Pizzagaina vs Ham Pie.. it’s all good

Its spring and that means its time for me to make the Pizzagaina or “Meat Pie”.

Which in itself is no small task. It takes planning, shopping and lots of prep. I wrote about this in the past here.

So last night after work and while doing some recording, I started the baking the batches. I had already prepped the meat and cheese earlier in the week and did the dough the night before.

Now, this isn’t your standard hand pie. This is the Italian older cousin. It’s dense, rich with eggs and cheese and full of dried and cured meats. Think “cheesecake meets quiche” but without the jiggle.  You will hear this called by many names from including; Easter Ham Pie, Pizzagaina, Pizza Rustica but they all mean essentially the same thing.

I have several versions but as I’ve written before this is my favorite basic version recipe. You should feel free to swap out the meats for what you can find locally to you. I also started to try out doing them as mini loaves as they freeze and are great house gifts for pals

 

In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality’ hits the nail on the head in my house

In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality

Now in my world “scruff” means so many other things when associated with being social – but this wasn’t one of them until now.

Yup- that’s me!

“Your home doesn’t need to be picture-perfect to invite people over,” says this recent quote from Robin Shreeves’s recent post that has been making the rounds on social media platforms and I can see why. It’s a welcome and heartfelt reminder of what is important when we gather and they, in the end, it isn’t about the artifacts of the room.

 

I love this idea for hospitality

Sure I can go all out for the special occasions and yea even I fall into the “vision” of the night and try to create some sensational times with the decorations, and flowers etc. These occasional meals of formality, while a good time can also be a place of such stress. Trying to make a “silk purse from a elephants ear” comes to mind.

Find the calm in hospitality

But I when I calm down and remember what the joining of people over a meal is all about for me, I remember that some of my best times with people growing up and as an adult has been the “take me as I am and as my kitchen is” variety. From a hasty last-minute New Years Eve Dinner to an annual open house while it might not be anything fancy –  it will have plenty of good people and simple food the deeds the belly and the heart. Recipes that often come from the books my Mom and others used before me.

One pull quote they use in the articles sums it up great:

Hospitality –  in the end

it doesn’t matter how perfect the place looks, and sometimes not everything has to taste perfect. On many a night 9 out of 10 things were great, but i could have derailed myself over the one item that didn’t come out right.

People won’t remember the room,

what they will remember is being welcomed, fed and loved.

Xmas Recipes 2019

Here they are

I figured it was easier to post the links in one place for folks than trying to constantly add links to the recipes on Facebook. Since many of you asked about the recipes for the South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies and the Polenta Parmesan Cookies I mentioned on an earlier this week, I will start with them.

Black Pepper Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is pretty easy and I recommend you read the instructions a few times first. The Author also suggests starting with the minimum amount of black pepper and then ramp up. I think when I make a new batch I will increase the black pepper up a 1/2 tablespoon. I think you might also be able to swap out the pepper for other types you might have handy as well.

The recipe link is from the website Food52 and was reposted according to the author notes: Text and recipe from Where Flavor Where Flavor Was Born by Andreas Viestad Born by Andreas Viestad (Chronicle, 2007).

Polenta Parmesan Cookies

This recipe was in the December 2018 issue of Food Network Magazine on page 84. The recipe itself is pretty basic and already I am thinking adaptions. Such as making them a bit thicker and turning them into “thumb” print cookies and topping with pepper jelly or a tomato bacon relish. To the taste, they read both sweet and savory so I imagine I could also top with Lemon Rind Jelly.  Just a note on this one – it does need to time to chill. I made mine the night before and sliced and cooked them the next day.

The recipe link is Polenta-Polenta-Parmesan Cookies on Food Network Magazine

 

It was a book club that Sunday and I went big

Because book club discussions aren’t always just about talk.

Our monthly book club is also about what foods we bring; what reading the book inspires us to bring and share. Many of us choose to find a way to bring an authentic or reinterpreted version of something mentioned in the book or from the time period.

Since this month we read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. 

My take on the book was positive as a read. Finding it a well-balanced collection of research and storytelling that manages to remind the reader of the historical narrative of racism and white privilege at the heart of so many of this countries moments. But the subject did give me several layers of emotions.

But back to the food

I opted for a Bourbon Pecan Cornmeal cake with an edible gingerbread oil rig and chocolate “oil”. My unique challenge was that I have never made a gingerbread oil rig or any structure before. So choosing the right recipe and the structural challenges were quite the experience. But in the end, it all worked out.

I won’t even mention the stress of moving it in two parts then topping the cake with its “rig” caused.

The cake itself was great.

I liked to cornmeal texture with the nuts. It is one I would remake. The recipe for the cake was from http://eclecticrecipes.com and used walnuts, but I had pecans laying around begging to be used.

5 Secrets to Eating a Sustainable Diet

Today, healthy eating habits are more than just good for individual well being; it’s also contributing to the community at large. If you are looking to eat a more sustainable diet, here are five tips to steer you in the right direction.

Buy Locally

Start looking to buy locally grown foods. Farmer’s markets are usually great to find sustainable groceries. If you live in an area that does not have a close enough farmer’s market kiosk or location, find a grocery store near you who imports produce from nearby farms in your city. Some markets collaborate with grocery stores to sell their produce for easy access to fresh local goods.

Go Plant-Based

Vegan is now a rapidly growing diet of choice for people choosing to eat clean. But if you are not ready to make this transition entirely, no worries. Just start adding more fruits and vegetable to your meals. Eatingbetter.org suggests eating more fresh produce and decreasing your animal consumption. This will contribute to fewer health risks and reduce greenhouse gases pollution. Plus, plant-based foods are loaded with antioxidants, which is one of the main benefits of a plant-based diet. Rather than making meat the main course, for example, perhaps serve it as a side dish occasionally.

Recognizing Sustainable Groceries

In addition to farmer’s markets, as stated above, there are other ways to locate sustainable groceries. Most notably, food co-ops are where a group of people in a community or organization come together as owners of a store, for the benefit of all members involved. They make a more conscious effort to favor sustainable, local and organic products. Sustainabletable.org reports that if you shop at larger chain markets, you can still find sustainable or organic products, but you still might have to ask.

Grow Your Own

You don’t necessarily need to have a large backyard designated for gardening. There are select herbs, fruits and vegetables you can begin seeding inside your home and grow outside on a small patch of earth, or on your balcony, come the right season. Growing your own produce is a gratifying and sustainable, cost-effective way to eat. If you really don’t have outdoor space, join a community garden. Growing your own food can also open you up to inspiration in the kitchen, especially when you have a restrictive diet. For example, if your a fan of pizza and a vegetarian, but feel as if you can’t really enjoy one, you can always replace typical toppings with the contents of your gardens. Mushrooms can be a great protein replacement in pizzas, or you can spice things up with jalapenos and other peppers.

Check the Label

Look for products carrying the Fair-Trade Certified label. This allows producers from poorer countries to get fair deals for their products. Fairtradecertified.org provides an excellent resource for contributing companies who support this global movement.

These are all easy ways to practice a more sustainable lifestyle. Clean eating and living will give you good health while making your planet better. Cheers!

References:

Mind Body Green | 9 Tips For Anyone Who Wants To Go Plant-Based

Kiwi Power Company | What it Means to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle, and How to Do It

Forbes | Green Efforts, Golden Opportunities: Two Grocers Explore Different Paths

ASEA | What Is It and Why Are People So Excited About It?

Bone Broth May Be the Next Superfood — Here’s Why

Bone Broth – yeah you have seen it in the stores recently.

But did you know that for thousands of years, humans have relied on bone broth for its nutritive and restorative properties. When our lifestyles moved us away from utilizing the bones and connective tissue of animals to make soups and fulfill other aspects of our diet, we also lost vital nutrients that can be difficult to get in other foods. Read about the “4 Broth Gains” available from adding bone broth into your diet.

Broth Gain 1: Collagen

Did you know that bone broth contains collagen? You might be familiar with the term by now — collagen supplements are all the rage these days for its beautifying properties.

It also offers up hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and more than a few minerals. These are the building blocks of healthy hair, skin, nails, and joints. Collagen consumption is also said to provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease, help treat heart disease, heal leaky gut syndrome, and ease joint and back pain.

Image credit: Genesis Dermatology

Broth Gain 2: Dental Health

Although there has been a recent revival of this health elixir, few people are aware of the broth’s ability to strengthen teeth and gums. The stellar helpers here are the glycosaminoglycans that the body uses to make collagen.

Since gum tissue and teeth contain collagen, broths provide the building blocks for their repair and maintenance. And the calcium, magnesium, and trace minerals aid in remineralization of the teeth. This is great for prevention and perhaps even resolution of dental caries.

Also, collagen in the bone and connective tissue helps keep teeth set in the jaw. Here, bone broth assists in improving bone density and arresting gum tissue atrophy too.

Image credit: Howard Family Dental

Broth Gain 3: Gut-Brain Connection

Further down our digestive tract, this simmered broth can help repair the endothelial lining of your gut to calm inflammation and aid in the restoration of a healthy balance of bacteria in your GI tract. Amazingly, this rebalancing can calm anxiety, improve thinking and alleviate depression because there really is truth to the idea that the gut is a second brain.

When your GI tract is healthy, it communicates more effectively with the brain, and changes in mental clarity, moods and stress levels are not unusual. Of course, your digestion and bowel function do benefit, but your immune system is also strengthened.

Image Credit: The Indian Superstore

Broth Gain 4: Auto-Immune Conditions

Furthermore, auto-immune diseases link to a damaged gut lining, so anything that helps to restore its integrity again can ease symptoms and even reverse conditions. Challenging ailments like asthma and arthritis can subside with regular consumption of bone broth.

Making soup with the bones and connective tissue of animals releases a store of nutrients and minerals in a form so easy to absorb that it really is a superfood. Choose bones from grass-fed animals, and you’ll get even more hard to get nutrients and minerals.

Image Credit: Chiropractic Beacon

Lots of online recipes exist for ways to make your own bone broth. Here are a few I liked:

Slow Cooker “Better Than Botox” Bone Broth

Beef Bone Broth from The Chew

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The Power of Home Crafted Vanilla2.0

For You More Creative Types, Make Your Own Vanilla2.0

Yup – that’s right. Well, I goofed this week – I had intended to let had my guest post from Anna go live first, but some of you might have gotten a sneak preview of this one when the “now” feature got clicked. In either case, you can read Anna’s post  “Know Your Extracts: Sniffing out the Best Vanilla for Your Baking” once it goes live late this week, then perhaps you will be inspired to go on to the next step and try making your own version of Vanilla2.0

Vanilla is one of those elements in baking that you either love or don’t. Somewhat like using good quality Tumeric is in cooking. I got started on this road myself after watching some of the baking shows on TV that were using Vanilla Bean Paste which I hadn’t seen before. After visiting the blog Superfoodly.com which had posted a December piece “The Scandal Between Vanilla Bean Paste vs. Vanilla Extract” .and served as a good place to start (I didn’t necessarily agree with everything – they shared some great content on the post).  I started following links, speaking with other folks who do more baking and came across the whole movement of making your own Vanilla Extract.

Several great recipes are available online for making your own home inspired version of vanilla extract. But to make a good quality one, you need time and the right beans. It isn’t something you want to rush. In fact, if you get them started now. They will make great Holiday gifts this season.

Choosing which beans you want to use also takes some research. Areas to take note of include the grade of bean, the type of bean, the age of them and the source ( they can be expensive) and what liquid you intend to use to extract the flavor (a variety of options exist based on flavor or non-alcohol needs).

My next plan

I will be starting a batch in April in fact with ” Tahitian Grade B beans but I also like the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans (Vanilla Planifolia so may make some comparison batches. A few of the online sites that offer recipes for making your own, including purchasing recommendations include: 

Once you get ready to start making your own here are a few things you will need to have on hand.

If you are like me and tend to be more creative, plan early:

  • You will need the beans; that means deciding on the grade of the bean and the ration of beans to the liquid mix; I saw lots of variations on this from 1 whole vanilla bean for every 2 liquid ounces of alcohol. I think to keep it simple I may start with a 1:1 ratio as in 1 bean to each ounce of liquid (then depending on the jar size might top off)
  • Extracting liquid; lots of options for this the most common include Bourbon, Rum, Brandy, and Vodka. The key factor is the liquid has to be greater than 70% proof
  • Bottles/Jars; You will need to decide if you are making a large batch then decant into smaller ones or just go right to the smaller ones. I think I will be hitting the swap and flea markets for vintage and unusual decanters to use as gifts. One common theme I heard was to avoid clear jars (or keep stored in a dark place) and my preference to stay away from plastics. As a back up I found 4 ounce Amber jars on Amazon that I may order to have on hand for “extra” last minute needs.
  • Labels: start thinking what size you will need and how you plan to label them if you are gifting them

Note: this post has some affiliate links to Amazon

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Packing the weekend with Holiday Fun

Packing the weekend with Holiday Fun & Treats

With the gift of unexpected tickets to see the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus SFGMC Elfstravaganza concert last night from our friends Paul & Ryan –  after a day of baking some treats for my Pauls office fundraiser on Monday and a trial run of an older Lemon cake recipe I had found a few weeks back. Dinner at Rocco’s then heading over to the SFGMC Concert at the Nourse was a perfect way to end the night. The Lemon “bread or cake” or jelly toast as its post was called on the blog I found it on was flavorful but super dense when we cut into it this morning – so either it needed more time to cook or a few more modifications to make it work. I also think it needed some sharpness so would mix the lemon varieties in a future batch (but.. umm yeah that didn’t stop me from eating it. I am thinking maybe convert the rest into a bread pudding. The Marbled M&M mini’s worked into the Biscotti is always a favorite!
As usual, dinner at Rocco’s Cafe down on Folsom Street is always good. FYI you crab lovers – get on Rocco’s email list to get the announcement for when it’s winning crab Chioppino will be back on the menu during Christmas week.

Packing more in as “The Men Sing On”

Nothing took the message home stronger of the power of the enduring voice of these men has had, than the simple two number reminder held by conductor Tim Seelig. Season 40 is ready to hit the bricks with the 40TH ANNIVERSARY; CRESCENDO GALA SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2018 .
 
This is the power that a unified voice has. Kudos to an outstanding year gentlemen and the successful Southern States tour. Not to mention some of the very exciting updates that Tim Seelig shared which you can find out more of from visiting the #SFGMC facebook page or website (http://www.sfgmc.org/welcome)
 
I took more shots – but have left them with Paul to whip up some editing magic on them. In the meantime… a few snaps from the show. Ff course, it wouldn’t be a proper #SFGMC concert without a political comment or two and a few special guests you might spot.

You still have a chance to see the men sing during its “Home for the Holidays” Castro show

Sunday, December 24, 2017   5:00 PM, 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Castro Theatre – San Francisco

Every year, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus comes together on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holiday season with three not-to-be-missed concerts at the historic Castro Theatre! This year is the 28th Annual iteration of “Home for the Holidays,” and we have quite a few tricks up our holiday sweater sleeves. These shows always sell out, so be sure to buy your tickets early.

Packing Even more

Next up this week is to try to knock out a few more treats and perhaps a remake of the lemon bread.. perhaps… but first its some Chocolate blossom cookies!

A whirlwind of tastes

Not much to say except it has been a whirlwind of food the last few weeks.

With Paul’s Birthday, Thanksgiving, a rainy Sunday – it all added up for some solid cooking time in. Below are a few image carousels of some of the more memorable “bites” from the last few weeks.

First off some of the treats from Pauls Birthday. He had requested a new cake from Noe Valley Bakers, so we decided with Thanksgiving around the corner and not traveling this year, so cooking at home – we would have a coffee & dessert theme Sunday that week.

Then for Thanksgiving, we had a few friends over for a potluck. All I needed to do is the turkey, stuffing, and a few sides. Friends took care of desserts.