Hottest Food Trends from the 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show

The Winter Fancy Food Show is known as the food industry’s most happening trade show, where new food trends are introduced months before they clog supermarket shelves. At this year’s event, for example, there was no shortage of bacon-infused snacks, gluten-free products, and Sriracha-flavored everything—all trends from past years that have now gone mainstream.

Here are eight different food products from this year’s show that are sure to be coming to a supermarket near you—and soon!

Brussels sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Move over kale chips. Everyone is taking one of the most polarizing dinner table veggies and turning them into flavorful, crispy chips and snacks. I’ll admit, I’ve always hated Brussel sprouts. But after trying some of these snacks, I think I can be converted.

artisan popsicles

Artisan Popsicles

Combinations like hibiscus mint and watermelon agave are nothing like your childhood Otter Pops. Inspired by Latin American paletas, which are basically fresh fruit popsicles, the folks at GoodPops decided it was time to bring that concept to mainstream America, using high-quality ingredients and inventive flavor combinations. After tasting them myself, I think they’re making a good case for it.

mocktails

Mocktails

If you’re like me and can’t drink alcohol for whatever reason (it’s a cruel fate, what can I say), you always feel like you’re s**t outta luck at cocktail parties and other gatherings. Not if the company Sociale has its way. Sociale makes virgin versions of the cosmopolitan, mojito, margarita, and martinis that taste like the real thing. These bottled mocktails are quality, all-natural drinks that taste like a great cocktail should.

almond water

Almond Water

Almond milk + coconut water = almond water! Almond water has the clean, refreshing finish of coconut water, with the subtle flavor of almonds. It’s not cloyingly sweet or overpoweringly filled with vanilla essence. The recipe from the brand Victoria’s Kitchen is from the owner’s French grandmother. It’s floral and light, and the branding looks like something out of an old-timey apothecary. I was ready to take a case home with me.

hummus

Hummus…Minus the Chickpeas

Fava beans, lentils, carrots, edamame, white beans, and black beans all took turns as the main ingredient in a variety of new hummus dips. Surprisingly, they were all quite good with subtle yet distinctive flavor differences compared with the original chickpea version. They also tout a bunch of different health benefits (the fava bean and edamame versions, in particular). The fava bean hummus from FavaLife and wasabi edamame version from Eat Well Enjoy Life were my personal favorites.

Cookie chips

Cookie Chips

Cinnamon sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and decadent brownies are some of America’s favorite sweet treats. But several companies have decided what’s really been missing is a certain amount of crunch. Enter cookie and brownie chips. With a variety of different names, depending on the maker, they all combine the light crispy crunch of a chip with the sweetness of a brownie or a cookie. Snackers with a major sweet tooth can now rejoice.

half-ppped popcorn

Half-Popped Popcorn

Hate the unpopped kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bag? Well, the folks who make Pop’d Kerns apparently decided to do something about it. It’s not fully popped popcorn, nor is it an inedible unpopped kernel. It’s basically a popcorn kernel that’s half-popped. It’s got more heft and crunch than regular popcorn, but still has that familiar flavor. Think of it as a cross between popcorn and Corn Nuts.

chocolate tea

Tea for Dessert

Now you can have your dessert, and drink it too. Apparently it’s not enough to enjoy a piece of chocolate with your afternoon tea anymore. Popular tea makers have now infused cupcake, Bundt cake, and even chocolate flavors into their teas. Thankfully, none of them are overly sweet or obnoxiously flavored, though tea purists are sure to turn their noses up at this trend.

Chili Rubbed Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

imageSometimes, I still manage to surprise myself. Take for instance this dinner I made recently. I’ve made this flank steak recipe before from Martha Stewart Living, but I did a couple of things differently this time.

I took the meat out of the fridge and placed the rub onto the meat. Then, I let it sit there both to marinade and to let the meat come up to room temperature. This will help the meat cook more evenly. I also made sure I let it rest for a good 10-15 minutes after I took it out of the oven, before slicing.

For the chimichurri sauce, I made it ahead of time and refrigerated it at least a few hours before using it. It needs it because those flavors need to meld and mellow out a bit before you use it. I was never into chimichurri sauce until I had it recently on a steak salad. The tang from the vinegar, the herby freshness of the parsley and oregano, and the punch of the garlic really made an impression on me. So much so that I was compelled to make this meal. And it blew me away at how well it turned out and how awesome it tasted. I’d pay good money for a meal like this at a restaurant. Fortunately with this recipe, I didn’t have to.

None of it is tough to make, so don’t be intimidated. Just make your sauce the day before and you’re good to go. You’ll have dinner on the table in 30 minutes, flat. If you don’t have time to marinade the meat, it’s not a deal breaker. It’ll still be delicious. Serve it with rice, or tortillas to make into tacos. Leftovers are great for salads and sandwiches, too.

Chili Rubbed Flank Steak (from Martha Stewart Living)

1.5 - 2 lbs. flank steak or flap meat
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Combine the sugar, chili powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Remove the meat from the fridge and place on a foil lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

Coat 1 tablespoon oil on each side of the meat. Sprinkle generously the dry rub mixture onto each side of the meat. Make sure you rub it in well and coat all areas. Set the meat aside and let it marinade and come up to room temperature for about an hour.

Turn your oven’s broiler on and place the meat under the broiler, about 4 inches away from the broiler, for about 12 minutes for medium rare. Do not flip the meat.

Remove from the broiler and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve with the following sauce on the side.

Chimichurri Sauce

2 cups fresh flat leaf/Italian parsley, most of the stems cut off
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tsp. dried oregano
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Place the parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and blend for about a minute until everything is well chopped and incorporated. You may have to scrape down the sides and blend again for a few seconds.

Then, add the oil in a steady stream while blending. Place the sauce in an airtight container And refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight, to let the flavors meld together. This sauce should keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.

Simple Cranberry Jam (Sauce)

Image

Cranberry sauce is used/eaten like jam at our house. It’s cooked up in batches and used on everything from the Thanksgiving bird to toast every morning for the next several weeks. It’s also eaten with peanut butter and poured over ice cream. It’s pretty versatile. That’s why I hesitate just calling it “cranberry sauce.” It’s very limiting.

I decided to start this season’s batch early because I wanted one less thing to do for Turkey Day, and it keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks anyway. The second jar went straight into the freezer for later use.

This recipe is so easy to make, so reliably delicious, that my official taste tester (my 4 year old) grabs a bowl of it every time it’s fresh off the stove.

And remember, it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

Simple Cranberry Jam (Sauce)

- 2 twelve ounce packages of fresh cranberries. If frozen, thaw before using.

- 1 cup granulated sugar

- 1 cup water

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and let it come up to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently to prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom and sides of the pan. The cranberries will pop and hiss as they get hot.

20131117_201407Then, turn down the heat and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally to prevent burning and sticking. Once the mixture is shiny and coats the back of your spoon, it should be done. It will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.

ImageLet it cool for 30 minutes or so before placing into a tupperware, bowl, or mason jars for freezing/storing. It should keep for 2 weeks.

Sunday Dinner: Taco Bake

IMAG1014My husband used to wax nostalgic about something he’d have at school for lunch that had taco meat and crushed Frito corn chips in it. Don’t worry, that’s not what I made for dinner here.

So when I saw a version of this recipe somewhere, I decided to make it my own. The original recipe has refried beans and extra salsa, which I took out. I think the salsa is a bit unnecessary since there’s fresh tomatoes in it, and the beans I omitted because the beef adds enough protein. The refried beans can be full of fat. You can certainly add a can of black beans, though, if you miss that flavor.

It wasn’t my husband’s original elementary school lunch recipe, and thank goodness! We think it’s better :).

Taco Crunch Bake

1 lbs. ground beef
1 package low sodium taco seasoning
1 cup of corn kernels (canned is fine)
2 cups broken tortilla chips
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup sliced olives
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar
3 green onions, chopped
Plain Greek yogurt
1 sliced avocado
Shredded lettuce (optional)

Prepare ground beef with seasoning as directed. Drain well.

Line bottom of 9×11 pan with the chips. Layer the beef on top in on even layer. Follow with the corn, tomatoes, olives, then cheese. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Serve with the yogurt and fresh avocado slices. Add shredded lettuce to make into a taco salad, if desired.

It’s What’s For Dinner: Cheesy Chicken Noodles

I recently found an easy recipe for some cheesy egg noodles that couldn’t be simpler and satisfied my craving for a macaroni and cheese alternative. I was happy enough with the result, but I wanted to make some alterations to fit the family’s tastes (less dairy, just as creamy, more chicken flavor).

The result is this. It’s so creamy and good without being overly rich.

Cheesy Chicken Noodles
8 oz. package egg noodles
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chicken broth, warmed or at room temperature
1 10 oz. can of Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup leftover rotisserie or roasted chicken, chopped (or a can of chicken breast, drained)
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Cook the noodles as directed. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the peas to the boiling water with the noodles to warm. Drain, then return to the warm pot. Add the broth and turn the heat back on low. Add the soup and the cheese mix until the cheese is melted and everything is blended. Add the salt if desired. Mix in the cooked chicken.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

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Avocado Toast: It’s What’s for Breakfast

IMAG0858Most mornings, I would rather waste precious time squeezing in extra sleep than bother making myself breakfast. Cereal: too cold. Waffles, pancakes, and french toast: too sweet. Oatmeal: too starchy. Bacon: too greasy. And frankly, that early in the morning, the only thing that sounds good are eggs, which take too much time to make. Time I could be stealing to catch some extra shuteye. (I’m not a morning person, can you tell?)

There’s just one problem with this, however. My stomach starts growling in a major way by 10:30am. Totally embarrassing during meetings.

But recently, I found myself with a loaf of whole wheat toast calling my name from the office kitchen. We had cream cheese and hummus in the office fridge too, but just toast and spread didn’t give me a lot of hope that I’d stay full till lunchtime.

When I got home, I noticed a lone avocado sitting in my crisper (I know it didn’t belong there, but it was) that had been in there for way too long. Instead of dumping it in a salad or on a sandwich, I came up with the idea of slicing it and topping it on my toast the next morning.

And so my now “usual” breakfast was born. It is healthy, filling, and full of protein, which I need to get me through the day. And, it’s awesomely tasty. Score.

Avocado Toast

Half a ripe Haas avocado, sliced
Cream cheese spread or hummus (I like spicy, garlic or roasted red pepper)
2 slices of whole wheat bread

-Go ahead and toast your bread slices till they’re golden brown. You’ll appreciate the crunch, so make sure you get them nice and toasty.

-Then spread on your cream cheese or hummus, and top with avocado slices.

-You can also sprinkle them with some black pepper and sea salt, thin red onions, or even a fried egg on top. Personalize it and enjoy!

*To store the extra half of your avocado, make sure you leave the pit in it. This will prevent browning and keep it fresher, longer. Store in a zipper bag in the fridge.

Nora Ephron Might’ve Eaten Here

I never knew author, screenwriter, director Nora Ephron, but she was everything I wished I could be when I grew up: funny, sharp, smart, fashionable, definitive but not high-maintenance (there’s a difference). Known best for her films “When Harry Met Sally”, “You’ve Got Mail”, “Julie & Julia” and “Heartburn”, she knew the art of storytelling, how to write the wittiest of prose, had a true passion for food, and loved people. She seemed so cool and confident, yet warm and welcoming at the same time.

Nora passed away this past June. So when I visited New York City recently, I wanted to somehow pay tribute to her. Since her love of food was well documented, I went to a few places that reminded me of either her or her stories. And no, I didn’t make a trip to Katz’s Deli (http://katzsdelicatessen.com), which was famously featured in my favorite film, “When Harry Met Sally”. Nora surely wouldn’t want me to be that predictable.

Photo by Monique Maestas-Gower

Potatoes Anna at Minetta Tavern

In reference to Minetta Tavern, Nora once said to New York Times journalist, Frank Bruni, “You ordered the steak, right?…Excellent! Now we can talk about the potatoes.”

If you’ve ever read her novel “Heartburn”, you’ll know her affinity for the spud, claiming that it’s the perfect comfort food for wallowing your sorrows in.

The potato sides have been known to upstage the beef dishes at this famous New York institution. This wasn’t lost on Ms. Ephron. She’s raved about the New York Strip Steak, but I’m almost sure she’s expressed her love for their famous Potatoes Anna at one point. One bite of those delicate, buttery potatoes, baked until golden brown on top and perfectly crisp, and I was blown away. It’s like having a potato casserole with crisp potato chips on top. She was totally right. They’re not to be missed.

Gray’s Papaya: Hotdog w/House Mustard

Nora once said in an interview with Charlie Rose that she would want her last meal to be a hotdog from Nate ‘n Al’s in Beverly Hills with a little Gulden’s mustard: nothing fancy. And though I’m not in Beverly Hills, we can certain give Gray’s, arguably New York’s most famous hotdog, a shot. Plus, the Upper West Side location I visited was the one supposedly featured in her film, “You’ve Got Mail”.

I ordered my dogs with nothing fancy: just the house mustard (which tastes like a good Dijon). It didn’t need anything else since the dog itself was the star, here. Though the bun tasted suspiciously like one you’d find at the supermarket, the link had great flavor. The casing, indeed, had that perfect snap that’s been much hyped. But it was the charred flavor that stood out and made it taste like no other hotdog I’d ever had before, and that’s a good thing. Though the “Recession Special” of two hotdogs and a drink for $5 is a great deal, they were smaller than I’d expected.

Jacques Torres Chocolate: Chocolate Chip Cookie

“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.” – Excerpt from the novel Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Everyone will have an opinion about where you can find the best chocolate chip cookie, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with what many consider the “expert” on chocolate, Jacques Torres. This celebrity chef’s chocolate chip cookie is world-renowned, and for good reason. It’s a huge disk of a cookie that’s bigger than an infant’s head. The chips are flat and wide and somehow melt so perfectly into the dough while baking, that they create ribbons of chocolate inside the cookie, distributing that rich chocolate flavor in every bite. The chocolate itself had a lot of depth with hints of vanilla and cherry, with a great balance of bitter and sweet. The cookie dough itself was no slouch with the rich taste of butter and vanilla coming through, as well. Nora would surely have approved.

“When you are actually going to have your last meal, you’ll either be too sick to have it or you aren’t gonna know it’s your last meal and you could squander it on something like a tuna melt and that would be ironic. So it’s important … I feel it’s important to have that last meal today, tomorrow, soon.” – Nora Ephron

So though I never knew you Nora, and have no way of knowing for sure if this list would’ve met your approval, I’d like to think that the mere search for some of the best eats in the city you loved so much would’ve made you smile. It certainly did me.

Minetta Tavern on Urbanspoon

Gray's Papaya  on Urbanspoon

Jacques Torres Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Beefy Tomato Pasta

Beefy Tomato Pasta (VirgoBlue)

Two things:

1) Fall’s here and I like making comfy one-pot meals that are hearty.

2) I love Hamburger (and Tuna) Helper.

I admit it, I love that boxed stuff and can easily sit by the television with a big bowl of it. That and Velveeta and Shells. I know there’s nothing “real” or good for you about Velveeta, but sometimes, you just don’t care.

Anyways, if I can make a version of Beefy Tomato Macaroni from scratch so the guilt of making a boxed meal doesn’t have to enter my head, and the recipe is simple enough, I’ll do it.

Enter this recipe.

It’s not hard to make at all and if you use the right ingredients, it’s wonderful. I pulled the original recipe off the back of a can of diced tomatoes (which you’ll need for this) and then decided to tinker with the flavors.

It’s so yummy, your kids will ask for seconds. My husband asked for thirds.

Enjoy.

BEEFY TOMATO PASTA (MAC)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes w/Green Chilies for a little mild spicy kick)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can corn
1 lb. ground beef, defrosted thoroughly (I like to use organic)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. salt
2 cups of of low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 12 oz. package of macaroni or spiral pasta (I used brown rice pasta since my husband is gluten-free)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat the oil in a saute pan or dutch oven over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add in the onions, garlic and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Saute until onions are translucent (about 4 min).

Add in your ground beef and make sure to break it up well. Saute until browned, about 5 min.

Add in all the other ingredients. Let it come to a boil, cover, then simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Test the pasta for doneness after the 10 minutes and add on additional cooking time if necessary. Stir, turn off the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes, uncovered, so the liquid will further absorb and the mixture will thicken.

Serves 6.

The Best San Francisco Restaurants and More: The Podcast

Wayfare Tavern’s Fried Chicken (photo property of VirgoBlue)

I recently had a great discussion with Seth Resler of Mystery Meet, where food lovers in the Bay Area can get together at a restaurant in San Francisco (that isn’t revealed until 24 hours before) and discuss their love of all things culinary.

Here’s my podcast interview with Seth of Mystery Meet discussing all my favorite eats in San Francisco. I basically leave no stone unturned, talking about my favorite purveyors like Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, Wayfare Tavern, Frog Hollow Farm, Curry Up Now, 4505 Meats, my thoughts on the SF vs. NY food debate, my pick for the best date/anniversary restaurant in town (it’s not what you think), my love of Thomas Keller, why the food truck trend has exploded, and even manage a BlogHer Annual Conference plug. Obviously, I’m in marketing. ;)

It’s all here: http://mysterymeet.org/find-dining-podcast/podcast-episode-8-wayfare-tavern-in-san-francisco/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C7IfmpaD-o&feature=youtu.be&a

Wayfare Tavern on Urbanspoon
Sociale on Urbanspoon
Wise Sons Deli on Urbanspoon

Ramen Roundup Part 2

I realized with my last roundup of ramen joints in the Bay Area that I was only scratching the surface. It seems like ramen is the new obsession around these parts, and noodle lovers have their staunch favorites.

Ramen in the Bay Area may not be the “fast food” item it is in Japan, but it’s certainly not a fussy meal, though extremely customizable. With that rich meaty broth and chewy noodles, and fixings like hardboiled eggs, corn, and dried seaweed (nori), it’s a complete comfort food meal in a bowl. In Japan, ramen noodle houses are as common as pizza joints are in the States. It’s a cheap, filling, and delicious way for them to satisfy their hunger.

So here are four more places on the Peninsula and in the South Bay I visited recently.

Ramen Club Garlic Kimchi Ramen
Ramen Club Garlic Kimchi Ramen with Pork

Ramen Club — Burlingame
This restaurant’s ramen is by no means the best, but it’s a good, fun bowl of noodles. I say fun because the Garlic Kimchi Ramen with Pork is not exactly authentic, but good and tasty. I loved the zesty crunch from the spicy kimchi cabbage and the added kick of the hot sauce on top. The texture of the noodles is good and chewy but not soggy. However, the broth and the pork are lackluster. Still, it’s a good version of ramen.

Ramen Club
Ramen Club & Catering on Urbanspoon

Ramen Parlor Spicy Pork with Soft Shell Crab and Black Garlic
Ramen Parlor Spicy Pork with Soft Shell Crab and Black Garlic

Ramen Parlor — San Mateo
If you’ve been to Santa Ramen or Dojo Ramen in San Mateo, you’ll love this place. Ramen Parlor is owned by the same folks as Santa and Dojo, and is the newest of the three. Though it’s not as popular or as good as Dojo, it is definitely a strong second, and certainly my favorite on this list. Their specialty is infusing spicy seafood elements into their broth like lobster oil, or fried soft shell crab. I ordered the Ramen with Tonkatsu (pork) Broth and Soft Shell Crab, spicy of course. Along with all those fun flavors, it comes with a glistening, buttery, full-fat slice of pork belly, pungent black garlic oil, and a creamy, perfectly cooked hard boiled egg. It is delicious, bold, innovative and every element was cooked to perfection. Heaven.

Ramen Parlor
Ramen Parlor on Urbanspoon

Santouka Spicy Miso Pork Ramen
Santouka Spicy Miso Pork Ramen

Santouka Ramen — San Jose
Santouka is a popular Japanese ramen chain restaurant, and this is their only franchised Bay Area outpost. Located inside the Japanese Mitsuwa Marketplace strip mall as part of a mini-food court, it’s as close to a fast food ramen place as you can get around here. The ramen noodles have that ideal chewy-but-not-soggy texture and the broth has good depth. However, I suspect it was full of MSG since I came away later that day with some serious thirst and a slight headache. And the portion itself was very small. My American palate, unfortunately, is used to a serving double the size of what they gave me.

Santouka
Located in the Mitsuwa Marketplace
Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon

Ramen House Ryowa Roasted Sesame Ramen with Pork
Ramen House Ryowa Roasted Sesame Ramen with Pork

Ramen House Ryowa — Mountain View
“Ryowa” apparently means sesame, so I’d be remiss not to order the specialty of the house. Out of the four places I went to, this was both the most authentically Japanese in setting (bar seating, very fast food-like atmosphere) and straightforward in terms of the food. The broth and noodles were both reliably good, but nothing to write home about. Although I loved that the ramen is served with a side of gyoza dumplings, which apparently is what they do in Japan. It makes for a nicely rounded meal.

Ramen House Ryowa
Ramen House Ryowa on Urbanspoon