Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 10, Food Trends.....

I have been amused lately by the avalanche of recent articles proclaiming that cooking at home is the new "it thing". In its January issue, Food and Wine magazine projects home cooking as one of the biggest food trends for 2009. Gourmet magazine echoes this theme with a prediction on the return of the casserole and an increase in cooking classes for beginners.

Nancy Stohs, of the Oakland Tribune, reports that "the beleaguered economy, a continuing "green" ethic and that age-old hunger for new and different flavors all feed into the predictions plucked from various trend-watchers' crystal balls". Home cooking tops this years' list, with an emphasis on retooled comfort food classics, entertaining on a budget and "exotic" recipes made easy.

But I guess I am left scratching my head, when was it not "cool" to cook at home? Who new a desire to make our families yummy, home-cooked meals would put us all at the forefront of the new cooking-nista fad ;0

Home cooking is not the only trend to make the list. In her article for the Oakland Tribune, Nacy Stohs does point out that it is not just cooking at home which is having a renaissance. No new "trend" would truly be complete without a new shining of the armor on the old guard:

- Buckwheat is the new grain
- Sugar alternatives, such as agave syrup
- Non-chicken eggs
- Peruvian cuisine
- Artisan or micro-distilled liquors, culinary cocktails (concoctions created to complement specific foods) and organic wines.
- Bite sized desserts
- New cuts of meat (such as Denver steak and pork flat iron steak)
- More gluten-free foods
- Home canning

We will have to reconvene midnight December 31, 2009 to find out which trends actually did catch on. At least, for now, you can pretend that you are part of the culinary "in" crowd!

Now, before all of you home cookers go out for a celebratory latte, reveling in the fact that what we have been doing daily for our families has become a trend up there with skinny jeans and vests - not so fast. There is always a catch!

The Health section of the March 17th, 2009 The New York Times, reports that "studies show that the biggest influence on family eating habits is the person who buys and prepares the food". These people are know as "nutritional gatekeepers". The term was coined during World War II, when meat shipments to troops threatened to create a protein crisis at home. The goal was to educate families about alternatives to meat, but it wasn't clear at whom to direct the information. Researchers claim that these "nutritional gatekeepers" influence more the 70% of the foods that we eat. This isn't just in the home, it's in children's lunches, snacks eaten outside of the home, and even what family members order at restaurants. The difference between gatekeepers from WWII and the present is that not all gatekeepers are moms. They may be a mother, father, a grandparent, a housekeeper or a nanny.

"A gatekeeper who struggles with unhealthy eating choices will typically pass those problems on to family members. By the same token, gatekeepers who improve their habits can improve the health of the whole family"
(source: Tara Parker-Pope, March 17th, 2009: Who's Cooking? (For Hea
lth, It Matters): New York Times: Health)

According to Cornell researchers, there are five different types of gatekeepers:
- Giving cooks - enthusiastic cooking, specialize in comfort food.
- Methodical cooks - rely heavily on recipes, cooking is strongly influenced by the cookbooks they use.
- Competitive cooks - think less about health and more on making the most impressive dishes.
- Healthy cooks - often serve fish and use fresh ingredients, but taste is not the primary goal.
- Innovative cooks - like to experiment with different ingredients, methods and cuisines, a process that tends to lead to more healthful cooking.

To figure out what cooking personality you have, and where your biases are, you can take a quiz at

"A lot of giving cooks believe they are healthy cooks, but they are by far the least healthy. On the other hand, if you like food, then the healthy cook is not necessarily the person you want to hang out with. They will trade off a lot for healthy. But innovative cooks have the best eye for freshness, yet there is still emphasis on taste. If you like great food and still want to eat reasonably healthy, the innovative cook is the person to hook up with."
(source: Tara Parker-Pope, March 17th, 2009:Who's Cooking? (For Health, It matters): New York Times: Health)

You may be cooking at home more these days. But is your cooking healthier?


Recipes for this week: Stuffed Peppers; Chicken Matzo Ball Soup; Linguine with Mint Pesto and Peas-served with Goat Cheese, Tomato Crostinis; Roast Chicken stuffed with Apricots and Matzo.

Items already in the pantry or fridge:
rice, salt and pepper, olive oil, butter, vegetable oil, dried basil, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, white pepper, paprika, dried dill, Worcestershire sauce, 4 eggs, cinnamon, sugar

Shopping List:

6 green bell peppers
1 bunch of celery
2 onion

1 bunch of fresh mint
1 lemon
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 fennel bulb
1 vine ripened tomato
1 small red onion
4 oz dried apricots

2-3 cups of baby carrots
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 bulb of garlic
1 1/2 cup of pig
noli or pine nuts
4 oz Parmesan reggiano cheese block
2 - 4 1/2-5 lb chicken
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (optio
4 oz goat cheese
1 box of Matzo

1 box Matzo Ball Mix (recommend Manischewitz)
1 - 16oz whole wheat linguine
1 - 16 oz pkg frozen baby peas
1 small loaf of french bread

Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef and Rice (serves 6)

6 green peppers
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces)
tomato sauce
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, divided

1 tbsp sugar (optional)
2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 egg lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 pounds lean
ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

This recipe is a little more time-consuming then most of my recipes, but it's a satisfying meal on its own.
I like to add sugar and cinnamon to the beef mixture, it gives it a nice sweet/savory taste. However, omit this if you feel that you or your family might not like that.

Cut tops of peppers; remove the seeds and membranes. Chop the edible parts of the tops and set aside. Place the pepper in a large pot, cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the peppers for 5 minute
s. Drain and set aside.

While the peppers are boiling, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the green pepper (from the tops), onion, celery, garlic until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine egg with remaining salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, (sugar and cinnamon if desired), Worcester
shire sauce. Gently stir to blend; add the ground meat, COOKED rice, and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix well. Stuff the peppers with meat mixture and place in a 3 qt baking dish. Pour remaining tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. If desired, top the peppers with the shredded cheese just before peppers are done, bake until the cheese is melted.

Chicken and Matzo Ball Soup (serves 6)

4 1/2- 5 lb whole chicken
1 - 32 ounce can low sodium chicken broth
half of onion, chopped
fennel bulb, chopped
2-3 cups of baby c
arrots, very coarsely chopped
2 tsp dried dill
salt and pepper
Matzo Ball Mix
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegeta
ble oil

I know that I have put a chicken soup recipe on my blog before, but this recipe is so incredible easy, delicious and healthy that it begs to be rep
eated! Give yourself time to boil the chicken ahead of time, this will help to keep the soup low fat. Don't hesitate to use fennel, it has a very sweet, mild flavor when cooked.

24 hours ah
ead of time, place the cleaned chicken into a large pot and cover with water. Boil the chicken until cooked, the meat will start to separate from the bone.

Remove the chicken, wrap and refrigerate. Cover the chicken broth and place in the refrigerator.

Approximately 2 hours before you are ready to eat, remove the chicken broth and skim off and discard the fat from the top. Add the 32 ounces of the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Remove the chicken meat from the bone, discard the skin, c
hop coarsely, and add to the chicken broth.

Add the onion, fennel (chop up the bulb only, discard the greens), carrots, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

Make the matzo balls according to the package directions. Hint: make them small - you should get about 12 balls, they will expand. Add them to the boiling soup, cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes to cook the matzo balls. Allow the soup to continue to simmer on a very low heat until all the vegetables are tender. Serve with a nice loaf of bread.

Mint Pesto with Peas on Whole Wheat Linguine, served with Goat Cheese, Tomato Crostinis (serves 4)

1 -16 oz pkg whole wheat linguine
1 -16 oz pkg frozen baby peas
1/2 cup pignoli nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups fresh mint leaves
3 medium cloves garlic
black pepper, optional

1 s mall loaf of french bread
3 tbsp of olive oil
kosher salt
garlic powder
4 oz goat cheese
1 vine ripened tomato, diced
3 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a food processor combine the nuts, cheese, olive oil, mint, garlic and pepper and process until smooth. Add more oil if the mixture is too thick. Should be slightly thick and smooth.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Place the frozen peas into a colander that you are planning to drain the pasta into. When the pasta is done pour the boiling water slowly over the peas as you drain the pasta. Put both the peas and pasta back into the pot and add the pesto sauce, toss until combined.

To make the crostini:
Slice the bread into 1/4" thick slices. Place onto a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with salt pepper and garlic powder. Place in to a 375 degree oven and bake until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine the chopped onion, the diced tomato, the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix to combine.

When the toasts are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Spread with about 1/2 tbsp goat cheese each, and cover with a dollop of the tomato onion mixture. Serve alongside the pasta.

Chicken with Apricot-Matzo Stuffing (serves 6 )

4 1/2-5 lb chicken
1 garlic clo
ve crushed
olive o
il for brushing the bird
salt and pepper
15 oz chicken st
ock (hot)
4 oz dried apricots
4 oz matzo
1 large
onion, finely chopped
2 oz butter
grated rind of half large lemon
good squeeze lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
a pinch of white pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put a poultry cradle or grilling rack into a roasting pan that will just hold the bird comfortably.

Cover the apricots with water, cover and cook on high in the microwave for five minutes, or simmer in a small covered pan for 10 minutes. Leave to cool.

Crumble the matzo as finely as possible into a large bowl. Add the liquid from the apricots (6oz) and leave to soften.

Cook the onion in the butter until softened and golden.

Add the seasoning and the beaten egg to the matzo, then add the onion in the pan and cook gently until the matzo starts to brown and loses some of its moisture. Stir in the well-drained apricots and mix well. Stuff the cavity of the bird.

Make a shallow nick on each side of the bird where the leg joint meets the breast and insert half the peeled clove of garlic just under the skin.

Brush the bird all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the hot stock into the roasting pan, then lay the bird upside down on the cradle or rack. Roast it this way for 20 minutes to the pound - plus 20 minutes for a 5 lb bird, the total cooking time should be 2 hours.

Baste the bird every 1/2 hour with the stock, then 40 minutes before the end of the cooking time, turn it over and cook breast-side up. Lift it on to a carving dish or board, cover lightly with foil.

The juices in the bottom of the pan can be made into a gravy if desired. Drain the liquid through a sieve into a small pot, to remove any crispy bits. Add some dry white wine, bring to a boil. Add about 2 tbsp of Wondra gravy powder, whisk briskly as you add, until combined. Allow to simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.

Serve with salad, or steamed spinach.

1 comment:

Eila (Chef/Owner of "Mom-a-licious") said...

Jennifer, I'm glad you're back this week! Love all the research you call up in your entries. Perfect for those of us who like to cook, and find this sort of thing interesting...but never do get to that magazine or newspaper... keep up the great work!