LSFE: An apple a day…

January 29, 2010

…may cause diabetes, heart disease, fatigue, and a general frustration with the food industry. All these years we’ve been eating apples under the pretense that they were healthy! Guess again. One apple contains the same amount if not more sugar than three chocolate cookies. So avoid the farmers market and the fruit stands and head straight to the cookie aisle!

Okay, hopefully at this point you’re losing it. You’re about the leave the blog and never return. You’re asking “has this guy lost his mind?”. And if you’re not, than we’ve got bigger problems. But as ridiculous (and unfounded, just in case your still worried) as my claims are, they are partially true. Yes, one apple has about the same amount of sugar (depending on the apple because last time I checked they aren’t uniform and labeled) as three store bought chocolate chip cookies. But does that mean we should stop eating them. OF COURSE NOT!!!!!

This is what makes me so aggravated about this recent article in the LA times suggesting that orange juice, you know the perfect drink for a balanced breakfast, is just as bad as soda. And what kills me, is that once again, the claim is partially true. Yes, orange juice contains a lot of sugar (albeit sugars that come from the fruit itself, assuming your drinking 100%), and yes, orange juice does not contain the beneficial fiber that the whole fruit contains. But does that mean you should never drink it? OF COURSE NOT!

When’s the last time you ordered a 64 oz orange juice at the movie theatre. Or have heard kids beg and plead for another glass. Has our obsession with the perfect diet (or more likely, the risks of everything) led us to this point. The point in which we will start removing orange juice from our daily routines? At this point we are all well aware of the pros and cons of our food and beverage decisions. And don’t get me wrong; this isn’t even about soda, the choice for comparison. If you want a soda, drink a soda. If you want a cookie, eat a cookie. But if we start preaching factual details as the whole story, we as a nation, as a people will be heading down a slippery slope.

So lets really analyze the details here. As far as health benefits, choosing to eat an orange is better than the equal amount of orange juice. Why? The fiber within the fruit will slow the absorption of the sugars maintaining a healthier balance. That being said, 100% orange juice does contain the same benefiting vitamins and nutrients we’ve known about for years. So what to do? Choose whole fruits over juice when possible. Drink 100% juice over sugar laden “cocktails”. And as always, everything in moderation. But most importantly don’t let claims like the ones in this article change what common sense tells you.


Make Way for More Gadgets

January 28, 2010

I used to be such a food gadget freak. A different tool for every application, a different pot or pan for every meal, and less and less space in my cabinets! Finally after taking a look around my kitchen and being lost in a sea of silly purchases, I put a hold on all cooking related spending…

Luckily, that didn’t mean I had to stop accepting presents! The last few years, whether it be for the holidays or my birthday, I have received some amazing kitchen related gifts! Remember how crazy I was (and still am) about the cast iron pans. Well than imagine how excited I was to see a brand new food processor, a mandoline, and a food mill all hidden under brightly Christmas colored wrapping paper (I know I’m a bit late in my posting). All three items are “must haves” in my opinion but here I was, cooking with out any of them.

I’m not sure if you’ve used a food mill but if you haven’t, you probably should. Whether it’s for your creamy mashed potatoes, your homemade marinara, or your creamy tomato soup, the food mill is an exceptional tool that makes you work for it’s great benefits (think of it as your pre-meal exercise). By cranking on the arm, your delicious food is pushed through the fine holes (a lot like a potato ricer or a mesh sieve would do) creating a texture unlike anything else. Last night I pureed roasted sweet potatoes and celery root with just a bit of stock and a pat of butter and the result was amazing! Paired with pan roasted local chicken thighs and some sauteed spinach, the creamy blend was the star of the plate. Everyone went back for seconds.


Recipes and Links

January 27, 2010

SilverCaterersChileRelleno

As I recently mentioned, I plan on sharing recipes with you more and more. Whether it’s through participating in a challenge, or adding to a conversation through your comments, Silver Caterers recipe cards are going to be an awesome incentive. This first one is free for the taking so download the pdf and let me know what you think. And keep an eye out for future postings!

And because I’m just one of a katrillion people with an opinion and a passion for food, I’m also hoping to start sharing some more interesting links with you. And as always, if you have found something worth sharing, post a comment and I’ll make sure to mention it!

Fooducate Blog This is a great website I just ran into the other day. There is a lot of solid information both revealing and educational. You may not love everything you read, but I will say it’s a good resource for some of the questions created by all the crazy food marketing.

Juliet Eats Food  – By now we’ve all heard about Michael Pollan’s suggestion: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” alluding to the benefits of eating “whole” foods and breaking away from the processed and manufactured. But if you have ever tried to follow his proclamation, you’ll know how hard it is. So follow Juliet, who is attempting to stay the course for an entire year.

Snack Time – This article focuses on the “snack” obsession throughout childhood, perpetuated by parents and schools alike. But I had to laugh as I was reading it because of the ridiculous overlaps in our “adult” lives. It may not be cookies and milk, but haven’t coffee and doughnuts or chips and salsa become a must to make any gathering worth and/or dealable to attend. Kinda funny…


Base Jumping is for Wusses

January 26, 2010

There is a natural ebb and flow to cooking a meal. Whether your following a recipe or making it up as you go along, the distinct moments of intense focus and stress followed by a comforting break in the action and so on and so on often make or break the love (or hate) you have for cooking. It may not be chasing tornadoes or jumping off cliffs, but I’m addicted to the action that goes on in a kitchen. So much of that (at least for me) stems from how often the finished meal barely resembles my initial plan…

Last night I had this idea of white beans in a broccoli rabe pesto. I went back and forth on this one. Would it be the entire meal, a component of a soup, or even a base for something else. But when I finally got home, I knew I wasn’t going to have the time, at least not if I wanted to prepare my meal relaxingly. So I quickly changed up my plan of action mixing the broccoli rabe with the beans, along with some freshly shredded sharp asiago and a little lemon zest and baked it in the oven until golden and bubbly. On it’s own this would have been good, but as a topping to those chicken breasts sitting in my fridge, I thought it would be even better! But aren’t chicken breasts boring…

 I thought to pound them and bread them, but I was out of breadcrumbs, and once again I didn’t have all the time in the world. But then I saw those pecans that I’ve been saving for nothing. I’ve always loved the idea of a pecan crust but never followed through. Here was my opportunity. Without thought of how the flavors would marry, I crushed the pecans, packed them over the seasoned chicken breasts and roasted them in the oven along with the beans. I wasn’t sure of how this was all going to turn out but at this point it was too late. I plated the dish and braced myself for the first bite. Stunned silence…followed by a giant “wow!”. This combination was a knock out. The nuttiness of the pecans was a perfect crunch and flavor to pair with the creamy beans and broccoli rabe mixture. With the saltiness of the cheese, the brightness of the lemon, and the great flavor of the chicken (yes, quality chicken has real flavor) even my missing camera and the subsequent low quality cell phone picture taken couldn’t ruin this one!


Arguing with myself…

January 21, 2010

Can a particular type of food be in your top five list if you never eat it? I mean, how much could you possibly like something if you struggle to remember the last time you had it? Ok well what if it isn’t readily available? If your favorite cheese only comes from a small town in France (and they don’t ship) doesn’t that apply?. Well, what if the food in question is a Mexican restaurant staple and you live in a city flooded with Mexican restaurants (albeit most of them being mediocre)?

In all honesty this is the very argument I had with myself two nights ago. Because if you had a gun to my head and made me name my top five foods, I’d without hesitation put the Chile Relleno on the list. So when was the last time I had one you may ask? 2 years ago and I have no rational explanation for this…

Turns out the best solution for this self imposed argument was to make them myself. In many instances of Chile Relleno chow downs, I’ve laughed at how simple the concept of a fire roasted pepper filled with cheese, deep fried (not always, but in most cases they are), and covered in sauce truly is. And how much flavor, complex in it’s own right can be imparted into this preperation. I decided to dial back the richness of my stuffed peppers by adding roasted pulled organic chicken (to reduce the amount of cheese and add some substance) and to roast the finished product instead of frying. Not that anything was lacking flavor wise from these slight changes, but even if there had been a dip in flavor, the sauce would have more than made up for it. A simple blend of fire roasted tomatoes and roasted red peppers run through one of my new favorite toys, the food mill, worked as the perfect base for these amazing Chile Rellenos! No argument needed!


11 Ingredient Challenge: Success!

January 19, 2010

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see the posts last week, I was sent this NY times blog article about 11 ingredients we need to be eating more of. As I am always looking for a good challenge, I set out to create a menu incorporating all 11! I ended up creating a three course meal that really exceeded my expectations. “Healthy” foods are often overlooked because of the bland or even worse the gross stigma they carry with them (see most people’s disdain for sardines). But no need to worry here; the healthy part of this meal became second nature to all of the delicious flavors!

I started with a carrot, beet, and swiss chard soup. Relying on the sweetness of both the beets and the carrots to add richness to this soup, the combination of ingredients was really fantastic (and what a color!). Easy to make, and even tastier the next day this soup resembled a borscht and was a big hit as our first course.

Who doesn’t like fish tacos!? So for our entree, I took my favorite preperation including a bright slaw and a bit of guacamole to make the sardines really shine. For those a bit concerned with the sardines, you could easily substitute with shrimp (as you can see on the left) but you may be surprised how much you like the sardine version. Packed with straight from the sea taste, sardines on their own may not be your favorite, but paired with a slightly sweet slaw (the addition of the raw beets and prunes was perfect) and the creaminess of the guacamole makes for a great balance.

So what about a healthy dessert? Well rather than adding some yogurt to a bunch of blueberries and calling it a dessert I knew I had some great ingredients left to use and came up with this chocolate pumpkin mousse parfait that was beyond delicious. Dark chocolate, pumpkin and cinnamon blend perfectly with a pomegranate whipped cream laced with blueberries. And despite the addition of some eggs and cream, this dessert relies on the natural flavors and sweetness of the ingredients and will be a “go to” dessert of mine in the future; healthy label or not.

Plus look at all the extra “healthy” ingredients I added. Dark chocolate, avocadoes, greek yogurt, and carrots! So there it is, my 11 (I’d like to say 15) ingredient challenge! I’ll be posting the creations that some of you have sent me throughout the week. But I’ve decided to also extend my offer. Now that you’ve seen my three course meal, you’ve got to be wanting the recipes that much more. So send me your pics and I’ll send you my recipes!


The Grain of the Legions…Enough Said

January 18, 2010

Sometimes it takes me forever to get to one my recipes on the “must try” list. It was actually back at the Risotto competition that I first encountered the above variation on my go to meal; risotto. I have worked from the most traditional of flavor combinations to some of the craziest. But in all my variations, I’ve used arborio rice. We may not enjoy pronouncing it but we all know it’s prime-time risotto rice.

But who knew arborio wasn’t the only ingredient primed to make fantastic risotto. Farro, sometimes dubbed the “grain of the legions” seems to still be debated over what it is or is related to. Most agree that it is or it is like spelt, but you won’t care once you’ve tried this creamy creation. Cooked in the exact same method of your traditional risotto, this farro version has a bit more flavor and the nutrition of those grains we’re constantly told to eat. But I don’t need to hear it from a nutritionist. I’ll take the Roman legionaries word for it. My version was a roasted celery root and carrot risotto with peas. Perfect!

As a side note, I’ve decided to hold off until tomorrow to post about my 11 ingredient challenge so you have until tomorrow morning to send me your offerings. Trust me you’re going to want these recipes I cooked up….Did anyone else manage to use all 11?


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