They Say Variety is the Spice of Life….

Cinnamon and Nutmeg...my favorite spices in place of sugar

Cinnamon and Nutmeg…my favorite spices in place of sugar

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Using a microplane to shave a little nutmeg

Using a microplane to shave a little nutmeg

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée...I had mine without the "carmelized sugar" and no sugar spike later ...hurray...

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée…the perfect size with a little grated nutmeg…no need to brûlée sugar on top for me, it is still so satisfying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPICES are the variety of life for me…Recently, they have been my savior when I am just about ready to binge on something I know I will later regret.  I’ve discovered that my craving for sweets is abated when using various spices – thus keeping me on track in managing my glucose levels. Hurray!

My obsession these past couple months has been with cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, or a splash of high quality vanilla (with no sugar) as that satisfier for my need for something sweet –  A bit of cinnamon on yogurt or on peaches or apple slices takes my dessert up a notch, yet keeps me within my carb goal.  That bit of spice contributes to fulfillment and satisfaction in the dish.

Creamy, custardy dishes have always been my idea of comfort foods…

My new favorite after dinner treat is a quick, fluffy tapioca pudding… here’s the recipe –  I use one/sixth of the sugar called for on the recipe on the box.  My recipe, which is a hearty sized portion, is only 15 – 18 grams of carbohydrate… with grated nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon on top…I don’t miss that extra sugar, it is truly delicious with texture and flavor.

Kraft Minute Tapioca...

Kraft Minute Tapioca…

My recipe …

1 egg separated     3 T. Tapioca     1 tsp Vanilla

1 T. sugar               2 C milk

Beat egg white until foamy.  Mix tapioca, milk, egg yolk and 1 T sugar

in a medium saucepan.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Bring to full boil on medium heat

…stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add egg white mixture, stir until blended.  Stir in vanilla.

Cool…serve warm or chilled… keep refrigerated… grate fresh nutmeg and/or a bit of cinnamon on top and consume… yum… the Kraft box calls for 6 Tablespoons of sugar…I have tested this with reduced amounts and we have concluded that 1 Tablespoon works well with the addition of the freshly grated spices…also…we use really good ingredients…organic eggs and milk, Madagascar vanilla.. I used 2% milk and it is wonderful. With less sugar, you get to enjoy the texture of the tapioca even more and really taste the other ingredients, they are not masked by the sugar…

Note…I always use real ingredients…real sugar (not artificial), real dairy…and always use fresh spices…if they are over one year old, get new ones.

Just when I think I am going to break and have a decadent sweet … I make this and it feels completely indulgent to me, yet when I test my glucose level two hours later…I am perfectly in range which makes me feel like I’ve just won a prize!  Being diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t have a full portion of a dessert…it may take a little “testing” of a recipe on your part to find the level of reduced sugar that works for you, but it certainly is worth it when you get it to that SPOT where the “convergence of good for you” meets “it still tastes great!”  Give it a try.

This fluffy tapioca with a cup of tea is perfect!  And good for me!

And, as always, drink tea…it’s good for you.

 

 

 

 

Petit Trois…Los Angeles… A Little More Butter Please :-)

At Melrose and HIghland, L.A. (walking distance to Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza Chef Ludo's Petit Trois sits in a dive looking strip mall.  It's bar seating only, seats about 30 and is just delightful (and full fat for sure).

At Melrose and Highland, L.A. (walking distance to Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza) sits Chef Ludo’s Petit Trois – located in a dive looking strip mall. It’s bar seating only, seats about 30 and is just delightful (and full fat for sure).

For the past few years, I have battled keeping my blood sugar at a good level…recently my numbers jumped up and put me back into that type 2 diabetic stage… 🙁    So….I’ve decided to make a change.  While I normally watch my diet fairly closely and have gone through lots and lots of training on “how to eat as a diabetic”… something just isn’t working for me right now; therefore, after discussing a variety of options with a wellness expert, we determined my going with a reduced fat, “plant-based diet” for the next eight weeks (yep, vegan…but sshhhhh, “don’t say vegan out loud” she said…”people don’t like that word”).   I’ve gone plant based before…about 15 years ago, and remember how good I felt on that plan.  So, I am going for it.  My lab work is due at the end of August, and I am giving “plant-based” eating a shot to see if I can drop my numbers back to the normal range.  I am motivated!   I love a challenge and immediately embraced planning what I would eat, how I would prepare it and how tasty I could make it… However…I had a teeny obstacle before I could start.  My dear husband had reservations for us the next night at a “hot” new small French Bistro in L.A., Petit Trois.   I didn’t check out the Petit Trois menu before going, figuring there would be enough plant-based, low fat items on the menu to choose from, well, I was wrong.  It is a tiny place with a Parisienne flair and a delightful French Bistro menu … meaning EVERYTHING was authentic French … with butter to die for (almost literally for me I suppose).  I decided to embrace the situation (as not to hurt my husband’s feelings, who is always so supportive of my diet management)…and I treated this as my last full-fat, animal-style meal for the next two months…beginning with a lovely glass of Sancerre (chilled to perfection) to cut through the fat 🙂   It was seriously fabulous food, no wonder Chef Ludo (who was a judge on the short-lived cooking contest show called “The Taste” with Chef Anthony Bordain) is getting rave reviews for his bistro. Below are photos of our meal…starting with escargot…and the best crispy French bread and butter. I immersed myself in the environment and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel and all the butter!  Hurray for the butter!  I had enough to last my 8 weeks of going low fat!

Escargot drenched in clarified butter, herbs and garlic...and the best French bread and French salted butter...what a start to the meal mmmmmmmm

Escargot drenched in clarified butter, herbs and garlic…and the best French bread and French salted butter…what a start to the meal mmmmmmmm

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Escargot is one of their top menu items...we hadn't had them in ages...they are a meal unto themselves ...they had buckets full of them ready to order...

Escargot is one of their top menu items…we hadn’t had them in ages…they are a meal unto themselves …they had buckets full of them ready to order…

 

Our starter salad of tomatoes, creamy burrata, toasted bread crumbs, basil and a vanilla, lemon grass dressing was stunning (and NOT Italian they claimed...very French... I went with green beans topped with toasted almonds....drenched in butter of course...just perfect

Our starter salad of tomatoes, creamy burrata, toasted bread crumbs, basil and a vanilla, lemon grass dressing was stunning (and NOT Italian they claimed- NOT a caprese salad!…very French).. pictured below… I went with green beans topped with toasted almonds….drenched in butter of course…just perfect

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And then there was this...the last meat/animal product I plan to eat for 8 weeks... disguised under that beautiful frise herb salad is a crispy, golden fried confit style chicken leg...an excellent last meal choice if I say so myself (I just love chicken legs)

And then there was this…the last meat/animal product I plan to eat for 8 weeks… disguised under that beautiful frise herb salad is a crispy, golden fried confit style chicken leg…an excellent last meal choice if I say so myself (I just love chicken legs)

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Ludo has an interesting and mysterious looking full French restaurant next door to Petit Trois bistro…we will be checking this out soon (after August if all goes well with the numbers game I am attempting to manage).  It’s called Troi Mec and has an interesting reservation system…something like a lottery I gather.  Will check it out and let you know.  It is said to be exciting, unique and was named best restaurant in 2013.

The only bad thing about the whole experience…Petit Trois does NOT offer any tea service.  When I ordered tea…they said they could give me hot water with lemon, oh well…the rest of the meal was beautifully served in this relaxed bar, and clearly, professionally run kitchen.  Watching your meal being prepared in front of you in their tiny kitchen was cool too.

I had my cup of tea on the way home…a Starbucks run 🙂

Mom’s Sweet Potato Biscuit … Re-engineered…Gluten free, Soy free & Yummy!

Food is memories.  That’s what my sister wrote in an email to me this morning after she watched the movie, 100 – Foot Journey, last night – Her email comments inspired me to write today.  Thanks sister 🙂

I just love food and learning anything about food, but have been a bit frustrated and stymied because some of our old food memory recipes don’t work for the whole family anymore.  Stubbornly, I don’t want to give up on these food memory foods; therefore, I decided to figure out how to re-engineer our most favorite family recipes… with a little re-work, re-invention, and responsible food sourcing…I’m inspired again and coming up with products that work for our dietary needs today…it’s turned out to be a feel-good journey too.

The first recipe I’ve re-done is Mom’s yam (or sweet potato) biscuit recipe.  For over 30 years, Thanksgiving at our family’s homes have included a petite yam biscuit served with her homemade pumpkin butter.  In the late 1970’s, Mom, (Betty), had taken cooking classes where she came away with petite bite recipes for her catering business.  Many of those stuck with the family as favorites for holiday dinners, happy events (cocktail parties or showers), and offered at tea time.  These yam biscuits hit a chord with all of us as a must have served with the Italian chicken soup course on Thanksgiving day.

Our niece has taken over the helm as the yam biscuit and pumpkin butter maker for our holiday dinner (often for over 25 guests).  With a new baby in tow, we shared duties this year…her pumpkin butter was the best I ever remember consuming.  For the yam biscuits (we often substitute with organic sweet potatoes as they are delicious and easier to source), I substituted the flour and fat historically called for to ensure everyone at the table could comfortably consume the biscuits, slathered with her stunning pumpkin butter.  We have gluten-fee, soy free, sodium reduced diet needs to accommodate.  The old recipe called for all purpose flour (wheat) and Crisco (soybean oil) … I substituted with William Sonoma’s Cup for Cup Gluten-free (wheat free) flour and chilled Kerrygold Grass-fed Unsalted Butter (soy free).  While a bit of a sticky, challenging dough resulted…the biscuits were just fabulous…and everyone could eat them.  We cut them small (1 1/2″ round) so they instigate your appetite and don’t fill you up.  Although my nephews can eat a dozen at a sitting 🙂

Below is the new recipe…gluten free, soy free and even me…the diabetic… can happily fit one into my meal plan.

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

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Sweet Potato Biscuit

I suggest baking them just prior to serving as they are sooo good served hot (or you can bake them ahead and heat them for a few minutes on a low temperature just prior to serving).

The first time we learned of these biscuits was at a Southern foods cooking class. They were served with a slice of country ham and honey mustard—a savory little “slider” that’s perfect for tea time.
Makes approximately 24 ( 1 1/2”) biscuits.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (including prepping yam and baking time)
Preheat oven to 400° F.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute with Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour).
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco® shortening (substitute cold butter – I used Kerrygold unsalted)
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Approximately ¾ cup mashed yam, boiled or baked, then mashed and cooled (substitute with sweet potatoes – use organic if available).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cut in shortening (or cold butter) until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add yam/sweet potato and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives.
Add cream to form a soft dough that holds.
Lightly knead and pat down onto a floured surface to ¾” thick, cut into rounds using 1 ½” to 2” cutter. Do not use a rolling pin…use our hands to lightly pat down. Rustic looking biscuits are cute :-).
Bake in a buttered pan or sheet pan lined with parchment or Silpat® at 400° F for 18 to 20 minutes.
Serve hot with butter and sliced country or baked ham or with pumpkin butter.

 

 

The Finesse of the Donut @ Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts...this way, you couldn't miss it with the line out the door.  The line moved along quickly and efficiently...it was fun being there and gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose

Blue Star Donutsthis way>>> Actually, you couldn’t miss it as there was a  line running out the door. The line moved along quickly and efficiently…it was fun being there and moving through the line gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose.

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Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Portland, Oregon offers a plethora of fabulous, remarkable, and renowned cafes and bakery establishments….none more popular (and rightly so) than Blue Star Donuts.  With a line of patient patrons running out the door, this Food Network featured cool shop, known for offering unique, quality donuts which reflect a high degree of craft, understanding of ingredients, and skill in creating is totally worth the wait and the calories.

The display of products was tantalizing, clean, and simple…and donuts are just about made fresh to order.

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The donuts...

The donuts…using fine ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate, hazelnuts, and my favorite combination, maple & bacon Mmmmmmmm

Who would have thought a donut could be cool.

The staff was delightful and helpful.  I love an open kitchen, theirs reflected great organization and was really clean!  My nephew said he once heard Chef/Owner Stephanie Thornton say “we just make donuts.” How nice to see someone master their craft, do it well, and offer remarkable consistent products which tantalize your taste buds with diverse combinations.

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Blue Star kitchen...organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed :-)

Blue Star kitchen…organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed 🙂

The decor was cool, white, and clean with really neat descriptions of their philosophy of quality and a good education in the definition of various social media platforms…note the use of Steven Smith Teas…and Portland’s Stumptown Coffees. All consistent with the quality of the donuts.IMG_1689

 

It's about "quality" and I got schooled too in social media defined...

It’s about “quality” and I got schooled too in social media defined…

My biggest challenge was managing how to eat breakfast at one of the awesome breakfast eateries and  fit in donuts!  It was work, but we figured it out :-). While we did a good job getting to several eating establishments on our Portland must do list, we will definitely need a few more trips back to this wonderful city to consume more of the beautiful products offered.

It’s All About Finesse…

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 ...I didn't realize the phrase "It's All About Finesse" has long been his mantra

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 …I didn’t realize the phrase “It’s All About Finesse” has long been his mantra until our visit to Yountville, Napa Valley earlier this year

What excites me in the food arena are those things which require finesse.  A stunning afternoon tea menu takes a good deal of finesse.  Beautiful, whimsical, petite bites require skillful élan and artistry to pull off effectively.  There is certainly a time and place for quick and easy food prep; however, that’s not what energizes and motivates me.  Experiencing awesome ingredients, finessed into even more awesome food bites is what I seek.  I appreciate the artistry, mastery, and subtlety required to put together a composed dish, along with the effort it takes…whether a home cooked meal or one at a famous chef’s establishment.  Many of my favorite moments in life are spent contemplating, perusing, and indulging in these artists’ works.

Finesse doesn’t have to mean complicated, although at times it is, and it doesn’t necessarily equate to expensive, although sometimes that is the case (I save up for those rare occasions – i.e. The French Laundry 🙂 ).

Several months ago, we were at our favorite Napa Valley town, Yountville …often referred to by locals as “Kellerville” as Thomas Keller has three restaurants, one bakery (talk about awesome), and his beautiful vegetable garden including chicken coop running down the main street in this small burg.  On this visit I noticed a new magazine in our inn titled Finesse, then saw he has this beautiful small store hidden away in town…

Finesse...Keller's magazine, as well as, his cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town...

Finesse…Keller’s  cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town…

While undeniably one of the best chef’s in the world, Keller is also an obvious master at branding.  His shop features his clean, cool, finessed style reflected in the items he brands to his French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc environs.  I couldn’t resist purchasing a few small things (as expected, nothing was inexpensive there…but the quality excellent of course) and the store manager knowledgable, conversant, and  engaging.  Below are photos of his teeny shop.

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Inside Finesse, the shop

Inside Finesse, the shop

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Our dear friends, who are Dutch (and J. is an  incredible chef too), introduced us to the French Laundry restaurant in early 1999.  We get to enjoy dinner at their home a few times a year where they now “whimsically” set the table using  “Dutch Laundry” clothespins they’ve created at each place setting (a trademark of the French Laundry is the clothespin with each napkin).  Here are my purchases and a small gift for our “dutch laundry” buddies …

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French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin...and our dutch laundry friend's clothespin version :-)

French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin…and our dutch laundry friend’s clothespin version 🙂

Lately I’ve felt that some main market food media, whether magazines, online or television, have focused content on the “dumbing down” of meal preparation.  Learning the basics is important and a good thing, but let’s elevate our experience too.  Julia Child made French cooking accessible to us…she didn’t try to make it fast…or easy…or diminish your skill in preparing it.  Over the next few posts I will feature some of the finesse in food I’ve recently come across. Sometimes it’s all about the garnish…sometimes the food product.  All of it is perfect with a nice cup of finely grown and harvested tea….of course.

 

Our New Kitchen Gadget…Juice It Up!

My darling husband has claimed that the best gift I ever got him was his Nespresso coffee machine. The second best, his soda stream for creating his own sparkling water – yay, no more lugging home cases of Pelligrino from Costco.  However; he says my latest gift to him ranks right up there too… our new Breville citrus juicer. He is just in love with it and is “citrus” juicing up a storm…meyer lemons primarily.  Breville products are outstanding in function and design.  This juicer is much larger in size than we expected, but boy, does it get the juices flowing.  It’s addicting.  Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

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Our new Breville Citrus Juicer...beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter---actually rather "giant"

Our new Breville Citrus Juicer…beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter—actually rather “giant”

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, he juiced more lemons than needed, so I snagged a cup and made my infamous, tart, lemon curd, the recipe is here.  It’s quick to prepare…don’t sweat the seeds or lumps, as you will strain the end product to come out with a smooth, luscious curd.

Silky, smooth lemon curd...straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.  My recipe is below...it is on the tart versus sweet side

Silky, smooth lemon curd…straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.

This prompted me to fulfill a few requests from friends for scones…so I threw together a batch (takes all of 10 minutes) and I had instant gifts for two of my scone and lemon curd-loving friends (after I taste tested a few, of course).   Note: my favorite little biscuit scone (recipe here).  Chunks of butter show and the dough is light and fluffy (not rolled or flattened), this makes for a delightfully light texture in your scone.

Of course, this curd and scone is lovely with a cup of tea…in particular a Jasmine Pearl green tea.  Enjoy.

My favorite biscuit scone...note the chunks of butter ...these make for a nice texture...and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)...again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams...

My favorite biscuit scone…note the chunks of butter …these make for a nice texture…and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)…again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams…

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