Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Moulton's Best Cookbooks of 2008

Sara Moulton has an impressive resume. She was one of the original Food Network stars, CIA graduate, cookbook author, executive chef of Gourmet magazine, worked with Julia Childs on one of Julia’s PBS shows and one of my favorite chef personalities. She has put together her list of The Best Cookbooks of 2008.

Here is her list, use the above link (in title) for a description of each cookbook:

300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds

Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini

Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore

Cuisine Latina by Michelle Bernstein
Michelle was a guest judge on Top Chef and gave this book to the winning team. I am excited to check it out.

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose

The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri

Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker

Dessert Express by Lauren Chattman

Around the World Cookbook by Abigail Johnson Dodge

Knives Cooks Love by Sarah Jay

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Looks interesting!

Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell Kingsley

In Season by Sarah Raven

Bon Appetit Y'All by Virginia Willis

Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

Bakewise by Shirley Corriher

More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin
I am a big fan of Jacques and enjoy his first Fast Food My Way, excited to check out the second edition.

I would love to hear from you if you have a review of one of these.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Every year, my family eats pierogis at our Christmas Eve dinner. It is part of our Czech / Polish heritage. Pierogis are filled noodle dumplings [pronounced peer-Oh-gee, unless you are in my family and some unknown reason we pronounce them pee-DOE-gee]. They can be filled with a ground meat mixture, sauerkraut, mushrooms, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese or fruit filling. They are boiled and then fried in butter. They are amazing!
Yesterday, I went to my grandmother's house where a group of the family gets together and we make a hundred or so for our Christmas Eve dinner. It is an annual event that I look forward to every year.
First we get together the ingredients and mix up as many batch as we plan to make. We mix the batches in the stand mixer and cover until we are ready to use them.
After all the dough has been mixed, covered and set aside, we pull out portions of the dough and roll it to the right thickness. Then the dough is cut into pieces and stuffed.
We usually stuff with sautéed onions, mashed potatoes and cheese. This year we used both aged Cheddar and Gruyère. We also stuffed with sauerkraut, something we do not normally do. Grandma had just finished putting up a crock of sauerkraut; so it was fresh and delicious.
The filling is added to each piece of dough. The dough is moistened with water around the edges, folded over itself and the edges are crimped closed.
In batches, the pierogis are added to boiling water for 8 minutes. At this point, we allow them to cool and freeze them until they are

ready to be eaten.
When ready to eat, the pierogis are fried in butter until golden brown. Then you can eat and enjoy! And trust me, you will enjoy.
Our family's recipe:
PIEROGIS – Potato, Onion and Aged Cheddar
Makes about 55

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick melted butter
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
1/3 cup milk
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound sharp aged cheddar cheese, shredded

Add cold water to cubed potatoes in a large pot, place over high heat and cook until potatoes are soft, approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the diced onions and cook until onions are soft, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes.

When potatoes are finished, drain and mash adding onions and any oil in the pan, the remaining butter and milk. Mash until lump free and well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

While potatoes and onions are cooking, combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with hands until all ingredients are combined and you have a soft dough.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.

Divide the dough into four equal balls. Cover three dough balls with a clean towel to prevent from drying out. Take the last ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface until the dough is thin, but not translucent, approximately 1/16”. Cut the dough into approximately 2” x 4” strips. Place about 1 tablespoon on mashed potatoes and 1 teaspoon shredded cheese on half of the strip. Dampen the sides of the strip with water, fold over the empty half of the strip, and press firmly to make sure add sides are firmly closed. Repeat with remaining balls.

Place finished pierogis in pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Only place a few at a time in the pot, not to overcrowd. Remove the pierogis with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Place on a baking sheet to cool.

Pierogis may be frozen at this time for 3 months. Defrost two to three days in the refrigerator.

When ready to eat, sauté pierogis in butter on both sides until golden brown.

NOTE: Fillings can include any combination of ingredients – sweet or savory. Strong cheese such as Gruyère, Fontina or Asiago can be substituted for cheddar. Other fillings include drained cottage cheese; dried plums or other fruit fillings; sauerkraut and mushrooms; ground beef, hard-boiled egg and sautéed onions; cream cheese and sour cream; or rice, mushrooms and dill.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Today Marks the 75th Anniversary

It is merely coincidence that my last two posts are alcohol related, I swear this is not signifying a problem or this time of year does not drive me to drinking :)

On December 5, 1933, 75 years ago today, Congress ratified the 21st Amendment of the United States Constitution. This officially ended the almost 14 year of Prohibition, which began with the 18th Amendment signed on January 16, 1919.

Amendment 21: Amendment 18 Repealed
Section 1.
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or
possession of the United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

There are several factors which led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment. The most important probably being that organized crime rose dramatically during Prohibition. One of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s top platforms when running for President was to repeal of Prohibition.

At 7 pm on December 5, 1933, FDR officially legalized alcohol. An hour later, whiskey was delivered to his hotel room in New Orleans.

In the words of President Roosevelt, “What America needs now is a drink”. Raise a glass today and have a great weekend.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Beaujolais Nouveau

One minute after midnight on the third Thursday of November, the Beaujolais Nouveau is released. If you have not yet picked up a bottle, I would recommend it. I enjoy looking forward to the annual release. The bottles are inexpensive (I have been paying around $10.50/bottle) and are available throughout town.

Beaujolais Nouveau [BOH-zho-LAY noo-VOH] is a red wine, which is made from gamay grapes. It is produced in the Beaujolais region of France. This year the weather was ideal during the harvest, so the grapes ripened evenly and have a good balance of flavors. The grapes are harvested by hand, it is the law. The Beaujolais is meant to have a short aging process.

It is a fruity, mild red. The gamay grape has a thinner skin than most other types of grapes and the result is a lower tannin level. It is meant to be served slightly chilled (about 55°F) to bring out its fruity notes. It goes well with Thanksgiving dinner and it is no coincidence it is released one week prior to our beloved American holiday. It also goes well with spicy dishes.

I hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day

Unless you have been living in a vacuum, you know that today is Election Day.

Don't forget to

In honor of Election Day, I am sharing a recipe from The White House Cookbook by Janet Halliday Ervin. This recipe is from Abigail Adams, the wife of our second President, John Adams. She truly was the first lady as the Adams were the first occupants of the White House.

Put your fruit into an oven for quarter of an hour. When tender, pulp it through a sieve, sugar it, add the crumbs of sufficient sponge cake to thicken it. Put into a glass mould or into custard cups and lay some thick cream on top. If for immediate use, the cream may be beaten up with the fruit. Other light berries and fruit may be treated in the same way.

I have modified the recipe slightly, this is about 4 servings.

1 pound fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 sprigs of mint, for garnish

Add the berries to an oven safe dish and place in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes.

Press through a fine-meshed sieve. Mix the fruit with 1/4 cup sugar and set aside.

Meanwhile, beat cream together until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar and vanilla and continue beating until just stiff. Remove 1/2 cup of the whipped cream for garnish.

Fold sugared fruit into cream. Put into individual serving dishes and refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.
Serve by garnishing with a dollop of the reserved cream and a sprig of mint.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Farmer In Chief?

Today I happen to catch Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR. Terry's guest was author Michael Pollan who wrote an open letter to the next President in the NY Times Magazine, titled Farmer in Chief. In the letter, Mr. Pollan speaks frankly and opening about his concerns with the food industry. He believes that they days of cheap food are ending and the next President can set an example and create programs to change the way we feel about food.

If you are at all interested in food, maintaining healthy food practices or keeping food safe through organic and safe food practices I would recommend listening to this program and/or reading his letter. He was a very interesting speaker and had some very reasonable requests. However being a realist I do not anticipate our next President to follow his suggestions, but oh to dream!

He touched on organic farming including pesticides and crop rotation, treating farms as industrial plant for waste treatment and ways for the average person to take more responsibility in their food growth. He encourages the next President to plant produce gardens at the White House to encourage everyone to maintain gardens, to think locally. He also has some interesting ideas for changing school lunch programs and suggests schools grow their own food to teach students the importance of fresh foods and to see firsthand where it comes from.

I found the program very interesting and hope you do as well.

Sorry for the Lapse

My apologies to my faithful readers (if there are any out there) for being absent so long. With an August wedding and teaching classes earlier this month, it seems that the blog was the thing that gave. I am back and plan on updating regularly. I appreciate your patience and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day is Sunday, June 15. My dad is great because he is very mechanical and he gives me advice on problems like auto problems and home repairs. I am not saying that women can not do these things on our own and I have been known to get my hands dirty on many occasions. It is nice to know that I have my dad to count on when I have these types of questions. He is also a financial genius so he offers great investing and banking advice.

When we think dads and food, most of us think meat, lots of meat. And with the weather turning warm, we think grilling and outdoor cooking. One of my favorite grilled recipes is an Asian inspired rib recipe (that I have yet to name). I originally pulled this recipe from a television show. I did not love the original recipe but saw it had potential so have been modifying it over the years. My other favorite grilled recipe is a Grilled Asparagus with Peanut Sauce from Cook's Illustrated. Normally I would not think of peanut butter and asparagus in the same dish, but this will wow your socks off. It is fabulous! So I share both of these recipes with you, enjoy your weekend. And dads everywhere, thank you for all you do!


Serves 4

4 Tablespoons oyster sauce

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

2 stalks of lemon grass (white part only), finely chopped

Juice from half a lemon (about 1 Tablespoon)

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper, several twists of peppermill

2 pounds of pork ribs, cut into individual ribs

Combine ingredients together, add ribs and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Can marinate longer, up to 24 hours, in the refrigerator.

Heat grill to medium-high heat and add ribs. Cook about 5 to 10 minutes per side, flip and cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before eating.





Cooks Illustrated Magazine ~ May/June 1998 issue

Servings: 4

1 medium garlic clove -- minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger -- grated
1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt -- or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper -- or to taste
1 1/4 pounds asparagus spears -- tough ends snapped off
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves -- minced
1 medium scallion -- white and green parts, minced

Either light a medium fire in grill or preheat broiler. Whisk garlic, ginger, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil, along with salt and pepper to taste, in medium bowl. Brush asparagus with about 1 tablespoon dressing to coat lightly.

Either grill asparagus, turning halfway through cooking time, until tender and streaked with light grill marks, 5 to 7 minutes, or line up spears in single layer on heavy jellyroll or rimmed baking sheet and broil, placing sheet about 4 inches from top heating element and shaking it once halfway through cooking to rotate spears, until tender and browned in some spots, 6 to 8 minutes.

Whisk peanut butter, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon water into remaining dressing; toss with asparagus. Transfer to serving platter, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, sprinkle with minced scallion, and serve immediately

Friday, May 30, 2008

More Stress Fighting Foods

Are you sensing a theme? I rarely am able to watch daytime television, but I found myself in front of the set yesterday watching some of Martha Stewart's daytime show. The topic caught my attention: Good Mood foods. I thought I would share what they had to say as it ties nicely with my post from earlier this week.
Many people turn to food in times of stress, but don't realize the foods they eat could actually be adding to their high stress levels. Dr. Brent Ridge, vice president of healthy living at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has some tips for altering your diet to help ease anxiety.
Diet Can Play a Huge Role in Causing Stress
Carbohydrate-rich foods and sweets such as doughnuts boost the release of serotonin in the body, helping the body to regulate anxiety and mood. But these foods also cause a quick rise and fall in blood-sugar levels, and when the sugar level falls, people often eat more of those foods to get another boost -- leading to the consumption of an enormous amount of calories.
-Trans-fatty acids found in fast food reduce circulation and raise blood pressure, keeping the body in a constant state of stress.
-Many people reach for caffeine when stressed, but caffeine boosts adrenaline production and only puts the body more on edge. When opting for caffeine, try green, black, or oolong tea, which give the caffeine boost but also contain amino acids such as L-theanine that help to ease tension.
-Alcohol can make you feel good in the moment, but it will also disturb sleep patterns, ultimately producing more stress, both physiologically and psychologically.
Foods to Help Soothe Stressed-Out Nerves
Avocados, Baked Potatoes (with Skin), Bananas, Yellow-Fin Tuna
-Helpful nutrient: vitamin B6.
-Why it helps: Stress depletes B6, which helps produce serotonin.
-Best foods for B6: Fortified whole grain cereals, chick peas, salmon, lean beef, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, white potatoes with skin, oatmeal, bananas, pistachios, lentils, tomato paste, barley, rice (wild or brown), peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash, broccoli, broccoli rabe, carrots, brussels sprouts, peanut butter, eggs, shrimp, tofu, apricots, watermelon, avocado, strawberries, whole grain bread.
Clams, Fat-Free Milk, Fat-Free Yogurt, Salmon
-Helpful nutrient: vitamin B12.
-Why it helps: It helps form GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.
-Best foods for B12: shellfish, salmon, fortified whole-grain cereals, enriched or fortified soy milk, trout, tuna, lean beef, veggie burgers, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, egg, cheese.
Asparagus, Chickpeas, Lentils, Oatmeal
-Helpful nutrient: folate (folic acid).
-Why it helps: It helps make dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.
-Best foods for folate: Fortified whole-grain cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, oatmeal, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, green peas, artichokes, okra, beets, parsnips, broccoli, broccoli rabe, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oranges and juice, brussels sprouts, papaya, seaweed, berries, cauliflower, corn, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta.
Almonds, Spinach, Sunflower Seeds, Tofu, Wild Rice
-Helpful nutrient: magnesium.
-Why it helps: Stress depletes magnesium, which stimulates the production of GABA and helps make dopamine.
-Best foods for magnesium: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, amaranth, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, quinoa, tempeh, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, soybeans, millet, beans, artichoke hearts, peanuts, peanut butter, chickpeas, brown rice, whole-grain bread, sesame seed, wheat germ, flax seed.
Broccoli, Orange Juice, Red and Green Peppers, Strawberries
-Helpful nutrient: vitamin C
-Why it helps: It boosts your immune system and fights brain-cell damage resulting from constant exposure to cortisol (a stress hormone).
-Best foods for vitamin C: guava, bell peppers, orange juice, hot chile peppers, oranges, grapefruit juice, strawberries, pineapple, kohlrabi, papaya, lemons, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, kidney beans, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, red cabbage, mangos, grapefruit, white potatoes with skin, mustard greens, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, snow peas, clementines, rutabagas, turnip greens, tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, green tomatoes, cabbage, watermelon, tangerines, lemon juice, okra, lychees, summer squash, persimmons.
First Published: September 2007

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beating Stress Through Diet

It seems that many people in my life have been having a high-stress month. I have to believe this is reaching outside my immediate circle. I subscribe to several e-newsletters, one from HealthCastle.com. I am just now catching up on old issues and just read an interesting article from the April newsletter I thought I would pass along. Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy!

Top Five Stress-Busting Foods
Written by Gloria Tsang, RD and Christina NewberryPublished in April 2008
These days, it seems like every time you turn around, someone's talking about stress. With busier and busier schedules, and more and more demands to deal with every day, people are more stressed out than ever. But did you know you can fight the effects of stress just by adding certain stress-busting foods to your diet?
Top 5 Stress-Busting Foods
Whole-grain pasta/popcorn: Many high-carb foods are already often thought of as "comfort" foods. But did you know that the whole grain versions of these old favorites also contain good carbs, which can boost serotonin (the "feel-good" brain chemical), to help reduce stress? Go for whole-grain pasta, whole-grain bread, brown or wild rice, or popcorn if you need a dose of comfort.
Tea (black/green/white): A warm drink can help soothe frazzled nerves, especially on a cold day. Instead of sipping coffee, which is packed with agitating caffeine, opt for green, white, or black tea instead. They contain half as much caffeine as coffee, and are loaded with beneficial flavonoid compounds. Skip the cream and sugar to make your cup of relaxation calorie-free.
Dark green vegetables: Just one more reason why your mother always told you to eat your broccoli - it contains high levels of B vitamins, a group of stress-relieving vitamins that can also calm anxiety and depression. Other dark green vegetables like kale, chard, collard greens, bok choy, asparagus, and green beans also fit into this category.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds can take the edge off gnawing afternoon hunger that may itself be stressing you out. Plus, they contain high levels of B vitamins, and magnesium - another mineral also involved in serotonin production. Too many of these tasty snacks can add a lot of extra calories to your diet, though (for example, 15 cashews contain about 180 calories), so stick to not more than 1.5 oz of unsalted nuts or seeds per day
Citrus fruits and berries: Fruits like oranges, grapefruit, kiwis, and strawberries are all excellent sources of Vitamin C - a potent stress-busting vitamin. Plus, the Vitamin C found in citrus fruits is involved in the production of collagen, which helps keep your skin firm and reduces wrinkling, to help you hide the effects of stress you've already lived through.
The Bottom Line
You don't have to pop a pill or become a yoga master to reduce the amount of stress in your hectic life. Just add these stress-busting foods to your diet and you'll be well on the way to a calmer existence.

Monday, May 12, 2008

International Pickle Week (May 16 – 26, 2008)

International Pickle Week, yes that is right – worldwide fun for my fellow pickle lovers, begins on May 16 and actually runs 10 days (no not really a week, is it?!). Pickles have been deemed the world’s funniest vegetable. The pickle week ends on Memorial weekend to kick off the start of summer right!

International Pickle Week began in 1948 to celebrate those brined cucumber treats. The key to make pickles is starting with the right
type of cucumber. The cucumbers we find in the market to add to our salads, long and sleek do not make the best pickles. Often time you can see the small ones called pickling cucumbers in the market, or most people who make their own pickles grow their own cucumbers. Traditionally pickles are made by curing cucumbers in a salt-water solution for four to six weeks. During this time, naturally occurring bacteria from the salt and the cucumbers themselves slowly change the bright green cucumbers to the dark olive skinned pickles and change the opaque interior translucent. Pickles can be fast packed which includes soaking them in a vinegar solution for much shorter time period.

Dill or kosher pickles are the most popular types of pickles. These are made by adding dill weed and lots of garlic to the brining process. Gherkins are small dill pickles.

Sweet pickles are the second most popular type of pickles. Sugar is added to the brine to give these their sweet flavor. Bread and butter pickles are a type of sweet pickle.

Cucumbers are not the only vegetable to be pickled. Other pickled favorites include peppers,
cabbage (sauerkraut), beans, okra, root vegetables like turnips and beets, carrots, radishes, ginger, mangos, watermelon rind, hard-boiled eggs, various meats and let us not forget olives and capers.

I love adding pickles to a sandwich for both crunch and great flavor. They go well to with grilled items like burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken breasts. I love adding relishes to my chicken and egg salads.

Although I have not tried it myself, I found a recipe for fried pickles. What could be better?

Serves 4 – 6

3 to 4 large dill pickles, whole
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup beer
1 Tablespoon cayenne
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powde
r3 dashes hot pepper sauce
Vegetable oil for frying

Cut dill pickles into 1/4” thick slices.

Combine flour, beer, cayenne, paprika, pepper, salt, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce in a medium mixing bowl. Dip pickle slices into batter.

Heat oil to 375°F in a large, deep saucepan. Fry pickles until they float to the surface, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately. Possible dipping sauce include orange blossom sauce, a horseradish mayonnaise or buttermilk ranch.

http://www.ilovepickles.com/ for recipes, puzzles and games, and other valuable information.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Sunday May 11 is Mother's Day. What better way to honor our mother's then by feeding her and thanking her for all the years of feeding us.

Make her breakfast
Whether it is breakfast in bed or a nice meal around the table, you can make pancakes or waffles, made-to-order omelets, scrambled eggs with bacon or sausage or whatever mom loves. An easy and filling option is baked oatmeal. You add your favorite dried fruits, fresh fruit like apples or strawberries or nuts to customize to mom’s tastes. It can be baked in a large pan or in individual ramekins for a fancy touch.

Serves 6

3 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
dried fruits, nuts and fresh fruits
butter, for greasing pan(s)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Generously butter with bottom and sides of 9" x 13" baking dish or individual ramekins.

Mix all ingredients together. Pour ingredients into pan(s). If using individual ramekins, set each on top of a baking sheet to help clean up and spills.

Bake ramekins for 25 minutes, full pan for 45 minutes. Mixture should be bubbly and oatmeal cooked through.

This is great reheated later in the week, so I suggest making extra.

Make Mom a Picnic
Whether the sun is shining or not, why not treat mom to a picnic. You can spread out a blanket in a nearby park, under your favorite tree or in the living room. Mom will love an excuse to use her picnic basket or other basket she has. Pack fried chicken (homemade or purchased), make tea sandwiches with crusts removed, or visit mom's favorite sandwich shop to fill the basket. Also, make some fresh-squeezed lemonade, brownies and don't forget to pack plenty of napkins, utensils and any of your favorite condiments (including salt and pepper).

A 5-Star Dinner
A great dinner does not have to include reservations to her favorite restaurant. Why not try to recreate her favorite meal at home. Whether it is a great local restaurant which may have a cookbook of their best sellers, or a chain restaurant with many copy cat recipes available online, you can create a meal that mom will love.

If your mom is anything like mine, I'm sure she will care less about what you make, then the fact that you took the time to make mom a meal and spend some good one-on-one time with her. Thank you moms everywhere for all of your love, your guidance and being there whenever we need you. We love you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dining out for Life

Dining out for life is an annual fundraising event in April where restaurants contribute a night's profit to AIDS charities in their own cities. Over 2,800 restaurants participate nationwide. Visit the website to see which restaurants participate in your state (click on the title of this post for a direct link).

I was a bit disappointed to see that only one Michigan city was participating, but we do have one! Ten Grand Rapids restaurants are participating on Thursday, April 28 with some participating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. San Chez Bistro, a Spanish Tapas restaurant, one of my favorites in downtown Grand Rapids is including in the list so I am considering road tripping it for a great cause.

Friday, April 04, 2008

April 4

Today in 1932, Vitamin C is first isolated by C.G. King at the University of Pittsburgh. Can you imagine 76 years ago, no one would tell you to drink a glass of orange juice when you had a cold?

Vitamin C is responsible for repairing our body tissue. It helps our bodies absorb iron as well as create Vitamin E.

Humans are the only mammals who do not produce Vitamin C on their own and therefore we have to get it from our diet alone. Foods high in Vitamin C are citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons and limes; other fruits like cantaloupe, kiwi, papaya and mango; carrots; dark greens such as broccoli, collard greens, kale; strawberries; sweet potatoes; sweet red peppers; and tomatoes.

So ward off scurvy and enjoy a fruit salad with melon, kiwi and mango or add some carrots, sweet red peppers and tomatoes to your salad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dying Easter Eggs

Dying eggs is a tradition that has been around for centuries. While you can go out and buy the packages made for dying your hard boiled eggs, you can also find many items already in your kitchen to dye your eggs. Before the invention of the convenient box of PAAS Egg Dye, people used vegetables, fruits, edible flowers, barks and roots to dye eggs. Going back to basics is enjoyable from time-to-time and here is how to do it:

During the dying process, you actually hard boil your eggs at the same time. So you will be dirtying a few more dishes this way, but inventing colors is a lot of the fun.

In the same manner that you normally hard boil eggs, you want to make sure your eggs are in a single layer of a saucepan. Then you cover the eggs with about a 1/2” of water. You may only want to add 3 or 4 eggs into each pan of water so you can create several different colors of eggs.

For blue eggs, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and shredded red cabbage or 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1 cup of fresh blueberries.

For green eggs, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves.

For yellow eggs, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 2 Tablespoons turmeric.

For brown eggs, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 2 -3 Tablespoons of ground coffee or add several teas bags. Or try adding the outer layers of an onion (no vinegar necessary).

For red eggs, try adding fresh or frozen cranberries or cherries with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Or instead add some fresh beets.

Look around the kitchen and see what other items you can use. Once you have your pot ready, turn on the heat and boil for a minimum of 8 minutes. The longer you steep your eggs, the brighter the color. However, the eggs will not be edible if you boil them for much longer than 10 – 15 minutes.

Have fun, enjoy yourself and get your hands dirty!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day

Pi, Greek letter (∏), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535... Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th. http://www.piday.org/

According to the National Pie Council, ancient Egyptians show the first evidence of pie making and eating. The first pies were made with reeds to hold the fillings, but the reeds were not consumed. Meat pies were the first pies eaten and dessert pies were not seen until later.

So enjoy a slice of pie today. Share a pie with a friend - either homemade or store bought. Enjoy it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

March is National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month and quite fittingly I just finished a three week course on Nutrition. The course was very basic and laid out the fundamentals of nutrition. Some highlights:

Carbs are not bad. Recently there have been several diets that have led us to believe that foods high in carbohydrates are bad for us. I would agree that we as a society eat too many processed carbohydrates. Carbs also include fruits, vegetables and whole grains - all great for us. And we all know we need to eat more of those.

The Food Pyramid. The newer version of the food pyramid, although more complex, is a good model for structuring our eating guidelines. The website www.mypyramid.gov is a great resource for creating meal plans, tips and recipes. I also learned about the Dash Eating Plan in my classes. I had not previously heard about it and have not had time to look into it, but for more information visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf . It is a low sodium diet designed for those with high blood pressure, but everyone can apply its principles and guidelines.

Read the labels. Eating well really starts with reading the labels. Look past the nutriton fact sheets and read the ingredient list. Avoid items with hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. Other pitfalls are high sugar, high sodium and other highly processed items. Try to look for ingredients lists that are whole foods. For a good resource for reading the label, visit http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html.

Drink lots of water. A good rule of thumb is half your body weight in ounces each day. Many foods contain water (like fruit and broths) so you don't necessarily need to drink it all in water. Did you know that if you normally drink one regular soft drink each day and cut them from your diet, you could lose 14 lbs / year?

I think we all know what we are supposed to do, or at a minimum a few things we could be doing differently. The key is persistence. Start small and make changes when you can. If we do well most of the time, we can still splurge on the good stuff.

Visit http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/nutrition_350_ENU_HTML.htm for some great links with additional information.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Packaging

My intent of this blog is and will be to be informative. But today I need to rant, just a bit. I am amazed on how manufacturer’s think that we want (and probably our society does) everything with too much packaging. In the last few days, I have seen advertisements for single serving frozen vegetables and single serving cookies. Really?

We are such a disposable society. Everything is over-packaged, single servings packaged into outer packaging. Things inside bags, housed in boxes, wrapped in bags, sealed in cellophane! I just ask that you think about how much packaging your purchases contain when you buy them. Our purchases determine what manufacturer’s produce. All of this packaging ends up in landfills. Think about which materials are used, can you recycle the plastic container? I have seen many products made with plastics made from corn or soy instead of traditional petroleum-based plastics.

Sorry for stepping on the soapbox. Thanks for listening and please make a conscious decision at your next visit to the market.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Oscars

This Sunday is the presentation of the 80th Academy Awards. If you love everything Hollywood, it is a great time to invite friends over for an Oscar night party. You can glam it up or keep things low key. Here are some easy tips for either.

And who are you wearing tonight? Depending on your style, you could ask your guests to glam it up and wear those great dresses and suits we all have in our closets that we are waiting for an excuse to wear. Or you could have your guests dress the part of their favorite nominee. Have fun with it or just come as you are.
Give your place the red carpet treatment. Go to the fabric store and buy a couple of yards of red fabric or buy a few dozen red rose petals and give your front entrance the red carpet treatment. If you have a strobe light, adding it to the front yard would emulate paparazzi snapping your guests’ photos. Or you could ask a friend to snap photos of your guests as they arrive and either print the photos at home that night or send them photos later as a keepsake of the evening. Some photo finishers are able to print text on the photos so you could add the event name and date.
Eat like the stars. Depending on your budget and your time constraints, there are several options for food. If you prefer the casual route, offer typical theater foods like popcorn, nachos (of course using the cheese from the soup can), hot pretzels and bowls of your favorite candies (junior mints, juju fruits). Or for a more glamorous offering, make small bite-sized appetizers like shrimp wrapped in prosciutto, cucumber slices topped with salmon cream cheese or chive cream cheese, bake a frittata and cut into bite-sized squares, top scoop-style tortilla chips with your favorite chicken salad recipe or many of the restaurant-supply stores (like GFS Marketplace) offer a descent selection of frozen, heat-and-serve items. Using a star shaped cookie cutter, you cut items like cookies, bread slices or puff pastry for a base for appetizers and meats and cheeses to add some fun to your selections.

If you are feeling really creative you can create a menu based on the movies being nominated. Since I have not actually seen any of the movies that were nominated, I can not offer any scene specific ideas, but some ideas based on the period and location of the film include Austrian delights like Spaetzle, Goulash or beef, paprika stew and wiener schnitzel or breaded and fried veal cutlet (Sweeney Todd); Southwestern US dishes like Chicken in Salsa Verde or green salsa made with tomatillos, cheese enchiladas, guacamole (In the Valley of Elah); or make several international dishes from Israel, Poland or Russia to honor the films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Do some research to find out some of the actor’s favorite culinary delights are and add those to your menu.

Drink and be merry. Just as important as the food are the drinks. Whether you are offering alcoholic libations or
not, do not forget to think about your beverage selections. An inexpensive sparkling wine or juice adds a glamorous touch for your guests. Creating a signature drink for the night, really makes it memorable. Whether it is a Tom Collins or fruited non-alcoholic punch, the in thing is to have a signature drink. For some drink recipe ideas visit http://www.eDrinkGuide.com or for a bombshell actress inspired drink visit http://www.bombshells.com/lounge/cocktails.php. Non-alcoholic creations are easy to make by substituting tonic water, club soda or ginger ale for many liquors.

Remember to relax and have fun and just enjoy yourself!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Do You Know What I Am?

Do you know what this little guy is? I had never seen it before or if I had I walked right by thinking it was an oddly shaped orange. But last week, while at the market with my sister, she introduced me to these. They are called minneola tangelos.

A minneola is a hybrid of a grapefruit and a tangerine (which are also called mandarin oranges). Their skin is a bit darker and redder than an orange.It tastes to me like a very mild grapefruit. Their skin is loose like a tangelo and very easy to peel. The pear shaped end is almost like a pull tab to remove the skin and with little- to no-seeds like make a great traveling snack.

A little research told me that this was introduced in 1931, much to my surprise as I thought it was a relatively new development. Like other citrus fruit, minneolas are high in fiber and vitamin C. Their sweet-sour flavor goes well with salads and adding their juice makes a great vinaigrette. In recipes, you could substitute them for lemons or grapefruits to give dishes a new dimension.

I would recommend trying these tasty little treats.

Monday, February 04, 2008

February is Heart Month

Besides being Black History month, National Bird Feeding month and Spunky Old Broad month (I swear I don’t make this stuff up), February is American Heart month. So I am dedicating this post to heart healthy foods.

According to WebMD, the top 25 heart healthy foods are (including some suggestions for each):

  1. Salmon Omega-3 fatty acids. Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.
  2. Flaxseed (ground) Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens. Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.
  3. Oatmeal Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber. Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.
  4. Black or Kidney Beans B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber. Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.
  5. Almonds Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.
  6. Walnuts Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.
  7. Red wine Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids). Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.
  8. Tuna Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin. Here's lunch: Salad greens, fresh fruit, canned tuna. Keep "Salad Spritzer" a light dressing -- in your office fridge.
  9. 9. Tofu Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, marinate several hours, grill or stir-fry.
  10. 10. Brown rice B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber. Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach).
  11. Soy milk Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens. Soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.
  12. Blueberries Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too -- for trail mixes, muffins, salads!
  13. Carrots Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber. Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
  14. Spinach Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber. Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.
  15. Broccoli Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber. Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).
  16. Sweet potato Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber. Microwave in a zip-lock baggie for lunch. Eat au naturale, or with pineapple bits.
  17. Red bell peppers Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber. Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.
  18. Asparagus Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber. Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It's a pretty side dish.
  19. Oranges Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber. Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends.
  20. Tomatoes Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber. For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.
  21. Acorn squash Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber. Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sauted spinach, pine nuts, raisins.
  22. Cantaloupe Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber. A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!
  23. Papaya Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.
  24. Dark chocolate Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.
  25. 25. Tea Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.

Some more tips to incorporate these into your day:

  • Substitute one cup of tea for one cup of coffee several times a week
  • Eat a small handful of almonds as a mid-afternoon snack. You only need 1 ounce, which is roughly 20 – 25 almonds, and you will be surprised how filling these protein rich foods can be.
  • Instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed sweet potatoes. I like them mashed plain, but you can add brown sugar or horseradish to them to give them a little added flavor. Because they are so moist, you do not need to add the cream and butter like with traditional potatoes.
  • Make a salad using spinach leaves instead of your standard lettuce leaves, or do a half and half blend if you don’t like spinach along. Add some fruits (orange segments, papaya chunks, blueberries), some halved baby carrots or red pepper strips, sprinkle with some almonds or walnuts and if you are feeling especially heart-healthy, top it off with a piece of grilled salmon or tuna. Voila you have a great lunch or dinner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Trends

What hot food trends can we expect to see in 2008? I have done a little bit of research and found these trends.

Those high fat foods that we have always thought of as bad will show us that they are natural and that is better. Foods like butter and Hellman’s mayonnaise will market that they are made from only natural ingredients. Other foods with uncertain nutritional content, like white bread, will show its health benefits as well. These campaigns will really push consumers to become more educated about the food they eat and not believe everything you hear.

We will see even more products listing their health benefits, lower calorie content or lower fat content. However, we can not take the jazzy front of the box at face value. It is still very important to read the nutritional content label and decide for yourself if it is a wise purchase.

We will see the rise in concern with lead-free products in other industries creep into people’s overall concern for safety. Among this food packaging facilities will flaunt their high safety standards.

Organic is so last year - LOL This year the new buzz word is local. Consumers are looking at the bigger picture and eating organic produce from other countries has a large impact on the environment than eating locally grown produce. More restaurants will advertise that they are part of this natural foods movement. The New Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year for 2007 was locavore and the trend will continue into 2008.

“A locavore is someone who eats food grown or produced locally or within a certain radius such as 50, 100, or 150 miles. The locavore movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food, with the argument that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Local grown food is an environmentally friendly means of obtaining food, since supermarkets that import their food use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.” (

We will see grocery stores move away from the box store feel and become more attractive to its consumers. We are already seeing that around here. They will loose they traditional aisle layout for more of an open-market feel, they will add specialty food bars, soft lighting and hardwood floors.

A restaurant trend we will see is restaurants moving from the large-chain casual dining experience to a modified version. These eateries will be housed in strip malls instead of as stand alone buildings and will have modified, scaled-down menus to offer fast, inexpensive options for its consumers.

Food & Wine magazine predicts:
* Old-fashioned candy
* Wild American shrimp
* Muesli will become more popular than granola
* Chef-run noodle bars
* Barrel-aged beers
* Chardonnay from Oregon
* Haute frozen food

Mintel International Group (Chicago-based market research firm) predicts:
* Functional waters (those with added nutrients)
* Virtually anything fair trade
* Ancient grains, such as amaranth, quinoa and teff
* Easy-to-understand nutritional labels

Baum & Whiteman Co. (restaurant consultants) predicts:
* More restaurants will accept takeout orders via text messaging
* Restaurants with ultraspecialized menus (such as breakfast cereal or grilled cheeses)
* Cocktails enhanced with functional foods
* Offal (entrails and internal organs of butchered animals)
* Korean food

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Happy New Year! I hope 2008 has been treating you well so far. For my Michigan readers, I hope you are staying warm and dry with all the snow we have received in the last 2 days.

The new year brings resolutions – many include losing weight and eating healthier. Last year I posted some tips for eating healthier and making and keeping resolutions (

I thought I would start this year on a different note. Did you know that 2008 is The International Year of the Potato?!?! For those that know me, they know that the Munger Potato Festival is an integral part of my life, and that I never miss it. And who does not love potatoes?! So when I heard that this was the Year of the Potato, I was ecstatic.

At a conference held by the United Nations in 2005, a proposal was approved to bring recognition to world hunger problems. With the potato being an easily grown, fairly nutritious and already being grown in most countries, it made a good choice as the crop to promote. The hopes are to alleviate poverty and malnutrition, provide food and security and increase growth in developing nations.

Some interesting potato facts:

  • In 2005, for the first time ever, more potatoes were grown in developing countries than developed countries – 318 million tonnes total (1 tonne or metric ton = 1,000 kilograms).

  • China and India grow about one-third of the total global potato production.

  • Europeans (including former Soviet countries) consume the largest amount of potatoes.

  • The United States ranks fourth global for potato production. Americans eat about 120 pounds of potatoes annually.

Potatoes are native to South America and have been around for at least 8,000 years. The Spanish introduced them to Europe in the 16th Century. Today there are 7,500 varieties of potatoes worldwide.

Potatoes are a good source of complex carbohydrates (what our body produces energy from) and fiber. We can get half of our daily intake of Vitamin C from eating potatoes with their skins. Potatoes are also a better source of potassium than bananas (417 mg versus 358 mg).

Potatoes are extremely versatile – they can be boiled, baked, roasted, mashed, fried, stuffed, broiled, sautéed or steamed.

Some interesting potato recipes from www.idahopotato.com:

Cannelloni of Potato and Wild Mushrooms

Roasted Rosemary Garlic Potatoes

Lime Basil Idaho Potato Tabbouleh