Foodie Corner

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January Theme: Healthy Eating

Each week we will highlight our readers favorite recipes vetted by team BA50. Please Click below to submit a brief description of what you love about your recipe, where you found it or if you invented it — no more than 200 words, your website link if you have one, the recipe itself of course and please upload a photo (optional). Click below to submit. Thank you.

 

Our Latest Recipes

Hummus: Perfect for Low-Sugar Diets

Hummus variations

Reader’s Digest

No one said that cutting back on sugar is easy, but there are some really tasty foods that contain little to no sugar just waiting for your attention. Hummus is one of them. With no added sugar (other than the natural sugars from the starch in the chickpeas), this dip can be a great addition to your sugar-free diet. Add some fresh, crunchy veggies to use a dippers and you’ve got yourself a healthy snack. Listed below are a few variations of the standard hummus recipe.

 

 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus from Tori Avey adds sweetness with red bell peppers. Her advice to
“skin” the chickpeas makes for a more smoother result.

The Spicy Black Bean Hummus from Serious Eats has a serious kick to it from chopped jalapeno pepper.

Edamame Hummus has a delightful green hue and a delicious zing from soybeans and mint.

Lentil Hummus substitutes lentils for the chickpeas.

Two types of tomatoes give the Slow-Roasted Tomato Hummus a smoky flavor and a beautiful rich color.

Green Olive Hummus has the added treat of chopped olives to add to its texture.

Peanut Butter Hummus Chef Nigella Lawson’s contribution adds both smooth peanut butter and chopped peanuts, giving it a bit of an Asian Peanut Sauce flair.

 

 

 

 

peas — 12 grams of dietary fiber and 15 grams of protein per cup — help regulate the absorption of the sugars from the starch so your blood sugar stays on an even keel. The healthy fats from the tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) and olive oil slows the absorption of sugars even more. Pair your hummus with vegetables and whole-grain crackers for an even greater effect.Hummus, a Middle Eastern specialty, is a great addition to a diabetes-friendly plate. The fiber and protein in chickpeas — 12 grams of dietary fiber and 15 grams of protein per cup — help regulate the absorption of the sugars from the starch so your blood sugar stays on an even keel. The healthy fats from the tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) and olive oil slows the absorption of sugars even more. Pair your hummus with vegetables and whole-grain crackers for an even greater effect.Hummus, a Middle Eastern specialty, is a great addition to a diabetes-friendly plate. The fiber and protein in chickpeas — 12 grams of dietary fiber and 15 grams of protein per cup — help regulate the absorption of the sugars from the starch so your blood sugar stays on an even keel. The healthy fats from the tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) and olive oil slows the absorption of sugars even more. Pair your hummus with vegetables and whole-grain crackers for an even greater effect.

Best 50th Birthday Cakes

Everyone deserves a yummy homemade cake for their birthday, especially BA50s. We’ve searched the Internet and found some classics, some twists on a standard theme, and some altogether “blast it out of the park home run” cakes. Before you check the ingredients, we must warn you that butter and sugar play a big part in all of these recipes. It is a celebratory occasion, after all.   “A party without cake is just a meeting.” Julia Child

rose deshave-white cake

courtesy of Saveur Magazine

Caramel Cake Rose Deshazer-White is a local celebrity on the south side of Chicago, and much of that acclaim is due to her Caramel Cake. Her recipe, by way of Saveur.com is for a buttery cake that is slathered with a golden, caramelized frosting.

devil's food birthday cake

courtesy of marthastewart.com

Moist Devil’s Food Cake with Mrs. Millman’s Chocolate Frosting One can never go wrong with a classic, dark chocolate cake. You can doctor it up by adding a tablespoon of instant espresso mixed with a teaspoon of water to the batter or throw in a handful of mini chocolate chips. This recipe is from MarthaStewart.com.

classic carrot birthday cake

courtesy of joepastry.com

Carrot Cake This cake is neither heavy nor dense like so many other carrot cakes we’ve eaten in the past. And, there are no strange additions (like raisins or pineapple) in this one. You can toss in a handful of chopped walnut meats, but for the most part, this light cake is pure carrot. (And that even sounds healthy!) Joepastry.com provided this birthday party pleaser. A perfect Cream Cheese Frosting was found on somuchbetterwithage.com.

heaven and hell birthday cake

courtesy of sugarandcharm.com

Heaven and Hell Cake

Two cakes, one chocolate, one angel food (hence the Heaven and Hell), a layer of peanut butter filling all wrapped up in chocolate ganache. (And if we have to explain what “ganache” is, you might want to consider baking one of the other recommendations.) This cake is not for the faint of heart or for novice bakers, but if you’re game, we’re sure there’s a very deserving BA50 out there who would be delighted to dig into it. It truly is, excuse the expression, to die for! The recipe is from sugarandcharm.com.

brooklyn red velvet cake “Best” Red Velvet Cake in the World

This cake, dubbed “Best Cake in Brooklyn” by the Brooklyn Borough President, makes up for in taste what it might be lacking in visual pizzazz. We went for the flavor here, as should you, because most BA50s close their eyes when they blow out their candles anyway. The recipe is from acakebakesinbrooklyn.com.

 

 

 

rye kc lemon curd cake Lemon Curd Layer Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream

Equal time for the lemon lovers out there. Luxurious, tangy lemon curd fills this cake that is frosted in creamy white chocolate buttercream. Rich and luscious, with just a hint of zing. Perfect for a BA50! This recipe came from maypurr.com.

Latest And Greatest Kale Recipes From MV’s Chef Catherine Walthers

KaleGloriousKale_CVR_P6.jpg coverFall is a perfect time to enjoy more kale – it gets sweeter after a frost. Try kale in combination with sautéed butternut squash or roasted with cauliflower, even a delicious fall salad with shredded Brussels sprouts, feta and orange. Any type will do – curly, Italian (dinosaur), or Red Russian. And for women, kale can’t be beat because of its high content of so many nutrients, especially calcium and iron. In fact, the Whole Foods rating system called ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which rates healthy foods on a scale of 1-1000, puts kale at 1000.

Newly published, Kale, Glorious Kale’s 90 recipes showcase all the best techniques – and there are a number- to make kale taste its best.

This series highlights a different technique and recipe each week, all geared for your fall table.  All recipes are from Catherine Walther’s new cookbook, Kale, Glorious Kale  

WEEK 1:

Butternut Squash, Kale and Corn

Serves 4

This is an attractive combo and side dish of 3 fall favorites, especially in that period when squash comes to markets, but fresh local corn is still available.

1/2 bunch kale, leaves stripped off stalks, chopped into bite-sized pieces ( 4 to 5 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 -3/4-inch dice (3 -4 cups)

2 ears corn, kernels removed from cob (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Black pepper

1 lime, quartered

1. In a large skillet with a lid, bring 3 to 4 cups of water to a boil.   Add the kale.  Cover and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally until tender, 4 – 6 minutes, depending on the kale.  Drain in a colander, shaking a few times, to release steam and stop the cooking.

2. Dry the skillet and add the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the butternut squash and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked without falling apart, about 15 minutes. Add a few pinches of salt while cooking. (The pan should be large enough to fit squash in a single layer) Add the corn, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper and cook 4 to 5 additional minutes, until corn is cooked. When ready to serve, add the kale back into the pan and stir gently to warm. Add another pinch of salt for the kale. Squeeze a little lime into the dish or pass lime wedges around for people to squeeze their own.

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WEEK 2:

We’ve all tried and loved crispy kale. Now comes roasted kale. If you know how to make crispy kale, you can easily make roasted kale, with this recipe below from Kale, Glorious Kale, by Catherine Walthers. Here, it’s roasted with cauliflower; but kale can also be roasted on its own or in combination with vegetables that roast well in the oven, such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. The goal for roasting is not the crispy, brittle kale we are accustomed to, but an in between stage when kale softens and cooks. Some of the edges might get a little crispy. Roasted kale makes a perfect side dish for fall dishes such as roast chicken or a tasty meatloaf. If you like this recipe, check out this brand new cookbook helping us figure out the best techniques for cooking kale.

Roasted Cauliflower and Kale

Serves 6

After roasting together in the oven, the contrasting cauliflower and kale look nice together on a platter, garnished with a toasted pine nuts. The brown butter – which takes only a few minutes to make – gives the pair a nutty flavor, but if you can also substitute olive oil, if that’s easier. We’re not crisping kale here, but going for an intermediary stage of softened, cooked kale. For some added depth, top with some grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into tablespoons

1 medium head cauliflower, (about 5 to 6 cups) cut into uniform, bite-sized florets

4 cups curly kale, rinsed, stalks removed, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces (1/2 bunch approximately)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the kale

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in a small, thick-bottomed stainless skillet over medium heat. Whisk the butter as it foams and continue as the foam begins to disappear and you begin to see brown bits, 3 – 4 minutes. It should smell nutty. Remove from heat to prevent burning and set aside.
  2. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the butter. Mix well to coat. Season with salt and begin to roast in the oven, turning at least once during roasting to prevent any side from burning. Turn on the timer to 15 minutes.
  3. Place the kale in a bowl and rub the remaining tablespoon of butter and 2 pinches of salt into the kale. Try to get all parts of the kale pieces buttered.
  4. After the cauliflower has roasted for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350° F. Push the cauliflower to one side of the baking sheet and add the kale. Continue roasting another 12 minutes or so, mixing at least once, for a total of about 27 minutes. The cauliflower should be easily pieced with a fork, and the kale softened, pleasantly edible with some pieces being slightly crispy. Times could vary depending on the size of the cut cauliflower.
  5. Turn the duo onto a platter, mix together, and top with pine nuts.

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WEEK 3:

Add kale to your soups. It gives a nice green color, like parsley does, and adds tons of nutrition. It’s as easy as adding kale to your favorite homemade chicken soup. This week’s kale recipe is a vegan or vegetarian soup that everyone will love – including your family. In Kale, Glorious Kale the soup chapter includes new favorites such as Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Kale, Cream of Kale (no cream) and even an Asian Kale Noodle Soup. Comfort food can be healthy!

Kale, Bean and Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

This is a quick-cooking soup ready in less than 45 minutes to make use of fall garden or farmer’s market vegetables, including your kale. I enjoy the bright green hue of kale cooked separately in this soup. To skip that extra step, add kale directly to soup after it’s simmered for 10 minutes.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 whole leek, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced

2 cups butternut squash, cut into 3/4 inch dice

4 carrots, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 celery stalks, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

6 cups water

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices, or 1 cup freshly roasted home tomatoes

5 cups kale, (about 1 small bunch), stalks removed, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed well with hot water

Salt and pepper

  1. In a soup pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the leeks, butternut squash, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until leeks are wilted, 8 – 10 minutes, stirring often. Add chili powder and oregano and stir 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add the water, a few pinches of salt and diced tomato. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are cooked, but not falling apart.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan and cook the kale, covered, in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, and add to soup, along with beans. Season with additional salt, until the flavors pop, and pepper.

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WEEK 4:

Who would have thought that 2 powerhouse vegetables – kale and Brussels sprouts – would taste so good together, and in a salad. But it’s true. Shred the Brussels spouts and use either massaged kale or baby kale. Maybe it’s the addition of the orange slices, thin slices of date or the bits of feta cheese.

Tips on massaging kale: To massage kale, first remove the stalks and tear into pieces. Put the kale in a large bowl, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 2 pinches of salt. Kosher salt works nicely because of its size, but any salt will do. Massage kale by rubbing pieces between your fingers. Two to 3 minutes should do it to make sure all the leaves are coated and softened from repeated massaging. Some kales, depending on how they are grown, can take a few additional minutes to soften. In the end, try a piece of kale – it should taste good and not be too chewy. Enjoy this creation contributed by Connie Warden from Kale, Glorious Kale by Catherine Walthers.

Shredded Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad

Serves 4

Connie Warden, an artist and longtime chef /restaurant owner from St. Albans, Vermont, developed this cool salad combining kale with shredded Brussels sprouts, orange slices and dates and reports that it’s good with grilled salmon, chicken thighs or rotisserie grocery store chicken on top – even cooked beans. “Also, a good old hard boiled or a nice soft-poached egg is magic.” Connie was named Vermont Chef and Restaurateur of the Year in 2004.

4 cups torn kale greens, if tender, baby kale, or 6 cups chopped kale to massage (see note for massaging kale)

2 cups shredded raw Brussels sprouts (halved and thinly sliced)

Big handful of arugula (if available)

1 orange, slice off orange peel with a serrated knife, then thinly slice (make it 2)

1/2 cup chopped pitted dates

Handful of toasted pumpkin seeds

Crumbled feta

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses*

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

1. Toss together the kale, shredded Brussels sprouts, arugula, if using, orange slices and dates.

 

2. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the pomegranate molasses, orange juice, water, paprika and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

 

3. Toss the dressing with the salad. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and crumbled feta.

* Pomegranate Molasses, a syrup-like reduction of pomegranate juice and sugar, is sold in grocery stores such as Whole Foods Markets or specialty Middle Eastern stores. Otherwise, substitute 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar with 5 tablespoons olive oil (and skip the water) along with orange juice and smoked paprika.

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How Not To Get Fat This Winter

temptationHow Not to Get Fat this Winter

When it’s dark and cold outside, would you rather head out for an after dinner walk or curl up with a good book and a glass of wine by the fire? Truth is, that as the leaves start changing, we start getting ready for hibernation and slowing down. Sadly, small changes in activity can add up to big differences in our bodies over the course of the winter. Before you reach for the flowy sweaters and baggy sweat pants, however, check out these tips to help you avoid packing on the extra pounds this winter!

1) Take a Deep Breath.

So much of the time we are running around, eating in the car, or relying on coffee to get us through the day. This pattern can put our bodies into stress mode, which is the same mode as if a tiger was chasing us. When we are in stress mode, our brain tells the rest of our body to hold on to our fat for dear life because we don’t know when we will have another meal. Digestion slows down and fat storage creeps up in order to survive. Try to slow down and take some deep breaths throughout the day. This will help you to become more mindful, feel less hungry, and set you up for better choices and better digestion.

2) Eat at Home.

It’s way more fun to eat out all the time (especially if you are an empty nester) but, if you are watching your weight, restaurants are not your friends. We really have no clue about what is going into our food. Did you know that pizza dough is often sprinkled with sugar? That the seemingly innocent side dish of veggies may have been cooked in pork fat? Getting together with friends is an important ingredient in good health but, if you want to keep fitting in your jeans, consider throwing some dinner parties at home and eating clean more often.

3) Get Outside.

Get outside of both your home and your comfort zone. If you are an extreme skier or an ice climber feel free to skip this section and move on. For the rest of us, winter can be challenging. Good news is that shivering (although not recommended) is one of the biggest calorie burners out there! Have you tried snowshoeing or shoveling the walk? Getting fresh air, getting more exercise, and keeping your spirit alive will all help you stay in shape both physically and mentally.

4) Take a Stand.

Standing desks may be the very best thing for your body out there. It feels a little weird at first, but within a couple of days, you will never want to go back to sitting at a desk again. Not only do standers burn about 50 more calories per hour than sitters, but also standers are more likely to do a little jiggle dance while working. If you do need to sit at a desk all day, be sure to stand up and walk around throughout the day. Just try to avoid the “oh-I-need-a-break-so-I-must-be-hungry” mentality while taking those breaks.

5) Look Inside.

We often use food as way to fill in for areas of our life that are not satisfying us. Are you looking for love in the bottom of the cookie jar or taking out your work stress by crunching on an entire bag of chips? Taking some time to address the areas of your life that need nurturing can be both eye opening and a huge step in weight management. Sometimes a painting class, a new workout, or even a call with an old friend can be much more satisfying than that semi-stale half-eaten scone on the counter.

For more ways to develop a healthy relationship with food and yourself, check out Lisa Lewtan’s website at www.Healthyhappyandhip.com!

I Got The BEST Dinners For Two At My Doorstep: Blue Apron

a better way to cookHow would you feel about a personal assistant who planned healthy, creative meals for you, did your shopping (purchasing only the best fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms, importers and family–run purveyors), measured everything out before you got home, left step-by-step instructions (complete with beautiful pictures for every step)…and then disappeared?

Pretty great, right?  Well I had that last week, through a Brooklyn start-up company called Blue Apron, which delivers to your doorstep a box that contains absolutely everything you need to whip up three incredibly interesting dinners each week. I loved it.

How did I get here?  I used to love to cook for my family, but I find cooking for two, well…boring. I don’t want to go to the trouble for two. I don’t plan dinners, and I hate food shopping. I inevitably end up throwing out a lot of food that I had the best intentions of using, but don’t.  Monday nights in our house have become a detox night or sorts after big weekends of eating and drinking—a night of scrambled eggs (made by Mike) and Stacy’s chips (I take out the bag), at the end of which my husband inevitably makes the same sarcastic comment: “Now THAT was a good dinner” –because that was what we used to say when I was actually cooking.  The meals do not get much better Tuesday thru Thursday.

I needed to shake things up.  So, I arranged for my Blue Apron box to arrive last Tuesday- post egg-night.  And right on schedule, it was delivered. I opened the Blue Apron box with friends to ooohs and ahhs:  Wow, those tomatoes look awesome!  What is that?  A black radish?  Green rice- how cool!  What are you going to make with the shitake mushrooms?  You’ve GOT to tell me how this is because it looks fantastic!  And it did– here is what it looked like when I opened it up:

blue apron in a box

As I laid all the ingredients out on my counter, I became a bit skeptical–was it enough food?  Would this take a lot of time?  Would it be good?  Was it really fresh?

blue apron on counter

Turns out, it was awesome. I didn’t shop for a thing, and these were my dinners this week (I am omitting Monday night scrambled eggs):

Tuesday night – Stir Fried Chow Mein Noodles with Chinese Broccoli and chives (that funny looking pink thing in the middle is a shitake mushroom piece- this meal was vegetarian).

chinese broccoli stir fry

Wednesday night (my favorite)- Togarashi-Spiced Tilapia, Jade Pearl Rice and a salad of black radish, cucumber, tomatoes, fresh shiso leaves (I had to look that one up), ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

blue apron fish night

Thursday night- I was getting home late. I left out the food and the instructions for Mike. I came home to a set table, complete with candlelight and an open bottle of wine, as Mike was putting the finishing touches on the meal- Turkey Meatballs & Linguine, with homemade tomato sauce (with fennel seeds, oregano, thyme, coriander, paprika and whole tomatoes) – in his boxers.  Priceless.

IMG_1458

 

IMG_1459

turkey meatballs with home-made tomato sauce

turkey meatballs with home-made tomato sauce

So, other than getting a candlelight dinner prepared by my husband in his boxers, here is why I loved Blue Apron:

  1. Each meal comes with step-by-step instructions, with a picture for each step.  You can be a cooking idiot and make a fabulous meal.  But you can be also be a decent, creative cook and love it too. Who doesn’t like having a sous chef?  Each meal is fresh and interesting—did I mention black radish, jade pearl rice, Togarashi spice, shiso leaves?  You can find the menus for each week here.
  2. No shopping.  Need I say more?  They shop for you… and they do it really well.  Their ingredients are incredibly fresh (they claim fresher than you can get in a supermarket) and interesting- things that you probably wouldn’t buy on your own (because you wouldn’t know what the heck to do with them).  They are also happy to give you details of where they are sourcing their ingredients.
  3. No measuring (other than added water)!   So everything gets prepared faster. The meals took between 20- 45 minutes from start to finish depending on the night.  They say the average is 35 minutes, and I would say that is pretty accurate.
  4. No wilted parsley, watery lettuce, tomatoes gone bad, ginger with funky hair, sprouted garlic in your refrigerator. With Blue Apron, you use everything they send.
  5. They don’t skimp on portions.  We are big eaters, and there was more than enough food.
  6. At $9.99 per person/per meal, it’s inexpensive for what you are getting.  You can order for 2, 4 or 6 people. I can’t think of a better gift for any friend or loved one that just had a baby, is a newlywed who would like to learn to cook, is feeling overwhelmed or ill, or is just too busy to shop.
  7. The packaging is mostly recyclable, and you can designate your delivery date. You don’t need to be home for delivery- the box is refrigerated.
  8. Easy clean up.  I never used much more than two pans, a small bowl or two, a knife and a cutting board.
  9. Meals that have are not processed in the least and have no added sugar.  With Blue Apron, you don’t open a jar of tomato sauce- you make your own-simply from fresh tomatoes and spices– and damn, was it good.
  10. Calorie count per serving is listed.  The meals were each between 500-700 calories per serving…but we had leftovers, and I felt good because it was all healthy and non-processed.
  11. This gives you the hang of not only cooking for 2, but shopping for two (think SMALL)
  12. They can deal with many dietary restrictions (though right now they do not yet have a gluten free or kosher options—but they do have vegetarian.)
  13. Zappos quality service.  You know what I’m talking about.

 

So, Mike and I can still have our weekend pig-outs followed by our Monday scrambled eggs night.  And I know that on Tuesday, after a Blue Apron meal, when Mike says, “Now THAT was a good dinner,” he actually won’t be being sarcastic.

Blue Apron is a winner.  Use this link when you sign up and you will get your first two meals FREE!  

This is BA50 Sponsored content. 

BA50 Food Lovers Gift Guide

Make Your Own Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit

DIY cheesemaking kitDIY cheese k

Make your own succulent Mozzarella and creamy Ricotta with an Urban Cheesecraft Kit! The ingredients allow you to make at least 10 batches of cheese. You can, of course, re-use the recipes, thermometer and cloth and find larger refills of rennet tablets, salt and citric acid in my shop when you run out (and are hooked ;).  $25.00

https://www.etsy.com/listing/62518328/mozzarella-ricotta-diy-cheese-kit-10?ref=favs_view_19

 

You Gotta Gift This: Eat, Pray, Love Necklace

Eat_Pray_Love_Necklace

http://www.crowstealsfire.com/eat-pray-love-charm-necklace/

We all deserve something beautiful. Perhaps it’s you today. Maybe it’s one of your friends.This necklace features three half inch sterling silver disks, which are hand stamped with a cupcake, the OM symbol, and a swirly heart, representing: Eat, Pray, Love.If you would prefer a different “pray” charm, I am happy to do that! Choices are: Cross, Celtic Cross, Goddess, Star of David, Pentacle, and Everyday UU Chalice.

Shown on a sterling silver rope chain. $53.00

“I think I deserve something beautiful.”
~Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” (2006)

 

Elegant And Domestic Wood Art

Teak Cutting Board

The board pictured is 100% solid exotic teak wood seasoned with three coats of FDA food safe mineral oil. They come with or without a handle. Included are future care instructions.

 https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShapelyWood

Wine glass rack

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Exotic-Domestic-Wood-Art/286231681416612?...

 

A Week of Dinner for Two… At Home!

blue apron

This is the perfect gift for a friend or loved one who is overwhelmed, under the weather, too busy to cook, or hates to shop.  What a gift of love!  Send a week or two of dinners for two (or for 4, or 6) for $60 per week.  All food is locally sourced and fresh, and the dinners are creative and are delivered with step by step cooking instructions.  A variety of diet restrictions can be accommodated. Read BA50 managing editor Ronna Benjamin’s review here.  Even better, BA50 readers get two meals free with their first order!  Click here to purchase.

 

BA50 Girlfriend Bar – Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt

BA50

Our own Afternoon Delight- a Dark Chocolate Girlfriend Bar with Sea Salt, made with the finest ingredients, especially for BA50! Chocolate brightens up anyone’s day, and these Girlfriend Bars are perfect as a gift for your BA50 girlfriend – a great way to show you are thinking of her – on her birthday, to commemorate a special occasion, or even the finalization of that divorce she has been waiting for. These come wrapped for gift giving with a beautiful bow and are available in three sizes:

3oz. (minimum 10 piece order @ $6.00 each plus shipping)

8oz. (no minimum @ $12.00 each plus shipping)

16oz. (no minimum @$24.00 each plus shipping)

EVEN BETTER… the 16 oz. bar can be personalized at no cost (total: 25 characters)

Starts at $16.00 SHIPPING and HANDLING

 

BA50 Is Nuts For This Big Impact Gift: The Pistachio Tower

Pistachio tower

$39.99 (includes shipping)

  • Handmade item
  • Materials: Roasted Salted Pistachios, Roasted Salted Almonds, Roasted Salted Cashews, Fancy Golden Raisins, Exotic Dried Fruit, Salted Corn Nuts, Silver Foiled Chewy Candy, Light Pink Foiled chewy Candy, Super Fine Lavender Jordan Almonds, Purple Jordan Almonds, Purple Ribbon, 3 Tier Stunning Boxes, Wrapped With Pistachio Gifts Taste
  • Made to order
  • Only ships to United States from New York, United States.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/199564862/pistachio-gifts-candy-nuts-dried-fruit?ref=shop_home_feat_1

 

Best Hostess & Holiday Gift Idea: Organic Spice Gift Set

KainaBakersSet

The 7-piece “Baker’s Set” provides a classic selection of top quality organic spices that fit beautifully into any gourmet spice cabinet.

Perfect leading up to the holiday season, this elegantly presented organic spice set is a requirement for any home kitchen.  So whether as a gift for a baking enthusiast, pie lover or to enjoy on your own at Halloween or Thanksgiving, order yours today!

Set includes the following organic spices:

  • Organic Apple Pie Spice (1.6 oz)
  • Organic Cinnamon, Ground (1.5 oz)
  • Organic Cinnamon Sticks, 3″ (2 oz Stand-up Kraft Pouch)
  • Organic Cinnamon Sugar (2.7 oz)
  • Organic Nutmeg, Ground (2.1 oz)
  • Organic Pumpkin Pie Spice (1.6 oz)
  • Organic Vanilla Sugar (3.2 oz.)

 

Make Her Smile: The Menopause Sweet & Salty Survival Kit

ba50-menopause-kit

The perfect gift for the woman in your life who needs a much deserved treat. This adorable BA50 box comes filled with a 1/2 pound each of the following goodies– to cure the worst menopausal symptoms:

  • To keep her alert after a night of not sleeping, dark chocolate espresso beans
  • To keep her feeling like she’s still a hot mama, spicy hot tomales
  • To add in something totally healthy, roasted almonds
  • To treat her like the star she is, dark chocolate foil stars
  • We top it all off with a delicious “keep calm and eat chocolate” chocolate bar and a personal hand held fan.

She will love you forever. This is what friends are for.

$62.00 includes $12 shipping anywhere in the US.

Candied Lemon Sheet Cake

gluten free lemon cake

Tom Hirschfeld

As the bounty of summer fruits dwindles down to a trickle, the focus turns back to apples, pears, and even lemons. Tom Hirschfeld’s lemon cake, from his wonderful blog, Bona Fide Farm Food Journal, has “pucker power” and is so tasty you won’t even miss those peaches and plums. As an added bonus, it’s gluten free.

 

 

Candied Lemon Sheet Cake

Serves 9 to 12

Candied Lemon Slices

  • 13 1/8-inch lemon slices, seeds gently removed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • strips of zest from 2 lemons
Sheet Cake

  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Mix
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons candied zest, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, each gently melted in its own bowl and kept warm, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3 tablespoons powdered dry milk
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups whole milk, warm
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Pour the sugar into a saute pan large enough to hold the lemons in a single layer. Place the lemons and zest in a single layer on top and then add the water. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer.
  2. Simmer the lemon slices until the sugar syrup has reduced by half or more and the pith and rind of the lemon appear transparent. Carefully remove the slices and zest to a piece of parchment being sure not to let the pieces overlap. Let them cool.
  3. Grease a quarter size sheet tray (9 x 13 inches) with butter. To make the cake heat the oven to 375 ˚ F. Combine the flour, dry milk powder, sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, minced candied zest, and salt. Combine half the melted butter with the eggs, milk, and extracts. While whisking add the dry to the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet tray. Make sure the batter is evenly distributed so it rises evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  4. While the cake is baking, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar, cream, and remainder of the warm butter in a mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Keep the icing lukewarm.
  5. When the cake has finished baking remove it from the oven and let it cool right in the sheet pan for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off pour the warm icing over the top and spread it out evenly with a spatula. Lay on the slices of lemon and let the cake cool. Refrigerate or serve cold.

A Duet of Meatballs for Summer’s Swan Song

Suzanne Goin MeatballsAs the summer wanes and cooking begins to move indoors, comfort food is what will get your family and friends  to gather around the table once again. Back from their far-flung journeys and sand-covered explorations, no longer are they yearning for traditional summer food. Here we have two recipes that will do the trick. They look like old standbys, but they put a spin on the usual meatball-and-sauce dinner. Simple to make (and freeze for later), so you can still get out there and enjoy what’s left of the whisper of summer. Suzanne Goin’s “The A.O.C. Cookbook” is where I found these small, crispy meatballs that are submerged in a thick sauce with hints of warm North African flavors and the citrusy bite of orange juice. A sprinkling of crumbled feta and sliced mint take the dish across the globe. The original recipe calls for ground lamb, but I substituted ground turkey. If you like lamb, by all means, go for it!  A great accompaniment would be couscous or farro. The Chipotle Meatballs are from Rick Bayless’ “Mexican Everyday” cookbook. The chipotle and bacon lend an earthy smokiness and a nice go-with would be rice or fideo (vermicelli). Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce (adapted from “The A.O.C. Cookbook”) For the Meatballs:

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 egg yolks, extra-large
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch red-pepper flakes
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

For the Sauce:

  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • Red-pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon white sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 3-inch strip of orange peel, pith removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Topping:

  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves
1. Preheat broiler. In a large bowl, mix together the onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cayenne. Put the lamb in the bowl, and season it aggressively with salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs and parsley, and combine the mixture well. Shape the meat into balls that are a little larger than golf balls.
2. Grease a baking pan with olive oil, and put the meatballs onto it, spaced evenly. Place beneath the broiler, and cook, turning once or twice, until the meatballs are well browned, approximately 5 to 7 minutes, then set meatballs aside. Turn oven to 400.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, or whizz them quickly in a food processor. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper and shake to combine. Cook for another minute, then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel, along with salt and pepper.
4. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third. Adjust seasoning.
5. Remove bay leaf. Pour the tomato sauce into a large baking dish that you can put on the table. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce, putting them about ½ inch from each other. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.
6. Top with crumbled feta and scattered mint.
YIELD: 4 servings

Chipotle Meatballs

3 slices bacon in 1-inch pieces 3 garlic cloves, peeled 2 large eggs ½ cup bread crumbs (¾ cup if coarse-textured panko) Salt 1¼ pounds ground pork ½ cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped mint leaves, more for garnish 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), drained of all but ¼ cup juice 1 or 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, stemmed, seeded and sauce reserved 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican About 1½ cups beef or chicken broth.

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, combine bacon and 1 garlic clove. Process until finely chopped. Add eggs, bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse several times to combine thoroughly, then add pork and mint. Pulse a few more times until well combined but not a paste. Remove meat from processor.

2. With wet hands, form meat into about 16 plum-size balls and space them out in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3. While meatballs bake, combine tomatoes, ¼ cup tomato juice, chipotles, 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce, oregano, remaining garlic cloves (cut in half) and ½ teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor. Process to a smooth purée.

4. When meatballs are ready, spoon off rendered fat from baking dish, then pour tomato mixture on top, covering meatballs evenly. Bake until sauce has thickened somewhat, 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Heat broth in a small saucepan. Divide meatballs among four dinner plates, leaving sauce behind. Stir enough broth into sauce to give it a spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, if necessary. Spoon sauce over meatballs, decorate with extra mint leaves, if you wish, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Meatballs...all gone

Chilled Asian Corn Soup

Chilled Asian Corn SoupThe school bells have rung, you’ve probably packed up the summer shack, and your orienting yourself to thinking about cozy sweaters and leaf peeping. But don’t go down that road quite yet. There’s still some life left of summer, especially at the market. Fresh sweet summer corn is still available and Nancy Lowell offers just the right recipe with which to showcase that last bit of summer splendor. Nancy writes:

It seems everywhere I turn people are tolling summer’s death knell, but as long as I can still get fresh corn, peaches and tomatoes, I know there’s still some summer left. Yes, my daughter has gone back to school, and I’m optimistic that by Sunday I’ll be able to turn my AC off for the season, but I am still enjoying summer’s bounty, and the last of it is often the best. I find the September corn is the sweetest, but that may be all in my head.

With these lingering warm days I wanted to make a cold soup, and with some leftover ears of corn I started looking around for recipes for cold corn soup. I found some interesting sounding ones, but none had the flavor profile I was looking for. I even bought some plain Greek yogurt, planning on using that in the soup to make it creamy—I found a few recipes using buttermilk, but I really didn’t want anything that tangy. Generally when I cook for The Chef’s Last Diet I don’t wing it. I try a few things, find one that works well, and tastes exactly like I want it to, but not today…

Chilled Asian Corn Soup

As I was assembling my ingredients I kept switching things out. The first thing to go was the yogurt. I really didn’t want that milky, creaminess. Once that was gone I rethought the flavors I really wanted, and chose a more Asian profile. I used the corn, and the typical Chinese flavors of ginger and scallion. I can still hear my Oriental (sic) Kitchen Chef, Shirley Cheng, from Culinary school admonishing us to start every dish with a mixture of ginger (unpeeled), a few cloves of garlic, and some rough chopped scallions wooshed up in the food processor. Because I wasn’t cooking this soup I omitted the garlic, I was afraid the raw garlic would be too harsh.

chopped scallionscold corn soupLimes for juicing

I’m sorry I didn’t have the ingredients on hand to make this with coconut milk, as I think that would add another layer of flavor that using chicken stock did not. I will plan on doing that next week, and update this post. If you wanted to make this vegan you could use miso broth, or some other vegetable stock. I don’t recommend mushroom stock as that would make it too earthy, and you really want the corn to be the star here. I also recommend making this a day ahead of time, as even if you start with cold ingredients as you make it, the blending will warm it a bit, and because you’re not cooking it, the flavors need some time to meld together.

This is a simple soup to prepare, and if you wanted to dress it up you could strain it to get a thinner, less coarse texture, but I like it like this, it’s more corny. So while there’s still some summer, and some summer corn left, please try this tasty soup. What is your favorite cold soup?

Chilled Asian Corn Soup

Serves 2-3
Prep time 20 minutes
Meal type LunchSoupStarter
Misc Serve Cold

Ingredients

  • 4 cups corn, cut from 4 ears of corn (make sure to use the flat side of the knife to get all the starchy juice from the ear)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce (one TBL plus one tsp)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 3 scallions (1 reserved for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves (make sure stems are discarded)
  • 1/2-1 cup chicken stock (or other stock)
  • 1 medium slice Lime (juiced)

Directions

Step 1
cold corn 6

Remove corn from cob
Pick cilantro leaves from stems
Cut scallions into 1″ pieces
Step 2
cold corn 10

Combine corn, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, cilantro and chicken stock in a blender, Vitamix or food processor, process until you reach a creamy consistency
Step 3
Taste for seasoning
The soup will be bubbly and a bit green
Let it chill overnight, and the bubbles will dissipate
Step 4
To Serve:
Slice the remaining scallion into thin slices on a bias
ladle the soup into chilled bowls, garnish with scallion and a leaf or two of cilantro

Skinny Kitchen Philly Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Crock pot Philly Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches.You don’t have to be from Philly to love these terrific sandwiches, and you don’t have to break your diet to eat them. Nancy Fox and Skinny Kitchen came up with a delicious alternative to the Philly Cheesesteak using chicken and you don’t even have to fire up the grill–they’re crock pot friendly!

 

Nancy says, “If you’re not cooking for a crowd don’t worry, it freezes great.” Each very filling sandwich has 280 calories, 7 grams of fat and 7 Weight Watchers POINTS PLUS.  I’ve included the skinny facts and points for a low carb version. See below.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: low heat 6-7 hours, high heat, 3-4 hours


Ingredients for Crock-Pot:

1½ pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless

3 cups onions, sliced

2 cups red bell pepper, sliced

2 cups yellow, orange or green bell pepper, sliced

1 (10 oz) package of mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup barbecue sauce

1 (1 ounce) packet Italian dressing dry mix, see shopping tips

1 (14oz) can reduced-sodium chicken broth


Ingredients for Sandwiches:

8 hot dog buns, use your favorite, see shopping tips

1 cup reduced-fat cheddar or mozzarella cheese, shredded


Instructions

1. Coat the crock-pot with non stick cooking spray. Place chicken in crock-pot. Top with onions, sliced bell peppers, mushrooms and garlic. Add barbecue sauce and sprinkle the packet of Italian dressing seasoning mix over the top. Pour the chicken broth all over.

2. Cover and cook on low for about 6-7 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. The time varies depending on your crock-pot. Mine took 6 hours on low. Remove chicken from crock-pot and cut into slices. Add chicken back to vegetables and sauce in crock-pot. Mix to blend.

3. To assemble each sandwich: On a baking sheet, add the hot dog bun and add 1 cup chicken filling onto the bun. Spoon 3 tablespoons sauce over the chicken. Top with 2 tablespoons cheese. Assemble all the sandwiches you want to serve on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and broil for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese and toast the buns. Keep an eye on it so they don’t burn.

4. Add each to a plate. Serve with a fork and knife. You’re going to need it. Too messy to eat with your hands but oh so good!

5. For a low carb option: Add 1 cup chicken mixture to each bowl. Spoon 3 tablespoons sauce over the top. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons cheese and serve with a fork and knife.

Makes 8 cups total (8 sandwiches)  Each sandwich, 1 cup chicken filling, 3 tablespoons sauce and 2 tablespoons cheese


Food Facts

The cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century by combining beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread. Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s. Today there are many variations. A cheesesteak made with chicken instead of beef is called a chicken cheesesteak.


Shopping Tips

Most supermarkets sell (1 oz) packages of Italian Dressing Seasoning mix.  I used Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix or their Zesty Italian. You find it in the aisle where bottled salad dressing are sold.

Classic hot dog buns usually have the lowest calories and fat. Most contain 110 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. I based the skinny facts using these. That said, I personally like using Trader Joe’s honey wheat hot dog buns. Each has 160 calories and 2.5 grams fat.

 

Dutch Peach Pie with Crumble Topping

There’s still time to cling to Peach Strawberry Piethe last breath of summer. No one should be able to get away without at least one slice of pie. “But who wants to spend time preparing the pie dough, rolling it out and making that sucker look all pretty?” you ask. You’re absolutely right, and that’s why this pie is perfect for the pie-making haters out there. The crust is crisp and buttery–more cookielike than traditional pie crust–and it’s no-roll! The crumble topping can be made ahead (and even frozen), as can be the filling. Once the summer is gone, and the berries and peaches are no more, the crust can be just as comfortable cozying up to an apple or pear filling.

Dutch Peach Pie with Crumble Topping
(adapted from Great Pies & Tarts by Carole Walter)

Press-On Butter Pastry
1 ¼ cups unsifted unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup partially frozen unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons apple juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Procedure:
Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 to 4 times to combine. Add butter, pulse 4 to 5 times, then process 4 to 5 seconds, or until the mixture forms meal-like crumbs.

Using a fork, beat together the egg yolk, orange juice and vanilla. With the processor off, pour the liquids into the crumb mixture. Pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the mixture begins to stick together.

Lightly flour a flat surface. Empty dough onto the floured surface and, with floured hands, shape into a flat disk.

Butter a 9 ½-inch deep-dish ovenproof glass pie plate. Place the disk into the pan. With floured hands, press the pastry into the dish, working it up the side first, then smoothing out the middle. Re-flour hands as needed. Chill pie dish in refrigerator while preparing the filling.

For the filling:
3 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch slices

1 pint strawberries, sliced in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Butter a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish ovenproof glass pie plate.

2. With floured hands, press the dough into the prepared pie plate, working the pastry up the sides. Re-flour your hands as needed.

3. Make the filling: Place the peach slices in a large skillet. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

4. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the peaches and stir gently to distribute through the fruit. Cover the skillet and bring the peaches to a slow boil. Gently stir the fruit to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. When the peaches begin to exude their liquid, add the strawberries, and cook about 5 minutes longer. Uncover the skillet and remove the pan from the heat.

5. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to the pastry shell. Do not add the liquid in the skillet.

6. Make the topping: Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to form crumbs. Take a clump of the crumb mixture in your hand and squeeze gently to form a larger clump. Then break the large clump apart over the peaches. Repeat using all of the crumb mixture. Do not press the crumbs into the fruit.

7.
 Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the juices begin to bubble. (Place a baking mat or sheet pan beneath the pie to catch any drips which might wreak havoc on your oven floor.) Cool on a rack. Let stand 3 to 4 hours before cutting. Serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Maw Maw’s German Chocolate Cake

German choc cakeThere’s a story in every delicious bite of celebratory desserts that have been passed down through the generations. Connie McLeod’s “Maw Maw’s” cake was a perfect choice for her mom’s 86th birthday. We know her Maw Maw would be proud.

My mom’s birthday party pictured below would have been on a hot August day in the hill country of Texas with all the children dressed in their Sunday best. I asked Mom if she remembered how old she was in this picture and she knew she was five. Shirley Temple had a new movie out, Curley Top, and her mother made her a dress fashioned after the one Shirley wore in the movie. Mom says she remembers it clearly because Shirley’s dress was made from silk and lace, while hers was made from pale pink organdy and was stiff, puffy and itchy. I wonder what cake my Maw Maw would have made her little girl dressed in her pretty, but uncomfortable Shirley Temple dress.

 

Decades have come and gone since this picture. This August, Mom turns 86. I recently heard someone ask her if she was named after her Dad since her name is Jimmie. “No”, she proudly said, “I’m named after my Mom and my brother is named James!” Until I heard it said, I never thought about how unique that was.

Maw Maw's German Chocolate Cake
I do know that having my grandmother, Jimmie Corrine’s recipes, her cooking tools and her dishes are a unique treasure from my history. I began my yearly ritual for my mom’s birthday and went through my grandmother’s handwritten recipes. I like to give my mom a taste of her childhood for her birthday. This is a cake I’ve never made. It’s not hard, but it is involved and has taken all afternoon. I even baked it in the heart shaped pans that three generations have used to bake cakes in. I know this cake is made with the love, just as it was back when Shirley Temple was dancing her way into this country’s heart.

Jimmie Corrine—My Grandmother's Handwritten Recipe

German Chocolate Cake


Cake
1/2 cup boiling water
4 (1 ounce) squares German sweet chocolate
1 cup softened, unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
4 egg yolks, unbeaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Directions
1. Melt chocolate in boiling water in saucepan, let cool.
2. Sift flour with soda and salt in it’s own bowl.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff (it will form peaks like a meringue).
4. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add each egg yolk one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla and cooled chocolate. Mix until well blended.
5. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk into batter, beating after each addition.
6. After batter is smooth, fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.
7. Pour into 3 9-inch layer pans that are greased and floured.
8. Bake at 360° for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on cake rack.

Coconut and Pecan Frosting
1 cup white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions
Combine and cook sugar, evaporated milk, butter, beaten eggs and vanilla over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (about 12 minutes). Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in coconut and pecans. Cool completely, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To assemble
Trim off the “dome” of the bottom 2 layers to help level the cake. Make sure the cake and frosting are completely cooled. Put icing between the layers and as Maw Maw made note, do not frost side of the cake.

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Chef's Last Diet-cold-brewed coffeeNancy Lowell of Chef’s Last Diet calls cold-brewed the “sun tea of coffee.” We love it because it’s a low-acid brew that has a mellower taste than traditional iced coffee. It’s perfect on a hot day…like tomorrow. (And you’ll have to wait until tomorrow because the process takes overnight.) No fancy equipment required, so, get going. And when you go to bed tonight you can look forward to having a great treat in the am.

 

If you’ve never had cold brewed iced coffee, stop what you’re doing right now, and make some, then you can thank me tomorrow because it won’t be ready until then. I am not a daily coffee drinker, especially in this hot weather, but I love cold drinks, like iced coffee and tea. I go through a pitcher of iced tea every other day, a simple mix of green and peach teas, unsweetened, I guzzle it all day. Iced coffee is a real treat for me, and when I really want to splurge I walk around the corner toFederal Donuts , and grab a cup, with plenty if ice and an obscene amount of half and half, and I’m in heaven.

Cold brew coffee is kind of the sun tea of coffee. According to Wikipedia the method originated in Japan in the 17th century where it was introduced by the Dutch (so maybe it originated in Holland, or in Indonesia where the Dutch had settled) , but other sources say it originated in Java, or Peru. So clearly I’m not being very helpful… In 1964 Todd Simpson had a cup of coffee while traveling in Guatemala, and came home and created a contraption that eventually became The Toddy a sort of bucket with a cork in the bottom that made the cold brew. If you search, there is no shortage of cold brewers, but you don’t need any of them. I made mine using two pitchers, several coffee filters, and a strainer.

Federal Donuts as well as some other remarkable coffee places in Philly have very elaborate contraptions to brew their iced coffee. But I’ve been doing some reading, and apparently you don’t need to invest $300 in a special, cold brew system, you can make it at home in a big container. There are a number of things that make cold brew so sublime, the most notable (to me) is the complete lack of any bitterness. It is rich and packs quite a jolt, which is why I made mine half-caf, that way I can drink it and continue to function without acting like the chameleon Val in the Valspar commercial.

There are numerous recipes and techniques on the internet, but my friend Jill did the work for me, and I used a recipe she recommended, then did some adapting myself, so I’ll tell you my adaptation. Though this is a time consuming process, most of it is waiting time. It may be quicker if you use the recommended cheesecloth rather than using a small strainer with a small coffee filter…

I didn’t want to make a gallon, so here is what I did, and how it all worked out:

  1. Weigh out eight ounces of coffee, half decaf, half regular coffee (coarse ground is preferable)8 ounces of coffee
  2. Put the grounds into a pitcher, or two quart container (I recommend a wide mouth container)coffee in pitcher
  3. Add five cups of cool or cold water, and stir well Pretty sludgy right now
  4. Cover container and let sit at room temperature at least twelve hours
  5. Stir well before strainingready to strain
  6. Put a fine mesh strainer over a pitcher or jar and line with a coffee filter (use cheesecloth if you have it, I didn’t)
  7. Pour enough of the coffee mixture into the strainer to leave some room at the top, and let drip (this will take a ridiculous amount of time). You’ll need to stir it to help it along, I used a chopstick, but feel free to use whatever you have handySlow dripping
  8. When most of the liquid has dripped through, carefully pick up the filter and gently squeeze to get more liquid out, discard that filter and start again with the coffee remaining. I had to do this three times, and this process went on for about three hours (really).
  9. You have now made a coffee concentrate, so when you finally make your lovely glass of cold brew use plenty of ice, and a good deal of whatever you choose to lighten it. I use half and half, and if you’re going to make this and then you’re going to ruin it put skim milk into it, please don’t tell me about it.
  10. If you want to sweeten it use simple syrup, or perhaps some chocolate or vanilla syrup! But even if you plan to sweeten it, please taste it first, to see how good it is without any sugar.

My very rustic system yielded a fine cold brew, and though I had planned to go get a cup from Federal Donuts to do a side by side comparison, I never made it. I promise to go this week and update this post, so stay tuned. The cold brew will be fine in your fridge for at least two weeks, but you probably won’t have it around that long.

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Review and a Recipe!

Hundred foot Journey review and recipesI may not have gotten this exactly right, because it’s hard taking notes in a dark movie theatre, but there was a line in “The Hundred-Foot Journey” that I believe I will be repeating.

In the movie, an Indian family, displaced by violence at home, finds their way to a small town in France. To the dismay of his children, their father decides to stay and open up an Indian restaurant.

The oldest son gently tries to explain to his father that this is France, and they don’t eat Indian foods like Chicken Tikka there.

But Papa, played with award-worthy perfection by Om Puri, says “maybe they just haven’t had it yet.”

Kids of mine, beware.

Papa gets his way.  Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Papa gets his way.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Of course, things don’t run all that smoothly for the Kadam family at first.

The delightful Helen Mirren Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
The delightful Helen Mirren
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

They have to contend with Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) who owns a Michelin-starred restaurant across from the Kadam family’s, colorful and sometimes loud, Maison Mumbai.

And one of Kadam’s young sons, the kitchen prodigy Hassan (Manish Daynal), who doesn’t just taste food, he feels it, is propelled into a place where all his standard references are gone. He has to adapt, too.

Hassan, played by Manish Daynal. A young actor to watch. Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Hassan, played by Manish Daynal.
A young actor to watch.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

The hundred-foot journey turns out to be one most of the characters have to take. They all have to embrace change whether they like it or not.

It’s a wonderful movie about differences and how food bridges gaps, (a theme that came up recently with World Peace Cookies).

It’s also about being open to new things.

Unimpressed by French food, Papa gives Madame Mallory a piece of his mind, and his opinion on the blandness of French cooking, saying,

“If you have a spice, use it! Spoon it in!”

Because honestly, why live a salt and pepper life when there’s curry in the world?

I was lucky to see this movie in pre-release when I was at a tech conference in San Jose last month. Walt Disney Studios sent me all kinds of great photos and recipes inspired by the movie.

Kashmiri Basmati Pilaf Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Kashmiri Basmati Pilaf
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

I’m no stranger to Indian food. It’s easy addition to get me to stop at Shalimar Restaurant when ever I’m in Louisville. So I was surprised when I ran through the list of ingredients for Kashmiri Basmati Pilaf and didn’t recognize one of them.

Barberries.

Somehow, some way, I’d missed our introduction.

In the spirit of the movie, of learning about something unfamiliar, this was the recipe I needed to try.

Besides, it calls for sautéing a berry in butter. How could that be bad?

As it turns out, barberries and I had been acquaintances all along.

They’re small and taste like a slightly tart raisin. Once I had them, I recalled seeking them out with my spoon in many a saucy Indian dish, and wishing there were a few more of them.

So they’ll now be getting the respect they deserve, though the fried shallots called for in the recipe will not. They were a bit too much trouble.

And next time I make this, I think I’ll add some sliced green onions.

After all, embracing change makes for good cooking.

Until next time,

signature

Here’s recipe:

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Click here for the printable version of Kashmiri Basmati Pilaf

I got my barberries from a local ethnic grocery. You can also order them online. Here’s a place to try.

Another good recipe Chef Floyd Cardoz created for the movie, Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Chicken Tikka
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

 

Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecakes

minimalist baker vegan cheesecakesDid you know Oreo Cookies were vegan? Well, they are, and they form the base of these delicious cheesecakes that are not only “yes-vegan,” but “no-bake.” The recipe comes from the lovely food blog, Minimalist Baker.

 

Today, I turn 28.

Of the many things I’ve learned I realize the bulk of those lessons have come in the last couple of years.

I’ve learned to trust my instincts and be OK with the unconventional. I’ve learned the importance of doing what I love even if it feels silly. I’ve grown to love food photography even more than I did when we first started this blog. I’ve learned that running a food blog with your spouse can not only be fun but also ridiculously fulfilling. I’ve learned I still love cake and pancakes and simplicity and saying “hubba, hubba,” and probably always will.

Enough about me. This space is about you guys, really. I love to cook and take photos of the things I make and then share them with you all. That is what makes me supremely happy – the best birthday gift ever.

To celebrate all of these wonderful things, I made you cheesecakes. Peanut Butter Cup 9-ingredient vegan cheesecakes that scream simplicity: No springform pans, no water baths, no baking (besides the 5-minute crust). Just pure chocolate-peanut butter goodness that even the amateur cook can master.

If you have the ability to blend and pour, you can make these little bites of heaven. All you need is 30 minutes and a muffin tin and you’re golden. (For the recipe, click here.)

Do You Have An “It’s Party Time” Attitude This Summer?

cocktail hourSummer is in full swing and it’s time to savor our more hedonistic lives; more time spent playing, soaking up the sun and entertaining. This is the time of year that fresh fruits and vegetables abound as do Margaritas, Sangria, ice cream, hot dogs, pastries and long hours spent dining with friends.

As much as we love these summer indulgences, we need to think twice about the extent of our “it’s party time” attitude. We will live with this body that we help create for the rest of our lives.

Every carbohydrate you eat–every piece of bread, pasta, bagel, cake, cookie, muffin, fruit, vegetable, bean, or grain–ends up as glucose in the blood.

Glucose is the most basic form of sugar. Your body’s cells require glucose for energy. Glucose is the only form in which sugar can be transported directly into your bloodstream. All other forms or chains of sugars, otherwise known as carbohydrates, must be broken down by your digestive system to be converted into glucose. This creates…

The Carbohydrate Conundrum

To simplify, we have two groups of carbohydrates: the simple carbs and the complex carbs.

Complex carbs consist of whole foods such as vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These are digested more slowly and are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Simple carbs consist of refined foods such as most breads, pastas, bagels, cakes, cookies, etc. They are digested quickly, and they move into the bloodstream rapidly.

It’s a misconception that all carbs are bad. The truth is that the American diet is heavily dependent upon simple carbs. Simple carbs lead to blood sugar swings that effect your hormones, weight, moods, and they leave us more susceptible to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer, immune challenges, and fatigue.

By choosing whole, unprocessed foods, you can control these swings and have a stronger hand in reclaiming your health. Our aim should be to keep our blood sugar levels within the green zone on the diagram below.

blood-sugar

www.replenishpdx.com/bloodsugar

If you desire to live a long and vibrant life it is time to modify the “swings” in your blood sugar levels. Bring on the good carbs! You will feel the difference.

So…. what SHOULD you eat at cocktail hour?  Raw vegetables of course (with a bit of hummus for dip)!  Edamame in the shell are a fun, great treat (but don’t over do it…the calories add up.) I also love the 2 recipes below:

Sesame Asparagus Spears:

1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. white wine vinegar 2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp. sugar kosher salt

1 pound fairly thin pencil asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 tbsp. sesame seeds (white or a combination of white and black)

Bring large pot of water to a boil. In medium bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, white wine vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Set aside. Prepare ice bath for asparagus. Add a lot of salt to the boiling water. Add the asparagus to boiling water and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes – you want them to be crunchy. Remove the asparagus from the water with a strainer and transfer to ice bath. Allow them to cool for a few minutes and then place them on a clean kitchen towel to drain any excess moisture. Toss the dry asparagus with the sauce and top with the sesame seeds. Refrigerate for an hour, or until ready to serve. Serves 6 – 8 small portions

Zucchini and Cucumber Carpaccio (Recipe created by Cristina Ferrare)

Serves 4–6

2 cucumbers, sliced paper thin

2 zucchinis, sliced paper thin

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped

2 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. kosher salt Fresh Cracked black pepper (to taste)

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

In a glass bowl whisk together, olive oil, lemon, rice wine vinegar, mint, dill and parsley. Set aside. Slice the vegetables on a mandolin or a vegetable slicer that can slice paper thin. Arrange the zucchini and cucumbers alternately on a large platter. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, walnuts and cracked pepper and add the crumbled feta. When you are ready to serve, drizzle 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the top. If you are not going to use the salad right away, wait to add the vinaigrette at the last minute. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

And the big question, “What About Alcohol?”  Most health experts recommend the following hierarchy when choosing alcohol, based on potential health benefits (such as antioxidant content): choose red wine over white wine; choose wine over beer; choose darker-colored beers over lighter-colored beers; and choose beer over liquor and liqueur.

 

Shrimp & Grits

Nancy Lowell Shrimp and GritsIf you intend on wearing a string bikini this weekend, you may want to hold off from making this dish until later on in the week. But since “Real Women EAT” is our motto this week, we are going to throw caution to the wind and make it anyway. (Especially because it sounds absolutely amazing, and that’s why beach coverups were invented!)

Another fabulous dish from Nancy Lowell of Chef’s Last Diet

 

I remember the first time I ever heard of shrimp and grits. I was in Atlanta, it was April 1999. I was working for Whole Foods Market and I was there for three weeks helping to open the Briarcliff store. We worked hard all day preparing the store and the department for the upcoming grand opening, and then we’d head out for dinner. Almost every place we went to offered shrimp and grits.

The team I was with included three other people, one of whom, Michael, had lived in Atlanta and when I asked him to describe the dish to me, I knew I’d love it! I already loved grits, and shrimp, and though everyone seems to have their own variation, they all sounded delicious. Who wouldn’t love a creamy, cheesy, soft bed for some crisp shrimp cooked with bacon, peppers and whatever else might have caught the chef’s fancy.

I don’t know how many times I ordered it, probably not too often as I was trying to economize and stay within my allotted meal allowance, but I did splurge a few times. Some chefs use tasso ham, some bacon, and others use that southern staple, country ham, which I confess I am not crazy about. It is too dry, and too salty (I’m sorry to anyone I’m offending, maybe I just haven’t had really great country ham…). It is an easy dish to prepare, and I made mine without any pork (my pescetarian was home) but I can see how that added smokiness would bring a depth that mine didn’t have. My preference would be a good quality, thick sliced bacon, I particularly like the 365 brand (from Whole Foods Market) thick sliced applewood smoked bacon, it is the best packaged bacon I’ve ever had (and no one has asked or paid me to say that).

When you’re making something with very few ingredients (actually whenever you’re taking the time to make anything) the better your ingredients, the better your finished product will be.  Stone ground grits are far superior to instant grits. They have a real corn flavor, and a less gluey texture, once you try them you will need no further convincing. I’ve written here before about making sure you buy dry scallops,  and the same goes for shrimp. Unless you live near a gulf where shrimp are harvested you are buying previously frozen shrimp, so you might as well buy good quality frozen. It’s worth seeking out shrimp that doesn’t have any STP (a sodium triphosphate additive) and for this dish you are throwing your money away if you used previously cooked shrimp.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Occasion Casual Party
Region American

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup stone ground grits
  • 1/2 stick butter (unsalted)
  • 1 cup aged sharp cheddar (grated)
  • 1 cup jack cheese (grated)
  • 1lb large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 4 thick slices smoked bacon (chopped)
  • 1/2 red pepper (diced)
  • 3 scallions (sliced thin on the bias)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced2)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 Medium lemon (juiced)

Directions

Step 1
shrimp n grits 11

Bring stock to a simmer, and slowly add grits to hot stock, stirring as you go
Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally
Step 2
shrimp n grits 4

When grits have finished cooking they will be creamy and all the stock will have been absorbed
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese
Cover and set aside
Step 3
shrimp n grits

While grits are cooking, fry bacon over medium high heat in a large pan, when brown and crisp, remove and drain on paper towels, leave bacon fat in pan
Add peppers and garlic to pan and saute until fragrant
Add shrimp and cook until pink, add scallions, bacon and lemon juice to pan, stir well
Step 4
shrimp and grits

Put grits into serving bowl, and top with shrimp mixture, top with chopped parsley and serve

 

Almond Joy No-Bake Cookie Bars

Almond Joy Cookie Bars from Fancy ShantyBy the end of July, summer has definitely made itself known. Things have calmed down, you’re into kicking back and relaxing…and it is HOT. Homemade treats would be nice, but who wants to turn on the oven and raise the temps even more? These delicious Cookie Bars from Stacey Molter of Fancy Shanty are not only no-bake, they are non-dairy as well, made with protein-rich almond milk. 

 

Almond Joy No-Bake Cookie Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Packed with dark chocolate chips, coconut, and almonds, these Cookie Bars are topped with Dark Chocolate Ganache and are bursting with the sweet flavor you find in an Almond Joy candy bar. The rich dark chocolate ganache makes this recipe irresistible to the chocolate lovers in you life!

Ingredients:

For the no-bake cookies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Silk Almond Milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Additional shredded coconut and sliced almonds to top.

For the ganache:

  • 11 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease glass pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixer with the paddle attachment, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour 1/4 cup at a time just until incorporated. Dough will be crumbly.
  4. Add almond milk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms.
  5. Add shredded coconut, sliced almonds and dark chocolate chips and mix on low-speed until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Press dough evenly into greased glass pan and set aside.
  7. To make the ganache, add dark chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream to a small pan and heat on low. Briskly whisk as chocolate chips begin to melt, remove from heat and keep whisking until smooth.
  8. Pour ganache over top of cookie dough. Top with shredded coconut and sliced almonds, gently pressing them into the warm ganache.
  9. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Almond Joy No Bake Cookie Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache #SilkAlmondBlends

Almond Joy No Bake Cookie Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache #SilkAlmondBlends

Almond Joy No Bake Cookie Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache #SilkAlmondBlends

Almond Joy No Bake Cookie Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache #SilkAlmondBlends

 

21 Ways to Eat Safer this Summer

e-book about food safety

nancy lowell

We call Nancy Lowell our “Chef-in-Residence,” but that’s really wishful thinking. If she were, we’d be eating A LOT better! Regardless, her tips here will at least keep us eating SAFER.

Here are 21 ways to keep your food safer, and your friends and family healthy during the hot summer months. Think you’re prepared? Before you get started, take this quiz! Yeah! Summer is here, picnics, barbecues, block parties, pool parties, and food poisoning! This time of year toting food around can be risky business, don’t take chances, take action!

  1. Invest in insulated lunch bags for your camper, that lunch can go from healthy to dangerous in just a few hours when the temperatures soar, and put some ice, or an ice wand in the bag (I have one that came with a water bottle)
  2. Contrary to popular belief, commercial mayo will actually act as a preservative, it won’t accelerate spoilage. Chicken without mayo spoils faster than chicken salad made with mayo (you still need to keep everything as cool as possible !)
  3. Wash melons with mild soapy water before cutting, those melons grow on the dirt, and the skins can carry all kinds of bacteria that as you cut will go right into the melon
  4. When cooking out NEVER use the same platter for the cooked food that you used for the raw food
  5. When planning a cook-out that will last several hours keep all raw meats in a well iced cooler (you want it as cold as your beer)
  6. You can start with frozen beef patties, these can be cooked right from the freezer, so pack your cooler with frozen burgers
  7. Don’t worry about ketchup and mustard, they won’t spoil in the heat, and you can ignore the dates on those as well, it takes years for them to spoil
  8. Use mesh domes to cover cooked food, flies live a very disgusting life, and you really don’t want to share your food with them!!
  9. If you travel a long way to the grocery store, or have several stops to make on your way home, use coolers to pack the cold food, or keep the food in the air-conditioned car, rather than the trunk
  10. When buying meat and fish, ask for a bag of ice to keep them cool, most stores will give these to you, and good stores will offer it
  11. Once food has been cooked, if you haven’t consumed it, or refrigerated it in four hours, throw it away!
  12. You can tell if food is spoiled, it will smell bad, feel bad(slimy), and look bad, if your food does any of these things, toss it
  13. Dips and spreads need to stay cool, if you’re eating outside, use a metal bowl, and put the bowl of food into a larger bowl filled with ice
  14. Processed cheese like American cheese can be left out, and will not spoil, it will get very soft, and the oils may start to separate which is not attractive, but it isn’t a health risk
  15. Beans and starchy foods can spoil, and shouldn’t be left out, on the counter or on the picnic table, these, like meat should not be out of refrigeration for more than a total of four hours (cumulative, not four hours at a time)
  16. If you don’t have a cooler, invest in some insulated freezer bags, and ice packs for the beach, many people stay at the beach all day, and bring enough food to eat for several hours, keep it as cool as possible by not constantly opening and closing the bag or cooler
  17. If you’re going camping in a remote location rely on preserved foods, fresh whole fruit will be fine, but cut fruit won’t last out of refrigeration, nor will berries.
  18. Burgers need to be cooked through to an internal temperature of 160°F, but it’s safe to eat steak rare, this is because when e-coli is present on meat, it lives only on the surface of the meat, grinding meat mixes it all up, cooking steak (even rare) will kill any e-coli bacteria on the meat’s surface
  19. When buying frozen packaged food always inspect the box, if there are signs of the box having been wet, don’t buy that package, this means it was defrosted and refrozen, and you have no way of knowing how long it was thawed, or what caused that
  20. When you’re at someone else’s house, pay attention to how they are handling your food, and if it looks, smells, or seems suspect, stick to the chips and pretzels
  21. The golden rule of food safety is WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

If you have any questions about food safety, please write them in the comments, and I promise to answer all of them! And of course, if you want more you can check out my e-book, Food and Kitchen Safety; A Guide for the Home Cook

Diet Banana Cream Pie?

diet banana cream pie?Friends and family, and anyone who’s read my blog more than, say, twice, know that I don’t cook. At all. Notwithstanding Hubs’ evidence to the contrary, I’m a reasonably intelligent woman, but this fun cooking thing people constantly speak of just eludes me entirely.

Previous attempts to master the Zen of Cooking have been met with greasy explosions requiring day-long cleanup, blaring smoke detectors sending our Chihuahuas scrambling for cover, kitchen fires resulting in fire extinguishers now being kept under every counter, and reminders of grade school science class that repeatedly instructed us not to retrieve stuck bread from the toaster with a fork (turns out that really isn’t a good idea).

My sister, ironically, is an award-winning, valedictorian-of-her-cooking-school chef, whose culinary masterpieces are regularly photographed and proudly displayed for all the world to applaud and envy. I long ago concluded that Sissy sucked up the entire cooking gene pool, leaving me with a lifelong kitchen phobia not infrequently resulting in eating Pop Tarts directly out of the bag to avoid having to go “in there.”

Having said all that, there is one thing I do cook and it’s fabulous. With respect to all your mamas who heretofore had the best recipe in your hometown, I can whip out the world’s greatest banana cream pie in slightly over an hour. It’s the only thing I make and it’s loaded with calories, but if you have a sweet tooth for this dessert, it will rock your banana cream pie world.

One day, Hubs came home and announced that he’d invited some friends over for dinner and he thought I should make my pie. Since we’d both been dieting for summer, I was reluctant to blow weeks worth of deprivation in one evening. But I’d recently read an article about swapping out high-calorie ingredients in desserts for less butt-busting, lower-calorie ones, so I decided today would be a good day to try Diet Banana Cream Pie. I got out my famous recipe and all my “new” ingredients, and got to work.

Layer One: 1 C flour, 1 C chopped walnuts, 1 C melted butter. Stir together in rectangular lasagna-size pie pan, and bake for 15 mins. at 350. Let cool.

Diet version: Flour, skip the nuts, unsweetened applesauce.

Layer 2: 1 8-0z pkg. of cream cheese, softened. 1 C powdered sugar, 1 C Cool Whip. Put in bowl and whip with electric blender (Not the margarita one. That white thing with the beaters that your mom let you lick the frosting from.) Spread over cooled crust.

Diet version: Fat-free cream cheese, powdered sugar, and fat-free Cool Whip.

Layer 3: Slice bananas and place pieces side-by-side over layer 2.

Diet version: Same. It’s fruit. Go crazy.

Layer 4: 1 large package of Vanilla Instant Pudding, 3 C 2% milk. Put in bowl and beat with same blender thing you used for layer 3 until lightly stiff (“pudding-y”). Spread over bananas. and put pie in fridge until set (about an hour).

Diet version: Sugar-free instant pudding and fat-free milk.

Layer 5: “Frost” with remaining Cool Whip.

Diet version: Fat-free Cool Whip.

It was beautiful. It looked exactly the same as the regular version, only I figured I’d easily cut the calories in half. (Sara Lee, are you taking notes?)

Then Hubs suggested we try it, with maybe just a little nibble in the corner, to make sure it tasted the same. Rolling my eyes at the suggestion (it looked the same, so it had to taste the same, and I don’t like serving “leftover” dessert to guests), but he was seriously skeptical about this whole diet pie thing, so we each grabbed a small fork and sampled a corner.

Oh. My. God. The top layers were runny, gooey, and completely tasteless, and the crust…well, we’ll never know because you could use it to knock out a burglar in a home invasion. It was rock solid. SERIOUSLY?? By now, Hubs has spit most of his out into the sink and was laughing so hard he could barely choke down the beer he was using to wash down the rest, while I’d grabbed an ice pick and was vigorously banging on the crust, trying to get it to break, but succeeding only in denting the bottom of the pan. Well, crap.

Now Hubs is off to the store to get the real ingredients while I bury the remains of my experiment where the dogs won’t get it and break a tooth. Then I’m making my famous, original Banana Cream Pie. All 50 gazillion calories. But worth it?

Oh, yeah.