I am constantly amazed at how animated and talkative people get when you mention food. The mere aroma of certain foods can evoke memories that transport us back to a special place and time. Food can bridge the gap between all ages, races and ethnicities.
Let's face it, the only thing that should ever come between people is a table and some serving bowls.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Now That's The "Spear-It"

Only twenty calories in five spears, nutritionally well balanced, in season and great tasting. Only a few minutes of cooking time and I am munching those spears one after another as if they were pretzel rods. I seem to do the same thing with brussel sprouts I eat them as if they were popcorn. It's not that I can't have the pretzels or the popcorn; I actually enjoy the asparagus and the brussel sprouts and find them to be a treat and not a deprivation.
Asparagus is so low in calorie that you can actually fill your plate without fretting over the portion size. This recipe is perfect if you are looking for something a little different with loads of flavor without packing on too many additional calories.
If you would like to have this salad as a meal rather than a side, just add some tuna for the addition of protein. The tuna would actually make this more of a traditional Nicoise salad.

Asparagus Nicoise

3 lbs. of asparagus trimmed
6 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 Teaspoons. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. of olive oil
3 shallots minced
3 plum tomatoes, diced (any nice ripe tomato will do)
1/2 c. Nicoise or Kalamata olives, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 Tablespoons drained capers

Place asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4-5 minutes, then drain. Transfer asparagus to bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process.

Whisk vinegar and mustard in small bowl, slowly whisk in the oil until it emulsifies. Then add in the shallots, tomatoes, olives and capers, salt and pepper to taste. Drain asparagus and arrange on individual plates or on a big serving platter and let everyone help themselves. Spoon Nicoise mixture over asparagus and serve cold

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Scent Of A Woman

As women choosing a fragrance that compliments our individual body chemistry is one of great importance. We match our shampoo to our hair type; our make-up must blend to match our skin tone depending on whether we are fair, medium or dark. Then their is the whole color palette thing for hair, eye shadow, blush....are you a pink or an earth tone, a blond, brunette or redhead? It can be exhausting always trying to look and smell our best working with and accentuating what God gave us. We do this not only as a form of vanity but as a way to embrace our womanhood, femininity and as a way of recognizing that girly girl inside all of us.
This feminine mystique doesn't stop at humans it can also be highly exhibited in our four legged family members. By this time, I am sure all of you are familiar with my very dear friend Christine. Christine is very much a girly girl in the very best sense and it would stand to reason that she would have a dog who reflects those same girly girl qualities. When you see Christine's dog Lena, there is no mistaking that she is female, from her long flowing silky blond hair down to the gentle sashay of her hips when she walks. As a female, Lena is meticulous about her grooming. That is also why she has always gone with very specific fragrances to enhance her natural womanly beauty; Eau De Spring Air, Eau De Flowers, Eau De Summer Breeze, Eau De Crisp Winter, Eau De Falling Leaves and Eau De Fresh Cut Grass. These fragrances have always worked well with her natural chemistry and have kept her feeling feminine and attractive to others. Unfortunately Lena decided to throw caution to the wind (literally) and go to a new perfume counter to experiment with something different. The girl behind the counter seemed nice enough with her long flowing black hair and that striking white stripe down the center of her back. Lena's curiosity to try something new drew her closer to that girl allowing the girl to take her atomizer and give her a little spray. Lena being immediately horrified by the smell asked;" What on earth do you call this, it makes a compost heap smell like a field of gardenias".
The girl politely replied; it is my own personal scent sugar, I call it Eau De Skunk now you have a nice day Darlin' and please don't come back!


Funny......well not so much for Christine or Lena for that matter. Happily the smell is finally starting to go away.
A stinky story deserves a stinky recipe and the very first thing that comes to mind.....Limburger Cheese of course!
Limburger cheese is undoubtedly one of the worst smelling cheeses in the world! Limburger actually smells far worse than it tastes. For many people though, the aroma is both the beginning and the end of the acquaintance.
I did not muster up enough courage to try Limburger until I was 37 years old but I must say I absolutely love it. Once you get past the smell it is one of the freshest tasting cheeses on the palate....hard to believe but true.

Limburger Cheese Sandwich

2 slices rye bread (dark, light or pumpernickel)
Prepared brown mustard or butter, I actually prefer the butter.
Limburger cheese, sliced
Thick slices of sweet onion

To assemble sandwich, spread mustard on rye bread slices; layer with limburger cheese and sweet onion slices.

Serve with your favorite beer.

Makes 1 sandwich.

Caution! This is not a perfume atomizer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Energizing Salad

I am always struggling with what to eat while doing my night job cleaning at an athletic club. The hours are technically hours that most people should not be eating. I am there from 9:30 pm until 6 in the morning. It is only three nights a week but it is a physically grueling job that requires a lot of energy that quite frankly I don't always have. So what to eat that isn't too calorie laden but yet packs enough protein to give me the energy that I so desperately need. Well, eggs are great which I do often either hard boiled or I'll make a nice vegetable frittata which always travels nicely but I also would like some variety. Then I remembered a tuna and bean salad that my grandmother made and kept in a covered container in the fridge. This salad is perfect; it keeps well and is not only delicious but packed with protein. So I made myself a triple batch of the recipe below using three types of beans; cannellini, black and butter beans. This is the perfect healthy go to food to keep on hand, especially for those of us constantly watching our weight.

FYI-Tuna has always been a favorite protein source especially for bodybuilders, dieters, and other athletes. Tuna is a very inexpensive, convenient food that is low in fat and a great source of protein and omega-3 essential fats. Beans and legumes are inexpensive and a common food all over the world. Very high in calcium and iron, beans and legumes are also a great source of protein and can be a nice alternative to meat.

High Protein Salad
Make a double or triple batch, this salad will keep for a couple weeks refrigerated. I usually allow myself a one to one and a half cup serving.

1 cans of cannellini beans, (15 oz.) drained & rinsed (may use any type bean)
1 lg. can white tuna, drained
1/2 c. chopped red onion
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1 lg. tomato, seeded & diced, optional
Bell peppers, chopped, optional

Combine beans, tuna, tomato and onion in large bowl. Combine lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Add to salad. Mix in basil, season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Really All About The Sandwich!


The basics of a good meat loaf seem simple at best but through the years and many a meat loaf later I can honestly say that there are some people who can take the humble meat loaf and make it taste like.....you know! Sadly my mother was one of those people, she was a really good cook with everything else but her meat loaf would make me shudder. To this day I still feel she put way too many onions in it. My mother was the queen of onions and in other recipes that was just fine but in meat loaf, not so great. My mother's meat loaf was three parts chopped onions to a little over one part ground beef. You couldn't cut a slice of this meat loaf if your life depended on it. Each slice would just fall apart; there was not enough ground beef to hold it together. I guess if she was serving some recipe called "Onion Loaf" this would have been great but when having meat loaf, I find that the meat part of the recipe should be the headliner.
I realize that I am extremely fussy when it comes to meat loaf, it is just one of those foods that I tend to be quite judgmental about. To be fair, I have even made some meat loaves that I wouldn't eat.
My mother liked topping her meat loaf with ketchup and bacon which is pretty common. I don't mind the bacon but I am not real big on the ketchup.
I actually prefer meat loaf with brown gravy or no gravy at all as long as the meat loaf is moist. I have had a couple people who have served me meat loaf and I have actually enjoyed it and gone back for seconds, my grandmother being one and the other being my dear friend Christine.
The funny thing is I could really care less about the initial meat loaf dinner, what I truly look forward to, obsess over and dream about is that meat loaf sandwich I am going to make with the leftovers! I am surprised by the number of people that feel the exact same way. I guess when it comes down to it meat loaf is less about dinner and more about the sandwich!

A Simple Loaf

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
2 eggs
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 or 4 slices bacon
3/4 c. bread crumbs or bread cubes
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. of onion powder
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients except the bacon in a bowl. Briefly blend well and form into a loaf. Place the loaf on a rack in a 10" baking pan and cover with the bacon slices. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the meat loaf is firm and the bacon browned. Let the meat loaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A "Chili" Day in Painted Post N.Y. Sponsored by H&R Block

A day filled with activities, balloons, baked goods , face painting, Kyle The Clown
made animal balloons and played with the children. Kinder-printing was also available. Drawings were held for various prizes, including a free income tax return and free second looks.

H&R Block Painted Post, 90 Victory Highway sponsored its 1st Annual Chili Cook-off between the volunteer fire departments of Bath, Savona and Coopers Plains Long Acres on March 27th, 2010. All proceeds of the event being directly donated to those volunteer fire departments that participated

              Steuben County Legislator Carol Ferratella and Julie DelMastro making the rounds.

All winners will be selected by a panel of judges and the public. Joining the celebrity panel of judges this year were: Frank Coccho, the former mayor of Corning; Matthew Fregoe, H&R Block district manager, Julie DelMastro, owner of Noshtalgia Food Blog and Steuben County Legislator Carol Ferratella. Unfortunately Jeevan Vittal of WENY-TV news reporter got called away on assignment and was unable to join the judge's panel.

Being such a cool day tasting piping hot bowls of chili was just the ticket for warming things up. Each of the three fire departments came up with very different recipes for their chili. All three were quite good with very distinct flavors, textures and aromas.

Coopers Plains Long Acres chili captured that traditional taste that I think most of us can associate with. It was very flavorful with a nice mix of meat and beans that left you with a very mild tickle of heat at the back of your throat. Bill and Byron, the Chili Chefs for Coopers Plains had admitted to watching the Foodnetwork and learned that presentation is important. So the guys added a nice presentational touch with the addition of a little shredded cheese and chive garnish

Bath's chili was delicious and hearty with a nice bit of kick; it was definitely the chunkiest of the three chili's entered. This chili had loads of bell peppers and something you don't often see in chili; big pieces of celery. I have to say the celery was a nice addition and just added to the textures and flavors. Bath's team also made mini corn muffins to accompany their chili and also offered a garnish of shredded cheese and sour cream.
I asked their team who was responsible for cooking the chili and they insisted it was a team collaberation along with the help of their spouses and children.

Savona's chili was quite different from the others; their chili was actually quite sweet. It mainly consisted of meat and beans and some of us thought we detected a hint of cinnamon or some other unusual spice. It was really quite good and we appreciated that they stepped outside the box a little in terms of flavors. Dawn Phenes, CSP for H&R Block Painted Post shopped for the ingredients while Joe Rotsell, Volunteer Firefighter did the cooking.

Even though we (the judges) loved each of the chili's that we tasted, we were quite unanimous when it came to the chili that we felt stood out as being the best.....And the winner was....Congratulations to the Bath Volunteer Fire Department.

Karen Buck, Office Coordinator of H&R Block Painted Post and Matt Fregoe, District Manager of 
H&R Block presenting the award.

FYI - This blog is all about food and tradition and I just wanted to let everyone know a new tradition has been formed. That's right, mark your calenders because March 26th, 2011 get ready for the 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by H&R Block.
Firefighters start your burners!

Kicked Up Con Carne
This is not one of the recipes from the chili cook-off but I am sure it is one you will enjoy. 

2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 bunch celery, diced
2 lg. onions, diced
4 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 green peppers, diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 Yellow pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. liquid smoke flavoring
4 oz. chili powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 (1 lb.) cans tomato puree
1 lb. can ground tomatoes
2 cans dark kidney beans, drained
1 can red beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

In large pot sauté onions, all peppers, and garlic in small amount of oil until tender. Add beef and pork. Stir around until cooked. Add flour to meat juices and mix well. Add 3 ounces chili powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke and stir together.
Add tomato puree and ground tomatoes. Mix all together and simmer slowly for 1 1/2 hours. After 1 hour, add remaining chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Also add drained beans and finish simmering for 30 minutes.