Category Archives: Tips

De Arbol Chiles (Cayenne)

Ground Cayenne comes from the De Arbol Chile – which is found in abundance in New Mexico.  I’m currently reading a book about chiles (yes, there are whole BOOKS written about chiles!), and it made me remember a time long ago when I traveled to New Mexico and experienced many things for the first time.  I was so excited about the chile wreaths and decorations they make there that I purchased one and brought it back home to Cincinnati.  I hung it in my catering kitchen.  It was beautiful!  A couple of months later, I noticed what appeared to be “fruit flies” but smaller, one at a time, floating around the house.  A swat here, a swat there, no problem!  But within days, they were getting in my eyes, and crawling up my nose, when I walked into the kitchen.  I called mom.  They know everything, right?  Well, if they don’t, they care enough to find out.  After 2 or 3 calls back and forth after she consulted with friends, and alot of questioning, it turns out the chile wreath had been the host of thousands of microscopic eggs, which hatched and became fleeting residents of Cincinnati Ohio.  The remedy:  freeze the wreath.  It was winter by then so I just set it out on the back deck overnight and voila!  Problem “debugged”.  Wreath rinsed and back in place for all to enjoy!  Moral of the story: rinse your chiles before eating – even if you’re not a caterer!! – Lula

The Secret to Great Pancakes

We all love pancakes, right?  My favorite are extra fluffy melt in your mouth on the inside and crispy (slightly overdone!) on the outside…Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering’s pancakes are called “Crepey Cakes” because they’re so light and dreamy like a crepe, but with more “heft” – we use whole grains in our batter.

It doesn’t matter whether you like whole grains, make your own, or they come from a box – a couple of tips to always insure your pancakes aren’t doughy and leaden:  1) Pour your liquids in first and mix them up.  2) whatever liquid your recipe calls for, add 1/4 more liquid (milk or water) – so, if you’re making pancakes for 4, and your recipe calls for 1 cup milk, ad 1 1/4 cups milk.  3) Scatter your dry ingredients over the liquid and using a fork or a whisk, not a spoon, lightly fold stuff toge ther til incorporated but some lumps remain.  Pancake batter is in effect a “dough” and you don’t want to activate the gluten too much or they’ll become tough.  4) and probably most importantly, let your batter REST for 10-15 minutes before you dribble it into the pan.  Don’t stir your batter to get it into the pan.    We’re (me and all the people in my head) happy to answer any questions you may have about your batter – email them under “Ask/About Lula’ on the website www.lulasforlunch.com  Have a satisfying breakfast!  Or brunch, lunch, dinner…I LOVE pancakes for dinner!!

MSG – Hell Hath no Fury

app Boudin Stuffed Shrooms

Monosodium Glutamate got lots of attention starting in the 60’s, when “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” was researched and MSG was named the culprit.  Some, but not all people don’t react well to MSG, even though it is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies (with the largest concentration of it in our nervous system).  MSG is the sodium salt of Glutamic Acid, and it naturally occurs in mushrooms, seaweed, and wheat gluten, as well.

Most manufacturers and restaurants are msg (added) “free” these days…but it is NOT reason for a hissy fit if you feel like your sinuses are swelling or you start sneezing and you find out that something you ate contained a little bit of MSG, or had naturally occurring MSG in it.  In fact, salt and sugar are WAY more dangerous for you than MSG.  Chances are, you’ve been consuming naturally occurring msg your whole life and have never felt a thing!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering does not add MSG to anything we make, but we do love our mushrooms, our seaweed, and our bread. 🙂 Please enjoy this pic of our Boudin Stuffed Mushrooms above!

Do You Have ANY Willpower?!?

In my house there’s very little danger of chips of any kind going stale…but just in case you have more willpower than I do, did you know…storing potato chips in the refrigerator keeps them fresher longer?!?!?!

There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. Refrigerators are a low moisture environment so there’s simply less moisture for the chips to absorb than pantry air.
  2. Potato chips are high in starch content and when starch molecules cool they crystalize to become firm.

If you like handy-dandy tips  like these about once a week from Lula’s Catering  you can subscribe here and we’ll just keep you brimming with food knowledge!!!

Psycho Sausage – The Multiple Personalities of Chorizo

 

Did you know there are two Chorizo’s out there?  There’s Spanish, and there’s Mexican.  Most recipes won’t tell you which to use – you need to understand the origin of the dish to select accurately.

 

Spanish Chorizo looks like a pepperoni or summer sausage, because it is dry cured like they are.  It is made with Sweet Paprika (there are two types of Paprika as well!!) and can be eaten sliced right from the “stick”.  You would use this in Paella, for instance.

 

Mexican Chorizo, even though it can come in a casing, has the consistency of bulk sausage and contains more fat.  It is seasoned more with chiles and vinegar.  You need to cook Mexican Chorizo – either in the casing or squeezed out of the casing – just like you would ground beef or bulk sausage.

 

At Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering we use Mexican Chorizo in our South American Strata, and it’s DEElicious!!  Or, ask for our Texi-Mexi Empanadas – served with our amazing Avocado-Cilantro Crème.

 

 

The Sodom of Sodium (get it?!?)

I don’t know about you, but my body retains more sodium (and everything else) in summer rather than the cooler months when our metabolisms run at a faster rate.  Your body NEEDS sodium – you cannot live without it.  BUT you really shouldn’t consume more than 1500 milligrams per day or it can turn into a BAD thing.  Sodium can go by a number of names, including salt, sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate. .  Read labels and be aware!  To help you, here are some foods high in sodium, and below THAT are some alternatives.

  • Foods that are pickled (unless they come from Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ) !! like the Tarragon Sherry pickles in the pic above
  • Foods that are smoked  (unless they come from Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ) !!  like the Smoked Trout in the pic above
  • Condiments, such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, cocktail sauce and ketchup
  • Prepared salad dressing (Lula’s are homemade so no worries!)
  • Foods served in a broth or with au jus
  • Some cereals
  • Meat, poultry or seafood that has been enhanced with a sodium solution (virtually ALL pre-cut, prepackaged protein)
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Processed cheeses, such as American
  • Spice mixes that have salt in them

Citrus is one of my favorite ways to enhance flavor.  Also, don’t forget that many prepared foods now come in low and no sodium varieties – always buy these, and add the extra tidbit of salt you may desire, OR,  here are some more ways to use spices and herbs in place of sodium:

  • Basil: Fish, lamb, lean ground meats, stews, salads, soups, sauces, fish cocktails
  • Chives: Salads, sauces, soups, lean meat dishes, vegetables
  • Cinnamon: Fruits (especially apples), breads, pie crusts
  • Curry powder: Lean meats (especially lamb), veal, chicken, fish, tomatoes, tomato soup, mayonnaise
  • Dill: Fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish
  • Garlic (not garlic salt): Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
  • Ginger: Chicken, fruits
  • Mustard (dry): Lean ground meats, lean meats, chicken, fish, salads, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mayonnaise, sauces
  • Nutmeg: Fruits, pie crust, lemonade, potatoes, chicken, fish, lean meat loaf, toast, veal, pudding, ANYTHING with cream in it – savory OR sweet
  • Onion powder (not onion salt): Lean meats, stews, vegetables, salads, soups
  • Paprika: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
  • Parsley: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
  • Peppermint extract: Puddings, fruits
  • Rosemary: Chicken, veal, lean meat loaf, lean beef, lean pork, sauces, stuffings, potatoes, peas, lima beans
  • Sage: Lean meats, stews, biscuits, tomatoes, green beans, fish, lima beans, onions, lean pork
  • Thyme: Lean meats (especially veal and lean pork), sauces, soups, onions, peas, tomatoes, salads
  • Turmeric: Lean meats, fish, sauces, rice

AND…the #1 way to reduce sodium in your diet – DON’T PUT SALT ON THE DINNER TABLE!  I’ve gotta tell ya’ – NOTHING is more insulting to a cook than salting something before you’ve tasted it!

Here’s to your health, and your joy! -Lula

What’s YOUR favorite Basil?

Lula's Caprese Crostini

I tend to “decorate” with herbs…I have such a beautiful garden and it’s so easy to pluck a few varieties both flowering and non flowering.   Since it’s almost basil season I’d love to alert you to  a couple of GORGEOUS varieties of Basil that are purple instead of green!  The Purple Ruffles variety has leaves that look like a 1970’s handkerchief skirt.  The “Red Rubin variety has pink flowers!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering makes our Caprese Crostini with Genovese Pesto, garnished with Lime Basil, two OTHER varieties!

Citrus Juice

If you follow these two steps, you will almost double the volume of juice you get out of  lemons, limes, oranges, grapepfruit and the like.  First, pop them in the microwave.  One fruit for 15 seconds.  Each add’l fruit gets 5 more seconds.   Then, place them on the counter or cutting board and putting the force of your “elbow grease” behind them, roll them around a bit.  You’ll be amazed at the amount of juice you’ll get!  Lula uses citrus in a myriad of recipes…Pork Loin with Peach Mango Salsa,  and Salmon Piccata are two.  Go to www.lulasforlunch.com  and guess which menu items contain citrus…there are several on our Breakfasty/Brunchy menu alone!!! – Lula

Heidi Bright, Heidi Bright, Will You Write My Blog Tonight?

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ‘s Smoked Trout Salad Bites with Mandarin

Once again, my friend and author Heidi Bright (“Thriver Soup”) has offered such a simply written and informative piece that I am compelled to copy:

“Fresh, fragrant mandarins are precious, full of flavor, and full of power.  The magic lies in their peels—which are quite edible and   contain potent anti-cancer properties (see links below).  Also called clementines and tangerines, these citrus fruits are fresh and sitting in grocery stores now.

If you have a high-speed blender, mix two whole mandarins (peel on) with a quarter cup cranberries (at this time of year, try frozen, not the packaged sugary snacks), a little raw honey and/or stevia, a quarter cup raw/soaked-in-salt-water pecans, and coconut butter. Blend. Mmmm! Add chia seeds if desired.  Taste the fragrance, ingest the power.”

I would like to add my two cents worth:  Wash your fruit with a scrubbing sponge and some dishwashing liquid if you intend to eat the skins – even organic can be sprayed with color – which doesn’t taste as good!

Crystallized Honey

Does this ever happen to your honey?  Grainy, clumpy, not pretty…but there’s an easy fix or two…my favorite and seems to yield the best results:  NEVER let anything touch your honey.  Pour it into/onto a spoon or measuring device.  Crystallization is mostly caused by moisture, and next, bacteria (not necessarily bad stuff that will hurt you).  If you keep your honey moisture free you probably won’t have crystallization.  If you do, however, just put the whole jar in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.  That’ll do the trick.  You can use the microwave, on-and-“off”ing every few seconds and stirring, but that’s way more trouble!  Now, go enjoy a good cup of hot tea with some honey. – Lula