LSFE: Honey is Sweet!

April 28, 2011

Raw Honey

Back during the Holidays, I received a glass jar of honey in my Christmas stocking. I’m always inundated with fun food related items after the stockings are finished but in this case I had no idea what I had just received. How lucky was I that I now had 12 oz of liquid gold!

This stuff was not what I was used to however. Instead of amber and free-flowing this was a light yellow slightly solidified block of sweet goodness. And the flavor was awesome. Actually less sweet than you’d expect or maybe it was the increase in subtlety that counteracted the sweetness. But who cares, the stuff was delicious and I was using it for everything. Until the glass jar was empty…

Awfully dramatic for a post about honey, huh? Well, it wasn’t until I started craving the stuff that I actually did my research. Sure, I was intuitive enough to grasp the likely difference between this “raw” honey and the standard bear bottle variety. But it wasn’t until I did my reading that I really understood just how great this “raw” stuff really was.

Honey is touted as having antibacterial properties, being great for sore throats and stomach aches, and even as a potential anti-cancer agent. But all of those fantastic properties stem from “stuff” that is partially or fully degraded by heat processing. The same heat processing that takes “raw” honey and makes it the stuff we are used to seeing. Most interesting of the “stuff” to me is the propolis. Propolis is a mixture of resins used by honeybees to seal their hives against viruses and bacteria. It’s not so shocking that raw honey could have those antibacterial properties then is it? Or what about how honey is the only natural food that doesn’t go bad? Probably not a coincidence. Additionally, levels of “good” bacteria (think Activia), can be found in raw honey which would certainly explain the use as a stomach aid.

So what’s the bottom line? Raw honey is awesome! You can buy many different varieties in most grocery stores and definitely in specialty shops at this point. And yes, like all things good, it’s more expensive than those honey bears. But for an ingredient you use in such small quantities, and with amazing flavor and health properties, it’s definitely worth it!


Semi-Homemade

April 27, 2011

Fresh Ground Chicken Tacos

Sometimes people will ask, “where do you think of things you cook?” and most of the time the answer is easy. I don’t! I’d love to take credit or claim to be creative but in reality, food is food and cooking for the most part is cooking. But like most that have a passion, I find myself constantly immersed in things related to food. Reading, searching, eating, and even writing this blog are the main drivers that keep me so in to something so simple. And it helps that you guys come and read all about it!

So when I was on the train yesterday, paging through the most recent Saveur in the early morning, I knew I now had the rest of the day to come up with the details. Because a feature on Mexican food was triggering cravings for those bold flavors we all love. And even though “Mexican” food has taken on something of an Americanized spin in our daily lives, if you focus on the fresh ingredients and strong balance of acid and spice, who cares!

But there were so many great looking recipes to choose from; amazing looking enchiladas, delicious soups and stews, and even some amazing street food. So it was up to a second source of inspiration to really solidify the meal. Over at Macheesmo, I was reading a great post on “the slippery slope of homemade”. Essentially, the discussion was around the balance between knowing and enjoying how to make your own pastas, breads, jams, or whatever and going overboard and obsessing. The perfect example he gave is in making your own hamburgers. If you are grinding your own meat, baking your own buns, and creating your own ketchup and mustard, have you gone too far? My opinion is, it all depends on who you are and what you love. For some cooking is a necessity and even a burden. For other’s it’s a passion. We all need to find our happy medium.

Enter my chicken tacos! Rather than going the typical route of lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese that make up the bulk of taco nights (I would imagine), I decided to go a bit more traditional; at least as for the flavors and the presentation. With shredded red cabbage, cotija cheese, and a tomato cucumber and cilantro chunky salsa, these absolutely hit the spot. So what about that homemade discussion?

It was on my way home, that I had a great idea. My meat grinder attachment had been lying idle for quite some time. And being that ground chicken or ground turkey bought in the store often tastes like nothing and more often than not has the consistency of mush, I decided I’d grind my own. The more I use my grinder the more I’m sold on the quality and economic argument to grinding your own meat. Purchasing a 3.5 lb Murray’s Chicken for $11.00 and breaking it down myself left me with bones to roast for a delicious stock and almost two full pounds of ground chicken. Using both the white and the dark meat seasoned with garlic, paprika, chili powder, and oregano created a ground chicken rich in flavor beyond belief. And the tortillas? Remember that happy medium? These were store bought!

Taco success!


Move Over Margarita

April 26, 2011

Cucumber Cilantro Cocktail

Move over Margarita! Because I may have just found a new favorite cocktail. And while this one may look like an ecto-cooler, I’m sure you’re going to love it also.

I know it has been some time, with the 10 day reset and my last week lapse in posting, but if you remember, I owed you a gin cocktail. It’s funny to me that gin was the winner in the cocktail poll because for most of my drinking life, I felt like one of the few who really loved the stuff. But more and more I’m seeing gin come to the forefront out at bars and in the homes of my friends. With cocktails it tends to be cyclical so who knows what the next push will be. I’ll just have to keep doing these boozey polls to find out!

But back to the drink: I’ve had a few cucumber based drinks recently but the real driver was the picture of the cucumber margarita Em sent me from Miami. So while I couldn’t replicate the sand and the ocean, it was the cucumber that took center stage. Blending cucumbers with lime juice, honey, and cilantro (the herbiness of the drink is not overpowering and 100% welcomed) makes a perfectly refreshing juice blend. And while you could just as easily drink this juice on its own, adding the gin really highlights the flavors fantastically. So give this one a shot and help me come up with a good name for it by leaving a comment below!

SilverCaterersRecipeCards – CucumberCilantroCocktail


Sorry for the Hiatus

April 25, 2011

Landmark Diner Easter Dinner

It’s been one of those weeks packed with activity which has made it not so perfect for food photo snapping. Which is a shame because the delicious matzo ball soup and even the Easter dinner at the diner (yes, I said the diner) should really be showcased. But never fear! This week will be packed with good stuff…starting tomorrow!

Hope you all had a good Holiday weekend!


Cooking in Styles

April 20, 2011

Sweet Potato Omelet

Ever since we booked our trip to Barcelona for the end of May, I’ve been cooking more and more Spanish food. Well, at least I’d call it, Spanish inspired food; because I’m not quite sure any of the restaurants in Barcelona would have approved of my paella. But it was damn delicious! So when I had the urge to cook up a Spanish omelet or a Tortilla Espanola, I figured it was better to make the classic more of my own.

With layers of thin slices of sweet potato instead of russets, this simple dish of potatoes and eggs really transformed. Additional layers of sautéed spinach and chopped scallions added lightness to the omelet, creating flavors rich and vibrant all at the same time.

As for the cooking process, I found quite a few options online. And as usual, I went with some amalgamation of the few I read. By baking the sweet potato slices on their own, I was able to get a little crunch and a whole lot of creaminess to the finished product. Tossing the cooled sweet potatoes with the spinach, scallions, and whisked eggs allowed me to get good even distribution in the cast iron pan. And finally, cooking the omelet over med/low heat produced a crispy crust and a silky center. (Nothing worse than dry eggs!)

Served with a little salad, this would be a perfect dish for your next brunch gathering! And maybe next time I’ll sneak some bacon into the mix.


Spring Reset: To Health and Triumph!

April 18, 2011

Long Island Clam Paella

I had really been anticipating this post being triumphant. By tackling a diet without meat, wheat, and dairy for 10 days, I thought that I’d be thrilled and victorious. And I guess I am! Just not in the way I had imagined.

Anytime you challenge yourself by removing what seem like staples in your life, it’s considered a sacrifice. In this case, those sacrifices were agreed upon for the greater good: a health reset. But at about the half way point, it didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice. Because through the 10 days, with the exception of a random unwavering craving for a cheese steak, I felt great, without hunger. Meals full of fruits, vegetables, beans, and rice were packed with flavor and sustenance. Light yet somehow hearty lunches helped replace my afternoon food coma, and I was never so consistent with eating breakfast (the most important meal of the day blah blah blah).

So while the reset was designed to re-generate my energy level and my overall sense of heath, the outcome went well beyond that. And while I won’t go on and on about how effective these 10 days were for me, I will say this: the food you eat, unequivocally effects the way you feel. And sometimes we all need a friendly reminder of this.

That being said, it made it a hell of a lot easier to handle going through the 10 days with Em. A daily cereal and/or yogurt eater, her commitment was way more impressive than mine. And I certainly didn’t want to be the first one to crack! So with a little celebration on the mind, I had started to think of meals to break the reset. A juicy burger or maybe a nice steak sounded nice, but a dozen clams and a half dozen oysters sent in by Em’s folks, straight from the LI waters sounded much better. With the oysters shucked and served with our favorite garnishes, and a clam paella that rocked our worlds, we couldn’t have had a better Sunday Supper!

Fresh Shucked Oysters

I’ll be posting some of the great reset recipes this week but if you are feeling inspired to do something similar on your own, feel free to reach out for some thoughts. I’m no dietician, and I’m certainly not an expert, but luckily for us, this isn’t rocket science!


Spring Reset Day 8: Give Me Some Crunch!

April 14, 2011

Baked Spring Rolls

Before starting this 10 day journey, Kelly kept warning me of the her hardest part with this type of reset. And it wasn’t about meat, wheat, or dairy. It was all about crunch! Because when you think about it, texture plays an unbelievable role in how much we enjoy food and for the most part, vegetable and even bean based meals tend to be lacking some crispy, crunchy goodness. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether it is these kale chips that I’m an idiot for not making more often, or these baked spring rolls from last night, I refuse to be denied the crunch.

And trust me when I say: these spring rolls are absurdly easy to make. In a wok (or a large saute pan) quickly stir fry shredded cabbage and carrots with sliced mushrooms and sliced scallions. I love to shred my own vegetables with my food processor but if you are in a pinch, the “cole slaw” mix in the grocery store is the perfect substitute. With just a tbsp of honey, a few good splashes of tamari, and 1 tsp of chinese five spice, you will have an unbelievable filling for spring rolls, dumplings, or even to simply serve over rice. In this case I used rice paper wrappers gently soaked in warm water until pliable to assemble my spring rolls. Simply add a few small spoonfuls of the filling and roll the wrapper like a thin burrito. Bake in the oven at 375 for about a half hour and you will have a delicious snack or even a main meal to be proud of. And while you could definitely fry these, baking them after brushing with olive oil did a nice job of keeping these light all while adding that necessary crunch.

A day and a half to go and I’m not even sure I want it to end!


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