Archive for June, 2016

Things I Wish I Didn’t Know: Birthday Edition

June 30, 2016

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I am a self professed germaphobe. I wipe down all of my equipment at the gym, cover my bike’s handlebars with towels, and disinfect my kitchen regularly while cooking. If I have to grab the subway pole, I run to wash my hands before touching anything else. Drinking fountains? I’d rather not. Just the talk of a stomach bug sends my insides reeling. Keeping all that in mind,  I wish I had never read this article on Bustle today, about the extreme spread of germs on a birthday cake, after the candles are blown out.

That time honored ritual of making a wish and blowing out the candles is appartently an episode of Outbreak waiting to happen. When the birthday girl or boy gathers their breath to blow out the candles in one fell swoop, they turn into virtual crop dusters,  spraying the cake with germs. Don’t even ask me think about those who need more than one try. The article goes on to claim that kids in particular harbor more germs, so it is very likely they are contaminating the whole cake in with one, big blow. For those celebrating a flu season birthday, all bets are off.

Perhaps it is time to start a trend, of using a chic fan, or a dramatic waving of (clean please) hands over the cake to extinguish the candles.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Food Trend: On The Side

June 28, 2016

Food, like fashion, follows trends. It seems as though suddenly, there is a food or dish on everyone’s radar, showing up on menus and instagram feeds galore. Sometimes it is an ingredient, like avocado, or sundried tomatoes. Often, it is a preparation or an ethnic specialty that catches on, like poké. One trend that keeps catching our eye, is related to the presentation, rather than the food itself.

Asymmetry seems to be the trick of the moment, making for a very modern, artsy approach to plating. From pristine placements to a more rustic feel, the one-sided look is popping up on cakes, pies, acai bowls and nouvelle cuisine plates, giving new meaning to the phrase,” I’ll have mine on the side.”

This healthy pistachio smoothie uses fresh fruit and edible flowers to create a delicate rim along the side of the bowl.

littleplantion.co,uk

little plantation. co

This vegan tart has a beet filling and a row of fresh blackberries and blueberries adorning one side.

Bake street

Bake Street

This beauty from Modest Marce, uses piped flowers in shades of grey for their tea-infused cake.

modest marce

modest marce

These tarts are pretty in pink, and casually topped with red fruits on the side.

Sugaretal.com

Sugaretal.com

Just a partial ring around this rosy hued cake adds a modern and delicate touch.

majachocolat

majachocolat

White food is highlighted on black plate, for a modernist effect.

feasting at home

feasting at home

This acai bowl makes a healthy breakfast a work of art.

Choosing Chia

Choosing Chia

Fresh berries are piled to the side of this lovely cheesecake.

apt 2b baking co

apt 2b baking co

Just a dollop of cream lets the lemon shine through.

Food52

Food52

This spare and minimal raw coconut cheesecake has an architectural treatment in chocolate, nuts and berries.

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loving earth

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Unrecipe of the Week: Fig Jam

June 27, 2016

 

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For a recent cocktail party I catered, I wanted to create a charcuterie selection that appealed to all of the senses. Rich and creamy, juxtaposed with savory and salty, and just the right amount of something sweet to offset it all.
This quick fig jam proved to be the perfect accompanyment to the assortment. It cooks up fast with little preparation and few ingredients, but yields something more complex. I served it with cheese, meats and paté, but it works just as well on a slab of toasted bread, or as upgrade to your next PBJ sandwich.

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Fig Jam ( adapted from Food & Wine)

Slice 2 pounds of fresh figs into quarters, and place them in a pot with about 1 1/4 -1 1/2 cups of sugar. Toss, and let it sit off the heatnuntil the sugar dissolves naturally and the figs begin to give off juice.
Add 1/2 cup of water, and the juice of a couple of lemons, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is fully dissovled.Reduce the heat to and simmer, stirring often, until the fruit begins to soften, and the juices naturally thicken. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Taste, and add more sugar and|or lemon as needed.
Cool, spoon into a large jar and enjoy!

Photos: top: indigo jones | bottom: Spencer Jones @Glasshouse Assignment

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Spoons Across America

June 22, 2016

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Lately, I have been wondering what will happen to the wonderful work our current First Lady, Michelle Obama has been doing surrounding children’s nutrition when her husband leaves office. Sure, they can hire someone to oversee her beloved garden, and certain of her initiatives have become self sufficient enough to survive.

It is highly unlikely that the future First Person will take an interest in nutrition. Bill Clinton already has a foundation and will likely continue his work should his wife become President. Mrs. Trump has not shown interest in any philanthropic or charitable initiatives as yet, and childhood obesity isn’t likely to be an appealing subject for her.

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My concerns were quickly abated this week, when I was asked to volunteer with a wonderful organization called Spoons Across America, which offers programs dedicated to educating children, teachers and families about healthy nutrition through the culinary arts.

My first assignment was to work with a group of fifth graders in PS 1, a public elementary school on the east side of Chinatown in New York City.

After working in the classroom for several weeks discussing nutrition and where our food comes from, the program culminated in an event where the kids cooked and served dinner to their families, with the help of a team from Spoons Across America.

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Studies have shown that kids who have a hands-on experience preparing and sourcing new and nutritious foods, are more likely to develop healthy eating habits. There are also findings that show that sharing family meals have both psycological and developmental benefits for children. There are significant indications that teens who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, tobacco or exhibit violent tendancies. These facts hold true for all income levels and for families with single or dual parents.

With these values in mind, we set out to assist the kids in The Dinner Party Project. Throughout the afternoon, small groups of students rotated through various stations, chopping, peeling, blending and mixing to create a healthy, delicous meal to be enjoyed later that evening.

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The menu consisted of chickpea hummus, served with raw vegetables and pita bread, followed by a cold pureed zucchini and cucumber soup, topped with yogurt and a sprig of watercress. The main course was a choice of chicken or tofu, roasted with garlic and fresh herbs,buttermilk biscuits, and a side of tomato and mozzarella salad, or greens with corn, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. The grand finale was a parfait with fresh berries and yogurt, topped with a drizzle of honey and a mint leaf.  The food was attractively presented, and proudly served by the young chefs themselves.

The kids were eager workers, and despite the heat in the small, un-airconditioned kitchen with multiple commericial ovens going, they took to their tasks with enthusiasm and a thirst for learning.
My teams made the chicken, and we touched on concepts, such as how to peel garlic, strip the leaves off fresh herbs, and handle raw chicken safely without cross contamination.

The greatest joy was in seeing the kids so excited about sharing the food they prepared, and the smiles on their faces as they brought back empty platters to be refilled.

It was an exhausting, yet gratifying day, and I hope to be able to work with this wonderful organzation again on other projects. In the meantime, it’s good to know that people have taken up the cause and are doing great work in the world of children’s culinary and nutrition education.

Don’t worry Michelle, we got this!

To learn more about Spoons Across America, click here.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Keeping It Crisp

June 21, 2016

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Sunday night, I made chicken and waffles for dinner. With only one waffle iron and six people to feed, I needed to keep them warm, without them getting soggy while I made the balance. I also wanted to fry the chicken before the guests arrived, to avoid them being in the midst of a hot, greasy mess. The secret weapon in this story is a wire rack. 

Placing the food on a wire cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet, allows the heat to circulate, keeping everything hot and crispy. This trick works well for fried foods, potato pancakes, and yes, waffles. Setting the oven at it’s lowest temperature, usually about 200-250 degrees, is the key to keep things warm, while not allowing them to over cook. This is the best way to reheat the leftovers too!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Bed Bugs and Beyond

June 20, 2016
via The Atlantic

via The Atlantic

My daughter returned Friday night, from a fun and productive trip touring colleges with a group from her school. Not one to over communicate, she will gradually release tidbits over the course of a few days. Her tidbit Saturday afternoon? Look at the photo of the gross bed bug Ginger found in our room in Boston on Wednesday. (insert record scratching noise here.)

Her father, not one for subleties or discretion, went crazy. He called me immediately to tell me to come home because B had bed bugs. By the time I got back, he was in full irrational panic, pulling things apart and tossing things around. While a few things had been removed, the suitcase in question was sitting on the carpeted bedroom floor upstairs.

I tried to calm everyone down, and did a little internet research. The photo was in fact, of a bed bug. Although B had many bites, they looked like mosquito bites from being outdoors, vs. the clusters of small raised bumps consistent with with bed bug bites. One thing I knew was to bag up any suspect clothing or bedding and seal it in garbage bags to prevent the spread and smother the eggs or bugs. I called the hotel, while my husband arranged to have the bed bug sniffing dogs come in to find out if she brought unwanted souvineers home with her.
I have to confess, that by now I am scratching furiously, just thinking about a bed bug infestation.

The super supplied some heavy duty bags and somehow Mr. Genius proceeded to fill 10 of them, although the entire suitcase and it’s contents would have easily filled one. Over-react much? I am pretty sure that whatever is in those other bags are now infested, should there actually be bed bug eggs in her bag. As he piles them up in the vestibule, I notice the strong scent of faux mint. A really unpleasant smell, like a toothpaste truck collided with a truck of cheap scented candles. The stank is so potent it is permeating the whole main floor of our house. I am pretty sure it will over-power the bed bug scent and render the dog’s trip useless. $381 useless.

So, what does Mr. Genius do? Transfers all the potentially bed bug infested items into new bags of course. You can see where all this is going, right? Everything has picked up the scent, so not only will the dogs be deterred, but most of the items in B’s room will smell like a NYC taxi for a long time. IF, in fact there are eggs in there, they have now been spread yet again.

At this point, I am pretty sure that the dead bed bug was isolated, since they didn’t have any other incidents, so I am hoping this is all for naught.
I’ll keep you posted…

UPDATE: Sherlock, the K-9 bed bug sniffing dog did not find anything, either in the bags, or anywhere in the house. It looks like we are bed bug free. Hallelujah!!!!

 

Related posts:

For more on the life and times of my family’s genius capers, you may want to re-read this little ditty.For more on bed bugs, check this one out.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Washing Berries

June 14, 2016

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It’s berry season, and the markets are bursting with a variety to choose from. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are among the most popular of the mini fruits, and also the most delicate.

It is important to thoroughly wash berries, to remove debris. Running them under  water often damages them, as the stream provides too much force for something as fragile as a raspberry. The solution, is to soak, rather than rinse them, to get them clean. Strawberries, in particular, seem to make it to the dirty dozen list each year, due to their extremely high pesticide load. (Read more about the dirty dozen here.) Buying organic berries are recommended.

To properly clean fresh berries, place them in the basket of a salad spinner, and submerge them in cool, clean water to soak for several minutes. You can also add a couple of spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar to the first bath, to aid in the removal of debris. This may be too much acid for raspberries and blackberries, but for the sturdier varieties, the vinegar is fine. Use it sparingly, to make sure you don’t damage the fruit. Strain, and change the water a few times until the water remains clean. The vinegar is also helpful in fighting mold that develops quickly on soft fruit, like berries. Just be sure to get it all off before using them.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, a large bowl and a colander or strainer works as well.

Shake the strainer lightly, and allow the berries to dry before storing. (DON’T SPIN!!!)Place a folded paper towel in the bottom of the storage container to absorb any excess water and cushion the berries.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: One Pan Chicken Dinner

June 13, 2016

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Dinner doesn’t get more basic than roasted chicken with potatoes and a green vegetable. Today’s unrecipe lets you make the entire meal all in one pan. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! The chicken is roasted to perfection, yielding crisp skin and tender, juicy meat. The potatoes take on extra flavor from the chicken drippings, with a crusty outside and a fluffy interior. The asparagus gets tossed in during the last 15 minutes of cooking time, to keep it al dente. Add some lemon and a little garlic and dijon mustard and you have the making of a mouth watering feast.

Your dinner partners will thank you for the delicous meal. You’ll thank us for only having to wash one pan. It’s a winner of a chicken dinner for all involved!

Pan Roasted Chicken With Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus:

Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan, and toss with olive oil and a little salt. If they are larger potatoes, cut them into chunks. We used tiny little fingerlings, and left them whole.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, garlic, dijon mustard and a little olive oil. Massage the mixture onto both sides of the chicken and place it on top of the potatoes. Tuck a few lemon slices in amongst the chicken pieces, and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until the potatoes start to brown and the chicken skin is nice and crispy. Toss in the , trimmed and cut into 3″ pieces, and continue to cook until the asparagus starts to soften, but is still crisp, and the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked, about 15 minutes more.  Remove from the oven and enjoy!

In the spirit of a true Unrecipe, you can use any type of potato, and most any green vegetable. Try Idaho, red russet or even sweet potatoes, cut up. Toss in green beans, broccoli or zucchini spears instead of asparagus. Add a some olives, or artichoke hearts. Why not stretch your creativity a bit. It’s only on pan.

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It’s All In The Details: Tassels

June 10, 2016

This season, we are seeing a return to the humble trim. Tassels are adorning everything from clothing, accessories and even swim suits. The vibe ranges from ethnic to homemade, as rows of tassels  give garments a decorative edge.

A simple white dress is finished with a row of tied tassels.

anine bing

Anine Bing

Denim gets the tassel treatment:

femme actuelle

Femme Actuelle

A fluid white voile blouse with a tasseled hemline:

Apiece Apart

Apiece Apart

Colored tassels take a flat summer sandal to the next level:

Loeffler Randall

Loeffler Randall

Mixed and placed prints get a finishing touch with a row of pink tassels:

Calypso St. Barth

Calypso St. Barth

Beads and tassels create a dramatic back view:

Shopbop

Shopbop

Tasseled bracelets complete this boho stack:

Etsy

Etsy

While there are lots of ready to wear options in the shops right now, it’s an easy DIY update to last season’s items. Pick up a yard or two of tasseled trim at your local sewing, craft or even home decor shop, and sew it on the hem of a simple, dress, top or  a pair of shorts to get the look.

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A Magic Pill For Getting Your Greens

June 8, 2016

 

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We all know that we should be eating more vegetables. In fact, 75% of all Americans only eat one or two servings of vegetables per day, versus the recommended 5-13 servings. Of those one or two servings of vegetables  that are being eaten, almost half are in the form of chips or french fries.

Many health advocates hopped on the smoothie and juice wagon, drinking much of thier recommended amount for breakfast each day. However, many of those green juices contain four times the amount of sugar the World Health Organization recommends consuming in any given day. While drinking your vegetables is certainly an easier fix than chowing through bunches of kale, and stalks of broccoli, there is now an even more streamlined way to get your greens.

A new product called 8G is a fizzy tablet that you drop into water, which provides you with 8 different types of greens, all in one simple dose.

product-benfits

The brain child of Dawn Russell, a former model, and current British royal, was developed after her battle with stage three cancer several years ago. Russell traveled the world seeking alternative cures when a bone infection prevented her from under going traditional chemotherapy. While many turned out to be more harm than good, she discovered that the more greens she consumed, the stronger she became.

Russell is not touting greens as a cure for cancer; she had several surgeries and other treatments as well. She does believe that eating healthy greens contributed to saving her life.

8G is comprised of 8 different greens, including spinach, wheat grass, blue green algae, kale, spirulina, aloe vera, chlorella and barley grass, which are purported to detoxify, oxygenate, and alkalize the body. It contains vitamins C, and B3, B5, B6 and B12, zinc and niacin. 8G is free of wheat, gluten, sugars, dairy, allergens, salt and preservatives. Each tablet contains only 9 calories, and is portable enough to keep in your handbag to drink anywhere that water is available.

After years of development, testing and tasting, not only has Russell hit on a formula that is palatable, she has also gotten the cost down from $100 to just $12.50 per vial of 10 tablets.

The Penninsula Hotel Group and Nordstrom are among those who have embraced the product, and expansion plans already underway.

You can try it yourself, by ordering through the 8G website.

Photos: Courtesy of 8G

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