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Friday, 27 January 2017 14:04

Flex Cooking muscles using spinach

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 I’m a little disgusted with this unpredictable 2017 winter weather, so I looked in the Farmers’ Almanac to find what I could find, and what did I find but a call for all home cooks to submit entries for the publication’s recipe contest.

Send your original spinach recipe and you could win up to $250. That could make this crazy winter weather more palatable.

Your mom (and Popeye) always told you to eat your spinach, and with good reason — spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, especially when eaten raw or cooked lightly.

The Farmers’ Almanac wants your best original recipes, using spinach as the main ingredient.

All recipes become property of Farmers’ Almanac. Winning recipes will be printed in the 2018 Farmers’ Almanac and online. Entries must be received by Feb. 15. Winners will be notified by mail.

You must verify that your recipe is original and that you are not a professional cook or baker. Submit them online at FarmersAlmanac.com.

In the meantime, here are a couple of recipes to whet your appetite.

Thursday, 19 January 2017 13:43

Fresh snow is a main ingredient

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I've been contemplating the snow lately. I much prefer it over ice. I also like snow peas and snow crabs and snow apples. Like me, you might wonder how these edibles got their name.

Friday, 13 January 2017 13:29

Chicken rules the dinner table

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, back in 1967 Americans ate per capita nearly 131 pounds of pork, beef or lamb, 37 pounds of poultry and 11 pounds of seafood. Fifty years later, we are projected to eat 57 pounds of red meat — down from a high of nearly 100 pounds in 1976. We are expected to consume more chicken this year, about 108 pounds per person. So, while our red meat consumption goes down, our taste for chicken, turkey and other poultry continues to go up.

Friday, 30 December 2016 12:48

Food trends spice up a new year

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It’s always fun to look back to what we thought was going to be the hot new trend before we look forward to predicting the next new thing in food. Last year, some of the predictions included Poke, a Hawaiian salad made with raw fish, fruits and vegetables. Well, it might have been big on the West Coast, but it didn’t make it to the Midwest.

The no-waste kitchen movement began, but I’ve been doing that for years. Waste not, want not.

Bread is back — but did it ever really leave?

Kale is out, but is seaweed really in??

This just in

Fermented foods were predicted to be in, and they are. If you like sauerkraut, it’s always been in, but now you can add kimchee, a fermented Korean cabbage sidedish, to the list. When food is fermented, the carbohydrates and sugars are converted into healthy bacteria. Fermented beverages, like kombucha, are popular and can be purchased like soda now.

Fast food is trying to go healthy. Culver’s experimented with sweet potato fries. Panera Bread pledged to remove all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservations by the end of the year. McDonald’s says it is committed to using antibiotic-free chicken.

Gourmet sauces were supposed to be hot, and they are. And I’m not talking only about Sriracha, though that is hot. Fermented chili paste and spicy black bean sauce are easy to find and popular with chefs and home cooks alike.

Hit or miss

What did the prognosticators miss? The popularity and fast growth of the boxed meal kits such as HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, Purple Carrot, Peach Dish and Plated took a lot of people by surprise. You get all the ingredients for a meal shipped to you to assemble. The cost starts at about $10 a meal. This is convenient if you want good food and you don’t keep anything stocked in your cupboard.

Looking forward

So, what can we look forward to in 2017? Predictions from the National Restaurant Association and Food Business News include:?

• Root to leaf — making the most of the whole vegetable. Chef Steven Satterfield wrote the book on it.

• Nose to tail — making the most of the whole animal. Chefs April Bloomfield and Fergus Henderson helped popularize this trend.

• Spice it up with turmeric, cumin and cardamom

• More vegetarian, including comfort foods such as lasagna and Stroganoff.

• Kale is still out, but in a nod to the no-waste kitchen concept, there will be offerings of beet greens, turnip greens and carrot tops.

• More heirloom fruits and vegetables

• The rise of turmeric has led foodies to investigate Ayurveda, a type of complementary or alternative medicine, and the Indian concept of “dosha,” your body’s set constitution.

• More multicultural foods, particularly African and Middle Eastern

More predictions

Whole Foods also makes predictions for the year, and I think these will be right on the money:?

• More purple foods —?like cauliflower, asparagus, carrots and corn

• Oven-ready meal kits

• Alternative pasta made from quinoa, lentils and chickpeas

• Coconut everything, from ice cream to chips

Moroccan lentil soup

Serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped carrots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. each cumin, coriander

1 tsp. turmeric

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup chopped cauliflower

3/4 cup lentils

1 can (19-oz.) diced tomatoes

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup chopped, fresh spinach

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsps. honey

Heat oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat; add onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and pepper; cook, stirring until fragrant, about one minute. Add broth, water, cauliflower, lentils, tomatoes and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until the lentils are tender but not mushy, 45 to 55 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, five minutes. Just before serving, stir in lemon juice and honey.

A reader recently asked for information about iron skillets. How do I season it? How do I ensure it’s safe? Do I need to re-season it after each use?

We generally are not nice to our cookware. We burn things, boil all the liquid out and then scour it to death with copper and steel pads. If all that isn’t bad enough, we let it sit with water in it overnight just to get the burnt crud off of it. None of this is good for pots or pans no matter what they are made of.

Iron is one of the oldest materials designed for cooking. It is durable and long-lasting, heats evenly and you can use it at high temperatures, so making seared or blackened foods is no problem. The reason iron pans, and iron skillets in particular, remain popular is because, if seasoned properly, they are the original nonstick pan.

Nevertheless, iron is iron and that means it will rust if not cared for properly, which means it must be seasoned. Wash the pot in soap and water, removing all rust.

To do the initial cleaning takes some elbow grease on your part, or you can try soaking the entire pan in Coca-Cola — as in the beverage. Make a scrubbable paste of Coke and coarse table salt. Rub the pan with this concoction until the rust is gone.

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