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19 items found for ""

  • Paw paw, our native super fruit

    You may not have heard of paw paw yet, although these super fruits are gaining some notice. They're native to the US and Canada and used to be more common. I'm calling them a super fruit, because they're just packed with vitamins and minerals. They've got about the same calories and carbs, and slightly more protein, than common fruits like apples and oranges. According to Kentucky State University (, however, they offer a lot more nutrition overall, including 31% of your vitamin C for the day and 6% and 6.5% of the B-vitamins riboflavin and niacin, plus 8% of your calcium for the day, 10% of your potassium, 6% of your phosphorus, 36% of your magnesium, 56% of your iron (56%!), 7% of your zinc, 22% of your copper, and a whopping 74% of your manganese. Now, I'm not sure what manganese does for you, but I know multivitamins have it and paw paws have it, too! Also, the protein in paw paws contains all the essential amino acids, which is pretty cool for a fruit. Paw paws have a very creamy texture, like a juicy custard, and taste like a cross between mangos and bananas. They're delicious eaten raw; just scoop them right out of the skin with a spoon. Now, folks will tell you that the seeds are easily removed. This is somewhat true, but not if you count getting the flesh off the seeds. As you can see in the first picture below, the seeds are encased in a membrane that holds some of the delicious fruit to them. This problem is solved, of course, with the "eat the fruit right out of the skin with a spoon" method. Just suck the flesh off the seeds. It's delicious, and makes the snack into a little project. If you want to actually get the fruit to use for a recipe, you can scrape through the membrane to the seed, and then pop it out of the flesh. This is a little time consuming, but worth it, because you will want every last bit of that paw paw! Discard the seeds -- by all accounts they contain a toxic substance and should not be eaten. Also, they're huge! But I think they would be great for arts and crafts, and they're easily cleaned, so that might work well. These paw paws came to be from my mother's neighbor. They've grown a couple of paw paw trees in their yard for several years now, and the harvests have gotten overwhelming! The fruits come in the fall, but for a rather brief time. They don't last well at room temp, a bit longer in the frig, but they freeze well. The custard texture of the fruit makes them quite delicious as a frozen snack, I hear. When they come in season, these neighbors can have 50-100 ripening a day! So, they send out a neighborhood email, and set the paw paws in bins near the trees, and invite folks to come by and grab a few, or a bunch. Another neighbor makes ice cream, and folks can put in requests for that, too. It's turned in to a whole community happening. For my first experiment cooking with paw paws, I decided to modify a recipe I use for mango "flan." It's a baked egg custard with cream and pureed fruit, covered with a fruit glaze (in this case lime). The texture with the paw paw was superb! So smooth, and yet dense with a good body. The custard also brought out the unique taste of the paw paw, yielding an even stronger impression of the fruit than you get with the plain raw fruit. I'm very happy with it.

  • We're free! Kind of ...

    Mid-Hudson Valley is entering Phase 3, which allows indoor dining, some sports, and ... GATHERINGS UP TO 25!!!! That feels like a huge party these days. That's more people than I've seen in months, all in one place -- preferably an outdoor space, of course. Now the challenge is to remain committed to cautious behavior -- most notably wearing masks and maintaining social distance -- even as we embrace our new freedoms. New York's gradual release from lockdown has relied heavily on personal responsibility, and now we need that more than ever. More importantly, this could mean more work! As a small business owner, I've had to walk the careful line of trying to scare up any kind of business I can find, while refraining from encouraging unsafe behavior. I've actually had requests for parties that clearly violate restrictions that dissolve into thin air when I state that I'll be following state guidelines. I've watched silently as social media posts of violations abound. Will my commitment to following the guidelines pay off with reservations for safe parties? Or will I simply miss the onramp to the road to recovery? Maybe I'll even save myself and my family in the process, because all of these safety measures protect the client, not the worker. I still expose myself every time I deliver something "contactless" but instead face an unmasked individual answering the door unexpectedly to take a handoff in a closed vestibule, rather than letting me leave it hanging on their door as planned. The more troubling trend, of course, is that the well-to-do have cut their spending, and catering relies heavily on these folks. There is some concern about the ability to reverse the shutdown, and some sectors will certainly be more affected than others. The onramp to that road to recovery may be closed to me, regardless of what I do. The great news is that so far, safety measures overall seem to be working: cases in New York continue to drop, and fatalities are way down (10 on Sunday -- still tragic). And widespread testing continues, with a very low positive rate (less than 1% for the state overall and slightly higher in our region). Now, the concern is rising cases in other states, with half reporting surges and some increasing restrictions on activity (paywall). But full return to business as usual in general brings increased cases, and experts warn of that risk in New York and New Jersey, as well. For the early phases of reopening in New York, that hasn't happened. Will decreased vigilance, possibly with travel from other areas, ruin that happy early trend? So, now we're left in a the bizarre limbo, of "Yay, let's party ... but this is no time to relax!" I've been out and about pretty often these days, shopping for ingredients, delivering to the Dobbs Ferry Pantry, delivering meals, and most recently selling baked goods. And I'm seeing some disturbing trends. The streets are busy, which is nice to see, but no one's staying distant. Even folks who are attempting social distancing are actually about 3 or 4 feet apart -- like we've collectively adjusted our standards downward. Fewer and fewer people are wearing masks, still fewer wearing them correctly. Now, it's quite common to see people out without even carrying a mask "just in case." We just don't want to think about the risk anymore. Our tolerance for this particular stress has maxed out, and we've reverted to a mindset in which masks are just not needed. Recent research has shown that men are more resistant to wearing masks (a trend I've seen first hand). The reduced cases we've been enjoying so much, and our very opportunity for freedom, though, relies on each person's commitment to safety measures. The only way we can avoid the daily stress of the risk of this disease is to engage in the daily reminder of wearing a mask. Maybe we can make this a habit, one that we no longer associate with negative thoughts of the virus. For me, this is already happening. I wear a mask the whole time I'm cooking, packing, and delivering. On days that I cook for the pantry, that means I'm masked almost the whole time I'm awake. I spend more time masked than unmasked these days. It's uncomfortable, yes -- very uncomfortable in a hot kitchen! But the stress of what it means fades into the background, and the awkwardness of how silly I may look has disappeared entirely. I'm in it for the long haul. This week's recipe Early summer means shortcake. Many strawberry shortcakes are made with spongecake instead, a sweet and fluffy concoction that does not go well with sweet berries and sweet cream, in my opinion (although I like sponge cake for other things quite fine!). This is a more traditional shortcake, with very low sugar. It works well with strawberries, but I like to use a mix of berries: strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry or raspberry. Fresh cream, of course. Cut the shortcakes into flower-shapped individual biscuits, and then cut each of those in half and fill with berries and cream for a very classy plate. Shortcake 2 ¼ c flour ½ c sugar 1 ½ tsp baking powder ¾ tsp baking soda ¼ tsp salt 6 Tb butter 1 c homemade buttermilk (scant c milk or cream or combination, plus 1 Tb cider vinegar, let stand to sour) 1 egg yolk ½ tsp vanilla Sliced almonds Dusting of sugar Mix homemade buttermilk, and let stand to sour. Mix dry ingredients. Rub in butter until combined. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk. Mix until combined into loose dough. Fill buttered and lined pans (about 1/2 inch deep). Or turn out dough on floured surface, and fold once or twice to combine with a little extra flour into a biscuit dough. Do not knead or overwork! Pat flat to about 1 inch thick. Cut out flower shapes and place on lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, cover with sliced almonds and dust with sugar. Bake 425 until beginning to brown (about 10 min for flowers, about 20 min for cakes). Cool fully before filling. Use within 1 day (they get stale fast!).

  • Live with Healthy on Hudson

    I invited Integrative Health Coach Julie Fischer from Healthy on Hudson into the kitchen to make a healthy, high-protein, low-carb breakfast. View the full video on Facebook here.

  • Jump In!

    The first session of a flash workshop for entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, gig workers, creatives, and anyone reimagining life after the pandemic was held last Friday. It's a discussion-based workshop, but here are the slides for inspiration. Look for updates on when the workshop will be held again.

  • Back to basics

    I read an opinion piece in CNN a few days ago, and it struck a chord with me, because it really highlights a lot of what's on my mind these days: The US food system is killing Americans. The title says it all, but I really recommend you take a moment to read it fully. Part of the argument is that the problems with our food system, resulting in deteriorating health for many Americans and particularly for poor Americans, are now -- during the pandemic -- potentially increasing death from the novel coronavirus. Our poor diets are leading to poor health, which makes us more vulnerable to severe complications and death from COVID-19. This is a valid point, and, of course, a nice tie in to our current obsessions. Hopefully, this will grab attention and the magnitude of the impending danger will help folks sit up and take real notice of the relationship between food and health. We typically think of this relationship as one of prolonged and delayed consequences, allowing us to put off the salad we should eat today until tomorrow. But this connection reveals that the diet-health interaction can be much more acute. The danger of this messaging may be that readers take it to the next extreme, and I've read plenty of other pieces masquerading as "news" in the Apple News Feed (what about an ad is news here, people?), touting the benefit of supplements, etc, to boost your immune system and help fight the coronavirus. This is not what I'm referring to, and it's not what the authors of this opinion piece are saying at all. Rather, there is a real, and potentially immediate, consequence to providing food in the way we do in this country. I've been thinking about our food supply chain a lot these days. In the onslaught of the virus and mobility restrictions, the problems with our supply chain were immediate and evident. There was a seemingly unique combination of scarcity and abundant waste. As the crisis wore on, I began to think of it more in terms of food scarcity -- which the authors differentiate from nutrition scarcity -- another valid point. We cannot simply provide food, we have to look at what food we provide. As I was working with the local food pantry to provide fresh, nutritious soup and bread, I started to consider how we provide food for those in need. First, it struck me that people who really deserved a public benefit were instead being fed by local charities, which sources food from a regional charity that was funded in part by the government. The pantry and other local charities also provided clients with gift cards to a local shopping market. In both cases, there are a lot of steps and entities involved, and, in the case of the gift cards, the local market (which does offer a very small discount on the cards) actually benefits, because the families must shop at their store to use the card. Offering a discount on the card amounts to just offering a small sale, a very common practice to boost revenue and generally considered advertising and marketing, not a donation. In fact, since the pandemic began, I've been regularly approached -- once even with a rather in-depth phone pitch -- to begin offering gift cards to save my business's bottom line in this new world. Second, I looked at the food provided. The pantry distributed packaged goods, which were a combination of branded goods, often processed, bought at retail cost in small sizes for easy distribution and of bulk-sized dry goods that could not be distributed because of their size and weight (the pantry had to find other ways to use these and sometimes they ended up in my soup). The more I thought about it, the crazier it seemed. Why would someone want a small box of mac-n-cheese, when they can make a better, more nutritious meal out of a larger quantity of plain ingredients that cost the same? Why do health department regulations prevent you from buying 50 pounds of flour and distributing that just like bulk good stores do? These policies and practices ensure that branded, packaged food essentially gets a cut from providing food for the poor, and individual donors are funding it. Finally, I started to think about how I could help more. I talked to several people about providing food, either working with existing charities, or by forming my own. I was hoping to disrupt the supply chain for the needy, and work directly with local farmers and wholesale distributors to provide the most bang for the buck. Surprisingly, I heard from some people that there was no unmet need in my area. But every week when I dropped off soup at the pantry, the line formed long before the pantry opened, and volunteers would often text me half-way through distribution to ask if there were any more. Clearly, there was as disconnect. And it seems to me that the disconnect keeps the system working exactly as it is -- with the needy dependent on the gifts of locals with money and a lot of people along the way profiting or taking their share for administrative costs, but not any more money going to local farms and not enough fresh, unprocessed food going to the hungry. (Thankfully, New York State has a program to finance pantries purchasing produce directly from local farms, and we can hope that becomes permanent.) In the end, I've completed my tenure making fresh soup and bread for the pantry, but I'm continuing to subvert the system in a very small, very local way. I'll continue to get bulk goods at wholesale prices for the pantry and repackage them by hand to make them easy to distribute and stretch the pantry dollar. This also means that we can offer relatively unprocessed ingredients, instead of mixes that are high in salt and preservatives. The health of the country very well may depend on our ability to do much more than just this. This week's recipe Last week, I transitioned my business from a commercial kitchen to a home-based baking and private chef venture. Already, I've started returning to my roots as a Chef. For the past few years, I've been pushed toward reproducibility, as clients repeatedly ordered what they'd had before at their own event or someone else's, because they just loved it and wanted it again. It's always great when folks love what you cook, and it's wonderful to be able to say something is a crowd favorite. But before I fed such large crowds, I did a lot more experimenting. I'm hoping to return to this more. The last dishes I made in the kitchen were wonderful and delicious modifications of some crowd favorites. And here's one for you! Salted Caramel Brownie Cross between a brownie and a blondie, with a lighter chocolate taste, airier texture, and salty goodness. 1 1/4 cup butter, melted 2 cups best dark chocolate chips, melted 1 Tb vanilla 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp of baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 3 cups flour 1 Tb molasses 3 eggs 1 Tb vanilla Melt butter, and add chips, heating lightly and stirring until fully melted. Stir together dry ingredients. Stir in melted butter and chocolate. Add molasses, eggs, and vanilla and blend completely. (Make sure you break up the eggs nicely -- I don't beat ahead of time, because I don't want it to get fluffy, and I also feel it's a waste of time and a bowl. I'm a pretty lazy cook.) Spread in a well-buttered pan (I use a 1/2 sheet size, which is about the size of a large jelly roll pan). Bake at 350 until set completely and edges begin to brown a bit. Do not overtake (it will get hard and brittle). In my next improvement, I'm going to try drizzling it with caramel sauce before baking -- I'll let you know how it goes!

  • What we eat matters ...

    ... and not just for ourselves. Our food choices have a profound effect on the environment, the economy, trade, and how others live even far away from us. A recent NPR story argues that there really is no food shortage, despite the default messaging of an upcoming "crisis" in feeding our growing global population. There is, instead, a continuing abundance of food and decreasing prices, overall. Yet, the leagues of underfed and undernourished people continues. What's going on here? Certainly, as the NPR story attests, hunger and regional shortages are tied to political unrest and oppression. There's also poverty, plain and simple -- and there are some startling trends around poverty in the US as detailed in Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, the wonderful new book from Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Scientists, however, suggest [paywall for full article] that an overall abundance will continue for the next few decades -- until, of course, climate change threatens to alter all that. And so the issue becomes not how much food we're producing, but what kind and how does that affect the environment, which will in turn affect our future access to plentiful food. This spring, Vox produced a compelling video that visually displays the impact various crops and livestock have on the environment. Beef is, as you might guess, the worst offender, largely due to grazing requirements to raise those beasts. To be fair, the chart compares resources needed to produce 1 kg of each food studies, and not all foods are alike in nutrition and in mass needed to feel satisfied. Anyone who's eaten a vegan meal will confirm that you need what seems like twice the food to feel full. Nonetheless, the differences are stark. And the impact on the environment in the US is compounded by our excessive consumption, particularly of beef. In fact, US consumption of meat, eggs, and nuts has increased over 1970 levels, along with all food categories except dairy. Interestingly, USDA reports "per capita availability" of meat by kind, but actual consumption is harder to find. Available data show 64.1 pounds of chicken and 54.3 pounds of beef per capita in 2017. Further, consumption of chicken has grown steadily since around 1960, but the consumption of beef remains steady following a sharp decline around the same time chicken consumption began to accelerate, and consumption of pork has remained relatively stable (with periodic fluctuations) since at least 1910. This consumption is largely driven by the access to cheap meat. In 2016, US Department of Agriculture projected that beef and pork consumption would rebound in the next decade, after dropping in the previous decade. Increased prices, as well as dietary concerns, led to decreased consumption, and reduced meat prices, thanks to cheaper feed, was considered the primary factor influencing the increase. But is this price really reflective of the true costs of consuming such high levels of meat? And what are we really learning about diet? We seem to have a momentary realization around red meat consumption and health around 1970 -- or was that just prices? At any rate, the trend was quickly reversed, and Americans gave in to their passion for blood. I love a good steak, rare as can be. And I mean, really love it. But 54.3 pounds of beef per year is a lot of meat. A standard portion size for beef is 4 oz, so that's 217.2 servings of beef for each of us each year -- certainly an excess, particularly if we're also going to eat 256.4 servings of chicken each year, and pork and fish on top of that. This is not a good use of our resources. Can we collectively reduce that by 1/4, 1/3, 1/2? I'm not suggesting we avoid it altogether (although many make that argument, and quite compellingly). It seems Americans are not ready for that, and I'm all about meeting folks where they are. Even a minor improvement could help, so let's just start there. INSTEAD OF This Week's Recipe As you may know, several times throughout the year, my family fasts from animal products for religious observance. We've learned a few things about making plant-based meals delicious and filling. One of the key challenges is replacing the umami flavor (coined in Japan, this flavor describes the rich, savory taste we most often associate with meat). Without some umami, savory food can taste thin or lacking substance, even watery. I've heard some people describe this as salty. It is not! We already have a flavor called salty. This is a distinct flavor that adds richness and decadence to food. Thankfully, it is found in the plant world! Here are 7 ways to add umami to plant-based meals that we rely on. They also add richness and savory texture to meat-based meals, so use them liberally. Minced mushrooms, added early in the cooking (works well with soups, stews, and anything with a sauce) Caramelized mushrooms, especially with nuts or sweet onions Wine, wine, and more wine, particularly red or flavored wines like Marsala (when in doubt, add some wine or spirits, I say) Soy sauce, tamari sauce (I always make vegetable soup/stew with this and red wine and it does not taste Asian in any way), and the like (consider miso) Molasses, which will also adds a nice, dark color Tomato paste in sautéing (in soups, this doesn't really give you umami, but acid, but a dab added when sautéing with some wine and herbs or spices, it browns nicely and gives a rich sauce) Play with spices, particularly adding sweet spices (notably allspice and cloves) to savory foods

  • We have a science problem

    America has a serious science problem. When did "belief" in science become optional? Maybe a very long time ago, if we consider the Scopes trial (1925). Maybe our fierce sense of independence is more properly thought of as a desire to believe whatever we want, regardless of evidence. We're watching this play out in dramatic fashion as folks around the country refuse to wear masks, with disastrous results. Dr. Anthony Fauci, this nation's grown-up in chief, speaking on CNN assessed that "there is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country -- an alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking." And now nearly 1 in 100 Americans have tested positive for the virus (and likely countless more have remained asymptomatic and undetected), with that number skyrocketing daily. While I've come to think of this response as uniquely American, I have to admit it appears to be more widespread. CNN reports a similar resistance to masks in Britain, and Vice reported a few violent passengers attacked a bus driver in France after he insisted he wear masks as required, resulting in his death. Perhaps most notably to me, The World Health Organization has remained in denial about the method of spread of the virus until 239 scientists demand they reconsider. WHO should be our most reliable international source of scientific fact, and yet they could not address what has been evident for months: the virus is primarily transmitted through the air. And new analyses suggest that our behavior trumps summer heat and may even affect herd immunity when considering the spread of the virus. What we think -- and what we do based on those beliefs -- matters to us all. What are we to do with this? Our current health crisis brings our American split with scientific reasoning into sharp contrast, but that is largely due to the immediacy of the danger and the rapidly changing health landscape. The same thought trend is at work in climate change, environmental health, economic growth, agriculture, public health, energy sustainability, social and racial justice, and myriad areas of public policy. We can see where we're headed, the science is clear, and yet we ignore it, because we have the right to. That's not a right, that's actually willful relinquishing our rights. We choose the confines of a damaged environment and the tyranny of a disastrous economy and inequity, because we will not accept science and facts. I spent 20 years as a medical writer, where science was king. You could not write a sentence without scientific evidence and support for it -- and documentation to bolster the claim. As a nation -- and perhaps as a world -- we need a new understanding of science. Maybe even a love, an adoration, for science. This Week's Recipe A return to simpler tastes, and a very simple recipe for an appetizer or even dessert. And I just love to take advantage of summer strawberries. Strawberries and Mozzarella 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced 8 best strawberries, sliced 1-2 tsp 25-year aged balsamic Mint and berries for garnish Splay strawberries on top of cheese and drizzle with droplets of balsamic. Do not drench! A little goes a long way. Drizzle the fruit and mint with a tiny bit, too. Alternative: Quarter or halve strawberries and cut mozzarella in 3/4-inch chunks. Spear on short skewer (cheese, then strawberry on the end, at an angle, so that the whole thing rests with the spear handle up for easy grabbing). Arrange on platter and drizzle with balsamic.

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