Eat - Better

30 Days of Vitamix: Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie - The Un-chunky Monkey

Yesterday started out with a frenzy of work, the early morning punctuated by the image of some gorgeous brownies topped with salted peanut butter frosting. Occupational hazard of food writing is that you get a steady stream of enticing food images and recipes every minute of every day. I was so tempted. Brownies, after all, are so quick to make. But the day was stacked. I began to think of simply scooping peanut butter with hunks of chocolate. Not that I've ever done that before. Of course I have. Then I remembered Red, AKA my sexy new pro Vitamix. I decided to make a smoothie version of the decadent treat. After all, I could always make the brownies tomorrow.

Smoothie Pro Tips

One of the best uses for muffin tins is to portion things. Here, I've portioned a bunch of banana slices. Once they're frozen, I pop the blocks into a zip top bag and every time I want a smoothie with a creamy base, all I have to do is grab one or two of the banana blocks to start.

Banana_muffin_tin

 

Now on to our smoothie du jour...I wanted to amp up the nutrition of the decidedly dessertish treat.

Pro tip #2

Adding oats to your diet is a good thing. I eat them almost every day and I find that reducing the decision-making in the morning is a very good thing. Knowing I'll have oats one way or another means less options to choose something unhealthy, reducing the likelihood I'll skip breakfast altogether, and a morning base of oats keeps you full and keeps the blood sugar steady for quite a while.

If I am in a smoothie rather than porridgey mood: I often start by soaking the oats in the Vitamix for about ten minutes. (That's about two tweets, one Facebook scan or enough time to burn a piece of toast. Trust me, it's no time at all.)

Here, my oats are resting in So Delicious coconut milk. You could use regular milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp...whatever.

PB Chocolate smoothie 3

The Un-chunky Monkey Smoothie

PB Chocolate smoothie 1

 

So you can see clockwise from the milk, I started with about 1/2 C; then peanut butter, cocoa, oats, flax seed, bananas and two dates. Plenty of sweetness there. Can you guess what else I added for additional nutrition?

PB Chocolate smoothie 2

 

Baby spinach leaves. They're so delicate in flavor you don't taste them in the smoothie but you're adding fiber, vitamin A & C, plus iron.

The result?

PB Chocolate smoothie 4

 

The Un-chunky Monkey - a very filling smoothie. Given the sugar in the shake and the oats, I found this easy to use in place of a meal. That's to say I wasn't hungry for a long time. It satisifed the chocolate-peanut butter urge, it kept my blood sugar steady and it gave me some protein, minerals, antioxidants, but best of all: Delicious!

 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C of milk of your choice
  • 3 TBSP smooth organic peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP cocoa
  • 1/4 C oats
  • ~ 1 TBSP ground golden flax
  • 2-4 dates to taste (2 was plenty for me but I don't love sweet)
  • ~ 1/3 C of frozen banana
  • ~ 1/2 oz of baby spinach leaves (a small handful)

Directions:

  1. Place oats and milk in blender, let soak for 10 minutes for extra smoothness.
  2. Add rest of ingredients, top with a handful of ice.
  3. Blend, adding ice or milk to desired consistency.

 

Remember to follow #30daysofVitamix and my Pinterest board of the same name for more smoothie tips and recipes.

Don't Let Food Allergies Ground You - me in the Boston Globe

Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning's Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section's need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don't forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven's recipe.

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?

 

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies - Dipped and Salted and Wonderful

It's easy to love a site that delivers consistent recipes you can trust. There are a couple I turn to often, particularly if I'm making something I haven't made in awhile. I know I can trust their straightforward technique and reliable results. Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes is as advertised. Simply Recipes. Check out her chocolate crinkles. I have adopted her recipe as a regular in my rotation and I like to mix matcha powder in the confectioner's sugar. Michael Ruhlman also writes in a confident, clear voice and I enjoy the expert comments and his wife Donna Turner Ruhlman's beautiful photographs. Check out his All Strain cloths. I'm a new convert and I'll be writing about them soon so stay tuned.

Milk and _______

COOKIES - yes? YES. I favor savory and salty more than sweets, maybe that's why I cannot stop eating these peanut butter cookies. This is positively the best recipe I've found for peanut butter cookies. Many of my clients seek Kitchen Confidence help when they'd like to improve their health and their enjoyment of food. Sometimes they think it means they have to give up cookies like these.

PB Cookies2 4 (1)

 

Personally, I don't do deprivation well. If I try to deny myself something I like, I only wind up craving it more. Instead, I've worked on other things, like portion control and exercise. Another new rule is that any "junk" should be homemade. Much easier to control the quality of the food if you make it yourself. Cookies are a perfect example. Buy a box at the store and you're likely to get all sorts of salt and sugar and chemicals you don't need. And they won't be as satisfying as homemade. Ever.

When I bake cookies, I can not only omit the dairy, eliminate contact with tree nuts, for my allergies (very hard to control in store-bought); I can also use healthier flours and make just the cookies I want. The other thing you can do when you follow the "if I make it myself" rule is to freeze dough and just make a small batch at a time. Just because a recipe produces 6 dozen cookies doesn't mean I have to have 6 dozen cookies sitting around making eyes at me.

PB Cookies2 2 (1) PB Cookies2 1 (1)

 

 

I made a couple dozen for sharing and rolled the dough in parchment paper  and popped it in the freezer. When the next craving came on, I did some exercise first then sliced and baked one dozen. Inspiration and good dairy-free chocolate struck, so I melted, dipped and sprinkled with a little bit of crunchy Maldon Sea Salt.

Perfect.

Big Thanks to David Leite, Founder of Leite's Culinaria - another of my favorite and very reliable sites. I had the pleasure of interviewing David years ago, around the time his first book came out. He was already quite well-known but could not have been nicer to talk to. I love his book. His site has one thing many sites do not have: testers! You KNOW a recipe he posts will WORK. This is culinary gold, especially for new or less confident cooks. Nothing irritates me more than when a client shows me a recipe they "failed" at - and I look at it and can instantly see it's a crap recipe. From an untested site.

I recommend these sites, this cookie recipe and don't worry about having cookies in the house. You know "Leite" is Portugese for milk? How perfect is that?

 Cookie PlatterPeanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Crinkles, and Bourbon Orange Chocolate Truffles

Jam thumbprints in the back.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

This is one of our holiday favorites, albeit it newer tradition. This year, I had a bottle of Basque still cider that I wasn't fond enough of to drink, it was so yeasty and apple-y I couldn't toss it. What to do? Cranberries, of course! The added benefit: at the end of the process you have lovely spiced apple simple syrup that goes so well with Mescal. It would be fantastic with a hot rum or Bourbon drink, too. So really, you end up with TWO terrific products. Now, if you're not familiar with apple ciders I urge you to get to a good wine shop and ask for an intro. There are so many lovely ciders out there now, many made with heirloom apples. They're great with pork chops (in brine or a pan sauce) and they are fantastic with cranberries.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

For this recipe, start with whole fresh cranberries. If you have frozen whole cranberries it should work, but I've not yet tried it so I can't guarantee it. Begin this recipe a day ahead as the cranberries will get an overnight rest in their syrup. The active time for this recipe is minimal but you'll want to include resting/drying time and start the day before you plan to serve these.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Whole fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups Granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (most of one bottle) apple cider
  • Raw or brown sugar (here I used turbinado)
  • a few cloves, a star anise, (a cinnamon stick would probably be great, too.)

Directions

  1. Line a half sheet pan with waxed paper.
  2. Place sugar, spices, and cider in sauce pan, heat and stir to dissolve sugar.
  3. When sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Rinse cranberries, pick out stems.
  5. Syrup should still be pretty warm but not scalding. Dump the cranberries into a container that will go into the fridge overnight. Pour hot syrup over the cranberries.
  6. Rest overnight in the fridge (the cranberries not you, you've got other things to do.)

Next day:

  1. Remove cranberries strain from syrup (and save that syrup!)
  2. Place turbinado sugar on a dinner plate. Take cranberries about a cup at a time and roll around in sugar, then place on prepared sheet pan.
  3. Rolling cranberries in small batches prevents too much dripping and caking of the sugar. Should you get lots of lumps in it, just remove the lumps into the simple syrup.
  4. When all your cranberries have their first coating of sugar, move the tray to a cool, dry spot to rest and dry completely. Should take a few hours.
  5. For the second toss in sugar, you can simply re-roll. I find a light brushing of the simple syrup helps the second coating adhere better.
  6. Let dry completely.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

crackly, sparkly cranberries

Spiced Apple Simple Syrup

spiced Basque apple cider syrup

duck_sugared_cranberries

sparkling cranberries and a roast duck

Gather platter cranberry

sparkling cranberries, small chestnut apples and kale surround the Thanksgiving platter

30 Days of Vitamix - Say hello to Red!

I like red for so many reasons. It's lucky. It's life. It can pull me out of blue. It's the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women's Heart Health. And it's just plain sexeh.

Meet Red

There's my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I'm calling her "Red." She's strong. Powerful. Occasionally loud. Gets the job done. I think we're going to be good friends. I hope she'll last half as long as my old handmixer did. (see Ode to a Handmixer.) That little Black & Decker handmixer, bought my first year of law school just died. I mean, like last week. The Waring anniversary blender a couple weeks ago. I thought I could make do with the food processor but I'm telling you, I'm a fool in love.

Red

There's Red. She's a beauty, isn't she?

 

As I registered her, I saw something about an affiliate program. Well, stay tuned on that.

#30DaysofVitamix

I'm starting a new series here: "30 Days of Vitamix". I'll be including posts on using the Vitamix. I'll cover techniques, ingredients to know, tips, and recipes, including some healthy and some boozy inspirations. Frozen Negroni anyone?  Here's a taste of just some of the things we'll be writing about soon.

 

 

Vitamix Collage

Thanks to my wonderful husband for this terrific gift! A great addition to the family!

Colossal Roundup of Thanksgiving Recipes - Including our Black Pepper- Fennel Seed Biscuits

Good friends Denise and Lenny AKA ChezUs.com have compiled a gorgeous round up of dishes from across the country. They've culled the blogs and compiled a mammoth list of terrific links to recipes for every component of your Givingthanks meal. If you're looking for a little inspiration grab a mug of tea and click away!  

black pepper fennel seed biscuits

 

Black pepper - fennel seed biscuits. These are dairyfree, "buttermilk" biscuits.

Pro tip: Biscuits are an easy thing to make ahead and freeze.

Witches, Marathons and Meetings - Falling for Fennel

Fennel is one of my favorite spices. While actually the fruit of the fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare ) we typically refer to these tiny ridged and fragrant fruits, as seeds. fennel seed

The word “fennel” derives from the Roman for “fragrant hay” and has a lovely scent. I adore the fennel bulb, shaved thin in salads, roasted with root veg, or diced into marinara. I save the fronds to top salads or fish and the middle, green stalks go into my stock bag in the freezer. Fennel pollen is said to be what angels would sprinkle from their wings.

Fennel apple celery2

Fennel grows or is cultivated in temperate climes the world over, but is most associated with Mediterranean and Indian cuisines. Chinese Five Spice powder includes it, as does the Bengali version, panch phoron. Italians call the plant finocchio (also a slang term for cross-dressers) and admire the flavor as well as the quality of aiding digestion.

  • Back in Shakespearean times fennel was thought to ward off witches. Some believe it has magical powers including protection, longevity, purification, and healing.
  • Marathon (Marathonas) is the place where the Greeks defeated the Persians in 490. It is said the fields were abundant with fennel.
  • Puritans brought “meeting seeds” to chew during long sermons, dill and fennel were among them.

Fennel_Collage

Clockwise from top: Bulb of fennel; fennel, celery, Granny Smith apple; fennel pollen pork chops; shaved fennel, green apple, celery salad, fennel fronds, fennel pollen. 

Using Fennel Today

We now know that fennel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It’s got antimicrobial qualities as well as potassium, and antioxidants. Many cultures value its mild anise or licorice flavor and chew the seeds after eating both for breath-freshening and to aid in digestion. Garnish fish dishes or salads with the fronds. Pork and chicken both love fennel. Try the seeds in your next rib rub. Or how about in biscuits?

Fennel_biscuit

 

Recipe: Fennel Seed - Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits

Teaching Kitchen Confidence clients biscuit technique is always a delight. Everyone loves a biscuit! I always recommend Nathalie Dupree's Southern Biscuits cookbook. I've modifeld her recipe ever so slightly to include a generous amount of both fennel seed and freshly ground black pepper. I also modified it to make them dairy-free, but you may feel free to use dairy.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP flour (+ 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tabelspoon fennel seed, crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chilled shortening roughly cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 1/4 cup chilled shortening roughly cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I use So Delicious Dairy-free Coconut milk, soured with 1-2 tablespoons Bragg's Cider Vinegar)
  • softened butter for brushing

A note on ingredients: I like to use a combination of Nutiva Red Palm and Coconut Oil and Spectrum All Vegetable Shortening.

Directions:

A note on technique: Perfect biscuits require attention to three Ts: Technique, Temperature, Touch. Technique - fold and pat - no kneading! Cut straight down, not turning! Temperature - cold fat. Touch - quick work makes tender biscuits.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 9" cake pan or large cast iron skillet.
  2. Measure your shortening and use a butter knife to scoop into 1/4" and 1/2" size pats. I wipe the knife on the edge of a bowl. Place bowl in freezer to harden the fats.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk 2 C of flour, baking powder, salt, spices, baking soda.
  4. Take the shortening out and pinch the pats into the flour, beginning with the smaller chunks. Be fast as you don't want the fat to melt. Snap and rub the larger chunks into the flour.
  5. Make a hollow in the center of the flour-fat mixture and pour in 3/4 C of the butter milk. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened and you have a sticky dough.
  6. Lightly flour your clean counter, turn the dough onto the counter. If some flour remains in bowl, dribble a little more buttermilk into the bowl to pick it up.
  7. Pat or lightly roll your dough out to about 1/2" thickness. Fold and pat a few times, working quickly and ending with a dough circle about 3/4" thick.
  8. Use a biscuit cutter, dipped in flour, cut straight down, remove biscuit to pan. An offset metal spatula is helpful. Cut close to maximize first batch, the re-rolled scraps will be less tender but still tasty.
  9. Lightly brush biscuits with the leftover buttermilk.
  10. Bake 6 minutes then rotate pan. Bake another 10 or so minutes until they're golden brown. (milk and milk substitutes brown differently, you may wish to turn on the broiler a minute or so to get a nice brown top.)
  11. Remove from oven, brush lightly with soft butter.

These are perfect with Curried Kuri Squash Bisque, with turkey or pork meals, or just on their own. ENJOY.

 

Just in time for Halloween - Chocolate Sundrops

I was thrilled to add PASCHA Chocolates to my roster of clients and delighted to work with them. I learned about their fine chocolates at the Food Allergy Research and Education conference where I was a speaker last June in Chicago. I enjoyed meeting Courtenay Vuchnich and her chocolates so much, I had to tell EVERYONE to try them!

Now you can make these delicious cookies at home. Because they're free of the top 8 allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, wheat) they're also safe for lunchbox or classroom treats that might get shared. Take a batch to your next Halloween party and watch them disappear. The recipe appears here on the PASCHA Chocolates website. Thanks Roz for the name!

drops_FIN 009

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!

 

GGF Salad :: Grains + Greens + Fruit = Wonderful

This salad is a fantastic summer meal in itself, a great bring-with dish, and a side for barbecue. To make a quick version, use freekeh (cooks in 20 minutes!) or quinoa or barley. Barley and freekeh are quicker cooking grains, you could also use quinoa (not true grain) or bulgur (wheat) if you like a softer smaller quick-cooking grain . I particularly like the snappy chew of freekeh or wheatberries in this sort of substantial salad.

GGF salad Grains, Freekeh: Greens, Rainbow Chard; Fruit, Blueberries.

For this rendition, I got some beautiful Rainbow Chard, chopped and blanched the stems, chopped two small onions, half a red bell pepper, one mango. I made ribbons (chiffonade) of the chard leaves. No need to blanch unless they're really tough.

Dressing

I used the juice of one lemon. I added approximately two tsp grated fresh ginger, 2 tsp mild white miso, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp dijon mustard. Whisked in Meyer lemon olive oil to taste.

Adjust seasoning with S & freshly ground black pepper.

 

Directions:

1. Make freekeh. Toast dry kernels in heavy bottom pot, just large enough to hold the completed amount. Add water when kernels begin to darken. I use a 3:1 ratio, draining off excess when it's all done. Pinch of salt. You can make ahead. Cool, cover, refrigerate.

2. Wash Swiss/Rainbow chard. Fold in half lengthwise, cutting along rib to remove it. Dice ribs. Make ribbons or chiffonade of leaves by rolling and slicing in about 1/3" ribbons.

3. Dice and blanch chard ribs.

4. Place chiffonade in dressing and massage. Set aside.

5. Prep your fruit and other vegetables. Here I sliced a bit of sweet white onion, rinsed and stemmed blueberries, diced a bit of red bell pepper, cut cubes of ripe mango.

6. If the freekeh has been made the day before and or cooled too much, heat it briefly in microwave. Add to dressing. Toss everything and sprinkle with crunchy sea salt (like Maldon) and fresh ground black pepper.

Garnish with Chinese 5 Spice nuts if you wish. Or simply zest a lemon over the top and toss.

 

Could You Eat Well on $4 a Day? A Cookbook to Help Food Stamp Recipients Cook Cheaply Becomes a Massive Viral Hit

Four dollars a day. What could you do with four dollars a day that would feed your family? You might be surprised.  

four dollars

Maryn McKenna brings us this fantastic story of an upcoming cookbook (available now on PDF) that aims to fill in a critical gap between food assistance and eating well on a budget, even a food stamp budget.

Key ingredients missing? Recipes and skills.

This clever Canadian started out offering a free PDF on her site, that literally overwhelmed her site with 200K downloads more than once. She turned it into a Kickstarter (finally a Kickstarter we can get love!) and launched in May. You can buy it here still in PDF form and the book should be published by year's end.

Leanne's blurb says:

I'm a food-studies scholar and avid home cook in NYC, by way of Canada.

I think everyone should eat great food every day. Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill.

Cooking is easy — you just have to practice.

Recipes are simple, and include photographs of steps to show someone exactly how to to prepare the dishes. Honey and Chipotle Glazed Sweet Potato? Yes, please.

 

good-and-cheap-cover-1024x1024

Read more from the always excellent Maryn McKenna see the National Geographic series "The Plate".

A Cookbook to Help Food Stamp Recipients Cook Cheaply Becomes a Massive Viral Hit – The Plate: Maryn McKenna.

 Eating well on a little more

For another take on the eating well on less theme, I highly recommend Amy McCoy's Poor Girl Gourmet. Amy's book is filled with delicious foods anyone can make and she gives the budget breakdown of every dish. For example: her Height of Summer Blueberry Crumble (p. 164) serves 6 to 8 for $5 - $10 depending on whether you add ice cream. It works out without the ice cream to about $1.21 per person. Amy's Chicken in Cider Gravy is a favorite here, and her Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata gets rave reviews every summer.

PGG_bookcover

Coconut Chai Panna Cotta

This is an easy recipe that comes together in minutes. I was inspired by two beautiful mangos, sitting on a platter in my kitchen. I also drew inspiration from Josh Lewin's list of indispensible Indian ingredients. A nice prelude to his upcoming Bread & Salt dinner, you should go if you haven't dined with Josh and Katrian yet. Or even if you have. Thinking about the ingredients I love and the items on hand, I put this panna cotta together.

Roses and a Queen

 

Culinary rosebuds figure in the cuisines of ancients Romans, Persians, Indians all use them and rosewater is distilled essence of rose is a favorite ingredient in baking. Gulab jamun is an Indian sweet of fried balls of sweetened condense milk drizzled with rose scented syrup.

Cardamom, those little green pods in the photo, are a wonderful addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Known as the Queen of Spices you might be surprised at the diversity of ways you can employ cardamom. Along with rose, it's a component of ras al hanout the complex spice blend that gives tagines of North Africa their unique fragrance. It appears in rices, curries, puddings and cookies.

Cardamom is in the ginger family the aromatic pods have notes of camphor, eucalyptus and pine. Hand-harvested and air-dried, it's nearly as costly as saffron. It's native to India's Ghat Mountains and Sri Lanka. In India one of the first foods babies are fed is cardamom-scented rice. Try dropping a pod or two in the next pot of rice you make or substituting cardamom for cinnamon in cookies. coconut chai panna cotta 2

Coconut Chai Panna Cotta

Panna cotta literally means cooked cream. It's an easy dessert, especially well-suited to dinner guests and warm weather. Why? It needs to be made ahead of time! Panna cotta is a favorite of mine as it's easy to make dairy-free. In this version I use a combination of canned coconut milk as you find in Asian markets and coconut based milk alternatives you find in regular grocery stores.

Chai spices are warm and often contain cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg. Here's a lovely story and recipe from my friend Raghavan Iyer.

A note about vanilla sugar: Have you ever used whole vanilla bean? It's wonderful and the great thing about the fragrant pods is that you get dual use from them. Usually recipes will ask you to scrape the sticky middle out of the pod - but don't throw away the pod itself! Drop it into a jar of sugar and put in the cabinet. In a short time, you'll have vanilla sugar. Use one bean, whole or scraped to 2 cups of sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk, divided
  • 1 packet gelatin (you could also use agar agar for a totally vegan version)
  • ~ 1/2 C milk substitute (like So Delicious Coconut Milk)
  • 1/4 C vanilla sugar (or regular sugar + 1/4 tsp vanilla)
  • 6 dried rosebuds (culinary)
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 1-2 TBSP chai spice (here I used the last of my Arvinda's blend)

Directions:

  1. Reserve about 1/2 C of cocunut milk in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over it, whisk to dissolve.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring remaining coconut milk/milk subst (to fill 2 C measure) just to boil with with sugar, chai spice, rosebuds and cardamom pods. Do not scorch, reduce heat to medium.
  3. Stir until sugar has dissolved and milk has become infused with the spices, just a few minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk in the dissolved gelatin (which will look like snow-white mashed potatoes at this point.)
  5. Strain into small cups. Decorate if you wish with rose petals, chill.

coconut chai panna cotta 1

Serve with slices of fresh, ripe mango.

 

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.

Tuscan Garlic & Herb Salt

Herbs and Spices can enliven your cooking with out added fat. Simple herb salts like this one can play well with lamb, beef, chicken and pork. It's also terrific on roasted potatoes. Mix it into softened butter or olive oil to roast a chicken or sprinkle over barley. You're getting the picture, right? True utility player. photo 3

One of the best ways to perk up your cooking is with fresh herbs and spices. But what about dried? We always worry they’ve been kicking around the spice cabinet too long. Often, we are correct.

Here’s a post with tips on various spice blends as well as links to some great resources. One of my new favorites, is inspired by Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s Splendid Table.

I call it Tuscan Garlic & Herb Salt. I use quite a bit less salt than her recipe calls for and it’s heavenly on a roast chicken (place a little with butter under the skin), with pork, or potatoes. It’s so simple to make, and your hands and house will smell divine in the process. Try it with these proportions and adjust to your own tastes.

The technique could not be simpler:

  • Take one bunch of fresh rosemary, one of fresh sage, about 4-5 good sized cloves of garlic and about 1/4 C of Kosher salt.
  • Peel the garlic cloves, removing any green sprouts (they indicate the garlic is a bit old and they’ll add bitterness.)
  • Pick the sage leaves from their stems, zip the rosemary leaves off their woody stems by pinching and dragging in the opposite direction from how the grow (tip backwards).
  • Give your garlic a few rough chops and begin adding herbs and salt. Chop, chop, chop with a good sharp knife, holding the tip down with one hand and bringing the handle of the knife up and down — much like one of those old school paper cutters.
  • Dry out on the counter on a cookie sheet for a couple of days or overnight in the oven with the light on/or if you have a dehydrating function set to low.

It’s done when it’s no longer moist. This time will vary depending on the method you use and where you live.

Store in a pretty little jar, or any old jar, but just try it. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

photo 2

Now, get chopping! Need to brush up those knife skills? We’ve got you covered with Kitchen Confidence!

 

Dried Herbs and Spices - Homemade Blends and Resources

People, here's the thing: we all do it. You pick up a spice intending to make some new dish that will dazzle...and you just don't get around to it. Or, you do, but then it wasn't dazzling enough to become a regular thing and here it is six months or maybe a year or two after the "use by" date on the bottle. And yet, we never throw these away. I found a bottle of some "chili spice" in my mom's cabinet that dated from around the time of the first moon landing. There's probably something in my own spice cabinet older than small children I know.

So, one of these snowy days when you've done all the jigsaw puzzles you have and are sick of Netflix, take a box or bag over to the cabinet and begin. If it's too overwhelming, just do one shelf.

I dump the contents and save bottles that can be reused.

five spices

Favorite DIY Spice blends

Making your own spice blends is fun. It's a kick to have your own Chinese Five Spice powder on the next roast chicken or to sprinkle into your next fried rice. Or, make some of these killer spiced nuts.

 

Chinese 5 Spice nuts

 

DIY and better for you "Sazon" 

Make the best yellow rice, season grains, add to soups and sauces to bring some umami and color to a dish. This has turmeric, a bit of dried garlic, some kombu.

Turmeric_OPT Turmeric - terrific for you with anti-inflammatory and other benefits. Turmeric can stand in for saffron in a pinch, but also stand on its own merit in many dishes.

 

Thanksgiving Spice

You may have heard of a spice blend called Bell's Seasoning. I decided one year to make my own. It's a quintessential Thanksgiving fragrance, perfect on turkey, chicken or pork. Sage is the driving force of this one.

spice blend

Fajita Spice

This is a blend I used when marinating meat for burrito or taco night. Making chili? Red beans? Toss it in! Great on pork, chicken, beef. It changes from batch to batch but always includes cumin, various chili powders like ancho, chipotle, and oregano.

Fajita Spice

Tuscan Herb and Garlic Salt

This one is a blast to make because your kitchen smells divine: rosemary, sage, garlic and salt. You'll be singing like a Nonna and dreaming of Tuscany. I follow the recipe on Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Splendid Table whenever I see great looking sage. Sprinkle this over beans, in soup, on a roast chicken. Simple to do, you simply chop all these fresh ingredients together with salt and let it dehydrate - or use your dehydrate function if you have one on your stove.

photo 3

Quatre Epices

This sexy little blend enlivens lamb, beef or chicken. It's a classic French blend of warm and slightly sweet spices. I follow Deb Krasner's recipe (try her Red Barn spice, too) and bump it up to Cinq or five spices.

Quatre Epices

Gomashio

I add flax to the traditional sesame salt grinder common in Japanese households.

DSC_0010_2

Shopping for dried herbs and spices? Don't go to the grocery - latimes.com.

What is the oldest spice in your cabinet?

Drop me an answer in the comments and the oldest one gets a batch of my next custom spice blend!