Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spring Fever

Seems I am not the only one with spring fever these days. People are clamoring for more springtime recipes that they can use to create delicious dishes with all the newly sprung springtime fruits and veggies. I totally understand the craving.

Lately I have been delighted to find tray packs of fresh green English peas (shell-off) in the produce section of my local grocery store. They are clear sign that spring is officially here. Below is one of my favorite super simple recipes for these tasty green treats.

English Peas Go to Italy

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium slices pancetta (can substitute prosciutto)

1 tray pack fresh English Peas (shell-off)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

fresh cracked black pepper


*Pour olive oil into a medium to large skillet and place on medium high heat for 1-2 minutes.

*Dice pancetta.

*When oil is hot (but not smoking) add pancetta to pan. The pancetta should be gently sizzling. Saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly.

*Add peas to the pan and stir together with pancetta. Continue sauteing for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly.

*Pull rosemary leaves off the stems and add to the pan with peas. Add a very light sprinkle of salt plus a more generous helping of cracked black pepper to the peas. Stir to incorporate. Continue sauteing for 2-3 more minutes.

*Serve and enjoy!

Now if you are unlucky enough to be somewhere were you can't find fresh English peas yet you could substitute frozen green peas. I do not recommend using canned peas though - too mushy.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's day offers an easy opportunity for another touch point with consumers. It is a great time to offer up simple semi-homemade recipes as children and fathers around the country enter the uncharted territory of the kitchen in an effort to make breakfast, dinner or treats for mom. Whether you are targeting consumers with email newsletters, a mailing, a splash page on your website, or other marketing vehicle, be sure to offer up some super simple quick ideas that even a cooking newbie can handle like Summer Garden Party Sugar Cookies . These delicious little cookies are perfect because dad can easily get the kids involved in cutting out the cookies, spreading the icing and decorating with fruit. Since dad starts with refrigerated cookie dough, as long as he can find a cookie sheet in the kitchen, he should be able to handle the task.

So remember, offering easy recipes are a great way to be a resource to your consumers throughout the year. And of course, don't forget to call your mom on this Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

From Hippie to Hip - Brown Rice Becomes Fashionable Again

In the 1960's and 70's brown rice was a popular whole-grain staple with the hippie era counter-culture. In the 80's and 90's it virtually disappeared from menus in favor of the more flavor-neutral white rice. Today the former hippie culture food is making a comeback thanks in part to the increasing interest in more nutrient rich "good" carbs.

So what is brown rice exactly? It is basically minimally processed rice. The outer inedible hulls are removed from the grain but the bran and germ are left mostly or completely intact. (To get white rice the bran and germ are stripped off leaving only the starchy flesh of the grain.) Brown rice is not always truly brown. "Brown" is more of a processing term referring to the bran which is left on the grain.

Brown rice has a lot of advantages over its paler younger brother. It is packed with more nutrients (fiber, antioxidants, etc) than white rice and it is much more flavorful. Thanks to popular mainstream restaurants (like P.F. Chang) consumers are becoming reacquainted with the tasty nutty flavor of brown rice. And thanks to popular diets (such as the South Beach Diet) consumers are actively looking to add more whole grains into their meal routines. So as you are building your recipe library think about including some recipes that call for brown rice. This flavorful ingredient edition will make for a deliciously on-trend meal that cooks can feel good about serving to their families and friends

Monday, May 5, 2008

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Most people think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day. It actually commemorates the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (Mexican independence came later) and is celebrated as only a regional holiday in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in America where it has come to represent more of a celebration of Mexican pride and history. Regardless of what decent you are from, Cinco de Mayo is a great day to celebrate with some delicioso Latin American cuisine.

The Latin American food trend is a very hot, up and coming trend. Flavors and ingredients like lime, tomatillos, chili peppers, corn meal, chorizo, adobo, yuca and queso fresco are popping up on menus even in non-Mexican themed restaurants. One of my favorite "new" spices to use when I am cooking at home is chipotle peppers or chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotle chile peppers are smoke-dried jalapenos. You can buy them as a dried spice (in the spice aisle) or you can get them whole in a can (in the ethnic section of the grocery store). Whole chipotle chiles in a can usually come packed in adobo sauce. This deep red flavorful sauce is made with tomatoes, vinegar and spices like garlic, onion, cumin, lemon pepper and achiote powder.

Need a little inspiration on how to use chipotles to add some Latin American flare to your menu tonight? Try sprinkling the dried chipotle chile pepper powder over french fries or popcorn. Or dice 1-2 chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce and add to spagetti sauce, chili or meatloaf. If you really want to mix things up and try something new, try adding the chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce to an alfedo sauce (it is obviously a non-traditional use and may sound a little strange, but it truly delicious - I promise you!). Whether you use the dried spice or the chipotle peppers in adobo, you will be adding a wonderfully smoky spice to your dish. If you worried about things getting too spicy, just scrape out and throw away most of the seeds before adding the chiles to your recipes. And of course, don't forget to serve some refreshing cold beverages like margaritas or cervezas to cool everything down.