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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.

Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:50

Make chowder with clams or cod

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Fish, cod in particular, is a high- protein, low-fat food. It’s what you do to it that starts making it bad for you.

Like breading or frying it, or both. A four- ounce portion of cod has about 125 calories. That’s it, really. Double, triple or even quadruple that amount once it’s breaded and fried.
But there is something else everyone seems to enjoy at those fish fries that we all love. Clam chowder soup is what I’m talking about. New England clam chowder is the popular choice around here. Not very often do you see Manhattan clam chowder.  
The difference is the soup base — New England uses a cream base,  Manhattan a tomato base. Without saying more, you should be able to determine that the New England version is usually the heavier of the two when it comes to calorie count. 

New England chowder

Serves 4

12 oz. of raw cod, skin removed, with 1/4 cup water or 12 oz. canned clams with juice
2 cups diced potatoes, 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 tsp. dried, crushed parsley
1 tsp. dried, crushed thyme
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste

The cod can be frozen or thawed.  Cut into cubes and place in microwave dish. Cover with the 1/4 cup of water and cook in microwave for three minutes or until cooked.
Peel and dice the potatoes. Put in stockpot and cover with water. Boil until tender. Drain. In this same stockpot melt the butter and saute the chopped onions. Add the flour and whisk together into a roux.  Slowly add the milk while you whisk.
Cook over medium heat to thicken.  Add parsley, thyme, pepper and salt.  Add the cooked cod and water mixture. Cook over low heat for an additional 15 minutes. Do not boil because the mixture will break and become thin.
Substitute 12 ounces of canned clams (do not drain) for the cod and water if you desire. It is not necessary to cook the clams separately before adding to the broth.

Manhattan chowder

Serves 4

2 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 cups chicken broth
1 stalk celery
2 carrots
2 potatoes
12 oz raw cod, skin removed, or 12 oz. canned clams with juice
1 can (16 oz.) chopped or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried, crushed parsley
1 tsp. dried, crushed thyme
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste

In stockpot, melt the butter and saute the onions. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Clean the celery, carrots and potatoes and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the cod into 1/2 inch cubes and add to stockpot along with remaining ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.     

Friday, 02 December 2016 09:52

Turn leftovers into delicious bakery

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If you’ve got holiday leftovers, you can use them to make some tasty dessert. Doesn’t a cranberry pecan muffin sound good? Or how about pumpkin Bundt cake made even better using sweet potatoes?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 13:44

This just in blog: Our election hangover

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Instead of a presidential honeymoon, Americans have been given a campaign hangover.

This election season was historic, more for careening off the rails of how traditional campaigns are run than any significance the candidates might bring to the office.

Trump voters seemed as surprised as Clinton voters that the disruptive New York businessman so decisively claimed the race.

And Wisconsin was the final domino to fall in the early morning hours after the polls closed.

The Scott Walker coalition not only delivered the state for Donald Trump, but returned Sen. Ron Johnson, who had trailed in the polls through the fall, to the Senate, assuring that Republicans would have control of the House and Senate.

Now, the question is can we come together as a country?

Maybe, but we have a long way to go.

Hidden in the ugly campaign was a roadmap for the new president and Congress showing what voters want from their government.

We’re frustrated by the rapidly growing income gap.

We’re worried about the influence of unaccountable money in our electoral process.

More people have health insurance than ever before, but costs continue to rise and we don’t know why.

Terrorism remains a threat.

Although the national economy rebounded from the depths of the Great Recession, a wide swath of the working class saw little change for the better.

That frustration fueled the Trump surge.

Although Trump’s transition team touched on a range of topics this past week, wage growth could solve a lot of problems.

Workers with more money feel more secure. They contribute more in taxes. Rising incomes mean people rely less on government services.

More money in people’s pockets means businesses can grow to accommodate increased demand.

Republicans surely will pitch tax cuts as a way to raise wages, but those cuts initially benefit the wealthy and businesses.

A raise in the minimum wage is unlikely, but tax reform can directly drive wage growth by giving companies incentives to raise wages or by penalizing them if they don’t.

So too with health care.

"It'll be great health care for much less money," Trump told Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes" last week.

I suspect it won’t be quite that simple or easy.

Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville, finally will be able to reveal their long-alluded to replacement to the Affordable Care Act.

Frustrated voters, on the other hand, won’t have much patience for solutions that are retreads of previous proposals.

There are lots of ways to move forward as a country.

But one way that never came up in the dozens of letters to the editor that we ran in the weeks leading up to the election was that we should do nothing.

It’s commendable that our representatives stick to their principles, but the overarching principle should be to make government work for the people.

Republicans were loath to soften their positions during the almost eight years of President Barack Obama’s term.

They may need to now in the Senate to get Democrats to play along. Republicans will need 60 votes in many cases.

Sometimes that means accepting a compromise and living to fight again in the arena of public opinion. Finding ways to work together means moving away from personality and moving toward policy.

Now that the votes have been counted, our Constitution provides a process by which government can work together to tackle the country’s most serious problems.

We don’t really have much of a choice but to let that process play out.

And maybe we’ll get something done in the two years before the next election season rolls around.

Hopefully we’ll be over our hangover by then.

Dan Plutchak is the editor of CSI Media, publisher of the Janesville Messenger, Stateline News and Walworth County Sunday. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or on Twitter @danplutchak.


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