Monday, January 28, 2013

Coming Soon to a Grocer Near You

When I named this blog "Bits and Pieces," I meant it literally. I wanted it to be a blog about a little bit of everything.

But it honestly didn't hit me until I was thinking about writing this post that I am, in fact, truly all over the place here.

Hope you don't mind...and hope you see it rather as being a surprise and something fresh and new and exciting each time you get an update from me.

Anyway, the topic of today's post is the latest, hottest, most exotic superfruit on the market. Like the pitaya below, for instance. (It's all about the food, after all. Right?)

Pitaya (aka dragon fruit) from Latin America -- is mildly sweet and high in both fiber and antioxidants, which help prevent heart disease and cancer

But before I go on, let me explain the name "superfruit."

It's a label that was conceived by marketers, not the FDA. Superfruits are known to be high in all those wonderful things that are good for you, supposedly making them much better snacks than "ordinary" fruits.

Hey, I'm not one to judge. Whether they're actually better and healthier for you than ordinary, everyday apples and bananas doesn't really matter. What does matter is that they sure do sound delicious...and different...and tasty...and tempting...and a chance to try something new to expand your palate.

It used to be that the  pomegranate was the reigning king (or queen) of superfruits. Think POM Wonderful and all the success this company has had with their juices, from 100% pomegranate (see photo below) to Pom-Cherry, -Mango, -Cranberry, and -Blueberry.

Now, consider that there's a whole slew of new and exciting superfruits right on the horizon overseas, just waiting to be imported to the States for us to enjoy.

In fact, my husband and I visited Asia Food Co. in downtown Cleveland yesterday (one of the largest Asian supermarkets in Ohio and also a source listed in the back of my book as a local ethnic import store), and let me tell you, the fruit selection there is absolutely, fabulously vibrant! Yes, we bought a pitaya. And yes, we really liked it!

Besides the pitaya, the next "newest" superfruits coming to America are:

Baobab Fruit from Africa -- high in vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for both brain and eye health

Gac Fruit from Southeast Asia -- contains 70 times as much tycopene (an antioxidant that helps heart health) than a tomato

Golden Berry from South America -- offers 2 grams of protein per serving, much more than the average fruit

Ligonberry from Scandinavia -- contains phytochemicals (such as arbutin, anthocyanin) that help fight urinary tract infections

Mangosteen from Indonesia -- high in vitamins A and C, which help strengthen bones and blood vessels

Monk Fruit from China -- doubles as a low-calorie sugar substitute

So there you have it, folks! Beautiful, exotic, super-duper healthy fruits that may be showing up in your grocery store real soon...and you can say you heard about them here first!

P.S. Feel free to share your exotic fruit stories right here.

Happy eating,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A "Step" in an Exciting New Direction

Life sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns you could never have even dreamed of.

For instance, I got a call out of the blue recently from a couple of wonderful, wonderful ladies I used to work with at Step2 (the famous toy company) when I blogged for them a few years ago under the pseudonym, Grandma Maria. They wanted me to come in to their office and "brainstorm."

Sounds nice, I thought. But what could they possibly have in mind?

Well, yesterday I found out. And just between us, they expressed a desire to team up with me to help promote their products and company through my book.


I was humbled...and honored...and delighted as all heck.

The three of us tossed around some ideas and came up with a couple fabulous concepts. I'm not privy to tell you about them...not just yet anyway. But suffice it to say they're super exciting, and I can't wait for them to materialize.

Of course, as soon as I get the green light, you'll hear all about it right here on my blog!

Play kitchen from Step2 featuring the future chefs of tomorrow

In the meantime, if you've got kids or stepkids or grandkids or nieces or nephews, be sure to check out the new selection of creative toys at Step2. They really make you wish you were a kid again.

Until  next time,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bonus Chef Recipe #1

There are more than 120 recipes in my book. And they're all quite fabulous, if I say so myself. (In fact, I CAN say so myself since none of them are MY recipes! But then again, you knew that...)

However, did you also know there are a fair number of recipes that never made it in my book? True story. And for a variety of reasons.

Either the chef changed his/her mind as to what they wanted to submit.

Or my recipe testers found the recipe to be too complicated or too hard for the average home cook to prepare.

Or the recipe took much longer to prepare than the 1-hour time limit set for each chef's meal.

Or the recipe was for far more than 4 servings (the default number of servings for each recipe in my book) and could not be reduced.

For whatever reason, I now have a stack of recipes that are simply fantastic but unfortunately didn't make the final cut.

So, I think to myself, "What a shame this treasure trove of recipes is just sitting here and can't be enjoyed by anyone. What should I do with them all?"

Then a light bulb went off in my head. My blog! That's it! Why not post an occasional feature on these recipes and share them, one at a time.

Therefore, dear reader, I am pleased to introduce to you the first in an installation of several bonus recipes, brought to you by the fine chefs in my book. Enjoy them all, on me!


Recipe courtesy of Brandt Evans, chef/owner of Pura Vida and Blue Canyon

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. white vinegar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 c. water
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spray a 9x13 pan with a non-stick cooking spray (Pam). Sprinkle a little flour on the bottom of the pan and tilt slightly from side to side to distribute the flour to cover the bottom of the pan.

3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add sugar and mix together well.

4.  Stir in the oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla. Stir until completely combined.

5. Pour batter into the greased pan.

6. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out dry/clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

7. Serve with whipped cream. (To make whipped cream, whip together the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

One Heckuva Restaurant Week

There is news...and then there is fantastic news. This, my friends, is fantastic news:

The second annual Zack Bruell Restaurant Week is on its way!

This hugely popular, two-week celebration of fine food runs from January 13-26, 2013.

Zack will be offering three-course dinner menus at each of his five restaurants (Parallax, Table 45, L’Albatros, Chinato, and Cowell & Hubbard) for only $30! (Seriously, folks, he's almost giving it away!)

Menu options for each course for each restaurant are as follows:

First Course (choice of)
Salmon roll with Japanese Barbecue, Pickled Daikon and Scallion
Salad of Arugula, Grapefruit, Fennel and Goat Cheese with Pickled Onion Vinaigrette
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Crème Fraiche

Second Course (choice of)
Pan Roasted Rainbow Trout, Champagne-Brie Sauce, Dirty Rice
Lemongrass Braised Pork Shoulder, Cucumber-Peanut Relish, Sticky Rice
Fried Chicken & Waffles, Braised Collard Greens

Third Course (choice of)
Ginger Crème Brulee
Fresh Berries and Greek Yogurt
Chocolate Truffle Torte

First Course (choice of)
House Made Lamb Chorizo Stuffed Hungarian Sweet Banana Peppers with San Marzano Marinara
Pickled Winter Vegetable Salad with Frissee, Watercress and a Dill Crème Fraiche Sauce
Shrimp Cocktail with Horseradish Cocktail Sauce and Lemon

Second Course (choice of)
Braised Beef with Three Cheese Risotto, Braised Swiss Chard and Red Wine Demi
Grilled Red Snapper with Pineapple and Mango Cous Cous, Grilled Pineapple and Caper and Herb Gremolata Sauce
Grilled Eggplant Napoleon with Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Basil and Pine Nuts with a Pomegranate Cumin Sauce

Third Course
Choice off the Table 45 Dessert Menu

First Course (choice of)
Winter Vegetable Tart
L'Albatros Winter Garden Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette, Pistachios
Local Pork and Rabbit Terrine with Poached Egg, Mustard

Second Course (choice of)
Farro with Winter Vegetables and Braised Greens
Market Fish with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Beurre Rouge
Braised Beef Short Ribs with Local Organic Polenta

Third Course (choice of)
Meyer Lemon Tart
Crème Caramel

First Course (choice of)
Roasted Beet Salad with Mache & Horseradish Vin
Crispy Pork Belly, Celery Root Puree and Pickled Cranberries
Zack's Famous Barley and Kale Soup
Second Course (choice of)
Steelhead Trout with Parsnip Puree and Speck
Pork Milanese
Tiger Shrimp Roasted Peppers, Fusilli, Asiago and Sun Dried Tomatoes
Third Course (choice of)
Pistachio Cheesecake
Chocolate Mousse Cake

First Course (choice of)
Arugula with Myer Lemon Vinaigrette with Pickled Onions and Grapes with Goat Cheese and Pistachio
Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup with a 5-spice Crème Fraiche and Fresh Lime
Boursin Stuffed Fried Peppadew Pepper with an Herb and Garlic Tomato Sauce

Second Course (choice of)
Pork Medallions with Polenta, Root Vegetables and Parmesan Chicken Jus
Skate Wing with Brussels Sprouts and a Lemon Thyme Butter
Mushroom Ravioli with a Red Wine Sauce

Third Course (choice of)
Baked Apple Pot de Crème
Paris Brest

Be sure to make your reservations early! And then let me know what you ordered. Would love to hear all about your experience.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Let the New Year Begin!

As I reflect on this past month, I have to admit it has truly been a whirlwind of activity!

First, there were the events surrounding my book to wrap up. From talks and demos and cooking classes. Each and every one of them was truly fun and exciting -- and if you were there at all, thanks for your support!

Then, there was all the baking and cooking. (If you missed my post on that, you can read it here.)

Then, there were the kids and grandkids and significant others arriving from all parts of the country, from New York City to Wappingers Falls to Charlotte. (Confession: This was the absolute best part of all!)

And then, at long last, there was all the celebrating and hosting. From my husband's and son-in-law's Christmas Christmas New Year's New Year's Day. Whew!

The table's all set
Red and gold dominate!
 My Bûche de Noël dessert
There's nothing better than homemade gifts
The boys loved their Bildopolis Big Bilder kit!
Legos is always a favorite
Hallmark's recordable books are the best invention ever
Hot cocoa + homemade marshmallows = a very special Nonna treat
New Year's dessert: Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake (with dark chocolate ganache topping and white chocolate snowflake garnish)
My New Yorkers getting ready to drive cross country to LA

Now that the festivities are over and life is slowly getting back to normal, it's time to look forward to an even more wonderful, fun-filled new year. Happy 2013 to you all!