France’s 4th of July: Bastille Day

This?Guillotine

Or this?imagesWhat is your image of Bastille Day?  I guess I’ve always gone with the former.  Revolution.  Down with the Monarchy.  Let them eat cake.  Yeah, I know, that was not real.  And the guillotine.  Oh, yes!  The Bastille, which only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, became the symbol of the fight against oppression for all French citizens.  Long gone.

A more accurate picture of Bastille Day, or La Fête Nationale, or Le Quatorze Juillet, involves a big military parade on the Champs-Elysées in the morning.  Oh, and there’s the dance, or ball, in every village in France.  It’s a big social occasion.  A little food.  A little drink (or a lot).  Some music.  A time to get together with neighbors and friends, and to make new friends. Then there’s the fireworks.  OK, kinda’ like our 4th of July.  But without the grilling.

So I’m sure I’m not alone in loving to include a little francophile-ness in my life.  And Bastille Day is a great excuse.  I started with a beautiful breakfast of thinly sliced ham, a little gruyere and a blue cheese (from my recent trip to Switzerland and Italy), a cafe, and some fresh fruit.  Perfect.

Dinner.  So many choices.  I finally went with a ham & gruyere buckwheat crepe, or Galette Complete.  I’ve made regular flour crepes for ages, but this was my first time with buckwheat.  One cup milk, 3 eggs, 1 cup flour (buckwheat, this time), a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt . . . my basic recipe thrown in a blender (easy to pour).

IMG_1204A little darker.  A little less pliable.  But tasty.

IMG_1206Heat large flat skillet (mine’s almost black from years of use as ONLY a crepe/egg skiller), adding a little olive oil or butter, pour in enough batter to cover bottom of skillet, and swirl to form crepe.  Cook on each side 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.  Collect crepes on a plate.

 

Assemble your ingredients for the Galette Complete (mise en place):  IMG_12081 egg for each serving; 1/4 cup grated gruyere mixed with 1-2 T. grated parmesan for each serving; 2 slices thinly-sliced ham for each serving; 1 crepe for each serving.

 

IMG_1209Warm one side of each crepe for 30 seconds, flip and add half the cheese per serving and warm for 1 minute.

 

 

Layer ham slices over melting cheese, then add remainder of cheese per serving.  Fold in IMG_1214each side of crepe (I used toothpicks to keep folds) to make a rectangle, then place egg in center.  Cover pan with lid and allow egg to cook until white is firm (about 3-5 minutes).

Ok, so mine aren’t too pretty!  But that runny egg with tastes of ham, gruyere, and crepe . . . so good!

Remove toothpicks before serving.  I added a salad of greens, goat cheese, and walnuts, lightly dressed.  I also picked up some cute little shells filled with scallops and a bread topping to accompany our meal.

Don’t forget the wine!  A perfect wine to complement the crepe is Les Portes de Bordeaux, a white Bordeaux and a sauvignon blend — nice and dry.IMG_1219For all you francophiles out there, and to everyone else who enjoys good food and drink, Salut!

 

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

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http://davidplusworld.com/happy-bastille-day/

http://passportdinnersblog.com/2013/07/15/off-with-their-heads-what-did-you-eat-for-bastille-day/

 

Foodie PenPals

penpalsRemember when you were a kid and you had a penpal?  Someone from your country, or, even better, from some other exotic country?  Remember the excitement of opening up the mailbox and receiving a letter with that country stamp on the envelope that was so exciting?  Exciting because it was new and different?

I haven’t had a penpal in a long, long time.  I’m a busy person who uses email and social media to communicate with friends, old and new.  But I came across a website on the internet that intrigued me.  And especially intrigued the foodie in me.  It’s the Lean Green Bean foodie penpal program http://www.theleangreenbean.com.  This site belongs to Lindsay, a Registered Dietitian, who blogs about healthy living.

Someone who’s interested (like me!) signs up each month on Lindsay’s website, then Lindsay matches you with another foodie penpal so you can exchange a collection of foodie items, usually that locavore stuff you find at your farmers markets or at your local small food stores.  Each box of food stuffs has to be less than $15, needs to include a note of why you chose those items, and can be sent out USPS flat rate.

My foodie penpal for June is Nancy from Wisconsin (I’m in California).  I received this great box of goodies from Nancy: IMG_1156Nancy’s box of fun foodie things from Wisconsin included baby rice popcorn (yep, had some for lunch today!), Dashelites hot sauce, Gail Ambrosius dark chocolate/almond dusted squares (those went fast!), crackheads (chocolate/coffee caffeine jolts), Really good raw bar (yes, it was really good & healthy), marinated mushrooms and a carrot cake jam.  I haven’t had a chance to try everything yet, but can’t wait.  Yummm!

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All I can say as a foodie and as a locavore:  Fun, fun, fun!  So check out the site and join us!  Lindsay has foodie penpal lists for both the U.S. and Canada, and she includes this link for the UK and Europe:  http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/.  Lindsay matches you with a new foodie penpal every time you sign up.  I won’t be participating EVERY month, but I definitely want to do it again soon.

It’s time to have fun like a kid again with Foodie Penpals.

 

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

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Gooooooooooooal! World Cup and World Food!

fifa-world-cupThough the U.S. lags behind, much of the world has their eyes glued to TV screens to watch their favorite country compete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup taking place in exotic Brazil.  Though I have to admit I love American football (go Chargers!), I find world football, or soccer, to be an amazing fast moving high energy contest.

My spouse grew up in Argentina and Chile, and was an avid soccer player.  And he has the scars (cleat marks across his back) to prove it!  Yeah, Argentina is our team this time around!

So our homage last Friday to 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil  was Feijoada (pronounced fay-ZWAH-da), Arroz Brasileiro, and pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).  Feijoada, a black bean stew with cured pork, is a meat fest, a sodium fest, and delicious!

IMG_1153IMG_1149IMG_1151

 

My version, and each mamae’s version is unique, has pork chops, smoked pork chunks, pork bacon, linguiça, and chunks of corned beef along with onions, garlic, dried red chilis, and, of course, black beans.

 

 

 

 

I simmered it on the stove for a while, then stuck it in the oven for the flavors to meld and thicken.

 

We served it with Arroz Brasileiro, rice with garlic, onion, and tomato.  And those little cheese bread puffs, Pao de Quiejo.  I realized as I was putting the batter together that they are just a variation of the French sweet profiterole or the American sweet cream puff or the Spanish savory bunuelos:  Hot milk, butter, tapioca flour (instead of wheat flour), eggs and cheese.  So easy!  Mix, roll, and throw in the oven!

soccer ballsSo who’s your team?

 

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Fed Up . . . with Sugars?

I had the opportunity to go with my local Farm Tour group to a screening of the recently released Fed Up.  There is some great information in there.  But if you’re a foodie, you probably already know a lot of these facts. Here’s a synopsis, and a trailer, of Fed Up:

“Fed Up is the movie the food industry doesn’t want you to see. It blows the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss, revealing a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history. From co-producer Katie Couric (who also narrates), co-producer Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth) and director Stephanie Soechtig, Fed Up will change the way you eat forever.” Official Trailer

Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Cast: Narrated by Katie Couric
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 1hr 32mins
Release Year: 2014

The movie brings out that this is a worldwide epidemic with countries such as Norway showing a rise in obesity rates.  I guess it isn’t just Americans that are fatties!

The movie certainly brought out the collusion between our government and Big Money/Big Ag/GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association), which always makes my blood boil!  Fed Up also used a running comparison between the Big Tobacco fight of the 50′s/60′s/70′s and ultimate labeling, restriction, and increased knowledge of the dangers of tobacco AND the current fight to curb the use of sugars in all those processed products lining the grocery store shelves.  These are items such as salad dressing, flavored yogurts (5 tsp. in 6 ounces — Wow!), fruit drinks, boxed mac and cheese (yep) . . . and the list goes on and on.

To watch a slideshow of some common sugar-enhanced foods, click on this link:  http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/slideshow.asp?show=61.

Also part of this mix was the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in 1975.  With the introduction of this cheaper sweetener came more sweetened products on the store shelves at lower prices.  Very tempting to families on a budget.  For some great information on the prevalence and dangers of high fructose corn syrup, visit this FB page:

THE BAN OF HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP IN THE U.S

https://www.facebook.com/BanOfHFCS?fref=nf

An interesting, and hopeful, point of this comparison is perhaps in a dozen or so years we will be as informed of the dangers of excessive sugars.  And perhaps this will lead to a healthier America.  An America that doesn’t have this growing epidemic of children being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  Of a generation of children that will live shorter lives than their parents.  I find that very sobering.IMG_0416But personally I don’t feel that SUGAR is the only reason obesity and diabetes rates are rising in the U.S. and worldwide.  I think you have to factor in such issues as the GLUTEN INTOLERANCE epidemic that has spread recently, tossed under the banner of “wheat belly”.  There seems to be a growing suspicion that our more modern wheat hybrids with their increased gluten might part of the growing “wheat belly” syndrome, pun intended.  I am more often seeing local restaurants and bakeries flaunt their use of ancient grains instead of the traditional hybrid flours we’ve become accustomed to.  These ancient grains are now prized for both their low-gluten and purity traits.  (http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/editor/2012/04/ancient-grains.html)

I also feel another factor in the rise in obesity and diabetes rates in the U.S. and worldwide is an increasing SEDENTARY lifestyle.  Few are those who are lucky enough to be able to walk or bike to work.  The majority of Americans have to climb into a car, usually alone, and drive some distance to work (or school). And the type of work has changed.  Many sit at a desk in a cubicle in front of a computer screen.  Our parents and grandparents often had more active jobs such as factory work or farming.

Another side of sedentary lifestyles is the antithesis of the 50′s home where a Mom was there to welcome home her schoolkids, and then shooed them out of the house to run and bike around the neighborhood until supper.  Many households, if not most, have either two parents who work outside of the home or are single parent homes.  Kids come home and, to be safe, lock themselves inside the house to watch TV, play video games, or surf the internet.  So much for playtime.

So though I appreciated the information provided in Fed Up, and I do believe our increased consumption of sugars and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been detrimental to our health overall, I feel that these other issues such as increased gluten intolerance and a sedentary lifestyle also play a part in the health issues we, our children, and our grandchildren are/will be dealing with.

That said, and even though I eat very little processed food, I am taking the FedUp Challenge.  I’m on Day 3 (of 10).  So far just missing that small chunk of dark chocolate that I wish I could have later!  So, are you going to take the FedUp Challenge with me?

The FedUp Challenge

 

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Sazerac, Gumbo and Zydeco

IMG_0444Besides signaling the approach of Spring, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, always holds a special place for me.  It always promises a celebration, some great food, uplifting music, and more than just a little alcohol!  And lets not forget the beads!

Alas, going to New Orleans isn’t on the schedule this year . . . again.  But we make do with our own celebration.

This year, for cocktails, I moved away from my tried-and-true Hurricane, which I do love, especially because I’m a huge rum fan.  I’m trying out the Sazerac, that classic cocktail born in New Orleans.

IMG_0429According to the Sazerac Company website, the Sazerac was born in 1838 in the apothecary shop of Antoine Amedie Peychaud.  Yes, that’s the Peychaud of those great bitters we all reach for when in the mood for a cocktail.  Mr. Peychaud concocted his brandy toddies for his friends using his secret family recipe of bitters.  He also used a double-ended egg cup as a measuring cup or jigger, then known as a “coquetier”, from which we derived that awesome word cocktail!

In 1873 the brandy was switched out for American Rye Whiskey, and the cocktail glass was swirled with Absinthe.  The Sazerac Company further modified their namesake cocktail by trading out Absinthe for Herb Sainte, a non-wormwood liquor.  Uh, we’ll be using the real thing!

IMG_0427To concoct a New Orleans style Sazerac (for 1):

1 sugar cube

Peychaud’s bitters

Rye Whiskey

Absinthe

Lemon peel

Fill an on-the-rocks glass with ice, to chill.  Place 1 sugar cube and 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters in another on-the-rocks glass (part of the tradition).  Muddle, then add 2 ounces Rye Whiskey to muddled sugar cube & bitters.

Empty the ice from the first glass, add a splash of Absinthe and swirl to coat, then discard the remaining splash of Absinthe.  Pour the Rye Whiskey with sugar & bitters into the chilled Absinthe-splashed glass, garnish with lemon peel, and savor.

IMG_0430Especially on a Tuesday, even though it’s Fat Tuesday, I don’t want to live on drink alone.  We began with a Muffaletta, a soft round bun piled high with ham, salami and provolone, smeared with spicy/briny olive salad, and drizzled with a fragrant new green olive oil.

IMG_0432IMG_0435IMG_0437

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our main attraction was Gumbo, that traditional spicy brothy combination of shrimp, chicken and andouille pulled together with a deep brown roux of oil and flour.   I actually took my time, for once, to let the roux color and flavor develop into a deep brown hue.  No hurrying this process!   Add the Cajun holy trinity, or mirepoix, of onion, bell pepper and celery along with Creole seasoning, fresh garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, chicken stock, diced fresh tomatoes, okra and bay leaves, then finish off with fresh chopped parsley and, of course, Louisiana Tabasco sauce.  All this deliciousness is served on a bed of white rice.IMG_0441No dinner party is complete without some music, and Zydeco is the name of the game for Mardi Gras and New Orleans.  Zydeco is a musical genre evolved in southwest Louisiana by French Creole speakers which blends Cajun music, blues and rhythm and blues.  Some artists we like are Cedric Watson and Buckwheat Zydeco.  So when Mardi Gras rolls around next year, mix up a Sazerac, pile up a Muffaletta, stir up a Gumbo, and dial up Zydeco on Pandora.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Sugars, So Sweet

IMG_0416There are so many diseases we see as inevitable: heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis. If you are growing old, you are bound to get one or all of those diseases.

It doesn’t have to be that way! You can avoid a majority of those diseases (including Alzheimer’s) by choosing the foods you eat wisely.  Yeah, I know, easier said than done.  But I don’t think you have to do away with the occasional splurge, as long as your lifestyle is generally comprised of healthy, fresh foods and plenty of activity, whether that activity is at a gym, hiking up a canyon, or pulling weeds and shoveling in your yard.

Sugar:  Now that’s quite a discussion. Until the 1900′s, the most common sweetener used was honey, that sweet, densely thick substance that has a wide range of flavors depending on what nectar the bees were in to.

Honey

But with the increase in refineries for sugar cane or sugar beets, and the subsequent price reduction, the use of sugar became the more popular option.  (For more on the process of sugar cane or sugar beets to refined white sugar read:  http://anitasrealfood.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/

There’s refined white sugar, “granulated”, (those 4-5 lb. bags you find at the grocery store), refined to a white crystal from either sugar cane or sugar beets.  When I lived in Imperial County, CA, I marveled at the gigantic white mounds of sugar being processed at the Holly/Spreckels sugar plant from local sugar beets.

SugarThere’s brown sugar, which is simply refined white sugar with molasses added back into it, a little for light brown sugar and little more for dark brown sugar.  And molasses is all the stuff left after refining sugar into white crystals.

Venezuelan sugar cane (Saccharum) harvested fo...

Raw or “turbinado” sugar is dried, evaporated cane juice (never sugar beets) which retains more flavor, color, and natural impurities of the sugar cane, but is still somewhat refined.  This is what you find in those little brown packets at coffee houses.

Sugar In The Raw / Turbinado Sugar

Evaporated cane juice sugar is slightly more refined than raw sugar, but not as refined as white sugar, therefore it retains more flavor and color than refined white sugar.

English: Raw (unrefined, unbleached) sugar, bo...

For me, when baking, I steer away from refined white sugar and substitute evaporated cane juice sugar, organic when possible.  Since it is a more expensive product than refined white sugar, it forces me to cut down on baking sweets.  A good thing, right?  I find substituting honey a more difficult task because the sugar-to-honey ratio can be difficult to manage, plus honey has a VERY distinct flavor profile when added to baked goods.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have the time to cook from scratch, then you might be buying all sorts of pre-packaged foods.  And, yep, there’s a lot of sugar to be found there.  I’ve always wondered:  exactly why is there sugar in salad dressings? Pre-Packaged Bread/Peanut-Butter Department

And I remember hearing Anthony Bourdain state once that the reason you love those fresh, steamed veges at a restaurant is not only because of the unctuous butter added, but also the sugar added.  Wow.  Oh, my.

So whether pre-packaged or restaurant-prepared, there’s often sugar in there.  And some “natural” foods are also treated by the body as sugars, such as potatoes and many fruits when they convert to glucose.

IMG_0418Are calories really equal?  Is a teaspoon of white granulated sugar  =  to a teaspoon of raw turbinado sugar or evaporated cane juice sugar?  Is a teaspoon of white granulated sugar  =  to a teaspoon of raw honey from a local farm?  (White sugar has 16 calories in one teaspoon versus 22 calories in one teaspoon of honey.)

I fall on the side of “not equal”, and will reach for any of the above other choices over white sugar.  And the weird thing about sugars is the less you eat them, the less you crave them, and the sweeter they seem to be.  Which is a good thing.

Honey, especially raw honey, is getting a lot of press these days.  Honey contains vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6, in trace amounts. But another boost for the use of honey is the presence of active enzymes.  (Read more on the enzymes in honey here:  http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/digestive-enzymes.html).  Raw honey is not subject to any heating or processing and commercial pasteurized honey generally has only one processing step involved: – heating to prevent crystallization.  (Read the following link on how to tell the difference between real honey and artificial honey, a WHOLE different story:  http://naturalrevolution.org/the-shocking-differences-between-raw-honey-and-processed-golden-honey/).

Day 066/365Honey’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties give it a leg up over white sugar.    Did your mom give you honey in a hot drink when you had a cold?  There’s a reason for that.

And we’re starting to hear about honey used to combat allergies.  When I go to my local farmers’ market, there is always someone at the honey stand looking for allergy relief in the local raw honeys.  Canadian holistic nutritionist Andrea Palen commented:

The idea behind eating honey as a remedy for allergies is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against pollen allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when the seasons change. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey might make the body more accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance of an allergic immune response.

Read more:  http://www.blisstree.com/2012/10/05/food/benefits-of-raw-honey-832/

On the other hand, white table sugar is highly processed, removing all
naturally occurring trace minerals from the sugar cane plant and leaving
us with what we have come to know as “empty calories”, devoid of
nutrition like vitamins, minerals, and the enzymes present in honey.

honey that have no traces of pollen and lack beneficial vitamins and enzymes among a host of other natural constituents which are removed due to pasteurization and processing.
Read more at http://naturalrevolution.org/the-shocking-differences-between-raw-honey-and-processed-golden-honey/#hFxiCQ5cDKtXq8qb.99
There are well over 30 commercial producers of honey that have no traces of pollen and lack beneficial vitamins and enzymes among a host of other natural constituents which are removed due to pasteurization and processing.
Read more at http://naturalrevolution.org/the-shocking-differences-between-raw-honey-and-processed-golden-honey/#hFxiCQ5cDKtXq8qb.99

All types of sugar should be consumed sparingly, even if it’s honey.  We’re past the holidays and have a chunk of time to change our tastes for the less-sweet.  But don’t forget to enjoy life, including a few sweets.  Order dessert once in a while.  Have that cookie from a co-worker, just one.  All things in moderation!

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