Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dinner from Disney

Just returned from taking Logan on his first Disney trip - an auspicious occasion in the Reed household! We went with 6 other families so between us we had nine kids ages six and down for a week in Disney. Oh boy!

While I was in Disney I had the opportunity to eat all kinds of park food. Some meals were definitely better than others. One meal I particularly enjoyed was dinner at T Rex in Downtown Disney.

The wait was kind of long (even with reservations) but the food was good and dining experience was excellent. The restaurant was decorated like Jurassic Park and there are regular “meteor showers” every 20 or 30 minutes. (Logan loved the light show!) For dinner I got the Omnivore Salad with shrimp - rosemary infused shrimp on top of a salad with strawberries, dried cranberries, goat cheese and maple pecans then topped with a balsamic reduction dressing.

The salad was so good and better yet, it was something I could easily recreate and enjoy when ever I liked at home. I liked adding shrimp to the top. Seafood, in addition to being so tasty, is also good for you. It is a great source of lean healthy protein and vitamin D. It is also a natural source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Shrimp really are a tasty, bite-sized, little super food.

The Anytime Omnivore Salad

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finally chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 bag salad greens
½ cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
¼ cup dried cranberries
Maple pecans (recipe below)
Balsamic Reduction Dressing (recipe below)

•Preheat oven to 400º.
•Place shrimp into a bowl. Add olive oil, chopped garlic, rosemary and a dash of salt. Toss to coat shrimp.
•Pour shrimp into a large glass baking dish. Bake for about 10 minutes or until shrimp are fully cooked (they will look white opaque).
•Portion salad greens onto serving plates. Top with strawberries and cranberries.
•Add cooked shrimp and maple pecans. Top with Balsamic Reduction Dressing.

Maple Pecans
½ cup pecan halves
¼ cup real maple syrup
½ teaspoon chili powder

•Preheat oven to 400º.
•In a small bowl toss together.
•Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Spread pecans onto baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes.

Balsamic Reduction Dressing
1 cup basalmic vinegar
Garlic salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

•Simmer basalmic vinegar in a medium skillet until it thickens to a syrup (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Season basalmic reduction with fresh cracked black pepper and a dash of garlic salt. Stir well.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pass the Pumpkins Please!

I have a confession to make - I really really love Halloween. I love decorating my house and passing out candy to all the little trick-or-treaters. I even dress up to pass out the candy.

This year was extra fun because I had another little person to “decorate” for evening – my 6 month old, Logan. Naturally I decided we needed to coordinate our costumes. Since I had an adorable little devil costume for him I decided to coordinate myself and go as an angel. Fitting, huh?

Since I love this holiday so much I wanted to come up with a fitting dinner for Halloween night. Of course it had to be something simple or something I could make ahead since dinner time comes right about the time trick-or-treaters start making the rounds in my neighborhood. I came up with Pumpkin Soup with Cran-Apple Pistachio Relish. Let me tell you it was delish!

Not sure why I don’t cook with pumpkin more often. It is available anytime of the year in canned form and it is really easy to add to all kinds of dishes. The best part is, unlike any other canned veggies, you can get cans of 100% pure pumpkin (no extra copious amounts of salt added!).

This recipe makes a good amount of soup. I like to refrigerate it and eat it for a week, but if that is more pumpkin soup than you want, try freezing it. Just portion into ziplock bags, push the air out, seal and freeze.

The relish will keep in the fridge for several days, but it won’t freeze well. If you are going to keep the relish in the fridge think about waiting to add the pistachios when you are ready to serve it so they are nice and crunchy. Pistachios will get soft sitting in the fridge soaking up the fruit juices of the relish.

Happy belated Halloween!!

Pumpkin Soup with Cran-Apple Pistachio Relish
Hands on time: 12 minutes Start to finish: 25 minutes Makes: 6 servings (9 cups)

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks with leaves, diced
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon curry powder
48 oz container low sodium chicken stock (6 cups)
15 oz can 100% pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 oz heavy cream (1 cup)
½ teaspoon nutmeg

• Heat a medium soup pot on medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, onions, celery and garlic salt top pot and sauté for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent.
• Add flour, thyme, curry powder top veggies and sauté for 1 minute.
• Add chicken stock, pumpkin puree and brown sugar to the pot. Whisk together and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes to thicken the soup.
• Reduce heat to low. Add heavy cream and nutmeg. Stir to incorporate. Keep warm until ready to serve.
• Ladle soup into bowls and top with Cran-Apple Pistachio Relish.

Cran-Apple Pistachio Relish
½ cup pistachios, rough chopped
½ c dried cranberries, chopped
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 teaspoons honey
• While soup is simmering chop the pistachios, cranberries and apple. Stir together with lemon juice, chili powder and honey. Set aside until ready to serve.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hosting the Sip-and-See

This past weekend I co-hosted a baby shower for my good friend Kim. It was what we call in the south a Sip-and-See Shower. That is when you have the shower after the baby is born. You come by to sip some lovely beverages, see the baby and shower the family with love. The added bonus (in my book anyway) is that since the baby is present you usually get out of having to play and sort of shower game.

Now to host a successful baby shower you need four basic elements: food, pastel-colored punch (beak out the sherbet and the ginger-ale), a few cute baby decorations and adequate seating. As the owner of my own recipe development company, guess which element I usually get assigned – the food. And that is ok. I love to cook (obviously) and I love the chance to try out new and different little appetizers on my friends. However, this shower was a little different from the many showers I hosted in the past, because I recently became a new mom myself. And as it turns out, my 5-month-old doesn’t find the same fascination I do in spending hours in the kitchen. No, my recipes these days need to be more of the 20-minutes-and-done variety. So then the question became how do I come up with a Martha Stewart buffet on a Rachel Ray time schedule. The answer? First, divide and conquer (i.e. divide up the buffet responsibilities among all 3 hostesses). Second, come up with some new quick-time apps.

One of the really great little nibbles I come up with was Southwestern Crab Quiche Bites. These little nearly-homemade quiches are awesome. Quiches by nature transport easily and reheat beautifully. Making them crab quiches just makes them more upscale. The nearly-homemade part comes in when I started with crab cakes, which have seasonings in them meaning you need to add fewer other seasonings to complete the dish.

Southwestern Crab Quiches Bites
Hand one time: 12 minutes - Start to finish time: 25 minutes - Makes: 45 appetizer servings

45 phyllo cups
2 frozen crab cakes (about 3.5 oz each), thawed
4 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons mild chopped green chilies (canned)
¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3-4 oz gruyere cheese

• Preheat oven to 350º.
• Line baking sheet with tin foil. Place phyllo cups on the baking sheet.
• Crumble thawed crab cakes into phyllo cups.
• In a bowl whisk together eggs, cream, chilies, nutmeg and chipotle chili powder. Spoon mixture over the crumbled crab in phyllo cups.
• Top each mini quiche with gruyere cheese.
• Bake 13 minutes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The First Step to More

They say all big journeys start with a single step. I say if I want to change how Americans look at food the best place to start is with my own family’s dinner plate. Now this is a challenge as my guy is a typical Midwestern-raised, corn-fed man who would happily eat chicken wings, green beans and beer every night of the week So I am constantly sneaking in new items onto the dinner table when my family isn’t looking. I have found that the key to acceptance is usually just naming the dish to be something that sounds familiar.

My favorite new dish that I am sneaking onto the dinner table is couscous. It is ridiculously simple to make and very tasty to eat. Couscous looks kind of like rice but it is actually more like a tiny little pasta. It is perfect for a night when you need side dish in a hurry as it cooks in about 5 minutes. Couscous is traditionally a North African or Middle Eastern dish but don’t let the fact it is from a region whose cuisine you aren’t familiar with deter you from giving couscous a try. The flavor of couscous is really mild so it works well in all kinds of dishes. You can find couscous on the ethnic aisle or near the rice in your grocery store.

Below is a really simple basic couscous recipe. Try it in the place of rice one night and let me know what you think. Just tell your family it is tiny pasta and I bet they will probably like it too.


1 cup dry couscous

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

-Put vegetable broth and olive oil into a pot and bring to a boil.

-Pour in 1 cup dry couscous. Stir well.

-Cover pot, turn off heat and let sit for 5-6 minutes.

-When ready to serve, give couscous a quick stir before spooning onto serving dish.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting Out of the Rut

Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans have a diet that regularly consists of 10 or less foods total?? Seriously, I read that in Gourmet magazine some time ago. Now why in the world when there are so many delicious foods out there would a person recycle the same chicken dish and the same boxed mac and cheese night after night? Maybe it is just that people get in a rut or they just don’t have time to go look for something new to try.

That is where I come in. I am constantly trying new dishes then coming up with a way to make them simple enough for anyone to prepare. This blog is my way to share. So if you are interested stay tuned and lets try some new foods together.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Loyalty Declines Along with the Economy

If you are like me you are probably getting a little tired of hearing all the economy doom and gloom. However we can't deny the effect the current economic trends are having on food trends, in particular how the average American shops for food. Various surveys and reports have shown there has been a huge shift in how we shop. Brand loyalty is on the decline while deal shopping is all the rage. Coupon usage is way up (so if you happen to be a brand manager issuing those coupons I hope you are keeping a close eye on that redemption budget....the old estimates will not apply!), promotional activity is up and purchases of lower priced private label items is up. What is down? Brand loyalty. According to a survey by Universal McCann only about a third of shoppers are planning to remain brand loyal with about an equal number stating they will only buy a grocery item that is on discount.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Souping it Up

Obviously as we head into the summer months soups may not be at the top of your mind but here is an interesting little trend. Refrigerated soups are a very small sub segment of the retail soup category however according to Mintel, Chicago this small segment has growth that out paces the other types of soup, including canned soups. Refrigerated soups enjoyed 12% growth 2006 to 2008. Why? These soups fit well with current health trends and consumers preference for "fresher" options. Another advantage with refrigerated soups is that the manufacturing process is easier to modify, so manufactures can modify flavors and varieties to adapt to seasonal preferences. So next time you are are at the grocery store check out the refrigerated soup options and see if there is anything there that appeals to you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Popular Nut to Crack

Did you know that almond consumption in the US has doubled in the past 8 years? According to Mintel Global New Products 2007 Database they are the second most frequently used nut in new nut containing food products. Just think of all the wonderful foods you see on shelf these days that contain almonds, like confections, baked goods, cereals and ice creams.

So what is making this nut so popular these days? Well for starters , of course, almonds are plain old fashion delicious but there is more to them than just taste. They are popular with food manufactures because they are a very low moisture nut with naturally high levels of antioxidants making them a very stable ingredient and easier to work with than some other varieties of nuts. Another factor adding to the almond appeal is the fact that they are one of the healthiest nuts around. Compared ounce to ounce to other nuts, almonds are highest in lots of key nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin. But it is not just about what is in almonds, they are also attractive for what is not in them as well - lots of extra calories. Almonds are also among the lowest calorie type of nut.

So as you are looking for a delicious new ingredient for your next creation, consider the almond. Popular, versatile, nutrient packed and delicious almonds can be a great addition to many dishes.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grease Pirates

Some trends are not necessarily a good thing. One of the newest rising trends in the food industry is grease piracy. Have you heard of this one? People are stealing used cooking oil or grease from restaurants and selling it to biodesiel companies to be recycled into fuel. Apparently there is profits to be had in the used cooking oil (and to think most of us home cooks probably just think of used cooking oil as a messy hassle rather than a potential profit center).

According to April issue of Gourmet Magazine, the average restaurant can produce 35-50 gallons of used cooking oil per week and they can sell it for about $1.50 per gallon to refineries who recycle the grease into gasoline alternatives. That represents a potential income of $3,000-$4,000 per year per restaurant. Of course if grease pirates start raiding multiple restaurants their potential profit stream goes up substantially. One man was arrested last year in California with more than 2,000 gallons of stolen oil in his tanker that he had siphoned off from various restaurants. I guess people can turn anything into a black market commodity. The best thing I can say about this trend is at least this waste product gets recycled in the end.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Foodie 2.0

If you are looking for food and cooking trends you have come to the right place - just let your fingers do the walking on the world wide web! Consumers are looking for a communities that centers around food. Websites, blogs, iPhone applications even twitter exchanges are rushing to fill this need. And there are places for everyone no matter what their particular food interests or level of engagement maybe.

So where are people going on line? Well that totally depends of course. There are the big dedicated food websites like FoodNetwork or Epicurious for people looking for general information and recipes. These monster sites get more than a million hits a month! There are tons of branded food recipe sites like Kraft that can help you with all kinds of semi-homemade recipes...using their products as a base. There are site dedicated to improving your diet like HungryGirl even specialty diet sites like GluttenFreeGirl. There are niche sites for moms like FoodForTots or upcoming sites for the semi-homemade cooks like FunnySpoon. Of course there are more food blogs than you can shake a stick at. (A couple I like are BecomingAFoodie and FoodMayhem.) You don't even have to go looking for food information just down load a recipe widget that can live on your desktop.

So if you want to be on trend for 2009 jump on-line and go searching for like-minded food souls to connect with. There really is something for eveyone out there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

McCormick's 2009 Flavor Forecast

It is out - the 2009 McCormick® Flavor Forecast™. Every year McCormick makes its prediction on the top flavor pairings that will influence food trends for the year. So take a look at the list and see what you think.

Toasted Sesame and Root Beer

Cayenne and Tart Cherry

Tarragon and Beetroot

Peppercorn Mélange and Sake

Chinese Five Spice and Artisan-cured Pork

Dill and Avocado Oil

Rosemary and Fruit Preserves

Garam Masala and Pepitas

Mint and Quinoa

Smoked Paprika and Agave Nectar

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Finding Comfort

No doubt you have heard (or felt) that these are not the best of economic times. In fact things are not predicted to get better until sometime in 2010. This has most of us tightening our wallets, hunkering down and staying home to ride out this economic down turn. Some trend watchers have called this behavior "hiving" (which is tendency to stay home and invite friends and family over) but I think it is actually a return to "cocooning" (which is more staying home and bonding with your close family). Either way we are staying home more and eating out less.

So as a brand manager or cookbook author or food writer how can you tailor your offerings based on the mood of the typical consumer these days? Think comfort foods! Things like soups, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, casseroles and desserts. Of course it will depend on your target consumers' age as to what types of comfort foods provide the most appeal. According to a study conducted by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, Young adults tend to prefer cookies and ice cream. The 35-54 crowd will tend to favor pizza, pasta and soup. While the 55+ group will want mashed potatoes and soup to take them to their happy place.

But don't think you have to be totally predictable with your comfort food offerings. Today consumers often look for traditional comfort foods with a modern twist. For example a simple ice cream dessert with an exotic fruit compote or beef stew made with gourmet blend of mushrooms. Consumers like to try the modern interpretations of their favorite childhood foods.