Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Beauty of Food: Connecting the Crop with the Creator

     Food Theory is something that has interested me for some time now. Food is all around us. We need it. It is one thing that connects all humans together. We may have different beliefs, appearances, goals, dreams, different tastes in the food we eat, but we all eat food. A perfect dinner for me probably looks a lot different than a perfect dinner for some one in India, or China, or Russia. Our taste for food has been largely created by our childhood. Whether it had a positive or negative impact, the food you ate as a kid helped shape your outlook on food. (Ex. To this day I hate vegetable beef stew and love raisins, just like I did when I was a 4.)
   There are a few things that unite all humans. Well actually there are many---We all have DNA, we need air to breathe, our bodies contain organs, etc. But what I am talking about are goals. wants. objectives.
Humans want to
     -Laugh together with others
     -Be a part of something bigger (family, country, world etc.)
     -Eat with one another
    Reminisce over your favorite childhood memories. More than likely one or more of them had to do with one or more of the above listed items. Maybe it's your family's Christmas get-together where your Aunt always brought mac & cheese or celebrating New years in Greece with believers from Iran or enjoying Persian food and playing spoons or my brother convincing me he heard from his nose, not his ears as we ate cookies in a hotel, or Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Birthdays, vacations… The list of my favorites goes on and on. Nearly all of these included 2 or even 3 of the the 3 things listed above. Those are the type of moments that are engrained in our heads. 
    I believe that many still enjoy those family favorite recipes they grew up on because it conjures up those memories of the times when life was more simple and care free. It brings feelings of hope. When you were still a child anything was possible. Today you may want to be an astronaut, but tomorrow you may want to be a dancer. Anything was possible and nothing was set in stone. There wasn't an annoying alarm clock disturbing your sleep to notify you it is time for you to go to work to earn money to pay bills. At 5 years old, life was simple. While everyone may not have had an easy childhood, most were not plagued with the thoughts and worries of the cost of car insurance, filing taxes and health care cost.
    There is also a spiritual aspect to food. It is beautiful parallel to God. For example let's have broccoli represent God and sweets represent any "idol" in your life. (An idol is anything that takes more importance and priority in your life than God. This could be TV, a boyfriend, your job, a sport or anything.) Some people refuse to eat certain veggies like broccoli because they had a negative experience with it as a child. For some kids the only way they know broccoli is frozen and then cooked to a mush topped with velveeta cheese. So when they grow up and their body is craving the nutrients of broccoli, their taste buds enjoy sweets more. They eat sweets, which satisfies their cravings for a moment, but their body still has a void of nutrients. We all need food, just like we need God. If someone has a negative encounter with church, they might develop a skewed persona of who God is. They fill the gap with things of the world hoping to fill the void in their heart but what they really need is God. God/ Healthy food may seem "boring" but that's because you haven't truly experienced it! When you get in the word of God and compare it to itself you can see all of the levels and layers of depth and how it all compliments itself. This can be true of healthy food; It can be exciting too! When you add varying levels of bold ingredients, it creates a beautiful dish.
     Food memories are strong. Maybe someone in your family had a secret recipe. For my family, that recipe would be Grandma Bright's Cherry "Cheese Cake". She eventually gave my dad the recipe but even if you follow it to the "T", it isn't the same. No one knows exactly what it is that is different about it, but it just isn't the same as her's. One thing is for sure, if we ever come up with the same flavor we will know it. We remember what things taste like, and when we stumble across the same taste we know it. If you love Sheridan's Custard than when you taste Sheridan's, you will know it. Memories of images can be blurred. Memories of what some one said are not usually remembered in their exact context. Memories of taste leave an impact. You don't just forget what blackberries taste like and mix up that flavor with cherries. Taste is distinct and vivid.
     I think this is why Psalm 34:8 says, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" When someone gets a taste for the Lord they will remember it. Just like when you get a taste for say blackberries you can remember it. One can get an idea of what a blackberry tastes like, but until they try it for themselves they won't truly understand. It may be years before they have a blackberry again, but if someone tries to sell them an orange as a blackberry they can go back to that day when they first tasted a blackberry and say, "No. I have tasted what it is like, and this is not it." Berry with me (sorry I couldn't resist) through this comparison. The blackberry represents God. You can try to describe God by comparing him to other things, but God is God. They have to "taste" the Lord for themselves to truly grasp what it is all about. Down the road you may stray from the Lord, but you can tell when it is the Lord or not. God says in Zechariah 10:9 "Although I scattered my people in distant countries they won’t forget me." He satisfies but leaves a craving for more of Him. If someone tries to sell you something else as God it won't be the same. While yes, each blackberry varies in exact sweetness/tartness/etc. it still tastes like a blackberry, Just like each time you encounter God it will still be God. It may feel different. Your taste may have changed, but blackberries have remained the same. God does not change. We see and experience different aspects of His character at different times but He was, is and will always be I AM.
      Food like the Bible is fuel. It gives the supplies to go and do. When we fill ourselves up with knowledge of God and do nothing, it is useless. It fills us up, but when it isn't being used, what is the point? James 2;14-26 talks about faith being dead without works. "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:20). Food is fuel. It satisfies our hunger and enables us to go and do. When we don't do anything, the food we collect in our stomachs begins to collect in our bodies. Eventually it will lead the body towards death. Food is to fuel us to be action oriented! 
     Am I the only one who finds this amazing? The Lord of the universe could have created something mundane and simple for us to need to survive. Instead He gave us food with complex, contrasting flavors that we can enjoy and create with. God is creative. Just look at all of creation! He is trying to get our attention and show you how crazy He is for you. He has been trying to show you three times every day when you sit down to eat. He has given us this great thing that we can use to make connections with and understand Him on a deeper level. It's just that we haven't always noticed the signs of His love. He has made it all to shine the glory of Him, The King.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ingredients Transformed: Caramel Sauce

Do I want to boil sugar while painstakingly ensuring no sugar crystals form throughout the process and watch the temperature the whole time to make caramel? No, and I am sure you don't want to either. Take a short cut, and no one will ever know.

Caramel Sauce from Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups (scant) brown sugar (NOT packed down) (I don't like my sauce too sweet so I use closer to 1 3/4 cp)
1 can (14 ounce size) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup of milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour all ingredients, except vanilla into a small/medium pot over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil until the sugar has melted, which should only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Store in the refrigerator.

Warning: If there are some sugar crystals that don't get dissolved into the caramel, more will form as the sauce cools and over time it may become grainy. This is pretty typical of caramel sauces anyways though. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fluffy Pancakes

Who doesn't love warm fluffy pancakes? Put your hands down. If you don't enjoy fluffy cakes of happiness, read on to the next post.
In all seriousness, pancakes are easy, versatile, and can show off your creativity. I made these this past father's day for my dad and he loved them topped with my blueberry sauce. Go ahead, get cooking!

  • 1 3/4 cup of buttermilk 
    •  --OR 1 1/2 cups milk with 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter


If not using butter milk, Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour". Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk eggs, vanilla and 2 Tbs of  butter into "soured" milk. (*Note-The butter will not stay melted if the liquids are cold. Let them sit out for bit.) Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and whisk until lumps are gone. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and melt a pat of butter (of the remaining 2 Tbs) before pouring the batter for each pancake. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter (or more for bigger ones. I do like 1/3 cp.) onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cherry-Olive Oil Polenta Cake

Ok, so you may be thinking this combinations sounds disgusting. weird. unnatural. strange. But please at least give it some thought. The EVOO give this cake a very dense moist texture with some hearty floral notes that compliment the cherries. The polenta/corn meal gives structure and adds to the texture and overall mouth feel. The  cherries add sweetness and another dimension to the dish. All of the flavors are there for a reason. It may sound strange, but it is very delectable!

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup polenta or cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh Bing cherries, (about 1 pound), pitted and halved
  • Whipped cream (homemade is best), ice cream, greek yogurt with honey, or Crème fraîche if your feeling fancy, for serving
The first thing that needs to be taken care of is the cherries. It might be a mess to pit them, but at least you'll have a chance to sample some of them! 
Next, preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 10" round cake pan with nonstick vegetable spray, or lightly coat it with butter or oil. (I use butter.)

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine eggs and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. (Make sure the zest is only the top yellow layer! No pith please!)

In a separate bowl, together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mix to egg mixture, along with polenta. Mix until combined. (Note: I used cornmeal and just sifted it along with the flour.)

Pour two thirds of batter into prepared pan, and completely cover it with cherries. Spoon remaining batter over cherries, allowing fruit to peek through in spots. Bake until top and edges are lightly golden and a toothpick (or fork) inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 25 minutes. (I used a 9'' pan and it took about 1 hour and 30 mins.) Remove from oven and cool pan  for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely. (I never let it cool completely. It's ok. Go ahead and dig in!) Cut the cake, and serve each slice with a dollop of cream.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Another great recipe to add to your summer go to recipes. Easy, fresh and packed with flavor. Feel free to make additions or substitutions. (ex. capers, whole grain bread, red onions, etc) Enjoy!

  • 5 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread or boule or 4 ciabatta rolls, cut into 1-inch cubes (5-6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small vidalia onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
    • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes 
    • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half and sliced 1/2-inch thick
    • 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup good olive oil
  • Kosher salt freshly ground black pepper to taste
Toss the bread in 3 TBS of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a large pan. Toss the bell pepper in 1 TBS of evoo, S&P and place on the pan. Toss the onion and garlic in 1 TBS of evoo S&P and place on the pan. (Do not mix the bread, peppers and onions together on the pan. Keep them all separate so that when each item is cooked you can easily remove them from the pan when each is finished cooking {Bread-5-8 mins; Onions 10-20 mins; Bell pepper-10-15 mins;])
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together. (Remember to taste test for perfect seasoning!)
In a large bowl, mix the bread, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, onion, and basil and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Corn. Tomatoes. Peaches. Berries. Long nights. Swimming. Drive-in Movies. Sun tans. Sun burns. Beaches. 
It's summer time. The living is easy, and the food is good. The food of summer is simple, delicious and true. I love dishes where I can throw in the best of the crops of the day and call it a meal. This is one of those dishes. You can adapt to fit whatever is tasting good that day. 

Corn Salad

  • 1-2 limes (depends on how juicy they are)
  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/3- 1/2 cup Extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 TBS of butter
  • 3-4 ears corn,  cooked, with kernels removed (about 2-3 cups)
  • 12 oz of grape tomatoes 
  • 8 oz(or less if desired) of fresh mozzarella, diced
  • 2 medium avocados, diced
   The only "rule" for this recipe is you MUST taste along the way. No precise measuring is needed here. Just eye ball it and let your taste buds tell you what your eyes can't. Add more or less of each ingredient as you please. Zest 1 of the lime(s) and squeeze the juice of the lime(s) into a small bowl. Add the EVOO, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Stir and set aside.      Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Dice the red onion and add to the butter in the pan. Sauté until tender. Once as the onion is cooked place is a large bowl. 
   Now for the bulk of the salad. The corn. I just used corn that we had left over from grilling the night before but you could certainly just boil it on top of the stove (cook for  5-10 mins depending on its density and ripeness) After it is cooked run your knife along the corn removing all of the kernels. Move to the bowl with the onion. 
   Wash the grape tomatoes and slice each one in half. (If they are small you could add them whole. If they are very large  you can quarter them.) Add to the bowl. Dice the mozzarella and avocados and add to the bowl. Pour the dressing mixture over the salad mix and stir. Taste and season as needed. If time allows chill in the fridge for an hour or up till over night. Enjoy!

Let Them Eat Cake! or well sort of cake...

I made this over memorial weekend and am already wanting to make it again! I was trying to create a special dessert and didn't want to use any flour. I would definitely recommend this recipe. Enough chatting about this yumminess, let's get to it!
  • Strawberry Meringue "Cake"
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Parchment paper
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cups sugar, divided
  • egg whites, at room temperature 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • (8-oz.) containers mascarpone cheese 
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 2 1/4 cups sliced fresh strawberries 
    1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 7-10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Remove from oven, and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 250°.Process cornstarch, salt, toasted pecans, and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor 40 to 45 seconds or until pecans are finely ground 
    2. Cover a large baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw 2 (8-inch) circles on each piece of paper. Turn paper over so the pencil lead wont get on the meringue. (If you are having trouble keeping the paper down temporarily secure with masking tape.)
    3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating at medium-high speed until mixture is glossy, stiff peaks form, and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes; do not overbeat). Add half of pecan mixture to egg white mixture, gently folding just until blended. Repeat procedure with remaining pecan mixture.
    4. Gently spoon egg white mixture onto circles drawn on parchment paper, spreading to cover each circle completely.
    5. Bake at 250° for 1 hour, rotating baking sheets after 30 minutes. Turn oven off; let meringues stand in closed oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until surface is dry and meringues can be lifted from paper without sticking to fingers.
    6. Just before assembling cake, beat whipping cream at low speed until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. (Do not overbeat or cream will be grainy.) (I use about 3/4-1 cup of powdered sugar instead) In a separate bowl, stir together mascarpone cheese and vanilla in a large bowl just until blended. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.
    7. Carefully remove 1 meringue from parchment paper; place on a serving plate. Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over meringue; top with 1/2 the sliced strawberries. Top with remaining meringue, mascarpone mixture, and sliced strawberries. Serve immediately, or chill up to 2 hours. Cut with a sharp, thin-bladed knife.