Eating Local

This is my interpretation of “eating local“:

Local Fare

Local Fare

The multi-grain bread was made by me and cooked on the grill. The sourdough culture I use is nearly 2 years old and came to me from a friend.

I grew the lettuce.

I made the goat cheese from milk from local goats. I could find out the names of the goats if I wanted. I buy the milk from our organic farmers market who bring it in fresh. Low-temp pasteurized, yeah buddy!

The tomato is from a farm just down the road whose family has been growing vegetables and operating a working farm on the land since 1775. These tomatoes are the first to ripen with any flavor, just perfect for the goat cheese!

So there you have it. Local food for lunch.

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In My Kitchen, March 2013

In My Kitchen this month are many things.

Freshly made croissants

Freshly made croissants

Croissants, Hamentashen, Almond Cakes, so much to give away!

My hairdresser got the croissants (some had lovely chocolate in them),DSC_0043 Hamentashen went to many Jewish friends, IMG_5083Almond cakes went with the TV crew and one got scarfed by us smothered in lovely berries and vanilla yogurt.

There is a Peruvian Blue potato that has  sprouted so I decided to try to grow it. So far, there are at least three areas

Sprouting Blue

Sprouting Blue

“rooting”.  I think these may get grown in a bag, if I can find one, to help with harvesting later.

There is a Vita-Mix in my kitchen this month, to “play with” for school. Also included is the large Whole Foods Cookbook they produce for using the Vita-Mix.

My assignment is to come up with something to use it for next semester when my class is “Global Cuisine”. One thing I have learned is that I really like my food with texture, and I like to chew my food rather than drink it.

Visiting Vita-mix

Visiting Vita-mix

I made a wonderful tasting marinade – Citrus Ginger Marinade – that we really liked the flavor but not the emulsified texture of the marinade,sauce or dressing it could be used as. I’ll play with it for a little while longer to see what else it can do, but so far, while I like a powerful blender, it isn’t something I’d really use that often. Smoothies aren’t really my thing, eventually pureed soups need something more interesting than a smooth texture. My opinion, you may love your Vita-Mix! If so, please comment on how you use it!

Perennial herbs are beginning to show signs of growth as winter wanes.

Emerging Garlic Chives

Emerging Garlic Chives

We only had one good afternoon of snow last Saturday and it was all gone on Sunday. But, the tarragon, chives and rosemary are all showing signs of Spring.

I love eating Rosemary flowers! Right now the plant is bursting with the pale purple flowers.

Rosemary Flowers

Rosemary Flowers

Sage flowers are next and then chive flowers. Gather a bunch of them from your herb garden and pop them onto vegetables, salads or garnish almost any dish with them. The flavors are amazing, be sure to linger over it, notice it and enjoy.

Shout out to Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen Posts!

There are many more things simmering away in my kitchen so I’d better grab my camera and get busy documenting.

March 2 and it has been snowing all morning. 2 weeks ago we had “thunder snow”. Local weather lore says if you have thunder snow, you will have another snow 10 days to 2 weeks later.

We had thunder snow 2 weeks ago and this morning we have lovely big fluffy flakes that have been falling all morning. The ground is far too warm for anything to stick so it is really nice to watch.

IMG_5103

Butternut Squash Soup and Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches for lunch.

Spring is near!

And that is what is happening in my kitchen this month.

Snack Time!

When having fruit for a snack or any snack for that matter, be sure to present it nicely.

Apple Snack!

Apple Snack!

It makes such a difference!

This was just a half an apple, sliced and served with a small bit of vanilla Greek Yogurt.

Snack apples

Awareness of Eating

“Never trust a skinny chef!” is how the old saying goes. But let’s examine that adage and explore the rearrangement of a common cliché.

As we become more aware of our diets, the effects food has on our bodies and how it makes us feel, there needs to be a basis of trust between the cook and the consumer.

English: White House chefs, directed by Execut...

English: White House chefs, directed by Executive Chef Henry Haller, prepare for a state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. The chefs are working in the White House kitchen; the dinner occured in 1981, during the administration of Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take a look at the chef, the person responsible for creating the menu and training the kitchen staff on how to prepare the various dishes.

Since I have worked in kitchens, I know a lot more about how restaurant kitchens run than most. If the person creating my meal is on the heavy side, typically sauces and flavorings  would be full of butter, fats, salts and sugars.

“A heavy chef means they enjoy their food, so it must be good!”

Really? How many people who are overweight have a hard time identifying a proper portion size? Someone who struggles with weight will eat for the sake of eating.

Someone who has emotions (hopefully all of us) will eat sometimes for comfort. Think of chicken soup when you’re ill; but when you can’t stop eating weight becomes an issue.

Sometimes the food choices we make are simply because the food we choose is familiar, it is what we know. But what if that food is bad for us? What if people really don’t understand the processed food they are eating is bad?

Evidence the obesity crisis in the USA.

Jamie Oliver is doing an eating awareness program in West Virginia to address the problem of obesity. He goes into an elementary school and the children cannot identify fresh tomatoes on the vine, cauliflower or even potatoes.

The pile of pizza, corn dogs, hot dogs, hamburgers, cakes and ice cream all over the table that represented what the family ate for a week was disturbing. Most disturbing of all is that the mom didn’t know the food was bad for them. They weren’t hungry and she thought that was good.

But she is killing her family. Her 10-year old son is already 350 pounds. Really, “Well we’re not hungry”?!

Shocking. How did it get so far?

I want a chef who is inventive but not at the expense of my health. I want someone preparing my food with the same attitude I have for health.

Obesity is a rampant problem in the USA. Identifying proper nutrients is a major issue. Processed foods, fast foods, restaurant foods loaded with fats, salts and sugars invade the diets of every day eating all around us.

The basic food environment in the USA is severely lacking in good solid nutritious fresh food.

Drive through any town, fast foods for everything from donuts, burgers, sandwiches, Mexican, Chinese, and Italian; fried and fast is what lines the streets. It isn’t easy to choose not to eat fast food, especially when you are hungry, the temptation is great to give in.

There are many of us who are aware of what we eat. Those on gluten-free diets are aware of nearly every product they eat. Thankfully, gluten-free is easier to find these days, but there is still the issue of all that fat, sugar and sodium.

When we eat out, we are at the mercy of the kitchen to actually know how to make food taste good without the added fat, salts and sugar.

Slapping butter, sugar and salt onto food is an easy way to make anything taste good. Cooking like that takes no skill at all.

Using salt is an important seasoning but so many far overdo the salt thing. Adding some salt to cooking water when boiling pasta, rice or potatoes is usually all you need.

I love salt! I adore all the different kinds of salt there are, yet I don’t overdo it either.

I am not looking for a chef who serves me a plate full of sauces and vegetables full of butter. I am looking for foods that are cooked correctly and seasoned to bring out the full of flavors.

People need to learn what a proper portion size looks like. Restaurants serve enough to 1 person to feed three and yet that one person still tries to eat as much as they can because that is what they are served.

Case in point: The Cheesecake Factory (Hint right there) offers a “Crispy Chicken Costoletta” which serve up a whopping 2610 calories, 89 grams of fat and 2720 milligrams of salt. Costolotta alright, cost a lotta health if you eat all that.  If you really have to eat that, then break it down into three meals at least. (Nutrition Action Healthletter, January/February 2012) Best of all, choose another place to eat.

Watch buffets; people load up their plates as if they only have one visit. All manner of foods get glopped together on a plate so it becomes a huge pile of goop melange. Why not go get some salad, talk, visit with your dining companions, eat, and return for entrée, then again for dessert. It seems more civil. Why are we rushing? Trying to beat the mental signal you are full?

But instead they try to slip that cherry cobbler right next to the fried chicken and coleslaw that sits on top of the ranch dressing salad with “Country Crocked” yeast rolls underneath.

Then they stuff it all in, make a second trip and wonder why they have bellies the size of VW Bug cars.

Burp.

Talking to Tyler the other day, he mentioned he was having his girlfriend over for dinner and he had to go set the table. I felt good knowing he was carrying on a family value: Setting a table and sitting there to eat dinner and talk to each other about the day.

An attractive dinner setting

An attractive dinner setting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something so small, yet it is so important. Our social and family bonds grow stronger with each meal gathering. Shouldn’t the food put in front of us be nourishing as well?

The movement to better health through eating well begins with each one of us making a choice.

If you don’t know how to cook or how to choose better nutrition, take a class and learn. Get your children involved with preparing meals; they are more likely to try new foods if they have a hand in making the dish.

Step away from the sugar bowl! Put down those sodas and juice boxes. Drink water, teas, non-fat milk. There are even flavored waters with bubbles if you simply must have a fizzy drink.

Try extra-virgin coconut and olive oils instead of butter. Your heart will thank you.

I started taking a Therapeutic Nutrition class a few weeks ago. My eyes have really been opened to how severe the obesity epidemic is and that we CAN do something about it.

That something is education and choice.

I hope you can join me in starting something is your neighborhood. The future depends on our kids, how can they carry on if they aren’t healthy?

First step ANYONE can take:

Don’t eat any food advertised on TV

Except eggs and milk, of course!

Sorry Jared, Subway needs a better way.

Make a sandwich from home. Learn to cook fresh foods and eliminate processed foods. It may take a while to actually accomplish this, but you will be rewarded with better health and more money in your pocket.

If each of us took one small step towards better eating and nutritious health, we could change a nation. We can start in our own homes.

The power of one can inspire another.

Apples are an all-American success story-each ...

Coconut Oil – Myth and Reality

Coconut oil has become the latest buzzword in healthy diets these days.

Healthy coconut oil? This goes against everything we have been told for the last 65 years.

English: This is a photo of one of my painting...

I must admit I held a lot of misconceptions about coconut oil until I started doing research and talking to people about using the oil.

If you want to know a very simple analysis of what I found read below.

How to use coconut oil in the kitchen is after the research. If you get bored by the technical stuff, drop down to the kitchen section.

“Coconut oil is high in fat and therefore bad for you.”

The fat found in coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid or triglyceride. Most vegetable and seed oils are composed of long-chain fatty acids. The medium-chain fatty acids are easily processed in the liver without insulin spikes. They are easy to break down therefore are used by the liver as energy rather than stored as fat cells like the long-chain fatty acids.

Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, rarely found in nature, lauric acid is known as a ‘miracle’ element due to its ability to

Chemical structure of Lauric acid created with...

Chemical structure of Lauric acid created with ChemDraw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

promote health in the body. The body converts lauric acid into an anti-viral and anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa substance.

(Bacteria, viruses and parasites such as some protozoa, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, are major sources of food borne illnesses.)

“Coconut oil is a saturated fat. It can build up in your system and cause clogged arteries, obesity and heart disease.”

Actually the opposite is what is true.

We have been told for the last 65 or so years, all saturated fats are bad for you. Consuming saturated fats can lead to health issues.

The health issue list includes obesity, heart disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol, just to name a few.

Some saturated fats occur naturally and some are created, like margarine.

Bombarding  molecules with hydrogen to produce a thick sticky substance has no health benefits whatsoever. Yet this is what has been sold to us in the form of margarine and preached to us by the ad agencies as being “beneficial, healthy, and a better choice than butter. Witness the popularity of things like Country Crock, Parkay and I can’t believe it’s not Butter kind of products.

The created products are full of trans-fats, which we should avoid completely.

The marketing industry convinced us that because coconut oil was solid at room temperature, it should never be consumed. It was used in cosmetics to benefit the skin, but it was shunned as an ingredient in our diets.

Research has discovered these negative myths about coconut oil are not true. Studies have been done on cultures that thrive on coconut oil in their diets to show lower rates of obesity, no cardiovascular disease, and over all better general health than we have in the USA.

Coconut oil helps equalize cholesterol levels by promoting HDL in the blood which helps improve the HDL/LDL ratio. Additionally coconut oil helps promote healthy thyroid function thereby also assisting cholesterol and boosting energy and endurance. A boost to the thyroid can also pump up your metabolism, which is a great benefit!

Consumption of coconut oil helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. It helps blood sugar stabilize, it can help resist fungus and yeast and can improve how the body uses insulin.

Consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily, in this 2009 study, demonstrated benefits. In this 12-week study, the women did not gain weight but actually lost stomach fat during the study. Reading this study made me decide to give coconut oil a try.

English: Coconut oil in solid state

Coconut Oil in the Kitchen

Selecting Coconut Oil:

You want extra-virgin, organic coconut oil. Read the labels!

Not all coconut oil is the same. Some is hydrogenated which is what you want to avoid.

Storing Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil has a low melting point (76°F) and a high smoke point (350°F). Store the oil in a cool dry place like a cabinet.

Do not store the coconut oil in the refrigerator.

Do not store it near the stove because it could cause it to melt.

Store it in a cool cabinet away from the stove. It should last about 2 years without going rancid.

But if you are using it, it shouldn’t last that long.

Using Coconut Oil:

Use Coconut Oil to saute or pan-fry your meals and snacks. Popcorn is wonderful popped in a bit of coconut oil.

Saute kale for an incredible flavor! The sweetness of the coconut oil really enhances and tames the bitterness of kale.

Use it to saute any vegetable, chicken, fish, or meat.

Use it just as you would any cooking oil. However because it is solid below 76°F, it is best not used in dressings or marinades. Use a quality grade of olive oil for these items instead.

Here is another use for coconut oil: replace butter or solid shortening (Crisco or margarine)with equal amounts of coconut oil in baking recipes. Your baked goods will be amazing and much healthier.

Does it make everything taste like coconut?

While the oil has the very mild scent of coconut, so far I cannot detect the flavor of coconut when I cook with it. Sometimes things may taste a bit “sweeter” but not like sweet as if you added sugar.

Just an enhancement of the natural sweetness that is already there.

Last night I marinated some chicken breasts in a spicy “Cockalacky” sauce which is made with sweet potatoes. After the marinade, the breasts were breaded in panko and pan-fried in coconut oil until done.

The oil really brought the flavor of the sweet potato used in the marinade, such a nice flavor surprise!

While I have added coconut oil to our diets, we still use other oils as well. I enjoy the flavors of various seed and nut oils in salad dressings. Additionally the various oils also have other health benefits.

This is not about giving up other oils but about making smarter choices, more informed choices.

The key thing to remember fat is fat.

Just because it is coconut oil does not mean you can consume mass quantities of it. As with all fats, use it in moderation.

For the next 12 weeks, I am going to get 2 tablespoons a day of coconut oil into my diet. I am looking forward to seeing the results. Hopefully my skin and hair will not suffer winter dryness, my tummy fat will start to disappear and I will feel great. I have a physical in soon so it will be interesting to compare the numbers from last year to this.

Summer 2013 Update

This summer I heard of using coconut oil instead of sunscreen. Personally, I think that’s taking it a bit too far. I love using coconut oil on my skin, it feels so good but instead of sunscreen? “They” may say that coconut is naturally SPF 30 but I think I’ll back it up with some SPF 50 just to be sure.

Before foregoing coconut oil for sunscreen, ask your dermatologist their professional opinion!

Skin cancer is no laughing matter and not worth a risk.

Use all fats in moderation, including coconut oil.

While I have lost 13 pounds so far, my goal is 10 more, it isn’t all because of coconut oil. It’s more about making better choices.

Do you use coconut oil? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts and experiences so we can all learn something from each other.

Coconuts

Zink American Kitchen

Zink American Kitchen is a fabulous restaurant here in Charlotte, NC. They have a menu feature called “Feed Me Chef” which I thoroughly enjoy.

Last night I took Tyler and Robert out for dinner for the Feed Me Chef. (Robert didn’t have the “feed me” option but was well fed anyway!)

Tyler at dinner

Tyler at dinner

The premise is to tell them what you like, don’t like or have allergies to so they can create a 5-course menu for you. Our chef for the evening was Chef “DJ” Donald Ivey, Jr a graduate of Johnson & Wales University. He has been recently promoted to a sous chef position at Zink and if what I ate last night is any indication of what he can do, he has a bright future in front of him for sure.

Settling in for Feed Me Chef!

Settling in for Feed Me Chef!

Our First Course was a salad from “Rosemary Pete” a local vegetable and herb grower.

Something really nice about Zink is that they know who is growing their vegetables and source locally as much as they can. Rosemary Pete got his name by selling rosemary at local farmers markets. I must say the vegetables were spectacular.

DJ pointed out each vegetable he used on each plate. You can tell he was as proud of those vegetables as he was the beautiful proteins he served us.

We indulged in exotic radishes, turnips marinated in Prosecco and vanilla; bok choy and garnet potatoes.

The small touches like preserved lemons, micro greens and smooth as silk peanut fondue and fresh crisp house made caramel corn really put the meal in high gourmet category.

Most plates went back clean, what was left we brought home. After a while your stomach just gets full and rather than forgo any courses, a nice taste and then eat the rest later.

I just finished the last of my lamb course a few minutes ago and the flavor and aroma’s brought back the entertainment of watching the cooks working back and forth; paying precise attention to every task, sliding across the floor and working in tandem with each other.

I love watching a kitchen at work. I suppose that might be because I did it for so many years and I recognize the value of a well orchestrated team.

Feed Me Chef Dinner Menu

December 27, 2012

-First Course-

Rosemary Pete’s Spicy Greens

Turnips marinated in Prosecco and vanilla, exotic radishes, pomegranate seeds, bleu cheese and preserved lemons

Rosemary Pete's Spicy Greens Salad

Rosemary Pete’s Spicy Greens Salad

Second Course

Braised Pork Belly

Melted sweet dumpling squash, Pete’s bok choy, House made chow-chow and apple cider reduction

Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly

Melt in your mouth tender

Melt in your mouth tender

Did they like it?

Did they like it?

Kitchen view

Kitchen view

-Third Course-

Corn Crusted Grouper

Pete’s carrots, snow peas, purple sweet potatoes, red bell peppers and celery root puree

Corn Crusted Grouper

Corn Crusted Grouper

Another view of the Corn Crusted Grouper

Another view of the Corn Crusted Grouper

Chef's at work

Chef’s at work

-Fourth Course-

Charred Onion Marinated Lamb

Fingerling sweet potatoes, Russian black kale, fried red peppers and apple butter

Charred Onion Marinated Lamb

Charred Onion Marinated Lamb

Charred onion Marinated Lamb; another view

Charred onion Marinated Lamb; another view

-Fifth Course-

Molten Chocolate Cake

Vanilla ice cream and peanut butter fondue

IMG_4885

Molten Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Fondue

Although Robert didn’t order the Feed Me

A bit of Robert's salad

A bit of Robert’s salad

option, he had a salad and their award-winning White Turkey Chili and a house salad.

House made caramel corn

House made caramel corn

What a suburb experience! Every morsel was full of flavor, complementing textures and extremely high quality in every detail.

Zink American Kitchen is located at 4310 Sharon Road Suite W01, Charlotte, NC 28211

(704) 909-5500 is the number to call for reservations or use Open Table. However, you will need to talk to the staff to arrange your unique menu.

We have had Chef Amy Kumpf and Chef DJ Ivey create some amazing meals, I suggest you experience it too, soon.

Pear, Bleu Cheese and Arugula Salad

What a marvelous crisp and tasty fresh salad! Crisp pears, shaved thin, spicy arugula, earthy bleu cheese, crunchy hemp seeds and for dressing, simple drizzle with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

Grab a pear

Pear, Roquefort, Arugula Salad

1 small handful fresh arugula for each salad bowl

1/2 fresh ripe pear, any variety

1-2 tablespoons Roquefort or any bleu cheese for each serving

1 tablespoon toasted hemp seeds

1/2 lemon, please, not bottled juice!

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Place the arugula into a bowl. Slice the pear and place slices over arugula.

Crumble bleu cheese over, top with toasted hemp seeds (Optional)

Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil as dressing.

Refreshing and delicious!

Pear and arugula salad