News From the Fancy Food Show & Tahini Noodles Recipe

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and CarrotsPlant Food
In what has become an annual tradition, I spent my Martin Luther King holiday walking the aisles at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for and tasting the latest and greatest that the culinary world has to offer. As per usual there was plenty of gorgeous chocolate and cheese from around the world—including a guacamole cheese that was divine despite being a dark green not usually associated with cheese in a positive way.

There were teas, there were coffees and there was an extraordinary number of waffles, both of the regular and of the Stroop variety. I like waffles as much as the next gal. But, do we really need that many? And there was bottled pickle juice…because, of course, there would be bottled pickle juice. (I brought one home for my kids to try. My pickle loving son tried it and said it was too intense yet he keeps going back for another sip. Kind of like a bad accident. You can’t help but look.)

There was no missing the one big take away from this show: The future of food is plant-based.

From beverages to snacks, to frozen foods, each and every grocery category had multiple vendors showing their plant-based products. There were plant-based frozen desserts being offered down every aisle either by the pint or as bars. Plant-based meat alternatives have grown way beyond the Impossible Burger. The snack category was huge including puffs made out of avocado that were a big hit at my home, as were the butternut squash pretzels. While I expected to see more plant-based noodles than I did, they were still well represented as were the Asian cuisines they support.

Staunch carnivores should not fret too much, though, as there were still plenty of offerings for them. Duck Sausage anyone? Small family-owned ranches held their own amongst the plant-based surge by offering natural, humanely-raised alternatives to beef like venison, bison, elk, and even wild boar. And while the jerky revolution has died down some, there were still plenty of meat and salami sticks to be sampled.

While plant-based foods comprised a large percentage of the products being shown this year, it was very obvious that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to plant-based innovation. This is not a food trend that will just fizzle out. The possibilities are endless and the masterminds are just getting started…

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and Carrots 
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Amy’s Hummus

Amy's HummusTo eat, or not to eat? 
The decision on whether to eat before Thanksgiving or not is a difficult one. Breakfast is a no-brainer if only for the coffee infusion. I mean how’re ya gonna handle the semi-controlled chaos of Thanksgiving without a strong cup o’ joe? It’s the hours after breakfast and before the main event that can be difficult to navigate calorie-wise.

The decision to eat or not to eat is incredibly personal. There are a number of issues to consider, the first one being what time will you be eating your Thanksgiving meal? The later you eat, the more the challenge. Some see it as blasphemous to eat anything other than Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. If it ain’t a bird and sweet potatoes, it ain’t goin’ in their mouth. And still, others don’t want to eat anything so that when the time comes, they are ensured of the maximum amount of room to fit all of their favorites. My son is this person. He can eat a frightening amount on any given day but Thanksgiving is a source of pride for him. He weighs himself before and after the meal. There’s this whole ceremony… It’s weird, but I still love him.

Personally, I have to have something to tide me over or risk getting a headache. It doesn’t have to be a big meal it just has to be something grab and go that I can snack on from time to time. This is why I like to make my homemade hummus and serve it with cut veggies. It’s a healthy snack and gets a few more veggies in you before the wave of carbs hits your plate. It’s quick to make the day before and you can put it out on a platter for the rest of the folks. Then you can walk away to attend to the cooking while the rest of ‘em watch football or calibrate the bathroom scale or whatever!

No matter what you choose, to nosh or not, have a very happy Thanksgiving and a magical holiday season.

Amy’s Hummus Recipe
Yields about 3 cups
Read more…

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Chewy Chocolate BrowniesBrownie Brain
Labor Day weekend is almost here…which is awesome because, Hey!, a three day weekend! Tradition suggests that I am supposed to be thinking about barbecue but truth be told, I’m kind of sick of grilling. With as hot as it has been lately, I haven’t even looked twice at my oven. Everything we’ve eaten in the past two weeks has been hot off the outdoor grill. Needless to say, I am finding it hard to get too excited about a barbecue for Labor Day.

That being said, I will be going to a barbecue on Sunday. The good news is the decision to figure out what to throw on the grill rests entirely on my sister’s shoulders. I have a feeling that I will be in charge of bringing something sweet to the party. And, for some reason lately, I have had brownies on the brain.

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have made a batch of brownies. I love brownies and because of that love I just can’t have them lying around. I will simply end up eating them. Hence, I have not made them in over a year. As a general rule, I am a brownie purist but I am not above swirling in a little peanut butter before they go in the oven or even mixing some espresso into the batter. There are never any nuts in my brownies. Not because I don’t like nuts—but I just don’t want anything to interfere with my chocolate intake. And, no nuts means there is more room for chocolate in each bite.

Brownies, or chocolate anything really, are a great way to end a barbecue because chocolate just goes well with grilled meats. Even better, you can serve them with the ice cream of your choice on the top for a sundae. Or, take it a step further and use the brownies as the base for an ice cream cake!

Chewy Chocolate Brownies Read more…

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Plum Upside-Down CakeDun Gone Plum Crazy
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s plum season. Beautiful black plums, red plums, French plums and all sorts of pluots are available for your eating pleasure pretty much anywhere fruit is sold. I love plums. In my opinion, they are best when they are still slightly firm so that the skin is still a bit tart but the flesh is super sweet. Yum!

In my yard, I have essentially two plum trees. One is a hybrid that combines a couple of varieties so its hard to say what type it is. The other is actually a pluot. Both are about 5 years old and neither one has produced any fruit…until this year.

Because we had a crazy amount of rain last year, my trees were loaded with fruit by May/June. I can’t tell you how excited I was. I went out there every day to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Each day they got bigger and bigger and when they finally started to change color and ripen I was vibrating with excitement and then one day, they were gone.

I don’t know if it was squirrels, rats or raccoons but my bumper crop vanished overnight with no evidence left behind. I was baffled and distraught and more than a little bit angry.

Since then I have been having to sooth my plum craving via the different varieties we have here at the store and also with what is available at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. And, don’t get me wrong, the plums are great. But, it’s not the same as eating your own homegrown version right off of the tree.

Over the weekend I went plum crazy and bought more than we will be able to consume fresh so I plan on making this upside-down cake with what’s left over. There is never a bad time for cake and I will especially enjoy it with a cup of coffee looking out my window watching the squirrels eat the majority of this year’s pomegranate crop…sigh.

Plum Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields one 9-inch cake Read more…

Summer Salmon Pasta

Summer Salmon PastaPasta Problemo
Pasta for dinner is a lifesaver. It IS quite frankly the easiest thing you can make besides a phone call to your favorite takeout place. Here’s the thing with pasta, on a hot night it can feel kind of heavy if you go the traditional red sauce and meatball route.

Summer pasta definitely needs to be light pasta either with a little pesto or some grated lemon zest with olive oil and parmesan—and don’t forget the tomatoes! All of these can be go-to options for a quick bite at the end of the day. But, sometimes you just want to do something different for a change of pace.

This recipe for Summer Salmon Pasta is my current obsession. It’s light but hearty enough for those nights you need just a little bit more.

Summer Salmon Pasta 
Yields 4 servings Read more…