Thursday, January 15, 2015

Favorite Food Trends 2015

Tinned Seafood
The Celery on my winter windowsill
As you may have guessed I do a lot of reading about food, recipes, growing food, storing food, etc.  In the past few weeks I have been digesting all of the various food magazines, web sites and other media to get a feel for what people in the food world see as the trends we can expect to see in 2015.

I offer some of them here for your consideration.  I would also love to hear from you as to what YOU think will be trends.  Almost all trends are of a general nature, but I have also added one or two that are local to my environment.  I am sure that there are some that are local to you all as well.

Bone Broth - One of the many things that keeps me hooked on the world of food and cooking is that i am always learning something new.  Bone Broth was a new on me.  Of course I new about stock - we spent a whole year (I think it was 2010) learning how to make the best stocks.  And I know about Bouillon - although I rarely use it.  But this broth was a new twist.  I can happily say that this is a "trend" we should all get behind.  It is delicious, good for you and wonderfully comforting in cold weather.  And it could not be easier to make.  You put small meaty bones in water just to cover.   Don't boil it.  Simmer it for anywhere from 8 - 24 hours.  For the last hour or so you can add some aromatics and a carrot and/or onion.  When the broth is done to your liking, remove the veg and any aromatics that you have used; strain the broth and it is ready to go.  I like it hot with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.  NOTE:  Use bones from sustainably raised meat; not factory farmed (supermarket) meat.  So far I have only made beef bone broth using bones from grass fed, pasture raised beef.  Trust me, it is a delicious and healthy pick me up or a lovely, informal "first course".  Try it!

Beef Bone Broth

High Quality Canned ('Tinned") Products  - If you have ever been to Spain you know that very expensive, very delicious, high quality preserved foods in small cans are a part of the tapas tradition.  There are also shops that sell nothing but fish, seafood, peppers, and other products in "tins".  I am not talking about a can of sardines here - not that there's anything wrong with that!  Oh no, you can find tins of octopus, white anchovies, smoked fish, fish in olive oil, stuffed piquillo peppers in vinegar, and shellfish, among other things.  In the U.S., we now have access to some of these wonderful producers.  One that we have been enjoying is Cole's tinned seafood, available at the Reading Terminal Market at "Jonathan's Best" and at Green Aisle Markets (see photo).  Putting out tins of rich, delicious fish, seafood, vegetables and other items with good hunks of bread and ice cold cocktails is dinner on a Friday evening in my house.  Look for some of these products online at

Homemade Butter - What can I say?  I have been making our own butter for about three years now and I can't imagine going back to commercial butters.  That said, I do occasionally treat my self to Irish butter or the Parmesan butter.  And I am very lucky to have access to butter made by some of our wonderful local farms.  That said, I enjoy the process and so, unless I can't get excellent, unfooled around with heavy cream, I make my own.   There are lots of techniques.  Some folks use the "shake in the jar" approach.  I applaud that, but I didn't invest in that heavy duty Kitchen Aid for nothing!  I use non-homogenized heavy cream (it's gorgeous.  I can smell the grass the cows ate in it).  Six cups into the bowl of the mixer, use the whisk attachment and give it a slow stir and then switch to a high beat.  I strain it into a big bowl (that Buttermilk is gold!), and stir and press it with a heavy wooden butter paddle until I have pressed out all of the milk.  I bottle up the Buttermilk. I wrap the butter in wax paper in six or seven "chunks" and freeze it.  Of course, I always hold one or two out of the freezer because it is so good and so fresh. NOTE:  Unless it is really hot in our kitchen - and it is often in the summer as we are "AC Free", I do not refrigerate butter or eggs.

Black Crack - I am proud to say the producers of this aged and fermented black garlic are operating in my region.  Thus, we have had a couple of years to use it.  It is amazing.  I like to grind it up, although using it is the traditional cloves is glorious too.  It is amazing over scrambled eggs, steaks, bread and butter - frankly, I haven't found it to not be wonderful on anything.  I love these folks.  Get yourself some Black Crack at The Fair Food Farmstand in The Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia or online at

Celery - And, lastly, an ingredient that I truly love.  Celery has been undervalued and underused forever (in my humble opinion).  Well that is changing quickly!  I love to use celery. Celery is very versatile.  It is delicious braised, can be made into a granita and is wonderful tossed with Cerignola olives and a good vinaigrette.  I plant Par-Cel in our herb garden every year.  If you are not familiar with Par-Cel, look it up.  It's like parsley with thicker, celery like stalks and an intense flavor of celery.  As you can see, I love the celery leaves as well so I cut off the bottom of a stalk of celery, put it in water and keep it on the kitchen windowsill all winter.  One of these freebie plants rooted, so it's growing quite nicely in dirt.  I clip the leaves for recipes and I also dry some of the leaves and mix them with a good sea salt.  Great for Bloody Mary's, soups, almost anything.

So, having shared what I think are some of the most meaningful "Trends for 2015",  how about sharing what you think are important food trends on the horizon?

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Rant: Misguided Food New Year's Resolutions!

"Eat food.  Mostly plants. Not too much."
Michael Pollan

So it is that time of year for folks to announce their New Year's resolutions - and very often these announcements center on food.

Now there are a couple things we know about human behavior and one of them is that most of us do not stick to our New Year's resolutions.  It is probably better to make changes at some other time of year then to make big declarations at the start of a new year, especially after the end of a long holiday period.

That said, it is not so much the making of resolutions that saddens me - it is the content of some of these resolutions.  When it comes to the food resolutions I have heard so far in 2015, almost all involve:  Diets, Cleanses, Fasts, 100% Avoidance of Certain Foods, and 100% Eating of Certain Foods.  Nothing on the lists I have seen have any chance at long term dietary behavior change.  And some I fear are being observed by folks who - when not observing some strange temporary food rituals - eat processed food, junk food, and fast food.  The three poisons that really are killing us.

Deciding to live on kale "smoothies" twice a day or drinking manufactured "shakes" loaded with chemicals, and/or cutting out all carbohydrates, all protein, or all sugar (unless diabetes is an issue) is INSANITY folks!  I have also heard from those who have decided to "live on" only fruit for a few weeks.  Or only raw vegetables.  Really?  In winter? I also feel bad for the woefully misled.  For example, people who have decided to eat only "no fat" yogurt for lunch need to know that no fat yogurt is loaded with sugar!  And in the case of the yogurt "sundaes" I see in the stores,  loaded with tons of other artificial ingredients, as well. With that said, I realize that it is a good time - after all of the celebrating, rich foods, and imbibing -  to "lighten up" a bit for a week or so.  It is Winter, after all, so it is a time when human beings by nature crave comfort foods and the occasional treat.

Like a slavish dedication to running or exercise, these eating fads can become an ingrained part of a person's life.  While they might bounce from one fad to another,  in between fads they eat horribly.  None of these strange, forced "fixes" is permanent.  Not one.

What is permanent is eating seasonally, locally, and fresh.  Learning to prepare food yourself at least a few times a week is permanent.  Buying food that is free of a laundry list of chemicals, sugars, dyes, and artificial flavoring is permanent.  Believe me, you cannot go back to processed food once you have escaped its grip.  The smell of someone making a "Lean Cuisine" in a microwave literally makes me nauseous.  I know the "aroma" is manufactured by chemicals and the "food" inside is loaded with awful, mad food scientist produced contents.

We are human and we like a treat now and again - I'll be the first to admit I'm at the head of that line!  Thinking that you did something wonderful for yourself because you didn't have a slice of bread or a bowl of pasta or a single cookie for a month means nothing in the final analysis. You will not have learned to eat; you will have learned to make food the enemy and the denial of taking pleasure from food the goal.  How sad is that?  And if you engage in these fads enough,  you will start a cycle of binge and deny and be miserable, binge and deny and be miserable, as a way of life.

Learn to enjoy real food!  Learn to eat a varied, delicious diet!  Throw the boxes out of the freezer and please out of your desk drawers.  Get rid of the soda, especially the diet soda.  Trash the margarine and the fake "spray" butter. Use real butter. Actually use "real" everything. Artificial is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Learn to use proteins as ingredients - not big slabs of meat or fish on your plate -  but rather smaller pieces within a dish.  Stop using any and all condiments and other products that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup - this stuff is screwing up your system and your taste buds.  Read the labels!

Know where your food comes from.  Learn to know what is in season in your area and buy fresh and in season vegetables and fruits.  Cook!  And I don't mean stop and pick up a factory raised chicken, pre - cooked, from some "Market".  Plan your menus and your meals ahead of time and shop accordingly.  Eat breakfast everyday. It should not always be bacon and eggs of course, but neither does it always have to be some disgusting blend of foods that don't go together mashed up in a blender so that you can drink it! Make a batch of oatmeal to last the work week.  Eat real, full fat Greek Yogurt. Even a good piece of toast and a glass of freshly squeezed juice is a good start.   Eat good cheese (not processed "american").  Once you start cooking more regularly for yourself, start learning to cook with leftovers.  Bring a lunch to work that you put together from some of those good leftovers. Save the blender for frozen drinks!

Embrace the idea that life is not about living in cycles of denial because you think you are "preserving" yourself.  You can eat deliciously, and you can treat yourself regularly, if you learn to prepare and eat fresh, real food that it is in season and has been grown and raised drug and cruelty free.  If you don't have time for that, what do you have time for?

End of Rant.