Foodie Friday: Homemade Side Dishes for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get cooking. Along with our main course or meat courses in our house we need a lot of sides. For some of us, the pressure can make the decision to grab a can of cranberry sauce or box of stuffing mix an obvious choice. This does not have to happen! While we all know it’s harder to make everything from scratch don’t we owe it to ourselves as cooks and our families to make them the good stuff? After all, these are the most important meals of the year, perhaps of our lives in some cases. Do we really want to remember the tin-flavoured green bean casserole or the canned candied yams? The answer is no.

This week, I wanted to share a couple of quick and easy side dishes that will hopefully take some of the stress out of your holiday meal planning. Along with these recipes I would also like to share some tips from a few of my other posts. Think of this post as a holiday montage show. giving us the chance to think back over all the other epic meals we have prepared. Armed with these tips and a little bit of luck, you can surely make your holiday meal go off without a hitch.

Let’s get started! Planning and organization are key as mentioned in my earlier posts “Mise-En-Place Part 1” and “Part 2”.  There is no substitution for working and thinking ahead. For example, if you want to make your stuffing from scratch you can make your croutons weeks in advance, the same is true for chicken, veggie, or turkey stock. You can freeze and store stock when ever you make a batch to be used later in a number of dishes. Practicing and perfecting recipes in the weeks leading up to the big day can also be a great way to grease the wheels. Your family and friends will not complain about a roasted turkey dinner believe me. Plus, this gives you a head start on preparation as you can pre-make some ingredients for certain dishes, as I mentioned earlier.
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Foodie Friday: DIY Cooking Classes – Passing Your Expertise On To Others

IMAG0874With a growing interest in the slow food movement, tons of us are getting better at crafting artisan quality foods and beverages. As a chef, farmer, bartender, or even a self taught brew master you have something valuable to pass on to others. We all have a need to learn, and once we have learned, there is a tendency to share the information in kind.  People around you might very well want to learn the techniques you have perfected in your culinary adventures.
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Foodie Friday: Beer Wench and Vegetarian Nonsense At Jimmy’s No. 43

shot_1379982768829This week on Foodie Friday, we have a guest blog from The Beer Wench, also known as Jena Ellenwood. Ellenwood is an Astoria, New York based actress, writer, bartender and beer geek. Jena is a graduate of The New School and is currently studying for her Cicerone License. She enjoys a good story and a good brew, and usually finds one leads to the other.

I’ve spent countless hours browsing beer events online, searching Brown Paper Tickets for some epic day-long adventure for my friends and I. The Hot Sauce Festival earlier this summer combined two of my favorite kitchen staples—hot sauce and beer—as well as a variety of awesome finger food from local restaurants. Amid the abundance of spiced snacks, however, I left still feeling hungry. Most beer events seem to center around linking beer with bacon; as a lifelong pescatarian, I’m usually the one nibbling out of the breadbasket and picking pork out of my salads. When I found out Jimmy’s No. 43 was hosting a wild yeast –beer pairing dinner that was entirely vegetarian, I just had to go, and, since it was the day before her birthday, I brought my girlfriend Angie, too.

Jimmy’s No. 43 is a cozy little underground joint on the Lower East Side. We walked past the dimly lit bar and to the back room, where there were a few small tables surrounding one long wooden communal one. The beers to be paired with our dinner were proudly displayed on the bar, which was dotted with small candles. We were a little early, so Angie grabbed us a Barrier Bumble Wheat (8%abv) while I chose our seats at the communal table.
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Boozie Friday: Hangover Cures & Bitchin’ Brunches!

IMG_3661This week as all the kids went door to door in search of confections and mischief, many adults made use of the evening for for treats of a more intoxicating nature. Imbibing alcohol can make for a wonderful and fun evening in many cases. However, when overdone, it will definitely lead to very unpleasant side effects. There is a laundry list of physiological and psychological symptoms associated with the over consumption of alcohol but all you really need to know is it’s no fun.

Hangovers are like snowflakes in that everyone has a slightly different experience and preferences surrounding recovery. Although many people say they have a a “cure” it may not do diddly-squat for you, so you might as well start coming up with your own or slow down on the hooch. While the latter seems like the best option when hungover, many of us lose sight of the idea when a party is going on.

The “hair of the dog” as it’s called refers to drinking more in order to temporarily relieve the symptoms of your hangover. This is a particularly popular remedy since it seems to work, and a bloody Mary also happens to go great with steak and eggs. mimosas, bellinis, greyhounds, and micheladas all weigh in as popular hangover cocktails as they also go well with food and are relatively light in alcohol content which helps (you want to ease into your hangover buzz). For some “the hair of the dog” is a shot of whatever they were drinking (and usually a beer) after a light breakfast.

Some prefer coconut water, Gatorade, RC cola, various juices, or even plain old water but recent studies from the New York Post and others are saying that Sprite has a chemical content that’s the most effective. Another commonly used method particularly popular amongst restaurant workers is soda water and bitters. This beverage is sworn upon by many bartenders, servers and others in the industry as a go-to cure. What ever you choose to sip on just know that you are definitely dehydrated and may be fairly nauseous so you might want to stick with water and a low fiber BRAT diet until your symptoms have eased.

Any way you stack it, hangovers are no fun, but may be a necessary evil in the fight for your right to party. So drink reasonably and be safe when you are out raising cane on Saturday and it may make for a gentler Sunday morning. Remember to have a glass of water between drinks and start out the evening with a good meal. The war may rage on between the drinkers and their bodies but once in a while we may win a battle. Be safe!
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Foodie Friday: Wild Mushroom Risotto

6703097183_e537063c3d_bThe earth has provided a bounty of edible mushrooms that people have been harvesting since before the dawn of mass agriculture. Through trial and error we have been able to distinguish certain delectable species as safe for our consumption. Though there’s an astounding variety of mushroom species on our planet, only a select few have been selected to be included in our recipes.

Mushrooms are complex creatures with even more complex flavors and textures. When properly prepared, these wondrous fungi can provide your palate with a rich and powerful experience. For those of you out there that are a little intimidated by cooking certain types of wild mushrooms, this post might help set your mind at ease. There are a couple of different species that do require specific preparation but once you got the basics down you might surprise yourself.

Choosing the right fungi for the job is the first step in the path to culinary enlightenment. If you are making a salad or something with light delicate broth you might select oyster mushrooms. When braising rabbit however chantrelle or morel mushrooms are a little more appropriate for the job, since they are heartier and more suitable for rich complex dishes.

The next thing to consider once you have selected the types of mushrooms you want to include in your dish would be the various preparations and cooking times for each of your specimens. When cooking with tougher mushrooms such as shitake you will want to remove the stem and cut them a little smaller prior to cooking for example. I have chosen some tips for preparing commonly used wild mushrooms, and a recipe for a great wild mushroom risotto. Please make sure if you are foraging for mushrooms that you do so with a professional. Some species of mushrooms can cause illness or even death, so either go with a  pro or hit your local market. Dig it!
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Foodie Friday: Winner, Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Henrietta w Opal PeachyThis week on Foodie Friday, guest author Ronald Holden takes time from his Call Center duties to write about a hot ticket in Seattle that combines food and theater.

Dinner theater, that staple of summer resorts, gets a bad rap: tired scripts, bland food, performers of modest talent. But Seattle audiences have an admirable exception: a zany company of performers known as Cafe Nordo, whose twice-a-year dinner shows combine more-than-decent food (from pop-up kitchens) with pointed, topical satire.

It started four years ago, when Terry Podgorski and Erin Brindley, alums of a successful variety show known as Circus Contraption, created the persona of a fictional martinet, Chef Nordo Lefeszki. Their first production, in Fremont, brought together a cast of semi-professional entertainers for a show called The Modern American Chicken. The tuxedoed and feathered cast performed the saga of a hapless, happy hen named Henrietta.

“A hen is the egg’s way of making another egg,” said one character, energetically whipping egg whites. “And what makes a good egg? A good hen.”

From Fremont to Pioneer Square, from the International District to Washington Hall on the fringe of the CD, the Cafe Nordo players have found novel ways to tell their stories. A tribute to the Twin Peaks TV series; a nostalgic look at air travel; a parody of Gunsmoke-era westerns. The satire is always pointed squarely at big business, big government, big agriculture, easy targets for Podgorski’s sharp pen.
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Foodie Friday: Seattle Coffee Fest 2013

Since sometime between the 14th and 15th century people have been cultivating and processing the coffee bean. Power packed and delicious this unassuming seed is used in a multitude of fantastic ways in almost every major culture around the globe. From the coarsely ground French press coffee method to the finely ground and steam brewed espresso, if you are looking for a little extra energy you can count of the coffee bean to get you going.

Last weekend, a few thousand coffee lovers gathered to taste and sample the coffee and tea industry’s current up-and-coming products as well as a few tried and true products. Coffee Fest was held this past weekend at the Washington State Convention Center. The three-day, caffeine-filled event included vendors of all kinds showing their coffee-related products to a very receptive and, obviously, energetic crowd.
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Foodie Friday: Apple Sauce

This time of year, the leaves start to change and a bounty of wonderful fruits and veggies get ready to be harvested. Apple trees, for example, are already loaded down with delicious fruit. Although these sweet crunchy orbs make for a wonderful snack as-is, there are plenty of other great ways to prepare your apples.

Since I have both a toddler and an abundance of apples, I decided to share a simple, yet necessary, recipe for apple sauce. Personally, I like to use less sugar in my sauce and tend to stray away from regular white sugar. As with any recipe though, you should add what you like and sweeten to taste. Raw sugar, white sugar, or even honey can easily be used in place of the brown sugar in my recipe in their respective quantities. Happy harvest!
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Foodie Friday: Kids On the Go!

It seems like no matter how much running around we do in the summer it still manages to get busier in the fall. For the parents out there, getting your youngsters prepared to go back to school is no small task, as I’m sure you already know. When your kids are still not quite old enough for school it means more rainy days inside, or on the go. Whether you are planning cold lunches for school or to take with you while running errands, having a game plan can really give you an advantage.

Buying prefabricated snacks and beverages for your kiddos can be very tempting to a modern family on the go. Don’t do it! Most of these items are not only pricey but loaded with chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Finding healthy snacks that travel well is well within your reach. With a little creativity and planning, your kids will be happy and healthily fed.
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Foodie Friday: Aphrodisiacs and Ambiance

IMG_3546Sensuality is a very important aspect of any successful meal. As we dine we are using all of our senses and this should be a pleasant experience. To ensure your special event is successful pay attention to the details. Having as much of your meal prepared in advance will free you up to spend time with that special someone, so make sure you think ahead and stay organized. Things like flowers, a nice table cloth, candles, and soft music are also very important to setting the mood for your special event.

Aphrodisiacs are foods, herbs, and beverages that increase desire. Some of these foods are adventurous in nature and might not be for the faint of heart. If you or your special guest aren’t into oysters or caviar don’t worry you always have fresh strawberries and champagne. Try to serve items that you know your special guest will enjoy and, as always, select the highest quality, freshest ingredients you can find.

This week I wanted to share a some foods that are not only known aphrodisiacs suitable for your special guest, but are also relatively easy to find and very nutritious. Hopefully you will come up with some great dishes that include some of these delicious ingredients to ensure a wonderful event. There are lots of foods that fall into this category but I thought it would be best to pick some of may favorites and let you take it from there.
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