent groups can be a fun past time. It's also a great way to connect. Share memorable recipes that everyone can enjoy years later.