Canned Tomatoes in Summer? You Bet! Try Them in Smoky Tomato-Bacon Soup.

This year I didn’t have time to plant tomatoes (or any vegetable, truth be told) in my garden. Maybe I was reading or cleaning out my closet or possibly riding my bike, but somehow I missed prime planting time so I’m destined to pay $2.50 for a decent heirloom fruit if I want to make a Caprese salad. However, when a hankering for homemade tomato soup hit the other night I was overjoyed to find that I had everything I needed on hand thanks to the ready availability of excellent canned tomatoes. A special issue of Fine Cooking Simple Dinners (on newsstands now) provided the inspiration and this recipe. I suppose you could make it with 28 ounces of garden-tomatoes cut into chunks — and that would be phenomenal — but I assure you that the results using canned were terrific. The kind handyman who’s building us a new puppy fence couldn’t stop raving over the steaming cup, topped with crispy, salty bacon pieces, and my boys endorse it as a “must save” recipe. Enjoy!

Smoky Tomato-Bacon Soup. Source: Fine Cooking Simple Dinners.

Smoky Tomato-Bacon Soup. Source: Fine Cooking Simple Dinners.

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Quick and Creative: Why Quinoa Makes the Perfectly Packed Lunch

Like most collegiates, I love my university. I can speak at length about classes, clubs and extracurricular activities. But, I never thought I’d be so excited to talk about my school’s food. I attend Boston University and I’m proud to say that among its many accolades, another area where BU truly excels is in its cuisine. Instead of having to choose between bad options like when my parents went to school, my biggest dilemma in the dining hall is limiting myself to only one dinner entrée.

I’ve been lucky enough to dine in an amazing space for the past two and a half years, but when I studied abroad in London this past spring, the dining hall unfortunately did not travel across the pond with  me.

One of my favorite London drinks!

One of my favorite London drinks!

On the weekends, my peers and I enjoyed traditional English pub food – freshly battered fish and chips finished with a crisp cider, which was a delicious option, but not always the healthiest. After a month of pasta and peanut butter sandwiches, I started to research a better lunch option to pack for the work week. Quinoa was the perfect solution.

Source: un.org

Source: un.org

I was originally attracted to quinoa after reading that the UN deemed 2013 the International Year of Quinoa due to its incredible nutritional value. Although quinoa, pronounced “keen-wa” has only recently become a popular item in nearby grocery stores, it’s been a major food crop in other countries for centuries.  It was a staple in the pre-Columbian culture in Latin America and is still a dominant crop for the Quechua and Aymara peoples of the rural Andes region of South America, where in the Quechua language quinoa affectionately translates to “mother grain.”

Source: realfoodforlife.com

Source: realfoodforlife.com

Prepared either creamy or crunchy, quinoa is a great dish for anyone with an active lifestyle. It is incredibly easy to make as it can be boiled – or easily reheated in the microwave with water – for simply ten minutes. For anyone preparing their own lunch, it holds incredibly well. Quinoa is packed with many health benefits (which you can read more about here), but what I love is that it keeps me full for the entire afternoon.

Sarah 4

Source: cookinglight.com

Quinoa’s best asset is that it allows for creativity – even if you’re new to the cooking scene like me! I  enjoy a kale and quinoa salad sprinkled with sliced almonds and feta cheese, but often I would chop up various vegetables the night before, add some olive oil before lunch and enjoy an entirely new creation! There is nothing worse than having the same boring lunch that you had the day before, but with quinoa one package can provide a base for a week’s worth of lunches while also giving you the option to change spices and additions from day to day.

Here is a delicious recipe from the National Honey Board (client) to get you started on your quinoa quest. What is your favorite combination? Please feel free to comment with new favorite recipes!

Fruit and Mint Quinoa Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

Source: honey.com

Source: honey.com

Hope Springs Eternal: Celebrating the End of Winter with a Renewed Dedication to Healthy Eating

Despite the fact that the ground is still snow-covered where I live about 30 miles north of New York City, the calendar continues to assure me that spring does indeed start today. And after a miserable winter that pretty much compelled me to live on comfort food for the past several months (simply refer to my last post for evidence of that!), I think many of us are looking to the warmer weather as the impetus to shed a few extra pounds and reintroduce more healthy foods back into our diet. Combine that with the fact that it’s National Nutrition Month and we have too many good reasons to ignore.

My focus for this post is two of my favorite salads. In fact, few things make me happier than the day in mid-May that I plant my annual herb garden of basil, chives, rosemary, parsley and cilantro. It compels me to get creative with different ways that I can use them.

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What gives you comfort during a cold Russian winter? The bliny!

A 12-inch high pile of plain, simple, lighter-than-air pancakes, with a little piece of creamy butter melting on top, making you fantasize about all kind of fillings you could wrap it around like a Mexican tortilla – that’s a classical form of bliny (by the way, “bliny” is correct plural from “blin”) in Russian culture.

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

Bliny is one of the ancient Slavic (Slavs are the Russians’ ancestors) ceremonial dishes that became an important part of Russian cuisine with the ritual of Maslenitsa – a week in the end of February when people say goodbye to the winter.

Source: Wikipedia.

“Winter Fun” by Fedot Sychkov. Source: Wikipedia.

By their form, classical Russian bliny differ from what many call “blinis” abroad, which are really finger-thick round and puffy pancakes. For that form Russians have another word – “oladyi.” Russian bliny pancakes are close to French crepes: thin, fragile and foldable.

There are as many recipes of bliny as there are comestible liquids in the kitchen. People use plain water, milk, kefir (fermented yoghurt-like milk), and even beer as the base for bliny. My favorite recipe is included in this @ppetite post, below.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Russian Bliny

2 eggs
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (600bg) water
1 1/3 cups (160 g) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil

Beat  the eggs with sugar, till sugar dissolves completely. Add water; stir. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, then add to the liquid base. Stir clockwise till the mixture becomes homogenous. Let mixture rest for an hour. Add the oil, stir clockwise. Bake the bliny on a 22-24 cm pan (the best proportion of bliny batter for that pan is about a half of a soup ladle). Cook batter for one minute then flip and cook for one minute more. (Turning a blin can be tricky at first, but anyone can master it with practice.)

Pile them up to feed the whole family!

You can eat bliny with all kinds of traditional Russian fillings/toppings: sour cream, honey, chopped fried meat and/ormushrooms, salted salmon eggs, any kind of jam and sooo many other salty/sugary imaginable combinations.

Be creative and have fun!

Going Green in Frankfurt

One of the most delightful surprises of my recent trip to Europe was the city of Frankfurt, a crossroads of culture, architecture and amazing food.

Schriber-Heynes Proletariat, Frankfurt

Schriber-Heynes Proletariat, Frankfurt

Natalie Haut, my host from Ketchum’s Frankfurt office, treated me to the incomparable experience of eating at one of Frankfurt’s famed apfelwein (apple wine) restaurants, Schreiber-Heynes Proletariat. We sat at a long, scarred wooden table, which probably dated back to the 1870s when the restaurant first opened, and had jugs of apfelwein with delicious, coarse German bread.

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Yo — It’s Super Bowl Time — Let’s Eat Jersey Style

More than 100 million people globally are expected to watch this year’s Super Bowl when the Denver Broncos face off against the Seattle Seahawks.  One of the things I love about the Super Bowl is that it’s much more than a game – it’s an entire event that brings ages and genders together.  This year the game takes place at Metlife Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  That’s right, New Jersey, home of Frank Sinatra and Tony Soprano. It’s also known as The Garden State. Go ahead, guffaw. I know not many people outside of New Jersey really believe that New Jersey has some of the best farmland in the country (heck, some don’t believe it has anything other than highways!).  But, stop by any local farmer’s market on your drive down the shore and get yourself some tomatoes, sweet corn, and blueberries. I promise, you’ll be a believer.

A typical New Jersey Shore Farm Stand (Photo source: popoflanigan.com)

A typical New Jersey Shore Farm Stand (Photo source: popoflanigan.com)

By now, you probably gathered that I’m a Jersey girl – and proud of it. (Ok, truth be told, I now reside in New York but you know the saying – you can take the girl out of Jersey….). So, I thought it might be fun to share a few of our classic Jersey meals and show you what my family will be enjoying on game day.

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The Tao of Fried Rice

Editor’s Note: Ever since Jim Lin joined Ketchum everyone smiles a bit more. We know we have a true Jedi Master in our midst. He is an award-winning daddy blogger, brilliant communications strategist, terrific father and soul mate to his love, and all-around great guy. I’m sure you’ll see what I mean as you read his story. His San Francisco colleagues have been begging him to make his famous Fried Rice for us for years and now he generously shares his technique. Enjoy!

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“There is no recipe,” my dad proclaimed over the rhythmic clanging of a spatula against blackened carbon steel, “only technique.” This was his response when I asked him how to make fried rice several decades ago. So I dedicated much of my childhood to watching intently whenever he fired up my favorite meal, committing every movement to memory, from the first splash of oil into the smoking wok, to the final cascade of brilliant white rice, speckled with expertly seared meat, eggs and vegetables onto an awaiting plate. After that, it was always a blur. That’s when you know you’ve had good fried rice. You come to, belly full and smiling.  And 30 minutes later, you actually are hungry again – because it’s simply that good.

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A Pinch and a Dash of Cultures

I’ve been exposed to different cuisines for as long as I can remember. My dad’s family is from Yugoslavia, but relocated to Asunción, Paraguay where my mom’s family is based. This fusion of Latin and Eastern European cuisines has always made for delicious meals and amazing family gatherings.

Image via TheDomesticCurator.com

Image via TheDomesticCurator.com

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A New Orleans Dish for all Seasons

Everyone is familiar with the four seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall – but in my adopted and beloved City of New Orleans, the four seasons are vastly different! There’s Carnival Season, Crawfish Season, Festival Season and Saint’s (football) Season, to name a few.

While we are currently in Carnival Season, finished with Saint’s Season, early into Crawfish Season and approaching Festival Season, I thought it fitting to share with you a favorite New Orleans dish of mine that embodies all seasons: Crawfish Monica.

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Why Chili is the Best Thing Ever…

While I’d be happy to sit with a good bowl of chili any time of the year, this crazy freezing snap hitting a large portion of the U.S. makes it an especially perfect time for a homemade version. There’s something extremely satisfying about throwing so many simple ingredients into one pot and having it turn into a spectacular bite of flavor.

So why is (homemade) chili the best thing ever?

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