Category Archives: Winter

HOW MANY SPICES ARE IN ALLSPICE?

Just one! Allspice is the dried berry of a tree that grows all over the tropical Americas – called Pimenta Dioica. The berry is historically called allspice because it tastes like a combination of several spices, especially cloves. Clove can be a VERY strong spice both in aroma and taste (oil of clove is used as a numbing agent).   So when you want a hint of clove with a complex flavor, try allspice!!

Allspice is traditionally used in stuff like fruitcakes and plum puddings; Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses allspice in many savory applications as well as sweet. If you have a favorite use of allspice, let us know at http://lulasforlunch.com/blog .

 

Scent and Memory – a Powerful Combination!

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

As you smell a fresh pine tree, cookies baking, bayberry or orange, do flashes of past Christmas holidays come flooding through your mind?  This very aromatic season is an easy way to describe the phenomenon of scent and memory.

The process of smelling is a thing of beauty.  Smell is a chemical sense detected by sensory cells called chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell and pass on electrical impulses to the brain.  The brain then interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception – we recognize this as smell.  The only other chemical system that can quickly identify, make sense of and memorize new molecules is the immune system (Sarah Dowdy, How Stuff Works).

Gratefully reprinted with permission from my good friend Pat Faust, Gerontologist – and her blog “My Boomer Brain”

A History of Transparency – or, Pecan Pie

dessert-pecan-pie-13

‘Tis the season, and I thought you might be interested in the humble beginnings of one of America’s favorite holiday desserts.

Transparent, or Syrup, Pie, has been around the US for eons – it uses the most basic of readily available ingredients and even the poorest usually have them on hand: eggs, butter, and a sweetener in the form of whatever’s local (honey, maple, sorghum, cane, molasses).   The Industrial Revolution came along and the US began to have a surplus of corn, and of course, we had to figure out what to do with it, so,  at the beginning of the 20th century, a cheap liquid sugar was invented using cornstarch, by the Corn Products Refining Company – and they called it Karo. 

In the late 1920’s-early 30’s an executive’s wife (of the heretofore mentioned Corn Products Refining Company) made a transparent pie using Karo, and added pecans.  Notice the wife’s name is not in the history books.  As usual in a capitalist society, let’s create that need then fill it!  The CPRC began heavily marketing KARO pie and an American staple was born. 

This same pie, with added cream, is called syrup pie.  It tastes (no WAY!) creamier and more custardy, but is still extremely similar to transparent pie taste.  It’s a little runnier and you need to adjust your solids to your liquids if you’re going to try this avenue.  A great way is to substitute only egg yolks instead of whole eggs as the yolks contain less water than whites.

My bottom line is – if you like historical recipes, go ahead and try Karo Pie (google google google!).  But if you really want a great tasting Pecan Pie, use an original sweetener – my favorite being maple – but that’s for YOU to decide.  I also add bourbon because I’m, well, me!

Sweet Potato or Yam, Ma’am?

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!!

Some Lent Learnin’

Entree Curried TilapiaLula’s Curried Tilapia

So, for lots of us (and the grocery stores) fish is in store for the next few weeks – and I want to give you a helpful tip to keep your at home fish from being tough and dry.

Fish (any kind) contains ALOT of water and has a very loose protein structure that makes cooking fish a delicate process.  You just don’t want to over cook fish, because fish, more than any other protein, has dramatic “carry-over” cooking.

What is carry over cooking?  Well…you follow instructions when roasting meet to “let it rest” to re-absorb juices, right?  Well, it’s also finishing the cooking process right there on the counter.  That’s why most cookbooks/instructions tell you that medium rare is 130 degress…but they tell you to pull your meat from the heat at 125 degrees.

Same for fish, and funnily enough, when you cook your fish at a higher temperature, the carry over cooking is much more dramatic (ex. salmon at 250 degrees reaching a 125 temp will raise another 7 or so degrees sitting on the counter for 5 minutes, but salmon cooked at 450 degrees to 125 will raise another 27 degrees after 5 minutes!!  SO…..UNDERCOOK your fish at a LOW temperature and let it rest just like you do meat, and you’ll have moist, flaky, perfectly done fish!!  You’re welcome.  -Lula

Some Lentil Learnin’

10,000 years and counting…they must be good, right?  And they’re an absolute POWERHOUSE of nutrition!  Lentils contain the highest protein content of any vegetable other than soybeans (negligably higher)…fat free…cholesterol free…higher in folate than any other non-fortified food…and a really good source of iron (make sure you eat the lentils with Vitamin C foods so you get maximum absorbtion of the iron: tomatoes, green bell peppers, etc).

Simmer (bubbles JUST breaking the surface – I call it “smiling”) your lentils without salt – as salt toughens the skin.  Add the salt at the end to taste.  One part lentils to 3 parts liquid is a good place to start if you want maximum absorption.  The Red Chief tends to be my favorite, as it gets mushy and I like to puree it for a “fine” soup, but beware, they turn yellow, they are not red after they’re cooked!  Golden Lentils cook more quickly if you’re short on time.  French green lentils (Lentille du Puy) contain less starch so they’re firmer when they’re  cooked.  Brown lentils are cheap and easy to find.  They take alot longer to cook though – around 45 minutes because they have tougher skins.  These days, though, you can find multiple varieties of lentils in almost any grocery store!!

“Money” Greens

Collard Greens, which are eaten year round down south but particularly on New Years Day, are eaten that day because they supposedly bring good financial health, as they resemble money when folded.  I want you to be “armed and ready” for the new year so you’re getting this offer in plenty of time!   Collards (as well as Tuscan Kale, Kale, and Mustard Greens) are absolutely LOADED with good for you vitamins A, C, K, and Calcium, as well as contain a good amount of antioxidants and protein (3 grams per 1/2 cup cooked), no fat, and are incredibly low in calories.  They are in the broccoli family.    Enjoy! – Lula

Happy New Year 2015!

Flash and his Bread Xmas 2014

Happy New Year Everyone! I’m back from yet another trip to “the homeland” with some fresh ideas for 2015. Much food and wine was enjoyed this season, including the Muscadine Grape from my brother’s farm, Cane Creek, served in many different ways, and my husband Gordon’s “Flash Bread” – seen to the right. We were cutting and serving it from my sister-in-law’s kitchen in the foothills of Asheville, NC. Look for the Muscadine Grape on new 2015 Lula’s Menus. There’ll be Roasted Chicken Risotto Simmered in a Muscadine Reduction, among other things!

I don’t want to talk about food at the beginning of this amazing new year, though. I want to talk about my amazing husband Gordon, and his role in my life, and yours. You see, he’s a First Responder. I’ve been quiet and taken in all that has happened in the past few months nationwide, and I’ve listened, and I’ve felt the repercussions of our sad, but hopeful I dare to say, state of affairs. What prompted me to focus on this is the fact that I was asked not to wear my favorite “hoodie” on our trip down south.  Gordon gave it to me – it says “Property of Covington PD” on the back of it. You see, police officers are now very cautious of quite a few things. They think twice about bringing their cruiser home and parking it in the driveway. They are wary of the clothing they wear. They are afraid for their families, because of attempted kidnappings and harassment. I can no longer wear my favorite piece of casual clothing because I might get attacked in a parking lot. There have been more than 16 police deaths since the Grand Jury Decision in Ferguson, but you’re probably not aware of this because reporting harm to a first responder or his or her family isn’t “sexy”. Only reporting misconduct and corruption within the ranks is considered bankable. Do we have bad cops? Sure. They are human like the rest of us – including the bad politicians, bad salesmen, bad financiers, and bad musicians (not to mention bad cooks). But for the most part we have a society depending on the good instincts, intentions, talent, and training of our police forces. While we as a society slowly erode their benefits, salaries, pensions, etc., we expect them to shoulder an increasing amount of responsibility as cutbacks at the federal, state and local level are removing personnel virtually essential to the safety of your first responders, and my husband.

I want you to know a little bit about my husband the man. He’s a well educated, very intelligent, thoughtful, serious, funny, and well read person. He runs marathons for charity. He enjoys ridiculously bad action and fantasy movies and can watch them over and over again. He is an excellent gift wrapper. He’s a fabulous bread baker. He hates yard work. He has a remarkable palate and uses it to bring me home wine I love. He is a first responder whose mission is to protect and serve, but like all of his friends and compatriots across the country, his FIRST job is to come home alive.

Coming home alive is not an easy proposition when you’re working against drug cartels, herion and crystal meth addicts (too many addictions to name them all), stopping armed robberies, and getting shot at, all of which Gordon has endured, not to mention broken bones while on the job. These do not make up the bulk of his days though. The very unglamorous duties of finding lost dogs and returning them home, negotiating domestic disputes, and making sure children are safe both within their homes and without, are his daily bread. Being intimate with his community, including getting to know both the good and the bad, and attending various township meetings is his charge. These things make the Thin Blue Line a little stronger for you.

People tend to forget that police officers don’t make the laws; they are bound to enforce them. They do not have the luxury of the spirit of the law; they must adhere to the letter of the law. My husband’s split second decisions determine whether I get to see him at the end of each day, or whether I will never see him again. So the next time you pass a police officer on the street, look him in the eye and smile, or say “hello”. Let him know that you think what he’s doing matters, and that he or she is appreciated and not taken for granted. He may not smile back – he takes his job very seriously, but trust me, it makes a difference. By the way…I know for a fact that police officers are allowed to eat during their break (would you like a 10, 12, or sometimes 16 hour shift without a break and some food?) and they like donuts no more or less than the rest of us.  🙂

The Mysterious Pomegranate

Asian in origin, the pomegranate is considered special for 3 general reasons: 1) They are available only in fall/early winter – their elusivity gives them exclusivity! 2) Virtually all of the pomagranates sold in the United States are grown in one valley in California. 3) They are heavy in anti-oxidants and are packed full of medicinal qualities – from easing stomach aches to shrinking tumours.

Folks tend to shy away from working with pomegranates because they are not the easiest food to work with, plus, they stain just as badly as beets – so wear gloves or be particularly neat!!

Here’s an easy way to get the arils (seeds) out of the pomegranate:  Fill a medium-large bowl with cold water.  Cut the “crown” end of the pomegranate off (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you hold one).  Slice down the sides lengthwise from the missing crown – just scoring the flesh.  You can then pull apart the fruit in sections and drop them into the water.  Then sort of love-up on the sections with your hands – gently rolling and squeezing.  The arils will break away and drift to the bottom, and the white membrane will float to the top.

Sprinkle the seeds (about ½-3/4 cup per fruit) on salads, or juice them for about ½ cup of juice.  You can reduce the juice to a syrup along with some balsamic vinegar for a wonderful glaze for chicken or pork.  Because they’re red, they’re naturally a great fit at holiday time.  Or, just drink the juice for those fabulous health benefits!  Try Lula’s ( www.lulasforlunch.com ) Sweet Potato Pops w/Pomegranate when it’s in season – they’re YUMMY!