Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

RSVP

April 15, 2015

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RSVP

[ahresveepee
Spell Syllables
verb (used without object)RSVPed orRSVP’d, RSVPing or RSVP’ing.
1.

to reply to an invitation:

Don’t forget to RSVP before Thursday.
nounplural RSVP’s.
2.

a reply to an invitation:

He sent a lovely bouquet of flowers with hisRSVP.
3.

(used on an invitation to indicate that the favor of a reply is requested).

 

This week, I hosted a dinner party for a group of parents from my daughter’s school. The school provided a guest list that had 31 guests on it, many of whom I did not know. I received 2o responses, and despite multiple resends of the invite and a group message, 11 people still did not respond.
In this case, the host had the option of providing the meal, or coordinating a pot luck. Since cooking is my passion, I opted to cater the event myself, with a beverage sign up sheet for wine and soft drinks. Five people signed up to contribute.
Many of the other hosts opted for potlucks, or ordered food. I am sure some of the parents thought that it was no big deal, hence their lack of response. Frankly, it isn’t a big deal to anyone other than the host of the party. Even serving hot dogs requires a head count.

I toyed with my options. Cook for the amount I knew were coming, or incur the time, leftovers and expense of covering for the extra 11 people, “just in case.” I tend to over do it when I entertain, so I knew that I would have plenty of food if a few extra dropped by, but 11 extra? I wasn’t so sure. I decided to do an antipasto table, with dips, cured meats, and roasted vegetables to start, and serve a casual buffet dinner when most of the guests arrived. That included salads, wild mushroom tarts and 7 pounds of shrimp cooked in a tomato and fennel sauce.

The doorbell started ringing promptly at 6:30. And then it stopped. Exactly 10 people came. Ten. If I had a proper headcount, I would have done things very differently. In fact, for 12 people (including ourselves,) I could have prepared a nice sit down dinner, instead of huge quantities of a vast variety of food, some of which looked like it was barely touched.

It was a pleasant evening, and I met some people who were new to the school community, and got to know a few who I only knew superficially. They were all warm, lovely guests, and I sent each one home with containers of food to enjoy at another time. I also threw away huge quantities of dishes that I felt had sat out too long to safely save, and packed up the rest. I am sure some of it will spoil before it will get eaten and end up in the garbage, due to the sheer quantity of it.

It was my pleasure to host these families, so I don’t want to appear bitter or regretful.  I am however, a little peeved that people cannot take 2 minutes to let their hosts know if they intend to come, and alert them if they have a change of plans. It’s the wastefulness that is nagging at me, not to mention the expense of preparing food for people who didn’t show up.

The solution? I don’t have one. I don’t believe in being an apathetic host and not going out of my way to provide a wonderful meal and a warm atmosphere to anyone that comes to our home. I don’t have any hints to get people to respond, as after 3 resends and a friendly reminder, I was coming perilously close to being a stalker.  I can however, use this forum to remind you dear readers, that being a good guest is as important as being a good host.

So, in case you were wondering, RSVP stands for “respondez vious sil vous plait”, which is French for “please respond.” Next time you get an invitation, please do.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Whipping Cream

April 14, 2015

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Freshly whipped cream is an amazing finishing touch to desserts and takes a bowl of strawberries to the next level of delicousness.

It isn’t very difficult to whip cream if you have an electic mixer, but if left unattended, it can start to become butter. While fresh sweet cream butter is incredibly good, it probably isn’t what you were planning to put on top of your pie.

If it starts to go too far, no worries. Just add a little bit more of the heavy cream to the bowl and whisk it in to bring it back to the consistency you were looking for. Of course you need to have more cream on hand to do this. Perhaps saving a few tablespoons, “just in case” isn’t a bad idea for distracted or newbie cooks.

A little vanilla extract, bourbon or flavoring of your choice is also a nice touch.
Enjoy!!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Pollen Vortex

April 13, 2015

 

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We are finally nearing the home stretch, where the words “polar vortex” will recede into the shadows for a few months as we finally enjoy the coming spring season.

The bad news, is that our prolonged winter is causing a whole new set of problems, referred to as the “pollen vortex.”

Instead of the gradual blooming we usually see at this time of year, the prolonged winter has caused everything to seemingly bloom at once, exacerbating the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Even those of us who are not diagnosed with allergies, are feeling the effects of high pollen counts in the air.

While perscription antihistamines are the usual treatment for seasonal allergies, Dr. Mitchell Gaynor suggests that certain foods will help ease the symptoms. In an article on the website Well + Good, Dr. Gaynor outlines the following suggestions:

Magnesium rich foods, such as kale, sunflower seeds and spinach open the airways and help you breathe a little easier.

Vitamin C helps combat the sniffling, itchy eyes and runny nose of allergies, by lowering the histamine level in your body. Eat citrus, bell peppers and tomatoes to up the C quotient in your diet.

The plant based antioxidents called bioflavonoids are also histamine reducers. Eat brussels sprouts, mango and garlic, and drink some green tea to reap the benefits.

Quercetin is a nutrient that suppreses the part of the immune system that causes allergies and is another histamine reducer. While onions, parsley and sage are good choices, its an apple a day, ( preferably Granny Smith ) that will help keep the allergy doctor away.

Visit Dr. Gaynor’s website for more information about diet and his upcoming book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle.  

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Over Exposure

April 8, 2015

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We all know about the health risks associated with BPA ( Bisphenol A ) which is thought to potentially cause cancer, endocrine disorders and cardiovascular issues. Exposure to BPA during the second trimester of pregnancy could negatively impact brain development and hormone levels of fetuses.

The chemical is found in hard plastics, such as those used for water bottles, paper reciepts and the lining of many cans. Due to its toxicity, scientists have scrambled to find a replacement.
The new chemical, BPS, is currently being scrutinized and there is concern that it could be even more hazardous to our health than its predecessor. Not only is it thought to have similar negative effects on our bodies, it also stays around longer, due to its strengthened resistance to environmental degradation. Researchers currently estimate that 88% of the population has traces of BPS in their urine.

While we live in a chemically treated society and it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to these chemicals, there are some steps we can take to cut down the amount of exposure we incur.

Ditch the plastic containers. Opt for reusable glass versions for food storage, and metal or glass bottles for water.

If you must use plastic containers, never microwave food in them, or put them in the dishwasher. The change in temperature releases the harmful gasses. Never leave plastic water bottles in the sun. Transfer food to glass or ceramic dishes to reheat.

Wash your hands after handling register reciepts, or accept the paperless option where available.

Purchase milk, juice and other liquids in glass jars or paper cartons. Where possible, opt for tetra packed items, instead of cans. Tomatoes are especially acidic, and cause the chemicals in the lining of the cans to leach into the foods. If you must use cans, try to find those labeled BPA free.

While all of these options can be more costly, it is a small price to pay to lower your risk for deadly diseases.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Separating Eggs

April 7, 2015

 

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Separating eggs is serious business. If you are making something like a souffle, meringue or another dish that requires beaten, fluffy egg whites, it is crucial that no yolk gets mixed in. If there is any moisture, egg yolks, or other impurities in the bowl, the egg whites will fail to become the big, white peaks you are looking for.
For this reason, we recommend using 3 bowls to separate eggs. One for the white, one for the yolks and one to separate the eggs over.

We separate the eggs and put the white in the small bowl and throw the yolks into the designated yolk bowl, before transferring the whites to the larger bowl. That way, if you get a little yolk into the whites while separating, you only lose one egg.

If you happen to get a little yolk into the whites, put it aside to use for things like egg white omelets, or other dishes that don’t require the egg whites to be beaten into stiff peaks. A little cream of tartar can also keep the egg whites stiff after beating.

Happy Baking!

GIF: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: The Chicken and The Hen

March 31, 2015

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Last week, I decided to make a pot of chicken soup. I asked my husband to go to the butcher to purchase a soup chicken, which is often an old hen. Respect your elders people, because you are about to hear a tale touting the superiority of the older female.

He ordered the soup chicken and the butcher asked if he wanted a regular chicken, or an old hen. Horrified by the thought of the latter, he opted for the chicken. After cooking the soup for several hours with lots of carrots, onions, parsley, parsnip and celery, the soup seemed thin and  a little bit on the bland side. I put it in jars in the freezer to use another time.

This week, he went back to the butcher and requested the old hen. Same vegetables, same cooking time. This pot of soup is so rich that it fully congealed after it was chilled. A thick layer of fat was skimmed off leaving me a deep golden soup that is full bodied. I placed it in the freezer next to the other stock, and the difference is boldly apparent.

Forgive the bad photo, but a picture paints a thousand words! The "hen" soup is on the left.

Forgive the bad photo, but a picture paints a thousand words! The “hen” soup is on the left.

The quality of the ingredients makes all the difference in the outcome of the dish. As a young cook, I thought that meant using an organic, free range chicken to make soup. I may have gotten the organic part right, but the free range chicken, while superior for eating, lacked the fat and meatiness of the aged hen, which can be a bit tough and stringy after cooking.

Should you make soup that turns out lackluster, there are a few things you can do to salvage it.

Reduce it: After straining out the meat and vegetables, boil the liquid until until it reduces by about 25% or more. This will obviously yield you less, but it will be more flavorful.

Cheat: Add some chicken bouillon and cook it for a bit. It will give you some taste, but may make it a bit salty. Look for the best boullion you can find. Whole Foods carries some that are low sodium and made of more natural ingredients. You can also mix some boxed chicken stock into it to give it more taste.

If it is really bland, freeze it in small containers and use it in place of cooking water for rice, vegetables and other things that might benefit from a little extra something. One man’s bland soup is another man’s tasty cooking water.

Enjoy!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Egg Cups

March 30, 2015

I have been obsessed with these healthy and delicous mini soufflés, which are baked in a muffin tin.

They are easy to make and reheat well, so you can whip them up in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. You can put virtually anything you like in them, and each muffin cup is an opportunity to experiment with different fillings.

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Mini Egg Cups:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray each cup you are using in a muffin tin with cooking spray. You can fill the whole pan, or just a few cups at a time.

Add the filling ingredients. I have been using broccoli and cheese, but any combination of vegetables, cheeses and ham, bacon or smoked salmon would work. Think of it as a mini omelette.

Pour liquid egg whites into the pan until it barely reaches the top. It will puff up during baking. Place then muffin tin on a baking pan “just in case” they run over, and slide it into the oven. Bake until puffed and a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. This should take about 20- 25 minutes or so, depending on the fillings.

A few things to note:

If you are using raw vegetables, such as broccoli or mushrooms, chop and quick saute them before putting adding them to the pan. Finely diced onion or shallots can be placed in the pan and put in the oven to start the cooking process. Add the rest of the ingredients about 5 minutes later.

If you are using sausage or bacon, cook that before using.

It is best to layer onions first if you are using them, then other vegetables, cooked meats or fish, then sprinkle the shredded cheese on top, so that it doesn’t burn.

I have used frozen chopped broccoli florets or spinach without precooking.

You can use whole eggs if you prefer. Scramble them with a little milk and use in place of the egg whites.

To reheat, just pop them in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes until heated through and enjoy!

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Like White on Rice

March 27, 2015

 

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A scientist from Sri Lanka has discovered a way to drastically reduce the calories in white rice, through a cooking technique.

Dr. Pushparajah Thavarajah and his student Sudhair James claim that adding coconut oil to the cooking water can alter the digestable starchy components of rice, resulting in a significant reduction in calories.

Apparently, the oil reacts with the starch in the rice, changing its structure. Chilling the rice helps foster the conversion of the starches, which remains even when the rice is reheated.

We don’t know if the technique really works or not, but it certainly is worth a try.

The experts suggest adding 3% of the weight of the rice in coconut oil to the boiling water before adding the rice. Once the rice is cooked, it can be chilled to further the process of converting the starches.
Rice made in advance can be reheated, without affecting the results.

Future studies with bread are underway.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Indigo Jones Eats

March 25, 2015

How often have you looked at our food photos and wished you could actually eat them? Did you know that we have another site called indigo jones eats where you can actually order our sweet treats to go?

We focus on specific holidays, and with Easter and Passover just over a week away, we have a delicous offering ripe for ordering.

Here is a sample of what we are cooking up for you to celebrate the spring holidays…

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Passover begins April 3. These matzo brittle s’mores are so addictively good that you won’t even realize they are Passover treats. We also offer just matzo brittle, a caramel and marbelized chocolate confection that you won’t be able to resist.

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For those thinking about Easter baskets, how about a trio of homemade s’mores in whimsical shapes?

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Why dye hard boiled eggs when you can have decorated egg shaped s’mores?

Looking for something special? Just ask! If we can do it for you we will. And of course our classic s’mores are always available too.

For more information, check out indigojoneseats.

To ensure holiday delivery, please place your order by March 27 if possible.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Foiled Again

March 24, 2015

This one might sound like a no- brainer, but if you aren’t already doing it, you really should.

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When roasting something in the oven, or just reheating it, cover your baking sheet with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Either spray it lightly with cooking spray, or buy easy release aluminium foil to avoid having the food stick.
This saves so much clean up time and effort, that you will wonder why you hadn’t been doing this all along.

When you are done, toss the foil or paper in the trash and rinse the pan in hot soapy water. That’s it. No scrubbing, no scraping, no greasy film.

You’re welcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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