Eat Only the Junk Food That You Make

Hey, Twinkies, don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Boxes of Twinkies are selling for $100 on eBay since Hostess shut down last week. Why people ever ate Twinkies is a mystery to me.

Look at the ingredient list:
Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40. (Yuck!) 

But the chemicals in Twinkies are not my gripe. (After all, the FDA says they’re safe.) I take umbrage at the ease with which Twinkies move from thought-form to down the hatch. Those 300 calories in two Twinkies should not come so easily. It’s best to earn your Twinkies by making them a hassle.

How to Travail in Twinkies

Go to the store to buy the canoe pan and creme injector, and another store to purchase the ingredients. Measure, sift, heat milk, melt butter, and separate eggs. Beat the bajesus out of the whites and then the yolks, fold, and scrape the batter into the molds. Beat the butter, sugar and Marshmallow Fluff and pour it into the injector. Pipe it into the little holes you make through the middle of each cake. (Good luck with that.) And while you’re at it, be sure the cake doesn’t collapse and absorb the filling. Now clean the kitchen, and consider how you’ve burned the 300 calories you are about to eat. Plus, your Twinkies are chemical-free.

Your thoughts: Isn’t my policy great?

Here’s a Twinkies Recipe. Knock yourself out.

Order the Wrap

At a recent expo in a faraway place, to my surprise, my beloved Damascus Bakery had a booth. Damascus Bakery, the tiny retail shop, is on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and I walk there often. (See The Road to Damascus.)  As it turns out, Damascus Bakery has production facilities elsewhere in Brooklyn and in Newark, NJ, and they supply the flatbread used some of America’s leading restaurants, markets, and institutions. If you order the wrap at Starbucks, Arby’s, or Chick-fil-A, then you are eating a Damascus Bakery product. On the retail end, you can buy Damascus wraps and flatbread at Whole Foods, Costco, and BJ’s stores.

What Makes It Great  

The secret is the yeast. You can smell it before you walk into the bakery. Damascus’ Middle Eastern artisan flatbreads are distinguished by their rich and savory flavor. Their lahvash wraps, panini, flatbreads, and roll ups complement any fill. The roll-up (like a lahvash, but a rectangle, not of a circle) is a very flat piece of yeast-dough baked quickly (20-25 seconds) on both sides in a very hot oven (800oF). Nutrition-wise, Damascus Bakery breads are exactly what you want in bread: low in calories, carbohydrates, and glycemic load, but high in fiber, protein, lots of other nutrients, with very few added ingredients. See the Nutrition Facts label for the roll up. Watch this short video of a woman making an interesting and healthy chicken salad roll-up, and get the chicken salad recipe. Enjoy!

Your thoughts: Have you tried a Damascus Bakery product?

Don’t Forget About Walnuts!

I can’t seems to get enough of one of my favorite winter foods: Walnut Stuffed Figs. It’s a Portuguese favorite my mother used to make when I was a little girl.
Here’s the recipe:
Take a dried, but not too dry, fig (Kadota or Calimyrna, I guess.) Cut the fig in half and press as many walnuts as you can into each half. Put the fig sandwich together and mash it down with the heel of your hand. Roll it sugar (this part is unnecessary unless you have a sweet tooth like me but, rest assured, no more than ¼ teaspoon of sugar sticks to each fig) and eat. How simple is that?

I’ve been eating two Walnut Stuffed Figs with a Greek yogurt for breakfast, or lunch, or whatchamacallit. (I’m not the structured type.)  At 110 calories each, they’re quite filling and mad nutritious, full of calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, and pantothenic acid, as well as alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3), anti-oxidants, and nutrition pigments. (You can skip your supplement for the day.)  Walnut stuffed figs may be wrapped in bacon or topped with Gorgonzola cheese, which is not for everyday, but here are the recipes:

Remember Walnuts!

Full disclosure: the California Walnut Commission has wined and dined me a few times this year. Those guys know how to host a classy event!  It’s hard to believe that walnuts need a promo because who could have a problem with walnuts? But I guess people forget about them and they don’t know how nutritious walnuts are. That’s too bad because walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that protect against heart disease and diabetes, and they maintain sperm quality, with fewer chromosomal abnormalities, in older men. (I mention this because I know a lot of late 20- and early 30-somethings who are delaying childbearing and, so, guys, take it from me, keep eating walnuts.) Dr. Wendie Robbins, from the UCLA School of Public Health, presented her walnuts-fertility research in Philadelphia at a FNCE dinner hosted by California Walnuts held at Supper, the wonderful ‘New American’ restaurant. Nom nom nom, walnuts with every course.

You must visit the California Walnuts Commission’s recipe page for inspiration. I recommend these two recipes only because I’ve made them and they are seasonal:

Random walnut fact: Do you know the name of the “classic walnut,” the principal variety marketed inshell? It’s the Hartley Walnut, the only variety that can stand vertically!

Your thoughts: How do you eat walnuts? Got a walnut recipe to share?

My Favorite Icy, Fruity Treats

My daughter, a Brooklyn foodie, turned me on to my new favorite cooling sweet treat for the summer.

New York: Soft Serve Fruit

Soft Serve Fruit is THAT good. It is nothing but pureed fruit mixed with filtered water and cane sugar. Soft Serve Fruit is one appropriate way to enjoy fruit puree: watered down and eaten with a spoon. Soft Serve Fruit it is real fruit with vitamin C and a fair amount of fiber. It comes in four seasonal flavors and it is so low in calories that they almost don’t count.  Soft Fruit Food Company stores are found only in Manhattan and the Hamptons. I go to the Union Square location at 17th Street and Broadway, around the corner from where I discovered Olympus Authentic Greek Yogurt, my other favorite food. Fresh food wise, Union Square is the place to be.

At Home

You can make soft serve fruit in a food processor at home. Here is one recipe.There are others all over the Internet.

Rhode Island: Del’s Lemonade

At home in Rhode Island, my favorite icy treat is Del’s Lemonade, fruit ice made from fresh lemon juice, plenty of zest included. Del’s Lemonade is Great Grandfather DeLucia’s recipe from Naples back in 1840.  (A bit of food history: The first Italian ices, granitas and sorbets were made with lumps of snow from Mount Etna. How romantic!) Lemon ices are so thirst-quenching and delicious, but watch out for brain freeze! Del’s doesn’t list the Nutrition Facts 🙂 Suffice it to say, Del’s is full of sugar.

Your thoughts: Do you love fruit ices?  Please share your favorites!

A Tupperware Party, New York City Style

Tupperware recently hosted a party to showcase their new line of products – choppers, smoothie makers, cream whippers, pots, pans, and cutlery – to food writers. The event was held at the Tasting Table, a new test kitchen and dining room in SoHo, and featured chef Marco Canora of Hearth Restaurant and the Food Network’s Iron Chef fame. Chef Marco whipped up a few dishes for us and everything was beyond delicious. Watch him at the event butterfly, season, pound, and saute his “Flavor Pounded Chicken.” The end product was crispy and light, like no boneless breast I’ve had. At the party, I discovered a few things worth sharing.

Soffritto
Chef Marco is all about soffritto. Soffritto is a mixture of very finely chopped vegetables, such as onions, celery, and carrots or fennel, with or without herbs and garlic, that is sautéed in hot olive oil. The natural vegetable sugars caramelize as they cook for quite awhile. Soffritto gives Italian stews, sauces and braised dishes their flavor, but every great cuisine has a soffritto. For instance, the Far East has scallions ginger and garlic, and in Spain, soffritto is peppers onions and garlic. Marco Canora’s cookbook, Salt to Taste: The Key to Confident, Delicious Cooking explains it all.

Tupperware Chop ’N Prep™ Chef
You’re probably saying, “I don’t need that,” but you do. This tool makes soffritto easy. Chef Marco says, “Mince the vegetables very small, like grains of sand.” Watch the Chop ’N Prep Chef in action. I use it to chop my fresh herbs. What a delight.

Universal Series Knives Starter Set
The joy of cooking with really sharp knives… We attendees got two all purpose Tupperware knives as a party favor. The set includes a heavy duty prep knife and a delicate paring knife, each with a protective sheath because the knives are really that sharp.

By the end of the party, I was all set to enroll in Chef Marco’s Tuscan Cooking School this summer and to buy more Tupperware from the online catalog. I could never top that party,

Your thoughts: Could you use some new cooking gadgets?

The Year of Couves?

Here’s a headline that grabbed my attention: Health Nuts Declare 2012: The Year of Kale. “People are weird about Brussels sprouts and cabbage, but are willing to give kale a try,” a chef says. At  Social Media Week 2012 in New York City, experts begged the question, “Who is kale’s PR agent?”  And how did Anne Hathaway fit into her snug Catwoman suit? She told MTV, “I lived on dust and kale.” Food bloggers, restaurateurs and kale chip makers alike are all crazy for the lowly kale. But, as for me, I was eating kale in the highchair. We called it “couves”.

Portuguese Kale Soup

People of Portuguese decent living along the Southeastern Massachusetts coast eat a lot of kale in the form of soup. They call it Calde Couves or Sopas Calde. (At least that’s what I think they are saying.) My father was a first generation Portuguese American, and so kale soup was a staple in the homes of our extended family.  Emeril Lagasse, celebrity chef from the area, makes kale soup too.

Everybody’s soup recipe is a little different – it might contain cabbage, kidney beans, tomatoes, carrots, and even pig’s feet – but the common ingredient in Portuguese Soup is always couves. My kale soup is a victory over animal fat. I simmer beef shank and chouriço (Portuguese sausage) in water with a handful of split peas for hours, and then I remove the cooked meat, pick off every strand, and toss the fat, bone and sausage skin. And then it’s into the fridge where the broth sits until the hard fat rises to the top for easy removal. Next, I add kale, cabbage, potatoes, and the fat free meat back to the broth and simmer until tender. Tasty, low calorie, wildly nutritious (see the label), and ultra-trendy. That’s our couves!

Kale Soup Recipes

Your thoughts: Have you added kale to your diet? Have you tried kale soup?