Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's go to the grocery store!

I'm a self-admitted grocery store junkie. Hitting up 2-3 markets on a given shopping day isn't outside my comfort zone and I can endlessly trail the aisles at interesting or new stores for hours. Why? I think it's my inquisitive nature, born out of my desire to learn about the cultural implications of modern food purchasing. NOT! It's because I love delicious food in pretty packaging!

So when my friend Fritz (yes, that's his name, amazing right?) recommended I visit Super King Market in the far outer reaches of Los Angeles (I think they call it Burbank?), I just had to try it. Was I in for a show!

The best thing about non-traditional supermarkets that cater to ethnic populations is just how much of their traditional cultures are inflected into the stores. Crazy old Korean ladies bumping into you constantly as you grab their prized head of cabbage. Stubborn Armenian women that just dare you to move their cart out of the already-congested produce section. I could go on. I could also show you the bruises on my elbows.

Super King was other-worldly in its representation of ethnic cultures doing what they do best - picking, haggling and hoarding their favorite foods. The buzz of people in the produce section was incredible; you could barely move your cart, let alone alone walk through some of the sections. People were grabbing the sale fruits and vegetables like the megaquake is on the calendar and this was their last shot at filling the pantry!

Needless to say, very fun experience. I eventually abandoned my cart in an empty section and proceeded to make runs back and forth with my goods...always with an eye on my stuff...Yeah, I see you little old Persian lady with the kerchief. Keep your hands off my eggplant!

The store had a great selection of produce you don't see at traditional markets (hello, garbanzo beans in their shell, where have you been all my life! Good for fueling my obsession!) and some great fetas from Greece and France, as well as my new favorite discovery: Menaesh.

Menaesh is a flat bread covered in a paste of thyme, oregano, vegetable oil, sesame seeds and lemon juice (though the lemon juice wasn't listed on the package, you could definitely taste it). I am at a loss in finding anything more about it online but this is how it was spelled on the package, fresh from the bakery.

From the little information I could find online (and comparing it to what I tasted) I'm pretty sure the topping is actually Za'atar (zaatar), a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. It was delicious!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Baking Day!

Yesterday was quite the marathon baking day! Three loaves, all with similar bases and different  fruit/vegetable add-ins. At Cherryvale Farms, we have a commitment to delivering delicious, easy to make mixes that are also healthy, hence your addition of a fresh fruit or vegetable.

In the case of our "Everything But The...Zucchini / Apple Cinnamon / Carrot Raisin" bread mixes, the main add-in is the fresh ingredients you yourself supply. No gummy, rubberized, dried-out fruit or veggie bits in our mixes! No! You're in charge of making the mixes wholesome for your family - we just provide the vehicle to do that. To learn more about what I'm talking about, check out this link for a NY Daily News story on fake blueberries in processed foods. Those little blueberries you thought you were eating in your breakfast cereal or muffin may not be blueberries at all! They might be oil, dyes and gums made to look like blueberries. Ew! I don't know about you, but that grosses me out.

Here's a look at my "Everything But The" Carrot Raisin Bread, Apple Cinnamon Bread and Zucchini Bread (from left to right). Some more fine-tuning and we'll be well on our way to packaging. YAY.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chickpea Casserole

I have an unearthly love of chickpeas. I think it emerged from my love for my childhood cat, Garbanzo. Love the cat, love the thing it's named after, right? I also briefly had a cat named Cucumber.* And my sister has a cat named Cookie. I now have a dog named Walnut. Do we see a trend here?

Anyway, whenever I come across a chickpea recipe, I just have to try it. Earlier this week I came across a Chickpea Casserole with Lemon and Herbs. Added bonus: only mixing and baking involved, no extra pre-casserole steps like sauteing or sweating.  Hands on time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes. Me loves an easy (and healthy!) vegetarian dish.

Main components of the dish are chickpeas, brown rice, yogurt and cottage cheese, as well as the protein from 2 eggs. I halved my recipe since I have no need to feed 6-8 people at this point in my life (give me 5 years?), and the recipe still turned out fantastic.

If you've got a can of chickpeas lying around, I highly recommend making this delicious homage to my childhood cat Garbanzo.

*(I also have a cat named Rosy, alas she did not fit the food names trifecta.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sugar / Candy

I've been thinking a lot about sugar today, which brought me to candy. Oh! Glorious candy!

Personally, I've always been a fan of sour candies and dark chocolate and not much in between. My sister on the other hand, as a child, would devour anything with a hint of sugar in it. As an adult, I try to limit my candy intake, for fear of that dreaded, evil sugar lurking in the shadows ready to gobble up my toned (ha!) waistline.

As I've been researching different sugars (Stevia, Splenda, etc.) I took a moment to reflect on sweetness and why we humans desire it so frantically. It's in our genes, for sure, and in today's processed world it's that much easier for food producers to put traces of sugar in so many products, often without our knowing. We're drawn to sweet. We crave it.

In this research, I learned that products like Stevia (which is derived from a green plant, like sugar is derived from sugar cane) is about 400 times sweeter than sugar, and has less environmental impact. Next I found another great product yet to hit the market: Fruit Sweetness. Also naturally derived, Fruit Sweetness has the same incredible sweetness exponential as Stevia, but it's derived from the flesh of monk fruit rather than leaves. I don't know about you, but I find all of this incredibly interesting.

Anyway, I wanted to share that little tid bit of knowledge today in hoping that, when I devour a nice piece of candy in a few years, it will lack any processed (fake) sugars and instead be sweetened only by the natural sweetness inherent in plants and fruits (as it should be).

Here's a photo I took at Dylan's Candy Bar when I was in New York last summer. Like a kid in a candy store...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Banana Bread

So I'm baking again these days. Lots of baking. Baking for the good of mankind! Well, maybe not all of mankind. Maybe just me, my boyfriend and his co-workers. Regardless, I'm making a difference in the world, one baked good at a time!

I'm still experimenting with Banana Bread, this time non-vegan for the more traditional mass market. At Cherryvale Farms we believe in organic, wholesome living. That means better quality foods and reducing our intake or refined sugars and flours. Notice I say reducing. We don't believe you have to remove traditional ingredients for the sake of health. Sometimes you just need to know where to pick and choose.

My eagerness to build a healthier banana bread is, in many ways, dedicated to Moms like my friend Catherine. She has a 13-month old baby and is concerned about the amount of sugar in kids foods. I too feel strongly about the amount of sugar we put into our family's bodies.

I have been researching a lot about the sugar substitute Stevia and I'm at a loss to figure out why the heck we didn't start using this sooner! South American cultures have been using the Stevia plant as a natural sweetener for over 400 years and yet we're just getting on the band wagon! Stevia has all the sweetness we look for in our processed goods without any calories and limited impact on the environment. I honestly had no idea. Consider me converted.

Using 2/3 white flour and 1/3 whole wheat flour, my version also ensures your family will get more whole grains. Take a look at the final results.

Low-Sugar / Semi-Whole Wheat Banana Bread 
(i.e. pretty darn good for you Banana Bread)
Email me if you'd like the recipe.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Sometimes you just need a cupcake. Or rather, when you're boyfriend is working until 2 am one night, he needs a cupcake.

Last night turned out to be a late one for Daniel, so I thought I'd perk up his office-mates with some late night chocolate goodness.

I pulled the recipe from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, and a real piece of Americana, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Considered the status quo cookbook for all things classically American, it really is a fullproof volume of traditional dishes. Plus the recipes have great names, like this one: Little Light Chocolate Cakes.

Little Light Chocolate Cakes 

1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan or spray with non-stick coating.

Combine the shortening, sugar and cocoa in a mixing bowl; pour over the boiling water and beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. Slowly pour the dry mixture into the wet; beat until well blended.

Add the egg, vanilla and sour cream to the batter until smooth and creamy. Spoon into the individual muffin tins until about 3/4 full. Baking for about 20 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 cup powdered sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring regularly so it doesn't burn. (If you want tips on how best to do this, check out my earlier post)

In a separate bowl, beat the butter until light and creamy. Stir in the egg yolk and continue to beat, adding the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time. Slowly add in the melted chocolate. Beat until all the chocolate is incorporated and the frosting is fluffy. Allow the frosting to cool to room temperature before applying to your cupcakes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Oh yes. This is a good post. A very yummy post. A very fatty post. Honestly, who doesn't love Macaroni and Cheese? Anyone that says yes is a liar and should not be trusted.

We at Cherryvale Farms are interested in the Macaroni and Cheese market. Who are the players? Where are they getting their ingredients? Can a Macaroni and Cheese be organic, sustainably sourced and have environmentally-friendly packaging? many questions!

Today we began testing commercial instant mac and cheese mixes to see what the potential competition holds. Wow, were we shocked at just home many mac and cheese mixes are on the shelves! At Target, we counted no less than 40 different kinds. At Whole Foods, no less than 20. That's a lot of mac and cheese! Americans must really like it. Oh, right, they do! Well then why not bring another player into the mix?!

We have an amazing (and top secret) idea on how to revolutionize mac and cheese here at Cherryvale Farms. Though we're not ready to share it just yet, we have a big ace up our sleeve and we think the forecast looks, well, sun-shiny. Stay tuned.

Today we tested an Archer Farms Five Cheese Macaroni Entree from Target. Serving 5 people, the box was less than $3. All you add is butter and milk. The interesting thing about this deluxe mix is that you bake it after you mix the cheese and sauce - an attempt to recreate the homestyle version.

Took about 35 minutes to make (so, not super busy mom-friendly) but it had a lot more "real" feeling as we went through the steps. I mean, who really feels like making a roux when you have screaming kids running around? Hence, insta-mac-and-cheese!

We followed the directions and, shockingly!, it wasn't that bad. Definitely not restaurant-quality-oh-my-god-I-will-regret-this delicious, but pretty darn good. We could actually eat it. And then we ate some more. And them we got a tummy ache.

Anyway, here's how it turned out. Don't you just love when you make something and looks like the picture?! I love that. It makes me feel special. Mostly because I am the worst at following directions. And following orders. Ha.

Did you know Kraft's version was invented in 1937? Isn't that crazy?
Time for an update! A la Cherryvale Farms.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fancy Food Show Winter 2011

What a week! The Cherryvale Farms team hit up the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this week to take in the trends, see new products coming to market and, of course, eat. And did we eat! And then we ate a little more. And then we got tummy aches. But all in the name of research!

Thousands of new products were on display this week: everything from the mundane to the magical. We tried some black water by a company called BLK - normal water that appears jet black from the presence of a volcanic material. We devoured salsas, olives, meats and cheeses from the best in the business to small start-ups trying to make a name for themselves.

We loved seeing the novel new ideas like hot chocolate on a stick. Literally a block of chocolate, sugar and flavorings at the end of a wooden stick you stir into hot milk. Freeze-dried fruit and vegetables seemed to big a big trend and we were surprised by the lack of bacon products. We only came across three processed bacon products at the show, including Skillet Gourmet's Bacon Jam (a personal favorite) and a Bacon Lollipop and Bacon Salt. The mind wanders when you think of how they possibly imagined bacon flavored salt.

The show gave us a million ideas as we continue planning for Cherryvale Farms introductory product line. What we didn't see a lot of at the show was pudding. Tell me - how do you feel about pudding?

We also want to know - do you ever use meat spice mixes and rubs? Do you like the convenience of knowing half the seasoning work is done for you when you're grilling or cooking up a steak?

And when's the last time you ate some dip? Is it your go-to Monday night football staple?

We want to hear from you! Your feedback provides valuable research to us at Cherryvale Farms. Leave a COMMENT below. We'll reward you with free samples when they are ready! :) Promise.

Let us leave you with a giant "painting" of the Mona Lisa, in jelly beans, from the show. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Dinner Party

So the dinner party was a success! Our friends brought over their lovely little puppy Gable so it was more of a doggie play date / dinner party, but thoroughly our kind of vibe.

For the starter, I made a mixed green salad with grapefruit segments, goat cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries with a balsamic and chive vinaigrette. For the entree I made a mushroom tart with tofu, parsley and chives, accompanied by a steamed artichoke with a caper and garlic aioli. Our friends are vegetarians, hence the veg main course.

For dessert, I went out on a limb to try a recipe I found from the Golden Door Spa. It's a flourless chocolate cake without the guilt, i.e. without fat or sugar.

I didn't take many pictures (thoroughly distracted by puppy playtime) but here's a look at the dinner table in action and our dessert. I topped the flourless chocolate cake with a blackberry coulis I made by blending fresh blackberries with some frozen raspberries, a little honey and lemon juice.

Here's the recipe for the flourless chocolate cake. Cooked yam and banana replace the typically "guilty" fat and sugar in the original recipe and, I must say, this was a surprisingly light dessert.  The recipe for the mushroom tart came from a vegetarian cook book I have, but here's a similar recipe you can try.

Now that the holidays are over, are you planning any dinner parties? I want to hear all about it! Leave a comment below or email me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let Me Entertain You!

My passion in the kitchen extends beyond the the kitchen table! I love having parties and putting together a pretty table for my friends to enjoy my cooking. Tonight, we're having some good friends over and I wanted to put together a gorgeous early Spring table for our guests. Hey, it may be a blizzard back east but here in La La Land it's about 70 degrees and sunny. I say, embrace it!

The runner is actually a folded tablecloth; a family heirloom that my mother gave me. The little glasses filled with flours are all part of my growing glassware collection, including a few 100-year-old hand cut glass wine glasses (they've even purpled with age!), some 1950's well glasses rimmed with silver (just like the ones Don Draper sips in Mad Men) and some etched scotch glasses. The flowers I "borrowed" from my neighbors while on a walk with the dog.

All in all, I feel it's a pretty lovely table for our dinner tonight. We'll be sipping champagne to toast my trip up to SF tomorrow for the Fancy Food Show! We're so excited to get Cherryvale Farms off the ground and this weekend will mark a nice big step forward. Wish us luck.

More posts coming later this week from our rounds at the Fancy Food Show. We're sure to be packed to the gills with amazing edibles and we want to share every last bite with you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Banana Bread

Oh that traditional baked goodie you devoured as a child at the breakfast table! So sweet and delicious and made the whole house smell like sunshine. Where did those days go? Why isn't anyone baking me delicious sunshiny goodies on a Sunday morn? I feel so neglected. Pout.

One of my favorite Banana Bread recipes is actually not traditional at all: it's vegan. Why vegan, you ask? I have no idea. Sometimes I like to pretend I'm vegan. And covered in tattoos. And can ride a motorcycle. Because all those things seem to go together.

I love that this recipe features no refined sugars and almost no fat. Very healthy. Sort of. If you want to up the nutrition value of this bread even more, sub half the white flour for whole wheat flour. Add an extra tablespoon or two of applesauce to compensate for the denseness whole wheat flour usually adds. 

Vegan Banana Bread

2 ripe bananas (the browner, the better!)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sweetener - maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bread loaf pan with vegetable oil. 

Sift your dry ingredients, set aside.

Blend your wet ingredients in a large bowl. If you want a really fine banana bread (no banana chunks) you can blend in a food processor.

Slowly blend in your dry to wet. Fold in 1/2 cup of nuts of your choice if you like. Pour mixture into pan and place in oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before slicing. Though you and I both know that never happens.

I made a loaf of this bread the other night and decided to up the wow factor by "frying" pieces in a mixture of fresh squeezed orange juice and honey in a pan. The sugar from the honey crisps up the edges of the bread and adds a bit more sweetness. Top with fresh berries or whip cream and some toasted nuts. Yum.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Citrus Marmalade

Winter is my favorite season for many reasons. Sweaters being one. Tea and warm drinks being another. And yet a third is citrus! I think mother nature knew how tough she was being on us earth dwellers when she created winter and thought "well, I should give them something to perk them up amongst all that snow and cold!" And thus, we have winter citrus!

To make the most of the vast quantities of grapefruits, lemons and oranges I've been keeping around the house this month, I decided to do a little winter canning. Luckily, Food in Jars (one of my favorite foodie blogs) happened to have a post on a delightful Three Citrus Marmalade.

Recipe in hand, I went about painstakingly peeling the zest from the fruit, then removing the piths, then supreming each piece of fruit. Not easy, let me tell you.

Everything was going according to plan until I reached, um, the first step. My zest was not steeping properly! Trying to be patient, I gave it some more time in the pot and my liquid, instead of remaining at 6 cups (since I added 6 cups of water to the zest) actually only resulted in 4 cups. How exactly I went negative at this point alluded me. Then I realized I probably cut the zest too thick - I included too much pith which actually absorbed the liquid rather than just flavor it! Step 1 = FAIL.

Well, this put me on a foul course for the rest of my canning session. Rather than the recommended 30-40 minute reducing period, I needed to leave my final marmalade mixture on the heat for over an hour and still didn't meet the "sticky test requirements" the recipe provides. Alas, this was the night of friends coming over for Couscous so I ran out of time when they arrived and just said the hell with it and put it in jars.

My marmalade is definitely not as thick as it should be, but I think with a few months on the shelf it will firm up quite a bit. Alas, a canning disaster. But it looks pretty, right? Sometimes pretty is more than enough.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Couscous and the Importance of Mis en place

I'm big on organization. Huge in fact. My closet is color coordinated, my books are arranged by size and color, the bills in my wallet always face the same direction. So, naturally, my cooking methods are very organized. I rely on this organization to keep me on task when I'm cooking. Something is bound to distract me when I'm in the kitchen so having my mis en place prepared (French for "everything in place") ensures I don't forget anything for a recipe.

In praise of the mis en place, I prepared and photographed my fixings for a couscous dinner the other night. A riff off a traditional Moroccan tagine, I sauteed zucchini with diced green olives, dried apricots, dried cranberries and preserved lemon and added the mixture to my prepared couscous.

Couscous basically cooks itself so the zucchini sizzled in the pan while it steamed in a pot, once combined it made for a yummy middle eastern style meal.

Oh, and those preserved lemons? Made them myself. Uh huh, yes I did. And it was incredibly simple. You could easily pay $12 for a jar at a specialty store or just do it yourself by investing in a $1 mason jar and lid, a few lemons and some salt. Here's a simple recipe you can make at home. If you get your mis en place all ready before you can your lemons, you're well on your way to becoming an organized home chef as well.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Today I did a little grocery shopping. Fun grocery shopping. Costco grocery shopping!

Who doesn't like 10 lbs of potatoes for a few pennies? A crate of blackberries in the middle of January? Oh, the power of modernity! And all the while Russia and India are experiencing insane food shortages. I am counting my blessings.

So in the spirit of bulk buying, I wanted to share my list to create a perfectly stocked kitchen pantry. These staples will get you through a visit from impromptu dinner guests or a weekend where the rain leaves you no desire to leave the house. Admit it, you've done it.

Keeping the below items on hand will ensure you can always whip up a fantastic dish with limited notice and even limited fresh ingredients. I'm only including true pantry staples, that is they do not need refrigeration and have a very long shelf life. I'll do another post soon on veggie, freezer and beverage stapes.

In my ultimate kitchen fantasy, my pantry would look just like this. A girl can dream, can't she?
PANTRY STAPLES (a la Lindsey)
  • Beans (canned or dried):
    • Garbanzo - I always keep several cans on hand for use in making homemade hummus or adding to a Moroccan style dish
    • Black - always perfect for Latin dishes
    • Cannellini - good for soups or pureed into a dip
    • Kidney Beans - I love these added into a salad or vegetable and pasta dish
  • Rice:
    • White - basic short grain or sushi rice
    • Basmati - when you're short on time, basmatic only takes 15 minutes!
    • Brown - sometimes I cheat and buy the pre-cooked brown rice in a package
  • Pasta:
    • Penne
    • Rotini - or similar corkscrew style pasta
    • Linguini, Spaghetti or similar long noodles
  • Alternative Pastas:
    • Brown rice pasta is a great, gluten-free pasta alternative; Trader Joe's makes an excellent and inexpensive version. Check out a full review here.
    • Shirataki noodles - these light noodles are made of tofu instead of wheat and have virtually no calories. Though the texture is entirely different than traditional pastas, the calories you save are totally worth it when you remove the guilt of dousing it with a heavy or cheesy sauce.
    • Soba or Udon noodles - pick up a package of these fresh noodles at your local Asian grocer. Since they're fresh they take only a minute to cook and make any Asian noodle dish taste like your favorite take-out. They do need to stay refrigerated but their fridge life is so long, I consider them a pantry staple.
  • Grains, Flours, Baking Items:
    • Quinoa - my favorite thing on earth! This ancient grain is packed with protein. Check out my delicious Quinoa Ratatouille recipe from an earlier post.
    • Couscous - buy in bulk.
    • Lentils - I find green are the easiest to cook. Buy in bulk to save some $$$.
    • Regular white, all-purpose flour
    • Whole wheat flour - though never substitute for white flour in recipes, believe me, you can't inject health into buttery shortbread...
    • Oats - quick cooking oats are the best for either oatmeal or oatmeal cookies. If you're craving oatmeal for breakfast, oats from scratch will always taste better than the pre-packaged, flavored kinds filled that harbor yucky preservatives and sugars.
    • Rice flour - if you made my fabulous Scallion Pancakes, you'd have an excellent way to use this flour. 
    • Corn Meal
    • Corn Starch 
    • Baking Soda
    • Baking Powder 
    • White Sugar
    • Brown Sugar 
    • Honey
    • Molasses - I promise you're going to come across a cookie recipe that asks for this and since the shelf life is a million years, it's good to just keep around. 
  • Canned Vegetables & Condiments: 
    • Canned tomatoes - whole, diced and/or paste; never get the seasoned kind and always check the dates on the cans before buying.
    • Olives - black, green or kalamata.
    • Canned Salsa Verde - I love this stuff in sauces, on rice or any Mexican-themed dished I'm making. It's easy to use and adds a great spice. If you don't feel like buying it, you can make it from scratch, like I did
    • Canned Artichokes - makes a great addition to salads, pastas.
    • Canned Hearts of Palm - I am obsessed with these. I recently went to a restaurant with a salad bar (classy, I know) and I basically filled half my salad plate with hearts of palm. Don't you just feel cool knowing you're eating the heart of a palm tree?
    • Canned fruits, veggies and jams from Mom and Grandma - I have the luxury of coming from a family that cans, so I usually have several jars laying around. Here's what's currently in stock from La Casa Rosenberg:
      • Plum Jam
      • Apricot Jam 
      • Strawberry Jam
      • Tomato Jam (of my own devising, it's deadly good)
      • Dilly beans (pickled green beans)
      • Corn Salsa (sweet and sour corn kernels with bells pepper and onions) 
      • Citrus Marmalade (which I made yesterday and it didn't turn out, so not sure I'll be posting on it, sadly) 
      • Chow Chow - classic American picked veggies 
  •  Misc. 
    • Nuts - always keep a bag or two of your favorites. I generally keep almonds, walnuts and pistachios for use in baking, or as a crunchy topper for salads and mains.
    • Dark Chocolate Bars - a few bars of good quality chocolate go a long way in baking a quick dessert or cookies when you don't have chocolate chips on hand. Go for milk chocolate if you have no tastebuds :)
    • Crackers - a nice mixed box of appetizer crackers are all you need when the randoms show up.
    • Canned Tuna - the only canned meat I will ever recommend buying. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch app is the best around, so I go by it's logic. Look for canned Albacore or Skipjack Tuna that says "Troll" or "Pole-and-line" on the packaging. To learn more, visit their site to look at all of their seafood reviews.

I hope this list will guide you in building the perfect pantry. If you have any additional suggestions, I'd love to hear them! Leave a comment below,

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Bread - from scratch!

Bread. We eat it pretty much every day but yet few of us will ever attempt to make it ourselves. As such a staple to our diet, why rely on the grocery store or bakery to provide this earthen goodness? Make it yourself!

I'm going to show you an amazingly simple recipe for bread. It will change your life. Like holy-in-the-water change your life. Not only will the result be delicious but you'll forever be able to brag to your friends that you are a "baker."

The bread recipe below is the "No Knead" method popularized by Mark Bittman, which he adapted from Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. This was back in 2006. Being a little slow to the scene, I just starting baking this recipe last year. But I'll never go back. Maybe 20 minutes of active time and a dutch oven (enamel pot with a lid) is all you need and you'll have delicious, crusty bread right from your oven.

At the par-baked stage
Finished product
Try the basic method first and then dive into all of the glorious variations. There are even versions that don't require a dutch oven.

The Original Recipe

Multi-Grain Bread

Make it a Sandwich Loaf!

No Dutch Oven? Try these alternatives

Now go to the store, buy some bread flour and, shortly thereafter, you'll have amazing bread you're friends will swear came from La Brea Bakery. You'll glow with doughy astonishment. :)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chai Tea

There are some things you just never think of making from scratch. Things you'd rather just buy at the store and save some valuable time. Chai tea is one of those things. Why on earth would you try to make it at home when your friendly neighborhood barista can brew some up for a thrifty few dollars?

Because you are a true culinary explorer! A pioneer! A dare devil! You want to know where your food comes from, even down to that cup of tea. A few years ago I came across a really simple homemade chai tea recipe and have been making my own ever since. For literally pennies in spices, tea, ginger and milk, you get a warm, satisfying drink you can make by the gallon and warm up whenever you like. I've been known to brew up a pot on Sundays and put it in my coffee to-go cup for the ride to the office in the past, no one ever wiser that it was indeed chai instead of coffee inside.

So, on my recent trip to the frozen north, we came across a lovely Indian market in a random Santa Clara shopping mall. I was like a bee to honey! Any opportunity to explore a new ethnic market, please don't mind me as I disappear for a few hours.

This particular store was much larger than most I've visited so I took the time to lovingly cover every aisle and shelf. I bought a ton of fantastic spices and the prices, oy vey! Like a Beverly Hills Jew at a Loehmann's sale!

Ethnic spices are about one million times cheaper in their respective ethnic markets than in places like Whole Foods or another supermarket, so I always recommend putting together a list as you come across recipes that require them and then shop to buy. I bought a quarter of a pound of green cardamon (300+ pods) for less than $5. At a pricey spice store or even health food market, I would've expected to pay $5 for about 10 pods. No joke, I've paid that in the past. My wallet, and I, cried a little on the inside that day.

So today felt like a chai brewing day, which I whipped up using the following recipe. Took about 30 minutes and the results are lovely. I (like most people) am used to the much sweeter chai from Oregon Chai or Starbucks, so you may need to add a little more sugar. Make sure your ginger and spices are fresh and crushed nicely so you can extract all of their flavor.

Chai Tea Made Easy 

9 green cardamom seeds
9 cloves
4 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks (cut them into smaller pieces to expose more surface area)
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 bags darjeeling tea (or any black tea)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
8 teaspoons sugar

Crush all of your dry spices in a mortar and pestle or in a plastic bag and crush with a large iron pan.

Place the crushed spices, ginger, milk and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil.

Once at a full boil, remove from heat and add the teabags; let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain into a cup or pitcher and add sugar to your sweetness preference. Flip on a Bollywood movie on IFC and pretend you're not in Kansas anymore.

Click after the jump for some shortcuts and alternatives to this recipe. 

Monday, January 03, 2011

Well Hello 2011!

Well hello 2011! And hello readers! It's 2011 and Cherryvale Farms is about to kick it into high gear. 2011 is already looking great and we can't wait to share more with you as our journey continues.

I'd like recap you on the past week since I (lazily) didn't post any new updates. It was a great trip to Northern California to see friends and family and eat far more than any normal person reasonably should.

Let's start off my noting there is always an endless supply of good food at my parents house. So when we arrived on Christmas day we were greeted by a delicious plate of truffled cheese, crisp bread and chips and dip. I mean, how can you not like chips and dip? It's like classic Americana. So we proceeded to stuff our faces Christmas afternoon until we were beyond full...then we had some dinner. A gorgeous roast of beef was joined by fingerling potatoes dripping with the beef au jus, accompanied by a salad. I don't eat beef often but I had no excuse not to dig into this prime piece of caveman deliciousness.

The eating continued the next morning with bacon and pancakes for breakfast. You know, light.

A few nights later we continued the food-a-thon with fried chicken, which you already drooled over.

The final night of our trip was a light vegetable pasta to bring in the New Year on a much healthier note. But, of course, we had to ruin it by our desire for a fresh banana cream pie. Marie Callendar's it was not. My mother started in on a baked pie crust while my father whipped up the banana custard and freshly (hand) whipped cream. You know, because at the end of a long day and a light meal, there's nothing better than spending an hour in the kitchen making an entire banana cream pie from scratch. 

I couldn't get a picture in before everyone started hacking away, so here you go. It's not Marie Callendar's perfect but damn was it good.

All of us at Cherryvale Farms hope your New Year is off to a great start as well! May Health, Happiness and Good Luck greet you throughout 2011.