Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Understanding Food Terms - What Does "Heirloom" Mean?

You look down at your menu and part of the description says that you will be having heirloom tomatoes tonight. That sounds delightful because heirloom vegetables are better for you; you know this because someone had told you this before. Your dining mate opted for a salad made with heirloom beans as well - how perfect that you both are getting your fill of healthful vegetables. However, do you really know what that term means? Is it just a buzzword to blindly follow and believe in these days? I confess that I have a love for heirloom tomatoes too but knowing how many hundreds, if not thousands, of tomato varieties exist, it has been perplexing why that detail on varietal is overlooked (is it a Merlot tomato? Black Plum?). Heirloom tells me nothing about flavor profile but rather just about how the vegetable was grown. We did our research to dig up the truth about heirloom and wanted to share our findings with you. Here is the answer for the question, "What does 'heirloom' mean anyway?"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Finding Farmers' Markets - Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market in Orange, CA

This post is part of a series Much Ado About Fooding is doing on farmers' markets - Duc and I plan to visit as many as we can, starting in southern California, to get a sense of what sets each apart, what drives communities to them, and what gems people should look out for. To keep track, bookmark the "Farmers' Market" category.

Every week, I look forward to my e-newsletter ("The Juice") from the Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market which tells me who their upcoming Featured Farmer and Featured Artisan are that Saturday at the small but savvy farmers' market. An intense list of events and fundraisers is also sent over, a tribute to how robust the market aims to be and an example of how this community is spoiled by the passion in people. Situated near Chapman University in the corrugated metal Historic Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse (VPO) lot, the Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market takes place every Saturday from 9AM-1PM (rain or shine!) in a location that begs no fanfare but still invites passersby in with the buzzing activity and bright signage. The VPO lot itself with its historic ties to agriculture is quite the apt location for a "buying local" market and gives character to the buildings towering above the vendor booths. The distribution of vendors makes the market seem small but upon further inspection, you'll see that there are more than enough high-quality vendors to finish off your week's shopping list with a farmer-centric side and an artisan section. We really quite enjoyed browsing all of the booths and seeing just what specials were out that day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recipe - Chashu Pork for Ramen

There seem to be some different schools of thought when it comes to the delicious, glorious meat known as chashu pork. I know it for its rich tender addition to any tonkotsu ramen, giving protein and purpose to the soup. One could easily use it for other reasons but my purpose for making it involved ramen, and the schools of thought I mentioned are about the cuts of pork to use when making chashu - do you go with pork belly or pork shoulder? To test them out, I made both! The consensus of everyone who tasted both was that they preferred the shoulder (me too!) over the belly but that was just among my own friends. I suggest you try it both ways as well and have eager people helping you "judge"...though I really preferred the pork shoulder. In terms of the recipe, I got a lot of guidance from this site linked here but made some tweaks myself. Below are the two versions that I made, and no, it's not exactly the prettiest of recipes to look at while in process.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Event - Imbibing LXV Wine's Inspired Art

Wine and Kama Sutra - did I read that right? My first look at my email invitation to taste LXV Wines noted that the wines and their labels were inspired by the Kama Sutra and featured those inspirations of the acts. I've always known that there was more to that text than what many think of as just creative ways to have sex (it's about sensuality, love, respect, and virtuosity) but I could not help but wonder if I might come across lewd artwork in their branding. Curious though because the iconic name Amy Butler (prestigious and well-respected winemaker) was tied to the winery, Duc and I opted to attend the tasting and see why there has been buzz about LXV lately. Upon first sip, we could understand why.
"Pay respect to the grape, pay respect to the terroir, and let the rest of the vineyard play it out."
The grapes come from Paso Robles on a property which is just about the intersection of three top-notch vineyards. The terroir in this region tend towards what Paso Robles is known for - Rhone Valley style wines - and the focus of the winery itself is to produce food-friendly French styles. They stay away from overextracting fruit and try to intervene very minimally with the grapes and their process in neutral oak barrels. No wonder the iconoclastic Amy Butler is involved; there is also an emphasis on picking the grapes early, a practice Butler is known for. Owner Neeta Mittal explained the arduous process of finding a winemaker for LXV Winery's vision (a two year search) but once they came across Butler who had the same vision and the exact style they discovered, it was time to produce. Mittal said of Butler, "She'll taste the flesh of the skin and the seeds instead of looking through the refractor to decide when to pluck. She is a true artisan through and through."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Test Kitchen - Dhal Puri Roti with Split Green Peas

I am surprised at how long we have been able to keep the Test Kitchen series up but there are just so many ingredients out there to play with! The last one we put up was split green peas, and we did get some fun suggestions from you all. The one that seemed most interesting was over on Twitter when our friend and fellow blogger Mike of Eating My Way Through OC (go check it out!) said, "Pancakes!" He's always trying to put me up to a challenge, and I gladly ran with it. Pancakes and split green peas made me think of roti, an Indian bread that I've heard of being stuffed with lentils before. Apparently split peas is also another option for filling but most people use the yellow version; I opted to make this green and had a fun time working with the dough. However, it is easily a time consuming activity so it's no wonder that people think of these as the homemade stuff "grandma" makes! It definitely takes time. I didn't have the appropriate cooking surface but a large non-stick skillet worked out just fine. Roti are just the perfect snack to munch one, crispy and savory. The recipe's below with some help from this recipe here:

Monday, April 7, 2014

#MushroomMakeover - Week Four and Final Recap!

This post is one of several as part of the Mushroom Council's 30-day weight loss challenge called the #MushroomMakeover. I am being financially compensated for my participation as an ambassador for this program but the opinions and anecdotes posted are my own.

This is it - the final post. How quickly the Mushroom Makeover challenge has gone by! I am so honored to have been part of this great group of bloggers who were participating and to also have been a participant in a live Google Hangout session about mushrooms. If you haven't seen the past posts, I have just finished this Mushroom Makeover challenge held by the Mushroom Council and Mamavation where I replaced mushrooms for meat (or just make mushroom-centric dishes) four times a week in addition to followed some dietary guidelines and a defined workout schedule. Last week I didn't lose any weight but this week, I dropped off 1.2 lbs. While the total amount for the past 30 days might not seem impressive (2.6 absolute loss), I know that the progress has been much more impressive on my health. It is a definite truth that mushrooms are great fillers with less the calories than meat.

In addition to my weight in pounds, I was also asked to measure myself progress at specific areas. I had some interesting changes between Day One and the end date. As aforementioned, 2.6 pounds were lost but I would suspect more has been. It is very possible that doing all of my workouts has built out muscles and therefore made little progress on what is lost, numerically. I lost 2" off of my waist but gained .5" on both my hips and thighs (leg workouts and muscle growing?). I also managed somehow to lose about 2.5" from my chest! Throughout the journey though, the weight loss was secondary to getting my health back on track. With help from Corinne Dobbas, our dietitian during this program, and Mark Segedie, our physical trainer, I think I have done a good job kickstarting myself back to a healthier me. This week's meals involved some help from others in the family as they wanted to get in on the mushroom action - check the photos after the jump:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Recipe - Mushroom and Lentil Soup

Ah soup. You are the epitome of comfort food. Warming and soothing, you help make days and nights better, and no matter how savory you get, you always manage to woo me. I know that I have been posting a lot of mushroom recipes lately but the one type I haven't really focused on is a hearty (mainly) mushroom soup. To create something savory and worthy of both being a side dish and a full entree, I need to make a soup that was hefty enough in substance and flavors. Green lentils made a huge difference as did the aroma from several different herbs so here you have it, a mushroom lentil soup that will chase away your worries with each spoonful. Try this recipe on for size - hope you enjoy!