Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Coming to Your Table

Tomorrow's food section of The Anniston Star, Your Table, is all about quick and practical. I review a new cookbook for weeknight recipes that are so easy, my 6-year-old daughter can (and did) make them. Salmon, chicken drumsticks and a crowd-pleaser of a tortilla pie.

We've got Prudence Hilburn making English muffins and a slew of recipes for Ye Ole Pot of the Crock.

Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Wok -- or bwawwk -- this way

Chicken and wok combine in a few new recipes that came our way today from the National Chicken Council. Both call for chicken tenders, which isn't my favorite cut of chicken because of the expense and the tendency to dry out if it's overcooked (a chance that is greatly reduced because of the short-but-intense period of wok cooking).

A standard in Asian cooking, woks are also common in many American kitchens, as they provide a fast, easy and healthful method of preparing foods. And while stir-frying may be the cooking method most associated with woks, they can also be used to braise, stew, steam or even deep-fry things like chicken. Stove-top woks, suitable for either gas or electric ranges, or electric woks with a non-stick finish, all work equally well. Their round-bottom shape provides uniform heat distribution, ensuring a quick cooking time.

From the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, here are two new chicken recipes to try in a wok. Both can also be prepared in a large frying pan, cooked over medium high heat.

Chicken and Sugar Snap Pea Curry is a spicy delicious dish that features boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced to a two-inch size. Start by making a curry sauce: sauté onion, curry powder, chili powder, diced jalapeno pepper and ginger in a saucepan, and add canned tomatoes and coconut milk. Cook the chicken pieces in the wok, along with whole sugar snap peas. Combine the chicken and peas with the curry sauce and serve over a favorite rice, like basmati. Add steamed carrots or zucchini, or grilled eggplant to complete the meal.

Chipotle Chicken, Sweet Onion and Cabbage Tacos is another fast and easy meal that is full of Southwest flavors. Cook diced onion in the wok, along with hot pepper sauce, cumin and sliced chicken tenders. When finished cooking, add lime juice for a cooling tang. Serve the chicken mixture on warmed tortillas, along with bagged coleslaw mix, cilantro, diced avocado and bottled salsa. Black beans and rice would be a perfect complement to this dish.

Chicken and Sugar Snap Pea Curry

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced thinly
2 TBLS canola oil
1 TBLS ground coriander
2 cups fresh sugar snap peas

1 TBLS canola oil
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 TBLS curry powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk
2 tsps salt
¼ tsp black pepper

In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add onion, curry powder, chili powder, jalapeno pepper and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add drained tomatoes, coconut milk, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil; lower heat to simmer and cook until sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to a wok and place over high heat. When oil is hot, add chicken slices and coriander, stirring constantly. Cook chicken until almost done (about 5 – 7 minutes) and add sugar snap peas. Continue to cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Combine chicken and curry sauce mixture; simmer 3 – 5 minutes to blend flavors.

Serve over rice.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
410 calories; 22 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 17 g carbohydrate; 37 g protein

Chipotle Chicken, Sweet Onion and Cabbage Tacos

Makes 6

1 pound chicken tenders, halved

Stir Fry:
1 large onion, halved and sliced (about 2 cups)
2 TBLS canola oil
½ tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 TBLS lime juice (from half of lime)

2 cups packaged coleslaw mix
½ cups cilantro leaves
1 ripe avocado, sliced thin
½ cup fresh salsa
12 eight-inch soft flour tortillas, warmed according to package directions
½ cup sour cream

In wok, heat oil over high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring and tossing, for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add hot pepper sauce, cumin, salt, pepper and chicken. Continue stir-frying for 5 to 7 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through. Add lime juice and remove from heat.

To serve, place a small amount of the chicken and onion mixture in the middle of a warm tortilla. Top with coleslaw mix, cilantro, avocado and salsa. Add dollop of sour cream; fold both sides of tortilla over the ingredients.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
550 calories; 23 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 60 g carbohydrate; 26 g protein

Lentil bit of dinner success

The pressure cooker that I bought several weeks ago continues to come in handy. It's a 6-quart Presto model, and it whipped up a super-duper cheap dinner in 20 minutes Monday night.

I took a whole, 1 pound bag of green lentils (79 cents), rinsed them in a colander, then popped them in the pressure cooker pan. I added a tablespoon of olive oil (that's to keep them from frothing) and added enough water to cover them by two inches. I added a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves and a pinch of dried, ground mustard. I sealed the cooker, raised the heat to high.
After the regulator/weight started to do its little dance, I reduced the heat and let them cook for 3 minutes. I then cut the heat, set the cooker off the stove and let the pressure come down in several minutes' time.

The result: a nice, thick lentil "stew" that, seriously, tasted as though they'd cooked all day in the crock-pot. Very hearty. Very filling and super tasty. Dinner for four (and lunch the next day for three) for 79 cents TOTAL.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's with agave nectar?

An unorganized rant on ingredients coming across my radar:

No less than six recipes this week calling for 'agave nectar' instead of sugar. I'm as freewheeling as the next foodie, but that's a bit much even for me.

Lots of recipes call for polenta these days. I love polenta, but making it from scratch (Your mama would have called it cornmeal mush, by the way) takes time. Never fear. Spotted at Winn-Dixie in Golden Springs Thursday night: a pack of ready-to-serve polenta on the shelf in the Italian food section.

Also on tap at the WD: pearl barley, which is big in some Mediterranean cuisines and is a super, super cheap way to stretch soup and stew recipes to feed a few more people.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's raining cookbooks

Fall is a fabulous time of year -- not just because the weather is beginning to tone down, but because It's Cookbook Season.

A handful of new books have come under the door this week. They look great and promise to add to the pile of food lore coming your way.

Another treat: It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas. The first wave in the Annual Christmas Cookie tidal pool came in the mail today. Land o' Lakes came across with a quintet of cookie selections. Good stuff. We'll make 'em, eat 'em and let you know how they turn out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coming to Your Table

Wednesday's food section for The Star, Your Table, features Anniston resident Frances Garland and her Dagwood sandwich, which was named one of the best in the country by the folks at Mezzetta (the pepper kings.)

In addition to Garland's zingy sandwich, we explore new ways to cook bratwurst, a super-fast fish dish and try to venture out into the vegetable kingdom with fennel in a nice, crisp salad.

Prudence Hilburn leads a tour of cakeland.... and that's balanced nicely with the nutritionist from The Biggest Loser talking diet secrets of the formerly fat.

Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Hungry for a good story?

The folks at Cheerios have added a prize worth digging out of a cereal box: children's books.

(Yeah, I know adults eat tons of Cheerios, too, but the cereal is a classic for younguns.)

Anyway, the Spoonfuls of Stories campaign puts small, paperback books inside 5 million boxes of Cheerios. The program kicks off next month, and you can see the book that's in the box through a see-through cover on the box front. That will make sure you don't get 20 copies of Duck for President, which is one of the selections.

Other titles available include:
Diego's Wolf Pup Rescue, Monkey and Me, Romeo and Lou Blast Off and When Dinosaurs Came with Everything.

The point of the campaign is to find a way to get books into the hands of children who might not be able to afford them otherwise. As of this year, about 20 percent of children under age 3 live in poverty. (Bringing to light another factoid many people either ignore or don't know: Most people listed as impoverished and "on welfare" are children. Kind of gives a different spin on the argument that "anyone on welfare can get a job," eh?)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mugging for your breakfast

We've run this before, but a reader requested it again. Enjoy.

Mushroom Scramble Mug

Recipe courtesy of the Mushroom Council and mushroominfo.com
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 minutes
Serves: 1
Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 slice fat-free American cheese, torn in strips
1 tomato or red pepper, diced (optional)
Whole wheat English muffin (optional)

Lightly spray the inside of a microwaveable mug with non-stick cooking spray, place mushrooms in mug and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and microwave for 1 minute. Let rest 30 seconds and drain any excess liquid.
Add whole egg and egg white to mug and mix well with a fork. Add cheese and tomato or red pepper (if desired) and microwave for 1 minute, stirring halfway through. Let rest 30 seconds to allow eggs to finish cooking. Enjoy in the mug or on a toasted whole wheat English muffin.

Looking for some Kosher cooks

Holiday feasting, Jewish style

Rosh Hashanah is Sept. 30 and Oct. 1
Yom Kippur is Thursday, Oct. 9

To inspire you, try one of these great recipes by Susie Fishbein, author of Kosher by Design and Kosher by Design and Entertaining; she that makes cooking fun and easy for everyone. Try Susie’s Falafel Crusted Chicken; it is sure to be a family favorite:

Falafel Crusted Chicken
Serves: 6

1 1/2 (6.4 ounce) boxes falafel mix
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded very thin
all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled
Prepared hummus

In a large bowl, prepare the 3 bags of falafel mix according to the package directions. Add in 3-4 tablespoons of water to make the batter a spreadable consistency. Set the batter aside.

Coat each chicken breast with flour, shaking off the excess. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip one side of each chicken breast into the prepared falafel mix. Pat it on to form a crust. Add to the hot oil, falafel side down, allowing the crust to form before flipping to cook on the other side, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into medium dices.

Serve the falafel chicken with the diced tomatoes and cucumbers, and a dollop of hummus.

Sarah Lasry, professional chef, Manischewitz resident recipe expert and author of the acclaimed cookbook, The Dairy Gourmet, recommends her delicious, savory crepes.

Over-stuffed Spanich Rice, Meat & Mushroom Crepe

For the Crepe Batter:
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
cooking spray

Wrap crepes around the completed filling.

For Filling:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 1/2 - 2 pounds ground beef or turkey
2 cups button mushrooms, diced
1 can Kosher tomato sauce
1 box Spanish Rice Pilaf, cooked
Kosher salt to taste

Food lovers nationwide are invited to enter the 3rd Annual Manischewitz Cook-Off Competition:

Entries must be received by Dec. 31. Enter your recipe online or mail to the address below. The website also provides simple kosher guidelines.

Top submissions will be selected by a judging panel including chefs, food writers, and executives. Those recipes will be prepared under the direction of a professional chef and tested by the panel.

Six finalists will be selected to compete live in the New York City finals in February 2009 and one Grand Prize Winner will be selected at the final cook-off event. A panel of food experts will judge the recipes on site based on the following criteria: taste, 50%; ease of preparation, 20%; appearance, 15%; and originality, 15%.

The six finalists will be selected to compete for the Grand Prize in New York City in February 2009. All finalists will win a $2,000 (ARV) prize package including a trip to New York City to compete for the grand prize. The Grand Prize winner receives a $25,000 (ARV) prize package including: state-of-the-art GE Profile Kitchen appliances, a $5,000 check from Manischewitz; inclusion in a future Manischewitz or web cookbook; Manischewitz product and more!

With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur around the corner this competition encourages everyone to submit their favorite kosher recipe, especially since great Jewish food and kosher dishes are among the ethnic cuisines on the rise. Almost any favorite dish you, a friend or family member enjoys can be adapted to meet kosher guidelines and standards!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's never too soon to talk turkey. Really.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, $3.86 billion in turkey sales was forecast for 2007.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner (trust us, it will be here before you know it), many people are already in the planning stages for this year’s holiday meal. With the current economic issues that many families are facing, they are looking for ways to save money, this year.

According to Chef Paul Magnant, dean of culinary and hospitality at Stratford University, the turkey is the first place to look for cutting costs.

“Typically, we spend about 70 percent of our food dollar on the protein or ‘center’ of the plate,” says Chef Magnant. “So, logically, it makes sense to try to save money in the largest expense area, which is the turkey.”

To do this, he suggests that consumers consider buying bone-in turkey breast. This is because, although whole turkeys tend to be the most popular option, they only provide 40 percent of the weight-yield after cooking. Therefore, that typical $.99 per pound really amounts to over double what was paid at the register, when you consider what is edible after cooking.

“Consumers end up getting less than they think they do. To save money, it’s usually best to go with the bone-in turkey breast,” suggests Chef Magnant. “You get more for your money, they take less time to cook, and they are easy to roast.”

“Another tip is to use Pepperidge Farm stuffing found in the bag at the supermarket, affirms Chef Magnant. The spices and herbs will make a great addition to the meal. They are the only company that I know of that incorporates the herbs and spices into the bread dough before baking,” he says.

Other money-saving tips for this holiday season include:
· using all leftovers to prepare additional meals
· scouring store advertisements to find bargains
· comparing cost of like-items by brand
· having a potluck holiday gathering where everyone brings a dish
· planning the meal in advance so there is no impulse buying
· writing a grocery list and sticking to it while shopping

“Holiday meals can get pricey,” adds Chef Magnant. “But it doesn’t have to be like that. As long as someone puts forth the effort, they can save money and still have a great gathering.”

Stratford University’s culinary arts program offers several degrees, including concentrations in baking and pastry, as well as advanced culinary arts. The school also offers non-degree public one-day culinary courses covering such topics as beginner baking, knife skills, vegetarian cooking and cake decorating, as well as parent-and-child cooking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creole vs. Cajun

From today's Your Table section in The Anniston Star, we tackle an age-old debate:

If you want to find out if Creole and Cajun are interchangeable, all you need to do is go to good ole' south Louisiana and mention that you believe there's no difference.

Let's begin with the Creoles — they are the city dwellers. Originally the term Creole was not reserved for residents of New Orleans, but today the best way to describe a "true Creole" is a New Orleans native whose heritage includes the Native Americans, French, Spanish, African, Italians, and others that settled the city. This melting pot is best illustrated through the food that developed when all these collided. As you may know, bouillabaisse is a soup/stew that came from France. The Africans brought okra from their home soil, and the Native Americans introducing new ingredients like file powder and bay leaves.

At this intersection of cultures there was a three-car wreck, and gumbo came stumbling out.
Creole is a cuisine that developed by drawing from all these ethnic backgrounds with particular influence from the African Americans who were not only the cooks at home, but also the cooks in professional kitchens.

Now Cajun came from the French-speaking Acadians — folks originally banished from France who then fled to Nova Scotia. They were kicked out of Nova Scotia in the early 1700s and settled in rural southwest Louisiana. While the Creoles were cosmopolitan, the Cajuns throughout their history were fairly isolated. They were great farmers, fisherman, and hunters and truly lived off the land.

Creole food was served in restaurants from its earliest days, but Cajuns served country food, often one-dish meals, not found on public menus until midway through the last century.

Cajun cuisine is spicier and incorporates a lot more hot peppers than Creole. In Creole seasoning, you will find more herbs and more subtle flavors, whereas in Cajun dishes you will find their "holy trinity": cayenne pepper, white pepper and black pepper.

Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 2 teaspoons ground bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon chili powder

Cajun Seasoning
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon sage

For each recipe, combine all ingredients well and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

... and, just the best sandwich

Mezzetta Specialty Foods Crowns Winner of

An Anniston woman has taken a top prize in the America's Best Sandwich contest, sponsored by Mezzetta.

Francis Garland of Anniston won the Hero Sandwich category, naming her creation The New Dagwood with a Jalapeño Twist

America's top producer of specialty olives, peppers and other gourmet ingredients announced today that Edwina Gadsby of Great Falls, Mon., won the Grand Prize is $25,000 and a trip for two to Napa Valley.

This is the first year Mezzetta, a family-owned food company founded in 1935, has sponsored a national recipe contest.

“We had over two thousand entries and each of the finalist recipes was phenomenal. But I am pleased that this sandwich won the top prize,” said Jeff Mezzetta, owner and President. “Grilled cheese sandwiches are a classic, and we loved the Spanish flavors and the way Edwina incorporated Mezzetta red bell peppers and sun-dried tomatoes in her recipe.”

Gadsby, no stranger to the world of recipe contests, was nonetheless stunned when she found out she had won Grand Prize. She had been intrigued been the idea of creating a prize-winning sandwich, and spent hours in the kitchen testing her ideas.

“Gourmet sandwiches are comfort food at its best. Unlike so many other “gourmet” meals there is no intimidation factor when it comes to sandwiches. The only limit to the combinations you can come up with is your imagination.” Gadsby observed.

The Make That Sandwich contest accepts entries in four categories: Hot, Cold, Vegetarian and Hero. Gadsby entered her sandwich in the Hot sandwich category. Finalists in the other three categories each received $1,000.

They are:
Brenda Cole
Reisterstown, Maryland
Cold SandwichSalmon & Arugula Tailgater

Erin Evenson
Brooklyn, New York
Vegetarian Sandwich
La Maison de Mezzetta Moroccan Melts with Minted Harissa Mayonnaise

Mezzetta plans to bring back the contest next year. Entries for Make That Sandwich 2009 will be accepted beginning Memorial Day through Labor Day 2009. For complete winning recipes, interviews with the winners and more information on the world of sandwiches, visit www.makethatsandwich.com

The BEST peanut butter samich

The Seventh Annual Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest is accepting entries from now until Nov. 14. Encouraging kids ages 6-12 to invent new creative peanut butter sandwich recipes is a great way for parents to foster creativity in their children and spend quality time together while having fun in the kitchen.

The grand prize is a $25,000 scholarship fund! Four runner-ups will each receive a $2,500 scholarship fund. Last year’s winner was Samuel Sosa, 11, of Riverside, CA. He created the “Crunchy Chinese Fortune Cookie Sandwich.”

Crunchy Chinese Fortune Cookie Sandwich

4 slices of wheat bread

Sandwich Mix:
3 tablespoons Creamy Peanut Butter
1 tablespoon finely diced celery
1 tablespoon finely diced apple

Chinese Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in small saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring with a wire wisk. When the mixture starts to bubble and thicken, remove from heat and let cool.

While the dipping sauce is cooling, roll flat with a rolling pin the four slices of bread. Use a large circle shaped cookie cutter to cut out each slice of bread into a circle. Mix the 3 sandwich mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Place a tablespoon full of mix into the center of each circle shaped piece of bread. Fold the bread in half so the sandwich is now a half circle. Crimp the edges of the sandwich together with your fingers so the mix will not come out. Then, while holding the center of the sandwich, pull the sides of the sandwich down so the edges touch each other, forming a fortune cookie shape.

Cut extra apple and celery slices to eat with the Chinese dipping sauce.

To make fortunes for your fortune cookies, use a clean plastic lid from a tub of butter, yogurt, or sour cream. Cut small plastic strips, then write your fortune on them with a permanent marker. Tuck the edge of the fortune into the edge of your cookies to make them real fortune cookie sandwiches.

Once the dipping sauce is cool, serve the crunchy Chinese cookie sandwiches with their fortunes, and apple and celery slices on a plate with a cup of dipping sauce. Dip the sandwiches and the apple and celery slices into the sauce, and you have a great after school snack that was fun to make and eat!

The Jif Moms Voice Their Choice Contest gives moms (or those inspired by one) a chance to share their stories about the choices they make for their families. The writer of the winning essay will win:
A 4-day, 3-night trip to New York City with a companion.
A seat at the judges’ table at the Seventh Annual Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest final event.

Chinese import alert.... going away

The folks at The Catfish Institute want you to know:

The FDA is reportedly considering quietly dropping the "import alerts" for five species of Chinese seafood imports, including catfish and shrimp, that were put in place during the summer of 2007. As a refresher, that was the "bad summer" for Chinese imports -- of lethal toothpaste, pet food, lead-painted toys, and contaminated seafood.

The import alerts require chemical testing for entry into the U.S. Unfortunately, the private lab testing system, as described below, is rife with abuse and deception. Not surprisingly, after a year of this the FDA is declaring victory over contaminated Chinese seafood, since they are not hearing too much any more about contaminated shipments, and are considering dropping the testing requirement.

While the testing requirement as currently constructed is little more than a "fig leaf" for a dysfunctional system, it at least forces importers to go through the motions.
Given the Chinese track record on consumer safety issues, and the FDA's inability to monitor and police imports, the last thing the Administration should do would be to remove even this minimal level of protection.

More importantly, dropping the import alerts for these items would cause the December (2007) trade agreement with China to kick in. Under this agreement, the U.S. would essentially outsource its seafood inspections to the Chinese Government and its designated producers. As discussed below, the Chinese food safety agencies are very much a work in progress, are in considerable turmoil, and have a very poor performance record. Is this really the system to which we want to entrust our seafood inspections?

The events of this past summer again underscore the need for a workable U.S. inspection system -- repeated outbreaks of illness both at home and abroad that were exacerbated by under-funded, inadequate, and overwhelmed inspection systems.

In the waning days of the current Administration, behind the thick fog of the elections and the rhetoric, the FDA could well cave in to the demands of Chinese importers and their free-trader corporate allies to eliminate any meaningful examination of incoming containers. They will claim that the "problem has been solved" and that the action will produce "greater efficiency," "less regulation," and "less bureaucracy." We disagree.

-- The Catfish Institute

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Family Meal Day served up

The J.M Smucker Company is partnering with The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University to celebrate Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children, which will be celebrated on Sept. 22 this year.

To help consumers prepare for Family Day, Smucker is offering a free, online chat with The Surprising Power of Family Meals author Miriam Weinstein on September 16, 2008. Readers can visit www.poweroffamilymeals.com between 8 – 10pm EST to chat with Weinstein, who will provide insight into the importance of family meals, tips on how to make it a part of your routine every day, and creative ways to make these occasions special.

“Although some may see meal time solely as a time to eat, it is much more than that,” said Weinstein. “It is also a place for emotional and behavioral nourishment. Meal time sets the stage for family interaction. Parents are so important in their kids’ lives and the kitchen table is such an obvious place for kids to get regular access to them.”

Family Day is a national movement that reminds parents that dinner makes a difference and encourages parents to frequently eat dinner with their kids and be involved in their children’s lives. CASA’s research consistently finds that the more often kids eat dinner with their families; the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. Family Day helps remind busy families of the invaluable role that parental involvement plays in steering children and teens away from negative influences.

“The J.M. Smucker Company and its family of brands are proud to partner with CASA as we strive to promote the importance that family meals can play in peoples’ lives and in preserving family mealtime legacies,” said Maribeth Badertscher, Director, Corporate Communications, The J.M. Smucker Company. “We are honored to be invited to these family meals and to play a small, but valuable, role in bringing families together.”

For more information about Miriam Weinstein, the live chat and Family Day, visit www.poweroffamilymeals.com

Apples, galore. This time with fire.

Following our ode to the apple in a recent Your Table, here's a ditty from the CIA (the fun CIA, not the spooky one) on how to enjoy these fruits of fall:

Apple season is upon us, and the chefs of The Culinary Institute of America suggest that you take advantage of this opportunity to select a variety of apples.

Such a versatile ingredient as the apple can be prepared in numerous ways; whether baked, grilled, or roasted, each particular variety has characteristics that make it unique. With apples in such abundance, now is an excellent time to take them home and experiment to determine which apple variety is your favorite.

"In New York's Hudson Valley we have no shortage of apple varieties. Early September apples such as Paula or Ida Red, cousins of the McIntosh, will work well for this recipe if they are not over-baked," explains Carol Hawran of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. "Rome Beauty, Empire, or Golden Delicious apples are always reliable standbys as they have enough body to hold their shape well."

Baked apples are ideal for a warm day and can be made right on your grill. Put them on just as you take off your dinner, and by the time you've eaten and brewed coffee, the apples are ready to eat.

Apple Crisp, with a sweet crumbly topping made with oats, will warm up any cool evening. Top it with a wedge of cheddar cheese or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream for a dessert that is sure to please.

These and other recipes can be found in The Culinary Institute of America's cookbook, Grilling (2006, Lebhar-Friedman), available for purchase at bookstores nationwide.

Here's a video demonstration featuring how to prepare Baked Apples filled with Walnuts and Cream.

Baked Apples filled with Walnuts and Cream
Makes 8 servings
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter
8 prunes, pitted and diced small
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
8 McIntosh apples, cored
2 tablespoons Calvados
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat a gas grill to medium. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.

Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, butter, prunes, and lemon zest, and mix until evenly blended. Pack the mixture into the cored apples.

Cut 8 large rectangles of foil and fold each in half to make squares. Set 1 filled apple in the center of each square. Drizzle each apple with some of the Calvados (less than 1 teaspoon per apple) and a little of the maple syrup (less than 1 teaspoon per apple). Pull up the sides of the foil around the apple to make a vented pouch.

Grill the apples over direct heat until soft and the juices that collect in the bottom of the pouch are a rich brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Turn the pouches occasionally as the apples cook.
Whip the heavy cream just until lightly thickened and still somewhat runny. Whisk in the remaining maple syrup.

To serve, place a baked apple on each serving dish. Pour the accumulated juices from the foil pouches over the grilled apples, and then spoon some of the whipped cream over them.
Serve immediately.

Nutrition analysis per 7.5-ounce serving: 270 calories, 1g protein, 46g carbohydrate, 10g fat, 30mg sodium, 30mg cholesterol, 6g fiber.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dialing up healthier treats for fall

Food manufacturers mount an assault of recipes each season. From the folks at Splenda and Smart Balance:

In the midst of a very busy and stressful fall – with kids heading back to school and parents with reloaded work schedules -- healthy eating can take a backseat. Well, these easy to make and eat healthy fall treats can help. They’re a great alternative to junk food for kids heading back to school and good for a stress – but not diet – busting snacks for worn out parents anytime. And since they use healthier ingredients – like Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick with Omega 3 – these snack treats are missing one thing families won’t mind forgetting about this busy autumn: the guilt.

Festive Cranberry Nut Bars

First Layer
3 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick Regular with Omega-3
2 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Second Layer
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

Third Layer
1/2 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick Unsalted with Omega-3
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts)

First Layer: Stir together dry ingredients. With pastry blender, cut in Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick until pieces are size of peas. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Press dough onto bottom and sides of ungreased 10 ½ x 15 ½-inch jelly roll pan.

Second Layer: Bring water and sugar to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

Spread over first layer. Bake 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool.

Third Layer: Melt Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick and cool. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and milk to make it spreadable. Spread on cooled cookie layers and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.Makes 40 squaresServes 40; 1 cookie per serving

Chewy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
1/4 cup Smart Balance Omega™ Peanut Butter
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Smart Balance® Butter Blend Stick, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pourable sugar substitute
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the Smart Balance Omega™ Peanut Butter, Smart Balance® Butter Blend Stick, brown sugar and sugar substitute in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer on high setting, beat until well blended and creamy.
Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and the salt. Reduce to low speed, add the oats and cherries, and beat until just blended. (Note: The batter will be very stiff.)
Using a measuring teaspoon, spoon rounded teaspoons of the batter onto cookie sheets coated with Smart Balance® Cooking Spray and bake 3 minutes. Do not cook longer. They will be slightly puffed and a very light golden color on the bottom. (Note: They will not appear to be done at this point, but will continue to bake while cooling).
Remove from oven, and immediately place on cooling racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter. Alternate cookie sheets while baking, using a cooled sheet for even baking.
Makes 40 cookies total
Serves 20; 2 cookies per serving
Per serving (2 cookies): 116 calories, 3 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrate, 6.2 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 2.8 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.3 grams polyunsaturated fat, 0 trans fat, 13 mg. cholesterol, 72 mg. sodium, 1.5 grams fiber

The Chewy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies were developed by food consultant Nancy Hughes especially for Smart Balance, Inc.

Nutty Fruit Crisp
5 cups sliced apples, peaches, pears, or apricots
3 tablespoons sugar, Splenda Blend, or pourable Splenda sweetener
½ cup uncooked oats
1/3 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick, softened at room temperature for 15 minutes
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Place sliced fruit in a 8” X 8” X 2” baking dish that has been coated with Smart Balance® Cooking Spray. Stir in the 3 tablespoons of sugar.
In a small mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, cornstarch, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Cut in Smart Balance® Butter Blend until mixture resembles course crumbs.
Stir in chopped nuts and sprinkle evenly over fruit.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
Serve warm. Delicious with frozen yogurt, ice milk, or reduced fat whipped topping.
Serves 8

Per serving (without frozen yogurt, ice cream or whipped topping): 201 calories, 3 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams fat, 4.1 grams saturated fat, 3.2 grams monounsaturated fat, 2.9 grams polyunsaturated fat, 0 trans fat, 10 mg. cholesterol, 133 grams Omega-3 fatty acids, 813 grams Omega-6 fatty acids, 33 mg. sodium, 2.5 grams fiber

Blueberry variation: Mix 5 cups fresh blueberries with 3 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Prepare with topping as above and baked as directed.

Besh in NOLA. A good thing.

They say that anything worth doing is worth doing right, and, judging by New Orleanians’ votes, Chef John Besh must be doing a lot of things right. Chef Besh and Besh Restaurant Group [Restaurant August, Luke, La Provence, Besh Steak] recently captured four prized spots on Gambit Weekly’s annual Best of New Orleans Reader Poll.

Clenching the top honors, Chef John Besh received the coveted Best Chef title.

Lüke, the newest member of the Besh family of restaurants, burst onto the New Orleans dining scene when it opened its doors in May 2007. This year, Lüke makes its debut on the Gambit newspaper poll as one of the top three Best Hotel Restaurants.

No stranger to gracing ‘Best’ lists, Besh’s original New Orleans restaurant, Restaurant August has an impressive array of wines imported from boutique wineries from France, Italy and the United States, which helped land the restaurant among the top three winners for Best Wine List.

Bringing Besh Restaurant Group’s total number of appearances on the list to an even four is La Provence. Located just outside of New Orleans in Lacombe under the guidance of 2001 Food & Wine Best Chef Randy Lewis, Gambit readers voted this provençal aberge as among the top three on the Best Northshore Restaurant list.

These latest accolades are but the most recent in what has been an impressive summer for the Besh Restaurant Group. Just last month John Besh was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Louisiana Restaurant Association for 2008.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Egg-citing news for egg producers

The folks at the American Egg Board wanted us to share:

A new study published online today in the British Journal of Nutrition found that timing of dietary protein intake affects feelings of fullness throughout the day.The study concluded that when people ate high-quality protein foods, from sources such as eggs and lean Canadian bacon, for breakfast they had a greater sense of sustained fullness throughout the day compared to when more protein was eaten at lunch or dinner.

"There is a growing body of research which supports eating high-quality protein foods when dieting to maintain a sense of fullness," said Wayne W. Campbell, PhD, study author and professor of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University. "This study is particularly unique in that it looked at the timing of protein intake and reveals that when you consume more protein may be a critical piece of the equation."

A Closer Look at the Study
The study included overweight or obese men who ate a reduced calorie diet. The diet consisted of two variations of protein intakes, both which were within federal nutrition recommendations: normal protein intake (11-14 percent of calories) or increased protein (18-25 percent of calories). The researchers tested the effect of consuming the additional protein at specific meals - breakfast, lunch or dinner - or spaced evenly throughout the day.

Purdue researchers found that the feeling of fullness was greatest and most sustained throughout the day when the additional protein, from eggs and lean Canadian bacon, was eaten at breakfast - versus lunch or dinner.

Additional Research
This study adds to a growing body of research on the benefits of eating high-quality protein for weight management. Recent research provides further evidence to support the findings of this study:

· A study published online last month in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating two eggs for breakfast, as part of a reduced-calorie diet, helped overweight adults lose more weight and feel more energetic than those who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories. [ii]

· A Purdue University study published in a 2007 issue of Obesity, a scientific journal, revealed that a calorie-restricted diet with additional protein resulted in retained post-meal feelings of fullness and improved overall mood.The same study also found that a higher level of protein intake was more effective in maintaining lean body mass during weight loss. [iii]

Making the Most of Breakfast
The authors of the British Journal of Nutrition study note that most Americans typically consume a relatively small amount of protein at breakfast - only about 15 percent of their total daily protein intake.

Additionally, consumer research by the International Food Information Council shows that 92 percent of Americans cite breakfast as the most important meal of the day, however less than half (46 percent) eat breakfast seven days per week.[iv]

"It strikes me that there is a real opportunity to increase protein intake at breakfast to see a meaningful impact on people's weight loss efforts," said Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, a nutritionist and associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Many people are caught in a boring breakfast rut, or say they simply don't have enough time to eat in the morning, but with a little planning, breakfast can easily be one of the most fulfilling meals of the day."

Ayoob provides the following tips for easy, high-quality protein based breakfasts:

· Cook Once, Eat Twice: Use last night's leftover vegetables as fillings for an easy-to-prepare omelet ready to eat in less than two minutes. In addition to the leftovers, fill the omelet with lean Canadian bacon and low-fat cheese for additional flavor and protein punch.

· Wake Up Right: Start the day off right with a balanced breakfast that pairs high-quality protein, like yogurt or low-fat dairy, with healthy carbohydrates, such as those found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

· On The Go: For a breakfast meal you can take with you in the morning, try a wrap! Add lean Canadian bacon and low-fat cheese and any other preferred toppings to scrambled eggs, and then spoon into a warm whole wheat tortilla. Fold the tortilla, cut it in half and take it to go.

· Family Fun: Make breakfast fun for the whole family by serving up creative dishes, like green eggs and ham. Simply add spinach to scrambled eggs and serve with ham for a fun and easy dish that the whole family can help prepare.

Iced tea, and the science thereof

And all we thought we knew for sure was that you NEVER add sugar to cold tea and expect it to dissolve....

Summer is coming to an end, and with it the mid-year feasting season. That means one more picnic, one more backyard barbeque, one more beach party, and one more opportunity to enjoy a great burger by choosing the right flavor of iced tea.

According to the experts at Turkey Hill Dairy – makers of the nation’s number one selling refrigerated iced tea – wine isn’t the only beverage that deserves scrutiny when pouring at your next meal. Summer feasts can also be foiled by sipping peach tea with chicken salad or green tea with barbequed ribs. Just as wine aficionados have their own set of guideleines for food and beverage interactions, so do iced tea fans.

“There may not be much summer left, but there are still plenty of opportunities to make great pairings when it comes to food and iced tea,” said Turkey Hill’s chief brewmaster, Tom Wright, who admitted the iced tea laws are a bit flexible. “Like matching wine and food, it’s not an exact science and it’s really just a matter of personal preference, but there are a few general guidelines you might want to consider with pairing iced tea with meals.”

· Choose a tea that won’t overpower the food or be overpowered by the food. “This is what’s referred to as ‘matching weights,’” said Wright. “A heavy, sweet Raspberry Tea would not go well with a light potato salad or grilled fish. Instead, balance those dishes with a zesty Lemonade or Peach Tea, with their seamless and elegant finish. For a big cheeseburger or a steak, I’d choose the full bodied Blueberry Oolong Tea, with its rich and plush fruit flavor or maybe even a more robust Decaffeinated Tea.”

· Chicken and pasta are neutral foods that pair well with most teas, but the sauces will make the difference when selecting the right beverage. Choose a richer, fuller-bodied tea like Turkey Hill’s Sweet Tea for heavy, meaty sauces. With lighter, cream-based sauces, try a drier option like Green Tea.

· With snacks, personal preference is the rule. “This is where it gets tricky,” said Wright. “There are so many variances in saltiness, sweetness and texture with most snacks that it makes choosing the right tea a little challenging. Just trust your gut and chances are you’ll be okay.”

· When in doubt, go with regular iced tea. “Turkey Hill’s standard tea is a very balanced, middle-ground beverage that seems to pair well with just about any food,” said Wright, who also suggested most diet teas, which tend to be drier and slightly less sweet, as other neutral options.

· With desserts, try a complementary or contrasting flavor and choose the rule that suits your taste buds. “Some people might prefer to balance a sweet dessert with a sweet tea, while others will contrast it with a drier tea,” said Wright. “Like a lot of match-ups, it can go either way, so it’s up to you to decide which direction suits your taste.”