A crisp New England Fall with trees of all hues and leaves on the ground is a beautiful sight and people travel far and wide to witness it but what comes also with October is my least favorite Holiday, Halloween, and I particularly do not like to be reminded of it in August with a selection of Halloween cards.in the shops. What I have noticed this year is the widening array of orange themed foods and drinks – Starbucks Pumpkin Spice drink in a can, Tate’s Bake Shop Pumpkin Spice Cookies (might be tempted to try those), Octoberfest beers, pumpkin spice flavored pretzels and I once tasted roasted, salted pumpkin seeds – very good.
However, I can imagine what fun it is to make ghoulish Halloween food with little ones. Start with some Halloween-themed cookie cutters and make and decorate cookies or use them for sandwiches in the shapes of pumpkins, ghosts, bats, etc. You can go to amazon.com and type in eyeball candy which will give you a selection of small eyeballs with which to decorate cupcakes or even, for a healthier treat, place them on half a banana – get creative!
Very of the moment – pumpkin on doorstep for Halloween but don’t just throw it away afterwards. Cut the top off, hollow out the flesh and seeds and use it for an autumnal flower arrangement or, if it is a big one, put a plant in it
I just came across an alarming statement ‘the average American consumes around 16 teaspoons of sugar a day’! Apart from the obvious, the sugar you put in coffee or tea, cookies, cakes, desserts and chocolate where is the sugar coming from? It is naturally occurring in fruit. Mangoes have the highest sugar content followed by grapes and cherries, even watermelon and bananas are quite high. Fruits with less sugar are melon, raspberries and strawberries. Savory products can also contain sugar – pasta sauces, coleslaw, nut butters, bread, some crackers, store-bought salad dressings and, of course, ketchup. When you read a food label – if you can read the often minute lettering annoyingly hidden behind a crease in the packaging – you may not see the actual word sugar but it will be there if you see words ending in -ose – glucose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, lactose – and then there are fruit juice concentrates, florida crystals, barley malt. I could go on as there are around 50 names for hidden sugars in food! When it comes to drinks you may think you are doing a good thing substituting Coke Zero for regular Coke because it says no sugar and no calories on the can but the flavor comes from two artificial sweeteners, aspartame and acesulfame potassium and there is still controversy around the use of artificial sweeteners.There is little, if any, sugar in alcoholic drinks such as gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey. The bad news is that there is sugar in the mixers. Generally, cocktails have high sugar content because simple syrup or fruit juices are used. Tom Collins or a Bloody Mary are low in sugar. Beers are sugar free unless it’s a non-alcoholic one. When it comes to wine, red has less sugar than white. After all that stick to water!
Have you ever tried cooking with coca cola? There is actually a vintage cook book titled ‘Classic Cooking with Coca Cola’ written by Elizabeth Candler Graham, the great-great-grandaughter of the founder. Interestingly, Coke has a tenderizing effect on meat due to its acidity and its sweetness is good for marinades and BBQ sauce. There are plenty of Coca Cola recipes about – meatballs, slow cooker beef stew, cherry coke cupcakes (not for me) and the classic Coke Float drink. I dare you – plenty of second hand copies on Amazon!
On my next run to Trader Joe’s I am going to buy some zhoug paste. I love going there and browsing for unusual items and new things to try.It is a Middle Eastern cilantro-based condiment. How is it used? As one of the ingredients of a marinade or mix with yoghurt to make a dip, add some to a dressing, stir it into pasta, spread it on bread when making a sandwich. In the UK it is available at Waitrose
At the forefront of many, many people’s minds at the moment is how to keep grocery and heating costs down due to inflation and it is on my mind too. Here are a few ideas:
1. Cook from scratch – cheaper, healthier (less added salt, sugar, etc.)
2. Take your own lunch to work.
3. I have a leftovers space in my fridge.
4. Make a potage (thick soup) out of any veg. lingering in your fridge drawer, say carrots, onions, potatoes
5. You can save on electricity by changing the way you cook: if using your oven cook several different dishes in it at the same time or batch cook; use a slow cooker as an alternative which means you can use cheaper cuts of meat as the long, slow cooking will tenderize the meat or use a pressure cooker which also tenderizes cheaper cuts of meat but it cooks them in a very quick space of time – I haven’t used one for years but when I did it was impressive; and there’s nothing wrong with a plain old BBQ.
6. Eat more foods that don’t need any cooking at all – be creative with salads, they don’t even need to contain lettuce.
7. Eat seasonally for your area – often you see a list of seasonal ingredients in magazines but many of them may not be applicable and would therefore cost more if you decide to use the recipe. This is actually a very interesting topic. For instance, no apples are grown in Florida Bananas are grown in Florida from August to October, none are grown in NY State. So, if I was to really stick to what’s in season I would never eat an apple – food for thought. Best to frequent the Farmer’s Market and luckily there is a very good one in my area. Equally use frozen fruits and veg. as they are frozen in peak season. Thawed peas don’t need to be cooked and can be put in a salad.
8. Make more use of your freezer – perhaps you don’t know you can freeze avocado (handy for when you have a half left over), bananas, slice leftover lemon/lime then pop them in a drink when needed (separate the slices or they freeze into a solid lump), nuts actually prefer a colder temperature (I always thought they did well in a cupboard), eggs but not in the shell. Google the best way to freeze each of the items I have mentioned. On the other hand there are things you shouldn’t freeze – canned goods (it had never occurred to me that anyone would think of putting canned goods in a freezer as they have a long shelf life anyway, but apparently some clown did!), mayo, fruits and veg. with a high water content – cucumber, melon, lettuce.
If you hanker after a New York style deli, you will be happy to hear that Toojay’s has re-opened on Palm Beach. There is a good choice of traditional Jewish food starting with Knishes, Latkes and Matzo Ball Soup. Sandwiches include a classic Reuben and Nova Salmon on a bagel. The owner’s have partnered with acclaimed chef and TV personality, Eric Greenspan, to produce a line of grilled cheese sandwiches (OMG they look delicious). Dinner entrees are substantial and are accompanied by rye bread and a choice of soup or salad. They are classic old favorites – Liver and Onions, Beef Brisket Platter, Stuffed Cabbage. If you have any room left for dessert there is New York Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, Coconut Cake and more. Thhre are several other locations in Florida wwwt.toojays.com
BOOK OF THE MONTH – 1,000 FOODS TO EAT BEFORE YOU DIE
Several years ago I mentioned this book and I thought it worth a second try. My copy is dog-eared,literally (our dog had a go at it one night!) and almost falling apart with page corners turned over because the suggestions and information given are so good. The only thing I would say is to check beforehand if a restaurant or food store is open as the book was written a few years ago and covid has also intervened. The author is Mimi Sheraton who had the enviable job of being the food critic for the New York Times and its first female restaurant critic. Now, at the ripe old age of 96 she writes for the Daily Beast!
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – BRANSTON PICKLE
You may or may not be familiar with Branston Pickle, a British condiment which goes spectacularly well with cheese. Where would a Ploughman’s lunch be without it? I would say it goes best with a really good Cheddar and I serve that as a canape on those little French toasts you can buy. To be found in the International section of the supermarket in the US or one of the British food dotted around or, of course online. There are two sorts and one is chunkier than the other – go for the less chunky version.
RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH – El QUIJOTE
The Wall Street Journal just did a write up on the newly re-opened El Quijote restaurant located in the historic Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan and favorite of the legendary Andy Warhol. It is now on my list of restaurants to try next time I’m in the City. The menu is authentically Spanish and has a long list of tapas – I may pass on the $79 Iberico jamon – and then moves on to entrees – pollo asado, a fish dish with salsa verde, hot Iberico ham served with a fino sherry vinegar and, finally, a seafood paella. Old-timers who saw the restaurant go downhill will appreciate how carefully it has been restored – still recognizable but with some tweaks and changes. www.elquijotenyc.com
MOVIE OF THE MONTH – TOSCANA
This is an absolute gem for any food lover – the food photography, the detailed sketches of how to present the food on a plate, the Tuscan setting, the love story. Sit down, relax and enjoy every minute.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH HONEY MUSTARD
Just as I look forward to making the first stew of the season, so I welcome root vegetables. They are quite sweet in themselves so the honey mustard mixture they are tossed in at the end works well to add a little bite. They are a good accompaniment to pork or chicken.
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F
8 oz. each of carrots, beetroot and sweet potato – peeled and cut into small dice
1 medium onion – chopped into small chunks
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 dessert spoon of Dijon mustard
1 dessert spoon of honey
Place all the veg. in a mixing bowl, pour over the oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well together.
Transfer to a baking tray and cook for an hour.
Whisk the mustard and honey together, spoon over the veg and toss well.
A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven and it can be used to render cheaper cuts of meat tender.
A pressure cooker also uses less electricity than an oven and is way faster than a slow cooker, while still tenderizing meat.
If using your oven, try cooking several dishes in it at the same time.
So, what should you actually cook? Produce seasonal to your area; ramp up the veg. and lessen the meat or fish; bulk up meals with pulses (stews and the like); make soups of unused veg. – you can make a soup from about anything.
Google cheap recipes.
Buy in bulk – but I have found in the past that a) where can I store it b) do I want to eat the same thing often or do my kids want it in their lunchbox so often (I remember being overwhelmed by pretzel sticks). If you share the buying with a friend or two everyone ends up with a manageable amount.
I don’t want to sound like Marie Antoinette. I know time is short. But a few things are worth considering depending on your lifestyle.
Cook from scratch using seasonal ingredients (which vary from location to location), bulk up on veg. and items such as potatoes, pasta, rice. It is cheaper to use a microwave or slow cooker (which can tenderize cheaper cuts of meat) than a regular oven. Or bulk cook in the oven and freeze. Eat cold food. Be vigilant about using up leftovers or partially used items – soups and salads are good for these. Most things can go in a soup. Make your own stock (from organic meat and veg).
Oven v. microwave – a quick burst of power from a microwave is cheaper than cooking in the oven.
Oven v. slow cooker – slow cooker is cheaper that using the oven and has the advantage that it can produce tender meat from tough cuts.
Batch cooking – buying in bulk is usually cheaper and it means that you can cook a huge amount of either one item, say Bolognese sauce, or use the base ingredients to produce several different types of meal – ground beef and onion = Bolognese Sauce, Cottage Pie, chilli, tacos – and can be frozen for later.
Salads – in a restaurant they often have a salad on the menu and you can add chicken, beef, shrimp on top – the thing is that it only involves a small amount of chicken, etc so one chicken breast can top 4 salads.
Add flavor through spices – so meat can be used in various types of cuisine – curry, Mexican, Thai, etc.
Do you eat breakfast and what do you eat? For me it is coffee and some fruit on a daily basis but when away on vacation I love a good cooked breakfast and there is nothing better than a traditional English breakfast and then you can’t eat another thing all day. Kick off with porridge sprinkled with soft brown sugar and with cream pour over (and my father always added a pinch of salt), then eggs – poached, fried, scrambled or soft boiled for dipping ‘soldiers’ in – sausages, bacon, mushrooms, half a fried tomato, maybe some baked and toast with lots of butter and marmalade. That is a fairly typical breakfast but there are other options – blood sausage, the name is off putting but it is actually very nice, kippers are not as frequently served nowadays and nor is kedgeree (a mixture of finnan haddie (smoked haddock), hard boiled eggs, curried rice) one of the things that the British brought back with them from their lives in India.
Favorite way to cook chicken breasts or thighs – poaching them in the oven or may be the correct word is steaming. Anyway, line a baking tray with a generous amount of aluminum foil, enough to fold over into a sort of pouch. Place chicken pieces on the foil, pour over 2 tbsp. olive oil, juice of half a lemon, season with salt and lemon pepper, fold foil over the chicken to make a parcel. Cook at 400 degrees F for around 45 minutes depending on the size, weight of chicken. Not only will the chicken be moist but the juices will make a delicious gravy. Talking of chicken, I attended a cookery class in Italy a few years ago and was surprised to see that the chef cooked a whole chicken upside down to start with and then turned it over half way through cooking so that it was crispy on both sides. And, did you know that underneath the chicken there are two sort of pockets of chicken flesh which can easily be overlooked. When I was an ‘au pair’ in France my employer and also my friend taught me various tips to eking the most out of food and that was one of them. It is surprising how uch chicken you can get from a carcass if you really dig in with your fingers.
I was very, very sad when the Queen died – like about 75% of the population I had never experienced any other Monarch. She seemed so wise and her sense of duty was unwavering. The job had to be done and only she could do it and she did it very extremely well. Stoic and uncomplaining to the end she is a role model to emulate. She will be much missed.
I thought you might be interested to know about what the Queen, apparently, liked to eat First of all she wakes up to a cup of tea – Earl Grey (Twinings brand), then after preparing for the day she has simple breakfast – cereal (Special K brand), more tea and perhaps the odd biscuit. Lunch, if at home, is generally grilled fish (Dover Sole a favorite) with veg. or grilled chicken with a salad
A new item for your store cupboard – Colatura di Alici (what on earth does that mean and why should you have have it, I hear you cry). It is umami personified. It is fermented salted anchovies in liquid form. Available from amazon or souschef.co.uk
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Sun-Dried Tomato Powder
Sun-dried tomato powder is considered a spice, unless you add water and use it as a tomato paste substitute. Often it is lightly sprinkled over chicken or fish (cooked or uncooked???). It can be added to a spice rub and it will add a depth to tomato soup. I would buy it from Burlap & Barrel as their spices are small batch and very fresh.
For November/December newsletter
This year I am all about mini hors d’oeuvres/canapes – it is fascinating trying to think how to scale down a recipe to the size of about two inches square. A helpful tool is a mini muffin tray. In that you can cook small frittata, mini Yorkshire puddings topped with a little horseradish,, a small amount of gravy and a little roast beef. For dessert I have been playing around with tiny meringues topped with a little whipped cream and topped with a raspberry (a friend of mine also makes some tempting small squares of cheesecake). Hors d’oeuvres/canapes are served with cocktails and the whole idea is to have something to eat that is more or less manageable in one bite (and it goes without saying that it shouldn’t drip or burst or present difficulty when trying to pop it in your mouth. You may not have had a chicken vol au vent for quite some time – these were delicious puff pastry rounds filled with a bechamel chicken mushroom filling and a puff pastry ‘hat’ – but Oh the crumbs unless you had a plate (think juggling plate, glass and napkin and getting it to your mouth…) but these were so popular that you could buy the afresaid vol au vents plus ‘hats’ in the freezer of the supermarket. Have not seen a V au V for years now but if I make them I will confine them to an appetizer.
How to poach an egg in the microwave. Up until recently my father lived at home with carers and most of them couldn’t cook which was a particular problem as he was partial to poached eggs. He often wanted poached eggs on toast for dinner which was a conundrum until carer Samantha took it upon herself to google the subject. Yes, it was possible and she shared the technique with all the other carers and my father was so happy. So here’s how to do it. Go to this website, which I find very reliable and give it a go – https://www.thespruceeats.com/microwave-poached-eggs-recipe-2098012
Another use for a lemon – when preparing beetroot they stain your hands unless you wear gloves however I discovered that rubbing lemon juice on your hands can remove the stains.
ARe you a recipe sharer?