Thursday, November 03, 2016

Trader Joe's crazy love with pumpkin

During my last visit at Trader Joe’s a couple of weeks ago, I walked by a massive basket of pumpkins that seemed to be fresh  and good looking. When I entered the door, just across me was the new gluten free pumpkin cereal sitting just next to the pumpkin jam. While shopping at the store for my TJ's favorites, I counted over 30 items that feature pumpkin in any shape, flavor or form and some of them were: Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark, Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies, Sticky Pumpkin Cake with Hard Sauce, Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds & Walnuts, Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix with Maple Flavored Icing, Pumpkin Soup Crackers, Pumpkin Panettone (sic), Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter, Assorted Belgian Chocolate Pumpkins, Pumpkin tortilla chips, Pumpkin seed brittle, Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Baking Mix, Pumpkin Pancake Mix and many more! I am not sure if these products are still available, some are definitely there on the TJ’s shelves, others have gone.

This obsession with pumpkin this time of the year is insane. Not only because I don’t like it but because it does not pair well with everything. Making pumpkin the quintessential ingredient is rather unnecessary. Enjoy a slice of pumpkin spice cookie or a pumpkin latte and stay there. Do you really need the pumpkin soup crackers or the pumpkin panettone?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What to eat at the Washington's State Fair

State Fairs are known for their greasy, fried and unhealthy foods together with the fun rides, silly toys and animal shows. You still have nearly a week to visit the Fair at Puyallup and here are my suggestions on what tasty but bad for your cholesterol foods you should try even if you have a couple of hours.
Bypass please the healthy option of the gluten and bun free meals, low fat and low calorie –you will get them later when you return in you kitchen.

Start with a treat at the quintessential sweet snack place- Fisher’s for a jam scone. The line will be long but this must-eat at the Fair is worth it. This small, yellowish pastry filled with raspberry jam and coated with whipped butter is the Fair’s favorite for both kids and grown-ups alike. As you can’t find them easily in any bakery in the city, get stuffed or buy the baking mix and make them at home. There are a few Fisher stands in various locations so you won’t miss it.

Cotton candy is also a ubiquitous sugary treat in an array of colors so go for it if this is your thing.

A bowl of fried onion and curly fries are two of the signature foods at the Fair. The curly fries come in a huge plate and look glued together which makes them funny looking. Be ready to share with friends and family because the portion is huge and you will need help. The beer batter fried onion rings come handy in a smaller portion and are really tasty. You get those dishes pretty much everywhere at the Fair so keep your eyes open.

Continue with more exotic foods and maybe put some spice on your palate
This year the Fair brought exotic meats at the Burgers and Exotic Meats stand. If you are brave enough, go for an alligator burger or rabbit and python sausage. If strange animal foods is not your cup of tea, go for at the beef lumpia at the Fried Rolls stand, a type of spring roll eaten in Philippines and Indonesia. My lumpia came with spicy mayo, salsa and a sweet vinegar dip that was delicious and paired perfectly the greasiness of the roll.

My favorite of all was the Nashville hot chicken that comes with fries and pickles. This fried, amazingly spicy and crunchy chicken goes down fast with the ketchup dipped potatoes. Hands up to Nashville people who invented it and made it a national trend.

Finally, close the day with an elephant ear, another timeless Fair favorite. Watch how they make it at the Elephant Ears stand. Yes, it is dipped fried, then buttered and topped with sugar and cinnamon and jam on the other side if you want. But it is so warm and comfort-y that you will ask for seconds.

Now the only thing missing is an oversized coca cola drink with an oversized  straw. Who says that the Fair should be healthy?

Check out foods at the Washington State Fair here:

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Fat Dad: a new food memoir, recipe and giveaway

There are numerous cookbook and diet books arriving at bookstore shelves every day featuring regional and national cooking traditions, easy-to-make recipes well packaged with large colorful photos. Weight loss books describe specific diets and all the benefits that can come by following them. Despite the number of culinary books that I have read and reviewed, I haven’t really found a book that is so revealing and personal about the relationship between food, a daughter and her father.

My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food,Love, and Family, with Recipes has a clear and descriptive title but it goes beyond that. In a series of chapters taken out of her childhood, Dawn Lerman talks about her father’s serious weight problems, the serial diets he used to be on and off, her appetizing relationship with her grandmother and adds amazing and unique recipes for the readers to try. In this fast-paced, moving personal story, only healthy food and love are the winners.

As one of the food bloggers taking part in  My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food,Love, and Family, with Recipes blog tour, I chose the Sweet Potato Hummus as it is a paleo-friendly recipe and super easy to make:

Sweet Potato Hummus
Yields: 6 servings

1 large sweet potato (about 9 ounces)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
5 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional, as needed, for thinning)
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg

Position the baking rack in the middle and heat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap the sweet potato in foil and bake in shallow baking pan until it can be easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow the potato to cool completely. Peel the skin off the sweet potato and transfer to a food processor fitted with a blade. Add the chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt, and nutmeg, and process until smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add a little extra olive oil, or water and process until the desired consistency is reached.

Reprinted from My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, Family, and Recipes, by Dawn Lerman, Berkley Books, 2015. Find more about the author here:

Giveaway for US readers only! Write a comment why you should get this freebie and you are automatically entered. I will only need your name and email address. The winner will be announced on Monday July 25th. Good luck!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cooking with the Muse

Cooking with the Muse is a new book by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimila. This 500-page cookbook that features 150 recipes, 200 photos , numerous  culinary poems and easy to read essays about the history of food –all meet together to educate, entertain and provoke all five senses.

The one-of-a-kind cookbook is divided in main four chapters, each corresponding to a season. Each recipe is paired with a poem, followed by the poet’s note at the end. We can’t tell if the recipe is inspired by the poem or the poem by the recipe but it does not really matter. The outcome is a pleasing pairing of food for the stomach and food for the brain with the poet’s comments adding extra historic facts about the ingredients, the dish or the poetry. In its introductory pages, you will find a detailed presentation of food and poetry throughout the centuries, from the Ancient Greeks to Modern Americans, a chapter detailing the ingredients used and  cooking techniques and foundation recipes.  The  book closes with a glossary, plenty of resources and an extended bibliography.

In Autumn, corn, pumpkin, squash and apples are celebrated as well as seasonal holidays like Halloween. The was intrigued by the essay  On Corn: Of American Gods and People and the well-thought pages on John Keats’s The Autumn. My favorite recipe of Autumn?
The massaged "halloween" kale salad with party mix and roasted delicate squash and this is the poem I picked, a Halloween haiku by Massimilla himself:
Carving crack-toothed grins
Heaven-scent of orange flesh.
The cat climbs in to feast.

The Winter chapter features healthy dishes like oatmeal and French toast for breakfast, potatoes, roasted vegetables, pies, and stews as well as Moroccan dishes like harira and some sugary desserts. The notable essay on  On Keats’s The Eve of St. Agnes: A Moroccan Feast will travel you to the country of exotic spices while preparing my favorite recipe, the celery root puree.
Chosen poem for the Winter:
Yam by Bruce Guernsey
The potato that ate all its carrots,
Can see in the dark like a mole,
Its eyes the scars
From centuries of shovels, tines.
May spelled backwards
because it hates the light,
pawing its way, padding along,
there in the catacombs

Spring is an ode to artichokes, onions, greens, asparagus and peas and that of British favorite, the rhubarb. Spring welcomes you with the On Robert Frost’s Putting in the Seed essay that is refreshing and sweet. My favorite recipe of the chapter is the innovative pea cakes with sesame crust
And my chosen short poem by Enrico Caruso
Artichoke? It’s a good food. You eat, you drink,
You wash your face

Finally, here comes the Summer, with salads, fresh fruits, fresh fish and ceviche. I recommend the On Robert Frost’s  Blueberries essay that will bring the summer in your kitchen. The cherry-ripe almond smoothie will be my favorite and easy-to-make recipe. Just make it when you read the Cherry-ripe by Robert Herrick
Cherry-Ripe! ripe! ripe! I cry,
Full and fair ones, come and buy:
If so be, ask me where
They do grow? I answer, “There,
Where my Julia’s lips do smile;
There’s the land, or cherry isle,
Whose plantations fully show
All the year, where Cherries grow!”

This gargantuan effort to pair recipes, photos and poetry together with culinary history is a treasure that needs to be added to everybody’s bookshelf. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Savory Yogurt from Fage

Savory yogurt is getting fast into the American market. We first saw the carrot, sweet potato and beet flavors from Blue Hill; then it came Sohha selling yogurt with poppy seeds, pine nuts and sesame from their store in New York's Chelsea Market; other companies like Chobani tried to bring some flavors of saltiness in their fruit yogurt line by adding Chipotle Pineapple and Sriracha Mango Flip. And Pret A Manger, the British sandwich chain added curry yogurt sauces to their sandwich line.

Fage, the Greek dairy product company with a significant presence in the US, launched just a few weeks ago its savory Greek yogurt line under the name Crossovers that comes in four distinctive flavors:

Carrot ginger with pistachios
Tomato Basil with almonds
Olive Thyme with almonds
and Coconut Curry with Cashews

I tried them all and they taste great if you like savory flavors in your creamy, strained Greek yogurt. I don't have a favorite yet but I need to do a second round of tastings. The said to be chef-level snacking is indeed true!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Texan Signature Rosé from Llano Estacado

Very few people from the West Coast know the wines from Texas and even less have tried them. I first found out about this one-of-a-kind wine region when I was traveling cross-country from New York City to Los Angeles via I5. A stop at the Hill Country Wineries was a pleasant surprise- I liked most of the wines and the warmth of the people.

I recently received the 2014 Signature Rosé from Llano Estacado, located in the Panhandle region. I consumed it in a record high temperature day -87 F on May 2nd in Seattle - in Lincoln Park. It was the perfect day for the delicate, aromatic and refreshing roséa blend of Mourvedre, Cinsault and Grenache. As it was a last minute decision, it was only paired with lentil and veggie chips and raw pizza crackers that turned to be a delicious pairing. But if you have more time, prepare a salad or fish tacos!

The wine is available online here:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Luxurious wines at Taste Washington

The Taste Washington event is well behind us but the marvelous wines of the State are here and ready to be consumed. This year during the tasting I decided to go for the wines with the higher price tag ($60+), the luxurious and difficult to find otherwise - in certain cases only if you are a member of a wine club.

Of course they were served with amazing food made from local chefs. This year I noticed chefs played more with fresh fish rather than meat and their miniature creations were as tasty in the mouth as pleasing for the eye. Here are some photos for you to share with me with my comments on those amazing wines.

The 2012 Champoux Vineyard Red Bordeaux Blend from Horse Heaven Hills at $83 is the perfect Bordeaux blend of  64% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied, pure and refined features aromas of black current and sweet dark berries and it is the wine you serve not only to impress but also to indulge.

The 2013 Estate Carménère from Red Mountain at $80 is only available to club members so I am lucky enough to have tasted it. This soft and silky, with black peppercorn aromas is one of a kind wine that will soon sell out.

The 2012 Estate Red Bordeaux blend from Walla Walla at $85 is irresistible.  Dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon but blended with Petit Verdot and Merlot, this Bordeaux is full-bodied and balanced. Its silkiness brings also aromas of black and red berries and spices. Not to be missed.

The 2012 Estate Bottled Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain at $65, is elegant and rich. It has aromas of red fruits and light spices and you will taste the old-vines grapes as well. It is a great wine.

The 2013 GSM Red Rhone Blend from Columbia Valley at $70 is a blend of 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 25% Mourvèdre. Its superb color and its complexity with aromas of black berries and strawberry and its tones of licorice - all come together nicely in this full-bodied blend that has a great aging potential.

The 2013 Ruckus Syrah from Red Mountain at $62 is a magnificent Syrah from the Washington State. The style is unique with black fruit and cedar and the 11% of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend makes this wine rich, supple and amazing (89% Syrah).

For more information about the menus and wines click here:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jewish flavors and dishes from around the world in Seattle

If you live in Seattle and you want to explore Israeli cuisine and Jewish dishes around the world, you are in a good spot. During the next few weeks, Seattle will stage the Seattle Jewish Film Festival and will host several events with top Jewish chefs and culinary experts.

On Sunday April 3, start your day with the culinary movie Dough, a charming and funny cross-cultural British dramatic comedy that will teach audiences about Jewish breads and baking goods. The movie describes the relationship between a Jewish baker widower and his youngest Muslim apprentice and their close relationship. Directed by John Goldschmidt, this dramedy will make audiences laugh and cry in unexpected places.

On Thursday, April 7, In Search of Israeli Cuisine, a documentary by director Roger Sherman, is about  Israeli’s fusion and dynamic cuisine through the eyes of James Award winner chef Micheal Solomonov. Attendees will be treated to a “taste of Zahav” after the screening.  On April 6, Solomonov will do a ZAHAV demonstration class at Hot Stove Society and will offer his culinary creations.

On April 16, Joan Nathan, a well-known culinary anthropologist and chef will teach a World Passover class at Hot Stove Society and will offer dishes from her spring Passover recipes. The following day, she will speak about Passover recipes from around the world at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island. Attendees will have the chance to grab copies of her signed book Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.

Finally on May 15, James Beard Award finalist Einat Admony will demonstrate her famous cauliflower recipe, and will reveal a new side of Mediterranean fusion cooking at the Stroum Jewish Community Center. Admony will also teach the Balaboosta Way at Hot Stove Society on Monday, May 16. Some of her Mediterranean meets Middle East recipes include pomegranate chicken with walnuts, eggplant escabeche, and Persian rice. 

For more info click here: Seattle Jewish Film Festival

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Kalot Superfood Nut Butter

While experimenting with the paleo diet, I look for new paleo diet friendly snacks, energy bars, mixed nuts and nut butter. Most of them are tasty, low in carbs and higher in fat and protein -there are of course exceptions so keep an eye on that super protein bar.

I recently discover the Kalot Superfood line of almond, cashew and seed butters that are mixed with fruits and seeds. The Fruit & Almond Butter with Espresso Beans and Hazelnuts was the jar that I tried and here is my honest but modest opinion.

The Fruit & Almond Butter with Espresso Beans and Hazelnuts (12-oz. jar) is said to have 50% of the recommended daily value of vitamins per serving. It is free from sugar, gluten, dairy and GMOs,  vegan and paleo friendly. It is made with dry roasted almonds, hazelnuts, dates, coconut oil, cinnamon, ground espresso and sea salt. In addition, it contains a blend of vitamins including A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D2, E, K,  biotin, folic acid and pantothenic acid.

Let's take a look at the nutrition facts. Each serving of 2 tablespoons (32 g) has 180 calories, 140 of which is fat. The total fat is 15g per serving, 8g carbohydrates, 3g sugar and 6g protein; it is free from cholesterol and sodium is low at 10mg. Overall, it is a good nut butter choice with low sugars and carbs. Nut butters are high in calories due to their fat quantities, therefore they should be eaten in moderation or in smaller portions. 

The Fruit & Almond Butter with Espresso Beans and Hazelnuts tastes really good for someone who loves almonds, hazelnuts, and espresso beans. I actually love coffee and nuts so this is the perfect blend. The texture is crunchy and nutty and it melts smoothly in a few bites in your mouth. For those who also like coconut oil, is one of the healthiest almond butters currently available. I would like it more with less coconut oil or none but I am not a great fan of coconut oil (and one of the few downsides of the paleo diet) so not really objective.

So far, I eat it plain or as a spread on top of favorite fruits. I'd like to use it for healthy desserts. I will keep you posted!

Learn more about Kalot Superfood and their line of products here:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day with Chuao Chocolates

It is a rather commonly agreed tradition that Valentine's Day is celebrated with chocolate and red roses. I followed it religiously this year with favorite Chuao Chocolatier and their special The Aphrodisiac Heart Bonbon Collection - a delicious assortment of Salt Butter Caramel, Sweet Passion, Meyer Lemon Mojito, Strawberry Seduction and Rosemary Salted Caramel. 

I haven't tried them all yet but the Sweet Passion does the job for today- a nice pairing of exotic passion fruit cooked into soft caramel in milk chocolate. Unusual, unexpected and delicious! 

You can take a look but can't take a bite -if you want to get a box click here: