Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Global New Year's Eats.

The arrival of the New year is meant for feasting.  To sit down and share a meal with family and friends to usher in a year of prosperity. Here are some of the common food traditions around the world and a few hints about where to partake in them:

Hoppin' John, American South
A major New Year's food tradition in the American South, Hoppin' John is a dish of pork-flavored field peas or black-eyed peas (symbolizing coins) and rice, frequently served with collards or other cooked greens (as they're the color of money) and cornbread (the color of gold). The dish is said to bring good luck in the new year.

Twelve grapes, Spain
While Americans watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve, Spaniards watch the broadcast from Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where revelers gather in front of the square's clock tower to ring in the New Year. Those out in the square and those watching at home partake in an unusual annual tradition: at the stroke of midnight they eat one grape for every toll of the clock bell. Some even prep their grapes -- peeling and seeding them -- to make sure they will be as efficient as possible when midnight comes.

Tamales, Mexico
Tamales, corn dough stuffed with meat, cheese and other delicious additions and wrapped in a banana leaf or a corn husk, make appearances at pretty much every special occasion in Mexico. But the holiday season is an especially favored time for the food. In many families, groups of women gather together to make hundreds of the little packets -- with each person in charge of one aspect of the cooking process -- to hand out to friends, family and neighbors. On New Year's, it's often served with menudo, a tripe and hominy soup that is famously good for hangovers.

Oliebollen, Netherlands
In the Netherlands, fried oil balls, or oliebollen, are sold by street carts and are traditionally consumed on New Year's Eve and at special celebratory fairs. They are doughnut-like dumplings, made by dropping a scoop of dough spiked with currants or raisins into a deep fryer and then dusted with powdered sugar.

Marzipanschwein or Glücksschwein, Austria and Germany
Austria, and its neighbor to the north, Germany, call New Year's Eve Sylvesterabend, or the eve of Saint Sylvester. Austrian revelers drink a red wine punch with cinnamon and spices, eat suckling pig for dinner and decorate the table with little pigs made of marzipan, called marzipanschwein. Good luck pigs, or Glücksschwein, which are made of all sorts of things, are also common gifts throughout both Austria and Germany.

Soba noodles, Japan
In Japanese households, families eat buckwheat soba noodles, or toshikoshi soba, at midnight on New Year's Eve to bid farewell to the year gone by and welcome the year to come. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and the long noodles symbolize longevity and prosperity. In another custom called mochitsuki, friends and family spend the day before New Year's pounding mochi rice cakes. Sweet, glutinous rice is washed, soaked, steamed and pounded into a smooth mass. Then guests take turns pinching off pieces to make into small buns that are later eaten for dessert.

King cake, around the globe
The tradition of a New Year's cake is one that spans countless cultures. The Greeks have the Vasilopita, the French the gateau or galette des rois. Mexicans have the Rosca de Reyes and Bulgarians enjoy the banitsa.

Cotechino con lenticchie, Italy
Italians celebrate New Year's Eve with La Festa di San Silvestro, often commencing with a traditional cotechino con lenticchie, a sausage and lentil stew that is said to bring good luck (the lentils represent money and good fortune) and, in certain households, zampone, a stuffed pig's trotter.

Pickled herring, Poland and Scandinavia
Because herring 
is in abundance in Poland and parts of Scandinavia, and because of their silver coloring, many in those nations eat pickled herring at the stroke of midnight to bring a year of prosperity and bounty. Some eat pickled herring in cream sauce, some have it with onions.

Kransekage, Denmark and Norway
Kransekage, literally wreath cake, is a cake tower composed of many concentric rings of cake layered atop one another, and they are made for New Year's Eve and other special occasions in Denmark and Norway. The cake is made using marzipan, often with a bottle of wine or Aquavit in the center and can be decorated with ornaments, flags and crackers.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Origin of Christmas Carols.

Christmas carols were first introduced in Church by St Francis of Assisi, the Roman Catholic Priest, in Grecchio, Italy in 1223. Before that, carols were sung in homes and other private places as most churches originally considered the singing of carols to be a pagan custom. The carols he lead the congregation in were Bible based, though were not considered hymns.

Some of the first Christmas carols were not written. They were passed on by one person to another verbally. Only during the 14th century carols became a popular religious song form. The theme often revolved around a saint, the Christ child or the Virgin Mary, at times blending two languages such as English and Latin.

By the 15th century the carol was also considered as art music. During this time, elaborate arrangements were made and carols were considered an important contribution to English medieval music. The Fayrfax Manuscript, a court songbook featuring carols, was written by the end of the 15th century. The songs were written for 3 or 4 voices and themes were mostly on the Passion of Christ.

By the 16th century though, the popularity of carols faltered, almost disappearing entirely if not for the revival that happened by the middle of the 18th century. Most of the carols we know today were written during this period. Instead of singing in private places, church choirs began singing Christmas carols with biblical themes as well as the first street carolers began a new Christmas tradition.

A few of the old favorite authors and composers are as listed:

"Silent Night" was written as a poem by Pastor Joseph Mohr on Christmas Eve in 1818. Because the church organ was broken, the church organist, Felix Gruber, wrote music to the words and played a guitar as he, the pastor and church choir sang.

"Joy to the World" was written by Issac Watts as part of his version of Psalm 98. The composer of the music for this carol is not known.
Take Care & Happy Holidays......

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Food Traditions From Around the World !!!!

 Christmas dinner traditions couldn't be more different across the globe. Here's a look at how other cultures celebrate and how you might incorporate their ideas into your own festivities. 

United Kingdom
Turkey is the star of Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom — not so different from many tables in the U.S. Classic accompaniments are bread sauce (a thick, textured sauce made with day-old bread) and Christmas pudding.
Pudding — a dense, moist cake made with fruit, spices, nuts and brandy — is steamed for hours and typically made weeks ahead of time. The day it's made is known as Stir-up Sunday, when each family member stirs the batter and makes a wish.

Then, the Christmas pudding is stored away for weeks and allowed to mature. On Christmas day, the pudding is steamed again. When it's time to serve, the pudding is doused in flaming brandy.

KFC — yep, the fried chicken chain — is the hot place for take-out on Christmas in Japan. It's so popular that the chain lets customers reserve their Christmas party buckets two months in advance. The family-size meal, about $40, has fried chicken, salad and chocolate cake.

No eggnog here. Toast to the holidays with Sorrel punch, a seasonal island drink that gets its bright red color from hibiscus flowers. The flowers and other ingredients like cloves and cinnamon are steeped in water overnight to make an aromatic liquid, which can be combined with rum to make a sweet cocktail.

On Christmas Eve, Southern Italians celebrate with a dinner called the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which features seven seafood dishes prepared every which way. There is no traditional menu, but there are some popular dishes, including pan-fried smelts, calamari, homemade linguine with clams, baked eel, and baccala, or salt cod.
Why seven dishes? It's unclear, but most explanations point to how the number seven is referenced in the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. Some families prepare more than seven seafood dishes, with the numbers having religious significance.

If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to borrow this tradition from the Provence region: 13 desserts are set out on Christmas Eve. The number of sweets is a nod to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles at the Last Supper.
The desserts vary, and not all are over-the-top concoctions. There are some healthy snacks, like fresh fruits, almonds and raisins, plus sweets like black and white nougat, dates stuffed with marzipan, fudge, an olive oil flatbread, buche de Noel (a Christmas yule log cake) and other pastries.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fabulous Fermented Foods !!!!

Probiotics like Idli , dahi, khimichi and dhokla strengthen our immune systems, fight disease and add depth to our culinary experience.Earlier referred to as fermented foods, probiotic foods are valued for their taste as well as nutritional value.

Dahi, paneer, dhoklas, dosas, uttapams, idlis and breads are the mainstay of our kitchens. These foods are not merely tasty, they also offer numerous health  benefits.
While the expression ‘probiotic’ is of recent coinage, it merely refers to food rich in health-enhancing micro-organisms, some of which has been a part of our eating experience since antiquity.

Health Benefits :
The good bacteria in fermented foods consume starch and sugar in our food and arrest the production of lactic acid, which in turn prevent flatulence. Micro-organisms in certain fermented foods strengthen the body’s immune function by supplying B-vitamins, and consuming harmful micro-organisms.

They keep the ecosystem of the digestive tract healthy and prevent colon cancer.  Bacterial enzymes break down milk protein and convert it into yogurt, cheese or kefir, which is easier to digest for many lactose-intolerant people.

However, for probiotic food to benefit us we need a diet rich in soluble fibre from various sources including legumes, oats, barley, onions, sweet potatoes, broccoli and carrots. These foods provide an ideal environment for good bacteria to breed. Prune juice is also a great source of stimulants for friendly bacteria that live inside our bodies.

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