Saturday, April 30, 2011

What's at the Farmer's Market?

Barb was visiting the Farmer's Market in Seattle today and stumbled upon two of the items from Zagat's most over-rated ingredients list we shared the other day -- ramps and fiddlehead ferns!  If you didn't know what they looked like before -- you do now!   

Food in an Emergency

With severe storms devastating so many states (our hearts go out to all of our southern neighbors impacted by the recent tornadoes), we thought the following notes from Mary Frances of were timely and thought-provoking for anyone's preparedness in a power outage, and particularly for those whose diet restrictions cannot be tossed aside, even during an emergency.  Here's what she wrote:

Staying Gluten Free in an Emergency

Yesterday my husband and I drove through the community of Phil Campbell Alabama.  An enormous tornado whipped through that town Wednesday afternoon and miles and miles of homes were completely destroyed.  We didn't even realize that we were getting close to the town as we drove because all of the physical landmarks were completely gone.  Homeowners stood by the road looking at a landscape of debris trying to figure out what to do next. And unfortunately, the same sort of scene could be found throughout Alabama yesterday.

Our house did not sustain any damage - a tornado went by in the air early Wednesday morning while we were asleep and a tree fell to within feet of our home.  As I saw the destruction yesterday and read more coverage online, I began to think about whether our pantry reserves are large enough and whether we were prepared to obtain and cook gluten free food during an extended emergency period.  Unfortunately, the answers were "No" and "No".

Here are a few lessons learned from our experience.

Lesson #1:  Having cash on hand is essential.  We use debit cards or online banking for 99% of our transactions.  However, when the power is out debit cards and online banking are useless.  And unless your bank has a generator you won't be able to get cash from the bank or ATM.  We ate breakfast at Waffle House on Wednesday morning (beware cross-contact from the grill) and they let us leave a check until we were able to get cash from an ATM and come back and pay our bill.

Lesson #2:  Food preservation requires planning.  I was pleased that we were able to salvage most of the food in our refrigerator and freezer. We have one large cooler and I packed it full with frozen fruits and vegetables and the refrigerator perishables.  There was enough frozen food that we didn't need (or have room for) ice, but everything kept cool for two days. 

In the past we've stored lots of food in an upright freezer. I'm not longer a fan of this because there is the potential to lose so much food in a power outage.  Unless a generator is available, I think canned food storage is the way to go for food stores that cannot be consumed within 48 hours.

Lesson #3: Heat is required to cook. We ended up leaving Birmingham and going to my parent's farmhouse because they have a gas stove.  We knew that the power might be out there, but at least we'd be able to cook easily.  (Little did we know that the tornado devastation near the farmhouse was much worse than what we had at home). 

If that hadn't been available, then we would have needed to cook on the grill. I've done some grill cooking in pots, but not much. It's something that I plan to practice.Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a gas campstove available for emergencies. If none of these are an option, then I think it would be good to keep produce on hand that keeps well.  We ate a good bit of salad and fresh fruit while the power was out.

Lesson #4: A stash of GF convenience foods will keep you sane.  I don't keep a lot of GF processed foods on hand. We're not eating a lot of grain-based foods right now, and when we do I generally make it by hand.  That being said, I was very grateful for my Mom's stash of GF food that she keeps at the farm.  It was so helpful to be able to whip up a batch of GF pancakes for the kids on Thursday morning (Thank you, Betty Crocker and Mom).  

John and I talk a good bit about gluten free food stashes in our ebook, The Gluten Free Survival Guide.  After the past two days, I think we need to restock the food stash in the Yukon.  Cheetos, nuts, juice boxes, and bottled water go a long way towards keeping everyone happy if you need to drive out of a disaster area. (On that note, I'm also thinking that I'd like to keep more gas in the Yukon)

Lesson #5: Be prepared for the long-haul Between my pantry and the food Mom had left at the farm, I was able to cook very good meals without doing any shopping for two days. However, if we had been without power for a longer period, then we would have been having some very strange meals and run out of food pretty quickly.  Some communities in Alabama will not have power for at least a week (the main transmission lines in many areas of the state were destroyed).  Ice storms in the winter can knock out the power for two - three weeks. 

Based on my experience this week I can count on frozen food for 2 days refrigerator food for 2 - 3 days, fresh produce for 2 - 5 days, and canned food indefinitely.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fiddle-dee, Fiddle-dum, Fiddlehead Fern?

Tired of seeing strange-sounding ingredients on menus and feeling pressured to try them, or silly for not knowing what they are?  The food/restaurant experts at Zagat’s have developed a list of the 8 most overrated ingredients.  We agree with some (but take exception to the bacon one…).  Check it out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Summer Salmon Chowder

2 T. olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
4 med. Red potatoes, diced small
4 ears corn, kernels removed (see photo and note below)
2 T. butter (divided)
2 c. chicken stock
1 ½ c. fat-free milk
2 t. dried thyme
1 8 oz. salmon filet
¼ c. ½& ½ or cream

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium. Sauté shallot until translucent. Add potatoes and allow to brown on edges for a few minutes. Add corn kernels (and the “juice”), 1 T. butter and sauté 1 to 2 minutes to caramelize corn. Add 2 c. chicken stock, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are knife tender. Add milk, thyme, salt and pepper to taste.  Cook another 10 minutes stirring often. Add salmon, stir and cook for five minutes. Add ½ & ½ or cream, and final T. of butter. Cook for additional 5 minutes. Serve.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's in Your Pantry?


Salsa Verde. You may know it as green salsa. I have at least 4 jars of it in my pantry right now. It’s great with tortilla chips as a snack (tasty but low fat), makes a great topper for chicken breasts or fish going into the oven (a sprinkling of queso fresco or feta on top right at the end adds a bit more interest as well), or best, yet, the soup that everyone asks for…my Salsa Verde Chicken Chili (it’s actually more a “soup” but chili sounds better.

Salsa Verde Chicken Chili
3 T. olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced small (or ½ can of jalepenos)
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 qt. chicken stock
1 16 oz. jar of salsa verde (don’t buy the expensive stuff)
1 beer (any you like – I prefer Corona)
1 can hominy (white or yellow) drained and rinsed
1 rotisserie chicken, pulled apart, skin removed
1 bag of corn tortilla chips
1 handful of cilantro leaves
2 limes
Queso fresco (white cheese) or Monterey Jack
Avocado, diced (optional)

In a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, sauté oil, onion, jalapeno and garlic for about 4 minutes.  Add cumin and chili powder, stir for one minute.  Add in stock, salsa, beer and cook until bubbling.  Add in hominy and chicken.  Cook about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put cilantro and two handfuls of chips in a food processor and process until ground.  Add this mixture to the pot of chili, stirring until well combined.  Cook one minute until soup thickens a bit.

Serve bowls of chili garnished with a wedge of lime (to squirt in), cheese, avocado and additional chips for dipping.


Balsamic vinegar.  I always have regular and white balsamic in my pantry (along with red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar – but perhaps that’s a topic for another day).  So versatile.  I use it to make homemade salad dressing; toss it with olive oil into asparagus and green beans; glaze salmon, chicken and grilled shrimp; marinate beef with a mixture of balsamic and olive oil (the balsamic actually works as a meat tenderizer); drizzle tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a caprese salad;  dress fresh berries or watermelon with it.  I’m hard-pressed to think of anything that can’t benefit from a dose of this amazing elixir.  Friends dropping by unexpectedly and you want an easy appetizer?  Try roasted garlic and balsamic:
Roasted Garlic with Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top (pointy end) off of a full head of garlic so that all of the ends of all of the cloves are exposed.  Place cut side up in a small oven-safe dish.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top.  Bake in oven for 45 minutes. 
Squeeze the roasted cloves out of the cooked head and spread on bread or crackers. 
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hot Topic: Bacon and Chocolate

Seems America is obsessed with an interesting food pairing – bacon and chocolate. Yes, bacon and chocolate TOGETHER. Here in Phoenix, one restaurant serves a chocolate/bacon bread pudding. Another serves chocolate dipped bacon (which I make at home) with a special s’more dessert. So, last week, after one of our local food blogs, Chow Bella, posted a video about trying to fry a Cadbury Crème Egg (without success) I decided to try to find a workable solution. Well, I tried (successfully, I might add), and let the fine folks at Chow Bella, (part of the Phoenix New Times newspaper) know. I then posted photos of the results on our FeedingFrenzy Facebook page.

Well, Chow Bella took notice and gave us a great shout out on their blog. ( ) We posted it to our Walls. Friends reposted, and tweeted, and retweeted.  Seems everyone is enamored with -- or at least curious about -- the thought of deep fried bacon and chocolate…

Want to try it for yourself? 
Here's my recipe: 

2 Cadbury Crème Eggs

2 slices cooked bacon (just shy of crisp)

Enough of your favorite pancake batter (from scratch, Bisquick, etc.) to make 5 or 6 pancakes

2 c. vegetable oil

Put oil in small saucepan and heat on medium high until oil reaches 370 degrees (use thermometer). Unwrap eggs. Set aside.  Crumble bacon into bowl of pancake batter. Using two soup spoons, dip the eggBarbs in the batter and thoroughly coat. Carefully lower the “glob” into the hot oil. Stand back! Using a slotted spoon, turn the egg after 30 or so seconds. remove to a paper towel after another 30 to 40 seconds…or until the fritter is a golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting open. Warning – contents will be HOT! We recommend eating no more than ½ of an egg fritter…incredibly rich!
Monday, April 18, 2011

Another Weekend, Another Party

Yep, we have a LOT of spring birthdays in our family.  This time it was my daughter Paige’s turn.  Her actual birthday (#11) is tomorrow, but we celebrated with family and friends last night.  Big shout-out to my brother-in-law, Dan, who cooked Paige’s favorite barbequed ribs in his green egg for the occasion.  They were delicious and we’ll be enjoying the leftovers tonight!  Yum.
As I was pulling together the menu and preparing, I thought of a few tips and ideas that would be fun to share:
  • We made cupcakes as part of the birthday dessert.  Wilton makes these adorable flower-shaped cupcake liners in pink, lavender, peach, and yellow that gave such a wonderful springtime appearance without any extra effort.  We used the pink ones and my older daughter piped white icing in a swirl on top of each and then sprinkled with pink sugar crystals.  These would be adorable for Easter brunch, baby showers – anytime you have a springtime theme. 

  • I’m a big fan of eating off of real ceramic plates instead of plastic or Styrofoam.  Found “fiesta” plates in burnt orange, golden yellow and spring green at my local Deal’s store.  $1 each!  I bought 20 plates total, in all three colors.  They looked beautiful at the party and we popped them into the dishwasher for easy cleaning.  We’ll be using these over and over again.

  • Easiest and delicious summer vegetable recipe.  Peel an English cucumber -- those long skinny ones wrapped in shrink-wrap in the produce section -- and slice it in 1/4 inch thick rounds.  Dice a small onion and add it to the cucumber.  Drizzle some Hendrickson's Dressing over everything and store covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  For added color, slice grape tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl shortly before serving.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lotso Matzo!

matzo brei

Just the other day, I was talking with Sharon about doing a blog post about Passover. Now, mind you, I’m a good Lutheran girl, and Sharon Roman Catholic, but I’ve always been fascinated by the history, traditions and FOOD of the Jewish culture. My great-grandmother Lillian, whose family is from Bohemia, made us great potato latkes. I now cheat and make the boxed kind (I prefer Streit’s) for my family every Hanukkah. Sometime before Passover, when the big boxes of matzo come out, I buy a box of Streit’s Lightly Salted.  Daughter Berkley takes pb&j on it for lunch. I eat my homemade orange marmalade on it. This morning I’m making matzo brei (the sweet version) for breakfast.

So, anyway, Sharon and I are talking about a recent Passover Seder/lecture event that was held at my church, Mountain View Lutheran. We had an expert give a talk about the history and meaning of Passover. We ate the bitter herbs. We dunked the egg in the salt water. And then we had matzo ball soup. Now, I cheat (again) when it comes to matzo ball soup and I buy my favorite boxed brand – so easy and so satisfying. The ladies on the Passover committee made homemade soup, and we had some “floaters and sinkers.” Some matzo balls, if compressed, will sink to the bottom of the bowl and be more dense and chewy. Others, if handled lightly, will float on the top and are airy.  I personally prefer the floaters, but there are fans of both. So, it was decided I would write about matzo balls for our Passover post.

Well, Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s Good Food beat me to it. Just last night an email came in stating that floaters and sinkers are a topic on her radio show this weekend. Since she’s much more an expert, I’ll leave the discussion to her. (

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to go mix my crushed matzo with water, then squeeze it out, mix with egg, cinnamon, and nutmeg and make a kind of Jewish/French toast/frittata thing for my family. I found the recipe at  Chag pesach! Happy Passover!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

5 Fun Ideas for Easter Brunch

I went to a great Tablescape class last night at my local nursery/gift shop, SummerWinds Nursery.  I’m now bursting with creative tablescaping ideas.  Since Easter is just around the corner, here are some ways to add a special touch to your brunch!
1.  Keep it Real -- With Real Grass!
It's not too late to create fun centerpieces/candleholders with real grass -- but you'd better plant the grass today!  We're using small peat pots (10 cents each) and some seeds called "oat grass."  They germinate quickly and in about a week you have a lush little pot of grass (that can be trimmed over and over again, so it will last quite some time).  These grass pots can be grouped together for some really neat effects.  One idea I loved:  use them as candleholders.  The nursery sells little candle "picks" that allow you to plant a candle in any kind of pot.  This has great potential for fun summer entertaining, too.  The fancy flowery picks were $3.50; plainer ones ran about $3. 

2.  An Egg-cellent Way to Chill Your Punch!
Take inexpensive plastic Easter eggs (the more flexible ones work better than the hard plastic).  Save your empty egg cartons.  Fill the larger part (the pointier part) of the plastic eggs with water and attached the other part to it.  Set pointy-side down in the egg carton.  After you’ve filled the carton with waterfilled eggs, place in your freezer.  When party time comes, simply drop the frozen eggs into your beverage and you’ll have a rainbow of floating chillers that won’t dilute it as they melt. 

3.  A Bunny on Every Plate!
An inexpensive way to carry your Easter theme is to learn how to fold napkins into bunnies.  I saw this napkin style at the tablescape class, and found the instructions online compliments of Good Housekeeping.  Too adorable, although I probably wouldn’t go so far as to add a nose and whiskers.  I think the fold alone is adorable.  My understanding is that thinner, lightly starched napkins work best for this folding technique.

4.  Create Your Own Seasonal Plate!
This was such a simple idea, it blew me away.  Purchase plain glass plates at your local dollar store.  Find fun springtime paper napkins and cut them out in circles for the bottom of the plate.  Spray the napkins with cheap pump hairspray and place on the plate bottoms.  Spray the back sides of the napkins again with the hairspray and smooth out any bubbles.  Let dry and you have a fabulous, original dinner plate!  The best part?  When you’re finished with the party, soak the plates overnight in some soapy water and you’ll be ready to start all over again with a different pattern for the next party occasion.   

5.  A Food Idea -- of course!
What’s brunch without a coffee cake?  Here’s one of Barb’s easy favorites:

Sour Cream Cherry Coffee Cake
1 stick unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. fat-free sour cream
2 c. all-purpose flour (high altitude add 2 T.)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. finely chopped lemon zest
½ c. cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter 2 8-inch square cake pans.  In a large mixer bowl, beat butter with sugar until well combined.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Add sour cream and mix thoroughly.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.  Batter will be stiff.  Stir in the vanilla, zest and cherry preserves.  Spread batter in pans.  Bake 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nothing Fishy About Easy Cooking

At FeedingFrenzy, we are busy moms, wives, and business owners who are determined to cook real food for our families. We are not against fast food sometimes, or using convenience products, but we promise you can make a real meal in the same time it takes to heat up a pizza or pick up fast food.

As the weather gets warmer, we love to cook fish…it just seems lighter and healthier. We keep our freezers stocked with flash-frozen filets – tilapia, salmon (wild caught only!), and cod – to make tasty meals quickly.

One of the best cooking tips we can share with you – if you don’t know what you’re going to cook tonight for dinner – is to turn the oven on to 350 and start a pasta pot of water boiling as soon as you walk in the door.  That way, once you’ve perused your pantry, you’re ready to go for anything.  Of course, in a perfect world, you’ve planned out your meals for the whole week before you did your weekly shopping, but that’s a post for another time.

So, here’s a 30-minute meal your family should love. If you don’t have all the ingredients I mention on hand, improvise and use what you do have (though stocking your pantry and fridge with some of these staples is a great idea for “go-to” meals).  Cooking is all about improvising…and our goal is to not just share recipes but teach techniques that you can carry with you from here on.  So, be creative and get cooking!

Tear four pieces of aluminum foil to about 14 inches each. Place one fish filet on each piece of foil. On top of each filet, place a few pieces of sliced garlic, some crushed red pepper flake, some capers, a few chopped kalamata olives, a handful of grape tomatoes sliced in half and a sprinkling of feta cheese. Pepper to your taste (with the capers, olives and feta, salt is probably not needed).  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. 

 Close the packets by bringing the long ends together and folding once. Then roll up the sides. Finish by rolling up the long side until it is flat against the fish. Place each packet on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Your kids don’t like olives? Leave ‘em off. Hubby wants extra pepper flake? Add some to his. Just keep track by writing their initials in the foil with the handle of a spoon. Have some asparagus you want to use up? Put in on. Don’t have feta but you do have parmesan? Sure. Be creative.

Meanwhile, in the pot of water you have boiling, add some salt and cook 8 oz. of orzo per the package directions. While it is boiling, zest and juice one lemon into a serving bowl. Add 3 T. of butter you’ve cubed up to the same bowl. Once the orzo is done, drain it, put it in the serving bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and stir.

To serve the fish, place each packet on a plate and let each person open up their own, or you can plate it and all of its goodies on serving plates. Serve with the orzo and a tossed salad.
Monday, April 11, 2011

Tips for a Big Gathering

My Dad turned 75 just a week after my mom’s birthday, so it was time for another family gathering – this time for 40 people!  We convened at my sister Janet’s house this time (God bless her for cleaning till her entire house sparkled!).  My Dad was surprised and delighted to see so many family members and friends come to celebrate with him.  We wanted to make this milestone special, and with a crowd that size, good organization and paying attention to the details made all the difference in the world! 
We picked the color scheme from some napkins my sister already had – burnt orange, olive green, gold and chocolate brown.  We took one napkin to the cake shop so they could match the colors on the birthday cake. 
For the flowers, we used groupings of glass vials.  You can get them for a couple bucks each at places like Target and Michael’s.  With flowers purchased at our local Sam’s Club and some ribbon, we were able to create a florist-worthy bouquet for probably a third of the cost.

 We served things buffet-style, but dressed it up with some simple tricks.  We used boxes, storage containers, and pedestal cake plates to place serving dishes at different heights (see video), and covered it all with coordinating fabric purchased at the local fabric store.  We arranged everything the day before, placing post-it notes on each serving dish noting what food would be placed in each – no scrambling for a dish once the party started.

With the exception of our meats, all other dishes were prepped the day before.  We brought everything out of the fridge just before the party started so it would be room temperature for serving.  Even the items for the fruit salad were cut the day before – but we kept each one bagged separately and mixed just before serving.  A few things – like the asparagus, cheese bread and green beans – needed to go into the oven, but we made sure they all could be at the same temperature. 

Tortellini Salad
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano
Salt and pepper
Place vinegar, garlic, cloves, tomato paste and oregano in blender.  Turn on and off to chop up the garlic.  With blender running, slowly add the vegetable oil.  Season to taste. 
2 packages (about 20 oz. each) frozen cheese tortellini, cooked.
2 cans (14 oz. each) quartered artichoke hearts, drained.
4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces. 
1 small red onion , cut in half length-wise and thinly sliced.
1 package (4 oz.) crumbled feta, divided in half.
Fresh baby spinach (about half of one 6 oz. package)
Grape tomatoes.
Combine cooked tortellini, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, onion slices and half of the feta cheese.  Pour half of the dressing over salad.  Chill.  Can be left overnight in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add additional dressing if the tortellini has absorbed all of the dressing.  Add the fresh spinach, toss and sprinkle with the remaining feta, grape tomatoes and additional spinach leaves for garnish.   Makes a lot and keeps for several days – our family fights over the left-overs.

To keep the party a surprise until the last minute, our older nephews served as valets, parking everyone’s cards around the block.  My oldest daughter labeled envelopes with the name, model, and color of each car for easy retrieval at the end of the party.  The result:  we surprised our Dad, probably for the first time in our lives!