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The English poet and hymnodist William Cowper (1731-1800) said it best in his poem “The Task” (1785): “…Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor...” For me, everything I approach, I try to do so openly, and with a curiosity to learn from that new experience, and then apply it often.
Today’s edition features reviews of Lifeway Kefir Farmer’s Cheese Cup, Oui By Yoplait French Style Yogurt, Pereg Raw and Quinoa Gourmet Bars, recaps on two exceptional cookbooks “Sea Robins, Triggerfish & Other Overlooked Seafood” and “Simply Fish ~ 75 Modern and Delicious Recipes for Sustainable Seafood”, plus a revisit to a popular area pizzeria, Olive Theory Pizzeria. Each of these special tasting experiences will definitely please your palate. Enjoy!
~ Product Tastings ~
Lifeway Kefir Natural Farmer’s Cheese Cup, Plain
A Farmer’s Cheese in a take-with cup that makes snacking a healthy treat. I found the tang of the Plain variety a bit too tart, so I added some sweet basil pesto to my serving cup, and made a delicious tasting spread for crackers; this mix would also be ideal for dipping crudités. I’m looking forward to taste testing other varieties. For more information, visit http://lifewaykefir.com/products/natural-farmer-cheese-cup/
Oui By Yoplait French Style Yogurt, Lemon
This latest variety is a major hit among yogurt aficionados, myself included. The recipe is based on a prized French recipe that’s healthy and simple; the recipe is based on non-GMO cow’s milk, pure cane sugar, real yogurt cultures, and real fruit; it also doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients. The yogurt is fresh poured into glass pots and allowed to cure for eight hours, which allows for the creamy texture and cultures to develop. I tried the Lemon flavor and it was amazingly delicious and had a rich thick and velvety texture; the intensity of the Lemon flavor, including subtle bits of the zest, was perfectly balanced with the natural sweetness of this rich French Style Yogurt. The adorable glass pots are reusable, too. For more information, visit https://www.ouibyyoplait.com
Pereg Raw and Quinoa Gourmet Bars, Raw Varieties: Cherry & Coconut, Chocolate, Matcha & Almonds; Quinoa Varieties: Sun Dried Banana, Spirulina, Nuts & Berries, Chocolate Nibs
I won’t go into the specifics on each of these flavors except to say each one was incredibly delicious. Because only natural and organic ingredients are used, I was able to taste each distinctive ingredient each bar was named after. You could taste each natural ingredient, whether it was Cherry, Coconut, Chocolate, Matcha, Almonds, Bananas, Spirulina, Nuts, Berries, and Nibs. The taste experience was consistently fresh, authentic, and delicious. The Quinoa Bars are made from quinoa, fruits, and nuts. The Raw Bars are made from raw ingredients, fruits, and nuts. The Quinoa varieties had a pleasant chew to them, which the Raw varieties had a nice soft chew to them. Each bar is made from all natural and organic ingredients, without any additives, preservatives, refined sugar, or corn syrup. Each bar is lactose-free, dairy-free, and certified gluten-free and non-GMO; they’re also Kosher certified. While I don’t need to follow a gluten-free diet, Pereg gluten-free products are superior in texture, quality, taste, and ingredients, and will fit into any type of eating plan. For more information, visit https://www.pereg-gourmet.com/pages/raw-quinoa-bars
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Tuscanini Parchment Crackers, Olive Oil and Oregano, Olive Oil, and Olive Oil and Rosemary
I’m half Italian on my mom’s side, so anytime I get a chance to taste a new imported product from Italy, I'll be the first in line to try it. Tuscanini Parchment Crackers fit those criteria. These exceptional artisanal crafted Parchment Crackers are imported from Sardinia, Italy. They only contain a few ingredients (e.g. extra virgin olive oil, re-milled durum wheat semolina, salt, brewer’s yeast, oregano or rosemary). They’re also baked, which is naturally lower in calories; the baking also preserves the cracker’s delicate flavor and crunch, making them a healthier alternative to chips and other overly processed crackers. The tastes of each variety was delicate and incredibly delicious; I loved all three varieties, but I especially loved the fact that both the Oregano and Rosemary varieties didn’t have a strong pronounced flavor of the herb, like so many other crackers I’ve tasted. The Parchment Crackers are certified Kosher, dairy-free, and non-GMO. My Taste Tips: I made a simple light spread using Greek yogurt that I mixed sweet basil pesto into; this was a nice tasty way to enjoy these Parchment Crackers without other tastes dominating their delicate flavors. These delicate Parchment Crackers were also delicious crumbled as a topping to soups and salads. As I savored each variety, I actually had to control myself and not devour the entirety of the individual boxes at one time; they were that delicious and addictive. For more information, visit http://kayco.com/products/3420
~ Cookbooks ~
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As more and more folks seek healthier food choices, fish continues to be an increasing favorite choice for them. Personally, I find fish quicker to cook and easier on my digestive system; it’s not that I’ve turned away from animal protein, but fish and seafood is a growing favorite choice of mine and others I know. My main problem, however, is that I don’t live close to the sea, and freshwater lakes aren’t conveniently located and I’m not into fishing; these bodies of water are where many of these delicious varieties originate from. I also don’t have an expert fishmonger to go to for direction and suggestions. Another issue is that there also aren’t any restaurants that offer fresh caught same day menu items, and others, if you’re lucky, might offer a menu catch that’s a day or multiple days from when it was caught, flown in, and delivered to the restaurant or distributor. It’s a combined dilemma, and quite frankly, frozen or smoked fish, and even canned tuna, sardines, anchovies, or salmon become are geographical substitutes for the “real deal”; so-called fresh fish at most food markets are always “suspect”. With all that said, following are two exceptional cookbooks that delve into all-things fish; each cookbook is packed with personal experiences of the chef-authors, including shared seasonal favorites, and recipes that demystify the art cooking fish. As a point of reference, both of these cookbooks, “Sea Robins, Triggerfish & Other Overlooked Seafood” and “Simply Fish ~ 75 Modern and Delicious Recipes for Sustainable Seafood”, are available wherever cookbooks are sold (e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.).
“Sea Robins, Triggerfish & Other Overlooked Seafood ~ The Complete Guide to Preparing and Serving Bycatch” By Chef Matthew Pietsch & James O. Fraioli; Introduction by Fabien Cousteau
Author Matthew Pietsch is an accomplished chef and restaurateur of award-winning restaurants that focus on sustainable menu offerings, Salt of the Earth (Fenneville, MI) and Principle Food & Drink (Kalamazoo, MI). Co-author James O. Fraioli is a prolific cookbook writer, with twenty-six titles to is credit, including being a James Beard Award-Winning author. An Introduction by ocean conservationist and filmmaker Fabien Cousteau provides background information on the importance of the ocean as a life-giving and sustainable entity. The one thing I learned from this cookbook is that when it comes to fishing, it isn’t that clear-cut. There’s intentional fishing (you get what you fished for), unintentional fishing (you get what you fished for, plus other varieties that you retain), and then there’s Bycatch (neither intentional or unintentional, and often discarded or thrown back into the sea). The Bycatch variety is what this book is devoted to…those varieties that are just as nutritious and delicious when prepared properly as “mainstream” varieties. I admit, I’ve never heard the word “Bycatch” used before, and certainly never heard of the types of Bycatch fish named in the cookbook’s title; I have, however, enjoyed some of the Bycatch types featured in the recipes (e.g. Monkfish, Skate, Crab, etc., considered by some hauls as Bycatch). [I kept thinking about weeds as the gardener’s Bycatch; for example, if blades of grass grow in a flowerbed, they’re technically weeds, since they were the unintentional consequence of the growth; but, I digress.] Unfortunately, I have limited access to fresh fish and seafood on a regular basis, because where I live, it’s essentially land-locked, and living in close proximity to Lake Michigan doesn’t count, especially since most fishing done in this lake is sport-fishing, versus commercial. While all of the sections are extremely informative, I found the sections on Purchasing, Selecting & Seafood Care, and Cooking Methods to be very enlightening; another helpful section I enjoyed was Kitchen Tools & Equipment. For the recipes, they were broken down into easily referenced categories like starters, salads, soups, stews, and main entrees. At the beginning of each recipe, there’s a detailed explanation about the fish, which provides a better understanding of its origins and habitat. Each recipe also has a simple explanation on how to prepare it, a suggestion on how to serve it, as well as a suggested libation pairing to complement the recipe’s flavor profile. This cookbook is a complete and thorough compilation of everything a person needs to know about little known fish and seafood, how to appreciate it, and how it can fit into one’s at-home menu planning. Leafing through this beautiful cookbook gave me a better appreciation of the bounty of this food source that many haven’t experienced, myself included.
“Simply Fish ~ 75 Modern and Delicious Recipes for Sustainable Seafood” By Matthew Dolan
Author Matthew Dolan is also an accomplished chef and restaurateur, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America (New York); his award winning restaurant is Twenty Five Lusk (San Francisco, CA). Chef Dolan is passionate about healthy food choices that are also sustainable, like fish and seafood that are also easy to prepare, and appropriate for any dining occasion. In this cookbook, Chef Dolan shares with the reader his supportive passion for fish and seafood, including an informative Q&A with Crystal Sanders, Marine Biologist and Founder of Fish Revolution (an all-things fish movement that benefits the industry and consumer) that gives insight to the wonders of the sea, benefits of wild versus farmed fish and catch methodologies, benefits of sustainability, and stewardship and care of the ocean. The cookbook also educates the reader with suggestions on what their well-stocked pantry and kitchen should have on hand as basics, in terms of prepping and cooking equipment, and grocery food items. The cookbook offers a wealth of delicious recipes based on seasonality for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Each recipe thoroughly explains ingredients, as well as prepping and cooking methods; there are even suggested questions a person should be ready to ask of their fishmonger; plating and serving suggestions, including what complementary libations would pair well with the dish, are also included. And, my favorite, there are even suggested desserts, as if a way to playfully cap off the stunning dish the home cook has just prepared. The cookbook’s bounty of recipes include those for soups, salads, sandwiches, etc.; each is presented with an accompanying gorgeous color photo that gives the reader an idea of how the finished dish should look. In addition to an alphabetical index of recipes, there’s also an informative glossary of terms with simple and easy to understand explanations. This cookbook is a complete and thorough compilation of everything a person needs to know about fish and seafood and how it can realistically fit into their menu and eating plans. Just leafing through this beautiful book game me a closer connection with this often under-utilized and often under-appreciated food source.
~ Out & About ~
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Olive Theory Pizzeria (Downers Grove, IL), Buddha’s Karma House Pizza
I previously wrote about my taste experience at this popular southwest suburban pizzeria (Jan. 30th), and this return visit didn’t disappoint from that initial one. I enjoy the open kitchen concept of the pizza preparation, where you can keep a watchful eye on the step-by-step process of pizzas being individually made to order. I went with a very popular artisan crafted pizza, Buddha’s Karma House Pizza. The pizza includes Fire Roasted Garlic Olive Oil, Spinach, Mushrooms, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese. In less than ten minutes, my pizza is ready, thanks to the super hot gas and fire domed oven. For an added taste treat, I also opted for a hefty drizzling of White Truffle Oil. The yeast pizza dough was bubbled and beautifully browned, which is how I prefer my pizza crust. The pizza was cooked to perfection, and the overall taste was outstanding. The twenty-minute drive was well worth the trip to experience another round of deliciousness. For more information, visit http://www.olivetheorypizzeria.com
~ In Closing ~
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Take the time to be culinary-curious…discover new tastes…go out and explore your surrounding area for some new experiences…make it an adventure…claim your new culinary finds as your own.
That’s it for this edition. Until the next one, remember to always celebrate yourself and your culinary curiosity. Happy creating…happy cooking…happy eating!
By Terry Herman
TERRY HERMAN continues perfecting her passion for food and wine. She has been covering culinary related for many years as it relates to wellness and a healthy lifestyle. Her popular blog, Terry's Spa, Beauty and Wellness Go-To has featured formidable reviews of cookbooks, restaurants, wine and food, food prep and tools, chef interviews, and coverage of prestigious events such as International Home+Housewares Show, National Restaurant Show, Sweets and Snacks Expo, United Fresh, and Food Marketing Institute. She has served as a food judge at the Bellavita Italian Expo Excellence Awards (Chicago). She has been published since the mid-1990s in both consumer and trade publications, and is regarded as an expert in spa, beauty, wellness, travel and lifestyle, and is frequently interviewed by publications for her expert content. She has also presented at major industry conferences, and has served with distinction on numerous governing and advisory boards. She has a background in strategic and qualitative management, consulting, and motivational speaking. In addition to her blogs, her social media outreach also includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to “Like” her Facebook Page, Terry’s Second Helpings. Please note that the “Comment Section” has been disabled. For additional information, email her at email@example.com.
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