Monday, October 30, 2006

Lots of food news appearing in the papers lately - from a recent article about the new meat labels that are created to entice us to eat - animal compassionate, certified humane, and free farmed, for example - to news of the gathering of foodies in Turin, Italy for the Slow Food Terre Madre event, to the growing interest in ultra-premium fresh and frozen organic baby foods. For me, what is underlying all these issues is the challenge of bringing this information (and food) to the masses, because there is confusion and often a price premium.
Those meats that are labeled with animal welfare labels can be confusing for the average shopper - or even the well-informed shopper for that matter. And, they often come with a price premium that many consumers are not willing to pay. Likewise, the basis of the Slow Food movement is something that appeals to true foodies, but hasn't captured the mainstream consumer who is focused on price and convenience, often with little interest in where the food comes from (and in many cases, what is in it). As for the organic baby food end of it, price is also an issue, even though many new parents are focused on giving their children the best things.
I guess the bottom line is becoming an educated consumer. And becoming educated about the food offerings we have takes time - which many of us don't have. It is often too easy to fall into the habit of fast food, overly processed foods, or cheap food.
We have made a good transition to organic foods, buying most of our groceries at Whole Foods. This is the place our kids have come to associate with the grocery store. When I do go to Safeway, I bypass many of the aisle - soft drinks, candy, cereal, etc. because I don't need to deal with the marketing pressure. What they don't know about many of those foods will certainly be better for them in the long run.
Sometimes I fall into a rut where I am just looking for something quick and easy to prepare, and something my kids won't complain about eating. Some days they ask for apples and pears, others they want nothing to do with them. The same when I make a dinner. My son tells me that he wants something else - we'll it has been trying, but I let him know that I have served him what everyone is eating and if he doesn't want to eat it, then he doesn't have to. I also let him know that he won't have anything else - no snacks, no crackers, (no left-over Halloween candy) nothing. Most of the time he will eventually start eating, other times he won't and I just stand my ground. Granted there are things we make that the kids won't like, but I at least want them to start trying. And, I make sure we don't keep snacks in the house, and always try to offer a protein, starch and veggie at every meal. They might not all get eaten, but at least they know that this is the type of meal that they should expect.
with that said, I'm off to prepare lunch - who knows whether it will be a good eating day or a bad one - but at least I know I'm offering them will be healthy. If they choose not to eat it this time, they eventually will when they get hungry.
Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends

Monday, October 09, 2006

Enjoying Food, Family and Friends in the Piedmont
Last month I traveled to the Piedmont region of Italy to enjoy a culinary adventure. I was based in Bra, the home of Slow Food, and had the opportunity to eat at several Slow Food designated restaurants. Aside from enjoying delicious restaurant fare, I visited farms and vineyards to learn about various foods from the region - from robbiolo cheese to truffles to barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco and other wines of the region.
Perhaps one of the most memorable lunches on the trip was the one we enjoyed in the city of Serole. We were visitng a farm to see their small cheese production, but soon learned that everything the family ate, was produced right there on the farm. They were totally self-sufficient -- growing hay and herbs to feed the animals, using the goats for milk and cheese, raising cows for meat, nurturing bee hives for honey, growing grapes for their own barbera wine, and of course making their own grappa!
There were about 10 of us visiting the family, who welcomed us into their home and to their table (after a visit to the farm). The meal lasted 3 hours long, and was filled with fabulous homemade cooking - the ladies remained in the kitchen, preparing the next course and doing dishes, while the men kept us company and the wine flowing.
Among the offerings was a delicious bruscetta made with a tasty tomato 'jam' created by placing the tomatoes in a pan and cooking for a short while. The tomatoes were then put through a food mill to remove the water leaving behind a delicious, chunky tomato paste of sorts. Spread on homemade bread and topped with basil, it was so tempting to eat the entire loaf, but we kept reminding ourselves that this was just the beginning. We were then served two types of homemade salami, frito misto de Piemontese; sweet, fried semolina; veal, beef tongue with a green salsa, porcini mushroom crepes, pasta with mushrooms and tomatoes, beef and fried potatoes, followed by a mostarde di frutta made with pear, grape, and hazelnut, served with robbiolo cheese that was 3 days old. A custard torte was followed by a hazelnut torte, and homemade grappa. (Needless to say, we cancelled our dinner plans)

Aside from the fabulous meal, what was truly inspiring was that three generations of the family (one of the couples happened to be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary that day), welcomed us into their home to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The meal is such a part of their everyday lives, and they savor every moment of it -- and want to share it with their friends as well. Always a smile on thier faces, preparing this feast was not a chore, it was a privilege. Something that they could share with others and show them how they, as a family, enjoy their company around the table, eating freshly prepared foods.
it surely was a great experience of Food, Family and Friends.
I'm inspired to continue that tradition here at home.
Until next time, enjoy!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Updating this blog has been sporadic these days - with my husband on the road a lot lately, a nanny who quit, and the news that I'm expecting twins - I have been less than energetic to do just about everything.
Near the top of the list of dreaded things these days is making dinner. To add to the frustration is the fact that Nicole has become an extremely picky eater. If it isn't bread, crackers, pasta or some other carb, she pretty much won't eat it. Vegetables have always been an issue with her, but at least broccoli was always consumed. Now, she won't even touch that, and if she sees a piece of vegetable in something I serve her, she lets me know that she doesn't want it. And, if I get lucky and sneak something in, she spits it right back out again. I can get her to eat fruit, but sometimes that is even up in the air.
I'm told that all I have to do is continue to put good choices in front of her and she'll eventually get around to eating something. Still, as many of you have also experienced, it is extremely frustrating serving as a short-order cook, trying to find something that your child will eat.
This weekend, I spent time thinking about what is ahead this week. My husband leaves tomorrow for a business trip, and I will be with the kids alone until next Monday night. With 20-plus meals that I must deal with in the coming week, I thought I would finally put into practice something I have been talking about for quite some time. I planned several meals and pre-made them so I don't have to stand in the kitchen every day wondering what I should make for lunch or dinner.
With Nicole's picky eating on my mind, I set out to find recipes that she just might be interested in eating. My first choice was a split pea soup - easy to make, and she generally accepts soup to eat. Next, it was chili. Ground beef, tomato sauce . . . she loves, its the beans I'm worried about, but maybe she'll just eat around them. Another premade dinner was chicken parmigiana - just put it in the oven to heat and it will be ready without much fuss. I still have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I feel good that I've created three dishes this weekend that I can use throughout the coming week. I am hoping that I can continue this pre-planning of meals so that the weeks ahead, whether my husband is here or not, are made just a bit easier because the meals are already prepared.
Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Saturday article in the newspaper caught my eye - "Obese? A 'poisoned' food supply may be to blame, UCSF expert says." A new hypothesis proposed by a UCSF doctor blames processed food as the reason for obesity - as opposed to our lack of willpower and exercise. According to his hypothesis, the sugar found in the majority of the foods we consume (bread, yogurt, potato chips) make the body believe that it is hungry. This results in us consuming more calories and the conserve energy (i.e. not exercise). Additionally, because sugar makes the body produce more insulin, which in turn blocks the hormones that tell the body to stop eating.
His contention is that doctors, community leaders and consumers must force the government and the food industry to remove these sugary foods from the mainstream. Skeptics were reluctant to blame obesity strictly on the food supply.
The process, which I will not attempt to paraphrase, was described in the article as follows:
"According to Lustig's (the UCSF doctor) hypothesis, sugar in large quantities drives up insulin secretion. This insulin floods the bran, and in particular the hypothalamus, which regulates energy use in the body. As a result, leptin, a hormone that tells the brain when the body needs more or less energy, can't get its signal to the hypothalamus because the insulin is blocking the way.
"The result is that the body is thrown into starvation mode - the brain thinks it isn't getting enough energy, so it needs more calories and it needs to save energy, he said. People end up feeling the symptoms of starvation,, including malaise, depression, a lack of motivation and, or course, hunger."

This isn't new news - doctors have known how sugar and the production of insulin affect the body in diabetics. Diabetics have long been schooled in what foods help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think the same is true of those of us who don't have diabetes. For those of us without the disease, we've been under the impression that we can eat just about anything we want to, because the long-term affects of eating whatever we want, may not be affecting us right now. Instead of looking at the whole picture, life 10, 20, 30 years or more down the road, many of us eat whatever we want because we may not see immediate repercussions.
This is where good eating habits come in. Yes, we are surrounded by processed foods that are full of sugar, but food experts have been saying to us for a long time to eat whole foods and exercise.
The UCSF doctor calls for forcing the government to take stronger measures in educating the public and providing healthy food options. To some extent, I agree. But they're not promoting McDonalds or other fast-food options. McDonalds is enticing consumers with lots of food for little money. Additionally, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. are readily available at the supermarket. As one woman in the article stated: "You can complain that society does this to you, or that you don't have options, but I don't see it that way. If you are conscious of what you're doing, you can overcome your environment."
I agree wholeheartedly.

Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends

Monday, July 31, 2006

We've been going through carb withdrawals here. Generally my children eat well, but I was finding that their consumption of crackers and 'Os" was becoming excessive and was probably contributing to their smaller appetites at meal time. As well, every time I turned around they asked, "can I have a snack," or "crackers". I had to cut the cord and instill some definitive eating patterns.
I've decided that cracker time is limited to the afternoon, and once they finish the crackers I give them, that's it. They have to wait for set snack times, and then their choices are yogurt, cheese, or fruit. There has been a lot of whining, but I have seen a definite improvement in the amount they eat during meal time. I'm glad I curbed the carb/snack consumption now, because I'm sure it would have been much harder had I waited any longer. I now see how this can snowball into something much more harmful, creating eating habits that are hard to break.
We keep all cracker and snacks (which is usually only tortilla chips, as we are not a snack/chip family) in a cupboard out of their reach. It is high above a counter so they can't even open the cupboard and see what is inside. This is helpful especially since my oldest has taken to getting himself something when he wants it. The other day he went into the fridge and pulled out four yogurt cups, opened them all, and was sitting at the table eating them all. At least it was yogurt and it wasn't something like ice cream, but it really got me thinking. The foods that you don't want your children to have access to at all hours of the day, need to be kept out of reach - and out of sight.
My grandfather always kept a bottom cupboard in the dining room filled with goodies for the grandchildren. It was a place we knew we could go to find snacks, candy and all that stuff we practically had to beg for at home. I'll bet my parents we glad that we only had the opportunity to raid the cupboard once a week when we visited my grandparents. However, my aunt has always - and still does - had a very accessible cupboard filled with cookies, crackers, snacks and whatever goodies you can imagine. The cupboard was always accessible - not only to us, but to the kids - at any hour off the day. What a temptation!(I do have to say that my cousins don't have a weight problem and are very good about eating their meals)
At this stage, with two little ones, I want to keep ensure that they don't have that temptation. I want them to learn about good eating choices and to understand that a snack - whether a cookie, cracker or chips - is something that is an occasional treat, not something that is for consumption at all times. I can see how children get to a point of no return when it comes to eating these foods - they get used to it as a child, and when they're teenagers the habit is hard to break, and even much harder when they become adults.
I agree, snack are easy. They make my kids happy and they keep them quiet for a period of time, but in the long run, it will be much easier to limit them at this time, than to wait until its too late.
Until next time, enjoy time with Food, Family and Friends.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ice Cream Days of Summer
Saturday night's Food Network special, Scoop got me thinking. It was a reality-based show in which contestants competed to have their dream ice cream flavor sold in stores. The finalists' flavors were quite tasty (I know because I served on the judging panel) and some, quite exotic. The great thing about the contest was that consumers were able to take their love for ice cream and create something that was truly their own. As the contestants progressed through the process of making (and tasting) their dream flavors, you could see their eyes light up as the final product was set in front of them. Ice cream is a pleasure for so many of us.
We don't keep ice cream in the freezer on a regular basis - mainly because we would go through way too many cartons in a week. It is also a challenge, when my son knows that there is ice cream in the freezer, he asks for it constantly. I'd rather my children eat ice cream on a limited basis, for special times or certain occasions. And of course, as a great refresher on a hot summer afternoon. To sort of limit the begging for ice cream, I came up with a little disciplinary device that seems to be working.
Being that my 3-year old is working on impulse issues (i.e. being gentle with his sister, sharing and not grabbing toys, listening to us, etc), I created a Grayson's Day board in which each of the issues we want him to work on are listed on it. They include, being gentle with his sister, sharing, sitting down (and staying there) while eating, brushing teeth, among others. As he accomplishes one of these, a little magnetic man moves to the next space. If he doesn't, the man moves backwards. When this little magnetic man (whom Grayson believes is himself), reaches a certain point, Grayson gets some ice cream.
To make it even more special, we are going to make the ice cream that he gets as 'reward.'
This has turned into a great opportunity to get him involved with creating his reward, and I know exactly what ingredients are included, monitoring fat content as well as flavor. The home ice cream maker gives us the opportunity to make an infinite array of flavors, and brings us together in the kitchen.
There are a wide variety of ice cream makers available on the market, most of which are kid friendly and give them a sense of accomplishment in the kitchen. By creating a special "Grayson's Flavor" my son has even more incentive to follow the rules.

I'm off to have some ice cream.
Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Recently we've been trying to visit the farmer's market on a more regular basis. It does take a bit more planning - getting the kids ready, going during specified hours, and perhaps the biggest challenge - knowing what I'll be preparing for meals in the coming days so that I can purchase accordingly . . . After all, its not like you can run over to the farmers market if you realize in the middle of dinner preparation that you need a certain ingredient.
Despite the challenges, we have found that there are some definite benefits to visiting the market, especially for our kids. They get to experience all the excitement of visiting each stall, looking at the fresh offerings, and even tasting them. By shopping the farmers market we have the opportunity to taste the freshest produce available, much of which has been picked either that morning or the day before. The market provides us with the opportunity to experiment by showing the kids the wider variety of produce than we'll typically see in the supermarket.

Aside from the variety and abundance of great tasting, fresh foods, the market allows us to support our local farmers. By buying direct, they definitely get a better profit for their work. And, as an added benefit, most of the produce found at the market is organically certified (or at least grown using organic methods but not certified).
On a recent visit, Grayson was intrigued by the box of various colored beans that he could run his hands through. He played in the box for a long time, looking at all the different types of beans, observing the different colors and speckles, even asking what each was called. He even chose his favorite 'colors' and placed a couple in his pockets. He pulled them in and out of his pocket for the rest of the day. This offered me a great opportunity to introduce him to different beans for meals.

Beans are a great food for kids and adults alike, and offer lots of opportunities for use, from appetizers to salads to main dishes. They're high in complex carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber; low in fat, calories and sodium; and cholesterol free. (to learn more about beans and find recipes, visit
The wonderful thing about visiting the market is if you have a question, there is always someone on hand to answer it - unlike many of the supermarkets. So, if you are wondering how to prepare a certain vegetable, or even help with a recipe, the vendor will be glad to share information with you.
I find a lot of my bean recipes in my collection of Molly Katzen cookbooks - she even has a great kids cookbook called Pretend Soup, but I find that Vegetable Heaven, The Moosewood Cookbook and the New Enchanted Broccoli Forest give me enough options to keep my kids (and us) happy.

I am confident that the 'bean' experience is just one of the many new experiences to come from visiting the farmer's market with my children. I am hoping that they'll become intrigued with green beans or tomatoes - two vegetables that I have a very hard time getting them to eat.

Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends


Monday, June 05, 2006

A few weeks ago I traveled to Las Vegas for the Gourmet Housewares Show, where some 200 companies exhibited cookware, kitchen gadgets, tabletop, cookbooks and more. While I only spent a day there, I did unearth a few notable new introductions that will surely make life in the kitchen more convenient, colorful, and/or enjoyable.

I recently asked my husband what his favorite kitchen gadgets/tools were, among those he mentioned were knives - sharp knives. To keep your knives in proper working order (and to ensure safety in the kitchen) Lamson & Goodnow presented a new porcelain BladeCone. This easy to use sharpener was designed so that you can sharpen frequently while cooking. And, its small footprint allows you to keep it on the counter, handy and ready for use whenever needed. A sculpted porcelain cone has a precisely calculated surface angle so the knife is automatically sharpened at the proper angle. It measures 7 1/2 inches tall and 6 inches in diameter and retails for around $120 - a price well worth it.

The Clean 'N Stuff waste scoop and sink stopper is a handy gadget that lets you gather sink waste to the disposal's entrance and then stuff it through the rubber splash guard safely.

The bambu Lacquerware collection has been expanded to included small Mini Me bowls. The line, which is made of bamboo, is colored on the outside in Cantaloupe, Tomato, Blueberry, Lemon Chiffon, Robin Egg Blue, Black and Naked (no color). The bowls are suitable for both hot an cold foods and are a great way to add color to the table.

Lodge Manufacturing highlighted its Signature series of cast-iron cookware that has stay-cool stainless steel handles. The line includes 10-inch and 12-inch skillets, 4.5-Quart Dutch oven and a 12-inch grill pan. In addition to this great line, the company also promoted the Lodge Color cast-iron line which brings color to the classic cookware.

Perfect for the summertime is the Cuisinart Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream maker. It comes with a double insulated freezer bowl and a unique three-way condiment dispenser that releases toppings as the machine is dispensing ice cream. The ice cream maker produces about 1.5 quarts of ice cream in just 20 minutes. It retails for $185.

Anyone who has tried the Vita-Mix Professional Series blender, or seen it in action, knows how indispensable it is in making anything from great bar drinks to soups. Now available is a smaller 32-ounce container that is ideal for pureeing vegetables for spreads, making baby food, salad dressing or smoothies.

One product you probably don't think you need, but once you have it, you realize how fabulous it is . . . The food mill. OXO introduced a new food mill that makes preparing fresh purees, ,sauces, soups, etc. extremely easy. The mill comes with three stainless steel grinding discs (fine, medium and coarse textures). Three nonslip legs holds the mill securely over the bowl or pot (up to 11 inches in diameter). It retails fro $49.99, and is scheduled to be available in September.

Hopefully these up and coming new products will get you back in the kitchen and cooking. Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Waffles all day long
Recently I received a waffle maker as a gift – one of the few small electrics for the kitchen that I had not acquired, but one I had been meaning to get for quite some time.
Lately, we’ve been purchasing frozen blueberry waffles from Whole Foods, and thought at nearly $3 pop, it would be much more economical – and fun – to make the waffles ourselves. After all, nothing beats the flavor of homemade waffles.
The great thing about making waffles, is that you can make them just like you like them – with blueberries, or without. With whole wheat flour or with a pumpkin spice batter.
The other great thing about waffles is that they can be enjoyed all day long. They can be made ahead of time, and frozen until ready for use. Then, pop them in the toaster to defrost and heat up.
Now that we have our own waffle maker on hand, we’ll be using it for much more than breakfast waffles. We love to experiment, so they’ll be a handy snack for the kids in the afternoon when topped with peanut butter, or for a more indulgent snack, I’ll fill them with ice cream to make ice cream waffle sandwiches.
Experimenting is great too. We’ll add unsweetened chocolate to the batter, or nuts, fruit, spices (such as cinnamon) or even coconut. In addition to whole wheat waffles, try sweet potato waffles, pumpkin spice, or even yogurt and fruit.
There are a wide variety of waffle makers available, so I thought I’d offer up some suggestions on how to choose the right one for your needs.

Features to consider:
Variable Browning Control: allows you to select the desired waffle texture – higher for waffles that are crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.
Indicator Light: tells you when the waffle maker is ready for baking, and one that lets you know when the waffle is ready. Some makers have an audible tone that signals when it is time to fill the waffle iron, and when they are properly baked.
Multifunctional: My VillaWare waffle maker includes three interchangeable plates – one for waffles, another for pizzelles, and a third for making grilled sandwiches. With a cone form, you can even transform the pizzelles into ice cream cones.
Stay cool handles: important especially when kids are around. The Cuisinart Waffle Dippers has stay-cool housing.
Nonstick surface: for preparation of waffles with minimal fat, and for easy removal.
Design: They run the gamut from squares, hearts and circles to Belgian waffles, waffle sticks, Mickey Mouse and more. In addition to the design of the waffles, some makers are designed to catch overflow batter, keeping it from dripping outside the machine and onto the counter. Cord storage is important, and a stand-up design that lets you store it standing on end in small spaces in the cupboard.

It is recommended that a waffle maker have at least 1,000 watts of power to ensure good, fast baking.

Models to consider:
VillaWare - This company has been making waffle irons for years, and currently have around 15 or so models in their repertoire, including the classic Mickey Mouse shape and also a Cinderella version. The one I have is the InterBake 3 which has three sets of plates to make deep pocketed waffles, sandwiches and pizzelles. It is pretty straightforward, not having any bells and whistles, although it does come with nonstick surface, stay-cool handles and easy to remove plates. It retails around $50.
Cuisinart offers a range of waffle makers, including the Traditional Waffle Iron, 6-slice Traditional Waffle Iron, and Waffle Dippers.
Features include a red power on indicator light, locking latch to keep the unit closed while baking and storing, nonstick plates, convenient cord wrap. Cuisinart has a six-setting browning control that allows you to customize your waffle preferences from light to dark. The 6-slice Traditional Waffle Iron and the Traditional Waffle Iron have stay-cool handles, and the Waffle Dippers has stay-cool housing. Six-slice Traditional Waffle Iron ($120), Traditional Waffle Iron ($60) and Waffle Dippers ($80).
KitchenAid ProLine Series Waffle Baker– For those who truly love not only eating, but making them. This powerhouse of a waffle maker is a double-sided baking unit that rotates (upside down) so that both the lower and upper plates are coated for even cooking. The waffle baker makes two, 7 ½ inch diameter by 1 ½” thick Belgian waffles. The machine is truly a professional and comes with a hefty price as well - $349.99.
Chef’s Choice Belgian Waffle Pro (850) – makes four deep-pocket Belgian waffles at once in a quick 1-1/2 – 2 minutes. Features include a ready beep, nonstick surface, automatic countdown timer, sleep mode, hast heat up and quick recovery for continuous preparation. It also features a baking system that lets you adjust the baking time and temperature for customized waffles. It retails around $140. Chef’s Choice also has the WafflePro express (840), Waffle Pro (830) and Pizzelle Pro.

That should be enough to help you enjoy waffles morning, noon and night.
Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends

Monday, May 15, 2006

This past week was filled with preparations for Grayson's third birthday party. I do have to say that things weren't as hectic as I thought they would be, even with 14 kids RSVP'd -- meaning that with parents, we'd be entertaining about 30 people. We opted for an hour and a half party, and hired someone to sing for a half an hour. That would keep the kids entertained, but they still needed to be fed.
Something simple and delicious was what I sought to create. I didn't want to spend my days before the party, and time during the party making food and serving it. I wanted to add a personal touch with some homemade items, but didn't want to go overboard and offer tons of options. So I decided on making two pizzas, along with an Asian noodle salad. I made the pizza dough the night before, so all I had to do in the morning was bring it to room temperature, then form the crust, put on the toppings so it was ready to plop in the oven when needed. The noodle salad, which took about 15 minutes to make the night before, required only to be placed in a bowl for serving. Bottled water, juice and lemonade for drinks, a simple fruit salad, and I had myself a party.
My son loves fish, so I did an Internet search for fish molds/pans and found easy directions on how to make the fish cake myself - no need to buy a mold that I would use only once or twice. Using a recipe pulled from a Good Housekeeping Cook Book, I made the cake a few days early, wrapped it in plastic wrap and foil to keep it fresh and moist, all I needed to do was to frost and assemble the cake the day before the party. Initially, I was going to make the frosting, but as my mother pointed out, there was no need to add an extra step onto the process. I bought canned frosting and colored it blue. The creation of the fish wasn't as time-consuming as I thought it would be, and after about 45 minutes, the fish was completed frosted and assembled. It was the star of the show for my son. He wanted to look at it all the time. The night before the party, he told his Dad "tomorrow, I can eat the fish cake."

I guess the point of the story is that making a memorable party, one that you remember and your guests do as well, doesn't take a lot of time or money. Simple, straightforward recipes go a long way. Your friends will appreciate the personal touch.
Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Last Sunday, my husband and I headed north to wine country for a Slow Food event. There, Michael Pollan spoke about his current book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, in addition to espousing his thoughts on the Slow Food movement. (
Pollan spoke of the many lessons he learned while writing the book, including the unsustainable nature of the industrial food chain and how, in its existing state, cannot continue as is. As well, he touched on his belief that the organic food movement has become splintered - to include the small local organic farmers, and the big, mega organic farmers. He admits that natural foods supermarkets, such as Whole Foods, have done a great job at furthering the organic food movement, especially among mainstream America, however, he feels that they are falling short. Citing the San Francisco Chronicle article Green Giants (which ran the same day), Pollan pointed out the 'problems' (in his opinion) of the current state of the organic movement. He is an advocate of eating locally, as opposed to heading to the supermarket - natural food markets included. As more supermarkets offer organic foods, the organic agriculture system is becoming big business, with the size of many organic farms becoming quite large - even industrial in scale. His suggestion was to shun the supermarkets (as much as possible) and purchase at a local farmer's market. As he puts it, "foraging for food is one of the pleasures in life." And to that point, he couldn't stress enough the virtues of the local farmer's markets.
By eating locally, we create important relationships with the community and the natural world - as well as the family. As he spoke, our minds were swirling with thoughts on how we could make this work within our family. On occasion we head to the market, but find the convenience of Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and the local Safeway much more conducive to our busy lifestyle.
While it didn't take Pollan to apprise me of the fact that many children are unaware of where their food comes from, or what it looks like in its unprocessed state, but it did bring it to the forefront now that I have children.
It may require a bit of effort in the beginning, but I believe that once the habit of shopping at the farmer's market is established, it can become just as convenient as going to the supermarket. It may take a bit of menu planning - to understand which produce each season brings, but soon it will become a habit. It is a great way to reconnect yourself with the food world - the seasons of produce and the people in your community who produce these wonderful goods. It is also a great way to introduce children to the world of food - where it comes from, what it tastes like. And, it is an ideal opportunity for your children to take part in menu planning, food gathering, preparation, and the joys of eating.

We'll be heading to a market this weekend - exposing our children to the food, the smell and the farmers who work in our community. Yes, we will still frequent the local Whole Foods, but at least it is a start . . .

Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends (and Farmers, too!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In search of inspiration, I ran across a few web sites that have proven to be helpful in building upon the food and family tradition within our household.
The first,, focuses on offering kids aged 7-10 the tools needed to improve their health and the health of the planet. Created by The Rodale Institute, whose mission it is to work with people worldwide to achieve a regenerative food system that renews environmental and human health working with the philosophy that Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy Planet, the site offers information on fun and fitness, food and nutrition, easy to make recipes, gardening information and inspiration, activities and a host of resources for both parents and educators.

The next, is a fun site that helps you create a cookbook filled with family recipes, personal photos and stories. offers interactive and creative ways for family and friends to preserve the recipes they were raised with. The personalized cookbooks can be created individually or through groups online and can be filled with recipes, dedications, and photos. The web site also offers food related resources including product reviews, informative articles and links to interactive blogs. I love the idea of gathering together favorite family recipes all in one place (in a beautiful bound book), although the cookbooks seem a bit expensive -- however they can be a wonderful gift - for a wedding shower, graduation gift, etc. The site may even provide you inspiration to create your own collection of recipes.

Finally, the May launch of Imbibe Magazine is almost here. I got a sneak peak at the first issue of this magazine that highlights drinks as a culinary category. The magazine covers all kinds of beverages from wine, beer and spirits, to coffee, tea, water and beyond. The articles focus on the history, ingredients, preparation and consumption of beverages, offering readers information to make more informed buying decisions -- ultimately for their enjoyment at home. The premier issue includes articles on the beverages of Oaxaca, organic wine, coffee and Trappist ales. It is very well written - offering a lot of great information. The magazine will be available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books a Million, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Tower Books as well as select independent grocery stores, wine, beer and spirit shops. Check out the web site for more information:

Until next time, enjoy your time with Food, Family and Friends

Monday, April 17, 2006

This past weekend, a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle "America's mean cuisine: More like it hot," discussed how spicy flavors are all the rage from junk food to ethnic dishes. The American palate's move from mild to spicy foods is attributed to a variety of things - from increased worldwide travel to the growing number of immigrants who bring their traditional foods to the U.S. I always like to add the 'Starbucks effect' as a reason-- i.e. Starbucks has helped raise mainstream consumer awareness of different taste profiles of one of the most popular beverages in the States. As a result, consumers are becoming more attuned to their taste buds, and seeking out new flavor profiles and exciting new flavor combinations.
For those of us who have been brought up on so-called 'mild' foods, with meals generally consisting of meat, veggies and potatoes that have been 'spiced' up with salt and pepper, the transition to more exciting taste profiles can be a bit trying. The same is true for children. From early on, they grow accustomed to certain taste profiles, and unfortunately, too often it is a sugary taste profile. (I cringe as I see the joy with which my children gobble up their Easter goodies, and wonder how I can get them to eat broccoli again).
My husband and I are adventurous with foods. By adventurous, I don't mean insects and foods that might be necessary to eat if I were on Survivor. By adventurous, I mean, with flavors. Different flavors. Layers of flavors. Spicy, sweet and everything in between. This comes more from a desire to enjoy foods, make them an adventure and not just a way to fill my stomach. As a result, we are constantly introducing our children to new foods - those foods that are often coined as 'adult' foods. Sure, my kids love their hot dogs and mac and cheese, but my soon-to-be three-year-old loves shrimp, broccoli, asparagus. He's even tried, and somewhat liked, brussel sprouts. He's had his share of Italian, but also enjoys a bit of Asian, and has even enjoyed a mild curry.
The Chronicle article does touch on the growth in ethnic food consumption, citing how Boomers are experimenting with other cuisines, which may include Thai or sushi. And, of course restaurants are cashing in on the fact that American palates are a bit more adventurous, but the worrisome thing is that the majority of consumers will enjoy these bolder flavors in junk food form. The article listed several recently introduced foods that fill the 'bolder' taste profiles. They include Coca-Cola's new Blak fusion beverage of Coke and coffee; Frito-Lay's sensations line of potato and tortilla chips seasoned with chiles, crushed red pepper and black peppercorns' Blue Diamond's Bold line of almonds which include Wasabi and Soy Sauce, among others. As well, the Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich, Carl's Jr. spicy barbecue burger, Cheetos, sauces, condiments, mints, candy and chewing gum blah, blah blah.
It was probably about 10 years ago, when the Fancy Food Show was filled with so companies promoting hotter than hot, ass-kickin' hot sauces. The challenge was to create the hottest version around; and only a partial droplet could be used when cooking. This trend eventually died down and morphed into hot sauces that had some depth of flavor. And, that is what it should be about. Tasting taste. Not making it so powerful that there is only one sensation: hot, or whatever it might be.
Tasting is such a wonderful thing, and all too often the foods we eat, whether we prepare them ourselves, or purchase prepackaged foods, there is one overriding flavor.
I enjoy, and of course want my children to do the same, tasting a variety of different flavors and textures, enjoying the entire sensory experience of eating. Unfortunately with the run on spicy and bolder flavors in many junk foods or fast foods, what many are experiencing are flavors that are created in the lab. A salsa verde powder that is sprinkled over chips, an artificially flavored habanero sauce spread over a chicken sandwich.
There are so many opportunities to experience the true flavor of a food made with fresh ingredients. I've hidden all the Easter chocolate from my kids - partly because they don't need the temptation and I don't need the headache of their constant asking, but I want them to experience great tasting chocolate, not the variety that is made mostly of fillers. I want them to grow up appreciating what the pure taste of chocolate is, to understand the role flavor has in eating; whether it is a treat, a snack, or a meal.
For those timid in the kitchen, a cooking class at the local kitchenware store, is a great way to start. In just a few hours, you'll learn how to create flavors that will enhance, not mask, the overall eating experience. At home, experiment with different spice blends, maybe even crushing your own spices in a mortar and pestle to create a home made curry, or secret spice blend. When you do purchase a sauce that claims to be 'bold' or 'spicy' try to taste-test it first before using. If it tastes processed, or the flavor is one-dimensional, opt to make your own - I marinate chicken in a hot and sweet tomato sauce that has honey, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper and tomato sauce -topped with toasted sesame seeds. It takes only a few minutes to put together and I always get compliments on it.
Best of all, at least one of those compliments comes from my son.
Until next time, enjoy food, family and friends.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I just returned from the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America conference and exhibition. The show’s exhibitor list ranges from producer country associations, importers and roasters, to companies offering coffee- (and tea) related products to the retailers who sell them. As has been the case in the past few years, the industry is focusing more on the issues related to coffee prices. Basically, the unfortunate downward trend in coffee prices has left many farmers in a crisis. The money they receive for the product they produce is much less than the cost to produce it. As a result, many are choosing alternate crops or, if they continue to produce coffee, they choose to produce a greater amount of lesser quality coffee in an attempt to sell volume over quality.
To help turn around this devastating downward spiral, many companies are creating relationships with farmers in source countries, working with them on a face-to-face basis, to help them through this crisis. The result has been many successful programs in which farmers receive a decent wage for their work, and in turn are given the incentive to produce better quality coffees. Programs like this have helped build schools, health care programs and the like in farming communities around the coffee-growing world.
So, as you enjoy your morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee, think about where the coffee came from. Think about the community where it was grown – the people’s whose lives depend on it. Think about your future coffee purchases, and hopefully they will be made with the sustainability of their lives, and the environment’s in mind. If you don’t know, ask your local retailer about labels you see on the packaging – Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz Kapeh, etc. - and learn more about how your purchasing decisions can affect change not only in producer countries, but in your own backyard.
Ok, I’m off my soap box . .

Aside from this broader social issue . . . and on a much lighter note, exhibitors offered up some great new beverageware designs so we can enjoy our cup of coffee (or tea) in style.
One of my favorites since they came to market has been the Miam Miam line of coffee mugs (see below). These whimsical mugs are truly eye-catchers when they sit on your desk. To view all styles, visit the Miam Miam section of the following website –

With continued trend in drinking chocolate, La Cafetiere introduced the La Chocolatiere drinking chocolate maker. Perfect more creating frothy hot or cold drinks from wither chocolate flakes or instant chocolate, the maker also includes matching mugs. (

On the tea end, Pacific Cornetta presented the Aletta Tea-zer tea infuser vacuum bottle. Featuring a double-wall plastic construction that retains heat, the Tea-zer has a stainless steel removable brewing basket for brewing loose-leaf teas as well as tea bags. The sip lid has perforated holes to prevent swallowing stray tealeaves. (

Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends

Friday, March 24, 2006

Through the years, I have seen a lot of trendy kitchenware products presented at trade shows. Oftentimes I’ve wondered how they could have even made it past the boardroom.
I've had enough practice that I can spot a gimmick a mile away -- and often cringe at the time and energy that is put into a product that is going to be as short-lived as the trend it was created to fulfill. (I do have to admit, I had one of those defrosting trays in my kitchen for many years – never really sure if they worked or if I just kept it around for so long because I had convinced myself that it was a ‘miracle’ product.)

Because my kitchen has always been on the small side, I have always been careful as to which products I really need, which ones will truly be useful, and which ones might be a bit frivolous.
When silicone kitchen accessories hit the U.S. consumer market several years ago, I thought, “Wow, this is good.” Silicone initially made its way into the U.S. kitchen with the must-have Silpat liner. This liner, which chefs have used for years, is made of a combination of fiberglass and silicone, and turns any pan into a nonstick surface ( Its success in the consumer world led the way for more silicone products to be introduced. Today silicone has permeated almost every aspect of the kitchenware industry, and is on everything from gadgets to oven mitts, to trivets, spatulas and more.

The main benefits of silicone in the kitchen are that it is heat resistant to upwards of 600 degrees Fahrenheit and is non porous – two important attributes when it comes to the kitchen. Take the potholder as an example. Traditionally made of fabric, the potholder doesn’t always keep our hand safe from the heat, gets dirty, and needs to be replaced on a frequent basis. On the other hand, the silicone potholders (and oven mitts) are much more durable and useful. They can withstand the heat that a typical cloth potholder or oven mitt might not. As an added benefit, the silicone potholder is slip resistant and waterproof. And, if it is a coordinated kitchen look you’re going for, these potholders are available in a variety of colors. Lamson & Goodnow’s HotSpot is flexible and easy to grasp, and come in a wide array of fun colors including transparent colors or even novelty designs such as snowflakes, snowmen or hearts. (
On the Oven Mitt end, there are a couple versions out there including the iSi ORKA oven mitt and the SiliconeZone version which offers left- and right-handed mitts. The silicone oven mitt is perfect for a variety of tasks – including reaching into a pot of boiling water to grab a lobster. But, if lobster isn’t a frequent item on your menu, the mitt is useful when reaching into the oven or even the barbecue. Heck, it is also pretty handy if you need to reach into the fireplace to quickly adjust a log or place a new one on the fire – just keep in mind that it is heat resistant to about 600 degrees F
How a silicone product performs is dependent upon several factors such as the thickness of the silicone as well as its grade. Because silicone has become so popular, there are a lot of products out there to choose from. Some silicone products are made using bulk fillers – which is cheaper than using all silicone. They aren’t as effective, though. A quick test someone once showed me that will help determine if fillers are used is to bend it in half- If the color remains solid, then there are no fillers. (If you bend a red baking pan, for example, and you can see some white – then fillers are used).
I haven’t used silicone for baking too often, simply because I have found success with my metal pans, and I don’t want to experiment with results in the silicone baking. When using silicone for baking keep in mind that the form is floppier than a metal pan, so it will take some time to get used to placing the pan in the oven without spilling the batter. Additionally, when using silicone for baking, there won’t be a browning effect – so, if that’s what you’re looking for, you might be disappointed. However, if you’re frosting a cake then the browning doesn’t matter.

Some kitchen tools that I have found indispensable include the spatula. The nonporous nature of silicone comes in handy especially when stirring tomato sauce. The silicone won’t discolor, and since it is heat resistant, you can use the silicone spatula in a pot of sauce or even to cook up scrambled eggs.
Also handy is the stainless steel kitchen tongs that have silicone on the ends. Now available from Cuisipro, the silicone is on the grabbing portion of the tongs, making them great for grabbing slippery foods – such as lasagna, and are perfect for use all the time because the silicone end keeps it from scratching the bottom of pots and pans. They are colorful too – and come in yellow, red, blue, orange and frosted tips. (

Another great silicone product from Lamson is thefoodloop – it is a silicone trussing tool that replaces kitchen string (or toothpicks) when cooking. I don’t use it very often, but when I need it, thefoodloop is very handy to have around.
One of my favorites – especially for the kids to use is the SillyBowl – a small bowl made of silicone. Beyond using it for the kids, the Silly Bowl is perfect for serving spreads, dips, or sauces – especially at an outdoor barbecue. (

The Sili Gourmet Measuring cups and spoons (from William Bounds Ltd.) come in very handy. They are color-coded cups and spoons that have stainless steel handles that are easy to grip (even when hands are wet). The cups and spoons are color coded so you can easily grab the correct cup/spoon size when needed. Making them even more functional is the flat bottom design so that they sit securely on the counter when filled without spilling. The cups can be used for cooking functions such as melting butter, and are ideal for measuring sticky ingredients such as peanut butter, (

I still have on hand an old basting brush my great grandmother made with goose feathers. I don’t use it, but remember my mother and grandmother using them to spread melted butter all the time. Mine sits on a shelf in the kitchen and when I glance at it I cringe as to all the yuck that has accumulated on it. That’s what makes the silicone basting brushes my friends. The silicone bristles make them easy to clean, and there is never any leftover residue from past use. Many companies have them available, iSi has a silicone baster that allows you to store the basting liquid – butter or glaze – in the handle. With a soft squeeze, the liquid is dispersed into the bristles for basting. They also have a small ‘Squid” baster that draws up pan juices by suction into the reservoir, allowing you to then brush them on ( Kuhn Rikon has a 8 ½ inch long Silicone Brush that has a version that is perfect for basting in the oven or for the barbecue. The non-shedding brush is heat safe to 500 degrees F and doesn’t absorb flavors. It is easy to clean in the dishwasher or by hand. Best of all, it retails for around $7. (

As I mentioned before, I’ve had some relatively small kitchens, so bulky cookware and accessories are always an issue. A recent introduction from SiliconeZone is the answer to at least one of my dilemmas – the Flexible Silicone Strainers/Colanders. This tool collapses into a flat piece for easy storage. Beyond its ability to store flat, the strainer makes clean-up of starchy foods (such as potatoes and pasta) a breeze. (
One other great SiliconeZone find is the Universal Easy Lid. There is no organization to our plastic container cabinet, and it is made even worse by the fact that we allow Nicole and Grayson to open it and grab a plastic cup or bowl for snack-time. (It also serves as a mild diversion when I need to get something done in the kitchen). The Universal Easy Lid eliminates the time I spend looking for the right lid to fit a container. Now I can store a bean salad, leftovers, or whatever in a bigger bowl and plop on one off these lids. It includes a 12.5-inch, 10.5-inch, 8-inch and 6-inch size, so it fits nearly every bowl we have. It also provides a vacuum seal to melamine, glass, metal or ceramic bowls. I also use the lid as a splatter guard on the stove. (

That’s about it from me today – I’m off to cooking in my silicone-infused kitchen.
Until next time, enjoy your time with Food and the Family.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Time for Yourself – even if it is a couple of minutes.

It’s been a hectic weekend, as most are, and I long for the quiet time that I don’t usually get until after 8 p.m. when both the kids are down. With one out of the house grocery shopping with Daddy, and the other taking a nap (which I hope lasts until they return from the store), I sit down to relax with my computer and a cup of tea. Having consumed my daily share of coffee at 6:30 a.m. when the kids dragged us out of bed, I opt for something more soothing, with less caffeine.

No doubt you are all aware of the health benefits of tea, but if you need a reminder, here they are:
Tea provides various nutrient supplements including potassium, vitamin C, and a number of trace minerals including chromium.
Tea is rich in antioxidants which help protect cells that may otherwise mutate into cancer and other diseases.
Green tea exhibits anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties making it useful in warding off some forms of flue, colds and other illnesses.
Polyphenals and catechins found in tea have been found to lower undesirable fats in the blood including cholesterol. While green tea continues a higher percentage of the catechin antioxidants, research has documented that black and oolong teas have many of these same healthy effects on the human body.

I usually mix it up, trying different kinds of tea – green, oolong, black, even mate and rooibos, which are not officially ‘tea’, but are often lumped into the same category.

While my intentions are to grab some quiet time, it doesn’t always happen. Inevitably, my tea is brewing and the kids wake up – and my tea gets cold. My big find has been the Timolino Travette Tea Maker. It is a vacuum insulated tea ‘pot’ that includes a basket infuser that sits inside the pot, giving the tea leaves room to properly release flavor. The vacuum insulated container holds the tea at the perfect temperature for up to three hours. It has a padded base so it sits securely on the table, desk or counter without marring, and the stainless steel interior makes it easy to clean. It has a 20-ounce capacity. (

That’s my pick of the week! With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, we’ll be getting ready for a festive dinner. Check back later this week to hear about our plans.
Until next time, enjoy Food and the Family.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Well, we did it. Grayson helped make the pasta. He participated in every stage, helping mix the ingredients for the pasta, then kneading it, and of course, his favorite part 'cranking the machine.' All in all, it didn't take much time - yes, a bit more time than store-bought pasta, but the experience of the family making it together is well worth the few extra minutes. When running the pasta through the Atlas pasta machine, Grayson was amazed at how the machine performed - he decided which size spaghetti we were to make - actually making two thicknesses. days later, he is still talking about it. In fact, he had a little 'tantrum' because we were making left-over pasta and not making it from scratch!
Until next time, enjoy Food and the Family

Thursday, March 02, 2006

This week's San Francisco Chronicle (3/1) Food section featured an article about the recent Winter Fancy Food Show held in San Francisco in January. I have attended this show too many times to count over the past 12 years. The show is put on by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade, which holds three versions of the Fancy Food Show throughout the year - Winter in San Francisco, Spring in Chicago and Summer in New York City. This truly is the place to find the best of the best food products ranging from imported cheeses, to condiments, specialty meats, confections, cookies and more. As the author of the article noted, the show is literally a food fest, where trade members (not open to the public) have the opportunity to taste a wide, wide variety of specialty foods.

The foods introduced at the show are literally, the foods that will appear at your local stores in the coming months.
So, I thought I'd write a report of my findings at the show. This, of course, will not be exhaustive, since there are hundreds of booths, hundreds of new products and often not enough time to see everything.
Here are a few snippets of what is up and coming to your neighborhood store.

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere. High quality is what it is all about. Great new offerings - as well as those previously introduced - from a host of companies include the Torn Ranch Tea Bar, with European dark chocolate infused with green tea and a hint of jasmine (
For the wine lover, there was the Wine Lover's Chocolate Collection from The San Francisco Chocolate Factory. Each different cocoa percentage is paired with a red wine varietal. Scharffen Berger introduced the 3-ounce El Carmen 75% Cacao Limited Series dark chocolate bars as well as the Gianduja bars. (
The new dessert sauces collection from Fran's Chocolates is a tasty trio. The Dark Chocolate, Classic Caramel and Pure Raspberry Sauces - are Fran's most requested sauces and are now available in a three pack. (
For the tea and chocolate lover, Serendipitea is offering unique and distinctive blends such as romantic tea and flower blends, along with tea/tisane blends with real dark chocolate (

Fair Trade labels continue to expand beyond the coffee realm and include Fair Trade certified sweeteners from Wholesome Sweeteners. The line includes organic Fair Trade sugar, organic Fair Trade sucanat, organic Fair Trade powdered sugar, organic Fair Trade light and dark brown sugars, organic Fair Trade molasses, and Fair Trade raw cane sugar.

Lots of healthy and tasty beverages to keep an eye out for. New to the show was the Ardea Beverage Company which offered airforce Nutrisoda, nutrient-enhanced sodas that are made with natural fruit flavors and colors (
For those wanting to experience the healthful benefits of mate, Pixie Mate showased their offerings including The Original Mate latte, Mate Mocha, Mate Chai and Dark Roast Mate Latte (
The portable T-Buddy from TzuThe International serves as both a mug and a tea pot. A built-in infuser allows for brewing full leaf teas, herbal 'teas' and even coffee. They also offered a green tea bar, that is made with green tea leaves and Sapporo brewer's yeast. The bar is high in protein and fiber and comes in Multi-grain, Japanese Germ Rice or Tropical fruit.
Honest Tea introduced certified organic bottled iced teas in unsweetened varieties as well as lightly sweetened flavors including Mango White Tea, Heavenly Honey Green tea. From ITO EN, two new varieties have been added to the all-natural, unsweetened Teas' Tea line - Lemongrass Green and Rose Green.
Great for entertaining is the Stirrings Cocktail Essences from Nantucket Off-Shore Seasonings. The herbal and floral infused cocktail essences come in Summer Basil, Hillside Lavender, Mediterranean Rosemary and 60 Petal Rose flavors, and are a great way to give a martini a bit of flavor.
For those who demand the real thing, Nielsen-Massey vanillas introduced four new pure extracts - Chocolate, Almond, Orange and Lemon for a variety of baking and cooking applicaiotns.

Flavors of the world include the Maya Kaimal line of all-natural, refrigerated Indian sauces. A delicious shortcut to some of your favorite Indian dishes such as Tikka Masala, Coconut Curry, Tamarind Curry and Vindaloo. ( And for those who love to stir fry, Republic of Tea's cold-pressed extra-virgin tea oil is great. The Tea Oil ensures a balance of texture, flavors and color, while preserving valuable nutirents. (
A tasty blend of sesame, garlic, coriander and ginger with a hint of star anise make up the Asian Brining Blend from Victorial Gourmet. Perfect for pork tenderloin or shrimp. (
An interesting snack find -- Lasagna Chips. Made from fresh sheets of lasagna, cooked and seasoned to create several flavors: Garlic & Oregano, Tomato Basil, Sea Salt and Barbecue, as well as a new, whole-wheat Lasagna Chip (
Recipes from the Aztec and Mayan recipes are replicated from Xochitl in slasas, dipa dn corn chip[s. Salsa/dips are available in Chipotle, Roasted Jalapeno and Habanero. Voted best Chips in the Country by the Rosengarten Report in Sept. 2005. (
Madras Curry Mustard, from Bear Creek Fine Foods, is a blend of Madras curry spice with organic mustard to offer exotic flavor with ahint of sweetness and a punch of spice. (
- Three new buttery crackers from the Fine Cheese Company of Bath England include Charcoal (yes, charcoal), Wholemeal and Natural.
- Tasty new fig sauces at The Girl and The Fig - Spiced Fig Caramel and Spiced Fig Chocolate.
- Numerous companies highlighting distinctive gourmet sea salts - many hand-harvested and certified authentic, including those from SaltWorks Inc. (
- Emeril's All Natural Chicken, Beef, and organic vegetable Stocks.
--** Fruit/Flavor to keep an eye on - Goji Berries - The TIbetan Goji Berry is chock full of lots of good things: 18 amino acids, more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach, 500 times the vitamin C by weight than an orange, lots of protein . . . .
- The list could go on and on . . but I must move on.

Keep and eye out for these new products . .
Until next time, enjoy Food and the Family


Friday, February 24, 2006

On the Op/Ed page of the Feb. 24th New York Times, Alice Waters speaks to the need for instilling good eating habits in children, because, as she says, "children's eating habits stay with them for the rest of their lives." Waters, who is owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe and the founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation, created the Edible Schoolyard program in the Berkeley area 10 years ago. Children become involved in this school-lunch initiative which weaves a garden of fruits, vegetables and herbs into their daily classroom activities. As she states in her NYTimes piece "We're not forcing them to eat their vegetables; we're teaching them about the botany and history of those vegetables. We're not scaring them with the health consequences of their eating habits; we're engaging them in interactive education that brings them into a new relationship with food. Nothing less will change their behavior."
Her Edible Schoolyard has become a model for a school lunch initiative that spans the Berkeley district. My goal is to build upon the belief that engaging children in interactive education will bring them into a new relationship with food - to nurture that love of food here at home.
Children learn to eat healthy through hands-on experiences that are sensory filled - as opposed to listening to how nutritious a food is for them. This weekend, it will be a family experience where we all participate in the making homemade pasta. Regardless of the results - tasty or not; perfectly shaped or not - we will enjoy the experience of making it, eating it and talking about it.
I'll let you know how it turns out . .

A great resource for learning more about whole grains is the Whole Grains Council. Last year the Council introduced the Whole Grains Stamp, created by the Council and Oldways Preservation Trust, as a quick and easy way to identify healthy and delicious whole grains at the store. To view the stamp, visit, or While at the Oldways site, check out the EatWise program for teachers and parents. An 8-lesson curriculum, called High Five, was created "that wakens children's excitement and interest in their food. It teaches children about healthy eating, simple cooking and cultural models for meals." You can order the curriculum for $20.

Until next time, enjoy Food and the Family!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Food, Family, Friends and Fun

I’m exhausted, physically and mentally, as I step into the kitchen for what seems to be the 15th time in the same day. This time, it’s to search through the refrigerator and pantry to figure out what I am to make for dinner – I’ve two kids to feed (a 1 year old and 2 ½ year old), along with a hungry husband. (and a circling cat who is relentless until I feed him as well). Unfortunately, the kids need to be fed before my husband comes home, so that often requires separate preparation of a well-rounded meal that includes some sort of protein, healthy grains, and a vegetable. (We do plan several nights during the week when we all gather together for a meal).
I’m just coming to the point where Nicole, who is 1, can eat the same foods as my son, Grayson – good news because this cuts down on the different versions of meals I have to fix. Every day I’m in this position I vow to myself to create meals ahead of time, so that all I have to do is heat them up and serve them. This is a dream that has not become a reality. Sure, I occasionally pre-make meals, but they need a bit of variety, so I can’t serve them the same thing again and again.
Kids or no kids, the “what’s for dinner” dilemma is common, especially with today’s workloads and other commitments.
We aren’t a fast-food family (except for the occasional In and Out burger), and refuse to fall into the fast food trap so many families fall into. Our goal as parents is to bring up our children in an environment where they learn about the foods they eat -- An environment where experimentation is important, and where preparation and consumption are part of the whole experience. Our ‘kitchen’ isn’t fully organic, but we tend to lean towards purchasing organically grown vegetables along with meats and dairy that are free of growth hormones.
Grayson, who will be three in May, is already a fixture in the kitchen when I’m cooking. And, I am hoping that some day soon, Nicole will join us in the kitchen. Whenever possible, Grayson participates in the food preparation. To me, this is an important step to opening up the world of food to children. No, he’s not there all the time, but enough to have the desire to help.
He helps count the scoops of coffee every morning, he helps stir ingredients together for pancakes, he is a great ‘help’ when kneading dough for Pizza Friday. Even if he is observing, he is learning. I name ingredients and gadgets, and am sure to impress on him the need for being careful in the kitchen – i.e. what is off limits to him. As a result, he tells Daddy about the flour, salt and yeast that we used to make pizza dough, and that we mixed the ingredients with a whisk and a wooden spoon. When not helping with preparation, he is a perfect helper when the table needs to be set.
When we sit down together, we make it a point to talk about our days – what he did at preschool, how Nicole mastered another word . . . If we are eating pasta, we talk about the pasta shapes and how some pasta is made in Italy – which is a great way to start talking about food traditions in other countries. Regardless of the age of children, there is an opportunity to teach them about food, traditions and togetherness.
Edible tidbits will provide Moms and Dads with ways to get children involved, how to create healthy meals – quickly, and how to build lasting traditions in the kitchen and at the dinner table.
For those no-children households, Edible Tidbits will offer you information on choosing ingredients, the latest in gadgets, even product spotlights from time to time. All in all, my goal is to offer up ‘advice’ to anyone who is looking to make life in the kitchen simpler – without sacrificing taste or quality. Food should be enjoyed with family and friends – with its preparation just as enjoyable as its consumption.
I am not a formally trained chef (although I did spend a week in Arles, France at a cooking school) I am simply a mother of two who learned how to cook and bake at home from my mother and grandmother. I am also a writer, who has had the opportunity to experience the food cultures of other countries and who has an ‘insider’s’ view to those kitchen tools that make life in the kitchen much easier.
My experience in the food and kitchenware industries (see my bio) gives me the advantage to preview new items for the kitchen, see food trends in the making, and give a unique perspective on how to make life in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable – with family and friends.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts.