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Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year Drinks

It's almost New Year's Eve and, although Champange is nice to drink at midnight, you have to drink other things until then.  Here are some nice--and a little unusual--adult beverages (from Food Network Magazine) for you to enjoy tomorrow night (or any time).

CIDER PUNCH (serves 6)
INGREDIENTS
4 cups apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
Pinch of salt
1 orange (or more for garnish)
3/4 cup apple brandy or bourbon
  • Combine cider, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a saucepan.  Halve the orange; squeeze the juice into the pan and add the peels.  Bring to a simmer, then reomve from the heat and let steep 10-15 minuts.  Strain into a pitcher and add brand or bourbon.  Chill at least 2 hours or overnight.  Serve in tall glasses on the rocks or reheat and serve warm in punch mugs.  Garnish with orange slices

COCOA COLADA (serves 4)
INGREDIENTS
2 (14-oz) cans coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz milk chocolate, chopped
Coconut rum
Toasted coconut
  • Bring coconut milk and water to a simmer over low heat.  Add sugar and chocolate.  Whisk to melt.  Spike with rum to taste and garnish with coconut.

MAMA'S LITTLE HELPER (serves 1)
INGREDIENTS
1 cucumber
1 1/4 oz gin
Splash fresh lime juice
Splash simple syrup
Chilled seltzer
  • Slice a piece of cucumber and reserve for garnish.  Pell, halve and seed the remaining cucumber.  puree in a blender until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
  • Fill a highball glass 3/4 of the way with ice.  Add 2 oz cucumber puree, gin, lime juice and simple syrup.  (To make a batch of simple syrup, simmer equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves, then cool.)  Fill the glass with seltzer and stir again.  Garnish with the reserved cucumber slice

CRANBERRY PUNCH PIZZAZZ (serves 18)
INGREDIENTS
8 cardamom pods
4 (4-inch) cinnamon sticks, broken
12 whole cloves
1 can (11.5 oz) frozen cranberry juice concentrate
4 cups merlot or other red wine
1/3 cup honey
Cranberries and orange slices for garnish
  • Cut a 6" square from a double thickness of cotton cheesecloth to make a spice bag.  Pinch the cardamom pods to break.  Center the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves on the cheesecloth, bring up the corners and tie closed with clean kitchen string.
  • In a slow cooker, mix juice concentrate with water according to the directions.  Stir in wine and honey; add the spice bag.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high 2-2 1/2 hours.  Remove and discard the spice bag.  Ladle the punch into glasses and garnish.

Have a safe, fun and delicous New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Think About It

Hi.  I hope all of you who celebrated Christmas had a great one.  Now we turn out sights to the new year.

Many folks begin the new year with a desire to eat healthier and lose weight.  Most experts know that probably the best way to lose weight is by simply eating less.  But that's easier said than done, right?  Especially with holiday party tables filled with goodies and restaurant serving sizes enough to feed a family.  How do you eat less with these and other roadblocks?  One recent study shows that it could be as easy as using your imagination.

Does it work for ice cream?
 An article in Time discusses this study--that seems to show that imagining you are eating can help to reduce the amount that you actually eat.  The study used M&Ms and cheddar cheese for their test subjects.  Those who imagined eating a bunch of these items--not just imagining the smell and taste, but really thinking of the sensation of chewing and swallowing them--desired less of them when they were offered the real thing.  Those who imagined eating less than other (some were told to imagine eating just 3), were hungry for more of the real stuff than those who imagined eating more (others were told to imagine eating 33). 

Could it really be that easy?  Or is it just a bunch of psychological hooey?  Read the article and see what you think.  Hey, it couldn't hurt to try, right?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.  May your holiday be overflowing with a nice Pinot Noir...um, I mean, with fun, family and friends.  May your stockings be stuffed with a nice Sausage and Dried Cherry Stuffing...sorry...with goodies that will bring a smile to your face.  May you look in the eyes of children and see a slice of juicy turkey breast...really, I'm sorry...the joy and innocence that we wish that we could have at all ages.  And may you be filled with peace...es of rich, dark chocolate. 

Well, it's the thought that counts!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2011 Trends

As we head toward the start of a new year, we inevitably have to look at what's going to be hot in the coming year.  Movies, sports, politics...and food.  So, according to a few articles that I've read--and the "experts" that wrote them--here are some of the food trends for 2011.
  • Food trucks.  They're pretty hot right now in most major cities, but the thought is that food trucks will be even a bigger hit next year.  They'll use social media to let folks know where they'll be and when; what their specials are, etc.  Food truck "rodeos" will bring together a bunch of trucks in one spot in a sort of mobile food court.  And brick-and-mortar restaurants will begin to have food trucks to spread their fare beyond their walls.
  • Speaking of restaurants, more small restaurants will be opened on a shoestring budget by couples and friends who are passionate about food.  These folks will do everything--cooking, hosting, bookkeeping--to make their place survive.
  • Pie.  I love pie.  And apparently, many think that in the coming year, pie is the new cupcake.  Savory, sweet, traditional, deep-fried, hot, cold--you name it.  
  • Restaurants will feature fried veggies that we're not used to being fried: cauliflower, Brussels sprout chips and turnip chips.  Hey, if it gets people to eat them...
  • South American, Japanese and especially Korean cuisines are on the rise.  Look for blends of cuisines, too.  Things like Korean tacos.
  • People are tired of penny-pinching, so there will be more splurging on food-related activities, be it on ingredients or high end restaurants.
  • With the popularity of pork belly (and things like bacon, that come from it) the price has gone up.  So chefs are looking for a cheaper alternative--such as goat and lamb belly.  
  • Technology will take a bigger role in the food industry--from on-line features to the use of technology in restaurants.
  • I don't know if you'd call healthy eating a trend, but more and more people are working to eat better. Not the goofy food trends that show up now and then--simply eating well-balanced meals; more fruits and veggies; limiting sugar and processed food. Now there's a trend that needs to stick around.
  • Specialty restaurants will show up more--those places that feature burgers or mac & cheese or some other item almost exclusive.
So at the end of 2011, we'll have to take a look back and see how many of these trends still are around.  Are there any trends that you'd like to see in the coming year?  Let's hear about them! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Eating Tips


Finding the perfect tree.
You may have seen the email that's been going around, but if not, I'll pass on some of these important tips for eating at the holidays.  That way, you can put them into practice soon.


    
  • Avoid carrot sticks.  Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing about holiday spirit.  In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately.  Go next door where they're serving rum balls.
  • Drink as much egg nog as you can.  You can't find it any other time of the year, so drink up!  Who cares if there are 10,000 calories in every sip?  It's not like you're going to turn into an eggnogaholic or something.  It's a treat, so enjoy it. 
  • If something comes with gravy, use it.  That's the whole point of gravy (just ask Mary Beth and her family).  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes.  Fill it with gravy.  Eat the volcano.  Repeat.
  • Do not eat a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. 
  • Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps to conserve the energy you'll need circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of egg nog.
  • If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge.  Have as many as you can before become the center of attention.  If you leave, you may never see them again.

Hanging his favorite ornament--a moose from Maine!

  • Same for pies.  Apple, pumpkin, mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or if you don't like mincemeat, have 2 apple and one pumpkin.  Always have 3.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Labor Day?
  • Fruitcake.  Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all costs.  I mean, please!  Have some standards!
Now let's get out there and eat!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Scones with a Passion

Need a unique Christmas gift?  How about some wonderful baked goods from J. Scones in Doylestown?  Check out my post on Bucks County Taste and find out about all the great items they sell there and the driving force behind this gem--the passion of chef/owner Jodi Schad for making the best baked goods. 

Without doubt, I had the best scone I've ever tasted when I visited there.  You have to stop in!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eat Like a Reindeer

We all know about chefs who like to use any and every part of an animal in their cooking.  But what about what goes into the animal?

According to a Wall Street Journal article, one of the newest (and strangest) ingredients in some gourmet restaurants is hay.

Yes, hay.  The same stuff we saw Santa's reindeer eating the other night at Christmas Candy Lane at HersheyPark.  They seemed to be enjoying it.

Dinner's ready!
Now, hay is just grass, after all.  But it's dried grass.  And that just doesn't sound all that appetizing to me.  In the article you can read how some hay-users use it for flavoring during smoking or things like that.  It also tells of those who use hay as a flavoring in creme brulee and whipped cream.  I don't know about that.

Hey (no pun intended), I'd try it.  I'm just saying that it isn't something that I think would taste that great.  But then Santa's reindeer eat it.  Can't be that bad, right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Maine Locavore

You've heard me and others tout the idea of eating locally grown, produced and sold foods.  They're more nutritious, more flavorful, better for our environment and better for our local economy. 

But eating a totally locavore diet is not easy.  Think about it.  Say you wanted to eat food only produced in Bucks County or even Eastern PA.  What things would you not be able to use?  Salt and pepper.  Olive oil.  Peanut butter.  Certain spices.

Well, a 27 year-old woman from Maine, Katherine Creswell, decided to eat only food produced in Maine for a month.  It was such a success, that she's decided to try it for a whole year. 

Read an interview with her in the Boston Globe.  It's pretty impressive that she did this.  She did have to cheat on one item...soy milk (she's lactose intolerant). 

So, are you going to give it a try?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pom 101

This is Jake's favorite time of the year.  Sure, there's the whole Christmas thing.  But food-wise, it's the season for one of his favorite foods:  Pomegranates!

These fruits are available around this time of year and it's worth the wait.  When really ripe, they are a little sweet and a little tart, crunchy, incredibly nutritious and very versatile.  They're as good on ice cream as they are on a salad or with roasted meat.  Jake (and I) think they're best simply popping them in your mouth.

But if you're not familiar with a pom, it can be a bit intimidating.  So I'm here to help.  Here's how to pick out and get the seeds from a pomegranate without any stress.

First, picking out a ripe one is extremely important.  Like many other fruits that have lots of juice (citrus and watermelon, for example), you want to pick a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size.  An underripe pom is depressing--no juice, no flavor, not even much color.  But a ripe one is filled with deep red seeds just bursting with juice.  They literally pop in your mouth as you eat them.

So once you have a nice heavy pom, wash it off and then cut the top and bottom off--just a thin slice.  Try not to hit many seeds.  Then, using a sharp knife, score the skin--dividing the pom into quarters.  Again, don't cut so deep that you hit the seeds.  Just the skin needs to be scored.

Next, fill a bowl (big enough to hold your poms) with cold water and let the poms sit there for about 5 minutes or so.  That will help to soften the skin on the inside and make it easier to break apart.

Now it's time to remove the seeds.  Gently break the pom apart where you scored the skin.  The scoring will make it much easier to do this.  Once open, you'll get your first glimpse of the little gems inside.  Using your fingers, gently force the seeds out of their "sockets" and let them drop into the water.  The seeds will sink to the bottom and any of the white pith will float.  If you see any pith at the bottom, you know that's a seed with some pith still attached. 

Take your time!  If you are too rough or try to go too fast, you'll end up with exploded seeds.  Make sure you're not wearing a nice new white shirt just in case.  You'll get the hang of it after a little while.  If you turn the section of pom that you're working with sort of inside-out, the seeds will stick up a little bit and be easier to remove.  In a way, it's like picking a crab--just less messy and a less work.

Once you have removed all the seeds, remove any floating pith in the water with a strainer or your fingers and you should be left with a bowl of sunken treasure.  What I do next is strain the water out and put them in a salad spinner to dry them off.  I store them in an airtight plastic container with a paper towel on top to absorb any excess moisture.  I keep them in the fruit crisper in the fridge.  Pomegranate seeds freeze extremely well, too.  Put them in a zip-top freezer bag and lay them flat in the freezer until the seeds are frozen.  To use, just take out what you need and use--they will thaw very quickly.

So, are you going to try a pomegranate now?  Go ahead.  You'll be glad you did.  A little work is involved, but it's worth it--and it's actually kind of fun!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Was 30 Years Ago Today...

As hard as it is to believe, today marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.  (Can I really be that old?)  I distinctly remember that day--actually, I remember the next day.

I was only 13 years old, but, probably thanks to my Aunt Steph, was a huge Beatles fan.  As usual, Dad woke me up and had WAEB-AM on the radio in the kitchen.  We both heard the news report part-way through:  "...shot 6 times."  We didn't know who it was who was killed.

When I got to school, before home room, we all gathered in the gym.  It was there that I heard that it was John Lennon who had been killed.  Even at that young age and 10 years after the Beatles broke up, we knew that it was kind of an earth-shaking event. 

I guess his life ending as it did--in violence after he finally had come to peace with his life and gone back into the recording studio--adds to his legend.  But it sure makes you wonder what he might have done in these last 30 years. 

At the risk of being sappy....

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Food That's Good for You!

Candy, cookies, pies, gravy, stuffing, egg nog, cocktails.  So many tasty stuff that we enjoy at the holidays are not so great for us.  How about a traditional holiday food that people have been using as medicine for hundreds of years?

The cranberry.

Native Americans used cranberries as a way to fight infection--both eating them and by making a paste from them to cover a cut on the skin--using them as an antibiotic.  When settlers from the Old World hit the rock in New England, they found these little red berries all over the place.  Of course, they didn't taste so great--pretty sour. 

But that was good as far as they were concerned.  They believed that sour things counteracted too much salt in the body.  And they thought that too much salt (from the sea, mostly) caused scurvy.  So they ate limes and, eventually, cranberries, to avoid coming down with this terrible disease.  Today we know that sour fruits are high in Vitamin C, a deficiency of which causes scurvy.  Whatever the reason, the New World settlers ate up the cranberries.

These days, more studies are being done on compounds found in cranberries (and other fruits).  We know that these berries (as well as a number of other fruits, including blueberries) are full of antioxidants, which help to slow the effects of aging and memory loss. 

Read more in this NPR article.  Especially fascinating is the information about blueberries and their effect on memory.  There are some nice cocktail recipes in the article, too.

So enjoy your cranberry sauce with your holiday dinner.  It just might help you to keep some of those holiday memories longer!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Use Your Brain to Feed the Hungry!

I read in the paper today about a website called Free Rice, which is part trivia game, part learning experience, part charity.

                               Courtesy of FreeRice.com.
In a nutshell, you answer trivia questions (you can choose the subjects) and with every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated by the site sponsors to feed the world's hungry.  If you answer correctly, the questions get progressively harder.  If you answer incorrectly, they back off a little bit. 

At first I thought that it was a little gimmicky--10 grains of rice?  Big deal.  But in the course of about 5 minutes, I had donated hundreds of grains of rice.  You multiply that by the many people playing the game and you've got a load of rice.  At no cost to you except the use of some brain matter.

I read how it costs about 25 cents to feed a hungry child enough to give them their daily nutritional needs.  Then I think about all the food that I've written about lately--Thanksgiving, farmers' markets, Maine lobster, etc.  We can take a few minutes out once in a while to help feed the billion people in this world who need food. 

It's free and it's fun!  Let me know what you think about it. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anniversary Dinner

Thanksgiving was Mary Beth and my 16th wedding anniversary.  So we technically had 2 anniversary dinners.  But as if we didn't have enough to eat that day, we went out to the Washington House on Friday night. 

The Washington House has never been a place where we've had a meal that really bowled us over, but you can always be sure that you're going to get a very well prepared and tasty meal there.  And the interesting menu changes a lot, so you know that the ingredients they use are pretty fresh.

In case you were wondering, here's what we got to eat:

MB got Crab & Corn Chowder as an appetizer, Seared Scallops with Butternut Cream and Wild Rice and Spinach.  For dessert, it was a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Mousse Pie.  I started with a very tasty Thai Curry Beef Eggroll and got the Bay Scallop and Shrimp Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus as my entree.  My dessert was a New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding. 

Everything was cooked very well--the seafood was tender and moist, the eggrolls were very crispy without being greasy, the risotto was creamy and al dente.  Overall, another very enjoyable evening of overeating!

Monday, November 29, 2010

PA's Rich Food History

Here in Bucks County, we're blessed with many wonderful culinary options--fresh produce, PA Dutch food, wines, Philly soft pretzels and cheese steaks, locally made delicacies.  The list goes on and on.  In fact, our whole state is full of food traditions and history.

William Woys Weaver, noted expert on Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking, is in the process of creating the Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism.  He has broken our state up into 5 culinary regions: Philadelphia Region (includes parts of South Jersey), Pennsylvania Dutch Region (the largest region), Northern Tier Region (influenced by New York and New England), Allegheny Mountain and Southwest Appalachian Region (including Pittsburgh) and Northwest Lakeshore Region (influenced by the wine made there).  The map below (courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) shows how these regions are laid out.

According to a Post-Gazette article, PA has the most culinary regions of any state--mainly because of it's status as the "Keystone State".  From early in our country's history, PA has been physically and politically in the center--a mid-point from the South to the North--both influencing and being influenced by those cultures around it.  That, says Weaver, is what makes PA's culinary diversity so wide. 

Anyone who has traveled around the state knows that this is true.  Italian food in Philly, Polish food in the Northeast and Pittsburgh, PA Dutch food in the center of the state, etc.  For food lovers, PA seems to be the place to be!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks.

Well, I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for our usual Thanksgiving Day Eat-Fest--2 full Thanksgiving Day dinners in a span of about 6 hours.  As I always say, it's all in the pacing.

Whatever you're doing tomorrow--eating with family, out at a restaurant or someplace else--take time to think about the meal.  Give thanks to those who prepared the food.  Be thankful for the farmers who worked so hard to get much of that food on your table.  Be thankful for the animals that gave their lives so you could enjoy a delicious dinner.  And be thankful that you are fortunate enough to be able to eat until you can't anymore. 

To all of you who have supported me by reading my blog and told others about it, I thank you.  And I wish you all a fun-filled, safe and delicious Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stuff It

OK.  I have a confession to make.  I periodically buy frozen White Castle hamburgers.  They're nutritionally horrible, expensive (I only buy with a coupon), but God, they're tasty.  They're tiny, so you have to eat a bunch to make it worth-while and, because they're heated in the microwave, you have to eat them fast or the buns start to get hard.  I think there's some conspiracy between the White Castle company and cardiologists.

Google "White Castle Hamburger" and you'll see all sorts of ways to eat these things--deep-fried, a "casserole" with WCH's, Hormel chili, Velveeta and Tater Tots (pardon me while I fetch my Tums), and more.

Now to top it off, inside the box there is a little insert that asks the question, "What does a true CRAVER eat on the HOLIDAY?"  (As a side note, they end this sentence with a ".", not a "?", which drives me NUTS!!!  It's a question, people!)  Anyway, the answer to the question is: White Castle Turkey Stuffing!

Now, really, how strange and delicious must this be?  So here's the recipe:

WHITE CASTLE TURKEY STUFFING

INGREDIENTS
10 White Castle hamburgers, no pickles
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
1 1/4 tsp ground thyme
1 1/4 tsp fresh sage
3/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth

In a large mixing bowl, tear the burgers into pieces and add diced celery and seasonings.  Toss and add chicken broth.  Stuff cavity of turkey just before roasting.  Recipe makes about 9 cups (enough for a 10-12 pound turkey).  Note: Allow 1 hamburger for each pound of turkey, which is the equivalent of 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound.

Please, someone make this and tell me if it's any good.  I has to be, right?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Getting Dressed for Thankgiving

According to the poll on the right side of this page, 25% of you think that stuffing is the best part of Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, only 4 of you have voted (come on, people!), but still, a lot of folks like stuffing more than anything.  It's Mary Beth's favorite--"Just one more little taste" is her most common line on Tgiving Day. 


Photo courtesy of gourmetsleuth.com.

I like stuffing, too.  Here's my problem, though.  Despite being very tasty, it's always the same--every year.  There are loads of interesting and delicious recipes for stuffing (or dressing, as some call it).  I guess I'll just have to try them at non-holiday times.

But in case you're not caught in that situation, here's a recipe for a Wild Rice Dressing from Cook's Country magazine (yes, them again).  I'll have to try it sometime, but if you do, let me know what you think!

WILD RICE DRESSING
Serves 10-12
Depending on the brand, wild rice absorbs varying quantities of liquid.  If you have less than 1 1/2 cups of leftover cooking liquid, make up the difference with additional low-sodium chicken broth.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cups wild rice
10 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped fine
3 celery ribs, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 large eggs
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
  1. COOK RICE:  Bring broth, water, and bay leaf to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add rice, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, 35-45 minutes.  Strain contents of pan through fine-mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup.  Transfer rice to medium bowl; discard bay leaf.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid.
  2. TOAST BREAD:  Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Pulse half of the bread in food processor until pea-size pieces remain and transfer to rimmed baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining bread and another rimm3ed baking sheet.  Bake bread crumbs until golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking.  Cool completely, about 10 minutes.
  3. SAUTE AROMATICS:  Melt 4 Tbsp butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Cook onions and celery until golden, 8-10 minutes.  Add garlic, sage, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in reserved cooking liquid, remove from heat, and cool 5 minutes.
  4. ASSEMBLE AND BAKE:  Whisk cream, eggs, salt, and pepper in large bowl.  Slowly whisk in warm broth mixture.  Stir in rice and toasted bread  crumbs and transfer to 13x9" baking dish.  Melt remaining butter in now-empty skillet and drizzle evenly over dressing.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake on lower-middle rack until set, 45-55 minutes.  Remove foil and let cool 15 minutes.  Serve.
You can save some time on Thanksgiving Day by making this dish ahead of time.  Before baking, the assembled dressing can be refrigerated in the baking dish, covered for 1 day.  To finish, melt remaining butter, drizzle over dressing, and proceed with recipe, adding 20 minutes to the baking time.

Here are a couple variations to jazz the dish up even more:

DRIED FRUIT AND NUT WILD RICE DRESSING
Prepare Wild Rice Dressing, adding 1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots, cranberries, or cherries and 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans with the bread crumbs in Step 4.

LEEK AND MUSHROOM WILD RICE DRESSING
Prepare Wild Rice Dressing, replacing onions and celery with 4 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and sliced thin, and 10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced thin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Healthy Herbs and Spices

Tonight I'm part of a healthy eating program at Jake's school, so I've been thinking "healthy" as I've been getting ready for that. 

I just was reading a story from CBS News about nutritionist, author and TV chef Elie Krieger.  She was talking about how it's not only the foods that we eat that can have health benefits, but the herbs and spices that we use to prepare those foods that can make them even more healthy for us.  You can read the story for more details, but here are a few things that she highlighted.
  • Rosemary: Either fresh or dried, rosemary is teeming with antioxidants that can help to prevent cancer and keep cholesterol numbers down.
  • Cinnamon: This is one of the most health beneficial spices of all.  It has the highest antioxidant amounts of any spice.  It's been known to lower blood glucose in diabetics.  Cinnamon also contains manganese, iron and calcium, as well as being known to help alleviate nausea and stomach ulcers.
  • Thyme: This herb contains some antibacterial properties as well as being a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acids among other things.
  • Curry Powder: As you probably know, curry powder is a mixture of different spices.  It differs from region to region and sometimes family to family.  But one of the spices that all curry powder contains is turmeric and that's what makes it healthy (and gives it that distinctive color).  Turmeric has been used to treat arthritis and rheumatism.  Studies also show that it can help to prevent heart problems, cancer and Alzheimer's Disease.  In fact, Alzheimer's is 4 times less prevalent in India (where curry powder is eaten in huge amounts) than in the US.
  • Ginger: Ginger has been used for centuries as an anti-inflamatory and to treat circulation problems and stomach ailments.
So spice up your meals and reap the healthy benefits from all those great flavors!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mmmm...Garlic Bread!

I just read a sort article from The Wall Street Journal about a "comeback" for garlic bread in restaurants.  I love good garlic bread, but so many times, it's just soggy and either has too much strong garlic on it or has that semi-medicinal garlic powder taste. 

But as usual, the folks at Cook's Illustrated & Cook's Country have created a technique that results in crispy bread with just enough garlic flavor.  Here is is:

CRISPY GARLIC BREAD from Cook's Country magazine
Makes 12 slices
Start with a soft Italian bread, not a rustic, crusty loaf.  Use a rasp grater or the small holes of a box grater to grate the garlic.

INGREDIENTS
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 garlic cloves, grated (see note) or minced
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
12 (1") slices Italian bread (see note)
  1. MAKE PASTE: Adjust oven rack to middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Using fork, beat butter, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in small bowl until combined.  Spread butter mixture evenly over both sides of bread.
  2. TOAST BREAD: Arrange buttered bread on heated baking sheet and bak3e until golden brown on first side, 8-10 minutes.  Flip and bake until golden brown on second side, about 5 minutes.  Serve.
They give some tasty options as well:

CHEESY CHIPOTLE:  Add 2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo to the butter mixture in step1.  Sprinkle bread with 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese in the last minute of baking.

SPICY PESTO:  add 3 Tbsp basil pesto and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to butter mixture in step 1.

OLIVE AND THYME:  Add 2 Tbsp black olive tapenade and 2 tsp minced fresh thyme to butter mixture in step 1.

CHEDDAR-CHIVE:  Add 2 Tbsp minced fresh chives to butter mixture in step 1.  Sprinkle bread with 1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese in the last minute of baking.

Friday, November 12, 2010

FRESH Revisited

In case you missed it when we had our screening back in June, there will be a screening of Fresh: The Movie on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at the Health & Wellness Center by Doylestown Hospital on Rt. 611 in Warrington.

The program begins at 6:30 with the screening of the movie followed by a panel discussion.  But come early to taste some samples that I'll be making using local ingredients (Southwestern Butternut Squash Soup and Honeyed Apple Slaw).  You'll also be able to talk to and get information from the other panelists from Tussock Sedge Farm, Just One Seed organic farm, The Bucks County Foodshed Alliance and the nutritionists of Healthy Directions (from the Health & Wellness Center).  The Coffee Scoop from Pipersville will also be offering tastings.

If you haven't seen the film and are interested in supporting local farms and businesses, don't miss it!  You'll leave energized about changing the food culture in our country.

Registration is required and they're almost filled up, so don't wait.  Call 215-345-2121 and come out for a fun, informative and inspirational evening!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are You Eating Your Fruits & Veggies?

We're supposed to eat 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables to maintain a healthy diet.  Are you doing that?  Chances are, you're not.  And neither are most of the people you know.

According to a study noted in an NPR story, only 32.5% of adults are achieving that level of fruit intake and just 26.3% are eating that amount of veggies.  Yikes.

As you know, a diet with plenty of fruits and veggies helps to combat obesity, heart disease, stroke and maybe cancer.  Let's try to do better, huh?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let's Get Ready to Gobble!

Thanksgiving is coming up on us pretty quickly.  In just over 2 weeks, we'll be searching out our stretchy pants and getting ready to stuff ourselves with our favorite holiday fare.  (Choose your favorite in the poll to the right.)  And I'd be remiss in telling you that Mary Beth & my wedding anniversary falls on the Turkey Day this year.  She's survived 16 years with this turkey!

If you are like 97% of Americans, you will be eating turkey this Thanksgiving. Although more people are eating turkey at non-holiday times (consumption has increased 116% and production is up 300% since 1970), most Americans see turkey as a holiday dish. Too bad, though.  Turkeys are very low fat and very high in protein (more than chicken or beef). The average gobbler eaten at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds (much less than the largest turkey on record—86 pounds!). Oh, and studies show that there’s way too little tryptophan in turkey to cause drowsiness.  All the wine and food you stuff in your stomach pulls blood away from the brain to aid in digestion and prevents you from seeing the 2nd half of that football game or helping with the dishes. You’ll have to find another excuse.

Ben Franklin famously nominated the wild turkey as our nation’s symbol (rather than the bald eagle). He saw that these relatives to the pheasant were hearty, tough and plentiful—just like the early Americans. Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles per hour for short distances and can run up to 20 mph. They were nearly wiped out in the U.S. in the early 1900’s, but now thrive in every state except Alaska.  (Most of them seem to live at Peace Valley Park!)

Many of us use frozen turkeys and most of them are fine.  However, there are plenty of places locally to get delicious fresh birds.  Check out this Bucks County Taste post for more information where to get them.  Just remember that they're in demand, so don't wait to long to reserve yours.

There are literally thousands of ways to roast a turkey. There are recipes with different kinds of rubs and brines. Some use low heat, some high.  Some roast breast up, some breast down. Here’s my favorite way to roast a turkey—on the grill. It turns out juicy and delicious—and cooks very quickly. It’s from America’s Test Kitchen. The recipe is for a charcoal grill (with directions for gas grilling at the end of each step.)

  1. Dissolve 2 cups kosher or 1 cup table salt in 2 gallons of water in a large stockpot or clean bucket. Add a 12-14 pound turkey, giblets & tail removed, rinsed thoroughly and wings tucked under. Refrigerate or put in a very cool spot (32-40 degrees), 12 hours or overnight. (I have used a cooler and added ice packs to keep cold.)
  2. Toward the end of the brining time, cover six 3-inch wood chunks with water in a bowl; soak for 1 hour, then drain and set aside. (For gas: soak 3 cups of wood chips for about 30 minutes, drain and place in smoker box of gas grill or make a foil pan to hold the chips.)
  3. Keep bottom vents on grill completely open. Start charcoal. (For gas: place tray of chips on burner and preheat to high for about 20 minutes or until chips are smoking heavily.)
  4. Spray a V-rack with nonstick cooking spray. (Before I had a rack, I made a big foil ring to hold the bird.) Remove turkey from brine and rinse inside and out with cool running water to remove any salt. Pat dry with paper towels; brush both sides with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Set turkey, breast-side down, in V-rack.
  5. Arrange coals into one side of grill, piling them up 2-3 briquettes high.  Place 3 wood chunks on top of charcoal. Put grate in place and put V-rack on with turkey over cool side of the grill. Open lid vents halfway and cover, turning lid so vents are opposite wood chunks to draw smoke through grill.  Grill-roast for 1 hour. (For gas: Turn off one burner—not the one with the wood chips—and put turkey over that burner.)
  6. Remove lid from grill. Using thick potholders, move V-rack (with turkey) to rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Remove grate and put 12 new briquettes and the last 3 wood chunks on top (For gas: add more chips, if necessary); replace grate. Using wads of paper towels, flip turkey breast-side up in rack. Return to cool side of grill so that leg & wing that were facing the heat are now facing away. Cover and grill-roast for 45 minutes.
  7. Using thick potholders, turn V-rack with turkey so the leg & wing facing heat is now facing away.  Using an instant-read thermometer, check temperature in each thigh.  The target temp is 175-180. If it’s close, cover and check the temp again in about 15 minutes.  If it’s below 145, cover and check in a half-hour.
  8. Remove turkey from grill, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 20-30 minutes. Carve and serve.
Really, this sounds more difficult than it really is. You will LOVE the smoky, moist meat that results from this process. Save the giblets and find a good giblet gravy recipe to go with your bird. You’ll be thankful you tried it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Waste Not...

I have to pass along a link to a must-read article from the New York Times.  It's titled "From Farm to Fridge to Garbage Can" and it's about how much of the food we buy goes to waste. 

You can read the article, but just a few statistics that are amazing and alarming:
  • It's estimated that about 25% of the food produced in this country goes to waste--in the field, in transport, in the grocery store or at home.
  • A recent study shows that about 40% of this waste takes place at home.
  • In another study, 93% of the respondents said that they bought food that they never use.
  • If a family of four wastes 25% of the food they buy each week (at a cost of about $175), it means that they throw away over $40 worth of food each week.  That comes to about $2275 per year.  That's a lot of money.
  • Food waste makes up an estimated 19% of landfills in this country.  The food then rots, creating methane (a greenhouse gas) and hurts the environment.
As I jump on my soap box, I have to say that this is ridiculous!  Think of the amount of energy and time it takes to raise this food.  Think of the people all around the world who are dying of hunger.  We complain about the cost of food and then literally throw away a quarter of it.

How can we change our course?  The article mentions a lot of good ideas.  Here are some that they mention and some of my own:
  • Freeze meats that you aren't going to eat in a few days.
  • Don't be afraid of brown spots or blemishes on fruits and vegetables.  Most of them can be easily cut off, leaving the rest fine to eat.
  • Make soup--find a good basic recipe and use those carrots, onions, celery and whatever else is just past its prime.  They'll give whatever flavor they have left instead of being thrown away.
  • Plan your meals--buy just what you need to make those meals for the week.  Don't feel like you have to fill your fridge or buy something just because it's on sale.
  • Buy local.  Foods that are fresher, last longer.
  • Compost.  For those things that do get thrown away, at least use it to help your garden grow and renew the environment.
  • At the risk of tooting my own horn, get a personal chef to make your meals.  I buy just what is needed to make the meals I've planned.  I use fresh ingredients immediately after I buy them.  Very little wasted food = very little wasted money. 
This is a very serious problem, but one that we can all help to alleviate if we just use our heads.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Eating with Our Eyes

Most everyone knows the adage that we don't only eat with our mouths, but also with our eyes.  How a dish looks on the plate is important to a diner--along with the smell, it gets your taste buds ready for what's to come.

Photo by Lou Manna from
The Wall Street Journal
This is of the ultimate importance to food stylists--those folks who take take pictures or video of food for advertising, TV shows or magazines.  You may have heard of some of the old tricks to make food look perfect.  Hair spray to give luster to grapes.  Fake ice cream (made from shortening) that won't melt and can be molded into the perfect scoop.  But it seems that the trend of artisan foods, farmers' markets and the like have changed the way food stylists want to make food look.

"Messy" food is the way to go these days--a picture of a dish with chopped herbs still on the cutting board, ice cream dripping down the glass dish, veggies in a random fashion.  An interesting article from The Wall Street Journal tells more about how the way food looks helps it to sell. 

Photo by Lou Manna from
The Wall Street Journal
I'd have to agree--a picture of perfect food is simply unbelievable.  Food just doesn't look like that and thus, isn't appetizing.  But a nice glob of cheese dripping down the side of a burger?  Now, that's appetizing. 

As a comparison, look at the 2 tart pictures.  The one above was taken in the '80s.  It looks down on the perfect tart, showing the decoration.  In contrast, the photo at the right is a more recent shot.  It's taken from a lower angle, showing off the texture of the tart.  The powdered sugar gives motion and "messiness" as the sugar lands on the table as well as the tart. 

Will food styling change again in a decade or so?  Probably.  But for my taste, photos of "real" and "messy" food will make my mouth water much more than fake ice cream or hairsprayed fruit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Holiday Help

As the holidays roll around once again, time becomes more and more valuable.  That's why I am introducing my Holiday Help service. 

With this service, I can help you save time and effort when planning and preparing your holiday meals.  I'll make some side dishes for you (as many as 5 of them) saving you loads of time and giving you peace of mind while getting your dinner ready.  Depending on the dish, I can make them well in advance and freeze them.  Then all you'll have to do is thaw and heat it up. 

You can read more about this service, including the costs, on my website.  Read about it and then give me a call or shoot me an email and we'll talk about what you need and how I can help out!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote!

Today's Election Day and I hope you're planning to vote (maybe you already did).  I hate the thought that so many people complain about politics, but so few actually fulfill their responsibility to vote.  I have my thoughts about the candidates and I am going to make my feelings known by casting my vote. 

There was a good opinion piece by Randy Helm, president of Muhlenberg College (my alma mater, for what it's worth) in today's Morning Call.  He usually writes interesting and thoughtful pieces and this one is no exception.  He puts out a way to vote for those of us who are inundated with negative ads, etc.  It's worth the few minutes to read it. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Review

Jake had a long, hard night defending Gotham from villains (he fell asleep in the Batmobile on the way home), but he was rewarded handsomely for it.  An unofficial tally of candy shows that KitKats and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were the most popular items given.  I'll have to root through his bags to get a more scientific result.

I hope you had a good time!  Now on to Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sour Phruit

Watching the World Series gives me a sour taste in my mouth since the Phillies aren't playing.  So I figured I'd write a little bit about a sour fruit.

Damsons are a tiny fruit related to the plum that originated in Syria.  As the Roman Empire spread into England, the fruits also made their way into Great Britain.  It used to be that they were only found in the wild, but they are now commercially grown.

They're too sour to eat out of hand, but sweetening them by poaching or making into jams makes them palatable--although still very tart.  Damsons are used to make gin, wine and beer in England as well as slivovitz, a distilled spirit made in Slavic countries.

So at least until the end of the Series, damsons are the official phruit of the Phillies.  A nice big glass of slivovitz ought to help me get through it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is just a few days away.  As usual, I'm hoping that we don't get many kids showing up so I can have all the left-over candy.  I can always sneak some of Jake's...

In the US, we spend over $2 billion each year on Halloween candy--a huge chunk of candy makers' annual income.  So what kinds of candy are the favorites?  That's a little hard to figure out.

There are loads of lists and surveys that give you "favorite" Halloween candy and they're all different.  But there are some trends.

Chocolate candy almost always tops the lists (Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups usually).  But Candy Corn is also up there--for whatever reason.  Those little waxy things are gross if you ask me.  Ask Jake, and he'll say that he loves them.  I guess that's why these lists are all different.

What would I like if I went out Trick-or-Treating?  Snickers & Reese's are good for me.  I like Milky Ways, too (especially the dark chocolate).  Smarties are good--and nostalgic.  Starbursts.  Oh, and York Peppermint Patties.  Does anyone give Heath bars for Halloween?  I love them.

For some reason, there was an article on MSNBC's website that listed the "healthiest" candies--kind of an oxymoron.  They were Jolly Ranchers, Blow Pops, Gobstoppers, Pixy Stix and Candy Corn.  The least healthy?  Mr. Goodbar, NutRageous, Snickers, Baby Ruth and Mounds.  Not coincidentally, those "unhealthy" choices are the best tasting.

What candy are you giving out this year?  Or are you giving out something else like toothbrushes or pencils (and then waiting to get your house egged)?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Have fun and be safe!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jacques

Years ago, before I ever thought I'd do cooking for a living, I watched Jacques Pepin cook on PBS.  At the time, I didn't realize the influence that he would have on me, to an extent, but also on TV cooking shows. 

                     Photo: wsre.org
Pepin, who recently celebrated his 75 birthday, is one of the original TV chefs.  His shows have featured his expertise in technique, classic foods, quick and healthy cooking, a show cooking with his daughter and, one of the most entertaining, he and Julia Child cooking together.  The two of them are a riot--different styles, but both with a great wit--always busting on each other for using too much or too little butter or something to that effect.

Despite being in the biz for decades and well into retirement age, Pepin is currently in production of another PBS series, has published almost two dozen books and instructs at Boston University and is the Dean of Special Programs for the French Culinary Institute in New York.  He's also an accomplished artist, often painting the artwork for his books.

He often makes things look easier than they seem--especially technically.  But there is no doubt of his love of cooking and the joy he has for helping others feel the same way.  It doesn't seem like he'll be slowing down anytime soon.  Happy Birthday, Jacques!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bucks County Biscotti

As I told you last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing the owners of Bucks County Biscotti for a Bucks County Taste article I was writing.  The article is now up.  Check it out and learn about this great local business and the people who make it happen.  Warning--you're going to be craving cookies after reading!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Musings

What a crappy weekend sports-wise.  I really felt like the Phils were going to pull it off.  How disappointing.  The Giants?!  Come on...  I think I'll be rooting for the Rangers.  The Phillies are set up to be good for quite a few years to come, but it's still a bummer.  Then, to get my mind off of baseball, I watched the Eagles give up 27 points in the 4th quarter to lose.  Thanks.  That helped.

I can't wait until Election Day--simply so those horrible, tacky and pretty much useless TV commercials will no longer be aired.  Just once, will one of you people tell me what you've done and not how your opponent is going to send the country or state or county or township into the deep recesses of the Netherworld?  I like politics--I find it interesting.  But something has to be done with the way races are run.  No wonder voter turn-out is low.

We just pulled a nice, ripe, yellow tomato out of our garden.  Good thing we haven't gotten around to pulling everything out yet. 

I find it amazing how much better local apples taste than the ones shipped in from Washington or Oregon or New York or wherever.  They're so much more juicy and flavorful.  Grab some before they're not around anymore!

Made a tasty Crock Pot meal for us yesterday. 

BEEF FAJITAS (They're really not fajitas in the traditional sense, but good nonetheless.)

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 pound beef flank steak
1 cup chopped or sliced onion
1 green sweet pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces or sliced
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1 can stewed tomatoes (14 1/2 oz), cut up
12 flour tortillas (7")
1 Tbsp lime juice
Shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa for topping
  • Trim any fat from meat.  Cut steak into 6 portions.  In a slow cooker, combine onions, green pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander and salt.  Place meat on top.  Add undrained tomatoes.
  • Cover; cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or on high setting for 4-5 hours.
  • Heat tortillas by wrapping in foil and heating in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Or wrap in a damp paper towel and heat in microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove meat from cooker and shred.  Return meat to cooker and stir in lime juice.
  • Serve meat/veggie mixture on warmed tortillas.  Add desired toppings. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cookies!

But not just any ordinary cookies.  I'm talking about fresh, hand-cut, all-natural biscotti made in Hilltown.  I'm talking about Bucks County Biscotti.

Happy Boy--enjoying a Chocolate-
covered Classic Anise Almond Biscotti.
 Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with owners (and sole employees) Karen Riley and Craig Silbert for a Bucks County Taste story.  They generously took time to tell me about their business and show me around their beautiful 18th Century home and the area where the magic occurs--where they bake, cut and package their great product. 

Check them out--the biscotti are really delicious.  I'll let you know when the story is posted so you can learn all about this wonderful local business.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Make Me a Match

Yesterday I was watching the Phillies game (ugh--but I still say they win in 6) and, as is usual while watching baseball, I got the munchies.  So I got some nice salty pretzels and some fresh apple cider from Penn Vermont Fruit Farm in Bedminster (really tasty).  What a pairing!  The salt from the pretzels brought out the incredible flavors of the apples.  Yum!

In an article in The Atlantic, innkeeper and author, Regina Charboneau writes about some of her favorite food duos.  And while some of them--salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and orange--are on my list of favorites, some of them are just a little more "fancy" than I have in mind (oysters and caviar, anyone?). 

So I started thinking about some of my favorite things to eat together.  Some of them are, admittedly, weird.  But I like them anyway.
  • Bacon and maple syrup.  Charboneau lists bacon and brown sugar as one of her favorites, but I don't think there's much better than some good bacon and real maple syrup.  Some really good pork sausage and maple syrup (or "dip" as Jake used to call it) aren't bad either.
  • Cheetos and peanut butter.  OK.  This gets a little messy, but I love it.  Nice crunchy Cheetos (not the puffed kind) dipped in PB.  Hey, you eat those little cheese crackers with the PB in the middle, right? 
  • PB&J sandwich and potato chips.  While we're on the PB subject, there's just something great about a PB&J and plain old potato chips.  My sister used to put the chips IN her sandwich (maybe she still does).
  • Gorgonzola cheese and pears.  This is a classic pairing, but man, it's so good.  I love the Mountain Gorgonzola from Pasqualina's Italian Market and Deli here in Blooming Glen.  Creamy, tangy and a little sweet matched with the sweetness of the pear.  Apples are good, too.
  • Chocolate and hot pepper.  I do agree with Charboneau about the chocolate/orange combo, but I love chocolate and spice.  It's becoming more of a common thing to find these days.  Try it sometime.  The creaminess of the chocolate tames the heat.  Chocolate with chipotle is great (adds some smokiness).  Or try the incredible Chocolate-Jalapeno ice cream at oWowCow Creamery in Ottsville.  Deep, dark chocolate ice cream with a nice amount of heat.  Sooooo goooood.
  • Pretzels and chocolate ice cream.  Big salty pretzel dipped in really good chocolate ice cream.  Oh yeah.  It's that salty/sweet combo again.
  • Melon and Prosciutto.  Another classic, but one of my all-time favorites.  Sweet melon wrapped in salty prosciutto.  Ahhhh...drizzle a little balsamic reduction over it and you have an appetizer that can't be beat.
  • Tomato and salt.  It's depressing that tomato season is gone.  But it was wonderful while it lasted--when I could just bite into a fresh tomato, sprinkle a little sea salt and dig in. 
Did I miss anything?  I'm sure I did.  Let me know what some of your favorite pairings are.  Don't worry, I won't pass judgement. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eating Jack

Like most families, we'll be carving a big orange pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern very soon.  Jake gets very excited about doing that--he's already asked if we can roast the seeds to snack on (that's my boy!). 

Many people forget that pumpkins aren't just for carving...they're a nutritious and delicious vegetable that is greatly underused.  Check out my latest post on Bucks County Taste about pumpkins and how to use them for more than just decoration!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to Send the Pig Packing?

Everything's better with bacon, isn't it?  Well, for many years now, that's been the thought by a lot of people (including me).  There are bacon cupcakes and bacon donuts, bacon with fish and veggies and, well, pretty much anything else you can think of.

But according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some folks may think that bacon has run it's course these days.  They say that bacon can cover up the real flavors of foods and that it's just being overused. 

OK, I admit, bacon does show up all over the place (bacon lip balm?!?) and sometimes is a crutch to add flavor to some tired dish.  But for me, bacon will never go out of style.  Smoky, salty, great texture, great mouth-feel.  Who would get tired of some crumbled bacon on a salad or soup?  Or a great BLT when tomatoes are at their peak?  Or a little bacon in some fresh waffles with real maple syrup?  Oh yeah.

No, I don't agree with them.  Bacon is here to stay.  What do you think?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TV Foodies

Through the years, I've learned a lot from watching cooking shows on TV--from Saturday afternoons on PBS to the Food Network.  These days, many shows are more entertainment than actual instructional, but that doesn't mean that you can't learn or get inspired from the them. 

Epicurious, the great food website, has named the Top 10 foodies on television.  As you may expect, the late, great Julia Child has topped the list.  But who else is there?  Check out the list and see if your favorite made it.  Who should be on the list who isn't?  Who should be kicked off the list?  Let me know what you think!

Personally, I think Christopher Kimball, of the America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Country PBS shows and Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines should be on there--I think they're the best cooking shows on TV. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moving On!

Well, the Phillies know who they're opponent in the NLCS will be--old friends Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and the Giants.  It'll be a tough series--if any team has the starting pitching to match the Phils', it's the Giants.  But I ahve a good feeling about it--the offense will come to life (Ryan & Jayson will have a big series) and the Phillies will win in 6 games and head to the Series once again...this time with home field advantage!

Go Phils!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just Offal

There aren't too many things that I won't eat.  Among them, however, is offal.

Offal is the word used to describe any kind of innards or organs from an animal to be used for food: brain, liver, kidney, stomach, tongue, etc.  To many, it's aptly named--they think offal is just awful.

Some experts thought that 2010 would be the year that American consumers would buy more offal because of the economic situation in the US.  Well, according to butchers and this article from PioneerLocal of Illinois, that's not the case. 

The main reason they cite is the "gross" factor.  Unless you were raised in a culture that traditionally eats these meats, many Americans (like me) have no desire to put a heart (or any other internal organ) in my mouth.  There are other reasons, too. 

These meats are high in cholesterol and many folks are trying to avoid that in their diet.  Plus there's still some fear about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) that keeps the sales of calves brains down.

How about you?  Do you eat offal?  How do you prepare it?  Why do you like it?  Were you brought up eating it?  Let me know.  I'm offally interested in what you have to say. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Anniversary Discounts

I usually don't reprint things that I write in my newsletter, but I want to make sure everyone knows about these discounts.

October 16 marks the 1-year anniversary of Dinner's Done Personal Chef Service as a full-time business.  Thanks to everyone for their support, encouragement and faith.  Like most small businesses these days, I'll need it for Year 2 as well!

To celebrate my anniversary, I want to offer a special discount on my services (not including Crock Pot Wednesdays).

Take a 5% discount on a Dinner's Done service before the end of 2010.  Buy a 2nd service before the end of the year and take a 10% discount on that service!  A 3rd service in 2010 will get you a 15% discount!

Again, all services must be performed during the 2010 calendar year.  All first-time client and referral discounts apply as well!

This is a great way for you to do what you've been thinking of doing--treating yourself to the stress-free life of having a personal chef.  You'll save money, enjoy great food, feel good about the food that you and your family are eating--and have the free time to sit back and think about how you could have ever done without it.

Check out the many Dinner's Done services and their prices on my website.  Then give me a call or email me to set up a consultation.  Help me celebrate my anniversary with a gift for yourself and your family!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kids These Days

Jake having fun at dinner--
as usual!
As an eater, Jake is pretty good for a 4 1/2 year-old.  He doesn't like cheese or potatoes or most sauces (unlike pretty much every other kid in this country).  But he has been trying things more readily lately--kalamata olives, gravy (I told you he doesn't like sauces), various veggies, fish.  He likes most of it once he tries it.  As you have heard, in Maine he learned that he loves fried shrimp.

To top it off, he's a pretty healthy eater, too.  He's much more apt to eat some sort of fruit or veggie (broccoli, sugar snap peas, etc) than chips or some other snack food.  He loves his candy--especially chocolate--but those are a treat, not something he has a lot of. 

He has a good attitude toward food that we've helped to foster in him--we talk about food and treat it with respect, take him to farmers' markets, eat a wide variety of foods, let him help prepare the food when he wants to, make meal time a time for fun.

Snack of choice at today's farmers' market?
Carrot!
The Morning Call recently ran an article including an interview with Tanya Wenman Steel, the editor-in-chief of epicurious.com, co-author of the "Real Food for Healthy Kids" cookbook and mother of twin 12-year-old boys.  She gives some great tips about getting kids to eat--and eat well.
  • Have young kids help clean lettuce or peas or whatever.  Have it be fun for them to come in contact with the food.  Steel says not to worry about the mess.  "It's more about creating a fun environment and warm memory and a Pavlovian instinct that the kitchen equals fun."
  • Teach your kids that fresh foods are better.  Explain how the perimeter of the grocery store is where the better foods are.  Take them to farmers' markets.  Get excited about the colors and textures of the foods.  Let them pick out things to try--most likely younger kids will go for the colorful things, which just happen to be the most nutritious.  Involve them in the preparation of meals. 
  • Many people say that their kid doesn't eat.  But, Steel says, most of the time those parents don't eat either and don't sing the praises of healthy foods. 
    You have to be the ultimate PR person for spinach.  You've got to be a spokesperson for the deliciousness of fresh food.  And that means not just talking the talk, but walking the walk and eating that way every day in front of them.
  • Starting him early.
  • Start them early.  Putting something new on their plate when they are learning to feed themselves is the time to do it--they'll try it.  Studies show that kids need to try something over a dozen times to get used to the flavor and smell of a food.
  • Challenge teens (especially boys) by appealing to their competitive side.  I'll bet you I can make these Brussels spouts taste good to you.
  • Require them to at least try the food.  If they don't like it, then they can say, no thank you.  But don't negotiate with them.  They should eat what's on the table--you should not be making 3 different veggies for 3 different tastes.
  • Try substituting healthy foods for other favorites.  Make a healthy trail mix instead of chips.  Offer peanut butter on an apple instead of candy. 
  • Portion sizes are important.  Steel says:
    Portion sizes are probably half of what parents think they should be.  It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full.  So I always start my kids with fresh veggies...By the time they're eating dessert, hopefully it has been 20 minutes and they're going to say, 'I don't need another thing to eat.'  But if they do, give them whatever fruit is in season that will satisfy the sweetness they're craving.
    Admittedly, these tips aren't the easiest things to implement.  Although we think we do a pretty good job with Jake, there are times that he just won't eat what we give him.  But the key is trying to do it--try to make these tips work and you'll have a healthier kid who will enjoy and respect food much more than if you didn't make an effort.