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

Gluten Free Recipe Ideas For Passover

Chances are someone is coming to your passover seder with more dietary restrictions than “hold the flour”. Here is a great resource for Gluten free passover recipes that should help you out.

Check out this gorgeous Pinterest page for plenty of ideas.

 

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Matzo Bark

Potato Pancakes, Poached Eggs & Green Onion Sauce | Kid-Friendly Passover Recipes - Parenting.com:

Toasted Coconut Pavlova with Cocoa Pudding and Caramel Sauce:

Passover Dessert: Toasted Coconut Pavlova with Cocoa Pudding and Caramel Sauce

Martha’s Vineyard Jan Buhrman’s Recipes: Lamb With Spinach Souffle For Easter

roasted-lambFor years, I claimed that most lamb was 100% grass-fed, since lambs grow fairly quickly (8-10 months) and can thrive on minimal land. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that over half of American lamb is actually confined and “finished” on fed grain (GMO CORN!) To make this more complicated this past January, the USDA withdrew the Grass (Forage) Fed Claim and verification for livestock[1]. This means that no one will be checking to see if your grass fed meat is REALLY 100% grass-fed. This is more reason to only purchase meat from a trusted local farmer.

As lamb sales increase this week because of Easter, consider lamb over pork IF you are standing at the grocery counter looking over the meat selection.

Lamb is a better choice if you are worried about the humaneness with which your meat is raised. There are a few large feedlots which raise lamb in Colorado, but generally, lamb is a better choice. Most lamb are raised outdoors and most are on grass for at least the first part of their lives. Knowing your farmer is the most optimal in determining that meat is raised safely, organically, and humanely. Look for local lamb.

I am often asked why grass fed is better and here is why

Grass-fed meat is higher in …

Carotenoids and trace nutrients.

Saturated fat.

CLA and TVA (super healthy fats)

Omega-3’s.

…than grain fed.

I was asked this week about New Zealand and Australian Lamb:

Our meat growers down under have had some poor grass years and are turning to grain fed to finish their lamb (not so much in New Zealand, but Australia is quickly transitioning to grain-finishing). Most of the imported lamb in the US, comes from New Zealand, as there is a lamb shortage (internationally) and most Australian Lamb goes to the Middle East and China.

So let’s get down to cooking this lamb. (Hopefully up have not lost your appetite after reading this)

This recipe calls for a deboned leg of lamb. Legs vary in size with an average leg being 4.5 pounds for a locally raised deboned leg of lamb. I personally prefer the leg with the bone in, but most home cooks prefer a deboned lamb leg.

The cooking time will be a bit longer if you have a leg with the bone it it, but use a thermometer to ensure the doneness of your meat.

Butterflied simply means that the bone has been removed or the meat was sliced away from the bone.  Simply fold the two ends in and flip the lamb leg over before placing in roasting pan.

LAMB FOR EASTER

Preheat oven to 450°F

1 4.5 lb lamb leg – deboned

For the paste mixture rub:

4 garlic cloves minced

¼ cup of rosemary leaves

8 whole garlic cloves

8 sprigs of thyme – leaves removed

juice of one lemon

For deglazing the pan:

1 cup red wine

1 cup stock – beef or lamb or chicken

2 onions minced

Make a paste mixture of minced garlic, lemon juice and rosemary & thyme leaves. Season the meat with salt and pepper and rub the lamb all over with paste. Smooth it evenly all over the surface of the meat. Allow the lamb to rest for one hour with the paste/seasonings at room temperature.

Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and cook for about 1 hour longer, or until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135° (rare) or 145° (medium). Be sure the thermometer does not touch the bone (if there is one). Remove from the oven and put the lamb on a platter; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow the lamb to rest for about 20-30 minutes before slicing.

While the lamb is resting, deglaze the pan:

Using the pan that the meat was cooked in, place the pan over the burner and turn on the burner to medium. Pour in the wine and stock and mix with the drippings. Add the minced onions to pan, and stir to combine. Scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any meat particles, then stir continuously to cook and reduce. Reduce over high heat until it forms a sauce consistency. Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top.

 

spinachNEW SPINACH SOUFFLE 

This is an easy side dish for Easter Brunch.

If you are serving a more formal dinner, consider serving ramekins on a larger plate with spring greens or asparagus.

If you are entertaining, prepare everything ahead except the egg whites. Twenty five minutes before serving, beat the egg whites and fold in the mixture. Place in the oven and serve hot out of the oven.

I like to serve it with a Preserved Lemons & Green Chili Sauce on baby beet slices.

 

Serves 6

3/4 pound spinach

2 tablespoons butter (1 for buttering ramekin, 1 for cooking onion/garlic)

1 small onion cut in half sliced thin

2 cloves garlic minced

⅔ cup aged gouda or hard cheddar, shredded

5 egg yolks

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

7 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 400°F. With 1 tablespoon butter, lightly butter the inside of a 2 litre soufflé dish or 6 individual ceramic ramekins. In a skillet on low, saute the onions and garlic in 1 tablespoon butter for a few minutes to soften – add the spinach and allow to wilt. As soon as it wilts (less than a minute), remove from the heat. Then place the greens and the onion/garlic mixture, along with the butter and the cheese in a blender or food processor. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar (if you have a nice flavored vinegar in the cupboard, this is the place to use it). Blend the greens until smooth.

Beat the egg yolks for one full minute with a high speed hand held blender until thick and then add the green mixture to the yolks. Blend well. Wash the beaters well and dry, otherwise when you go to use the beaters for the whites, the whites will not beat well. Beat the egg whites until stiff.

VERY Gently fold the whites into the green mixture.

Spoon the batter into the individual ramekins or into the soufflé dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.

[1]https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/beef/grassfed

 

For more of Jan’s recipes click here:

 

 

How To Make A Gourmet Dinner Without Grocery Shopping

Our celebratory walk turned into a cool discovery, which turned into a spontaneous gourmet meal, and here’s how it happened.

It’s all about work and play for Ronna and me. Since launching BA50 four years ago, having fun at work is a job requirement. But it had been a while since we’ve had some real fun and it was time.

Ronna had finished her last chemo treatment the week before and was finally feeling better. The treatments have been grueling, as you may have read in her honest, clever and sometimes painful pieces about life as a breast cancer patient these past few months. She has been an amazing trooper – keeping her sense of humor, meeting work deadlines and trying to live in the world of “normal.”

Since her diagnosis last May – life has changed. It’s been a long haul and both of us have missed our endlessly creative work sessions — casually hanging and being silly, sassy and inventive. But God bless her – once that last Chemo treatment was finished – she was ready to play.

Ronna was waiting for me at her back door and greeted me with a big smile because not only was I on time but, she was excited for our adventure. We set out from her Chestnut Hill home, with the goal of hitting the Newbury Street galleries in Boston’s Back Bay. We figured on a 7or 8 mile trek with a plan to Uber back and lunch on demand.

We talked and walked and found our stride – laughing, catching up, sharing, problem solving and as usual – discovering. Ronna knows all the local neighborhoods so it was a surprise to see a new shop on the route. Excitedly she pointed out the sparkly food packed windows of a gorgeous new storefront called Pantry. It looked something like Soho meets Stowe meets Coolidge Corner. There was no discussion about whether or not to diverge from our destination.

Once inside a delicious aroma enveloped us and we saw some kind of cooking project underway in the back of the store. We headed straight for it. Admittedly we had worked up an appetite having logged about 3 plus miles — but this store could put anyone in the mood to eat. We passed displays organized by meal options for 2 or 4 people, cooking times per recipe, ingredients and mouth-watering photos of the finished meals.

It turned out it was one of the owners who was experimenting with food ideas and we got into a great conversation about the store’s concept. As we greedily sampled his creations we were quickly getting hooked on the place. He explained that each meal is designed to take 20-45 minutes to prepare and it’s all clearly detailed on the recipe cards. The offerings are seasonal and sourced locally. Everything we saw looked like it came from a farmer’s market –extremely fresh.

We hatched a plan to cook one of these curated dinners with our husbands the next week and tell all our readers about it. Ronna called in our order and picked up our meal an hour before we planned to cook it: Salmon with spinach and barley with red veined sorrel and dill and of course brownies a la mode. She even grabbed a bottle of wine and a few craft beers that they had paired with the meal.

Our boys met us at Ronna’s and we unpacked our “groceries” which felt more like opening a present. The ingredients were packaged and clearly labeled and we couldn’t believe how beautifully wrapped everything was.

We unwrapped four pink fresh salmon filets, fresh dill and spinach and peeled garlic cloves and plucked a little sorrel plant from its plastic container that it had been sprouted from.

Pantry Dinner

Ronna And Felice Celebrating Health

 

We assigned the boys the brownie project and Ronna and I focused on the main course. It was a blast to examine each ingredient and figure out how to put it all together. We unwrapped each item and read the directions a few times (because we are over 50) and assembled and cooked and chopped like we were putting a puzzle together. It took about 25 minutes. We applauded ourselves at the finish as each plate looked almost as perfect as the photos on the menu card.

The boys were in their own world. The counter was covered in cocoa powder and as they greased the muffin pan between slugs of scotch, and we chose to walk away from the chaos. But without a glitch, their outrageously rich individual brownie presentation with a dab of vanilla ice cream was perfection.

We raised our glasses at the meal’s end toasting each other and especially Ronna re-entry. Her appetite, energy, humor and health were in full force—thank God.

Footnote:

My only criticism (and not everyone agreed), was no sign of a calorie count on any of the recipe cards. Our salmon recipe called for 2 Tablespoons of butter and 2 Tablespoons of crème fraiche for the barley which seemed like non-essential caloric add-ons. But then again, maybe that’s why it all tasted so yummy, and we could have (but didn’t) leave out a bit. And none of us would ever have wanted to know the calorie count of the brownies as we would have missed out on them.

And a few final notes…we loved that you don’t have to commit to a certain number of meals per month, you can choose what you are in the mood for when you go in, and the price was more than fair for the dinner:

The Salmon and Creamy Barley with red veined sorrel and dill for 4 is $48, and the Brownies à la Mode for 4 is $22.

We all agreed to make this a regular activity and can’t wait to go back to the Pantry for our next adventure.

Heres some photos from our creation.

Salmon

Salmon with Spinach Barley with red veined sorrel and dill

brownies

Brownies A La Mode

 

Come into the store and mention “BA50,” and you will get 10% off one (1) recipe kit. Not to be combined with other discounts…(1 per customer). Promotion ends April 22, 2016.

If you want to see the food options now available at Pantry, click here to check it out!

 

 

This is a BA50 sponsored post.

These 5 Foods Speed Up the Aging Process

Fried chicken in the basketProducts that claim to slow the aging process draw in big money. To really keep lines and wrinkles at bay, trade anti-aging creams for nutritious foods that keep the body youthful inside and out. As some foods help slow the clock, others hasten the aging process by triggering inflammation and oxidative stress. If you’re looking to keep a fresh face and a spring in your step you may want to steer clear of these five foods.

 

1. Sugary Foods

Kind of goes with out saying, but we will. Sugar is found in products from canned soups and bread to cereal and peanut butter; it’s not surprising that Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. One of the leading foods that cause aging, sugar triggers the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), compounds that destroy collagen and elastin. These important proteins keep skin soft and supple.

 

2. High-Glycemic Grains

Refined grains that lack fiber metabolize quickly, convert to sugar, and promote the production of AGEs. By destroying collagen and elastin, AGEs reduce elasticity in the skin and create lines, age spots, and wrinkles. Examples of high glycemic grain products include white rice, bread and pasta, rice cakes, flour tortillas, and corn chips.

 

3. Red Meat

Red meat is chock full of saturated fat, an ingredient which causes the brain to age more quickly, according to research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Examining nearly 6,200 women over the age of 65, those who reported the highest consumption of saturated fat showed the worst performance on cognitive tests.

 

4. Dairy Products

Like red meat, many dairy products like whole milk, eggs, and cheese are also full of saturated fat. What’s more, many dairy cows are treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, offering even more reasons to avoid milk – whole or fat-free. Studies show that these harmful compounds trigger inflammation and affect insulin, both of which contribute to aging.

 

5. Fried Foods

Yes, give up that beloved fried chicken. Fried foods offer a double whammy when it comes to early aging. They are full of saturated fat, which affects the brain, and according to research, foods cooked with high heat contain more skin-damaging AGEs.

 

Helpful Tips for Selecting Foods for Healthy Aging

Hey listen, we are all aging but you can decide if you’re going to do it better than others. Here are a few tips on how to do it better:

 

  1. Read grocery labels for sugar and sources of hidden sugar like corn syrups, honey, molasses, and any ingredients ending with the suffix “-ose.”
  2. Eat whole grains and brown rice in place of refined grains, and choose grass-fed beef due to lower levels of saturated fat and healthy oleic acid.
  3. Replace cow’s milk with almond or coconut milk.
  4. Trade frying, grilling, and high-temperature frying for healthier cooking methods like steaming, stewing, poaching, braising, and blanching.
  5. Pick up your free guide on how to age gracefully includes meal planning and a 30-day plan to change your lifestyle – provided by Institute for Vibrant Living.

 

Get your free Age Better Resource Guide here.

Do Women Think About Food The Way Men Think About Sex?

This post is excerpted from Lewtan’ s New Book “Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed!” available HERE.

2015-11-24-1448362723-7145336-Dollarphotoclub_60630619.jpg

I have a theory. I think that many women think about food the way men think about sex.

We have all seen those studies where they say that men think about sex every seven seconds or thousands of times per day. I don’t know if those studies are true or not but most men I have asked agree that they think about sex A LOT! Yes, many women think about sex a lot too, but many women think about food even more. Some women even think about food while having sex. Why is this happening?

My guess is that somewhere along the way, our wires got crossed, and food became our go-to, easy-to-get, always-available form of pleasure.

Traditionally, in our society, it has been the responsibility of women to figure out the food thing. We have had to think about food all the time simply to feed our families. We needed to determine what our tribe wanted to eat. We had to choose which recipe we wanted to follow. We had to buy the ingredients for the menu we planned. We had to prepare the food and cook it for others, not just ourselves, multiple times per day. We had to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Food HAD TO BE on our minds because it was our responsibility to figure the food thing out.

These days, however, we are thinking about food even more. Cooking shows are more popular than ever, and cookbooks with beautiful food photographs are always on the bestsellers lists. But to really get a sense of what is going on with food, take a look at Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook feeds and you will see food at its finest. Food, glorious food. Magnificent photos of everything from kale chips to ooey-gooey snickerdoodle chocolate pretzel stuffed brownies to sushi burritos! Is it any wonder that this is all referred to as Food Porn?

Just like watching porn works to excite its viewers to want more sex, food porn excites its viewers to want more food! As a result, we are thinking, planning, and dreaming about food all day long. Is it any wonder we are all food obsessed?

Unfortunately, the more we think about food, the more we want to eat it. No, it’s not weakness. We are programmed to see food and want to eat it. It’s a survival mechanism sewn into our DNA so that we don’t starve in times of food scarcity. When food was actually scarce, this ability to eat anytime was probably a lifesaver, but now, everywhere we look food is calling to us saying EAT ME, EAT ME.

Fact is, there isn’t a street you can drive down in any city that isn’t strewn with billboards offering restaurants or fast food or ice cream. There isn’t a magazine you can pick up, a show you can turn on, a conversation you can have where something to put in your mouth isn’t mentioned. There isn’t an airport that isn’t filled with fifty versions of cake for breakfast or a drugstore that doesn’t have rows of every candy bar you might crave right there at the checkout counter.

We can’t escape thinking about food. On any given day, we are shopping for food, preparing food, packing food, cleaning up, cooking more food, driving thru, eating out, planning menus, hiring caterers, trying our hand at baking or doing our best to avoid the bakery.

For those of us who are food obsessed, much of our joy, pleasure, and fun is in talking about food, thinking about food, taking pictures of food, and eating food. Food, food, food, food, FOOD. This food obsession, dear friends, is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in our brains.

Is food the new sex?

“Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed!” is available HERE on Amazon.com. Also visit www.healthyhappyandhip.com for more information about Lisa Lewtan.

A Low Cal Latke Option For Hanukkah?

cauliflowerIt is the smell and the taste of Hanukkah!  Potato latkes frying in oil!   But at an average of 100 calories per latke, a few of these at your Hanukkah party will blow your diet clear out of the water!

Cooking innovation to the rescue!  Have you heard about cauliflower latkes?  There are a bunch of recipes out there, but this one is great because the latkes are baked, not fried.  Calories?  Just 39 per latke…so go ahead, have a few!  But you’ll have to make a few of the real ones too– because we all know about that the baked cauliflower smell…it ain’t nothing like the real thing.

Check it out the recipe here!

 

 

 

 

5 Tips To Eat, Drink And… Not Gain 100 lbs Over The Holidays


hot chocolateBetween now and January 1 you have every reason to skip your workouts and eat and drink as if you’re on death row.

Who can deny you when you say, “I can’t get to the gym because we’re stringing popcorn tonight in front of the fireplace,”

“I need to skip Zumba so I have time to donate my time to feed the hungry,” or

“I can’t say no to Aunt ‘Baby Face’ Agatha’s lasagna or she’ll put out a hit on me.”

In short, you risk getting ostracized from your family and, in some cases, you could get yourself killed. Christmas round candy set

“But the holidays are all about food!” you cry! And you’re absolutely right.

In fact, the countdown to the holidays can be measured in food increments. We all know “turkey day,” even if we’re tired of hearing it. Then the procession of fruitcakes begins to arrive, re-gifted from the same people we sent them to last year, only a little moldier and a lot boozier (the cakes, not the gifters, although that may also be true).

Co-workers bring in boxes of chocolates the size of a small child. “Happy holidays! And don’t tell me you’re on a diet, just get back on track after New Year,” they announce, tossing bags of candy canes, chocolate covered cherries and homemade cookies on your desk like a rap artist making it rain at a strip club.

Not to mention holiday buffets, complete with open bar.

Here’s the thing about buffets: Every bite of something different is a new taste celebration. We’re more likely to overindulge when we eat a variety of foods than sticking with just one or two.

It’s like 50 Shades of Calories for your tastebuds.

holly-leaf_fkNpxvuu

(LIKE THIS POST? Get Monday’s blog delivered right to your Inbox every week by subscribing to my MondayMotivation newsletter here.)

For example:

Think of a single bowl of shrimp with maybe two choices of dips. How soon would you stop eating? Maybe two servings and you’re done.

Now imagine endless bowls of shrimp, crab, fried chicken tidbits, bacon wrapped things (who cares what, as long as it’s in bacon), mini quiches, creamy salads, and cheesecake, cranberry bread and Christmas cookies as far as the eye can see.

Would you ever stop eating? Likely not. At least not until the host calls the police when they find you facedown in the spinach dip the next morning.

retro-cake-slice-vector_7keMmM_LStudies show the average person gains only a pound over the holidays. I beg to differ. I’m convinced that study was done on mice. Everyone knows mice make lousy cooks, so no one eats much at a mouse buffet.

In actuality, after a season of eggnog, French toast and double-chocolate hot cocoa with marshmallows, trying on pants you wore last October may seem as distant a memory as attempting to fit into your high school cheerleading outfit.

So why not take a proactive approach to holiday eating before you end up searching the Internet for “seatbelt extenders”?

Keep these tips in mind…

1. Focus on weight maintenance, not weight loss. The latter may be too unrealistic this time of year. Go easy and use common sense. If you eat more at one meal cut back on another. Get in extra exercise when you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you overdo it, just get back on track the next day.

 

2. Indulge only in foods you really love. Don’t just eat for the sake of celebrating. For example, I love eggnog, but I skip cookies and sweets I don’t enjoy as much. Be judicious with your choices.

 

3. Eat something before you leave the house. If you go to a party starving you’ll more than make up for the calories you “saved” by skipping breakfast and lunch.

 

4. Go easy on alcohol (yes I know, call me Mrs. Buzz Kill). Wine and booze not only add up to lots of calories quickly, but alcohol slows your metabolism by a 33%. I’m no math whiz, but that’s a lot. And, of course, inhibitions run wild. Far worse than dancing naked at the office Christmas party, eating your body weight in snickerdoodles doesn’t fit most weight loss plans.

 

5. Get in extra activity wherever you can. If you’re away from home or can’t carve out time for your usual routine, do a modified version of it. Cut back on the time but kick up the intensity and you’ll maintain your fitness level. Or go for a walk after dinner or pick up the pace when shopping at the mall. It all adds up to calories burned.

(Also check out: A Total Body Home Workout — No Equipment Needed)

Now you.

How will you stay on track this holiday season? Any tips or tricks that work well for you? Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you! 

Need more motivation? Don’t wait until January! Check out for my Kick In the Pants plan (click the link for details!), where I help you pinpoint your personal fitness and dietary obstacles and together we find ways to overcome them. 

“I was at a plateau and nothing seemed to work. Linda reviewed my diet and exercise plan and recommended a bunch of very actionable steps I could take to kick things up a notch. They worked! Through her Kick In the Pants program I was able to lose 5 more pounds and, more importantly, I lost inches all over. Our follow-up calls kept me motivated and on track. Highly recommended!” Mary Debity, 59

Got questions? I’m usually available to chat (see the online chat box) or send me a note at linda@lindamelone.com. And please share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else your ageless peeps hang out! I’d be forever grateful.

button-melone2

The Secret To The Best Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts EVER

Who doesn’t want to impress friends and family with the best Thanksgiving Dinner? Here are two great sides that are sure to please. Even if you make mashed potatoes every year, these will be the best yet. (Spoiler, you’ll need a lot of butter.) And these Brussels sprouts will win over even your die hard haters over with their sweet roasty flavor and the addition of bacon, which makes everything better!

http://chefslastdiet.com

There are many ways to make mashed potatoes, but only a few ways to make the best mashed potatoes. If you are afraid of butter and cream, you may as well stop reading here, or maybe make some other kind of potato, like oven roasted potatoes. If you’re committed to making memorable mashed potatoes, here are some rules to follow that will ensure your success:

  1. Start with the right potatoes; I prefer russets, they have a high starch content and will yield a fluffy mashed potato. Boil them with their skins on, this will keep the potato from getting watery. For ten to twelve people make five pounds of potatoes. You can use Yukon gold, but for those are better for (s)mashed, skin on potatoes.
  2. When the potatoes are cooked, if you’re going to put them through a ricer (which will give you the smoothest, fluffiest mashed potatoes ever) you don’t need to remove the skin, the ricer will do that for you. If you have a food mill that will work as well.
  3. If you’re going to mash them with a masher, after draining the hot potatoes, make a few cuts in the skin to them to let the steam escape, and cool enough to handle them, then remove the skin; it should come off easily.
  4. For each pound of potatoes use one stick of real, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, and 1/4 cup of cream heated gently (do not boil)
  5. DO NOT OVER MIX, over mixing potatoes makes them gummy. Gently fold in the butter then add the cream slowly. You may not need all the cream, if you don’t use it all, save it because you may need to add it before you serve the potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper, but remember go easy on the seasoning because adding gravy will add salt and seasoning.
  6. To hold mashed potatoes:
    1. Put them in your slow cooker on low, where they can rest for up to four hours, you may need to add a little more cream before you serve them
    2. Cover well and put them over a simmering double boiler, this will hold them for one hour
    3. For less than thirty minutes cover tightly and they should stay hot and fluffy

brussels 3 brussels 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best thing about these Brussels sprouts is that you make them on the stove, so no need to take up precious oven space. This is one of those no recipe needed recipes, so here is what I did to make these meltingly delicious pan roasted Brussels sprouts:

  • 24 ounces of Brussels sprouts (2 of those paper cups filled way up and held with plastic (this will serve 4-6 people)
  • 8 ounces of thick sliced bacon cut into strips
  • 3-4 shallots
  • Preheat oven to 325°F

Using a cast iron, or other heavy, oven-proof  12″ skillet, on low heat, cook bacon stirring as it cooks to separate the pieces. While the bacon cooks put the shallots through the food processor using the slicer blade, and slice thin. Set aside. Cut the bottom ends off the Brussels sprouts, then put those through the processor. It will seem like a lot, but when you’re done they will have diminished in volume as much as they have increased in flavor! When the bacon is staring to brown, add the shallots to the pan. Continue to cook until shallots start to soften, about five minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan (the pan will be very, very full) and using a tongs, carefully mix and turn the mixture to coat the sprouts in the fat, and allow all ingredients to combine. Continue cooking on low heat for ten minutes, stirring and mixing often.) If you are as messy as I am, you will spill shreds of green all over your stove top.) Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, mixing the ingredients every ten minutes.

You can make these ahead of time, and heat when ready to serve.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving!

 

Pie Crust That’s “Easy As Pie”

Pie Crust how toIf the thought of making your own pie crust sends you into a tizzy, we say read on…This my very well be the year that you finally tackle pie crust, and with Chef’s Last Diet’s Chef Nancy Lowell’s assiduous tips, you’ll wonder why it took you so long .

Thanksgiving is undoubtedly a pie holiday, and though many people fear them, there’s a reason for the expression easy as pie. Pie is an easy thing to make, and even better, a hard thing to mess up. A lot of people think they can’t make crust, or don’t have time, but before you reach for that red and blue box of premade crust, in the dairy section, take a look at the ingredients. I promise you that you have both the time and the skill to make a great pie crust with only a few ingredients that you probably already have.

Set aside two hours this weekend or next, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. In the morning you’ll assemble enough crust for two pies, one double crust, and one single. You’ll make the dough in your food processor, separate that into three discs and leave them in the fridge for one to 24 hours. Then you can roll out each round of crust and wrap them in plastic wrap, or put them into pie pans, stack, wrap and freeze them until you’re ready to make your pies.

For my family there are three and only three pies we have on Thanksgiving; apple, pumpkin and pecan. If you like blueberry pie or peach try these. Pecan is my hands down favorite pie, and I haven’t found a better one than the one we use from the Frog Commissary cookbook which is a great cookbook filled with recipes my entire family uses over and over.  Pie filling is also very easy, and can be made a day or two ahead. Because pies are best eaten the day they’re baked, if you’ve got all your components ready you can assemble and bake the pies Thanksgiving morning before the oven is crammed with turkey, sweet potatoes and such. Frozen pie crust will thaw in about 30 minutes.

Filling is easier than crust, canned filling is never as good as what you can make, and is generally much more expensive than making your own. For nut pies try buying the nuts from the bulk section and buy just what you need. If you have extra, the best place to store nuts is your freezer. You can use a fruit filling without pre-cooking it—we often do, but if you want to avoid the gap you sometimes get between the crust and filling, pre-cooking it is the way to go. I am partial to using instant tapioca as a thickener, especially for juicy fruit like berries. For an apple pie, flour is fine, and you don’t need much.

The crust rules:

  • Use real, unsalted, cold butter. There are people who prefer lard, and it does make a great crust, but I prefer the flavor of butter.
  • Don’t over-handle it, it will develop the gluten in the flour and the crust will be tough. If you think you’ve over handled it, let it rest for half an hour, the glutens will relax (really)
  •  It doesn’t matter if it tears, you can patch it by dabbing with some water and pressing the pieces back together
  • To make it gorgeous, and to hide any rough spots, brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle liberally with either plain or sanding sugar (a larger grained sugar)
  • Before rolling press the disc out to a flat circle, this means less and easier rolling, always roll from the center out, and keep turning the disc in a clockwise direction, hitting each hour, all rolling in the same direction, checking to make sure the final circle is evenly thick
  • When making a top crust always cut vents for the steam that the filling will create
  • If you have room in your freezer you can make your pie and freeze it raw, then cook from frozen, like Mrs. Smith’s pies, but waaay better

This recipe will make three crusts (two double crusts and one single)

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 4-6 TBL ice water
  1. In the bowl of a food processor mix all dry ingredients to combine
  2. Add butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal
  3. Move dough to a large bowl and add ice water 2 TBL at a time, tossing the dough gently until it starts to come together (you may not need all the water)
  4. Separate the dough into three equal sized balls, then press each one into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour, up to 24 hours
  5. On a well floured board or counter, flatten one disc at a time and roll into a flat circle larger than your pie pan, moving dough around to make sure it’s not sticking to the counter, and to ensure an even crust
  6. To move the round, roll it gently around your rolling pin and unroll it into the pie pan
  7. For a single crust, tuck the excess dough under the edge of the circle, and using the index finger and thumb of your left hand, and the index finger of your right hand crimp the edge working around the circle.
  8. For a double crust add the filling brush the rim of the bottom crust with water, and then using the same method you used to move the bottom crust, unroll the top crust on top of the filling. Press the edges of the two crusts together, and crimp as in #7 (above)
  9. For a lattice top, cut the top crust into strips (fewer, wide strips will be easier if you are a beginner, and will look beautiful) and alternate laying them in different directions (no need to try to weave them). Crimp the edges with a fork, or roll and crimp.
  10. For any pies with a top crust brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking.

pie newbies 1lattice crust

 

What are your favorite Thanksgiving pies?

Halloween Indulgences: What I’m Eating Just Because I Feel Like It

indulgent dogIt was too damn dark to get up this morning for spin class at 8 am, but not for my husband. I was impressed and annoyed at his early morning energy or that I had none. I wanted to go to spin with him but I couldn’t talk myself out from under our cozy comforter.

While he was in a deep snore at 4 am this morning, I was reading my Kindle, immersed in the 4th book of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. I knew I shouldn’t have been reading – I know the Kindle light “stimulates” my brain – but it’s such a good story and it takes place in Naples and there’s so much good food in it –I feel like I’m eating the words and it’s so satisfying. What’s the alternative anyway? I’m so not into the tossing and turning torturous effort of trying to fall back to sleep  – I’d rather read than fight it.  And it’s autumn and in autumn I feel like “giving in” to my cravings. I feel hungry for comfort in October.

That’s why I was in a sleep coma this morning. I was tired from my reading gluttony.

That may explain why I couldn’t get up yesterday morning either or any morning since the cold snap hit about 2 weeks ago. I don’t need a Fit Bit to confirm that I’m not sleeping through the night.

The truth is, I’m transitioning, just like the seasons, the geese and the bears. October is a month that seems to be my portal for transitions – the most noteworthy is, my boys were both born in October, and I am reminded they are both a year older and so am I and that feels like a leap forward which makes me sleepy too.

And, in New England in October, you can’t miss the “transitioning show” that’s happening outside. The leaves are leading the way – they’re peaking and dropping and dissolving all at once. The sun is low in the sky and it feels cozy and a little quiet. Nature is getting ready to sleep and I’m feeling it too.

As cozy as this is, my biorhythms are messed up this time of year. With the frosty dark mornings and daylight’s disappearance by late afternoon, my body feels confused. With all this change I am facing a loss of my nutritional discipline. Not only am I wanting to sleep later into the mornings, my appetite is increasing. I am craving heartier foods – salads are not cutting it for me. I want pasta with red sauce, I want full bodied soups with bread and I want stinky cheese. I’m craving chocolate again after swearing it off all summer. And of course wouldn’t you know it — Halloween is happening all week long and my favorite food group has landed in my cabinets in preparation for the neighborhood feeding. Is it any surprise that each October my poundage goes up?

At 4pm I want a nap – at 8 pm I want HBO. And dinners are completed by the heartiest of Cabernets.

I’m confident that, I will emerge from this indulgent “week(s) of darkness” in a few days. I know relief is on the way this coming Sunday, on November 1st when it will be brighter out in the morning when we “Fall Back” and move the clocks back to Standard Time. The time change is definitely good news for our New York City Marathoners who won’t have to wear headlamps at the starting line this Sunday. And, maybe I will awaken from my sleep and food coma to watch the start, but it’s hard to imagine because right now – I can’t seem to get off the couch. But, my husband told me by next week I will be more energetic and he’s signing me up for the 8 am spin class next Sunday once again. He’s such an optimist!

So since I may only have a few more days to indulge in this autumn laziness I have a plan for the last night of darkness before the morning light hits my window at 7:30 am when we all  “Fall Back.”   I’ve planned the perfect menu that my husband and I will enjoy with friends as we fill the kiddies bags with poor food choices.

Doesn’t this menu speak of indulgent comfort? What else should I consider?

Black Bean, Corn and Butternut Squash Chili from  Catherine Walthers

Fig Jam With Truffle Goat Cheese smeared on a toasted baguettes.

(I discovered Truffle Tremor cheese at Dean & Deluca this weekend and I’m still salivating at the thought of it). This cheese is from Northern California (they also make Humboldt Fog and won a silver medal at the world cheese awards.

halloween

Trader Joe’s Dark Salty Chocolate Almonds

And – A bottle of a hearty Cabernet.

PS – No Salad.

soups_sides-6891

Photo by Alison Shaw From Catherine Walthers Website Black Bean, Corn and Butternut Squash Chili

Here’s the recipe for the Chili

This vegetarian chili recipe combining black beans, corn and butternut squash is my go-to recipe for a Halloween dinner or potluck. It cooks in less than 30 minutes and is easy to make. I love using fresh corn if available; it offers the best texture. The recipe appears in Soups + Sides, adapted from Katie LeLievre.

Ingredients
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, with juices
2 to 3 cups water
4 cups butternut squash, approximately 1 medium squash, cut into 1/2 –inch dice
2 cups cooked black beans
Kernels from 3 to 4 ears fresh corn (approximately 2 cups)
2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1. Sauté onions in oil until translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add
garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add spices and continue cooking while
stirring to prevent burning, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and break apart
with a masher. Add squash to pot along with 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until squash is tender but not falling apart.

2. Add black beans and corn, and the additional water if needed, and simmer to let flavors blend. Remove bay leaves. Season with additional salt. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

From Soups + Sides by Catherine Walthers, adapted from Katie LeLievre

Trick or Treat

 

7 Natural Solutions For A Good Nights Sleep

Best “Low Cal” Lemonade Recipe Ever!

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We found a great, low calorie recipe that will no doubt become a favorite and satisfy your sweet tooth- bring it to the beach, to the pool, or in your water bottle– it’s pretty to serve to company (and feel free to substitute raspberries- just as good.) This sparkling lemonade is bursting with citrus flavor, and….the best part is, it won’t set you back calorie-wise for the day!  

Sparkling Fresh Lemonade With Blackberries

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups sparkling water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup Equal® Spoonful or 6 packets Equal® sweetener
12 fresh blackberries, frozen
Ice, as needed
Fresh mint sprigs and lemon slices, optional

Preparation

  • 1. Stir sparkling water, lemon juice and Equal until combined.
  • 2. Place 6 blackberries and ice cubes in each of 2 tall glasses. Divide mixture between the glasses and serve. Garnish each glass with mint and fresh lemon slices, if desired.

– See more at: http://www.equal.com/recipes/search/sparkling-fresh-lemonade-with-blackberries#sthash.HaknfF7f.dpuf

Moscow Mule BA50’s Fav Summer Cocktail 2015

moscow mule

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • Wedge of lime
  • Cold ginger beer, like Gosling’s or Barritt’s

Instructions:

Pour the vodka into a copper mug or an iced glass. Squeeze the lime over the vodka, and drop the wedge into the mug. Fill the glass with the ginger beer.

 

copper mugs moscow muleRefreshing summer cocktail is all the rage. But you’ve got to get the copper mugs to make this authentic. It’s fun to look at and even better to drink.

You can substitute vodka, rum or tequila — or just fake it and use non-alcoholic ginger beer.

Cools you off just looking at it don’t you think?

Green Tea Watermelon Smoothie

Delicious, healthy, and totally refreshing. This Detox Smoothie from Anu of MyGingerGarlicKitchen.com is perfect for summer.

 

Detox Smoothie from Anu of MyGIngerKitchen.com
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
green tea bags- 2
chilled watermelon, roughly chopped – 2 cups
water- 1 cup
honey – 1½ tbsp
lemon juice – 1 tsp
ice cubes

Instructions:
Bring water to boil, pour over tea bags and steep for about 4 minutes.
Squeeze and remove tea bags, chill for 4 hours or overnight.
Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
Add ice cubes to serving glasses and pour smoothie on top.
Serve immediately.

A Crab Cakes Story

Crab Cakes by Nancy LowellChef Nancy Lowell writes about crabmeat and shares her recipe for crab cakes, an “iconic” summer dish.

It’s summer and crab cakes are an iconic summer dish, so off I went to buy some crabmeat and share the recipe with you. The first store I went to had crab in a can in the fish case, and it was on sale for $16.99; a steal! I asked the man behind the counter if I could see the can “What are you looking for?” he asked, “TSP” (trisodium phosphate) he looked at the can and indeed TSP was there. “No thanks.” (I’ve written about TSP before,  and if you’re not checking to see if it’s in your shellfish, you should start.) I knew the crabmeat at Whole Foods Market wouldn’t have TSP, so off I went, a bit grumpy about having to go to another store.

Whole Foods did indeed have TSP-free crabmeat, but I wasn’t prepared for the price tag of $22 for eight ounces. I’ll do the simple math for you, that’s $44 per pound. That was for jumbo lump meat, the most expensive, but the least expensive was only a few dollars less, and so I went for the good stuff. Now I had eight ounces of crab meat for two of us, and I didn’t want to add a lot of fillers and lose the delicate taste of the crab. There’s not much worse than a crab cake so laden with breadcrumbs and Old Bay seasoning you can barely tell there’s actual crab in there. I was also pretty clear these were the only crab cakes I’d be making, maybe ever.

Inspired by one of my favorite dips I decided to add artichoke hearts to add some volume and complement the crab’s sweetness. A bit of chopped red pepper, some mayo and just a bit of breadcrumbs—or in this case matzo meal to hold it all together. A trick I learned in culinary school for finding any stray bits of shell is to spread the crabmeat on a sheet pan and put it under the broiler for twenty seconds. Any shell will turn bright pink, and be easy to remove without cooking the crab. When you make these handle them gently, and don’t press down on the crab cakes when you cook them. I pan fried them, but you could bake them though they won’t get crispy on the outside.

These were so good I felt justified with the expense. We didn’t put any type of sauce or dressing on them, but you could make a quick one of half mayonnaise and half Dijon mustard with some chopped up capers and fresh dill. Are crab cakes something you’d make at home, or do you save them for when you’re at a restaurant?

Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes
Serves 2
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 8 minutes
Total time 28 minutes
Meal type Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 8oz jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 2 artichoke hearts chopped (I use canned (non marinated) drained well)
  • 2 tablespoons myonnaise
  • 1/4 red bell pepper (choped fine 1/4)
  • 2 scallions (sliced thin, 2)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill (chopped)
  • 1 Large egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (or matzo meal)
  • oil for frying

Note

if you want these for an appetizer you could make 16 small cakes, and fry those for 2-3 minutes per side

For a party you could pan fry them for 2  minutes per side, then chill them until ready to use, then heat in a 375F oven for ten minutes

To make these in the oven preheat oven to 375F and bake for 12 minutes, then turn and bake another 10-15 minutes

Directions

Step 1
crab mise

Pick through crab to look for bits of shell, or spread crabmeat on a sheet pan and put under the broiler for 20 seconds, shell will turn bright pink
Step 2
crab garnish

Chop vegetables and dill
Beat egg
Step 3
crab mixture

Add all ingredients together and mix gently with your hands
Step 4
Shape into two large or four medium sized cakes about 1 1/2 to 2″ thick
Heat a shallow layer of safflower or other neutral oil in a wide pan
Add cakes and cook on medium high heat for four minutes
Turn cakes gently using a spatula and another helper utensil like a fork
Lower heat to medium and cook another four minutes
Drain on paper towels
Serve immediately

 

3 Amazing Summer Salads You Will Want to Make Over and Over

When it comes to yummy summer salads, I like to keep it simple, fresh, and with as little time slaving over a hot stove as possible!   Who needs that extra heat in the summer?  We menopausal women generate enough of our own!  Enjoy these fabulous salads– they are so great, you will want to make them over and over again!

Summer Corn and Black Bean SaladSummer Corn and Black Bean Salad

Serves 8 as a side dish

In a large bowl, mix together

5 ears fresh corn (boiled till just cooked, but you could also grill) let cool then trim  the kernels off the cob into a bowl with a sharp knife

1/2 bag defrosted shelled edamame (easiest to defrost by putting them in the colander and draining hot corn water right over them)

1 can drained and rinsed black beans

1 pint cherry tomatoes halved

1/2 bunch cilantro chopped

1/2 bunch scallions sliced

Lime Vinaigrette (I use a mason jar so I can just shake and pour)

1/2 tsp lime zest (do this before you juice them)

Juice of 2 limes

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Scant 1/4 cup olive oil (I like mine with more lime flavor)

Pour vinaigrette over the top and mix, let flavors come together for an hour or so before serving, great served at room temperature

Summer salads mediterranean saladMediterranean Salad 

(serves 12 as a side dish)

In a large bowl mix together:

4 pounds Tasty Tom tomatoes quartered (or any beautiful red ripe summer tomato, or cherry tomato…..if they a large tomatoes you might need to cut smaller than quarters)

2-3 English cucumbers quartered then cut in to 1/2 inch dice

1 can drained and rinsed garbanzo beans

I.5 pounds feta cheese (I prefer French, but any good feta will do),diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Pour over the salad:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar (brings out the sweetness of the tomato) 1.5 teaspoons salt (enhances the tomato flavor), 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper and a scant 1/4 cup good olive oil. Gently toss (so as not to crush the feta cubes) the salad, and enjoy at room temperature….I prefer not to refrigerate my salad, the tomatoes will lose their fresh summer deliciousness!

summer salad recipesQuinoa with Roasted Vegetable Salad (ok, so this one requires a hot oven, but it’s quick)

(Serves 8 as a side dish)

1 cup quinoa

Bring 2 cups water and 1 tsp salt to boil, toss in quinoa and stir. When the water and quinoa return to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, cover and let cook till water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes……remove from heat, stir, re-cover with lid. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then, with a fork gently scrape the quinoa into a large bowl, and let cool.

Meanwhile cut and roast vegetables of your choice,  my favorite for this dish are

1 zucchini quartered and cut in to 1/2 inch dice

1 summer squash quartered and cut in to 1/2 inch dice

1/2 pound portobello mushrooms sliced and cut in to 1/2 inch dice

1 each red and yellow peeper sliced and cut in to 1/2 inch dice

Toss cut veggies in a large bowl with olive oil till coated, place on a baking sheet in a single layer ( you might need 2 sheets) and salt, roast at 400 until tender.

When the veggies are cooked, toss them in to the quinoa, scraping all the delicious pan juices in there too, add 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil and gently toss (almost like folding) with a rubber spatula.

Now here’s where you can make this your own signature dish…I don’t add any dressing here, the juice from the veggies is enough for me, but I do like to add a bit of Parmesan to taste, the saltiness of the cheese brings out the natural flavor of the veggies, and I love Parmesan on everything, but if you don’t want to add cheese, you will need to adjust seasonings with some added salt and pepper- or if you prefer, you can add a lemon or southwest or simple vinaigrette dressing to the salad for more punch, but it’s all a matter of personal preference, which is what makes this salad so versatile!

With 17 years experience in the food business, Joanne is happy to help make life easier for you in your kitchen. Whether you are looking for menu creation, meal preparation or kitchen organization, if you are in the Boston area, she can help you out. Contact her at Kitchenconcierge123@gmail.com

Ten New (and Old) Things I Love About Paris

My husband and I squeezed in a few days in Paris this past week. We were overjoyed with the trip. Despite three days dealing with our lost luggage because of a missed connection out of London, which left us stranded for six hours in Heathrow – Paris ROCKS!

Here’s the 10 things (but there are many more) that I love about Paris.

1. French advertising is a hoot.

Have you heard the recent ad for Perrier?

My husband and I were at the French Open last week (Bucket List checked on this one.)

It was the quarterfinals and the match was intense. We were glued to the local favorite, Tsonga, and cheering right along with the French. After an exhausting rally I heard over the loud speaker what I thought was one of the players sighing.

Slightly confused by the sound and the intimacy of the breath I turned to my cheering seatmate,

“Wow, could that be Tsonga exhaling so loudly?”

“Ha, Ha, BA NON! C’est Perrier bien sur!” He responded.

“Ahhhhh, bien sur! Genius!” I agreed.

I couldn’t wait to hear it again. It was a cross between a sensual exhale and a tingle.

Only the French can bring sexy sounds into the middle of a tennis match. I couldn’t find the sound on you tube but I think it’s buried somewhere in this amazing Perrier ad.

 

2. Uber!

Let’s just say the Paris Taxi drivers are not pleased but we tourists are thrilled.

If you can connect to the Internet, you can take an Uber so much more cheaply than the Paris taxi.

No more nicotine smelling cab rides…no more wondering if irritable drivers are taking advantage of you…no more unreasonable fares because you are sitting in traffic….Just easy riding beautiful private cars and kind drivers.

Formidable!

3. Les Musées.

The newest Museum to hit Paris is La Fondation Louis Vuitton brought to you by the amazing architect Frank Gehry.

Do not miss this museum. It is a multi-media experience that I guarantee will not disappoint. The Gehry structure is genius and you will literally feel like you’re on a moving ship. The exhibits blend visuals, sound, light, and texture as you move through their mind-expanding presentations.

(We were day 2 into our lost luggage issue and thankfully there were no luggage displays to taunt us at the museum)

Frank Gehry Fondation

4. The Euro in June, 2015.

Finally, Paris is more affordable than it’s been in the past 10 years (for now). And, when you’ve lost your luggage there’s just one thing to do. Take advantage of a good exchange rate.

5. You can’t have a bad meal in Paris.

My husband and I did not reserve one restaurant and ate fantastic meals that were walking distance from our hotel (in the 7eme Arrondisement). We went to dinner at 9:30 pm and the places were still hopping.

Delice!

6. Walking!

20,000 is the new 10,000.  It’s easy to meet your stepping goals in Paris. It’s the best walking city and you won’t even realize you’re doubling your usual steps.

7. Paris is clean.

The streets are fantastically clean.

8. Permission to be sexy in France.  

The women dress like they love their bodies and it makes one think about how we dress.

There are plenty of stylin BA50’s on the streets to inspire us to shop even if we think we don’t need a thing – (stay tuned for my fashion article on the amazing French stripe).

9. Le Vin.

Vin de Table (table wine) is pas mal! No need to rock your budget because the local wine on the menu is great.

10. Parlez-Vous Francais?

Oui, oui, oui!

Is it possible the French have become more tolerant of Americans trying to speak French?

I love to practice my French and was gleefully not shut down by the locals – in fact, they responded to me in French. What a coup!

While so much of modern city life is full of grit and chain stores, Paris is still a treasure with it’s unique smells, tastes and sounds.

 

 

 

How (And Why) You Should Incorporate Fermented Foods In Your Diet

Pickle vegetables

When I learned that the human body has ten times more bacterial cells than human cells – we’re talking 100 trillion – I felt like a big blob of walking microbes.

Would I check the mirror one morning and find I was slowing morphing into a 5’10” representation of a lactobacillus (think Jeff Goldblum in The Fly)?

After shaking off that visual, I was comforted to learn that these bacteria are vital for human existence, perform thousands of critical functions, and that gut bacteria is the cornerstone of the immune system.

While not all bacteria are beneficial, a proper microbial balance provides a strong immune system able to fight off the harmful bacteria and viruses it encounters. Unfortunately, many of our current food and lifestyle choices, overuse of antibiotics, and other environmental factors cause serious microbial imbalances which impact our physical, mental, and emotional health. Restoring bacterial balance is crucial for optimal wellness and fermented foods play a key role in this process.

Fermented foods are teeming with beneficial bacteria and have been used worldwide for thousands of years. They are “live” foods, in contrast to most of today’s food which has had the very life processed out of it. Rich in enzymes, they help restore microbial balance as well as aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. Perfect!

There are several ways to incorporate fermented foods into your diet, and here are a few suggestions. All can be found in your local health food store or on line if your regular grocery store does not carry them.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage fermented by several lactic acid producing bacteria. It is most notably served as a side with many meat dishes. Purchase sauerkraut in its raw unpasteurized form in order to ensure it contains the beneficial bacteria you are seeking. Most sauerkraut sold in cans is not appropriate. It is perhaps the easiest fermented food to make at home if you’re feeling adventurous!

Kefir and Yogurt

Both Kefir and Yogurt are fermented milk products which contain several varieties of probiotics. They can also be made from coconut milk for those who are lactose intolerant or simply prefer not to eat dairy products. Purchase organic products without additional sugars or other artificial ingredients. Fresh fruit can always be mixed or blended in for a little extra flavor or sweetness.

Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made with vegetables and a variety of seasonings. It is typically sold in glass jars and comes in a variety of flavors and heat intensity. It can be eaten alone or with rice and is included in many other Korean recipes. A little goes a long way!

Miso

Miso is a traditional Asian fermented food. Often made of soybeans, it can be made from other legumes as well. Mashed cooked beans are fermented with salt and a culture starter called “koji”. Miso soup is made by diluting miso in hot water heated below the boiling point to preserve it nutritional properties. There are many miso soup recipes, often including a variety of vegetables, so I encourage you to do some exploring!

Pickled Fruits and Vegetables

These products should be purchased in their raw form and pickled in brine not vinegar. Food pickled in vinegar is not fermented and will not provide probiotic and enzymatic value. A jar of pickles soaking in high fructose corn syrup is not going to do the trick!

It is important to introduce fermented foods slowly into your diet. A teaspoon or two once or twice a day is a great start; an ounce or two for liquids like Kefir.

It may also take time for your taste buds to adjust to these new flavors. Give it time.

Fermented foods do not have to be eaten in large quantities to have an impact on your health, so I hope you will experiment and begin adding small amounts of these foods each day. It just might help get you out of your current health pickle.

You can find more from Nicolette at takenotehc.com

Who Took The Fun Out Of Eating?

who took fun out of eatingWho invented chia seeds?

When did make-your-own salad places start asking “Do you want arugula or kale?”

Salad used to start with iceberg lettuce and end with Kraft dressing – Italian, French, Thousand Island or the enticingly exotic Seven Seas. Now I choose an extra virgin (immaculately conceived?) olive oil and add vinegar (not the clean-the-coffeepot kind): a palate-pleasing balsamic.

Would someone please tell me how raw fish and seaweed went from off-putting to delectable?  I’m with the cabbie in a 1980s film who said: “I bought some of that sushi, brought it home and cooked it.”

The same set that made sushi trendy transformed coffee drinking.  

My husband and I started our day with instant Maxwell House. My GenX children (well along the coffee-drinking “maturity path”) grind the beans, then prepare their morning brew in a pricey Breville contraption.  A natural beverages CEO notes, “Today’s coffee lovers customize their cups depending on their mood – hot or cold, sweet or strong, flavored or not.” Well, I don’t know a latte from a macchiato; both leave a milk mustache (soy, of course). I close my eyes and point to select blends for my single cup brewer.

I find it amusing that oatmeal’s the new power breakfast.  The kind I buy has flaxseeds–with blueberries (brain food) and almond milk I spring from the breakfast table ready to  go full throttle until the magic lunchtime mix of greens, feta and sunflower seeds propels me through the afternoon. Dinner?  Wild-caught Pacific salmon, lentils (!) and organic, locally grown veggies. Not the Frosted Flakes breakfast, salami sandwich lunch, and pot roast with canned peas and carrots dinner my mother served. How did I survive childhood?  With the graying of America, I anticipate more of my favorite interviews:  “What’s the secret to your longevity, Mrs. Don’t-Need-No-Doctors?”  “I fry my food in bacon grease, add plenty of salt, love sweets—especially frosted donuts—and enjoy a smoke and a shot of bourbon before bed.”

I bless and curse the nutritionist who scared me straight and took the fun out of eating. She made tofu a staple in my diet.  I don’t know what it is, it has no flavor, but I’ve learned to disguise it until I almost forget it’s there.  Breakfast? Tofu (smashed) mixed with yogurt (an item grocers didn’t carry when I was young that now takes up half the dairy aisle), organic berries, raw walnuts and yes, a generous sprinkling of CHIA SEEDS. Yum.  Better than eggs, pancakes and a side of bacon?  Well….

I grew up believing that Wonder Bread, “enriched with vitamins and minerals,” was all I’d ever need. Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob told me it built strong bodies 8 ways.  Now I eat whole wheat bread, sprouted, with seeds and nuts. Do I miss the classic PB&J?  Yes, but I make do with crunchy cashew butter and pomegranate seeds on seven grain bread.

Years ago when my Seattle hostess asked, “Are you a foodie?”  I’d never heard the term. I assumed I was not.  Today I’d get points for shopping at organic markets or the natural foods aisle and my eating preferences (sweet potatoes, yes; Idaho no; whole grain anything, yes; white flour anything, no.)  Asian restaurants? If they serve brown rice.  (See how long an Asian meal sticks to your ribs without rice. I’m barely out of the restaurant before I’m hungry again.)

My culinary education continues when I visit my son in California. He frequents farmers markets and knows how to choose among the array of mushrooms offered. (I never questioned what Campbell used in their cream of mushroom soup; I just poured it over tuna and green beans, added canned onion rings and popped it in the oven.)  I bought Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese by the case; and don’t get me started about Versatile Velveeta.   Cooking utensils?  A can opener and a spoon, big pot and strainer. My pasta maker? Chef Boyardee. When I cooked pasta I topped it with Ragu tomato sauce–pureed until the color was the only clue to its source.

Just when I think I’m riding the latest health food wave something comes along that puts me in my place.  “You’re going to love this,” my son promised, as he checked the ancient grains choices before adding faro to our grocery cart. (The ancient grains in my pantry are instant grits in a hard-to-reach spot.) Now that my generation learned to pronounce “quinoa,” is it yesterday’s news?

Don’t tell my doctor but every year after my annual physical I go off the deep end, lunching on a double cheeseburger with extra fries; dining on pepperoni pizza. Forget frozen yogurt or fruit–for dessert I feast on Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.  For that one day I relive the ignorant bliss of yesteryear.

A Simple Crowd Pleaser Dish For Mother’s Day (And Beyond)

crowd pleaserEditor’s Note:  Not exactly the most healthy dish in the world…but an easy dish and a crowd pleaser for a mother’s day BBQ just the same!   

Potluck parties—some people love them and some hate them.

Those in the hate ‘em group either start the what-to-bring handwringing as soon as the evite drops in their inbox or they block it out and break into a hot-yoga level sweat each time evite reminders hit. This latter group will RSVP at the last minute and then search the Internet for recipes that may or may not turn out edible.

I’ve made a few such clunkers myself.

I shudder to recall a potato dish for a St. Patrick’s Day supper club. I made this untried recipe, which called for stewing together potatoes, leeks and cabbage. In theory it wasn’t a bad combination, though it turned into a standout disaster. It simmered and gave off a pungent odor that made my kitchen smell like wet dog. The end result was edible (I tasted it), but not good, and it pretty much went untouched at the party. I consoled myself by noting that at least no one got sick from it.

Recently, I read about professional chefs and their networking potluck dinners. These are events where restaurant chefs who don’t know one another gather to get acquainted, and like we civilians, each brings a dish to share. The article noted that the anxiety associated with such gatherings reached Defcon 1. And then there’s the hilarious piece over at The Onion about the guy who brought banana bread to a party and spent three hours watching as it went uneaten. He repeatedly checked on his bread, rearranged it on the table, cut into it to get the ball rolling, but by party’s end there were still no takers.

Who has time for failed recipes? I don’t. Life is busy and on any hectic weeknight, figuring out dinner is enough of a challenge. I consider the Panera Bread app a pantry staple, and the phone numbers for our local pizza joint and Chinese restaurant live on each family member’s phone contacts.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that one potluck go-to recipe, the one that will disappear within an hour of hitting the buffet?

I have that recipe, and its name is Southwestern Corn Dip. Years ago, a friend shared this recipe with me and changed my bring-a-dish-to-share days forever. This recipe didn’t originate with her, or with the person who gave it to her. Truth is that I haven’t a clue as to the origins. But here’s what I do know—and what I’ve tested over time and events—it’s a crowd pleaser. Over the last ten years, I’ve made this dish for every imaginable situation: informal dinners, cocktails and appetizers, barbecues, bunco, book group, company gatherings, holiday parties, Halloween parties, birthday parties and a whole bunch of ladies’ wine (and whine) nights. Each time my oven-safe dish of Southwestern Corn Dip hits the buffet, within an hour it’s empty and the next morning my email is full of recipe requests. Like my friend before me, I have shared the making of Southwestern Corn Dip with people all over the country as well my husband’s colleague from Germany.

In theory, I love to cook. But that theory includes the idea that I have a lot of time on my hands. At fifty years old, my favorite recipes are those that require a limited commitment. Southwestern Corn Dip is that low-commitment dish. All it takes is five ingredients, six if you count a store-bought bag of tortilla chips.

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Summer is almost here, but now your next evite or barbecue will be a no-sweat affair.

Here’s the full recipe:

Southwestern Corn Dip

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 4.5 ounce can of chopped green chilis/drained

1 11 oz. can Mexicorn/drained

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients and then pour that into an oven-safe casserole dish. If you want this to be extra easy, use a disposable metal pan from the supermarket. Then you don’t have to worry about getting your dish back at the end of the party. Salt and pepper the top to taste. Bake until the top is slightly browned, usually about 40-45 minutes. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Enjoy watching it disappear.

You can find Sharon on Twitter @sharonkurtzman1.

Garlic Chicken Lasagna

This twist on traditional lasagna from Samantha Miner of myweightlossdream garlic chicken for foodie corneris not only delicious, but a lot lower in calories as well.