EVERYBODY knows about cinnamon, right?!? I guess you know that there are two types of cinnamon – both are the bark of trees. There is the Cassia tree, and there is the Ceylon tree.
Volatile oils give cinnamon its strength. Ceylon Cinnamon has the lowest volatile oil content (1-2%) and is the preferred cinnamon in Europe and Mexico. In my opinion, it has more complexity and finesse than Cassia Cinnamon, which is much more in your “face” with volatile oils ranging from 3-7% depending on its originating terroir. Lula’s Sweet Potato-Bourbon Shortbread with Maple Pecan Streusal, among many other desserts AND savory dishes, contains Ceylon Cinnamon, and sometimes you don’t even know!!
Korintje Cinnamon from Indonesia is the flavor most recognized by American palates as it is the most readily available in our supermarkets. For fun, seek out China Tung Hing Cassia Cinnamon – you’ll notice it has a bigger “bite” in recipes, and a subtly different flavor from what you’re used to.
What you might NOT be familiar with, are Cassia BUDS. They are precious and hard to find – resembling a clove in appearance, though perfect and pink. Obviously, they are the bud of a cassia tree before it flowers – can you imagine the flavor of flowering cinnamon?!? These buds are prized, and laid in the sun to dry. They are used in pickling recipes, meat marinades and yummy warm holiday drinks. Happy Hunting – and if you find some let Lula know!! For more info like this you can get weekly click HERE!
OK folks, back to “winter” spices…though the clove is also a fantastic home remedy for toothaches all year long…did you know dentists used to prescribe sucking on a whole clove to alleviate toothaches? Oil of clove is a numbing agent. Cloves are also extremely popular in cigarettes … but DON’T!! 🙂 You can get cloves ground ( a little dab’ll do ya – enough clove in your spice cake and you’ll FEEL the numbing!!), or you can get cloves whole.
This is another spice that you could be put to death for in the mid 1600’s – planting OR trading cloves was a capital offense, and cloves are also a critical ingredient in French cuisine – you can’t make a stock without studding a whole onion with cloves and throwing it in!!
Here’s the most fun fact of all … back in the day when people didn’t bathe very often and STANK, cloves were a favorite ingredient in pomander balls (the usually metal balls with holes that one stuffed with aromatics and hung from their belt (men) or dangled from their wrist (women) to hide the ODOR… ahhh… the things you learn when armchair traveling with Lula…for more tips, tidbits and fun on a weekly basis you can sign up HERE.
OK, week two of “fall/winter” spices…I’m going to continue where I left off and discuss MACE – which is simply the thin, apricot colored, lacy outer layer of the nutmeg seed. Since there’s not as much of it, it has always been way more expensive. It resembles nutmeg in scent and flavor but is more delicate. Once again, this spice can be used in a variety of savory recipes as well as sweet.
At the height of its popularity the Dutch ruled the spice trade, and one year (1770) production exceeded demand by a year’s supply and the whole lot was BURNED – making Amsterdam the best scented city of all time! Fun Fact: Most American hot dog manufactures include mace in their recipe!! And NOW Lula is going to give away a closely guarded secret..put a dash in your BBQ sauces (think my Kentucky Black Bourbon…) YUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuum. Hit here for more tips and tricks! With love, Lula
OK, we’re here…it’s fall rapidly descending into holidays…so I thought I’d touch on some winter spices that everybody uses for BAKING…but since I’m not the Pastry Queen I’m going to talk a bit about nuance and savory cooking. Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices because it has such a nuanced flavor if you use the right amount that most people can’t tell it’s in there…it’s the big ole’ “What IS that flavor?!?” that I love to hear so much 🙂
Nutmeg was fought over (the islands that grew it) and considered so valuable that it was sterilized when it left an island so that it couldn’t re-seed or grow anywhere else. It comes from a tree that also produces mace (more on that next time). The DEATH penalty was enforced for anyone smuggling nutmeg. First the Portuguese and the Dutch battled over dominion. Then the Dutch and the English. I’m going to leave you with two fun facts:
1) The Island of Manhattan, then called New Amsterdam, is part of the United States because of a negotiation in 1667 ending this particular spice war.
2) Add a pinch of nutmeg whenever you use cream, milk, or eggs. No matter the recipe. You’ll thank me!
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Did you know you can treat any squash seeds the same as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)? Do just what you would do with the pumpkin- separate the seeds from the pulp, put in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cook in a preheated 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Get creative with your seasonings! Cinnamon and sugar, or Rosemary & sea salt … the combinations are endless!! For more mouthwatering pics visit here !
Tis the season…and Oh, the drama! Which is it? They are NOT related and another fun fact, the sweet potato isn’t even related to the potato! First, let’s scientifically (but not TOO scientifically) differentiate:
Sweet Potato: Originated in Central/South America. A relative in the Morning Glory family. Skin a plethora of colors. Flesh a plethora of colors – the lighter the starchier. The bad news is…you can never tell the color of the flesh until after you buy them!
Yam: Originated (and 95% still comes from) Africa/Asia. A member of the Lily family. Mostly soft fleshed. Can grow to over 100 pounds! Sweet Potatoes are frequently mislabeled in the US because African Americans called them Yams as they resembled them. Yams are hard to get in the US. You’d have to go to an international market. You WILL see sweet potatoes labeled as yams in grocery stores. But if you look closely, they are also labeled sweet potatoes, because it’s the law. A wonderful use of sweet potatoes, on the menu now at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering is our Roasted Sweet Potato Salad! You can order as a side with your lunch or entree at www.lulasforlunch.com Yummy Yummy!!
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!
Stone Crabs are in season from about October through April and are a RENEWABLE resource amongst shellfish. We only eat the claws, and the claws regenerate – so no killing of crabs; everybody wins. You can grill them over an open fire or steam them – you can use whatever cooking mechanism comes out of your trunk! Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering serves them with a Tarragon Remoulade! A simpler version is simply 1/2 Dijon Mustard and 1/2 good mayonnaise. You’ll need a small hammer, or a nutcracker works well, and a couple of picks or seafood forks for digging out the DELICIOUS, sweet meat. Happy Tailgating! – Lula
Folks I stumbled upon another brilliant way to get rid of stuffing (IF you have any leftover!!!) I always have it left over because it’s probably my favorite part of the meal besides gravy, and I make double the amount of stuffing to the amount of anything else I make!!
Fry up some breakfast sausage while you’re nuking your stuffing. If you would prefer, Italian sausage works beautifully as well. Sometimes Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering puts Italian sausage in our stuffing if I’m in that sort of mood for Thanksgiving. Lay the sausage on top of the hot stuffing and top it with a fried egg. Kind of like eggs ‘n toast but richer and BETTER!!!! This should be accompanied by a steaming hot cup of coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. Just sayin’. Happy coma, Lula
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!