Juicy

September 30, 2009

coconutmilkHave you noticed hipsters and athletes swigging crystal clear coconut water yet? They’ll be common soon thanks to folks like Madonna who are replacing their Evian bottles with this drink.

Harvested from green, young coconuts, sales of coconut water doubled last year and, with huge marketing initiatives planned, they’re expected to continue to grow.

This juice isn’t just popular because celebs drink it. It contains lots of beneficial things such as electrolytes and potassium and performs much like a sports drink by increasing endurance and preventing cramping. The advantage coconut water has over sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade is that it provides these nutrients without any artificial colours, flavours or additives. Brand leaders at this point are O.N.E. and, of course, Mother Nature who has the least ergometric but most biodegradable coconut water package.

Have you tried coconut water? I’ve had it when traveling in India and Indonesia but I don’t remember really loving it to be honest. I think I’d rather just stick with my trusty filtered tap water. What about you?

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Topline Trends Tuesday: Stats prove more Canadians going nuts

September 29, 2009

trailmix

Despite allergy fears and warnings that prevent nuts from being available in schools and many other public places, Canadians are eating more nuts than ever before. While general nut consumption in Canada grew by 14% last year, trail mix growth increased by 22% as people discover these foods as healthier snack choices.

Our household certainly reflects these trends. While peanuts, pistachios, pine nuts and hazelnuts are never served at our house due to Martin’s allergy to them, I started to buy lots of dried fruit and nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pecans last spring. My son Oliver is literally always hungry in the evening. He’s still weeks shy of his 13th birthday and already 5’ 10” tall but only around 130 lbs so he has good reason to eat a lot. And, once he’s had his food groups for the day, I’m fine with him eating ice cream and cookies.

Problems arose when I realized that I’d fallen into the habit of buying him chips on a regular basis. Eating high fat, processed, salty snacks is a habit that I don’t want him to develop. So, I started laying out bowls of nuts and dried fruits in our TV room and guess what? Chip consumption plummeted.

We’re also true to trend when it comes to who in our family dips into which bowl. Recent research indicates that 65% of younger snackers opt for fruity blends or candy coated nuts and I must say that Oliver is our biggest dried fruit consumer (although I’ve been eating an awful lot of the Back to Nature chocolate almond and cranberry blend since I discovered it earlier this month!) Meanwhile, Martin and I are like the 54% of older consumers who say they prefer plain or raw nuts.

What about you? Does your nut consumption conform to these stats or are you a maverick?

Note: The autumn issue of my online quarterly food trend newsletter Topline Trends will be live by the end of the day! Read all the yummy details!


My mac and cheese secrets

September 28, 2009

coldpackcheeseIt’s no secret that my little family loves mac and cheese. I’ve shared my favourite recipe here and demo’d it on TV. The secret to the ultra cheesy taste and colour of my mac and cheese is cold pack Cheddar.

In the past, readers have asked me to tell them more about this kind of cheese. Many worry that it’s processed but, in truth, cold pack Cheddar is all dairy-based. Cheese expert Anne Marie Shubin told me herself.

A pound of regular Cheddar is made using between 10 and 11 lbs of milk. Then, to make cold pack Cheddar, the aged cheese is broken down, blended with some butter and reformed as cold pack cheese. A number of companies including Kraft and Ivanhoe make it and sell it here in Canada.

I hope that this info helps you to feel good about adding cold pack Cheddar to your sauces, soups and mac and cheese!

In the meantime, as you wile away the minutes between now and the next time you can make mac and cheese yourself, check out this
slide show and article about New York City’s new MacBar, a mac and cheese restaurant. This is my kind of food porn!


Grow your own apples

September 25, 2009

appletreeFridayI don’t have my own apple trees but I do live a short drive away from Pine Orchard Farms, a wonderful orchard in King City, Ontario where row after row of wonderful apples grow in abundance. Although home gardeners will never plant trees on this scale, the same rules apply whether you have to tend to two trees or 200.

• Choose a location that offers 8 hours of sun per day (trees in shady areas won’t produce ample fruit).
• For pollination to occur, you need to plant at least two trees within 3 o 4 m of one another.
• Well-drained soil is very important since too much moisture will harm the roots of both new and established trees.
• Likewise, the soil needs to be rich; abundant nutrients are essential for a bountiful crop, so when planting, work compost, bonemeal or bloodmeal into the planting holes dug for each sapling.
• To maintain richness in the soil, add compost each fall or spring around the base of the trees as far out as the drip line; top up with mulch except near the trunk where excessive moisture can cause rot.
• Each fall clear fallen fruits from around the base of the trees to minimize the occurrence of apple maggots and other pests that can ruin the next crop of fruit


This wraps up apple week! Check out 10 tasty ways to eat apples for more suggestions on how to make the most of the season.


Apple traditions

September 24, 2009

sausage with apples

The heady, sweet smell of freshly baked apple desserts always reminds me of mothers. My own mother loves apples and for years one of her signature fall and winter weekend treats was a wonderful apple upside down cake served with warm caramel sauce. In fact, whenever we moved while I was growing up, one of my mom’s first gardening projects was to plant a couple of Cortland apple trees so that she could have a ready supply of fruit both for snacks and for making into this dessert.

Although my mother-in-law Lise Kouprie doesn’t grow her own apples, she is quite famous in her own circles for her excellent Dutch apple tart. Made with tangy, firm Granny Smith apples, she serves large wedges of this not-too-sweet pie with mugs of café au lait as a dessert but also for breakfast and as an afternoon snack, too.

On my own dinner table, apples turn up cooked not only in desserts like these ones, but in many savoury recipes where these delicious fruits add just the right texture, depth and sweetness that make other ingredients such as onions or cabbage taste even better than they do on their own.

Sausages with Onions, Apples and Swiss Cheese

2 tbsp (30 mL)         melted butter

1                               very thinly sliced Vidalia or Spanish onion, about 12 oz (375 g)

1 tbsp (15 mL)          brown sugar or maple syrup

1/2 tsp (2 mL)          dried thyme leaves and pepper

1/4 tsp (1 mL)          salt

1                                clove garlic, minced

2                                apples, peeled and sliced

2 tbsp (30 mL)         chopped fresh parsley

Sausages:

6                               bratwurst or other sweet pork sausages, about 1 1/2 lb (750 g) total

3/4 cup (175 mL)     apple juice or chicken broth

3                                slices Swiss cheese, halved diagonally

Melt the butter in a skillet set over medium heat.  Add the onions.  Cook, stirring often for 8 minutes or until softened.  Stir in the brown sugar, thyme, pepper, salt and garlic.  Increase the heat to medium high.  Add the apple and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.  Scrape the apple mixture from the pan to a bowl. Stir in the parsley and reserve, covered.

Slash sausages a couple of times on each side. Return the skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer sausages, cut-side-down into the skillet. Cook, turning as needed for 4 to 5 minutes or until browned all over.

Add the apple juice to the pan and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook, partially covered, for 12 to 15 minutes longer or until sausages are cooked all the way through. Drape a slice of cheese over each sausage.  Cover the pan and cook for 1 minute or until the cheese is melted. Serve the sausages topped with the apple mixture. Makes 6 servings.

Note: this photo and recipe appear in my book, Dana’s Top Ten Table (Random House 2007).


Kids stuff

September 23, 2009

caramel appl

The wonderful autumn tradition of caramel apples brings out the kid in all of us. After all, who hasn’t sunk their teeth into a sticky, gooey, messy caramel apple at least once in their life?

I created the following recipe years ago for Gardening Life magazine and it’s still a favourite I pull out and use once every autumn, usually right after Oliver and I get back from Pine Orchard Farms where we pick apples every year.

Caramel Apples

6 unwaxed small granny smith, royal gala, Macintosh or other apples
Popsicle or lolli sticks
1 cup (250 mL) each granulated sugar and light brown sugar
3/4 cup (175 mL) 35 % whipping cream
1/4 cup (60 mL) corn syrup
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
pinch salt
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
Chopped nuts such as pecans, almonds or peanuts, chocolate sprinkles, etc

Polish the clean apples with a clean, dry dishtowel until completely dry and smooth. Insert a popsicle or candy stick into the stem end of each apple. Place a parchment lined baking pan in the refrigerator.

In a medium, deep, dry saucepan combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, whipping cream, butter, corn syrup and salt. Place pan over medium heat and stir often until sugar is dissolved and caramel is bubbling. If necessary, brush down the sides of the pan once or twice with water to dissolve any sugar crystals clinging to the sides.

Place a candy thermometer into the saucepan and increase the heat to medium-high. Boil caramel, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 240 F (115 C).

Remove the pan from the heat. Shielding hands with oven mitts, stir in vanilla. Let caramel stand with the thermometer in the mixture until the temperature falls to 200 F (100 C), from 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the baking sheet from the fridge. Place over a baking pan filled with ice cubes.

Dip and slowly turn the apples in caramel until coated all over. Transfer to the chilled baking sheet. Let stand while you dip remaining apples. Fold any caramel that pools under the apples. Dip coated apples into chopped nuts or candy sprinkles, pressing the garnished lightly into the bottom and up the sides of the apples; chill until set. Makes 6 servings.

When’s the last time you had a caramel or candy apple?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Cider presses forward

September 22, 2009

Cider

Photo credit: Sea Cider Farm

One of my fondest memories of my first trip to France was the excellent artisan hard ciders served in champagne-style bottles in Normandy. Although often cloudy and not as pretty as the sparklingly clear apple cider drinks I’d had in Scotland before that time, Norman ciders were more nuanced and really fantastic served with a big bowl of mussels meuniere.

Today, apple cider is a growing category in the liquor store. It’s not the Scottish-style pub cider that’s taken off or the Norman-style cider that we’re seeing more of but the sweet, sparkling ice ciders from Quebec and the wonderful range of still and sparkling quaffing ciders from British Columbian growers like Sea Cider Farm.
Do you ever serve cider when you entertain? If not, would you consider it?