Classes and Workshops

Oyster News!

Come slurp with me: Saturday January 31 -- SOLD OUT (where should be bring the show next?)

Boston Wine School is hosting "Oysters Deluxe" a master class including fun oyster facts, a shucking demo, and Capt. Marden's lobster dinner to follow. We'll learn about merroir and pair oysters with various wines. Ticket price also includes membership in the Oyster Century Club, your own tasting sheet and shucking knife. Learn why BostInno said the OCC is one of five social clubs Bostonians must join!

You're over your resolutions, you want a break from shoveling. Come let the bubbles and bivalves carry you away...

Saturday February 14

A special Valentine for my beloved bivalve....can't announce yet but mark your calendars and skip amateur night in the restaurants. Why sit home feeling like you should be out having fun when you can come join us, slurp, savor all for a good cause. EEk, I really can't say more but do mark your calendars!

 

Row 34

So Glad You Asked! What is Canola Oil?

I'm starting a new feature here, a series called "So Glad You Asked!" - I want to hear from you. I'll tackle topics like ingredients you're curious about, techniques, recipe revisions or whatever piques your culinary curiosity...for example:

  • What coriander is? How to use it?
  • Wondering about a new cuisine and looking for a starter recipe?
  • Curious about an ingredient?
  • Pros and Cons of the latest fad or trend?

All are fair game. Simply drop a comment with your question. If you're curious, you know lots of other people are, too. I'm going to get the ball rolling by answering a question one of my private cooking clients asked about.

What is Canola Oil? 

Some people have shied away from canola oil because they don't know where it comes from. We know peanut oil comes from peanuts. Olive oil from olives. Corn oil from corn. But what the heck is a "canola" anyway?

Turns out - nothing! It's actually a made up name for rapeseed oil, originated by the Canadian rapeseed oil marketers to get around the unfortunate association we have with the word "rape" in English. Rapeseed is from the rape plant -brassica napum -from the Latin rāpum turnip. It's a member of the mustard family - see the color of the flowers below? What does that remind you of? Think of "broccoli rabe"  or "rape" ("rah-pay"), rapini. These are all derived from the same plant and name. In fact broccoli rabe is cime di rape which is "head of the turnip" in Italian. So this whole turnip/mustard/brassicacae plant family - it's one you need to know. First, because, well, brassicas = YUM. Second, they're really healthy. Third, they're easier to incorporate than you may think. Try blanching and freezing in a muffin tin. Then you've got portions ready to go into a soup, stew or smoothie.

Did you know?

Another superfood we all love today goes by a new name, it used to be called Colewort. Do you know what this is? Kale!

In fact, the Colewort family includes kale, collards, cabbages, broccoli, kolrabi ...

rapeseed oil AKA Canola

 

But what about that nasty "scientific" report I heard about? 

There is no shortage of misinformation on this product but I urge you to look at Snopes.com for a handy analysis of this silliness. One of the oft-cited "dangers" goes back to the historic uses of rapeseed oil in China. Taking what was grown primarily for livestock feed (a common purpose for the plant to this day) the seeds were pressed into oil but not refined. Today's Canola oil is refined. What difference does this make? Nutritionally the older version of unrefined rapeseed oil was not healthy for high heat cooking. It contained potentially unhealthy levels of erucic acid. Some animal studies in the 1970s showed ill effects from erucic acid.

Today's Canola oil is a different product. The composition is actually a very healthy oil. Canola oil contains more oleic acid and alpha linoleic acid than erucic.

From WebMD

  • Canola oil has 7% saturated fat, compared to 12% for sunflower oil, 13% for corn oil, and 15% for olive oil. There's solid evidence low fat is not the answer, it's the type of fat we should be concerned about.
  • It is very high in healthier unsaturated fats. It's higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except flaxseed oil.

canola

Uses for Canola oil

Rapeseed oil has a light, neutral flavor and high smoke point. It's a great choice for dishes when you don't want the flavor of olive oil or peanut oil. It can be used in salads, stir fries, even baking.

Look at this gorgeous Chiffon Cake made with Canola oil in place of butter.

  • Canola oil has the lowest saturated fat
  • is trans-fat free
  • is a good plant-based source of Omega 3 fatty acids

More info on Omega 3s.

And if you have food allergies, as I do, you need to know what oil your restaurant is using. "Vegetable oil" can be problematic if you have soy allergy, for example. Here's a great post by Amy (Adventures of an Allergic Foodie) that covers some of the fine points. Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know. From what I've read, there's some room for disagreement on whether highly refined oils contain enough particles to trigger a reaction. As Amy discovered, you may have to learn what your body will tolerate. Hopefully you can avoid trauma in the education process.

 

So Glad You Asked about Canola Oil. 

Now, what other culinary questions do you have?

 

Oysters Deluxe at The Boston Wine School - a great gift for yourself or a friend

Aren't you starting to think about next year already? I know I am. In the last flush of holiday hustle, there are so many decisions to make. I've been intrigued by the notion of decision-fatigue. Even President Obama understands the power of eliminating decision-fatigue. I think I read that he wears only one or two suits, completely eliminating wasted energy on unimportant decisions. Having some constraints actually can be freeing since it turns out, our brains seem to have a finite ability to make decisions. Even unimportant ones seem to detract from our ability to make later decisions. This applies to critical and non-critical things. It applies to will-power and food decisions. If you're starting to think about resolutions, it's an interesting thing to consider. While I love diversity in food, I've found that having the breakfast routine really helps me start the day on a positive note and that leads to better food choices throughout the day. But before we get to resolutions, let's finish up our holiday decisions, shall we?

Should we bake more cookies? What should we put on the menu for Christmas dinner - duck? Seafood? Turkey? Is it too late to do a year-in-review TinyLetter? (TinyLetters are shorter and more personal than a newsletter, sign up here and let me know what you think.) What's the best gift I could give myself or my favorite person?

My goal is always to make your life more delicious, more grounded, more informed, and more fun. So here we go, I'm reducing your decision fatigue right here and now:

1. Cookies: While some of us have been requested to "stop baking cookies" by those watching their figures. I think cookies are such a simple joy. I say yes! Bake one more batch. You can help moderate your sweet tooth in a couple of ways. Most all cookie doughs freeze well. This means you can bake a small batch and roll the rest in parchment and wrap well for future slice-and-bake treats. I have a log of peanut butter cookie dough in the freezer now. Okay, most of a log of peanut butter cookie dough...

Cookie Platter

2. Christmas menu: Unlike Thanksgiving which tends to be traditional, with favorites requested again and again; Christmas dinner around here seems to be the time for a little flexibility. This year I think we'll do a seafood risotto Christmas Eve and a roast duck Christmas day. Or maybe a turkey breast. I've got that killer cranberry-raspberry sauce from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry and those crackly, sparkling cranberries are begging to be made again.duck_sugared_cranberries

3. TinyLetter: We do love to re-connect with loved ones this time of year. Newsy updates, photo cards, and year-end emails and "listicles". If it seems too much to create your newsletter from scratch, check out TinyLetter. I got great feedback on my first one sent just before Thanksgiving. (Included two recipes for apple cake, too. If you missed it let me know, I'll be happy to re-send.) I've got a special one coming out soon. BOLO: TinyLetter.

4. Killer gift ideas: Okay. I know some of you might still be hunting for the perfect gift. Only three days left to Christmas - how did that happen?  I love to give and get experience gifts. Who needs more stuff?

  • For Cooks: How about private cooking lesson in your own kitchen with a skilled and patient cook at your side? Learn to make food you love with Kitchen Confidence. Email me to set a time for a free consult call. What have you been dying to learn?
  • For the Bivalve Curious: A night out with a special meal, delicious wines, charming company sounds heavenly, doesn't it? Even better, how about a lobster dinner with the "snob-free" Boston Wine School preceded by an everything you always wanted to know about oysters but were afraid to ask class with me? Come join me for this fun tasting adventure, see what wines you prefer with your oysters, discover a few surprises, impress your friends with your new-found oyster lore. What better way to kick off the new year: well-fed, well-lubricated and full of new tastes and ideas. Also, did I mention? OYSTERS. Guests get Oyster Century Club membership and a special gift in addition to dinner and the oyster class. Jonathon's classes sell out and seating is limited so click today!

Oyster_Knife

Foodservice East | Guest Column: Ten Points of Liability & Ten Best Practices

15 Million Americans have food allergies and we crave a great dining experience just as much as our non-allergic friends and families do. Restaurants that "get it" and offer us a relaxing and safe dining experience will be rewarded with repeat business. Restaurant staff in all positions - front of the house, back of the house, bar - each member of the staff need to know how to avoid making guests with food allergies sick, or worse. Where can allergens hide? What are the differences between intolerance and allergies? What is the difference between cross-contaminiation and cross-contact?

Foodservice East

Foodservice East, a business publication for the Northeast foodservice industry, began in 1926 as Hotel & Restaurant News in Boston. Susan Holaday the current editor and publisher invited me to write this guest column on the topic of food allergies.

Food Allergy Service Checklist

 

no room for error

I wrote this column as a risk assessment checklist. It includes ten ways to get it wrong and ten accompanying best practices. Click here to read the post: Foodservice East | News and information for the Northeast foodservice industry. Interested in a training  or consult for your restaurant? I've designed a one hour session that can be delivered in a normal staff training hour or pre-meal meeting. I also offer a menu consult, and risk assessment.

An Evening of Beer, History, and a Boatload of Oysters

  Well I'm on my way shortly here to a terrific event at Harpoon Brewery.

Imagine a giant Venn Diagram with Oysters, Beer, History, Culinary Geekdom all intersecting. THAT is where we'll be tonight!

 

CB

An Evening of Beer, History, and a Boatload of Oysters... Tickets, Boston - Eventbrite.

Anything is Possible - Oysters and Out of the Shell Pairings at Urban Grape

Kicking off the news season of pop-ups at The Urban Grape, The Oyster Century Club co-hosted an evening of inventive pairings with five oystsers expertly shucked by The Boston Raw Bar Company.

Shucking and Slurping

TJ Douglas knocked it out of the park with the pairings:

  • Wellfleets (Crassostrea Virginicas) welcomed our guests paired with a sparkling Gruner Veltliner.
  • Urban Hops' Ben Bouton chose a Leipziger Gose to pair with Sunken Meadows (Crassostrea Virginicas) from Eastham.
  • Kiapara (Crassostrea Gigas) from New Zealand were paired with Bride of the Fox Saké.
  • Kumamotos (Crassostrea Sikamea) from Totten Inlet Washington paired with light Sicilian red: Cos Frappato.
  • and we ended with Pangea's own Standish Shore (Crassostrea Virginicas)from Duxbury. This was paired with an intense new gin from the Schwarzwald, Germany's Black Forest.

I shared some thoughts on the oysters, sustainability, merrroir, demonstrated how to shuck with our Oyster Century Club shucking knife, and chatted with new members. Good time had by all!

Follow the hashtag #oyster100 to see news of upcoming tastings and tweetups.

Thanks to Boston Raw Bar, Pangea Shellfish and the Whole Urban Grape team for a delicious and eye-opening evening!

UGcollage

 

and you know me, if some is good, more is better...

 

my night cap:

nightcap

 

Sweet dreams indeed. See you at our next event!

An Urban Affair: Out of the Shell. The Oyster Century Club @ The Urban Grape

I wish I could say "come join us" but this event sold out before I could even post about it! Will post photos soon. For now, you can follow along using the #oyster100 hashtag on Twitter or FB or IG. Stop by The Urban Grape and ask what to pair with your next dozen oysters at home.

An Urban Affair: Out of the Shell Tickets, Boston - Eventbrite.

 

Oyster_Knife

 

Isn't she a beauty? We're including Oyster Century Club membership for all attendess and the first 20 get a free Oyster Century Club shucking knife!

 

Welcome to the Oyster Century Club©!

Find out why BostInno said we're one of 5 social clubs in Boston that you must join! The Oyster Century Club

Tasting our way through 100 varieties of oysters with prizes for milestones along the way. (Congratulations Larry Yu for winning the first one!)

To get the ball rolling, the first 10 members to join will receive autographed copies of the definitive Oyster lover's book: A Geography of Oysters. Rowan Jacobsen's guide includes tasting notes on over 100 types of oysters, clever descriptions of oyster lovers by type (The Shrinking Violet, The Brine Hound, The Connoisseur...), recipes and regional guides.

For OCC© members who reach 100 varieties, there will be a certificate of the accomplishment suitable for framing.

We'll use the hashtag #oyster100 on Twitter. We'll snap our photos and share our slurps on Facebook. We'll give each other a heads up when favorite oyster bars feature special oysters not to be missed. Belons in town? Tweet it and let us know!

  • Bookmark this page for updates.
  • Buy your Oyster Century Club© Tasting Sheet (see sidebar)
  • Make a date for an oyster bar near you, buy some oysters to shuck at home, or plan an oyster tasting party!

FAQs

Why oysters? Why now?

I love them - you love them. I began to wonder how many I've tried. I wanted to share the love and to create a fun event to christen the new website. 

Do I have to get the oyster bar to sign my form? Must I have it with me when I dine out?

Please be considerate of your servers and shuckers. If you can get someone's initials without disrupting their work, by all means, do. It will be fun to see later how many you had here or there and to remember the evening. If everyone's too busy or you forgot your form: simply snap a pic and Tweet it with the #Oyster100 hashtag, then make a note that you've done so.

As we mount a midden of spent shells, we might get distracted. To keep our focus, we will have special prizes/incentives for benchmarks along the way as well as special guest posts and recipes.

In order to be eligible for the prizes you must document tasting via your form.

Do I have to live in Boston to play along?

No! You can join and track your tasting adventures from where ever you live!

Can I include varieties I taste at home?

Of course! We have discovered that the seafood counter at Whole Foods - Charles River Park is a great place to find fresh oysters to enjoy at home. See what's available at your local Whole Foods Seafood counter.

How will you know if I've really tasted all 100?

Well obviously, this is an honor system, but I'm sure I can count on my fellow fans of bivalves to be honest, right? Your form will be filled out for prizes and I'll be seeing who's tweeting with the #Oyster110 hashtag.

Is there really such a thing as merroir?

Of course! Consider the vast majority of East Coast oysters are Crassotrea virginica but how different a Wellfleet tastes as compared to a Chincoteague. Just as the Chardonnay grape has a different expression when grown in the soil of Burgundy versus California, so does the environment of the oyster contribute to its flavor. Salinity of the water, the tides, the water temperature, the microorganisms the oysters feed on and filter from the water -- all these factors contribute its profile.

Do grilled or broiled oysters count?

I suppose I'd have to say yes. It would be interesting to see if the flavor of one oyster variety versus another would be apparent through the grilling/broiling flavors.

Great! I'm in - what do I do now?

Get your tasting form (Paypal button sidebar). I'll send your very own Oyster Century Club© tasting form once payment's been received. Tweet your membership with the #Oyster100 hashtag.

Come back to this site where I'll also be sharing recipes, oyster lore, fun facts along the way. Share your oyster experience and if you post, let me know and I'll link back to you and tweet your post, too.

I'm also lining up a few very special guest posts and of course, I'm tasting, tasting. (Umamis and Cotuits most recently.)

August update Oyster Century Club posts and updates.

 

Are You a Member? 5 Boston Social Clubs You Need to Know About | BostInno

We are delighted to be one of five Boston Social Clubs, BostInno singled out for "must join" status! We welcome all new members and have some exciting events on the horizon. Come slurp and sip and laugh and learn with us! We'll tell you why the old "R" month rule is passé and share favorite stories over a platter or two of our beloved bivalves.

Are You a Member? 5 Boston Social Clubs You Need to Know About | BostInno.

Oysters

Oysters

Aw Shucks Slurps & Sips Class: Hashtag Schwag Winner

Our sold-out Oyster Century Club© Slurps & Sips class was a hit! Sixteen oyster lovers became Oyster Century Club members and shared their favorite spots to enjoy oysters, as well as questions. image I demonstrated how to buy, store and shuck at home, shared oyster facts and trivia, and we paired our oysters with three different beverages: a Muscadet, a Saké, and a Stout. Two of the highlights for me were the knowledge that 13 out of 16 attendees said they were likely to try shucking at home as a result of taking this class. I was particularly pleased that the majority of the attendees were delighted at the pairing of saké with oysters.

During and after the class, attendees were invited to Instagram, Tweet, post to Facebook and Pin pics of the class and of their next shuck-at-home adventure. We capped the contest period on June 8 World Ociean Day. Robin Lowe is our winner. She's the one holding our youngest member, William below. I can see delicious days ahead for this young man. WFM_Collage

Oysters and Sustainability and Winning

Greenpeace's 2014 Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) report evaluates and ranks supermarkets on their sustainable seafood policies. Whole foods and Safeway topped the ranking guide. One of the things we talked about was the role of the oyster in sustaining ocean habitat and maintaining protective reef structures that might mitigate super storms like Sandy or Katrina. Congratulations to Whole Foods for their commitment to sustainable seafood.

  • Did you know a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day?

Goodie bags for the class included:

  • branded Oyster Century Club shucking knives
  • a postcard with info on the Mass Oyster Project
  • mignonette ingredients and cocktail sauce

In addition to Oyster Lover placemats for quiz winners, Robin wins a Williams-Sonoma Cooking Class for 2 (a $90 value!) Congratulations Robin!

Social Creatures Ostreaphiles

Oysters are delicious fun. Oyster lovers or Ostreaphiles, are fun and social! Beginning with the class and ending on World Oceans Day, our slurping, sipping attendees generated over 82,000 impressions! Remember to follow the hashtag #oyster100 or bookmark this site, find my Pinterest Boards on Oyster Happenings and The Oyster Century Club© - join us for our next event.

...there will be bubbles...

OCC_OPT

 

Thanks to Whole Foods Market Lynnfield, Williams-Sonoma for hosting and sponsoring!

Find out how we can bring oyster lovers to your venue, email me.

The Oyster Century Club Presents: iPhonography with Brian Samuels - Shoot + Slurp = Success

Don't you love pulling off the impossible? Pull an event together in no time? Drop it right between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Shows you what a few dedicated oyster lovers can do - Thanks to Ashton and Brian and many thanks to Maré for opening early so we could benefit from the great light in the restaurant. Nature cooperated with a good sunny day in the middle of weeks of gray. Hundreds and hundreds of views on EventBrite, social media full court press and we filled our seats and had a blast.

Eight new members, some oyster trivia, half-price oysters and nearly two hours of hands on iphone photography from the fabulous Brian Samuels of A Thought for Food.

And one lucky new member won a gift certificate to Maré! Congrats Gloria!

Occ_Photo_class_collage

 

Social Media Contest

During the class we announced that a prize for most photos posted during and following the class would be tallied at noon Monday and the results are in:

Congratulations Jessica (AKA Little Miss Runshine) in addition to her blog post, Learning How to Shoot Better iPhone Photos with Brian Samuels and the Oyster Century Club at Mare Oyster Bar, she properly tagged and posted the most photos on social media. Go Little Miss Runshine! A set of William Sonoma "Grand Tour" dipping bowls are yours - just in time for holiday entertaining. Reach out and let me know when and where I can drop them off, maybe over a platter of oysters?

 

Oyster Lovers - Join us for a Special "Slurp and Learn" Oyster Century Club Event!

Mare Collage

The Oyster Century Club© invites you for a special midday oyster tasting event.

oyster oyster oyster

 BREAKING NEWS: PARTICIPANTS ALSO GET FREE ADMISSION TO THE EAT BOUTIQUE HOLIDAY MARKET!

...register today, we'll all head over after....

oyster oyster oyster

They Shoot Oysters, Don't They?

This Saturday, December 7 from 12 - 2 ,

we'll be enjoying oysters and special appetizers while

professional photographer and oyster-loving friend, Brian Samuels shares the secrets to capturing great oyster iPhone shots.

We'll be tweeting, instagramming and sharing photos as we shoot and eat.

Brian's classes have been selling out across the country, we're thrilled to grab some time with him Saturday!

Bring a friend!

Sign up today.

MareSelection

 

DozenMare

 

RSandler_Mare_2

How to Host a Guest with Food Allergies and How to be a Good Guest

With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, I thought it was a good time to pull this post together. I've been asked for sometime to offer tips to friends who would like to have us over but perhaps are afraid of feeding us due to my allergies. Misinformation is rampant including two national posts this past week, one listing the "7 major food allergies" (there are 8) and another that purported to debunk myths but did a poor job of it.

Even professional chefs get it wrong sometimes. (e.g. 33% thought frying would destroy the allergens, 25% thought removing nuts from a salad would make it safe to serve to a nut-allergic diner.)

roast turkey

roast turkey

Current estimates are that 15 million Americans have food allergies.

While the "why" of it is still debated and being explored, there's wide agreement that the incidence of food allergies is on the rise. There is no cure, no pill. The only safe course is strict avoidance.

Since getting my own diagnosis, I've researched a great deal on the topic. I've written this piece on dining out with food allergies for the Washington Post. I've developed and delivered training for restaurant staff on safely serving food allergic diners and I try to stay on top of news, research insights, and what's happening with restaurants and allergies.

I started compiling my own list of Do's and Don'ts and have also reached out to friends in the field to see what they'd want to share.

How to host a food-allergic guest

  1. Understand what you're dealing with - have a direct conversation with your guest to get clear. Ask what your guest can and cannot eat. Guessing is dangerous.

  2. Does your guest wish to bring a dish or help out? Maybe cooking together would be fun and enlightening.

  3. Perhaps you can share recipes so your guest can check for problematic ingredients?

  4. Don't announce to the party that someone's allergic, unless they themselves have asked you to share that info.

  5. Don't make substitutions without checking in with your allergic guest. Or at least, alerting them to it.

  6. Understand cross-contact. A large ice bin or buffet style service are opportunities for cross-contact.

How to be a good guest, even with allergies

I'm so grateful when someone is willing to go the extra mile (or seven) to accommodate my food allergies. Often, I will suggest I could just come for drinks or I will bring something delicious to share.

  1. Offer to go over recipes, ingredients. You may wish to bring something that is a good substitute, but which may be unfamiliar to your hosts.

  2. Offer to bring something to share that everyone can safely enjoy. Ask if there are any other intolerances or allergies you need to be aware of.

  3. Bring something extra (wine, flowers, something that can be shared either before or after the meal) for the host to show your appreciation. They have brought you into their home, and probably worried and fussed a little extra about serving you.

  4. Don't play games. If you just don't like something, don't lie and say you're allergic. This serves no one well.

Tips from Allergic Girl, Sloane Miller

Sloane Miller, MSW, LMSW - Author and coach. www.allergicgirl.com "Just because you have a restricted diet, doesn't mean you have a restricted life."

1. Honest communication / conversation about your (the host's) abilities, understanding or knowledge of food allergies is a great place to start. For example: Ask about your guest's specific dietary needs in advance, what is cross contact, and how to protect against cross contact and how or if even you can accommodate them safely to their specifications.

2. When cooking remember: even the tiniest bit can hurt your severely food allergic guest. If there are mistakes or errors or cross contact (and it happens), be honest with your guest about the errors.

3. If you are using prepared foods, keep all labels of any prepared foods to show your guest and let them make an informed choice.

4. Ask your guest what substitutions work for them or if they have a brand that is safe for them. But even so, keep all labels even of a trusted brand as formulations change without notice.

5. Don't be offended if they want or need to bring their own food or want to only join for cocktails or nightcaps.  Sometimes that is the easiest option for everyone.

6. Do your best but know mistakes happen and your guest may need a few visits without dining before they feel safe enough to trust/try dining.

7. Remember: the focus of a get together is to get together; food is merely a vehicle. So enjoy your guest's company with or without food.

Thanks Sloane! Good advice.

What about Gluten-Intolerance and Celiac disease?

I also checked in with the Gluten-Free Girl herself, Shauna Ahern. She's busy testing recipes but offered this excellent post on the specifics of hosting a gluten-free or celiac friend.

The full post is well worth a read, here are some tips I culled from it:

  • Make everything from scratch. I know this sounds daunting to many of you, but I'm here to help! Many things can be done ahead of time and in stages. (Chopping up veggies for stuffing, making pie dough, making stock or gravy, etc.)

  • Only use a packaged product if it says "Gluten Free". This is a big surprise to many people. The way that gluten can sneak into many products you'd never imagine had gluten in them...it's something that trips-up even well-meaning restaurants, too. Modified food starches are quite common and quite often contain gluten. Barley - not wheat but often contains gluten. Barley malt.

  • Be mindful. This is good advice for everyone. We can get so caught up we forget that simple is often better and how satisfying it can be just to stop and smell the roses, or the turkey.

  • Include us. In the planning, in the cooking. We can learn so much from each other. Celebrating each other through and with food is one of life's great pleasures.

I love the post and so much of the do's and don'ts are familiar to me, like when Doc has a bit of cheese and I move in for a smooch. I get the cheek. Lucky for me he's both irresistible and thoughtful. I often think as I'm cooking about all the ways cross-contact can happen, even in my own kitchen sometimes I forget!

  • What are your tips, concerns or questions about holidays and food allergies?

If Content is King, could Curation be Queen, and Pinterest your Pawn?

On the heels of Adam Japko's excellent webinar on Content Curation (here are a few of the tools he referenced), I have been mulling over a couple of striking ideas. One is etiquette and how it's changing in the online world. The other is the notion of curation as a lens through which to view the old adage "Content is King." Maybe a co-leader is a better term? Curation as Queen? Queen

It's not that SEO is dead, or that content is passé, it's that the massive amount of information available to anyone today creates an unmanageable flow of data. Like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. We need curation, if only to help us identify which stream of info is important to us. Once we do that, then we can write or share content with SEO in mind.

So aggregators, feeds and the need for such things are driving a ton of new apps and services - Adam shared a whole list which I'm looking forward to exploring, see link above for some. We absolutely need help identifying the things that we think matter among the vast array of data coming at us every minute of every day. These apps work like funnels, or off-ramps, sieves or straws, a redirection and sorting for you in ways you determine through choices, search preferences and such. You get the idea.

Pinterest and Smart Curation

In the meantime, consider Pinterest. If used well, we can drive traffic to our sites, create value and establish authority by harnessing the power of curation, and by doing a few smart things with it, or any other social media tool.

Here are some key pointers I shared in comments at TECHMunch a while back, many of which are echoed in this list of Pinterest mistakes new users make. Adam and I both use the cocktail party analogy in coaching people on social media best practices, probably because we both love parties, but also because it's an apt and accessible analogy.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, and think of the last party you went to.

  • Someone there was probably very self-absorbed and you tried to avoid them.
  • Someone else was a little interesting in that they talked about a lot of new ideas but might not have had something unique to say about those things.
  • And someone at that party really piqued your interest because they had something interesting to say about most things, whether it was a fresh perspective on something old, or a viewpoint on something new.

Be that person on social media (or at the next party) and you will rule. Even if ruling isn't your thing, you'll at least establish yourself as someone that people want to hang with, online or in real life.

On Becoming Queen - Three Tips

1. Share the why, not just the what. It's less interesting to simply share a data point (as in a RT) without context. It's harder in the scope of 140 characters, sure. In other places, like Facebook or blog posts, share your unique spin on something to add more value, be more interesting than that simple RT.

2. Don't just amplify, connect. Sharing a link is good, adding your unique spin is better. Connecting others who share this interest but may not know each other - ka-ching! Be that person at the party that says "Oh Adam, you have to meet my friend Rich, you both know a lot about wine."

3. Adopt/adapt, experiment. Change is constant and it seems to be more rapid than ever. Try out new tools as they come along, many have no cost so the only barrier is your time. Adapt as needed. They used to say "find one niche and be all about that, only that".

I actually believe the complexity and diversity of ideas and information available makes it possible to be a more complex and diverse content provider. People can pick and choose which of your posts, tweets or comments they care to respond to and ignore others. Most of us are more than one thing and have more than one interest. Denying things you are passionate about cuts you off from that audience, as well as the joy of being in the space you naturally gravitate toward.

Experiment and don't be afraid to discard what's not working. This is where the speed of change will work in your favor. I used to write a sports blog ("The Sixteenth Minute - because anyone can be an expert for 15 minutes - it's the sixteenth minute that counts.") Probably no one even remembers it. But I've found sports fans on Twitter. Does it dilute my "food writer" cred? I don't think so.

 

Coming up...

Look for my next post on N'etiquette - avoid alienating audiences or making your followers flee. Old rules, new world.

» What are your pet peeves in terms of etiquette online? Irritating offenses? Practices you find downright rude? Drop a comment here and I may include them in the post.

Kitchen Confidence Tip: Lobster Salad and How to be a Lobster Killer

If you're making lobster rolls at home you can start with shelled lobster meat or steam your own. Here's a beautiful lobster salad you can enjoy in a top split bun: Lobster plate

 

or on a bed of greens:

Lobster Salad

 

 

Tip: 

To humanely kill a live lobster, place the lobster in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will push the lobster into a state of hibernation (they're cold-blooded creatures) so you can handle the comatose crustacean safely and dispatch it quickly.

Next take your dinner-to-be and place it on its back on a firmly anchored cutting board. With a large chef's knife, slice from the bottom set of legs through the head. Then you can easily steam, boil as is or continue to halve it then pan roast for other preparations.

 

How to Make Mayonnaise - Instructographic and Recipe

Homemade Mayonnaise in just four steps. That's right, that's all it takes.

Mayonnaise...

... one of the handiest things around. You can lightly dress a sandwich with it, devil some eggs, add it to salad dressings, make tuna or egg salad, coat chicken to oven fry...It's really just a small handful of ingredients and a simple whisk that stands between you and heavenly spread.

The problem is fat, right? So why not buy low-fat or reduced fat mayo? Usually these have icky additions such as more sugar and they still use cheaper soybean oil as the main fat. Oils can have healthy fat or unhealthy fat - chiefly we’re talking about Omega-6 fatty acids. Without geeking out too much, just know that the important thing is to eat Omega-3 and Omega-6 in proper balance. Americans tend to eat an unhealthy balance skewed heavily toward the Omega-6.

Commercial mayonnaise will also often contain preservatives and possibly other things you can’t pronounce or don’t wish to put in your mouth.

Now, I’m not trying to sell you on Mayonnaise-as-health-food. BUT, I AM hoping to persuade you to try making this at home. One the advantages of making your own mayonnaise at home is the nutritional profile as compared to store-bought. Taste is the other, arguably more important, reason to get out a whisk and a bowl and get cracking. Once you get the basic technique and proportions down, you can tailor your mayonnaise to your taste.

 

What you need:

Two things: a simple list of ingredients which may already have on hand,  and a simple technique.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice OR white wine vinegar OR see below
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 to 1 cup canola, grapeseed or other neutral tasting oil
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper (optional)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Whisk the egg yolks, mustard and acid.
  2. Drip, and I do mean drip, oil in while whisking. Patience is good here.
  3. As the egg yolk mixture begins to come together and you can see the drips of oil disappearing, you can begin to add the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream.
  4. Taste and add salt, white pepper, cayenne to taste. You may also wish to add a pinch of sugar.

 

Options, variations, uses:

Remember when making something with only a few ingredients, especially something you will be eating fresh or cold, the quality of the ingredients is key to a good result. Use the best quality you can for each of the elements, you'll taste the difference.

Acid: Some people insist one must use only lemon juice. Others opt for white wine vinegar. Others like a combination, while still others insist no combining is allowed. Pfft. My only rule is not to use bottled lemon juice. I love Katz' Sparkling Wine Vinegar, and often combine it with lemon.

Oil: I prefer a light, neutral oil. In the instructograph above I began with grapeseed oil. I didn’t want mayo with a greenish hue (olive oil may do this as well) so I added canola oil.

If you wish to increase the proportion of good fat to bad in your mayo, you can use avocado oil, or nut oils, maybe flaxseed oil or light olive oil (first cold pressed, organic). I suggest beginning with a combination of canola and grapeseed.

Seasonings: Some people prefer only salt and white pepper - you may also use black if you don’t mind flecks of black in your mayo. You can omit cayenne altogether, but I like a little. You may add more acid like another squeeze of lemon or vinegar. Taste it and see what you think. Try adding lemon zest or grate garlic on a microplane to create an aioli.

The chief thing to understand is that you are combining two things that don’t want to be combined. In order to make the oil and vinegar play nice together, that is, stay combined in a nice creamy mayonnaise, you need two things: emulsifying agents and technique.

Here, our emulsifiers are lecithin and mustard. Lecithin? You’re wondering where I slipped that in? Egg yolks! These two ingredients are key. In the instructographic you may have noticed a tiny little dish on the lower right of our mise en place that is unlabeled? That is a little water. Water can help the mayo come together if you go too fast with the oil or don’t whisk vigorously enough. But usually it’s not necessary.

Technique:  whisking. The whisk with its loops, incorporates air and if you want to test yourself, try using a fork instead. That’s a workout! You can also use a blender or a stick blender. I think it tastes better whisked but I may be deluding myself there.

If your emulsion "breaks", that is the oil separates from the egg yolks, stop adding oil, add a couple drops of water and whisk vigorously. It will magically smooth out and re-combine.

Now go make yourself some wonderful homemade mayonnaise. Holler when those deviled eggs are done.

 

 

 

The Straight Poop on New Year's Resolutions to Eat Better

I'm often asked what foods one should avoid, whether carbs are evil, and people sometimes assume I eat gluten free (who knows where that came from?!) The simple truth is no true food is really evil and much of the "healthy" advice out there is pure poop. As many of us are thinking about resolutions, it's a good time to separate wheat from chaff. And poop. Speaking of poop, I have decided to make poop the theme of this year's "resolve to eat better" post. More on that in a minute. First, let's review what makes a resolution or any goal succeed or fail. Here's a mnemonic device to help you remember: SMART. How to make your goals and resolutions SMART:

  • S - Specific. Instead of "eat better" try a specific goal: "One meal a week will be whole grain based." It's not so hard. Make whole grain waffles one Sunday (you can freeze and toast for breakfasts later), a pumpkin brown rice risotto for dinner. Bake whole grain muffins on a weekend for grab and go breakfasts.
  • M - Measurable. "Eating better" isn't going to be something you can measure accurately. Make it something you can measure. For example, "eat one meatless meal per week." Easy, especially with the slew of good vegetarian cookbooks out.
  • A - Achievable. This is about setting yourself up to succeed. I could set a goal to exercise 6 days a week. If I were my husband, I might succeed. I am not. I would be more likely to achieve my goal if I said "I will walk three days per week." I could aim for 4-5 but set my lower limit of sloth at three.
  • R - Reasonable. If you grew up like most of us with meat-centric meals, it would be unreasonable to quit carnivorous ways cold turkey, so to speak. How about resolving to buy only pastured, grass-fed beef? Or cage free eggs? Sustainable seafood?
  • T - Time-bound. Goals that are time-bound are more likely to be met. Let's say you have a goal to "exercise more" - sounds nice, right? But isn't it more likely to be achieved if you say "I will walk at least 20 minutes each walk." Or "we will try one new veggie recipe each week."

The Straight Poop

First the bad news. Much of the advice flying around the internet is poop. "Avoid gluten and lose weight" a favorite canard. When people have gluten sensitivity or are Celiacs, of course they must avoid gluten. The rest of us really are better off with whole grains in our diets, and yes, that includes gluten. Those who have experienced weight loss eating gluten-free most likely have done so because they've largely eliminated processed crap from their diet. Do that and you're ahead of the game either way. In fact, most people find that eating whole grains help them maintain more steady blood sugar, a feeling of fullness and an enjoyment in the eating itself from added flavors and textures. All these benefits will help in anyone hoping to lose weight. This is why I don't like the "low carb" craze. It works for some (more for men than women) but I've seen precious few who can maintain it and if you're eliminating foods that could be helpful, which you could enjoy in healthy ways, you're depriving yourself of healthy and sensual dining experiences. Why?

Another pet peeve is the "juicing to remove toxins" craze. Now, fresh pressed juices from organic fruit and vegetables is good, don't get me wrong. Is it a cure for a season of overindulgence? No. Is it a replacement for well-balanced food? No. Read this excellent article  Why Juice 'Cleanses' Don't Deliver - Eat + Run (usnews.com) debunking the juice cleanse. Movement. Another word for poop, of course, but also a concept to strive for. Incorporate movement into your SMART goals. Move to music, walk through the city (see my friend Marc Hurwitz' AMC urban hikes, for some group walks).

Some of us have suffered losses in 2012 or setbacks in our work, stumbled in relationships. "Move through it, learn from it, get over it" is my motto. Obviously, grief takes time and is never a straight line. All of life's losses have something to teach us and movement can help us avoid getting stuck in a bad place. "Get over it", is not to be flip, but to remind myself to laugh. Spend time with a toddler or a baby and have some belly laughs. Watch how they laugh from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes. Go see a funny comedian or watch a favorite funny movie. So get up and MOVE your body.

  • Try standing instead of sitting at the computer. Try doing it one or two days a week to start. Sitting for long stretches, more than six hours a day, can make someone at least 18% more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day. (read more.)
  • Even getting up every 20 minutes or so can be beneficial. Make scheduled breaks for a walk to get a glass of water versus a break for social networking - seated, online - will be an improvement.

Moving toxins through our system. 

We'd like to eat bad food, drink like fish, and then do something simple like drink a smoothie and believe that will undo the harms. Me too! But it just isn't so. I'm not advocating a monastic lifestyle. Not the girl with the pound of foie in the fridge. Eating all sorts of things and drinking in moderation is okay in my book. Okay, as long as it doesn't become our norm and as long as we keep to the routine of moving, moving. I've over-indulged this holiday season but am trying to walk as often as I can. (doesn't sound like a specific, measurable goal does it? hm...) One of the best ways to move toxins -- or to be more accurate, waste -- through our system is to eat sufficient fiber. Fiber is what "grabs" waste and forms poop which we eliminate. Much good fiber comes from vegetables and grains. More of these are not only more satisfying to cook to eat, to chew, to enjoy; they are also far better at helping your process of elimination.

swirl
swirl
Wall_o_kimchi
Wall_o_kimchi

Another thing which can help is adding probiotic foods or supplements to your diet. Since much of our diet is further in time or geography from its source, we lose some nutrition even if we eat as locally as possible. Especially during the winter months in the Northeast. We also tend to eat less fermented foods here than in other countries. Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics which are the good bacteria that support gut health. I've been adding Kombucha to my diet, thanks to my sister-in-law's recommendation. I love it and definitely feel it's helping keep the gut happy.  

gut health
gut health

And by "gut" I mean the poop shoot. This is a good scholarly paper on the emerging medical wisdom of the need to address gut health.

← Poop shoot!

Our intestines are where many things - good things -  happen. Absorption of nutrition we take in, regulation of immune function, etc. At the very least, it seems safe to say that eating a highly processed, low fiber diet, leading a sedentary lifestyle both contribute to less than healthy outcomes.

In the end

Here are a few SMART things you can do to improve your eating, your wellness, your enjoyment of life in 2013. These will also improve your "process of elimination" better than any products you might buy, and support all those good things that happen in your poop shoot. 1. Incorporate a whole grain based meal one day per week.

  • Culinate has a great grains guide. Their list includes TWENTY. Pick one for each month and find a recipe that intrigues you, try it out!
  • Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (link takes you to Mussels with Farro post and includes links to book, site) is inspirational. A beautiful cookbook bringing the sexy to whole grains.
  • Grain Mains is another great book for "grainiacs" - including this new staple of my pantry: Whole Grain Waffles. (favorite whole grain sourcing info included in that post.)

2. Make a movement goal. 

  • Try yoga in the privacy of your own home with a DVD like Rodney Yee's Yoga for Beginners. Just 20 minutes in the morning or afternoon or evening is all it takes.
  • Walk more. Try a goal of parking further from the grocery store. Taking two flights of stairs instead of an elevator you normally take for four. In just a week or so you will see improvement. Who can't do two flights of stairs? Okay, start with one.

3. Make it a goal to improve the quality and decrease the quantity of meats you consume.

  • Even if you cannot do it with every meat purchase, make a goal to do it some percentage of the time. Or choose some items that you'll buy organic and give yourself wiggle room on others. For example, these items carry the highest pesticide load: The Dirty Dozen.
  • Grass-fed meats have a lower carbon foot print and better nutritional profile. Choose pastured meats from local farms instead of "cheap" meats that contain antibiotics you don't need. Cows are ruminants and their stomachs are not designed to eat grains. Prophylactic antibiotics are used to keep them from getting sick on the unnatural, rapid-fattening diets they are fed. Don't get me started on horrible feed ingredients that sometimes include downer cows, and more.
  • Eat one meatless meal per week. Meatlovers' Meatless Celebrations is a great book for eating well, even at holiday and special meals. Recipes will satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike. This is not about "giving up" it's about "adding to" your culinary repertoire.

[Shameless self-promotion warning]

4. Take a class with me to gain more kitchen confidence. Learn to shop, cook, eat, better with a trusted friend by your side in the comfort of your own kitchen.

  • Learn how to avoid marketing influences that lead you away from whole foods, true foods and toward processed. Take me shopping with you and we'll explore how to read labels and choose foods wisely. Which foods are more or less sustainable? Which veggies are loaded with pesticides?
  • Explore adding joy and chew and flavor to your diet through whole grains. We'll cook delicious whole grains you will be excited to incorporate into your regular rotation.
  • Tailor a class or a series to you and yours: cooking with kids; exploring flavors of North Africa; Japanese food you can make at home.
  • To learn more about the kinds of things I can teach you, click on over here.

If you'd like to customize a session, please call! Thanks for sharing this info with your foodie friends.