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Food Matters

All about fresh, flavorful food

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3/25/2014

Tomato soup is delicious any time of year. I find it to be both hearty and refreshing. My favorite tomatoes are Italian; I’m a local food advocate, but I bend the rules when it comes to tomatoes…there is a perfection to the Italian tomato. I prefer the San Marzano fruit, however any “Made in Italy” tomato will do. This staple of Italian cuisine is picked from the vine at the peak of ripeness and therefore packed full of sunshine, a touch sweeter than all other tomatoes.

Buon Appetito!

Homemade Tomato Soup
Photo by Victoria Greenstreet

Victoria's Tomato Soup Recipe

• 28 ounces preserved chopped tomatoes (If not your own preserves then preferably San Marzano)
• 2/3 cup evoo, divided
• 1 large yellow onion, diced
• 1 celery stalk, diced
• 1 small fennel bulb, diced
• 3 large cloves garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 Parmesan rind 
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Strain the chopped tomatoes, reserving the juice and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/3 cup of evoo and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in 425 F oven until caramelized, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Saute the onion, celery, fennel, garlic and thyme until softened and transparent, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the roasted tomatoes, reserved juice, chicken stock, bay leaf and Parmesan rind.

Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender about 20 minutes.

5. Remove the remaining Parmesan rind and using an immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. You can also use a traditional blender, make sure to only fill the blender half full of the hot soup otherwise you will have a hot mess splattered all over your kitchen.

Season to taste and garnish with grated Parmesan, a glug of evoo and fresh fennel fronds (if your bulb had any attached).


Victoria Greenstreet is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Her focus is whole foods and gluten-free cookery. She is a classically trained chef, freelance food writer, stylist and photographer.  She is currently working on her first cookbook. Visit her blog Honey Dumplings for more recipes and culinary adventures.



3/24/2014

Scottish oatcakes, delicious and crispy crackers that taste wonderful with jam, have been a staple since the 14th century. If you’re looking for a gluten-free take on this traditional treat, check out the following recipe courtesy Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, a distinctive stone grinding miller of whole grains.

The amount of sugar in this recipe is minimal so that the cakes can be used in both sweet and savory applications. If you want a sweeter oatcake, increase the amount of sugar to 1 tablespoon. Alternatively, omit the sugar completely for a truly savory concoction. Check back next week for another great recipe from Bob’s Red Mill.

Scottish Oatcakes

Gluten-Free Scottish Oatcakes

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

• 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Scottish Oatmeal
• 6 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Sorghum Flour
• 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
• 3/4 teaspoons Bob’s Red Mill Evaporated Cane Sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon butter, melted
• 1/2 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Scottish Oatmeal in a bowl with Bob’s Red Mill Sorghum Flour, tapioca starch, Bob’s Red Mill Evaporated Cane Sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir until combined.

3. Add butter and stir until evenly distributed. With a fork, mix in water just until moistened; let sit for 5 minutes.

4. Gather dough into a ball and flatten slightly.  Place dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. With a 2- to 3-inch round cutter, cut dough into rounds. Re-roll and cut scraps. Place oatcakes about 1/4-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake until Scottish Oatcakes are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Enjoy plain, serve with jam or cheese, or use to build hors d’oeuvres. Serves 12 to 16.


Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods offers a diverse line of more than 400 all-natural, organic and gluten-free flours, cereals, meals and mixes for pancakes, breads and soups that are available all around the world.



2/20/2014

Seventy-six percent of honey sold in major supermarkets is untraceable because it contains virtually no pollen, according to Food Safety News. Pollen in commercial honey is filtered to keep it liquid, but ultrafiltered honey from China has been found to be contaminated with antibiotics and heavy metals. (For more on honey read 15 Household Uses for Honey and The Health Benefits of Honey.)

Best Honey

Know Your Honey

If whole foods are important to you, avoid mass-produced supermarket honey. Opt to buy honey that is closer to the land, and keep the beneficial compounds in the sweet substance in your food. 

Read the Label: Some honey, especially the kind that comes in a to-go packet, is actually flavored high-fructose corn syrup. The ingredient list will spell it out for you.

Opt for Raw: Raw honey is the consistency of peanut butter because it is unfiltered and has crystallized. Honey that stays in liquid form longer is generally Grade A honey, which means it’s been filtered, so many of the healthiest natural compounds are gone, too. Plus, you are guaranteed to avoid inferior, superfiltered honey by opting for raw.

Where is it From? Choose honey that is produced close to home, if possible. Artisan producers are often available to discuss how they process their honey, if you give them a call. Your health-food store employees may be able to help you select a high-quality product, also. Even better, find a beekeeper in your area to buy from.


Plant for Pollinators

No one knows what causes Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious phenomenon of bee nests dying en masse, but we can do our part to save these crucial creatures by growing plants the pollinators love. Bees are attracted to brightly colored day-blooming flowers full of nectar, especially those tubular in shape. They also need a flower structure that acts as a landing platform. Plus, bees like a sweet or minty scent. Plant these five herbs to help bees thrive.

• Lavender
• Thyme
• Mint
• Borage
• Bee balm


How to Make Infused Honeys

Follow the flow chart to make three types of infused honey: ginger, chili and, for the adventurous, garlic. Stir it into tea, add it to toast or heap it on waffles! (Garlic honey makes a good cold remedy or an unusual topping for vanilla ice cream.)

2 cups local honey + 1/4 teaspoon citric acid + 1 tablespoon ginger powder or 4 tablespoons dried chili flakes or 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh garlic

Mix all ingredients in a large jar, cover tightly and allow to sit away from sunlight for up to three weeks for best flavor.

Excerpted with permission from Honey Crafting by Leeann Coleman and Jayne Barnes, F+W Media, Inc. 2013. Buy this book from our store: Honey Crafting.



2/6/2014

If you are up for something different this Valentine’s day, then make sure to save room for dessert! Pots de crème translates to jars of cream in French. This dessert is a type of custard that is velvety smooth and traditionally served in an adorable petite pot with a lid.

Dress it up for your sweetheart with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, grated chocolate, a drizzling of My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce and a few of your favorite cookies.

Chocolate Pot de Creme
Photo by Victoria Greenstreet

Chili Chocolate Pots de Crème Recipe

Ingredients:

• 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream, plus more
• 1/3 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cinnamon stick
• 1/2 dried guajillo chili pepper
• 3 large egg yolks
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
• Garnish: whipped cream, grated chocolate, My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below), cookies

Special Equipment:

• Two 8 ounce ramekins or  four 4 ounce ramekins

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Put the chocolate and the sugar in a medium heat-proof bowl and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan bring the cream, milk, cinnamon and guajillo chili pepper just to a boil, cover with a lid and let sit for 5 to 20 minutes, the longer you let this mixture steep the more spice you will detect, so adjust time to your spice preference.

4. After steeping is complete, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measuring cup and add more cream if necessary to measure 1 1/3 cup.

5. Discard the chili pepper and the cinnamon stick and put the cream back into the small saucepan, bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the chocolate and sugar.  Let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes then stir until well mixed.

6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla and salt. Whisk this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Strain the mixture once more through a fine-mesh sieve.

7. Pour into two 8 ounce or four 4 ounce oven proof baking vessels. Bake in a water bath at 300 degrees until the center is nearly set, about 25 to 30 minutes. (You are aiming for firm sides and a touch wobbly in the center).

8. Carefully remove the cups from the water bath and let cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

9. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Makes 2 large or 4 small servings

When ready to serve top with freshly whipped cream, grated chocolate, a drizzle of My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below) and your favorite cookies.

My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
• 3/4 teaspoons fleur de sel

Tools:

• Large heavy-bottomed deep saucepan
• Long-handled heat resistant spatula
• Clean pastry brush
• Cup of water
• Oven mitt (please wear if you are concerned about burning yourself with the steam or the hot sugar)

Instructions:

1. In a large heavy-bottomed deep saucepan, add the water to the sugar. Put over medium flame and let the sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes, do not stir.

2. Once the sugar is melted, turn the flame up to medium-high and boil uncovered. Resist the urge to stir, if the sugar is crystallizing on the sides of the pan, simply use the clean pastry brush dipped into the cup of water and brush down the sides, this dissolves any sugar crystals.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar turns a deep amber color, pull the pot off of the burner and slowly stir in the cream and butter, the mixture will rise and splatter so pay special attention not to burn yourself with the steam (this is when your tall pot comes in handy!) Stir until well mixed. The caramel may harden a bit, that's okay.

4. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds and fleur de sel.

5. Put the pot over low heat and stir constantly until the caramel is melted, about 2 minutes.

6. Let cool to room temperature and it will thicken up a bit, about 3 hours. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 1 3/4 to 2 cups


Victoria Greenstreet is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Her focus is whole foods and gluten-free cookery. She is a classically trained chef, freelance food writer, stylist and photographer.  She is currently working on her first cookbook due during the winter of 2014-2015. Visit her blog Honey Dumplings for more recipes and culinary adventures.



1/20/2014

We opened a bottle of champagne for New Year’s and didn’t finish it! Lucky for us, we had just enough left over to make a half batch of these blushing poached pears. They are a festive addition to any brunch, serve chilled or warm with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. If you are craving something a bit more savory, then slice the pears into wedges and toss with arugula, olive oil, Champagne vinegar, goat cheese and toasted nuts. Of course they always make an elegant dessert, garnish with a quenelle of vanilla ice-cream and voilà!

Champagne Poached Pears
Photo by Victoria Greenstreet

Champagne Poached Pears Recipe

• 1 750 ml bottle rosé champagne or sparkling wine
• 2 1/4 cups water
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split
• 6 whole peppercorns
• 4 firm pears, peeled with stems intact

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat warm the champagne, water, sugar, vanilla bean and peppercorns until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.

2. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the pears and make sure that they are fully submerged in the liquid, put a small plate over the top to weigh down if necessary.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until soft and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid for about 20 minutes.

4. Remove the pears from the liquid and bring the liquid to a boil, reduce until about 1/2 of a cup of liquid remains. Drizzle the sauce over each pear and serve with plain Greek yogurt for brunch or vanilla ice-cream for dessert. Serves 4

Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Rewarm or serve chilled.

*Tip: If you want your pears to stand tall then slice the bottoms off and serve upright.


Victoria Greenstreet is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Her focus is whole foods and gluten-free cookery. She is a classically trained chef, freelance food writer, stylist and photographer. She is currently working on her first cookbook due in the winter of 2014. Visit her blog Honey Dumplings for more recipes and culinary adventures.



1/10/2014

For the sake of a lengthy explanation, this recipe is the compliments of my fabulous “almost-sister-in-law” Shelby. She made this as a side dish for Thanksgiving and I have since made it three times...and then again tonight. Ha!

It is amazing and delicious. It works well as a party appetizer, a light lunch or a side dish. Plus, this salad is packed with flavor thanks to fresh arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, nutty almonds, salty feta cheese and a fresh basil vinaigrette.

Orzo Salad Setup
When you're prepping your ingredients, I like to give the arugula and the julienned sun-dried tomatoes a rough chop.

Shelby’s Sensational Orzo Salad Recipe

• One 16-ounce package of orzo, cooked and drained
• 5 ounces arugula, roughly chopped
• 3 ounces julienned sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 6 ounces slivered almonds
• One 8-ounce block of feta, crumbled

Basil Dressing

• 1 ounce fresh basil leaves
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 to 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Red wine vinegar (optional)

1. Start with cooking your orzo pasta to the directions listed on the box to the tenderness of your pleasing.  Keep in mind this makes a HUGE portion.

Basil Dressing In Progress
Adjust the amount of lemon, garlic, salt and pepper to your taste in this Basil Dressing recipe.

2. While the pasta is cooking, go ahead and make your Basil Dressing. Put basil in the food processor along with the lemon, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and set aside. You can play with the measurements so that the dressing meets your taste buds. While I love lemon and garlic, you could omit either. I tend to go easy on the salt because the feta cheese, which we will add a little later, is super salty all on its own.

Salad Dressing
Set aside the dressing and only add it when serving your orzo salad so that the salad doesn't dry out.

3. Back to the pasta. After cooking the pasta, drain and rinse it with cold water. Let it cool a few minutes, then put the pasta in a large bowl.

Orzo Salad Ingredients
Stir everything together for a delicious medley of flavors.

4. Add the arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and slivered almonds, and stir together. Then add the crumbled feta cheese. Finally, add the dressing to the dish directly before serving. Toss the dressing with the salad and ENJOY!

Note: If you chill the salad overnight with the dressing on it, it loses some of that fresh flavor and dries out.

Orzo Salad Recipe
This orzo salad is ready to serve and enjoy.
Photos by Jennifer Rose

The crunchiness of the almonds and the leafy arugula is so satisfying! You will love it! Try some other variations on the dressing and see what new flavors you can come up with! 


Jennifer RoseJennifer is a lover of all things yummy. After traveling the states for five years, this Mississippi native planted her southern roots in funky, easy-to-love Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she resides with her husband, Phil, and two dogs. She is an avid cook, baker, gardener and creator of all things wonderful. She loves being in the kitchen, gardening, hiking, biking, traveling, yard work, anything DIY, good beer and great food!



12/30/2013

If you are entertaining for New Years or need to bring a quick appetizer to an upcoming party then these Parmesan and Bacon Bites are the perfect snack for you.

Parmesan and Bacon Bites
Photo by Christy Kenyon

Parmesan and Bacon Bites Recipe

My family first tried these little bites of amazingness at a Christmas party years ago, and they are still a family favorite around the holidays. They are pretty versatile as I've also made them during the summer. Maybe it's just me, but when you pair these with a glass of red wine the flavor seems to be even more enjoyable. As an added plus, my two kids love them and it helps to expand their usual mac-and-cheese cravings around dinner time.

Here is what you will need. Prep time is about five minutes. For the bacon I usually plan on making bacon for breakfast that morning or the morning before and saving two pieces for this recipe.

• 2 cups Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup chopped green onions or chives
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons sour cream
• 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
• 1 loaf party rye bread (or 2 loaves to double the recipe for a larger crowd)

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread on the party rye. Place in the oven under broiler for 3 to 5 minutes until bubbly. Make sure to check them after 3 minutes as they sometimes brown quickly.

To serve, place on a tray or platter and serve alongside a glass of wine, beer or your favorite cocktail. Voilà— you now have a quick, easy and delicious appetizer that your guests are sure to enjoy!


Christy Kenyon HeadshotFreelance writer, sales assistant and mother of two, Christy Kenyon hails from Ann Arbor, Michiagn. Christy is an avid gardener and nutrition enthusiast who loves learning about how to improve the health of people, animals and the planet. 



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