Archive | January, 2012

Superbowl food!

23 Jan

We are officially in the thick of the season!  Football season that is.  And it is both heating up and winding down at the same time.  Rats and thank goodness!  What?

January brings great football with the playoffs.  It also brings the perfect opportunity to get together with friends and watch the games.  And eat “bar food”.  Ah yes, friends gathered,  fried food, cold beer, goopy dips, and loads of chips.  That’s January football for you.  Our bodies are so covered up in turtle necks and sweaters with the cold weather, and spring break (gasp!! swim suit season) is far off.   Who cares what we eat?  Bring on the wings!

As a card carrying foodie, I love all types of foods.  Some folks accuse me, with a look down their nose and a nostril flaring sneer,  of being a health nut.  Others stand back with a nod of respect while I nibble (snarf down)  a pile of wings.  And I even lick my fingers, to many (non foodie) companions  chagrin!  A foodie’s reputation varies with the crowd.  And that’s ok.  Foodie’s, although a bit snobbish, fit in with all food crowds!

You want football food?  It’s all about dips, dabbles, and a little bit of spice!  Let your football gathering shine with favorites from the region as well as from your home town!  When gathering for sporting events one can really stretch the culinary wings!  Anything goes, so go for it.

I attended a national football game tail gate party at the stadium prior to the game.  The party was catered by folks brought in from the opposing teams fan club, so food served was indicative of that region.  Fabulous!  Very she she foofoo lala.  Very high brow.  But that is not a complaint.  It was amazing food.  My football get togethers at home are a little less structured and a whole lot of fun.   Well…that said I can be a bit pretentious with my food too.  I admit that I am a total snob when it comes to hotdogs.

I was born and raised in Chicago, went to college in the midwest, and now call the south my home.  So of course my last football get together reflected my hometown roots.  I served brats fresh off the grill, and had Chicago style hotdogs.  I had an easel set up by the food.  I placed a large “tutorial” on the easel.  I was determined to teach these wonderful warm southern folks how to build an authentic Chicago style hotdog.

What’s a Chicago style hot dog?  A hot dog with mustard, relish, tomatoes, peppers, and celery salt are amongst the toppings.  It is loaded on and must be loaded in the correct order.  On a poppy seed bun.  Thus, the tutorial.  And a true Chicagoan will never ever put ketchup on their hot dog.  Chicagoans are purists with their dogs.  Layered just right.  Mustard is a must, ketchup..never!

Have some fun.  I serve Chicago style food at my football gatherings, add some southern favorites, but mix in some healthy flavorful options as well.  Recipes and food ideas are everywhere for a football or Superbowl party.  So own it!  Own your food, own your hometown roots, own your fun!  Take the opportunity to let your roots shine.  Show your food passion.  It doesn’t have to be all fried foods and fatty dips.  Sure that is ok, but you can also keep your food healthy and super clean if you so choose.  Make some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  Its easy!  Here you go:

  • 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 T. Tahini
  • 1 4 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drain and dry peppers on paper towels
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Simply blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor.  This is best made ahead of time and chilled.  Serve with low salt baked pita chips.  This is packed with flavor and a healthy source of vegetable protein.

Now make some super fresh salsa from scratch.  And be creative.  Start with:

  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 finely chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw all these ingredients in a bowl.  Then add, if you so choose:

  • Black beans, rinsed
  • A variety of other peppers chopped
  • Fresh or canned corn (if canned, rinse, drain then add)
Chill your salsa, and serve with baked corn chips.

These are two very easy recipes to prepare and serve.  Have some fun and personalize your food.  Make sure to have a dish or two reflecting your hometown or favorite foods.  Have fun food, but keep the focus on family, football, and fellowship!

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You are never too old!!

10 Jan

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” — Julia Child

I, like Julia Child, am a foodie.  As my blog readers, family and friends alike know this about me.  At any given meal, I begin planning a future meal or dinner party.  I ask just about everyone I meet about food at some point.  And perhaps even their favorite recipe or cooking tips.   Everything inspires me to cook, to create, to share.  Food to me is passion, it’s sensual, social, an expression of love.  I touch food, talk about it, I smell it, let my imagination run wild.  I simply cannot help myself.  Thankfully, my friends love me for who I am.  No matter how much I tend to prattle on about food sometimes!

Although classic cookbooks are important for learning basic techniques, my favorite cookbooks are generally the homespun cookbooks.   One from a charity league, for example, or a local church organization in a location that I do not live, is sure to provide inspiration.  It is certain to contain nuggets of information, nuances in the recipes that may be a bit unfamiliar to me.  And no one loves an opportunity to learn more than I do!  In one such cookbook from Louisiana, a recipe that I wanted to try used the term “vegetable liquor”.  I had no idea what that was.  The cookbook was originally published in the 1950’s, so I immediately called one of my friends that is in her 90’s.  She was able to explain the term beautifully.  And therein lies the challenge and the desire to create!

It is never too late to begin cooking.  Give it a try.  If the late great Julia Child started to cook at age 32, you can begin at any age.  I was recently at a wine dinner.  A young professional, a woman in her late 20’s, asked me how I learned to cook.  She had no idea how to shop, to read a recipe, what pans to use, or how to cook.  I am a lucky girl.  My mom was a fantastic cook.  I cook very differently from her, but she gave me the basic knowledge and inspiration from which to launch my  own talent with food.  She forever instilled in me the love of family and friends gathered for meals.  She taught me that the food need not be sophisticated to be shared and enjoyed.  Everyone was welcomed into my childhood home for a meal, no matter how rustic the food.  That gift from my mother will always live in my heart and hopefully always inspire my generosity to welcome all to my home and my dinner table!  You can do the same.  It isn’t difficult.  Start with something simple.  Start with what you know.  Then build from there.  Here are some super easy recipes to get you started:

Appetizer:

  • Frozen phyllo cups (they are found in your grocers freezer)
  • brie cheese
  • mango chutney (pepper jelly also works well with this recipe))
  • chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place frozen phyllo cups on baking sheet.  Chop brie in small pieces to fit into cup.  Place brie in phyllo  cup.  Put 1 teaspoon chutney or jelly on top of cheese.  Sprinkle with walnuts.  Place in preheated oven for 20 minutes till warm and bubbly.  Serve.  Super easy and so good!

Salad:

  • Chopped romaine lettuce 1-2 heads
  • 4 ounces Sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Thinly sliced green onions, green tops included
  • 1 Chopped apple
  • Goat Cheese crumbles
  • Commercial balsamic vinaigrette

Mix together first 5 ingredients.  Toss with vinaigrette, sprinkle with salt and pepper,  and serve chilled.

Main dish:

Oven fried chicken:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 c skim milk
  • 1/2 c bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c AP flour
  • 1/4 c parmesan cheese
  • 1 T. each parsley and basil
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse and dry chicken.  Set aside.  Mix bread crumbs thru salt and pepper in a large zip top bag.  In a flat dish, such as a low soup bowl or pie plate, place skim milk.  One at a time, dip chicken in milk, then put in seasoning bag and shake.  Remove and place on baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Place in oven and cook 30-40 minutes.  Serve hot.

Vegetable:

Baby Carrots

Pull out a bag of baby carrots.  Take a sauce pan out.  Put about an inch of water in the bottom, and 1 T of margarine and 1 t. salt.  Bring to boil.  Add carrots and return to boil.  Cover and simmer until desired doneness, about 10 minutes.  Serve.

Starch:

Herbed rice

Microwave a bag of brown minute rice.  When done, empty bag into bowl.  Add salt, pepper, and a small jar pimento for flavor and color.  Stir.  May also add 1 T parsley for added color and flavor.  Serve hot.

This is a very simple meal that can be tossed together easily.  The food is relatively easy to prepare and serve.   Everyone can help pull this meal together and participate.  Welcome all into your home.  Make the meals about family, companionship, and socializing.  Whether you are older or younger than 32, if I can do it, if Julia Child did it, so can you!!

More Colors!

2 Jan

Beautiful Fresh Sushi

Just look at those colors!  Even something as small as a sushi roll can have beautiful appetizing colors.  The plate of sushi is composed on a white plate.  The colors pop off the plate. So appetizing!  Sushi is usually served on either a plain white plate or a plain black plate.  Look at that picture.  There is not a lot of food on that plate.  The plate contains 8 small pieces of sushi, ginger ribbons, and wasabi.  The food, as you can see, is beautifully presented on a solid colored plate.  Studies have been conducted to determine if plate color has an impact on both appetite and  how we portion food.  The findings may surprise you!

Marketers have long understood how color affects our mood.  Food packaging is geared toward stimulating the appetite.  Generally, blue is not a color used in food marketing or dinnerware.  It is considered an appetite suppressant.  One theory as to why blue does not stimulate the appetite is because it is not a color generally found in natural food.  With the exception of blueberries and some potatoes, we just don’t eat blue, so we do not associate it with appetite.

Studies suggest that food on solid colored plates make portions look larger.  Portions tend to get “lost” on a plate with a pattern.  Portion control is mental as well as visual.  We can trick our mind.  And sometimes we need to trick ourselves into having smaller portions.  One tool to begin downsizing portions is to use a solid colored plate for meals.  When portions are exactly equal, our brain perceives a larger portion on a solid colored plate versus a plate with a pattern on it.  This improves satiety.  But what is satiety?

In my field of nutrition, satiety is a term used in the classroom and a commonly recognized buzzword relating to nutrition and wellness.   It is used to define, in a way, satisfaction or fullness while eating.  When studying satiety, one of my professors discussed how many bites it took of a food to feel satisfied.  She indicated that the number was three.  Yep…3 bites and you begin to feel satisfied with the food flavor.  If a craving hits, 3 bites of the food craved and gratification begins.  Slow down, enjoy the satiety, the flavors, the fullness, and eat less.

Problem with satiety, though,  is that it is a slower signal to our brain than hunger.  Sometimes we eat too fast to realize when we are satisfied, leading to overeating.  And other times we simply ignore the signal and keep eating.  We are more in tune with hunger signals than satiety.  But you can train your body to recognize satiety sooner, and eat less.  And use solid colored plates so your brain appreciates the portion size.  Its a new year folks.  Lets get healthy!!