Tuesday, December 31, 2013


It's time to celebrate. I have a perfect little appetizer that would be great for your New Year's Eve Party.  It's super easy to make and not too naughty. 

Makes 20-30 cups

2 seedless cucumbers
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
4 ounces crème fraiche (Mexican crema or sour cream will also work)
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped chives
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Dash kosher salt

OPTIONAL (garnish)
A few chives
A handful of capers
A small amount of caviar

Using a vegetable peeler, slice alternating strips lengthwise down the cucumbers. It should look like long stripes of green (unpeeled) and white (peeled) on the cumber.

Cut off the ends of the cumber. Cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch rounds.

Using a melon-baller or small spoon, scoop a little cucumber from each round to make a little “bowl”. 

For Cream Filling
Whip cream cheese till nice and soft in mixer. Add in crème fraiche, beat till smooth and creamy (it should soft enough to pipe through a pastry bag, but not too soft that it doesn’t hold the shape)

Mix in the fresh herbs; dash salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper.

Using a rubber spatula, spoon cheese mixture into a piping bag with a large holed tip (if you don’t have a piping bag, a plastic baggie can be used instead and just cut off the tip after the bag has been filled).

For Assembly
Using the piping bag, pipe out a small decorative amount of the cheese mixture into the cucumber cups.

Optional- Garnish with snipped chives, capers or caviar.

I also want to wish everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Sunshine Dressing

A favorite salad dressing of mine is honey mustard vinaigrette. It’s super simple to make. The nice thing is that one usually will have all the ingredients sitting around.

This dressing is so bright, tangy and lightly sweet. It reminds me of sunshine and it a perfect way to brighten up your salad on a cold wintery day. I hope you enjoy this simple treat as much as I do.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

½ cup Dijon mustard
4 Tablespoons honey
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl. Whisk until ingredients are fully combined. Drizzle over your favorite salad and enjoy. You can store this in the refrigerator for a week.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Get Your Spritz On

When I was growing up, making Christmas cookies always meant a marathon of baking which would result in tubs of various kinds of cookies.  And then the dispersing of the cookies.

My mother used to save the boxes from greeting card sets (yes, those were the old days, when people actually sent Christmas cards and birthday cards). She would fill each small cardboard box with cupcake paper liners, then layer different kinds of cookies in each. To finish it off, she'd cover with plastic wrap and then tie a ribbon around it.  We'd have a stack of these cookie boxes that would be distributed to neighbors, friends, people who lived alone, people who were sick, and so on.

One of my favorite of all the cookies when would make were the press cookies, which Mother mixed up and loaded into her cookie press.  Three turns of the crank, and out would plop a shake on the waiting cookie sheet.  There were pale green Christmas trees. Pink Christmas wreaths. White stars. And light blue triangular things which I never could figure out what they were.

These were small cookies.  Easy to grab one or three. It was basically just a sugar cookies. But always good.

Well, times have changed. But maybe not so much.  Chef Ashley and I have a cookie baking marathon every year in early December, and are joined by other family members for the day in the kitchen.  Everyone has their favorite cookie to bake.

And it seems like I am always left with the press cookies.  I know that's not the right name for it, but it's what we called them.  Cookbooks label them Spritz cookies.

I'm a little more high-tech than my mother was.  My cookie press is battery operated. But there are the same basic shapes.

This year, Chef Ashley challenged me to add more color to be cookies.  And what resulted could perhaps be called tie-dye cookies.  Yes, I was liberal with the food coloring. And I struggled to get  three colors in the cookie press tube at one time. But I think the result was worth it.

My technique for these explosions of color?  I split the dough in three parts and colored each.  Then I rolled dough into fat snakes and stuffed one of each into the cookies press tube.

After that, it's all random. Every cookie is different.

If you have never made press (or spritz) cookies, I encourage you to try.  The dough is easy to make.  This recipe came from the book for my Hamilton Beach Cookie Press.

1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 ts vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 ts baking powder
1/4 ts salt

Before you start mixing these ingredients, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  (I admit--the recipe says 375, but with my oven, I found that 350 gets better results).

Now you are going to need a mixer for this.  If you're lucky, you have a heavy stand mixer like a Kitchen-Aid.  A hand-held mixer will do also. 

Cream the butter and shortening together. hen gradually add the sugar. Beat this for five minutes, until it is light and fluffy.  (This is important--give it a full five minutes.) Then add the egg and vanilla, mixing at a medium speed.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.  Add this to to well batter, in three parts.  By this time, the dough should be stiff.  Color the dough. Put it in cookie press and then press shapes out onto cookie sheet.  I like to use silicone pads on my cookie sheets, but if you don't have those, use parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  They should just start to brown a tiny bit on the edges.  DON'T OVERBAKE.

Let them cool. Taste, and then share with family and friends.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lemon Meringue Tartlets - Wee Bites of Fun

My Grandma Fern was quite a strong, loving and very hospitable person. She would always feed and offer refreshment to any person who may stop by or who was in need. She wasn’t the best cook, but she did have a few great dishes that I remember and to this day love. One of them is lemon meringue pie, my favorite of pies.

The lemon part of the pie had a nice tartness to it and the meringue was very smooth and sweet. This all fit so well with a buttery and crumbly crust that just melted in your mouth. It brings back memories of the freedom of childhood every time I have a bite.

So in her honor I have recreated her lovely dish into Lemon meringue tartlets, which are perfect little mouthfuls for your upcoming holiday parties. You make them in the mini muffin tins, which makes them just a tiny bite of indulgence. A perfect mini bite of lemony bliss. I do hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 
Happy holidays!

Lemon Meringue Tartlets
Makes 24 mini tartlets

Pie dough:
Makes 12 tartlet shells (you will need to make double this recipe for the lemon meringue tartlets)
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening cut into 4 pieces
1/3-1/2 cups ice cold water

Preheat oven to 350.
Process 1 ½ cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 30 seconds. The dough should be a course crumbly mixture. Then slowly add the water as you pulse till the dough comes together and forms a ball. Take dough out, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes or overnight.

Grease mini muffin pan and set aside. Divide dough into 4 sections. Roll out each section on well floured surface. Use round or scalloped edge cookie cutter to cut out pie shells (the size of the circle should be just larger than the opening of the mini muffin tin hole). Lightly push down the down into the pan. Fill all spaces on the pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Let cool. Carefully pull out tart shells and line on a flat cookie sheet.

Lemon curd:
1/3 cup butter
finely grated zest of a lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs

For the lemon curd, heat the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a simmer. Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl, and slowly whisk in a small amount the lemon mixture. Return whisked mixture to the pan and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it just begins to simmer and thicken. If you want it super smooth, pour it through a fine sieve set over a bowl. You can refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight. It will thicken as it cools.

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt

To make the meringue: in a mixer bowl (or beat by hand), beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until the meringue holds stiff peaks.

To assemble:
In piping bag with wide round tip, squeeze out the lemon curd into the prepared and cooled tart shells. Then pipe with star tip, the whipped meringue mixture in a nice little swirl.

Place the tartlets on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for about 3 minutes, until meringue tips are just browned. Serve immediately or refrigerate until you’re ready for them.
Makes about 2 dozen tartlets.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Holly Hobbie and the Green Blob

My memories of school lunches go two ways. For the most part, I had lunches sent from home. I had a little metal Holly Hobbie lunch box with a thermos in it. The thermos most of the time contained soup for me, accompanied by a slightly soggy sandwich.

My mom would make a soup that was the opposite of my favorite, the spilt pea soup. Her version of spilt pea soup at the time was a bit on the THICK side. More of a scary green blob….think the green blob on Calvin’s plate from the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon. Other times, I remember having Campbell’s alphabet soup, which I enjoyed eating all of the individual letters and seeing if they tasted differently.

Other times my lunch had a sandwich and carrot/celery sticks. I do love sandwiches, but mine had lettuce, tomato and everything all together. That means it was soggy by the time I got to eat it. But I do remember enjoying the peanut butter and honey sandwiches. And since my parents where very healthy, my sandwiches were on the most hearty whole wheat bread possible. More than anything I craved a Wonder bread baloney sandwich with chips and a Twinkie. Thankfully, my parents never gave that to me.

When I was in first and second grade, we lived in Elgin, IL, and I went to a public school that had awesome lunches provided. We got to eat in our classroom and we received two trays each. One was a plastic lunch tray with cold foods, like a salad or carrot sticks with dip. I remember one cold dish that I detested, Ants on a log. My young culinary palate didn’t like the combo of celery, peanut butter and raisins. To this day, I do not like celery (weird, huh).
The other was an aluminum hot lunch tray. I fondly remember my favorite hot lunch, which I nicknamed the “Sea of cheese”. It was a large piece of pizza covered with lots of sauce and even more of gooey mozzarella cheese. It was delightful. Just part of my life long love affair with cheese.

School lunches really were for me the best part of the day. Maybe somewhere deep down I knew I was destined to become a chef.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oh Those Nuggets!

When the days of packing became no longer hip, buying lunch for a cool $1.50 was my only option. That buck and change got you a protein, a vegetable, fruit which was usually swimming in heavy syrup, a roll and milk. No too shabby, eh? Everyone had a favorite lunch day. Some loved pizza, others preferred taco day and Philly cheese steak day was always a crowd-pleaser. For me, when it was chicken nugget day, anything seemed possible. Sad.

It’s hilarious to think back on how much processed nuggets, which probably contained mainly beaks, toe nails and feathers made my teenage day. I remember there being this giant container, essentially a bathtub full of BBQ sauce you could ladle on your tray for dipping. Gross. You could even get “double-lunch,” which is exactly how it sounds. You pay $3.00 for ten nuggets instead of five, get two rolls, two fruit cups, etc. I did this on multiple occasions. There was also a snack line which also got you a choco-dipped something or other. How the hell was I not a fat kid?

As the years progressed lunches did get a wee bit healthier but you had to pay a little bit more. In high school we actually has a pretty decent salad bar. Well, the lettuce wasn’t exactly pristine but it was a better option. I must say I did make better choices the older I got. Well, until senior year when we were allowed to go out for lunch. Hijinks definitely trumped a good meal at age seventeen.

With the help of PSA’s and documentaries like, Super Size Me and HBO’s Weight of the Nation series,school lunches are making strides. Well, at least that’s what it looks like from the outside. 

I honestly feel that if a school cafeteria is equipped with a salad bar, fruit variety and quality snacks a child will choose one of these options. That’s something. I have not eaten school lunch in over thirteen years. As an adult I am curious too see if the quality has improved, ya know, check out what these 2013 chicken nuggets are all about.

What was your favorite lunch? Would you define it as nutritional? Let me know!

By Foodgasm's PR and Social Media specialist, Marlena Riddell

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Confession: My Lunch Was Fluff!

Here's another school lunch remembrance from Foodgasm's PR and Social Media specialist, Marlena Riddell

In an attempt to heighten my independence and maturity level, my mom decided, at the ripe age of eight, that I was worthy of packing my own lunch. I did not rise to the occasion. My lunch contained so much sugar that a diabetic’s leg would detach by simply catching a glimpse of its contents.

My obsession with Fluffernutter, aka “fluff,” was ridiculous. For those who are unfamiliar, fluff is a marshmallow spread which, in 1990, was a cement-like goop that always ripped through Wonder Bread. A mangled peanut butter and fluff sandwich was always the star of my hot-pink lunch satchel. The supporting cast that followed was most definitely not on the food pyramid.

Thanks to Little Debbie and Hostess, I always had a sugar bomb in the form of two logs, a pink ball or a spongy, textured something. Makes me question why they call her Little Debbie; although, I gather calling her “Deb the Obese” doesn’t have the same marketing sparkle. Skinny Cheetos or good ‘ol fashioned Fritos were usually packed as well. C’mon, you gotta have some salt with that sugar!

Now, I wasn’t a complete slob; my lunch did contain some nutritional value. I loved grapes. I actually still love grapes but I prefer them fermented and in a glass. I would maybe have a handful of them and then would whip the rest at a boy I liked or whoever pissed me off on that particular morning. Also, I did get some vitamin C from my Ecto Cooler Hi-C juice box. I’m not even going to knock Ecto Cooler. I wish I had some now. It’s delicious.

It’s pretty jarring realizing you probably didn’t have a nutritional lunch for the majority of your young life. Even if my mom had packed me a nutritional lunch, I probably wouldn’t have eaten it. I’m not sure if it was my eight-year-old palate or lack of food education. Probably a little bit of both. It’s nice to see nutritional awareness in the lunchroom is on the rise these days, but the government still considers ketchup a vegetable. American youth may still be screwed.

Did you pack your lunch, too? What sort of things did you bring? Were you choices as ridiculous as mine? Love to hear some feedback.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Hot Lunch for a Quarter and a Nickel

In the last blog post, I talked about the lunches I brought to school. From the middle of 5th grade through high school, I went to the same school (a centralized school district that incorporated primary and secondary in one sprawling building).

Hot lunches were served daily. Hot lunches that were prepared daily. Hot lunches that came from the often smelled but never seen back rooms behind the cafeteria counters.

Now the current interest in quality ofschool lunches that is championed by people like the First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, is not a new thing. President Truman signed the The Nation School Lunch Act.  This Act, which has been in place, albeit with modifications, since 1946. Interesting sidebar—this legislation came about because of the concern about how many young men who enlisted in World War II were malnourished.

This law “provides for meals based on tested nutritional standards, include all children, prohibits discrimination of any type and provides funds for non-surplus foods and requires accountability through record keeping and reporting.”

Back to my experience of hot lunches. By the time I reached junior and senior high school, I was often given the 30 cents a day to buy my lunch at school.

I may have been the only student in the school who actually liked some of the lunches.  Maybe even loved them.  Every week, a menu would be printed and distributed to all for the next week. Usually the menus were repeated every third week.

This may not be the exact recipes but it was probably close.
I don’t remember all of the menu items, but several stick in my head.  Fridays, of course, there was fish, out of deference to the Catholic population in the town. So often they’d serve a square breaded fish patty. This was topped with tarter sauce and nestled up to a small mound of mashed potatoes with a pool of melted butter in the middle. The menu said it was butter. I’m pretty sure that golden liquid wasn't just butter but was some mixture of butter and oil.  I don’t remember what kind of vegetable this would be paired with. Maybe cooked corn.

I loved the fish and probably that was because I never got cooked fish at home. My mother was allergic to fish and would not have it in the house, other than tins of tuna, which evidently she wasn’t allergic to. So the only time I would get fish was at school, or at a restaurant the once r twice we might go out to eat each year.

This pizza burger looks better than my school offered.

The most frustrating menu option came when they offered either a sloppy joe or a pizza burger.  Oh the dilemma. I loved them both.  The sloppy joe was served on two halves of a toasted hamburger roll.  Knife and fork to eat that one.  The pizza burger, a little tomato sauce topped with cheese on two halves of a hamburger bun and put in the broiler. This one didn’t demand utensils. You could pick them up and eat with your fingers.

I confess. I probably liked the cafeteria food because my mother was a unwilling and often boring cook.  So the school lunch gave me tastes I didn’t always get at home.

Were there are hot lunches that you had in school that you liked?  (Don’t over think this—this is not, would you like it now!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's in the Box?

Back to school time brings up memories of school lunches from when I was young. A confession here. For me that was quite a long time ago—I entered school in the mid-1950s.

I did have a lunch box when I was in primary school. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t brand new. Certainly my mother found one somewhere for me, cleaned out the inside and declared as good as new.  What was on that lunch box I do not remember. What I do remember was what was inside.

For the first four grades of school I don’t know if there was a hot lunch program. All I knew was that I always carried my lunch.

Most often it was a bologna sandwich. With cheese. Now this wasn’t a slice of cheddar or swiss. No. What was always on the sandwich was Velveeta cheese.

Now you may think of Velveeta cheese as a variation of Mac and Cheese that comes in a box.

In the 1950s it was, at least in my house, what we knew as cheese.  The only cheese. It was great for making macaroni and cheese, because it melted so well.  And for grilled cheese sandwiches, for the same reason.

Velveeta came in a one or two pound log. It was a little difficult to slice for a sandwich. Because it was not really solid, you couldn't get even slices no matter how hard you tried.

Velveeta is owned by Kraft Foods and back in the 1950s, when I was lunching on it with my bologna, it was considered very nutritious. The American Medical Association gave its seal of approval.

It was, and still is, a processed cheese food product.  The name came from how velvety smooth it was.

Argh. It’s painful to admit, but that is what I knew as cheese as a child.  I never had deli cheese. Always Velveeta. It was cheap. And good for you,  according to the AMA.

So my lunchbox would most likely have a waxed paper wrapped bologna and Velveeta sandwich, on white bread with a little mayonnaise and a little mustard. Sometimes a leaf of iceberg lettuce.

Dessert was most likely some kind of baked good. It might be a chocolate chip cookies. Or a slice of chocolate cake.  And although those were tasty, nothing was quite as good in my memory as the Tastykake pies my mother would slip in my lunchbox.  That only lasted a couple of years when she was working three jobs while taking care of a family as well.

My mother would press a nickel in my hand every week. Milk money.  We could buy small bottles of milk for a penny.  The nickel was good for a week of milks.

So that was my “nutritious lunch.”  And there was some trading going on, but I think I didn’t usually find someone interested in my humble lunch.

Did your mother send you to school with a lunch? What was in it?

Friday, July 19, 2013

National Daiquiri Day aka Chef Ashley Simone's Birthday!

Today is my birthday and also is National Daiquiri Day. So in honor of both of these fabulous occasions, I give you a new cocktail, the Spicy Mango-Ginger Daiquiri. This recipe uses two of my favorite ingredients, mango and ginger. I hope you love this recipe as much as I do and maybe even have a Daiquiri-gasm! CHEERS

Spicy Mango-Ginger Daiquiri
Makes 1 cocktail

2 oz. Golden Rum
1 oz. Lime Juice
3/4 oz. Ginger-Jalapeno Syrup
3/4 oz. Mango Puree

Add rum, lime juice, ginger-jalapeno syrup and mango puree to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a wedge of jalapeno. Enjoy.

Ginger-Jalapeno Syrup
Makes 2 cups syrup

1 Cup Honey
1 Cup Water
1 Jalapeno (sliced )
2 oz. fresh ginger root (peeled and sliced)

Bring honey, water, jalapeño and ginger just to boil in small pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool and strain. This syrup will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer: Time for Lemonade

Okay. You know lemonade. Who doesn't love lemonade in the summer? And--great news--it's easy to make from scratch!  Yes. You.  Forget the box mix.

But if you want to push lemonade closer to a foodgasm, here's a little recipe I developed that will make you the star of the porch party or the block party, or whatever other party you might have.

And what is going to set this lemonade apart from all others? An aromatic herb you may never have thought of drinking. Lavender.

From my backyard, lavender for my drinks.

Now when you think of lavender, maybe the only thing that comes to mind are sachets your grandmother used to have. But lavender, has been used for culinary tasks for generations.  Ever heard of Herbes de Provence? This blend of French herbs usually includes lavender. You can find lavender in some tea blends.  Or maybe lavender sugar for confections.

And now, you can have lavender in your lemonade. Or, if your prefer a more adult drink, I've also done a recipe for a lavender lemon martini.

For either of these two drinks, you need to start with a lavender simple syrup.

Lavender Simple Syrup
Makes 2 ½ cups syrup

1 cup honey

½ cup cane sugar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

Bring the water and lavender flowers to a boil in a saucepan. Then add sugar and honey. Stir constantly until the sugar and honey is completely dissolved. 
Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, strain and store in a glass bottle or use immediately to make the Lavender Lemonade. 

If storing in a bottle, keep in the refrigerator. It will store up to a week.

Lemonade or Lemon Martini--both with lavender for spectacular drinks!

Lavender Lemonade
Makes 8 cups lemonade

5 cups water
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups lavender syrup

In a large pitcher combine the water, lemon and lavender syrup. Stir to combine. To serve, pour over glasses filled with ice or use to make the Lavender Lemon Martini.

Lavender Lemon Martini
Makes 1 cocktail

1 ½ oz. vodka
2 ½ oz. lavender lemonade

Measure both ingredients into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake several times; pour the chilled and strained beverage into your favorite martini glass.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fruity and Refreshing: Appley Ever After

The state of Illinois did NOT yet officially pass a bill to legalize same sex marriage BUT the Supreme Court of the United States did strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. I think this is a cause for celebration. It’s a great big step for all people, no matter their sex, personal persuasions, ethnicity and beliefs to be truly treated equally.

To help celebrate this AND Pride weekend, I’ve come up with a special cocktail. It’s an apple-based cocktail, since the official state fruit for Illinois is the Gold Rush apple. The cocktail uses Halsted Vodka, which has a very happy connection to Chicago’s LGBT community. Halsted Vodka is made by Siren Spirits and was named in honor of Halsted Street in Chicago (a well known LGBT community in Chicago). Siren Spirits also claims to give something back to the LGBT community from the sales of every bottle of Halsted vodka.

This cocktail is full of delicious apple flavor with apple cider and a German apple schnapps. I don’t like to use the cheap ultra green apple pucker schnapps; it has a fake chemical taste to me. This cocktail has a sort of sweet and tart taste and is very refreshing. So let’s whip up some APPLEY EVER AFTER cocktails and raise our glasses to the progress towards equal rights!

End of DOMA Apple Cocktail
Makes 1 cocktail

1 oz. Halsted Vodka
2 oz. Apple Liquor or apple schnapps (I used a German apple schnapps called Schonauer Apfel)
1 oz. apple cider
½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Fill a rocks glass with ice.
Add in all the ingredients.
Mix well with a spoon.
Garnish with crisp cold apples slices.
Raise your glass to the happy newly wedded couple.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ready. Set. Start grilling!!!

Is this weekend the start of the grilling season for you?  Hopefully the weather cooperates and allows for some outdoor foodgasms this weekend.

When you are grilling, don't just think meat! There are some wonderful possibilities from the vegetable kingdom.

You may have seen this episode before. Yes, this is a rerun. But have you tried my Grilled Artichokes with Spicy Sweet Remoulade Sauce?


I had something like this just last week at a restaurant.  It was nice, but it just didn't have that extra kick.

Try this as an appetizer in addition to whatever else you plan on grilling. And let me know how it went.

Here's the recipe.

A Little Bit of Kimchi

Another discovery at the NRA show was from Korea--by way of Indiana.

Sunny's Korean Restaurant is based in Mishawaka, Indiana, but their impact goes way past that community.

Chef Ashley Simone and Sunny
Now the restaurant has been running for 20 years.  And what Sunny found is that there was a demand for the flavorings she uses in her food.  So she is now marketing Sunny's Teriyaki Sauce and Sunny's Kimchee Kit.

If you know anything about Korean food, you've heard of Kimchi. It's a traditional Korean dish that is  fermented and pickled. It's a side dish of vegetables, eaten at every meal. Another thing about Kimchi is that it has a strong odor. And it's hot. Sinus-clearing hot.

It's also "hot" in the culinary and healthy living communities. Some call it one of the world's healthiest foods, and the reason why obesity is not a problem in Korea.  

I came away with several packets of their Kimchee Kit. Sunny pointed out that there's no MSG in her products. Also no Gluten. All the ingredients are natural. I got to sample the product simply tossed with fresh cucumbers. It was super tasty.

I'm not sure yet how I am going to use my kimchee kit.  I could go the traditional route. Or maybe I'll use these flavorings on something a little different. It has so many possibilities from appetizers to cocktails. Whatever it will be, it'll be Foodgasmic, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maguey Sweet Sap: A Natural Sweetener to Try

I go to the National Restaurant Association’s show every May in Chicago. I go because I want to keep up on what’s happening in the food world. I go because I want to discover something new.

And this year I did make a discovery: Maguey Sweet Sap.

First off, I want to make it clear that it isn’t pronounced like it seems. Maguey.  (If you didn’t already click on the word, so, and then you’ll have the correct pronunciation.)

It’s a natural sweetener. Comes from Mexico. From a cactus plant. "Oh yeah," you say. "I know that. Agave syrup.  I use that."

But it’s not agave syrup. A small taste makes that abundantly clear. It has a unique and robust flavor profile. It has a slight taste of molasses and agave combined, but also a distinct flovor all its own. The Maguey Sweet Sap lingers with a subtle flavor.
So I was pulled into the booth at the NRA. I wanted to find out more.

Chef Ashley Simone with Mayra Ortiz, one of the owners of the company.

And what the couple in that booth wanted me to know for sure is that the Maguey Sweet Sap they were hawking was most definitely not agave.

To be honest, you can call it a cousin. 

Actually, the maguey plant is similar to some other common plants. To the aloe plant even. To the century cactus plant.  All in the same family.

In the United States, we’ve grown used to the benefits from this family of succulents which gives us agave syrup and tequila.

Maguey Sweet Sap is gathered from the maguey plant only after it has matured (some 12 years) and is about to flower. The central part of the plant is removed and hollowed out and then sap can be collected several times a day, for as long as four months.

This venture, by the company Villa de Patos, is organic. The operation is sustainable and it provides a living for a number of families in some small villages in the north of Mexico.  Another plus is that this natural sweetener is higher in sucrose than, say, honey, agave syrup and, of course, high fructose corn syrup.

I’m going to be experimenting with this sweetener.  I have tried it in my coffee. Soon I’ll share a recipe or two with you and let you know how I like to use this sweetener. Maybe I'll create a fun new cocktail.  Stay tuned!

Have you ever tried Maguey Sweet Sap before?  This product may not be in all the grocery stores right now but you can purchase it online from The Republic of Tea.