New Year, New Food Trends

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With the New Year settling in,  we are still mindful in 2018 of eating healthy and exploring global foods. As consumers, we are  constantly selecting better ingredients to improve our health and wellness and to make positive changes, as a lifestyle and not a resolution.

So, we have highlighted some of the top trending foods and spices for 2018 that you can find in your local grocery stores and supermarkets that you can incorporate into your daily diet for the coming year.

 

 

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Matcha :

If you never heard of matcha, the know that it is a finely ground, velvety powder made from nutrient rich green tea leaves. It has a variety of antioxidants and may increase metabolism and physical endurance.
How to use it: Add it to baked goods, like cupcakes or cookies or just stir a teaspoonful into a fruit smoothie or a stir into a glass of water. You can also combine with a good quality sea salt and sprinkle over popcorn.

Sorghum:

Domesticated from the continent of Africa over 8,000 years ago, sorghum is ancient whole grain that resembles Israeli couscous. Sorghum has a nutty flavor and can supply  fiber, potassium, iron and protein to your diet. And another bonus is that sorghum is gluten free.
How to use it: Sorghum grains can be prepared like brown rice, quinoa or other whole grains as a side dish. You can also use it as the base for sweet or savory grain bowls or you can try popping it just like whole kernel corn to make popcorn.

Hemp Seeds:

Hemp seeds can supply a high quality plant-based protein to you diet,with a healthy dose of fiber, iron, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids. For some people they have a taste that is similar to a cross between a sunflower seed and a pine nut.

How to use it: Sprinkle hemp seeds on salads or avocado toast for that extra crunch. You can also add them to smoothies, homemade granola bars, or even to veggie burgers. Hemp seeds is also an excellent substitute for pine nuts used in making a vegan pesto.

 

Beef Bone Broth:

For the record, bone broth is nothing new, but being rediscovered by chefs serving it in trendy restaurants. In Chinese medicine, whose origins date back over 2,500 years, bone broth is used to support digestive health, as a blood builder, and to strengthen the kidneys.  Cultures far and wide have nourished their families with bone broths and handmade stocks throughout history .Broth made from beef bones is rich in minerals that support the immune system and contains healing compounds like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. The collagen in bone broth heals your gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation.
How to use it: When herbs, spices and vegetables are added, a rich flavor develops and it can be simply warmed and sipped or used in other recipes as a base for soups or gravy and sauces.

Cauliflower:

 
An extremely versatile vegetable that has found it’s way in various healthy dishes, rather than being relegated to a boring accompaniment to the family meal. Like it’s relative, green broccoli, it supplies an impressive amounts of vitamins and minerals such as B6, C, K, folate and potassium as well as fiber and powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals as it comes in a variety of colors such are purple and yellow gold.
How to use it: Like magic, you can transform cauliflower into rice with a box grater or a food processor. You can even make cauliflower pizza crust or use it in a fried rice recipe. Cauliflower can also be used a substitute for potatoes, where the cauliflower is cooked and mashed. If you have large heads of cauliflower, always think about slicing them 3/4 inch thick and grill them like beef steaks for a meatless Monday meal.

Tumeric:

Turmeric is a plant that is native to Southeast Asia and in powdered form, it  has been used for 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. Studies show that turmeric may help fight infections and some cancers, reduce inflammation, and treat digestive problems. As a spice, it adds an earthy flavor and brightness to almost any dish.
 
How to use it: Tumeric is best pared with spices and herbs that have complementary flavor profiles, such as cinnamon, ground black pepper and ginger. You can also use it as a natural coloring agent to enhance orange vegetables like pumpkin, squash,  sweet potatoes and carrots, just to  name a few.

Avocado Oil:

 Avocado oil is popping up as an ingredient in many healthy foods. Given it’s versatility, most people love it for its mild flavor in cooking and lack of scent in organic beauty products.

Because it is light and rich in flavor, low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, it has become a healthy alternative . Avocado oil is nutrient dense and is rich in vitamins A, K and D as well as potassium and antioxidants which are crucial in maintaining a healthy heart.

How to use it: In baking, you can substitute the butter for the avocado oil. You can also drizzle it over popcorn. Because it is so closely resembling olive oil, as a cooking oil, you can  use it to saute or fry vegetables.

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Calas: A New Orleans Tradition

 

It’s Mardi Gras, and down in New Orleans, the King Cakes, beignets and other gustatory delights are flowing freely. But if you prefer your culinary temptations with a side of history, allow me to introduce you to the calas, a Creole rice fritter with a storied past.

Never heard of a calas? Most people outside of New Orleans never heard of them either.

It’s basically a rice fritter. Calas are just one of the many rice dishes that actually made the journey during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Calas are made of leftover rice mixed into a sugary egg batter, then deep fried and served dusted with confectioner’s sugar. 

To  me, they are kind of like beignets, only better — with a more interesting backstory. Calas were once a vital part of African-American livelihood in the New Orleans, and even helped some slaves there buy their freedom. The cala became a very important part of New Orleans’ history.

Scholars think slaves from the rice-growing regions of Africa  who were brought to the Carolinas specifically to  grow rice.  And as slavery spread down to the Gulf Coast, calas  were eventually brought to Louisiana. Some culinary historians can trace calas to Ghana, others, to Liberia and Sierra Leone. If you were to go to Africa today, to Ghana or Liberia, you would find the women in the open-air markets making calas.

330px-Le_Code_Noir_1742_edition.jpgIn 1685, during the days of French rule, New Orleans was ruled by the Le Code Noir or the “Black Codes”, a decree originally passed by France’s King Louis XIV. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, also known as free people of color,  and forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and expelled all Jews from France’s colonies.

The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as “one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe”.  The Code Noir resulted in a far higher percentage of blacks being free people of color during this period where the free color populations  was 13.2% in Louisiana compared to 0.8% in Mississippi. In by 21st Century standards, they were on average exceptionally literate and highly educated, sending their children abroad to study in some of Europe’s finest universities at the time.  Many were were doctors and lawyers, with a significant number of them owning businesses, properties and even slaves. Today, most people  are unaware that the free people of color were highly successful in the era of slavery. It was a very different climate in New Orleans than in the rest of the United States at the time.

In the Code Noir, it was stated that  all slaves were required calasby law to have at least one day a week off. The slaves’ day off usually was Sunday. Many of them would become street vendors. And so after church, African women would roam the streets of the French Quarter touting their wares with the chant, “Calas, calas! Belles calas tout chauds, madame, belles calas tout chauds!” — “Beautiful calas! Very hot!”

When the Spanish took control of Louisiana in the 1760s, they brought with them a powerful legal instrument, coartacion ,a specific type of manumission that pertained to slavery in the Hispanic Caribbean, through which slaves were allowed to purchase their freedom on a gradual basis. They were considered ‘free’ in exchange for compensation for the slave owner. In other words, coartacion  gave slaves the right to buy their freedom. For enslaved black women in the city, selling calas was a key way to earn money for these purchases. These women were able to buy freedom for their families and for themselves.

More than 1,400 New Orleans slaves bought their freedom under Spanish rule. But it’s not clear just how many did so with calas money.

African-American culinary historian Jessica B. Harris  has noted  in her writings that not all calas vendors were enslaved. And the ones who were  slaves often sold them for their mistresses. If they were lucky, they were allowed to keep a portion of the money, or perhaps have it go towards their freedom.

Americans ended the practice of coartacion soon after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. But New Orleans remained home to thousands of free blacks – and throughout the 1800s, many of them, especially women, made their living selling calas and other street foods.

In the 20th century, these vendors slowly disappeared, until, by 1940, according to an old Works Progress Administration report, just a single calas street merchant remained.

But indoors, calas “remained popular as a home treat” among African-Americans — especially during Mardi. Friends and neighbors prepared calas for their families and for the maskers who stopped by for a little ‘recess’ from their parading.

And the fritters did survive in at least one public eating space: The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, a French Quarter breakfast joint, where they’ve been on the menu for decades.

Waitress Gaynell James serves up calas cake from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Jan. 28, 2013.

Waitress Gaynell James Serves up calas from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter. Gerald Herbert/AP 2013.

After chef Frank Brigsten purchased Charlie’s in 2009, he replaced hushpuppies on the menu at the longtime neighborhood seafood joint —a fixture in Harahan, outside New Orleans, since the 1950s—with a savory take on calas. They have gotten to be so  popular that the restaurant now serve shrimp calas as an appetizer.

 In recent years, calas have also made their way into a higher-profile tradition as well.2010-Calas-Lady-_vo
In 1990, New Orleans’ Haydel’s Bakery revived the old tradition of including miniature porcelain dolls in their Mardi Gras King Cakes.  The Original 1990 Frozen Charlotte Doll quickly became a collector’s item.  Since then,  Haydel’s has choosen a different porcelain figure  that celebrates one of the traditions of  the city’s beloved Mardi Gras heritage and bakes them  into  their famous King Cakes. In 2010, that figurine was in the shape of the iconic calas lady, her basket of “belle calas” balanced on her head —not forgotten. a symbol of a New Orleans long gone but, but still alive in the hearts of many.

And so the cala, a rice dish that is a part of New Orleans’ history, will be saved for future generations to come with this recipe that is presented below.

Makes About 2 Dozen

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked white rice
6 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3 heaping Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
5-6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Mix the rice with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Add eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil , heated to 360 ° F. Fry until browned on both sides.

Using a spyder, remove the fritters from the oil and drain on baking sheet lined  with paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot with coffee or Cafe au Lait. 

 

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Roasted Pork Loin Stuffed with Prosciutto, Spinach, Apples and Apricot Preserves

pork.jpgServes 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 bunch baby spinach, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-lb.) pork loin, trimmed
4 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto
1 Honey Crisp apple, cored and sliced into 1/8 inch
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup Japanese Panko Breadcrumbs
Pomegranate nibs, for garnish

Directions:
Saute the spinach in a hot skillet 3 minutes; plunge into an ice bath for 1 minute. Drain well. Wrap spinach in paper towels; squeeze dry. Chop spinach into small pieces. Place in bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; stir well.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cut into pork loin lengthwise from right to left, 3/4 inch from bottom, keeping knife parallel with cutting board; do not cut through the other side. Continue slicing lengthwise from right to left, unrolling loin as you slice, to form a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Season with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Arrange prosciutto in layers to cover inside of loin. Add apple slices. Spread the apricot preserves over the apples. Spread the spinach mixture on top, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll pork up left to right. Tie with twine in butcher’s knots at 2-inch intervals.

Lightly dust the loin with flour. Roll in breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to make sure the crumb coating adheres.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place loin in pan; cook 12 minutes turning until all sides are browned. Place loin on rack; cover loosely with foil. Roast at 325°F for 50 minutes or until meat registers 150°F. Remove pork from pan; let pork stand 20 minutes. Swirl butter into pan juices until butter melts. Cut pork into 3/4-inch slices garnish with nibs and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
Click on this link for a quick tutorial on: “HOW TO CUT AND TIE A PORK LOIN FOR STUFFING”  

You can substitute the spinach for broccoli rabe seasoned for a change of pace.

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