Blog, Food for the Soul, Recipes

Yummy Pepper Jelly

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the stuff of lunch box legend. Unless you have a peanut allergy, this staple has probably been with you since the beginning. It’s one of the greatest lunch foods there is–until the emergence of pepper jelly, because now, you have all those flavours in a sweet-heat treat that goes wonderfully on bread, crackers, bagels and the like. Move over, peanut butter, because today’s lunchbox can have something a little better–pepper jelly and cream cheese! Okay, I admit it doesn’t have the same ring to it as PB&J, but it’s yummy. It’s really yummy.

So many dishes are getting an extra kick nowadays just by adding pepper jelly to the mix. It comes in a lot of different fruity flavours so you never have to just stick to one, unless of course you want to. From glazing meat while barbecuing, to using it in pulled pork and to things like sauces for wings and as an addition to a stir fry, this stuff is not only delicious, but it’s versatile too.

So now let’s explore some of the more interesting uses for this sweet-heat treat. What about blending it into your next margarita? Not only will your drink be sweeter and fruitier but it will also have a little something extra, a little kick of heat. Same goes for home made frozen ice treats. Simply blend some of the stuff in with the other ingredients, freeze and enjoy.

It can also be used to make candied bacon, and really, who wouldn’t enjoy candied bacon? As well as being a dip for egg rolls or a dip for vegetables at a party. Who could resist? Sauce for hot wings, sauce for meats and sauce for vegetables, this stuff can do it all. But what about ice cream?

Ice cream is a great thing because you can put almost anything on top of it to create a masterpiece. Try your favourite flavour of pepper jelly and you have taken ice cream to a whole new level. Sure you get your fruity flavour but you also get that kick of heat and what goes better with a kick of heat than a creamy spoonful of ice cream?

With so many variations, you’ll want to try your pepper jelly in your own recipes to see if you can come up with a fan favourite of your own. Bon appetit!

Blog, Food for the Soul, Recipes

Do You Want Fries With That? No Fries, Chips

Why do Americans love french fries so much? While their popularity spans the globe, we Americans devour nearly 2 million tons every year. They make the perfect partner with hamburgers or simply alone. And potato chips? Who can eat just one?

The french fry began in Europe, with Belgium and France both claiming its creation. The potato chip is strictly American. (In either case, explorer Marco Polo missed out.) Centuries ago, the lowly potato was plentiful and cheap, traveled well and lent itself to different preparations, making it a popular food in Europe. The French fried it and called it “pommes frites.” The popular dish came to America and was called “French fried potatoes.” In the 1930’s the name was shortened to “french fries.”

Food historians will argue that the french fry began its popularity in Belgium, as early as the 1600s. Some claim they may have been a substitute for small fried fish, when the rivers froze over and fishing was near impossible. They caught on as a tasty side dish and found their way down to France, whose chefs were always open to new foods and cooking styles.

Originally eschewed as an unhealthy root vegetable and used as pig feed, those inventive French did a 180 degree turnaround and began serving them as a delicacy. Pommes Frites spread to America and President Thomas Jefferson first served the potato fried thin and crisp to guests at the White House, after enjoying them on one of his trips to France. Americans soon found the potato economical and easy to grow, and a welcome addition to their daily meals. Hearty soups and chowders fed large families, and as cooks began experimenting with variations of the potato, new recipes popped up throughout the country.

When hamburgers caught on, thanks to early chains like White Castle and eventually McDonald’s, fries were an economical partner, not to mention a big profit for the restaurants. They were easy to eat, unlike the baked or mashed versions, and could be served in a small paper envelope.

The creation of potato chips goes to a New Yorker named George Crum, a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the crispy light discovery was an instant hit among the guests. But the general public did not have occasion to enjoy the crispy treat until snack foods became popular in the twentieth century. Chips led the way and were originally sold in cans. With all the flavors offered to us, 50 percent of American households still prefer the plain. Americans crunch down half of the world’s production, totaling over seven billion dollars annually. That translates into almost five pounds a year per person. And that’s just chips. Figure in other forms, and you have 110 pounds of potatoes per year per person. (That’s a lot of starch.)

So there you have it–a brief history of the most popular vegetable in the country. Mash it, bake it, fry it, boil it. Who’d have thought the humble potato, once considered only fit for hog feed, could evolve into our favorite snack?

This author confesses to being a closet potato chip eater, and admits that the sour cream and cheddar flavor is her favorite. Mashed and baked potatoes are great, but nothing quite equals the french fry. With ketchup.

Blog, Food for the Soul

6 Common Food Combinations That Are Actually Terrible For Your Health

Combing foods is more than a culinary art, it’s what we all do on a daily basis. There are many traditional foods that we have always combined, but actually without realizing it this can actually have adverse health effects. Much of what we eat comes from habit, as in what our parents fed us and those favorite dishes that we just latched onto as something we have to have time and time again. Very few people actually put much consideration into the health effects of what they eat. When we eat we are not so much interested in taking care of our bodies as merely getting rid of those hunger pains and exciting the taste buds.

Eating should always be an enjoyable and even sociable event, but it should actually give us energy, keep us strong, and move us forward, instead of slowing us down or making us feel bad. Many unpleasant feelings that sneak up on us after eating that nice meal, has to do with the types of foods we are combining.

It’s not a bad recommendation for all of us to seek out a nutritionist or two and have them help us make a truly balanced diet. Eating healthy isn’t just about eating some lettuce, it’s understanding how various food combinations just really don’t make sense from a body’s needs point of view.

1. Sparing that favorite dressing for the diet version on your favorite salad.

You just can’t win for losing. Switching to that diet salad dressing because you think you are being health conscious is actually not a very wise choice at all. Vegetables have many great things for our body, and are an important part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately it’s the fat, in that great tasting salad dressing that actually helps the body to absorb and take advantage of all those precious benefits that a vegetable salad gives us. Diet versions of anything have never really been a good solution for weight loss. Eating a balanced and healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle including exercise and sport

is what really helps one lose weight and stay fit. Not buying everything with the word diet on it at the local grocery store.

2. Mixing eggs with steak, you know those famous steak and eggs that can satisfy a lumberjack!

It’s never a good idea to mix different types of proteins. Best to mix eggs with vegetables, and then eat that hefty steak for dinner. Also eating heavy proteins too early in the day can certainly make you feel groggy at work. Start light and work your way to heavier meals later in the day to evening. We do most of the heavy digesting when we are laying in bed and resting or sleeping. If we force our body to try and work too hard digesting food while we are active, we won’t have enough blood to handle all that activity hence the dizzy, lack of energy feeling we can get.

3. Bananas and milk or that banana smoothie

This has been proclaimed by nutritionists to be the absolute worst combination one can force down their body, no matter how delicious it may seem. It actually creates toxins that harm the body, create awful gases, upset stomach and bloating. A nice glass of chocolate milk helps the digestion, so why invite the bananas to the picture? Leave those for the Minions. You know those yellow little creatures that eat 50 pounds of bananas daily…

4. That famous marinara spaghetti sauce with Parmesan and American cheese.

Who would turn down such a great meal as spaghetti especially with some garlic bread to go along and maybe a glass of red wine? Ever noticed after eating those 3 portions of spaghetti you find it difficult to even get up from the table and walk to the living room coach? That’s because the tomatoes that make the famous spaghetti sauce are high in acid, and acid based foods mixed with starchy foods as pasta simply don’t mix. It makes for a digestion nightmare, no matter how delicious it is, if you don’t want to be weighed down by what you eat, best to avoid spaghetti and lasagna with tomato sauce. How about a fresh olive oil sauce with garlic and basil?

5. Bread and Jam, or that peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Oh how we love that peanut butter sandwich with potato chips and a cold glass of milk. Many of us grew up on that one! The problem is, such simple carbohydrates in such a delicious mix cause our blood sugar to go through the ceiling and then the body has to release large amounts of insulin to bring it back down. This expands more energy than we gained from eating that sandwich in the first place. After words it’s kind of like a bad hang-over, we lose energy, will and our ability to concentrate. Leave the pbj to our childhood, but now it’s time to start eating with the goal of helping us in our day, not slowing us down.

6. The habit of eating fruits after a protein meal as meat, potatoes, pasta dishes and so forth, or after eating a heavy lunch or dinner.

Fruit dishes have always been served as a sweet desert after a nice meal or to clean the palate. Fruit should be eaten without combining with other foods. It’s best eaten for breakfast like maybe on top of a nice oatmeal dish, or smothered in yogurt. Fruit has natural sugars, and meats and starches have complicated sugars. By mixing the 2, the sugar from the fruits will become stuck in the stomach, while it’s trying to breakdown the heavier sugars, and began a fermentation process, which we all know makes for unpleasant gases and stomach pain.

There are many more food combinations that really aren’t the best at all when we are trying to eat healthy. Much of this has to do with breaking our old eating habits, and then spending a little time actually researching what kind of diet would actually work for us. After all we are talking about our health, our energy, and our lifestyle. It certainly would not be a negative activity to try and improve our eating habits to give us a better quality of life. Talking with nutritionists, doing a little research on the internet, asking around and experimenting with different health oriented recipes could turn into a very enjoyable hobby for us, with the results of feeling like we were 20 years old all over again!

So enjoy your meal, but make it something that your body also enjoys!

Blog, Fantastic French, Sweets Galore

Evolution of French Cuisine

The rich and delectable French cuisine dates back to the Middle Ages, a time marked by lavish banquet, aristocratic menus and exotic dishes. Influenced by social and political upheaval, the French cuisine traversed through decades of culinary variance that eventually conferred it the title ‘haute cuisine’

The Medieval French feast, ostentatious in nature, depicted elaborate banquets, opulent carte du jour, exotic spices imparting aromatic flavors and ornate presentation exhibiting the affluence of the host. The arrangement however remained at its elementary level—clay vessels, rustic plates, white tabletops, absence of forks, hand eating and chanting of prayer in reverence was the usual backdrop of this grand feasting—-a remarkable juxtaposition in its own.

The Old French Cuisine

The French cuisine of the Middle Ages stand as a sharp contrast to the present time. The cooking style then involved generous usage of spices, herbs, rich sauces and mustards for strong flavors. Numerous dishes were prepared consisting of sliced off meats like beef, pork, fish & poultry, pies, roasted swans & peacock, preserved vegetables and desserts. The food type was greatly determined by the respective seasons. The visual appeal was of paramount importance hence special attention was given to usage of colors with saffron, spinach, egg yolks and sunflower. Beer took a more prominent place than wine. The feasting was an extravaganza, service en confusion was the serving style predominant back then wherein food was served in unison. Only centuries later this practice got revolutionized under the auspices of King Louis XIV and meals were served in succession at different courses individually at the table.

The Italian Influence

The much advanced culinary arts of Italy came along with Catherine De Medicis when she married King Henry II. Her Italian chefs introduced innovative styles that greatly influenced the French cuisine. Decorative tableware, ornamental crockery and stunning glassware became commonplace and introduction of new foods like green beans and tomatoes were appreciated.

Ancien Règime and French Revolution

Paris marked the seat of the best culinary craftsmen in the 16th and 18th century—the period of Ancien Règime that saw the advent of the guild system of food distribution. Chefs were restricted to an assigned style or area, thereby hampering their proficiency and expertise. The French revolution later ceased the guild, opening new doors for chefs who could now experiment new dishes fluxing their cookery talents.

The French cuisine owes its eminence to their royal chefs— Carème, Montagnè and Escoffier, the pride of their time who introduced contemporary dining etiquettes, food dressing, artistry and décor, modern cooking styles that focused more on delectable ingredients rather on abundance of meal; categorized food preparation by specialists and authorized marvelous cookbooks that pared down and refined French Cuisine.

The Haute Cuisine

Escoffier was the eminent figure behind the French haute cuisine—‘high cuisine’ that unfolded in the 17th century. Accolades to Francois Pierre La Varenne who is also credited for publishing his cookbook Cvisinier francois that ushered in modern techniques of preparing light dishes and desserts with modest arrangements in a more codified manner. Escoffier not only brought in the ‘brigade system’ (segregation of kitchens in 5 sections) to fuse more efficiency in the culinary art but also penned down several cookbooks that turned him a much revered legend of French cuisine.

Present Day French Cuisine

The French gastronomy is a delight and so is its culinary culture. Innovative styles of cooking are imbibed using seasonal ingredients to offer the most sumptuous meals. The breakfast consists of mainly eggs, ham, croissants, tartines, jam, butter and tea/coffee while lunch is a bit elaborate. Dinner is segregated in three courses—soup, main course and dessert or cheese course. Wine has a special place; French wine has its rich history.

Savor on the delightful French cuisines that have evolved over the years under the patronage of royal chefs and enrich your taste buds with dishes that have earned their name as the French national cuisine.

Blog, Food for the Soul, Sweets Galore

Fondue for You Too

While no longer as popular as it was in the 1970s, fondue deserves its exalted place in culinary discoveries and fads. There are some restaurants which still serve this wonderful dish exclusively. Those old enough to remember its heyday have happy memories of friends gathered around a pot of hot cheese or oil, dipping away. The true gourmet host might feature all three types: cheese for bread, oil for meat, and chocolate for dessert.

The actual name is taken from the French word fondre which means “to melt.” But it was the Swiss who originally created the cheese fondue in the 18th century. It seems that cheese got old and bread got stale, especially during the winter months, and what better way to use those two staples than to create a large gooey pot of leftover cheeses, add some wine and herbs and dip not-so-fresh bread, using long sticks. Add a roaring fire and you’ve got a cozy warm evening and a hot meal.

A common theory credits an unknown Swiss traveler who was visiting China (no, not explorer Marco Polo), and he enjoyed a dish similar to fondue, but rather than hot oil, the Chinese offered broth to dip pieces of different foods. Returning to his native Switzerland, he acquainted a chef with his discovery, and it soon was embraced by the Swiss, substituting cheese. They also used broth, but well, you know the Swiss have to use cheese for just about everything. Enough said.

Eventually fondue was proclaimed a national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) to increase and promote cheese consumption in the 1930s.Those clever union guys proclaimed it to be part of the “spiritual defense of Switzerland.” (Would I make that up?)

Meanwhile back in France during the middle ages, workers in the vineyards of Burgundy had no access to a meal during their long days picking grapes, so it is rumored that the overseers would set up a hot kettle of oil, enabling workers to cook meats and breads for a hearty lunch. Out of this tradition came the dish Fondue Bourguignonne. Although the French embraced the cheese fondue from their Swiss neighbors, they lead the way with hot oil in which they dipped meats, seafood and vegetables.

In American, it seems fondue was late to the party. (Where was Thomas Jefferson? He would have adored featuring fondue at White House dinners in the early 1800s.) Originally served in French and Swiss restaurants in big cities, it caught on in the late 1960s and 70s as a new trend, and young professionals found it a great way to host a dinner party with very little work or cooking involved. Put out a pot of oil or cheese, a plate of dunking morsels, some wine, and you have a gourmet experience. And leave it to the chocoholics to dream up the chocolate fondue. Take chunks of cake and fruit and dunk away to your heart’s content.

Fondue continues its popularity as a pleasant communal dining experience for all ages. There are still restaurants which specialize in fondue, and others which feature it on their menu. It’s a great dish for entertaining, eating out or just a quiet evening at home. So enjoy its delicious varieties, if for no other reason than it’s nearly impossible to use a cell phone while navigating a hot pot of oil or cheese.