Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Food Fixations

November 2, 2018

Lately, everyone and I mean everyone, has a food thing. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, no soy, no sugar, Paleo, Keto; the list is endless. As a caterer, my job is made a bit more challenging while trying to adhere to all the guests’ dietary issues. As a former trend forecaster, I believe it is going to become even more prevalent, with more restaurants and catering companies (it me!) creating special menus to work around it all. With party season upon us, the owness is on you, as a host to ensure that all of your guests have something they can eat. Here are a few of my pro tips for entertaining in the age of the restricted diet.

 

 

Ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions.  

If you know what people can’t eat, it is easy to plan around them. Every dish doesn’t have to adhere to one person’s diet, but you can certainly make sure to include at least a dish or two that they can eat and enjoy. If you are hosting a small dinner party with someone who doesn’t eat gluten, you may want to rethink that pasta-centric menu and choose something else. As a caterer, I often ask if it is an allergy or a preference. I would never try to trick someone into eating something they don’t want, but if it is an allergy, I need to take extra precautions to make sure that the offending ingredient is kept far away from the other foods. That means that I can’t put the gluten-free cookies on the same tray as the conventional ones, or more importantly, that I need to clean the kitchen completely between preparing items that use the allergen, and those that don’t.

Plan a menu that has lots of choices so that those who are eliminating food groups, or just trying to eat more healthfully can find things to enjoy.  

Plan a varied menu with options to suit any diet. This is easier to do than you might think, especially for a buffet or cocktail party. A good host will make their guests feel comfortable. If you are inviting a dairy-free friend to a wine and cheese party, add some fruit and vegetables to the tray for variety. Gluten-free? Those same vegetables can take the place of crackers. A varied menu is more interesting, and a carnivore might welcome some creative vegetable dishes too.

Think about what your guests CAN eat, and less about what they can’t. 

The elimination of multiple food groups can be daunting to a host. Try to reframe the issue and concentrate on what your guests can eat. Often it boils down to vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and lean or plant-based proteins. Use this as the centerpiece of your menu planning and feel free to add grains, carbs, sweets etc. around it for the guests who are able to partake.

As a guest, let your host know in advance of your dietary requirements, especially if a meal is involved.

At least if they decide not to provide anything that suits your diet, you will not be offending them when you choose not to eat. Be gracious about it. Don’t just provide a list of items you have eliminated and expect them to be banned from the party. You can eat healthfully and not come off like a diva. Tread lightly and don’t expect everyone to eat Tofurky for you. (‘Cause that stuff is nasty!)

If you are going to an event that you know is going to be problematic for you, offer to bring a dish that everyone can enjoy with you.

Thanksgiving is a perfect example of one of those meals. Families take their traditions seriously, and many may balk at adjusting their menus for just one guest. ( Or many guests with dueling requests.) Bring an interesting salad or a non- cheesy, sugary, marshmallow-topped side that fits your dietary requirements. Who knows? It may just become a new tradition for your family!

Don’t be a pusher.

As a host or a fellow guest, don’t try to push foods on those who don’t want them. “Just a taste” is a rude and manipulative gesture to those who wish to abstain, as is a grand announcement of their food choices. Putting other guests in an awkward position and making them feel uncomfortable is unacceptable. Don’t do it.

Making your guests comfortable shouldn’t make you uncomfortable.

Catering to guests’ dietary issues shouldn’t make entertaining more difficult or unpleasant for the host.  Opt for some simple additions or changes, and get on with your cooking. You shouldn’t have to make multiple versions of things or tailor the entire party around one person or group of people. (See Tofurky comment above.) That said, I have I taken a single portion of many Thanksgiving sides and used margarine instead of butter, or eliminated sugar or nuts to feed a guest with restrictions. In doing so while I was cooking, I gave the guest a special version without much additional effort on my part and gave the rest of the group what they wanted. That gesture of compliance was greatly appreciated.

Food is something that brings us together and preparing it can be an act of love. Don’t lose sight of that as you enter party season, dietary issues and all!

Check out our new food site: indigojoneseats

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Fall Color play: Magenta Foods

September 20, 2018

This morning, as I skimmed my Instagram feed, something caught my eye. Beautiful, magenta foods, heralding the beginning of fall in a not so typical way. Instead of being bombarded by the usual pumpkin spice avalanche, these deep, rich hues, all artfully photographed, set my imagination on fire!

Check out these talented Instagrammers for more.

via Safran_rot Instagram

via Okuprin Instagram

via Cloudy Kitchen Instagram

And, apparently, great minds think alike:

Yep, this one is our beet hummus served at an event a few nights ago!

Do you follow us on Instagram? @indigojonesnyc

 

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Shower Power

June 12, 2018

I often see people posting about using items for purposes other than those which they were intended for. The disposable shower cap is one such item. Although they are normally found in hotel bathrooms, this tip might cause you to move yours to the kitchen.

The lightweight plastic cap with an elasticized edge is perfect for covering bowls at a picnic. But it’s usefulness doesn’t stop there. Not only does it keep the flies out of the food until it is ready to be eaten, it can also keep your food fresh. Once you remove the cover, fill it with ice and set the bowl in it to keep your food at a safe temperature. The elastic edge will grip the bowl and hold the ice in place. When the party is over, you can toss it, or better yet, rinse it off and use it again next time.

* Disposable shower caps can also be purchased inexpensively at most health and beauty aid stores near the hair color.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Saving Avocado

May 22, 2018

We’ve all been there. One day your avocado is a rock, and then before you know it, it’s a mushy grey ball. What seems like a brief window of perfect ripeness comes and goes so quickly, it’s easy to miss. What can you do when the whole bag is suddenly ripe all at once and you can’t possibly eat them all before they go bad? Keep reading to find out!

When we saw this avocado saving hack on Well + Good last week, (via @leefromamerica ‘s Instagram stories)we knew we had to share it.

Lee mashes up the ripe avocados and presses them into a silicone icecube tray to freeze for later use. Drop a cube into a smoothie, or thaw it to spread on a sandwich. Be sure to wrap it well, pressing the plastic wrap right onto the avocado mash to help keep it airtight and prevent browning. That’s one less avocado for the compost bin, and more to enjoy ” on demand”!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Multi- Wheel Cutters

May 1, 2018

I am not a big kitchen gadget fan. I prefer to use multipurpose tools to get the job done. Why spend money and kitchen storage real estate on a boiled egg slicer you rarely use, when a knife works just as well? Avocado pitter anyone? The list goes on and on.

This item, however, is more of a pro tool than an infomercial worthy gadget. It is a multi-wheeled cutter attached to an expandable base, useful in getting your items cut into perfect, equal pieces. It’s ideal for brownies, blondies, and other bar cookies, and useful in cutting even strips of dough for lattice tops and puffed pastry cheese sticks. While some are stronger and sharper than others, even the lightweight version will at the very least score the surface, giving you a line to cut along for even bars of any size. They vary drastically in price, but for a home baker with perfectionist tendencies, an inexpensive version works just fine.

We have this one.

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cake Keeping

April 17, 2018

“Your cake will only last as long as its quickest expiring ingredient.” – Craftsy

This quote popped up on my feed earlier and gave me pause.  While the cake itself may last a while, the fillings, frosting or decorations may not. Once that buttercream, cream cheese icing or fruit filling starts to go, the whole cake needs to follow.

Consider the ingredients when determining the shelf life and storage of various foods. Donuts may sit out indefinitely, but cream filled crullers or eclairs should go in the refrigerator, and be tossed after a couple of days. Use this tip to safely determine the proper storage and expiration date for all the food you may have on hand.

photo: Glasshouse Images

 

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Softening Brown Sugar

March 13, 2018

I store my brown sugar carefully in an airtight container to avoid it hardening, yet, somehow, I have a  large canister of hard and lumpy brown sugar on my hands. All is not lost, as brown sugar can be brought back to life by softening it in the microwave.

Simply place the hard sugar in a microwave safe (glass is ideal) bowl and drape it loosely with a wet paper towel. Cook on high for about 30 seconds, and check to see if it is softened. If it isn’t ready, stir it and repeat this operation in 20-second intervals, re-dampening the towel as necessary until it reaches the desired state. Avoid letting the wet towel touch the sugar to keep it from melting. The sugar is ready to use when it is soft, easy to pack into a cup, and free of clumps.

photo: @indigojonesnyc 

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Composting 101

March 7, 2018

New York City is taking a stance on food waste and has begun to roll out what will eventually be a mandatory composting program.  For those of us new to the composting world, here are a few do’s and don’ts to help make the transition smoother.

Why compost?

When food waste is mixed into our regular garbage, it sits in the landfills and gives off greenhouse gasses. When composted, our organic waste can be used to add nutrients and improve soil quality for our street trees, parks, and urban farms.

 

What do I compost vs. recycle vs. toss in the garbage?

Compostable items are food scraps, such as vegetable and fruit peels, tea bags, coffee grounds and egg shells. Dry food items including bread, cereal, and pasta, are also compostable. Animal products, including meat, bones, and feces, as well as other greasy products are not. It is still important to separate glass, plastic and the like for recycling, and non- compostable food waste as true garbage.

How do I avoid getting fruit flies or vermin from my kitchen compost, and prevent my kitchen from smelling bad?

While there are plenty of compost bucket options at all price ranges out there, it’s not really necessary to purchase something. A large yogurt container with a tight-fitting lid, a big mason jar, or even a zip-lock bag works fine. If you don’t have easy access to a drop off point or your building is not providing a communal compost bin for its tenants, you can put the food waste in the freezer to eliminate odors as the waste starts to break down until you can get it to the compost site.

Doing the right thing for our planet is not always the easiest choice, but it certainly is the best choice. If your building is not yet part of the compost program, here is a list of drop off points around the city so that you can participate in the meantime.

https://www.grownyc.org/compost/locations

photos: Glasshouse Images

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Is It Time To Toss Those Leftovers

November 28, 2017

 

It is sad to even think about throwing away the delicious remains of your Thanksgiving meal, but if you still have leftovers lingering in your refrigerator, it’s time to bid them farewell. Yes, food safety trumps food waste every time.

Turkey lasts about 3-4 days well wrapped and refrigerated. Same for stuffing provided it has been removed from the turkey before it was stored. Gravy is good for only a day or two, but most cranberry sauces should last up to 2 weeks. Mashed potatoes and candied sweet potatoes should be good for about 3-5 days. Pumpkin pie lasts 3-4 days and apple should be refrigerated within 2 days if it has been cut.

Freezing certain items are an option but don’t freeze just for the sake of freezing. My freezer sometimes becomes a receptacle for things I don’t know what to do with and in the end, never get thawed and used. As unpopular an opinion as this is, if you don’t see yourself eating that cranberry sauce in the next several weeks, let it go.

Goodbye leftovers! We shall never speak of you again(until next time).

photo: Glasshouse Images

Visit our food site: indigo jones eats

 

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Leftover Madness: Unrecipe of the Week: Turkey and Biscuits

November 26, 2017

 

Working our way through all these leftovers is daunting, to say the least. Reliving the Thanksgiving feast just isn’t that appealing to us and with only three unenthusiastic eaters to work on it, too much is sadly going to waste. Last night, in an effort to create dinner from what I had on hand, I threw these together, to positive reviews. They only took about 10 minutes to prep and made a slight dent in the bountiful array of foods filling up my refrigerator.

Not the best photo, but it’s all I could get before they got devoured.

Turkey and Biscuits:
This is the ultimate unrecipe, designed to use what you have, so feel free to be flexible with ingredients.
Saute one finely diced shallot in butter. If you don’t have a shallot, use an onion. Add diced carrot, and celery if you have it, and keep cooking until the shallot is transparent and the carrots are softened. Mix in chunks of cooked turkey, and sprinkle it with cornstarch or flour. Toss until everything is coated, and the flour is no longer visible. Slowly add turkey stock, or chicken broth, bring to a slow boil and stir until thickened. Go easy here. If it isn’t thick enough, mix some of your cornstarch or flour with some hot broth and stir it in. If it gets gloppy, add more broth. At this point, I added some frozen peas. You can add whatever vegetables and herbs you have. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Bonus points if you made this part in an ovenproof skillet and don’t have to wash another dish! Place biscuits on top of the mixture. Mine were already lightly baked, and very high, so I sliced them in half and brushed them with melted butter and little Maldon sea salt, ’cause I’m fancy.
Place in the oven at 350 degrees and bake until the biscuits are hot and browned about 5 minutes. If you don’t have leftover biscuits, you can use the ones from the tube and bake according to directions.
No biscuits, no problem. This filling could go into a traditional pie with a top crust, or atop those frozen puffed pastry shells instead. Baking times will vary according to your pastry preference.
Enjoy!

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