Be Thankful for our Masala Dabba!

I bought a new vehicle this week. FINALLY, after 1.5 years of knowing exactly what I want and waiting for the right deal it presented itself. Now I can haul your goodies AND feel cushy at the same time! While waiting for the interminable dealer to finish their CRAP, I got hungry and walked down the road to McDonalds. No, I am not a fan but those who know me know that I can find SOMETHING on any menu to get excited about, from Frisch’s to Nobu. At McDonald’s it’s the Breakfast Burrito. When in a pinch, it always fuels me and all of the horrible stuff in it mushes up in my mouth into pure guilty deliciousness.
McDonalds was virtually empty at 10:45…a couple in a corner… a lady sipping coffee by herself.  I grabbed my burrito and water and for some reason, instead of finding the far corner of the room, I sat next to Ms. Coffee.  Perhaps I was fueled by morning Jazzercise or multivitamins or a mixture of both, but I was feeling friendly. I made some stupid comment to her as I slid into the chair and she smiled and responded. That started a 30 minute conversation about the world and all its charms.

I noticed an accent and asked her from whence she came…she answered the Bahamas. Excited to share with her my recent menu for the Jamaican Prime Minister and delegation, I mentioned my Callaloo and Curried Fish Stew, and she wrinkled up her nose and told me she didn’t care too much for greens, but we agreed that cod is a most versatile fish! She went on to talk about her husband’s job in Dubai and the food there, and his wish to have her come for Thanksgiving. That nose wrinkled up again and she said she just couldn’t miss our American tradition at home (the turkey isn’t very good and is horribly expensive in Dubai)..

We talked of experiences at her thanksgiving table and mine, and our heritages, and how we have been culinarily influenced by our friends as well as our own travels and experiences. We determined that macaroni and cheese is a much more common thanksgiving item up north than down south. I had never really thought about that before but it’s true! I’ll serve it at Easter but never Thanksgiving, for some reason. We talked of the spices in the Middle East and her delight at discovering the different curries (this an offshoot of my Jamaican Curry story), and I explained that curry doesn’t come in a jar over there – each household has its own recipe, contained in a spice bowl with many different tiny containers called Masala Dabba (masala meaning mixture, dabba meaning container – kind of like these United States!).

We then talked about North Africa and the very similar spice blends and flavors there akin to the Middle East, which of course led me to brag about my latest invention, now on Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering’s menu in either appetizer or entree form: Merguez & Lentil Stew with Mint and Pistachio Pistou – developed to pair with, off all things, a bourbon cocktail from Mixmaster Extraordinaire Robin Carnes of George Remus Distillery, at the Edible Drinks event last weekend (both the stew and the cocktail contained Ras el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend).I’m very proud of this one – it’s very complex!  I make the Merguez myself.

Somehow this led to a discussion about migrant workers, both there and here, as well as human trafficking and contemporary slavery. A fascinating conversation, and I am richer for it. I so wish I had gotten her name to at least friend her (my, how contemporary vernacular has changed!)  I believe we could have become good friends.

Ms. Coffee, wherever you are (and I know it’s not Dubai!), thank you for helping me be more thankful this season, and more in touch with all there is for which to be grateful. I hope to meet someone like you again very soon. I guess all it takes is a simple hello.

 

A Note From Chef Lori

Can you BELIEVE ’tis almost the season?!?Think about your holiday party NOW…we’re excited to party with you but Lula only has two hands!!

Click here to visit our website!

 

Purple Potatoes – Another Peruvian Masterpiece!

These gemlike spuds are about as big as a Ping-Pong ball, but don’t let their size fool you. Purple potatoes have many times the antioxidant power of their cousins, white and yellow potatoes. Studies have found that the plant pigments that give them their lovely color, called anthocyanins, may improve memory and prevent age-related muddled thinking. Also, their high levels of folate help lower levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which can damage brain cells. Pretty good for such a tiny tater.

Did you know all potatoes originated in the Andes?  Yup – that’s where they come from!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering LUVS potatoes and uses them in many different dishes in EVERY color!

You Want To Get To The ROOT Of The Matter, Don’t You?

Celery Root, that is!!  Also called Celeriac, this is a variety of celery that is cultivated for its root, not its stalks.  It is NOT the root of the traditional celery stalks you keep in your fridge (you have some on hand at all times for flavoring soups and stews, as well as snacking, right?!?)

Celeriac (pictured above in Lula’s for Lunch…and More! ‘s Creamy Pear and Celeriac Soup) has a knobby, dirty, formidable looking root that you will want to peel.  Because it’s starchy, in general you want to pick the smaller of the roots available to you.  The end product will be sweeter.  The more you cook it the sweeter it becomes.  It makes a great, “different” puree when you’re looking for a base for proteins (think parsnip instead of potatoes), and it provides one of those mysterious “what’s IN this?” flavors to sauces, soups and stews.  Now GET IN THAT KITCHEN and try something different!

“Jack” Is More Than Food!

“Artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. Jack-O’-Lanterns are traditionally carried by guisers on All Hallows’ Eve in order to frighten evil spirits. There is a popular Irish Christian folktale associated with the jack-o’-lantern, which in folklore is said to represent a “soul who has been denied entry into both heaven and hell”:On route home after a night’s drinking, Jack encounters the Devil and tricks him into climbing a tree. A quick-thinking Jack etches the sign of the cross into the bark, thus trapping the Devil. Jack strikes a bargain that Satan can never claim his soul. After a life of sin, drink, and mendacity, Jack is refused entry to heaven when he dies. Keeping his promise, the Devil refuses to let Jack into hell and throws a live coal straight from the fires of hell at him. It was a cold night, so Jack places the coal in a hollowed out turnip to stop it from going out, since which time Jack and his lantern have been roaming looking for a place to rest.” – reprinted DIRECTLY from my favorite auto mechanic – Ernie’s Garage !

More Eggy Wisdom

 

Folks, I am once again borrowing from my friend Heidi Bright, author of  Thriver Soup: A Feast for Living Consciously During the Cancer Journey (click here to learn more about her book) – we share the same “happy/healthy” philosophy regarding our animal sources and Heidi is just chock FULL of information regarding food and your health!

How Nutritious are Your Eggs?

I used to buy my eggs from a discount store at a discount price. The poor hens, most likely trapped in battery cages, probably never saw sunlight or moved outside of their tiny cells. (In a 2014 report, 95% of U.S. eggs came from hens trapped in battery cages.) What a miserable existence. I found the shells overly easy to crack open. They reminded me of the egg breakage I’d read about among wild birds. These fowl are experiencing losses in breeding success due to contamination by post-1945 “residues of synthetic organic chemicals used as pesticides and in industry.”

As I learned, I moved to slightly costlier eggs.

One day my son cut his finger and bled profusely. I remembered reading that eggshell membranes can be used to temporarily stop excessive bleeding. I grabbed an egg and struggled to get a little bit of the membrane out of the bottom of the shell. I got only a small crumpled piece out, and put it on his little cut.

The cut immediately stopped bleeding. We were both stunned.  I then looked up more information on those membranes. They can be used to:

  • treat wounds to prevent scar tissue;
  • reduce the effects of osteoarthritis;
  • improve health of skin, hair, and nails.

That was the end of cheap eggs for me. I began buying my eggs from local farmers, and when they weren’t available, got organic eggs from the supermarket. I immediately noticed a difference when cracking the eggs – the shells were tougher to break open.

But how to separate the membrane from the shell? I tried a few methods, none of which worked very well. The membranes were slick, tore easily, and took forever to separate from the shells.

Okay, so maybe the problem, again, was with the eggs themselves. So I moved to the most expensive eggs – organic, free-range, certified humane (raised and handled), and no synthetic pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics.

Viola! The membrane, tough and gauzy, pulled right off in large pieces. So easy! And to me it meant the membrane must be full of nutrients, especially collagen. I wanted those nutrients. If you want to see what a healthy membrane looks like you can see it here on YouTube.

I clean the membranes and drop them into my Vitamix to blend with greens for my smoothies.

To me, it’s worth the extra expense to get high-quality eggs, not only because I am prone to osteoarthritis, but also because as a survivor of highly aggressive end-stage sarcoma, nutrition is extremely important to me. I want to maintain my cancer remission! Healthy eating can only help, in my opinion.

Plus I’d rather get the membrane from eggs I cracked, so I know the source, than something that has been put through a chemical or other process, and then who knows the quality of the membrane anyway. Probably not from the healthiest eggs.

And another benefit. I clean and dehydrate the shells, crush them with a mortar and pestle, then add lemon or lime juice and create my own calcium supplement.

Happy hens make nutritious eggs, which help me stay healthy.

Click here to see a video of healthy egg membranes.

 

 

Another “Brainy” Food – the PINEAPPLE!

Underneath its spiny exterior, pineapples pack a brain-boosting wallop. Bromelain, an enzyme found only in pineapples, keeps blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots. These clots can break off from artery walls and interrupt blood flow to the brain, setting you up for a memory-damaging stroke.  Pineapples are also rich in folate (aka vitamin B9), which can help make you more alert and better able to focus!

There IS No Shortcut to Mushrooms!

 

Shrooms and String Theory

Merry Christmas!As Gordon and I BOTH lay flat on our backs on ice (his a result of the story below, and mine a result of stubbornness and stupidity) we are fondly remembering our short trip last week to see Dwight Yoakam who didn’t show up (illness) then a short visit to one of our favorite places on earth – Red River Gorge. Shhh. I really DON’T want to get the word out – this place is unspoiled and wild and we want to keep it that way.

We have our favorite trails – some are mine, some are his – and this time we really just walked a few of the short ones and didn’t do any serious hiking.  One of the beautiful aspects of any walk in nature is you can take that walk one thousand times and you will always see something new every time. This time, on Tar Kiln Trail, I caught my first delightful glimpse of a red mushroom.  It was just brilliant, and I thought to myself how lucky am I! and then, right next to it I spotted a pink mushroom – first sighting ever!

Feeling a bit like Alice and the Rabbit Hole, I slowed down and wandered off the path (Gordon kept forging ahead – he likes to clip along and I like to stop and smell the granite as he likes to put it). I began to look down instead of ahead and as I slowed and wandered (to a literal crawl on my hands and knees), a whole new world appeared before me – a reminder, once again, of the circle of life and String Theory.  This is a world teeming with energy and movement – you just have to be still to be aware of it. The undergrowth, in its varying degrees of decay, was producing life and energy to nourish what was infant and just emerging.

Mushrooms are a most delicious fungi – the variety of edibles is practically unending and each has its own fragrance and taste profile. Mushrooms are an excellent source of umami – the often undefinable protein profile that can give a dish its depth of flavor. This week I’m making a client favorite: Mesquite Roasted Chicken with some roasted wild mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.  It is indeed mushroom season, but even if it wasn’t, I would wish for you a wandering eye, and a slow enough gait that you can indeed smell the granite (and find the mushrooms) because, as I said previously, there is NO shortcut to mushrooms! (Thank you J.R.R. Tolkien for inspiring the title of this newsletter).

 

A Note From Chef Lori

Can you BELIEVE ’tis almost the season?!? Think about your holiday party NOW…we’re excited to party with you but Lula only has two hands!!

Photo courtesy of ME – an edible Cauliflower Mushroom!

Click here to visit our website!

Hot Tea Weather

I love a good cup of herbal tea…”regular” tea gives me a headache.  Did you know herbal tea isn’t tea at all?  The technical term is “tisane” for any infusion with hot water of leaves, herbs, bark etc.,  that are NOT tea leaves. There is only one kind of tea: Camellia Sinensis.  The various names you like or hear have to do with place (where the leaves come from) or flavorings.  For instance, if you like Earl Grey, you’re probably enjoying the bergomot orange oil added to it.  Real tea comes in four types:  black (fermented), oolong (semi-fermented), green (unfermented) and white – traditionally only from buds not leaves, and sun dried to prevented further oxidation).  Lula’s famous Lavendar Honey Tea is made with fermented (black) decaffeinated tea and lavendar from our garden (as well as honey, of course!)  We combine the best of both worlds to bring you a unique and delightful flavor, which can be enjoyed cold OR hot!

Milk – What’s the Difference?

 

We all have our favorite “blend” – skim, 2% etc., and we know what we like to taste when drinking a big glass of ice cold milk.  BUT…can we just use whatever milk we have in the fridge to go into a recipe when it calls for milk?   Well, you can try…but not really… As with all cooking, science plays a big part – and the chemical makeup of fat milk vs. no fat milk does make a difference. 

 

When a recipe calls for just “milk” and doesn’t give you any direction, what to do? Just make sure there’s some fat in your milk.  I always have on hand skim milk because that’s what I like to drink (hormone and pesticide free, of course!).  I always have on hand half ‘n half because that’s what my beloved husband says I like in my coffee (yes it’s true…I have no idea what goes in my coffee – only Gordon does).  Since half ‘n half is half whole milk and half cream, it’s got plenty of fat  to make things taste dreamy, but more fat than we like on our hips.  Cutting it with no fat skim milk by ½ seems to keep my recipes rich, but not too fatty.  If you have 2% milk on hand at all times, I’d use that in its entirety as it has enough fat not to mess with a final recipe’s consistency.  Just don’t use all skim milk in recipes unless it is specifically called for because recipe developers count on the fat in conjunction with their other ingredients to create the final product consistency they intended upon. 

 

At Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering we have many different recipes for the same thing – for instance, our fat FREE Smashed Potatoes (we throw a couple of secret ingredients in there to fool your tastebuds into thinking how rich they are) or our Cream Cheese Horseradish Smashed Potatoes which uses skim milk to keep the fat content down, but the cream cheese keeps the luscious mouth feel and taste UP.  So…if you want a lower fat version of something – just ask!!

 

 

In Lula's Kitchen, Love is ALWAYS our First Ingredient!