December 29, 2014

Simple NY Style Bagels. Oy, what a recipe!

I don't know about you but, I love a good bagel. When I lived in Florida, trying to get a good NY style bagel was an adventure to say the least. So, for all you transplanted NY'ers as well as those who love a good bagel and a schmear, the following bagel recipe, along a link to my recipe for home-made lox found here, should keep you going. Both recipes are easy to do and well worth the effort!

The bagel was invented  in Kraków, Poland, as a competitor to the bublik, a lean bread of wheat flour designed for Lent. Leo Rosten wrote in "The Joys of Yiddish" about the first known mention of the word bajgiel in the "Community Regulations" of the city of Kraków in 1610, which stated that the item was given as a gift to women in childbirth. In the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, the bajgiel became a staple of the Polish national diet and a staple of the Slavic diet generally.

Bagels were brought to the United States by Polish-Jews, and first gained popularity in New York City, an industry that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338, which had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all the bagels by hand. The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century, which was due at least partly to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender,then sons Murray and Sam along with Florence Sender, who pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels in the 1960s.

Fresh Homemade Bagel Recipe
Ingredients 
1 1/4 cups warm water (80 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 quarts boiling water
3 tablespoons white sugar

 Optional Toppings
1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped onions (2 teaspoons each)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
1 tablespoon pretzel salt (about 1/4 teaspoon each)

 Method

Pre-heat oven to  350F (180C)
Mix water, salt, sugar, yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 min. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until it forms a single dough ball. (If using a bread machine, place water, salt, sugar, flour and yeast in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough setting.) Allow bread to rise for 45 minutes (bread machine will beep when rising cycle is done). Place dough on a floured surface and cut into 9 equal pieces and roll each piece into a small ball. Flatten balls. Poke a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Twirl the dough on your finger or thumb to enlarge the hole. Cover with a clean cloth and allow bagels to rise another 40-50 min or until double in size.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 3 tbs of sugar. Boil bagels one minute on each side, then place on wire rack to allow water to drip off.

Brush bagels with either egg wash (1 egg white and 1/4 cup warm water). Top with your favorite topping. Sprinkle an un-greased baking sheet with cornmeal. Place bagels on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake
20 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 9 medium sized bagels. Just like Mr. Lender's, you can freeze and enjoy whenever you're in the mood for a delicious bagel.

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!


Bon Appetit,

Lou

December 26, 2014

Talking Cheese with Maître Fromager, Max McCalman



I first met Max a few years back when he was the Dean of Curriculum and Maître Fromager at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center, in New York City. We recently sat down for a discussion on the state of cheese today in America and his latest adventures in the world of cheese.

To give you some background on Max's cheese cred, I'll start with a bit of his bio. This, folks, is definitely a man who knows his curd and is known as America's foremost master of cheese. Early in his career Max worked for a European owned and operated Little Rock restaurant, Restaurant Jacques et Suzanne as Chef de Rang under the tutelage of Maître d'Hotel, Louis Petit. Max became General Manager of Manhattan's The Water Club in 1990. After taking some time off to be a full time dad to his daughter, he joined Picholine Restaurant as Maître d'Hotel where he launched its cheese service in 1995, becoming Maître Fromager and spearheading the installment of the first temperature and humidity controlled cheese cave in a North American restaurant. Max's new 'office' became the talk of the town.


Max authored his first book on cheese 'The Cheese Plate' in 2002 and became an instrumental part in the planning and designing of the Artisanal Bistro in New York City, which featured a retail counter for selling cheese and five separate cheese caves. His second book, 'Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best', went on to be the only cheese book to ever win a James Beard Award. Max was involved in the Artisanal Center as its Maître Fromager and Dean of Curriculum, while still serving as Maître Fromager for Picholine and Artisanal restaurants.

Max has been awarded the title of Maître Fromager as designated by France's Guilde Internationale des Fromagers Comfrérie de Saint-Uguzon, and in January 2011 was given an award from Les Trophées de l'Espirit Alimentaire (French Food Spirit Awards) for Entrepreneurship for 2010. Max's third book, 'Mastering Cheese: Lessons For Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager', went on to win Best Cheese Book in the World, at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris.

Max's most recent publication is his Swatchbook of Wine and Cheese Pairings. He is one of the founders of the American Cheese Society's (ACS) Certified Cheese Professional program launched in 2004, becoming Chairman of its committee in 2012. Max left the Artisanal company in May of 2014 to focus on the creative endeavors within the cheese industry and is currently developing a new cheese app due out sometime in mid 2015. Whew, quite a list of accomplishments. 

I asked Max of his earliest exposure to cheese and he responded, "As a two-year old, I reached out for a piece of cheese while sitting on the counter. " he recalls, "I had a cold and my mom, said something to the effect that I should stay away from the cheese because I might make the cheese sick. Funny, now, that I have learned more about cheese and it's nutritional properties through the years, and contrary to popular belief, it was in fact possible that the cheese may have been exactly what I did need." He continued, "I grew up in Brazil from ages 5 through 12, but we we're warned off dairy products, so I did not get my cheese/dairy fix on until I came back to the states. I firmly believe I'd be at least an inch taller if I had eaten cheese as a kid," he quipped.

I asked him about his introduction into culinary and speaking on this; he explained, "Growing up in Brazil, I became aware that working in a restaurant was treated as a lauded profession; people took a lot of pride in their work. Being Americans in Brazil. We were exposed to  a lot of fine restaurants. I was always enamored with the theater of a restaurant, I saw that service was treated like an art form. After college, I still looked like I was twelve, and I became a waiter. Back then, it really impressed the girls if you were a bartender, but I was too young." he laughed. "I enjoyed the front of the house as well as the back of the house, but the front of the house appealed to me more, especially due to the interaction with the public and table-side service." 

While working at Picholine,  Chef Terrance Brennan expressed his desire to do a cheese service in the European style and asked Max to become the restaurants Maître Fromager. I asked where his cheese training came from. "I attended tastings around New York City," he replied, "joined the American Cheese Society and learned my craft in the Socratic style, grabbing everything I could find in print, these being the days before the Internet. When customers would ask me about specific cheese, I would learn everything I could about that cheese. It was hands on, no school. Later, I actually developed my own school at Artisanal. 

Max has always espoused the health benefits of cheese, many times over looked. With the trend that dairy and certain fats were bad for us now being somewhat reversed, coupled with new proposed FDA restrictions on cheese making in America with regard to raw milk cheeses (In an Aug. 29 letter to the American Cheese Society, the FDA announced that it would be changing its testing protocol for non-pathogenic bacteria in cheese and admitted that it had made some mistakes in its raw milk cheese testing procedures), I asked Max to expand on this a bit. "There are cheeses that have not met the legal requirements, that are in fact good for you, causing certain cheese-makers to remove these cheeses from their offerings," he stated.

Continuing, he expanded, "I want to believe that the FDA wants to work with the cheese-making industry. There will be changes without a doubt. If we are going to work with the FDA, at least to maintain the status quo (cheese made with raw milk must be aged at least 60 days at a cool temperature), we see now that dairy scientists, artisan cheese-makers, educators, retailers, and also those in the medical fields are all starting to look at cheese-making a bit differently now. I want to believe the debate is starting to make some headway. If the FDA does in fact move the aging from 60 to 90, even 120 days, this will put a lot of people out of business," he explained. "It would be cost prohibitive."

Max has always preached that certain bacteria in cheese are good for you and removing them from our diets may in fact do more harm to our immune systems that not. I asked him to talk about this in more detail. He stated, "Looking at the microbiome ( a microbiome is "the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space) that resides in our bodies, I can go for days about the positive health benefits of cheese. We don't teach cheese in medical school. Nutrition receives cursory treatment. This is in fact the next book I want to write. It's not a pretty topic, but cheese has maligned far too long." I asked him for an example of cheese that is 'good for you. "I strongly prefer the unpasteurized cheeses," he replied, "the proteins in pasteurized cheese, when they are denatured, don't bond as successfully; the amino acids don't bond to form protein chains well. Many of the milk-fats, minerals, vitamins and food proteins are reduced and made less bio available by pasteurization and much of the good bacteria being is removed along with the bad." 

"Different species also bring different positives," he expanded. "You get certain nutrients from sheep's milk in higher concentrations, from goat's milk in higher concentrations, from cow's milk in higher concentrations.Contrary to how it sounds, it's one of those ironies, but high fat cheeses can actually help you lose weight. Obesity became prevalent when we started adopting low fat foods. Fat is flavor and to replace the flavor, the food manufacturers substituted, sugars, salts and artificial ingredients that your body doesn't recognize. Take the Mediterranean Diet. What I always found funny is the focus on less meat, more grains, vegetables and fish, But, the true Mediterranean diet has cheese as an everyday part of it."

In keeping with the emerging technologies and the current growing love of cheese here by America's foodies, Max has a new cheese app coming out to help cheese lovers choose the right cheese when pairing. This app will pair not only wines with cheese but cheese with wines, so you'll be able to choose the wine you like and it will give you a list of cheese that would go with it. Conversely, Should you choose the cheese first, the app will give you a list of what wines may be paired with it.

I asked Max if he agreed with me that the 'state of cheese today' in America had changed, with folks being more willing to try new cheeses and if he thought that foodies in the US were becoming more knowledgeable about cheese and willing to make cheeses a part of their diet. He replied, "Absolutely! Cheese consumption in the US has tripled since 1970. We haven't caught up with many countries in cheese consumption per capital but we have recently passed British consumption and Spanish as well.

Back to what I said about the Mediterranean diet, we hear all about fish and grains, and olive oil, etc, but we never hear about the cheese in their diet. Cheese is a big part of the diet, take Italy, France, Greece, Cheese is a huge part of their diet. That's the great thing about Americans, they're increasingly curious about their food. Look at the craft cheese wave, the craft beer wave, even the craft cider wave. I think as far as pairings go, we have gotten a bit obsessive though, as if you make a mistake in a pairing it's some sort of egregious error. I think we over analyze now, instead of just enjoying a piece of cheese and some scotch, or whatever. That said, I don't know another country where people are willing to spend $50, $75 or more, to attend a cheese seminar. Pairing make that possible. Folks love a cheese pairing class though. Now people are even going on cheese themed journeys, or tours, much like wine and beer trail tours, I Joined the Cheese journeys company (cheesejourneys.com) as their Guest Educator for tours to France, england and other domestic tours planned for their 2015 calendar. Maître Fromagers are now becoming as normal as Sommelier.

Lastly, I asked Max to describe his perfect cheese plate for you all, so that when serving your guests, or bringing cheese as a guest, you'll be the hit of the party. Rather than give a specific type of cheese, Max gave me rules of thumb when selecting cheeses for your cheese courses. "First, offers Max, "is to make sure your cheese is at room temperature. Second make sure you offer a minimum of three cheeses and, of course, a variety; one cow's milk, one sheep's, milk and one goat's milk. Vary your textures as well as your intensities of flavor."

"Start with the milder cheese and work you way through to the more intense flavored of cheese. Blues are always popular, especially this time of year. I like raw milk cheeses, but should you have someone who is not comfortable with raw milk cheeses, be sure to include a pasteurized cheese. Don't buy too much," Max continues, "especially when buying good cheeses. Buy enough. Most don't realize a little cheese can go a long way. If you are serving cheeses as an appetizer course, follow the flavors based upon the wine you are serving. Choose a more mild cheese so it doesn't dominate the palette and interfere with what you are serving. I personally prefer having the cheese course at the end of the meal, in the European fashion, so if you are serving a sweet dessert wine, pick appropriate cheese that balances with it.



To learn more about where you can see Max in person, visit his website www.max-mccalman.com. You can also follow Max on Social media at the following links, twitter, facebook & Instagram.

Max is a highly visible advocate for artisanal cheese production, and is renowned as one of the cheese world's living legends for his expertise, insight and passion. He is a dedicated scholar of cheese, where he acts as consultant to the trade, judges at cheese competitions and is a frequent guest lecturer.

I hope you have learned something today and I encourage you to expand your palette and try new cheeses. Experiment, enjoy and be sure to let me know how your next cheese board offering goes. I always love learning new things and hearing about your next great culinary adventure.

As always, Bon Appetit!

Lou

December 19, 2014

"Holiday Seasoned Nuts, Brittles & Barks"

It’s that time of year, when we spread love through food with family and friends. The season is filled with joy and laughter, and the gift of giving is among us all. It’s sometimes hard to decide what this years’ festive treat will be. But if you like homemade goodies, and can follow some simple guidelines, I am sure you will come out of this feeling and looking like a pro, and have all your loved ones impressed by your efforts!

Brittles
Brittles are such an easy and decorative gift that gleams with craftsmanship and love. Peanut and almond brittle are probably the most commonly prepared brittles during the holidays. But these nutty, sweet, candies are much more versatile than the layperson would know. I’ve baked recipes including spiced pumpkin seed brittle cookies, toffee peanut brittle brownies, and folded chocolate almond brittle into ice cream. Put your favorite brittle in the food processor until it is the texture of sugar, sprinkle on your favorite brulee, and use the kitchen blowtorch to form the crunchy caramelized top we all love! Don’t stop there though, get creative and encourage your friends and family to explore the many ways to enjoy this tasty holiday treat!

Add baking soda or butter to make a more delicate brittle The trick, though, is to make a candy that's truly brittle so that it breaks when you bite it, rather than a hard candy that must be sucked like a lollipop or toffee. By adding baking soda to the sugar syrup, you unleash a zillion minuscule air bubbles that give the candy a porous, delicate texture. Butter also helps to make the candy tender and easier to chew, as well as adding its own rich flavor.

Peppermint Bark
The recipe for peppermint bark uses few ingredients, with only chocolate and mint candies required. Some recipes also add peppermint flavoring. The candies used may be candy canes, or mint candies. The candies should be broken up, and the chocolate is melted. These two ingredients are combined on a baking sheet and then chilled until firm. The bark is then removed from the sheet and broken into pieces in a similar way to peanut brittle.

Seasoned Nuts
Although nuts take center stage in preparations such as brittle, they are far more complex and versatile. Seasoned nuts are a great evening starter, and a fun gift to give. Mixing different varieties or singling out a favorite, is half the fun! Some of my favorites include pistachios, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, almonds, and adding a variety of seeds like pumpkin, flax or sunflower seeds. Once that decision is made, decide if the mixture is going to be served warm or at room temperature. Typically the nuts are roasted first, then mixed with butter or egg whites to bind, and tossed in a flavorful mixtures of spices. Sweet and Spicy nuts are among Americans’ favorite, using brown sugar or maple syrup and bourbon with cayenne pepper and paprika.

Other favorite flavorings and spices of mine include fresh or dried thyme, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, nutmeg, allspice, soy sauce, and sea salt. To really wow your friends, prepare each nut in a different way, and then mix them together. Try smoking almonds, and candying pecans. Then cayenne roast walnuts and coconut toast some macadamia nuts. Mix all those nuts together and the flavors will really explode on the palette. Try mixing nuts and fruits together like dried cranberries, pineapples, raisins or figs. Get creative with seasonings, and don’t knock it till you try it! Food can be a lot of fun, and your imagination and willingness to try new flavor combinations, will open up so many doors in the world of cooking.

I wish you all a Holiday season full of love and success.

All the Best

Lou

December 17, 2014

A Simple Guide to Understanding Champagne

It's time for me cover my all time favorite result of the fermentation of grapes, champagne. I absolutely adore it in all its forms and will never, ever, turn down a glass of 'the bubbly'. While Champagne is quite popular throughout most of the year, I was not surprised to learn that a full quarter (25%) of all the champagne & sparkling wine sold in a given year, is done so during the final week of the year between Christmas and New Year's. I'm going to cover the ABC's of this wonderful sparkling beverage and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Let's start out by examining what makes champagne, well...champagne!

Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France, the area from which it takes its name, and only wines made from this region are allowed and can properly be called champagne. While the term 'champagne' is used by some makers of sparkling wine in other parts of the world, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the champagne appellation. In Europe, this is strictly adhered to due to its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have some leeway with regard to the use of the term 'champagne' by use of a legal structure that allows those producers who have been making sparkling wine for a long period of time to continue to use the term 'champagne' under specific circumstances.

How It's Made
Champagne is a blend of, for the most part, three grape varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. When making the base wine, grapes are pressed in a very careful method so as not to allow the color or bitter qualities from the skin to flow into the juice. This is especially true of the black grape types. This juice is then set aside and starts the first fermentation and aging process. Each batch of juice is set aside separately and blending is not done until after fermentation. Once this process is done, the juices are blended to make the base wine which is known as cuvée. In some cases, aged samples, as well as those from many different vineyards, are used. In very rare situations, it is possible that close to 100 different samples have been used to make this base wine.

Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine. Around 1700, sparkling champagne, as we know it today, was born in France. However, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merrett documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Pérignon arrived in the Abbey of
Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk 'invented' champagne. This is the process that gives champagne and sparkling wine its 'bubbles'.

Merrett
Méthode Champenoise is the traditional Dom Pérignon method by which champagne is produced. After primary and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of rock sugar. According to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, a minimum of 1.5 years is required to completely develop all the flavor. In years where there is an exceptional harvest, a millesimé is declared. This means that the champagne will be very good and has to mature for at least 3 years. During this time the champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.

As the yeast consumes the sugars, alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced. Since it is trapped in the bottle, it waits for you and I to 'pop' the cork and release it for all of us to enjoy, and yes, even to sometimes wear. A sediment is then formed that settles to the bottom of the bottle called lees. In the traditional labor intensive method of fermentation and aging, bottles are turned and rotated either manually or mechanically in a process called remuage for a period of up to three months to allow all the lees to settle into the necks of the bottles. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in the wine. Some syrup is sometimes added to maintain the level within the bottle.

I should note here that when buying 'cheaper', less expensive champagnes, the reason they are less expensive is that they do not go through méthode champenoise, the long and traditional process described above. They get their carbonation in the same way soda does, through compressed carbon dioxide gas blasted into the wine. This is the reason that truly well made champagnes are so delicate. The méthode champenoise creates very small bubbles that last quite a long time, while the compressed air carbonation method creates very large bubbles that have a short life and can actually be quite aggressive.

History of Champagne
Although the French monk Dom Perignon did not invent champagne, it is true he developed many advances in the production of this beverage, including holding the cork in place with a wire collar to withstand the fermentation pressure. In France, the first sparkling champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called 'the devil's wine' (le vin du diable) as bottles exploded or the cork jolted away. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, champagne was for a very long time, made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not utilize the so-called méthode champenoise, the second fermentation of adding of the yeast and sugar, until the 19th century, 300 years after Christopher Merrett documented the process.

Although the first wine-producing vineyards in Champagne appeared between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, the events of the 17th century brought the beginning of champagne as we know it today. The vine-growers of Champagne had learned how to stabilize their wines and keep them fresh for several years. As a result of their hard work and the preciseness, the Champenois also obtained a white wine by combining both black and white grapes using grapes that had been grown in the Champagne region. By the last decades of that century, they mastered the mysteries of effervescence, which was their stroke of genius.

As with most great culinary discoveries, which seem to come from either Italy or France, champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers went well out of their way to make sure that they and the champagne they produced was associated with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging, they sought to associate champagne with high luxury, festivities and rites of passage.

In 1866 the famous entertainer and star of his day, George Leybourne, began a career of making celebrity endorsements for champagne. The champagne maker Moët commissioned him to write and perform songs extolling the virtues of champagne, especially as a reflection of taste, affluence, and the good life. He agreed to drink nothing but champagne in public.

Types of Champagne

Vintage And Non-Vintage
Most of the champagne produced today is 'non-vintage,' meaning that is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10-15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. A designated 'vintage' is usually up to the wine maker and specifically tied to conditions that are very favorable. 'Vintage' wine must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from the vintage year. Under champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from favorable vintages to be reserved for use in non-vintage champagne. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as 'vintage' since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.

Blanc de blancs
Blanc de Blancs means 'white of whites' and is used to designate champagnes made only from Chardonnay grapes. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines rather than any sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties.

Blanc de Noirs

Blanc de Noirs are white champagnes made only from the black grape varieties of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Typically, these sparkling wines are full-bodied and deeper yellow-gold in color. They are ideal for full-flavored foods, including meats and cheeses.

Pink or Rosé
Pink or Rosé champagnes are produced by one of two methods. The traditional method involves the addition of a small amount of Pinot Noir still wine to the base wine or cuvée prior to the second fermentation. The maceration method, or skin contact method, involves the pressing of the grape skins, allowing them to soak with the juice of the grapes prior to fermentation.

Prestige cuvée
A prestige cuvée, or cuvée de prestige, is a proprietary blended wine (usually a champagne) that is considered to be the elite of a producer's range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.

The original prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. Until then, champagne houses produced different cuvées of varying quality, but a top-of-the-line wine produced to the highest standards (and priced accordingly) was a new idea. In fact, Louis Roederer had been producing Cristal since 1876, but this was strictly for the private consumption of the Russian tsar.

Cristal was made publicly available with the 1945 vintage. Then came Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne (first vintage 1952), and Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle 'La Cuvée' in 1960, a blend of three vintages (1952, 1953, and 1955). In the last three decades of the twentieth century, most champagne houses followed these with their own prestige cuvées, often named after notable people with a link to that producer (Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame, thenickname of the widow of the house's founder's son; Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, named for the British prime minister; and Laurent-Perrier's Cuvée Alexandra Rosé, to name just three examples, and presented in non-standard bottle shapes (following Dom Pérignon's lead with its eighteenth-century revival design).

Champagnes also come in a variety of sweet to the extra dry. Here is a brief chart that will help you in picking the type that best suits your tastes:

Doux: Sweet
Demi-sec: Half-dry
Sec: Dry
Extra sec: Extra dry
Brut: Nearly completely dry
Extra Brut / Brut zero: No added sugar at all

Sparkling Shiraz
This is a relatively new sparkling wine experience from the Shiraz producers of Australia, and I felt it deserved a mention here. As a fan of Shiraz, I was intrigued and found the wine to have all the characteristics of the traditional Shiraz that I admire, blackcurrants, blackberries, chocolate, cherries, strawberries, hints of tobacco with a rich smoky oak flavor and that trademark peppery finish. Sparkling Shiraz wines should be served slightly chilled. If it's summer, place in the fridge for 30 to 40 minutes. However, if it's mid winter, then room temperature will do fine. The bottom line is you want it slightly cooler than you would serve traditional Shiraz, yet not quite as cold as a Chardonnay.

Opening a Champagne Bottle
The trick to opening a bottle of champagne while maintaining its integrity is to avoid 'popping' the cork. Also note that the better the champagne, the less 'pop' you will experience. Begin by scoring the foil around the base of the wire cage. Then, carefully untwist and loosen the bottom of the cage, but do not remove it. In one hand, enclose the cage and cork while holding the base of the champagne bottle with your other hand. Twist both ends in the opposite direction. As soon as you feel pressure forcing the cork out, try to push it back in while continuing to twist gently until the cork is released with a sigh.

The Drinking
This, of course, is my favorite part. Champagne should always be served chilled (43 to 48 F) and served in a champagne flute, a long stemmed glass with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. You should hold the flute by the stem or base as opposed to the bowl and since 'clinking' seems to be the norm when consuming champagne, don't overdue it and be careful. I am a perfect example of what not to do when holding a delicate champagne flute, as one New Year's Eve, while trying to make a point rather over-zealously, I found myself holding a base and stem while my bowl sailed across the room, getting the attention of a rather large guy who was none to pleased as it hit his forehead, but that, my friends, is a story for another day. I have included below a simple guide as to which particular champagne goes with certain types of food so the next time you are hosting, you can wow all your friends with your acute knowledge of 'the bubbly.'

Blanc de Blanc Champagne: Oysters, crustaceans and gently flavored white fish.
Blanc de Noirs: Lighter meat dishes (pigeon breast, partridge, veal, pork). If it's an aged wine, it can stand up to a bit richer protein such as kidneys or venison.
Non-Vintage Champagnes: Especially young and fruity versions are recommended with cheeses such as Beaufort, Gruyère, Emmental. Older non-vintage champagnes can cope with dishes with darker, nuttier flavors. (Caviar for instance)
Vintage Champagnes: Great with black truffle,scented foods, cheeses such as Parmesan and lightly smoked foods. Younger vintage champagnes can provide a foil for a wide variety of dishes, from fish with rich sauces to poultry (especially duck), light meats (veal and pork) and many cheeses (Chaource and Lancashire). Japanese dishes are also suggested.
Non-Vintage Rosé: Prawns, lobster and other seafood work here.
Vintage Rosé: Aged vintage rosé champagnes have a rich, savoury character that can pair well with meat dishes, and have the power to stand up to high levels of herbs and spices, specifically basil, mint and coriander.
Demi Sec Champagnes: These go superbly with savory dishes, foie gras is an obvious example. If there is an edge of sweetness to the food (caramelizing, a fruit ingredient or sugar,) then this style can provide a better match than a dry selection. These also pair well with most desserts as long as they are not overly sweet.

The only hazard in drinking champagne tends to be that it is so delicate in body and flavor, it is very easy to find yourself a bit buzzed rather quickly. As always, do enjoy it, but don't overdo it. As we all know, anything in excess tends to not be a good thing. I hope that you have learned a bit more about champagne than you already knew, but the learning here is not in the reading, my fellow Champagne-ites, it's in the drinking, so go out and eat, drink and enjoy!



Bon Appetit!

Lou

December 14, 2014

Don't even think about buying me a Christmas gift...instead give to No Kid Hungry...

This is an interesting time of year. A two edged sword if ever there was one. Let's face it, most folks like getting gifts. I say most because I must admit, I am a terrible receiver. I am not gracious, prefer not getting a gift or card and rarely give them in return. Some though, enjoy the exchange of gifts, ripping through wrapping paper as if they are a drowning person struggling to breathe, opening a box of air.

Others, to their credit, truly enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them. Now that I understand, even though I'm the worst gift giver ever. Heck, just ask those who know me when was the last time they got a card from me, let alone a gift. I'm just not that guy. Meaningless platitudes on a card make no sense to me. I can't stand the endless commercials for products and 'things.' I loathe the shallowness of having to have the 'latest' whatever it might be that the media and countless ads splash on TV claiming I 'must have.'

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a Scrooge. Just because I rail against the shallow commercialism of the 'Holiday' season with its store displays for Christmas going up sometime around Halloween, doesn't mean I am anti-Christmas. I am actually all in for the Spirit of Christmas, even though I am far from religious. I love that 'tis the Season of Giving' thing. But, don't mis-understand, I'm not for that ridiculous, $1,395 Christian Loubertine pair of shoes made from a massage ball kind of giving thing. There is no one who can ever convince me they need or should have a pair of those moronic shoes. No I'm talking real giving. The kind of giving that changes peoples lives. The giving that comes not just on the holiday, but everyday. To those we love, or more importantly, those in need.

See, I think the season of giving should be all the time, not just when the retail world tells me it should be. (I am the same way with Valentine's Day, or any other 'manufactured holiday' for that matter, that tells me I should buy flowers or chocolates or take mom to brunch, etc, on a specific day, all designated to sell me something.) I believe that you have 365 days a year, every year, to show those you love and care about that you love them. And not materially. True giving to me is not about a thing, it's about an act. Giving your time. Your smile. Your hug. Putting down the iPhone or iPad and paying attention to someone, actually looking them in the eye, instead of looking down at a 3 x 5 screen.

Why tell you all this? Well, to announce that this year, I have determined to change my ways. I am going to give gifts...actually one gift...the gift of giving, and I ask the same in return. I'll be donating the cost of material gifts to No Kid Hungry in my family's name. If you feel the need to buy me a gift in return, I ask that you do the same. Give the cost of my gift to No Kid Hungry because I can think of no greater gift than giving a much needed, nutritious meal to someone, especially a child, who's hungry. For those not aware, this year over 45 million people in America will be food deficient at some point, and over 16 million of those going hungry are children. Every dollar donated will buy 10 meals for a hungry child.

Now, most of you are not on my list, nor I yours. but, in the spirit of the Holiday Season, I am asking you to step up with me, take the No Kid Hungry Pledge, join the fight against childhood hunger and do whatever it is you can to help. Make your gifts this year count for something more than just a piece of clothing, a pair of shoes or a piece of jewelry. This year give the gift of sustenance to those in need. There are three ways you can help.

First) Purchase No Kid Hungry holiday cards and help fight childhood hunger in America this holiday season. Celebrate friends and family with a holiday card and let them know you care about ending childhood hunger in America. 
Order Holiday Cards
Suggested donation $10 per card.


Orders should arrive within 7-10 business days. Orders received by December 17 are guaranteed for delivery by December 24.


Second) If Giving a physical gift is your preference, purchase the Perfect Gift that Gives Back This Holiday Season and help No Kid Hungry fight childhood hunger. Whether you're looking for a thoughtful gift for friends and family, or a way to make a difference this holiday, No Kid Hungry is offering the perfect gift that gives back – a Williams-Sonoma Cutting Board with iPad® stand, made by Orange Chef Co. Every cutting board purchased will mean another 450 meals for kids in need. This cutting board is the perfect gift for friends and family this holiday season.

Order Your Williams-Sonoma Cutting Board


Each cutting board is $75.00 and the cost of shipping is $13 per item.
Orders should arrive within 7-10 business days. Orders received by December 17 are guaranteed for delivery by December 24.
For those that would rather just donate on someone's behalf.



I thank you for your help and support, I call you all to action and finish by wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season and Happy New Year. Let's make No Kid Hungry a reality in our lifetime!

All the Best,

Lou

December 04, 2014

Bolo Preto (Caribbean Black Cake) No ordinary fruitcake!

Traditional Fruitcake
All my life, I have cringed at the taste and smell of candied, dried fruits and chopped nuts baked into a sometimes moist (most times not) pound cake-like bread. Fruitcake! Yuk. I call them doorstops. I am a believer in the theory that there is actually only one actual fruitcake and it is re-gifted over and over and over again, year after year. But, I could be wrong.

The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins, mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added and the name fruitcake was first used.

I was turned off even by the thought of fruitcake, that is until a few years ago, when my friend and muse, Elaine, the original Gourmet Girl, shared with me the most amazing, traditional Caribbean fruitcake recipe from her Aruban mom. While I was skeptical at first, after watching bottle after bottle of liquor added over a months time, I started to think, "Ok, this one may be different." This is Elaine's version and she calls it "Black Cake" and folks, it is truly amazing. Delicious, moist and unlike any traditional fruitcake I had ever tasted. But beware, unless you have a strong constitution, more than one piece will leave you a bit tipsy!

 For those that do not like fruitcake, this recipe is such a completely opposite version of what the term fruitcake conjures up in our mind. Moist, delicious, with marinated fruit that is soft, chewy and definitely not candied hard little bits of yuk. And, with all that liquor, this is definitely NOT a version to share with the kids. Unless of course you'd like a little piece and quiet. One piece ought to have even the most active child sleeping like a baby within the hour. (Okay you crazies, I see you sitting there thinking about that. That was just a joke! I am not advocating sharing a liquor infused fruitcake with children!)

The recipe is as follows and you should start now if you want to be on time for Christmas, as it takes up to a MONTH to soak the fruit properly!

Elaine Giammetta's Bolo Preto
Makes 1 large loaf  or 8 individual loafs (Individual loaf shown here)


Elaine Giammetta's Caribbean Black Cake
Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1 /2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped dried peaches
1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple
1/4 cup chopped candied oranges
1/4 cup chopped candied lemons
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup cake flour (no need to add baking powder)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick sweet unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1 Bottle of Amaretto (can also use brandy or cognac)
1 Bottle of Frangelico

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put fruits and nuts into a very large plastic container (DO NOT USE METAL) Completely cover all the chopped fruits and nuts with the Frangelico and Amaretto. Cover tightly and put into a cool, dry spot. Let it soak for a minimum of one month, checking weekly to be sure that fruit remains completely covered with liquid. Add additional liquor as necessary as the liquor, even in a sealed container will evaporate. (We added at least 1 more bottle of each liquor) Told you this is NOT for kids!

After 30 days drain the excess liquid from the marinated fruit, reserving the liquid to use later. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat eggs for 3 minutes on low. Add the sugar/butter mixture to the eggs. Add salt to the flour, slowly incorporate flour into the fruit/nut mixture. Gradually add egg and butter mixture to the fruit until you have the consistency of a cake batter. If necessary, add additional flour, being careful not to add too much, as the fruit mixture will be very ‘wet.’

Elaine Giammetta's Caribbean Black Cake
Lightly butter and flour baking pans. (I like to use the small individual loaf pans.) Pour batter into pans ¾ full. Cook until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be sure to check on cakes periodically, if top begins to darken, cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning. Depending on the size of your pan, cooking time can take up to an hour (Bundt pan). Cool cakes completely. Using toothpick, prick the top of the cakes and drizzle reserved liquor over cakes. Repeat until all liquor has been absorbed.

WOW does that sound amazing or what? I have learned my lesson; always stay open minded and never count a recipe out until you’ve tried every imaginable version. I am now a believer! Viva La Fruitcake!

Happy Holidays and as always, 

Bon Appetit!

Lou
Image source fruitcake; educationviews.org

December 03, 2014

Eggnog Crepe Ravioli

This recipe comes from former Chocolatier Ingo Wullert. While it may take a bit of time, it's worth all the prep, as your guests will be thrilled with these little pockets of deliciousness.
Serves 5 (3 crepes per serving)

Ingredients 
For the eggnog:
10 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
25 oz sweetened condensed milk
7 oz pear liqueur (Poire William)

For the ravioli filling:
1 cup of milk chocolate drops
½ cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon instant coffee

For the crepes:*
1 ½ cups of milk
½ cup soda water
3 eggs
6 tablespoons sugar
9 oz self rising flour
A pinch of salt
Butter
* You can buy ready made crepes at your local gourmet store, but making your own is so much better.

For the garnish:
Dark chocolate shavings
Some melted dark chocolate

Method
Eggnog
Make the eggnog one day ahead. In a kitchen blender combine the egg yolk and scraped vanilla bean. Blend well at medium speed. While blending, add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the liqueur and blend at high speed for another minute. Poor the eggnog in a jar and let it rest overnight without putting the lid on.

Crepes
Make to crepes one day ahead. Combine the sifted flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make some room in the center of the flour and add the 3 eggs. Gently mix the flour with the egg with a wooden spoon. When the batter starts to thicken add some of the milk. Keep mixing the batter by adding the rest of the milk little by little. When everything is mixed add the soda water the same way you added the milk. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before using. Make the crepes in a crepe pan, being sure to use a generous amount of butter. When all crepes are made (about 15), cover them with foil wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Ravioli Filling
Heat up the heavy whipping cream and add the instant coffee. Add the milk chocolate drops ad stir until all is smooth. Cover and set aside till next day.

To Serve
Before serving, prepare the dessert plate by adding a thin layer of the eggnog. Take two crepes at a time and reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute. Cut the hot crepes in 2 inch ravioli squares. With a teaspoon, fill the center of the square with a little filling and add another square on top. Place the ravioli on the plates with eggnog and garnish with chocolate shavings and thin stripes of chocolate.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Bon Appetit!

Lou

November 22, 2014

Mulled Wine, The Perfect Holiday Drink!

The first time I ever heard the term mulled wine, Clarence, the angel in Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" ordered it while sitting in a bar with George Baily. I was about 7 or 8 years old. Mulled wine, hmmmm it's fall, winters coming, let's take a look see.

In medieval times, sanitation was poor and many believed it was far healthier to drink mulled wine than risk drinking water. There is some truth to the health benefits, as drinking wine in moderation has been linked to reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Lemon and orange both contain vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant.

Mulled simply means heated and spiced. So you can have mulled wine, mulled cider, mulled mead, etc. No one knows the true history of mulled wine, but there was medieval mention of Ypocras or Hipocris named after the physician Hippocrates. These drinks were thought to be healthy and served as tonics in the Roman Empire. Fast forward to around 1500 and British cookbooks speak of mulling Clarrey. This was Bordeaux wine infused with honey, cinnamon and cardamom. Those Victorian English enjoyed their mulled wine, and even served a version of it, called Negus, at children’s birthday parties. If you boil the wine when making it, you can burn off the alcohol and I’m sure that’s what the Victorian parents did before serving it.

Most likely, the drink got its origins from wine sellers who found themselves with some spoiled product. These innovative manufacturers heated their sour merchandise, flavored it with honey and spices and a new drink was born.

No matter what European country you find yourself in around the holidays; you are bound to come across a local version of their mulled wine. The Swedes serve glögg, while the Germans enjoy gluhwein. The French sip vin chaud and the Poles polish off grzane wino. The Hungarians brew up forralt bor and the Italians hand round vin brule. While the basis of mulled wine is nearly the same for everyone, regional differences give each one a special taste. The Swedes add raisins and almonds to theirs, as well as more sugar and usually a bit of extra alcohol like vodka or cognac than most. In Germany, you’ll find a lighter, less sweet version. Gluhwein has less sugar than glögg and more spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

Glögg
The Swedish word for mulled wine, Glögg, comes from the verb ‘to heat up.’ The term glödgat vin, literally meaning ‘heated wine,’ first appeared in Sweden in 1609. By that time, many European countries had stopped drinking spiced wine, but the tradition has survived in some places, including Sweden. In the 1890s mulled wine became a Swedish Christmas Tradition and spread more and more widely.

Glögg is the Nordic form of mulled wine, similar to Glühwein in German-speaking countries. Glühwein is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Almonds and raisins are often added to the Scandinavian version, though not to the German. Fruit wines such as blueberry wine and cherry wine are sometimes used instead of grape wine in Germany. The oldest Glühwein tankard is documented in the high noble German and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV, of Katzenelnbogen around 1420. This gold-plated lockable silver tankard imitating the traditional wine woven wooden can is called Welcome. In Romania it is called vin fiert ("boiled wine"), and can be made using either red or white wine, sometimes adding peppercorn. In Moldova the izvar is made from red wine with black pepper and honey. In Italy, mulled wine is typical in the northern part of the country and is called vin brulè.

Glögg is a traditional drink of the Swedish & Finnish Advent season - Advent being the six weeks leading up to the Birth of Christ on the 25th of December. Glögg is traditionally made with red wine, and each small glass has a few almonds and raisins in it as well as the drink. December in this region is a dark, wintry time, and this hot drink helps keep the spirits cheered.

Glögg's origins are with mulled wine - wine heated with spices. Mulled wine was known to medieval Europeans and celebrated from at least 400AD. In the 1800s, a special mulled wine was popular in Europe known as "Glühwein," which began to incorporate the special Glögg ingredients - raisins and almonds. Glögg also tends to have more sugar as well as a heavier alcohol content. Given the frigid winters seen in Scandanavia, this can be quite necessary! Gingersnaps, Gingerbread, and cinnamon rolls are pairings associated with glogg.

Flaming Glögg
1 bottle red wine
1 bottle aquavit (like a flavored vodka)
10 whole cardamoms
5 whole cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon
4 figs
1 cup raisins
1 cup blanched almonds
1 orange skin, dried
1/2 lb sugar cubes

Put wine, aquavit, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, figs, raisins, almonds and orange into a pot. Simmer until almost boiling. Remove from heat. Put sugar in sieve, dip into liquid. Light with match and burn until gone. Cover to put out flame. Serve liquid warm, putting a few raisins and almonds into each glass.

Recipes
The spices usually used for mulled wine are cloves, grated nutmeg and cinnamon or mace. Any kind of wine may be mulled, but port and claret are those usually selected for the purpose and the latter requires a very large proportion of sugar.

It's a Wonderful Life Mulled Wine

2 bottles red wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1 orange
1 lemon

Zest the fruit, avoiding the white pith. Put this, the sugar, cinnamon and cloves into the water. Bring this to a slow boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Now add the wine. Add in the actual orange and lemon fruit part, sliced up. Warm this on low heat for 40 minutes (do NOT boil). Strain out the wine and serve!

1600s England
In medieval times, mulled wines were called Ypocras or Hipocris, named after the physician Hippocrates. This recipe is from The Accomplisht Cook, written in 1660 by Robert May. The recipe is for Ipocras with Red Wine.

1 gallon wine
3oz cinnamon
2oz ginger, sliced
1/4oz cloves
1oz mace
20 peppercorns
1oz nutmeg
3lb sugar
2qt cream

"Take a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinnamon, two ounces of slic't ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream."

In essence, mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a large pot. Serve warm. You can also let it 'settle' for a few days and serve it cool, depending on which way tastes better to you!

Brown Sugar Mulled Wine
2 bottles dry Cabernet Sauvignon
Peel of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
8 whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Orange slices

Pour wine in slow cooker. Wrap orange peel, cinnamon stick halves, cloves, and nutmeg in cheesecloth. Add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 2 to 2.5 hours. Discard spice bag; ladle into glasses. Garnish with orange slices.

Clove and Nutmeg Mulled Wine
3 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon
1 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered clove
2 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Combine ingredients in a large saucepan over very low heat. Warm carefully, stirring frequently. Serve warm.

Bon Appetit!

Lou

October 01, 2014

From Weird Science to Kelly's Kitchen: Reinventing Kelly Le Brock


Life is a journey. High points, low points all melding into the path we call our lives. Those strong of heart and mind, realize at some point that to get to the high points, we must start at the low points and climb. Sometimes those hills are outside, sometimes, they are inside. For actress, model, mom, rancher and foodie Kelly Le Brock, it seems the hills are almost something she looks forward to now. A self testing if you will. Overcoming obstacles.

I recently sat down with this iconic lady to discuss her new passions, her incredible life and as she put it, "her new found voice." She opened up about finding peace in her life and reinventing herself, well outside the lime-light and glitz of Hollywood. I remarked on her recent reemergence.
"Well, I have a rather passionate, and sometimes painful past. It's time to tell my story. I have a book coming out soon and I think that with it, I'm going to empower people who say, 'I'm too hurt to get out of bed in the morning.'" She explained, "they'll get out of bed in the morning after they've read my story and say '...if she can do it, so can I.'"

Her recently launched Kelly's Kitchen, while about food, is more about a lifestyle, with its center, the kitchen and the table, as the 'core of the family' as she put it. "Getting people back to the table," she stated, "is really the bones of any relationship in any family. I think that good healthcare actually starts at the table and I encourage and am actually disappointed in the mothers of America for not taking their kids to the table."

An accomplished horse-woman, most days will find her riding one of her horses, either, Ruby, Kiwi, Tess and Chubby. "He is," she laughed. She rides on her 700 acre farm where she grows her own produce, raises and butchers her own beef and is now, as she put it, "going into the pig business." Far flung from the pages of Vogue, and the 'glitz' of Hollywood this is the Kelly LeBrock who took her horse and spent a week with the grizzlies of Yellowstone Park...with a homeless person.

"I really wanted to be a veterinarian," she stated, "how I got into Hollywood I'll never know. I was raised in England and I spent a lot of time in the field by myself. I'm really a very simple girl. When I had my first child, when she turned 3, I was outta there (Hollywood), I headed for the hills. I wanted to raise my children in an atmosphere where I did not lose control of being a parent. I am happy that I grew my kids up in an atmosphere that was not all, Facebook, tv and online."

I asked her to elaborate on her love of the outdoors and about raising her own beef, produce and now, pigs on her 700 acre ranch. "I have a large spread, one might say," she quipped. Her British accent becoming a bit more pronounced. "I've been living in the wilderness for the last 20 years. We have cattle, and I've just gone into the pig business. Raising pork. We have a freezer full of beef and a freezer full of pork. I will not eat meat out. We treat our meat correctly. No corn and we finish off with barley. We actually make our own little things to finish off, using apples, or carrots, or beets. When you eat our meat you feel happy. I love collecting eggs, butchering meat, growing the produce. I even learned how to make my own cheese!" she claimed proudly, her inner foodie coming out. "I make yogurt too!"

Her love of all things natural started when her children were young when she took to making her own baby food. "It just came from wanting the best ingredients for my children. Seeing how contaminated our food system is, the want and need to be more proactive in my health. 'Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.' I really live by that."she stated. That led me to questions about one of her new passions,  "Kelly's Kitchen" and her love of cooking and being in the kitchen.

She explained, "You know, for a time in England, I did Health Kitchen for a number of years, and I was lucky enough to be in the kitchen with 3 Starred Michelin Chef, Marco Pierre White and that was the most exciting two weeks of my life. I learned how to burn myself," she laughed, "I was known as the screamer because I kept burning myself, but I was on the line and we got out service for 76 people every night. I did it. From 7 in the morning til 1 am. I got to do all the stations, but my favorite thing was Prep. You work all day getting these ingredients ready and then the dish is cooked and served eaten in 25 minutes. But, the prep is the kitchen to me" she added. "It's a quiet time, to think about the people you are making the meal for. You look at the colors, how beautiful and all the work you put in, and that it's going to be given to the people you love."

With Kelly's Kitchen, Kelly is all about healthy eating and good healthcare, starting in the kitchen, at the table. "It came about within the last four years," she offered. "I am just horrified at the way people are eating and I really want to get out there and show people how to make a delicious meal out of a bag of beans or a bag of brown rice. It doesn't have to be expensive to eat well. Yes it is expensive in time, but that is something that people have come to confuse with eating healthy being expensive in dollars. Seems that people don't have time anymore," she lamented, "but you can make a decent meal in 30 minutes. Families should have to drop their phones in a little basket when they come through the door and sit down every night at the dinner table and look at each other. Really talk to each other."

She has lent her voice and become an ambassador for a cause she believes in, foodtweeks™ and has re-emerged from a self imposed cocoon with a new-found, vibrant voice. "It's time to give back,"she declared. "We don't need to leave our country to help people, they are right here in our face. I know what it's like to struggle for food or not have enough to eat. There are people in this country a paycheck away from hunger. I am the ambassador for this great new app that is affiliated with 50 food banks across the country. The beauty of it is that there are people who are always trying to get healthy cutting calories, they take those calories and put them into foodtweeks™ and those calories go into the food bank and translate to available food."

Here's how the program works;
For every calorie users "tweek" from their food, foodtweeks™ makes a donation to a local food bank so they can distribute the same number of nutritious calories to feed a hungry child and their family. There’s no cost of any kind to the foodtweeks™ user and it's easy for food banks to participate. You remove calories. They give them away!

To get involved, simply enter the promo code KELLYLEBROCK and foodtweeks™ will double all of your donations! Here's how:
  • Download the foodtweeks™ mobile app for your Android or iPhone. It's free!
  • Create an account in the foodtweeks™ app. Also free!
  • When creating your free account, in the promo code area, enter: KELLYLEBROCK
That's it. Every time you remove calories from your food using the foodtweeks™ app, foodtweeks™ will double all of your donations. And it doesn't cost you anything! Get started today helping yourself, food banks across the country, and the people they nourish in their communities.

"Finally there is an app out there that's doing good for everybody." she explained, getting excited, "People are losing weight and getting into better shape and what they are losing, people are gaining in real food. I had been working with a friend and she was doing some work with Jay Walker, founder of Priceline and she thought I'd be a good ambassador and she put us together. It's two fold, people eating healthy and feeding the hungry.

As to what the future holds, for herself and for her new project, Kelly's Kitchen, she stated, "It's all about the journey. If I can come out with some simple things that can help people then that's what I want to do. Kelly's Kitchen can go anywhere. It's about healthy eating. About bringing people back to the table wherever that table may be. Right now, she expanded, "I've rented a little room in Maui. I have one burner and don't need much else to make a healthy meal. It's an ongoing process. My biggest concern is to get moms and dads back to the table again cooking for their family again. Teach the children how to cook for their moms and dads. There are little people out there that can maybe help with the parents."

Agreed. In speaking with Kelly, I reflected on how fortunate I am to be surrounded lately, by those who are about tradition of back to basics as it were, and who come from a mindset that it all starts with the food, the product, but more importantly, our connection to the land and each other. It's about that connection we get from "the table" and that human interaction that we seem to have lost with today's technology. Face to face interaction. 

With a new book coming out, a new cooking and food platform and her advocacy in feeding the hungry, with foodtweeks, it certainly seems that Kelly has indeed found that new strong inner voice, and that focus of directions and passions that blend to create the journey we call life. Her day-to-day life with her children, grandchildren, tending to the ranch, the back to nature lifestyle, all seem to have healed old wounds and given her a clear perspective on life and what's truly important. Talking with her I sensed a peace and contentment. With life and her family, but more importantly...herself. 

I look forward to more chats with Kelly as she follows her new path. I recall some talk about coming out to the ranch. Now, I'm a city boy.....can you see me on a horse? Yea, me either.....
I hope you enjoyed this informal chat with Kelly Le Brock. You can find out  more about Kelly's Kitchen on facebook: Kelly's Kitchen twitter: @AtKellysKitchen.

Till next time, 
Lou