Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fruit inspired art for your kitchen

digital art Floating fruitDress up your kitchen with some fruit inspired art of your own. Fruit is colorfully bright by nature, and with a bit of fruit craft you can make some delicious images. Fruit always feels fresh and will add a bit of zest to your environment.

Choose the fruit you love and create some images to hang around with your friends while you cook and entertain.

If you know a little Photoshop, one image can become a collection of canvases. Crop a few in different ways to experiment with what you like. Filter galleries give you a multitude of artistic options. (If you don't use Photoshop—a snapshot from your smart phone will still give you great results and some apps provide great visual effects.)

Once you have some you like, print them on canvas. There are lots of options to choose from. Quality and price vary. I did a bit of research for you and this company covers all the bases and ships in 3 days.

TIP: Take one image and crop it in to quadrants creating separate image files. Once done, your images can be printed as individual canvases from your original. That way, you can move them around to create different displays and your art will always be fresh.

digital image of kiwi and lemon floating on architectual background

orange peeled and un-peeled floating on building facade background

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two of my favorite pairings: Food & Music

Spinnin’ a remix.
Digital collage of platter and plate with crab, bananas and walnut in place setting with oven accents
Whenever I cook I like to have music in the background to keep things lively and fresh. It sets the tone with its tempo, and speed—echoing both the original tune and voicing the new spin that will make it to your plates and platters.

Home grown always adds the love. The food & music collage you create should suit the taste of both you and your guests. Cultural nuance helps to create appeal across many genres & venues. Regional flavors ring true and excite the palate with delicious memories.

Segues are created though slicing, dicing, searing and saucing. Your music selections keep it all moving. You may rearrange the compositions, but instrumental to all great food & music pairings is the flavor beat. Matching beats adds dimension and depth to your recipes that might not normally be created. A dash of this, a dollop of that…your food beat collage is unique to you. You may even use the same ingredients—but every time you do a mix, it’s fresh and new.

Recipes that are tried and true work well when you need to put something together by rote—but the real fun in cooking is getting so used to the basics that you stray with ease.

It’s how you jazz it up. It’s how you bossa nova with bravado. It's how you lounge around with an upbeat global flavor and spin a mix that lays down a track of excellence.

Encore! Chef.

TIP: Vocal tracks are not great for a restaurant environment
but when you cook at home you get to play whatever you
want. Get things started with— Home Cookin’ by Jr. Walker
& the All Stars.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fruitful Days for Planting Tomatoes.

Happy Tommy Tomato character illlustration
June is Tomato Time!

Anyone who cooks, or eats knows tomatoes are one of the best fruits on the planet. Right off the vine, a delicious pleasure like no other. Start growing some love apples now, and there will be smiles all around.

Having your own garden or potted plants will yield the most joy, and certainly the best taste. Now is the time. The risk of frost has passed. As we move in to June’s golden days for planting tomatoes, you have a little time left to buy your plants or seeds and get them growing. How about now?

There is all kind of helpful advice on the web for growing perfect tomatoes, but your local garden center is a friendly place to meet your neighborhood experts. Going to the garden center is a wonderful, relaxing event that gets your juices flowing for all things natural, and will feed your soul for months to come. Depending on the size of your garden, it’s also a great opportunity to share your harvest with others. I created Tommy Tomato to celebrate this happy season. Say hello...and get planting.

From the Farmers’ Almanac 2013

Most fruitful days for planting tomatoes—June.

10th-11th Plant Tomatoes, Beans, Peppers, Corn, Cotton, And Other Aboveground Crops On These Most Fruitful Days. Plant Seedbeds And Flower Gardens.

Plant dill near tomato plants to prevent tomato worms.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Breaking bread, simple meals to share with loved ones.

Feast of Agape, Potluck meals and Last Suppers

This paint-by-number picture hung in our dining room. Although it was prominently displayed on a wall by itself, it largely went unnoticed. My brother said it was a gift for his birthday that he tossed aside…too much detail for him to attend to. Destined to be sent off for donation, my Dad rescued it and decided to try his hand at painting. This is not Dad's original. A copy of another, but most closely resembles the one I remember so fondly.

Sometimes the things we think we have forgotten, or perhaps thought we did not notice, or have any impact or influence on us, come calling. This is one of those things.

Thinking back on it, it was a bit like a ground wire. The patience with which Dad lovingly filled in every little space with its designated color—minute by minute, hour after hour, day after day, is quite wonderful. Maybe without knowing it, the painting left an impression on me—not so much for its subject matter, but for the love and patience infused into the paint. Perhaps even some joy, self love and esteem for the task at hand—slowly advancing to completion. Proudly hanging it in the dining room made sense. He was also a woodworker and made the frame.

Recipes are like paintings made with food. Some, like paint-by-number images, start with fundamental directives to help aspiring cooks learn the measuring amounts. As with the tiny pots of paint, ingredients are the medium. The plate is the frame.

Not everyone is inclined to be a Leonardo da Vinci or a culinary expert, but two ingredients that serve us all well are love and patience. The essence of slow food.

Early Christians observed ritual meals called agape feasts. Traditionally, meals with each person bringing something to the table and eaten in a common dining area.

Today, we call this ‘potluck’…I think it lacks the warmth of an agape feast. It downplays the food that people prepare to share. The time and investment that goes in to the dish is not luck, it’s love. I vote to change potluck to 'Feast of Agape', shared from the upper room in our hearts.

With this coming Memorial Day, celebrate with your friends and family in the spirit of slow food and prepare your food agape style. It will be remembered for years to come.

History Tip:

What time was the Last Supper?
Mark’s Gospel says that the Last Supper, which was the Jewish Passover meal, began in the evening. The Gospel then goes on to demonstrate that this was just at 6 o’clock in the evening, because the author of this gospel divided the final twenty-four hours up into eight segments of exactly three hours each, starting at 6 o’clock on Thursday evening and ending at 6 o’clock on Friday evening. The Passover meal traditionally lasted three hours and ended with singing a hymn.

Dinner, Supper or Feast…you choose. But please…no more use of the word potluck.

dinner |dinər|
the main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening.
a formal evening meal, typically one in honor of a person or event.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French disner (infinitive used as a noun: see dine ).

supper |səpər|
an evening meal, typically a light or informal one : we had a delicious cold supper | I was sent to bed without any supper.
a late-night dinner.
an evening social event at which food is served.
sing for one's supper earn a favor or benefit by providing a service in return : the cruise lecturers are academics singing for their supper.
supperless adjective
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French super ‘to sup’ (used as a noun) (see sup 2 ).

feast |fēst|
a large meal, typically one in celebration of something : a wedding feast.
a plentiful supply of something enjoyable, esp. for the mind or senses : the concert season offers a feast of classical music.
an annual religious celebration.
a day dedicated to a particular saint : the feast of St. Joseph.
verb [ intrans. ]
eat and drink sumptuously : the men would congregate and feast after hunting.
( feast on) eat large quantities of : we sat feasting on barbecued chicken and beer.
[ trans. ] give (someone) a plentiful and delicious meal : he was feasted and invited to all the parties.
skeleton at the feast a person or thing that brings gloom or sadness to an otherwise pleasant or celebratory occasion.
feast one's eyes on gaze at with pleasure.
feast or famine either too much of something or too little.
feaster noun
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French feste (noun), fester (verb), from Latin festa, neuter plural of festus ‘joyous.’ Compare with fête and fiesta .

potluck |pätlək|
used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be good or acceptable : he could take potluck in a town not noted for its hotels.
a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish : [as adj. ] a potluck supper.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to enjoy the sunny side of limes.

A juicy jewel comes in to the limelight. 

Lime turned inside out with pulp as the rays of the sun
Limes are versatile. They offer a bright accent to many foods and beverages as well as provide Vitamin C, help with skin & scalp problems, benefit body functions (primarily digestion, liver functions and blood purification), can boost mental faculties, offer antioxidant and anti-microbial properties and even cook for you.

All that from a tiny fruit called Citrus aurantifolio. The price of limes has gone up in recent years, so I suggest making the most of your citrus investment. With its many uses, no matter how you divide it up— it’s worth every penny. There’s nothing like a lime, so enjoy it completely. Use it to its fullest.

Add some Zila and Squeeze More Out of Life.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Ceviche is a delicious white fish recipe that when marinated in lime, lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, green or red chili peppers, coriander and cayenne turns in to a feast, all without heating up your stove. Think of the savings on that.

Served with Mojitos you can add up the flavor and the savings by purchasing in bulk. A Mojitos is a combination of white rum, mint, sugarcane juice, and soda or sparkling water. Add a small wedge slice to the rim of the glass. All together, it’s a party just waiting to start.

As a marinade it adds a distinctively lime tartiness. Helps to tenderize less expensive red meats, and is great with both poultry and seafood. A squeeze of lime and some zest is the perfect finishing touch to garnish your dish. Even a few pieces of pulp add a jewel of juice to whatever your cooking. In a green sauce or salsa, lime is the secret ingredient…shhh.

Additional ideas for using your limes are as a beauty balm, a table centerpiece, aromatherapy, and even as a cleaning product. And, don’t forget it makes some of the best tarty desserts. Lime sorbet, key lime pie, lime crème brulee—all delicious and refreshing finales for your meal.

If you’ve ever tried to grow limes you know how much work goes in to it…so never underestimate the value of the lime. It's pure green gold…treat it as such. Freeze the rind skins and any unused juice for later…don’t waste a drop.

The right tools will help you romance your lime…so, invest in a few and enjoy the tango.

I saved the best for last.

Shot glass made from lime rind skin on coaster for bartenders and party makers
TIP: Turn your lime rind skin in to a shot glass. If you really want to impress your guests…make some tequila lime ice shavings shots. Wow, what a smart way to bring out the sunny side of limes and forget the price…because they are priceless when you figure in the fun.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Juicy, Delicious, Watermelon

Fresh watermelon slice with watermelon balls on white plate with wood background
My sister passed away yesterday. I want to thank the watermelon growers who made her last meals her favorite.

I gave her watermelon balls to keep her hydrated. It was a fresh, delicious and satisfying taste to someone who could eat very little in her last weeks. Chewing and swallowing were difficult.

Every time I’d ask her ‘would you like some watermelon', she’d say, 'that sounds good…and follow with—this is so good, so DELICIOUS', and ate the entire serving.

It may sound like a little thing—but in reverence to all the people who grow our food, I want to say thank you. Thank you for what you do in the field. Thank you to the shippers, thank you to our markets. Thank you God, for making so many wonderful things to eat.

TIP: If you are caring for anyone who needs loving nourishment and hydration with sweet, juicy flavor, this is it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chocolate Events

Hershey's chocolate bar image with new easy-open fresh pack logo
Hershey's recently traded elegant for an Easy-Open Fresh Pack.

Have you ever tasted a stale Hershey's bar? I doubt it. And, I’ll bet you’ve never had a hard time sliding the former beautiful sleeve off—revealing the silver foil wrapping that covered your delicious indulgence.

If you were sneaking a bite of your favorite chocolate, the wrapper was a silent accomplice. It was a simple but lovely package that felt like a gift. A gift as special as the chocolate inside.

I miss it. I saved the wrapper sleeves as art. I loved them so much I created collage with them. Inspired by its silver kissed typeface on a matt chocolate background, I could not just throw them away. The paper wrapping was elegant. It was unique. The foil matched the type signature…it made sense.

It’s iconic design is now like many other candy wrappers—function over finesse. It’s not special anymore.

They even moved the ® ...why? What happened to the Milk Chocolate underscore...Did they have to file all new trademark applications for that? At what cost? Is that why they had to give up their gift packaging? I'm curious.

In honor of what it once was...

Lindt is actually one of my choice chocolates, extra dark 85% cocoa—its full-bodied cocoa flavor is excellence with a distinct personality. Their package is not as easy to open as Hershey’s used to be, but it still feels like a gift. It’s still in a foil wrap with a box cover at the time of this writing.

I also like Scharffen Berger tasting squares for their flavor and individually wrapped, mini foil with tiny sleeves packaging. Ghiradelli is another sweetie that’s gone to a tear open wrapper, albeit foil-like. So sad.

Okay, I’m sure they had good reason to make the switch…most likely a cost savings and ease of conveyor conversions, but anyone who has made this switch has lost their packaging ethos.

Chocolate as a special occasion should be savored, and dressed up in reverence for it’s magnificence—not given knock-off attire for such a wonderful chocolate event.

If they start putting Hershey's Kisses in a tear open pack and do away with its signature flag, I am not going for it. That’s part of the fun…unwrapping the foil on the kiss, squishing the evidence of a kiss-a-thon in to a tight ball so you don’t remember how many you ate…uhh, more than you intended…and then later finding little flags in the hallway or under the bed when you get to swiffing.

I’m not ready to give up this heartfelt heritage for a shiny, modern, crimp-edge fresh-pack.

Now, back to the bar—the current package has a BB date of 52014—that’s a full year from today. I ask you…do you really think it will be around that long? Excuse me—I’ll continue in a moment, my mouth is full.

What do you think? Best Before or Best After on packaging?

TIP: Dress up your chocolate with special attire. Serve a kiss on a kiwi slice.
Double-Dip some blueberries. Toss in some apricot bits with your s’mores melt.
Add a little something to your chocolate and recapture some of its former packaging
glory with a delicious package of your own making. It will melt hearts, guaranteed.

PS. Still one of the best among the rest.

P.P.S: Some of my Hershey's Wrapper Art

Hershey's packaging used as a collage with chocolate segments in unity Digital image of Hershey's bar wrapper as a collage pulling out the words He and She

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Art of Popcorn

Butterfly popcorn on a coaster and wood slate table
Popcorn is no flash in the pan. It’s now the centerpiece of the snack world.

What started as a jolly time has turned in to a trend. It seems to be popping up everywhere. Today, there are multiple versions of this traditional native snack—even Orville has added both sweet & savory flavors to his air popped lineup. For those who enjoy more premium tastes, some are deliciously exotic gourmet. Add to that, many offer 100% all natural, organic, gluten free, whole grain, non-GMO, no high fructose and trans fat free options.

Popcorn was discovered by Guatemalans thousands of years ago, but it first became popular when Native Americans shared their secret…after placing ears of corn on an open fire, they elevated this delicious treat to a fine art.

Since then, popcorn has become one of the most enjoyed snacks by families. It’s also one of the most fun things you can do with your children, especially on movie night, or when it’s your turn to bring snacks to a party or event. (Although, this is not a snack for children under four years of age.) No bagged or boxed item will ever take the place of homemade goodness. There is something wonderful about the genuine smell of fresh popcorn, and nothing reproduces the joyful sound of popcorn popping. It creates anticipation, it’s exciting. From the first few kernels to the entire pan in symphony, this snack is truly the King of Pop.

Popcorn is 100% good grain and has the added benefit of fiber. Three cups of popcorn equals one serving of grain and helps to keep toxins at bay. Popcorn grabs toxins and helps to move it out of the body. It also has antioxidant agents jam-packed in to each tiny kernel which helps fight inflammation—so get poppin’.

All you need is a sturdy pan with a lid, some cooking oil and popping corn kernels. Allow the oil to heat evenly. Not too hot, not too cool, just right—to keep the kernels cooking evenly. Medium high heat is best. Once you have added the kernels, vent the lid slightly. Next, move the pan back and forth to keep kernels from burning to the bottom. Burned popcorn is a mess, and nearly impossible to get off the pan. If you need a specific recipe, there are many online. A word of caution on oils: If you are sharing popcorn with anyone other than your family, it’s a good idea to stick with canola or grape seed. Some people have peanut allergies…so stay on the safe side with these other healthy oil options.

TIP: Stick to the real McCoy. Always choose organic popping corn and do not eat microwave popcorn, ever. The toppings or flavor you add to popcorn increases calories, so keep it light.

Try this:  My yummy [a la pop & crunch rice cake] with Nutella. Buy organic rice cakes, spread with Nutella or another spread you like and then add freshly popped corn with a smidgen of sea salt to the top…crowning glory for the King of Pop. Enjoy. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Building smart real estate on your plate.

Taste with a capital T.

You’ve all seen a food pyramid and possibly a few portion plates. All you really need to know is the letter T. Portion using the shape of a ‘T’ on your plate. Which way to ‘T’ is up to you, but I like the veggies in front. That way, I eat what is closest to me first. If you like something different, all you have to do is turn your plate.

The one problem with this is I like my food all together. Stacked… usually with the grain on the bottom, protein in the middle and veggies on top. It’s not that you can’t mix flavors using the T-shape, I just prefer the flavors to join in a circle. Mingled flavors are my favorite. When using the circle technique, I do my best to keep the circle small…and use a smaller plate to make the portion appear to be a fuller serving. Try both and see which one you like best.

Above Image Source:

Portion plate segment design in T-shape quadrants, veggies, protein and grain and center of plate example
This is a simple way to teach your little ones how to set up their plate. It promotes good nutrition without a lot of fuss.

Tip: As an art activity, use a paper plate. Cut it in to these shapes and have your child draw, paint or cut out shapes showing different food combinations. They can also cut out food from a magazine and paste or tape it on to the plate. Using additional plates, you’ll have multiple meal making ideas based on your child's happy imagination.

Getting them involved in the meal selection and ingredients is a great way to help them feel valued and esteemed. You may also want to create a meal board in your kitchen, or just put them on the fridge to post what’s cooking for today.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fast vs. Slow Food

What will you choose?

My brother traveled a lot for his work and sometimes rented a condo for his longer assignments. On one occasion he shared one of his stand-by meal choices—a bachelor salad. What’s that?...You know, a wedge of Iceberg with ranch dressing, eaten over the sink.

Another family member eats in a similar fashion. A slice of ham on a bun with a squirt of French’s mustard without missing a beat. It’s eaten on the fly with little recall of what it was. It’s consumed as a necessity for low blood sugar. Too busy to prepare anything, she eats what’s on hand.

And another, for her—it’s peanut butter on a spoon for lunch with a cup of coffee.

Lastly, and the most difficult for me to understand, is a sister who eats only packaged, processed food she can microwave or eat out of a box or bag.

I’m the only one in my family who loves cooking. I talk to the food, count my cuts, carefully sear, sauté, and simmer, ice bath the veggies for perfect color, care about grill marks and dream of recipes. I can taste the food in my imagination and fondly anticipate my next food adventure.

I shop the aisles with pure zeal looking at all of the wonderful choices. It’s a bit like reading the clues in a crossword puzzle and knowing the answers. I have an inborn love for ingredients and the words ‘fashion plate’ take on a whole new meaning. It's my art, fashioned to please and delight.

Getting back to fast vs. slow food—the first ingredient has to be love.

Everyone can taste the difference, even if they don’t know what it is. It’s the fine art of genuine nourishment folded in to the mix.

One day the furnace repair guy was here—I had just made a grilled cheese for lunch and offered it to him. Wow! this is the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten. Okay, who doesn't love a grilled cheese but it was the love ingredient that took it over the top.

So whether you’re making your signature dish or a grilled cheese…go slow. Stay close to what you are preparing…it will tell you when it’s hit perfection. Of course, with multi-ingredient meals you want to taste, taste, taste along the way. You don’t have to cook like anyone else, make it yours with some unique additions. Maybe some green tea to your lentil soup with nori flakes.

If you still want a bachelor salad—here’s a quick update that’s almost as easy to prepare…no plate required, but you might want a napkin. If you insist, an iceberg leaf works just as well…then drizzle some ranch to taste.

Delicious Tuna Fins

Delicious Tuna Fin Salad Slices on Romain Lettuce with tomato, pumpkin seeds and red cabbage toppinge
Swimming in Flavor
This is one of the easiest, freshest ways to make tuna fun. Get some crisp romaine and cut the tops and bottoms off for a good edge. Then toss on some fresh albacore tuna, or any tuna you like. Top with celery, pumpkin seeds, shaved red cabbage and a few tomato slivers. Eat it just as is, or drizzle on a bit of vinaigrette with some fresh cracked pepper.

No time for that? Eat an apple dipped in honey, honey.

Tips: Shop daily for the freshest ingredients. Keep a well-stocked pantry. Use fresh herbs whenever possible. Implement the 3 color rule for each dish ensemble, and don’t forget to garnish with love.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Party of 12

We had our evening meals promptly
served at 6:00.

Every day mom prepared food for the
family including two grandmothers who
lived with us.

That’s a lot of people to feed all at once
and the tables varied from formal dining
to a picnic table in the kitchen. Extra leaves
were a mainstay. On special occasions, the
ping-pong table was moved in to the dining
room, covered with fresh white linens, fine
Haviland china, crystal water glasses,
insignia silver and seating place cards.

At that time, little ones sat on phone books
to reach the table. Lazy Susan turntables
were an essential and definitely no elbows
on the table.

We all said grace before dinner and never
missed the gratuity of  ‘Thank you mother,
it was very good.’

Another reality was the tension at mealtime.
The differences of opinion, personal issues,
strife among the ranks, hardly any elbow
room, tears and sometimes arguments.

With this other guest at the table, sometimes
I could not eat. The anxiety of it all made meals
a potential battleground. I could not wait to get
up…may I please be excused was the proper
exit question.

I share this to invite the option of what mealtime
can be for the greatest good.

From my perspective, sharing in the shopping,
chopping, preparation and serving is the best.

Everyone knows what goes in to the provisions
and takes part in the goodness.

Even if it a simple meal—setting the table with
love, some fresh or potted flowers, and time for
each person to share their thoughts without
judgment makes mealtime something to look
forward to, rather than avoided. It’s an essential
ingredient to happy eating and living.

Giving thanks in the form of a prayer is one way
to start. The other is to thank all who prepared
the meal with specific praise. The centerpiece
is reverent respect, including yourself.

You picked the most delicious corn today.
I love how you cook the pasta so perfectly al dente.
The plating was beautiful, you really arrange things

With this small change to mealtime, it goes from an
estranged party of 12, to a party of joy in no time. A
celebration, food and family united, even if it’s just
a party of one.

Invite yourself to slow down, light a candle, enjoy the
taste of what’s on your plate and give yourself plenty
of elbow room to experience what you have made.

Life is delicious!

TIP: Plates and bowls don’t have to match. Let each
person pick out their own place setting. When it’s
time to clear the table and wash up, have each person
wash their own. Pans, prep bowls and cutting board
duty can be shared, or assigned by the day or week.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Going Natural

I don’t particularly like my hair color. For years I have added highlights to my otherwise drabish locks, it’s more photogenic. It’s brightfully blond. It’s fake.

Today’s conversation, although starting with my hair ego, gets to the root of all natural.

At its extremes, we are now entertaining GMO. (Genetically Modified Organisms)

Why are we so uncomfortable with what nature gives us?

Why do we want to alter our natural?

Bruised fruit is turned in to juice rather than brought to market…too ugly to appreciate.

Why must everything be beautifully perfect?

Growing up, the apple tree in our yard expressed fruit in various stages, but all had bee sting markings…leaves were irregular, some had fallen to the ground, but to this day—nothing has satisfied me more.

The first bite of summer love—crisp, sunny, sweetly sour to the core—even the seeds said ‘hello’. Who cares if you swallowed a few, it was all natural goodness.

The cherry tree…well, we had to beat the birds to harvest if we wanted a pie.

My mom & dads garden was small, but it offered my first radish tasting, my first rhubarb pie, my first carrot pull…in short, pretty much my first of all things fresh.

Do you remember when was the last time your life was totally real and natural?

Why do I bring this up? Well, I’ve got lots of bee sting markings but I think you’ll like the taste of things to come.

All natural, organic thinking to help you appreciate who and what you are.

Are you in?

If so, join The Talking Plate and share anything you want about food, beverages, packaging, shopping trends, chef life, the art of plating, food styling…you get the idea. Maybe it’s just what you think about while standing in line or using self check out, where to get your favorite cutlery, where you love to eat, why you cook, secret ingredients, what it’s like working the line…whatever you bring to the table will be enjoyed as delicious. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to come all natural and serve up some personal insights.