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Homemade soup, quick enough for a week night

A fragrant pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove is one of the most comforting foods I can think of. It seems custom made for a cold, snowy day when you have lots of time to enjoy the process BUT! while that is a lovely way to spend a lazy weekend day it's also something you can do on a weeknight with seriously minimal effort and you get leftovers to take for lunches or freeze for a day when you really have no time at all! Score!

The BASE recipe consists of an aromatic veggie to give your soup a solid flavor base; the main veggie provides the predominant flavor and texture; the liquid provides flavor and volume; and the add-ins provide texture and bulk.

All the components work together but are totally interchangeable, so sub in or out whatever ingredients you like best; make your soup super brothy with more liquid or super thick with less; add more of the main veggie if you happen to have a lot; skip the add-ins entirely for a nice simple soup. But most importantly, trust yourself, take some chances, and enjoy the process!

BASE© recipe for Soup

aromatic veggie (see below for variations)

• 1 Tbs olive or avocado oil

• 2 cups main veggie (see below for variations)

liquid (see below for variations)

add-ins (see below for variations)

• salt & pepper to taste

Heat pot large enough to hold everything over medium heat. Add oil and aromatic veggie, sauté until fragrant (about 5-10 mins for onion, celery, carrots or fennel; 30-60 seconds for garlic). Add main veggie, liquid and add-ins to pot and cook over med-low heat 15 mins. 

Serve Harvest and Mediterranean-inspired versions as is. 

For Indian-inspired, eat as is or purée until very smooth using an immersion or counter-top blender, then serve. 

Variation 1:   Harvest

aromatic veggie
• 1 large sweet or yellow onion, chopped
main veggie
• 2 cups of one or a combo: carrots, butternut squash, golden beets, washed and chopped
(a bag of frozen butternut squash or root veggies works great, too)
• 6 cups veggie or chicken stock
• 13 oz can kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
• 2 cups hearty greens like kale or chard, chopped fine
• 1 cup cooked short grain brown rice

Variation 2:   Mediterranean-inspired

aromatic veggie
• 1 bulb fennel, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (sauté fennel first, then add garlic 30-60 before everything else)
main veggie
• 28 oz can diced tomatoes
• 5 cups water
• 13 oz can garbanzo or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 3 cups baby spinach
• 1 bunch basil, roughly torn
• 1 cup cooked pastina, like orzo

Variation 3:   Indian-inspired

aromatic veggies
• 1 large sweet or yellow onion, chopped
• 4 ribs of celery, chopped
• 2 large carrots, chopped
main veggie
• 2 cups cauliflower, broken into small florets
(a bag of frozen cauliflower works great!)
• 13 oz can coconut milk
• 6 cups veggie stock
• 1 cup red lentils, uncooked
• 1 Tbs curry powder (add this during the last couple minutes of sautéing the aromatic veggies, before adding everything else)

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Cooking with a little more freedom

Happy New Year, FoodLovers!

I suspect many of you are embracing some healthier post-holiday habits, including new diets or meal plans. For that reason I will not include any recipes this week because I do not want to be the one who knocks you off whatever diet wagon you're on!

Instead I'd like to share a video I came across, of the renowned chef Jacques Pépin. He explains beautifully why recipes are not a set of strict guidelines from which you can never deviate. They are simply a record of exactly what worked at a single moment in time. They are no guarantee that those ingredients and techniques will always come together to produce the exact same result. And the best thing? That's totally OK!

Here's what he has to say.

Part of FoodLove's mission is to help people find their own food confidence, and a big part of that is cooking from a recipe that interests you but feeling comfortable adjusting ingredients according to what you have on hand or like the best. And you do not need to be a professional chef to do that!

If something looks drier than you expected add some water, more sauce, cover it or turn the heat down. If it doesn't taste as you expected think about what flavor it seems to be lacking and try to add something to provide a flavor balance you enjoy. If anything at all seems like it could be better with a tweak, tweak away!

The more often you trust yourself and deviate from a recipe the better you will become at cooking with a bit of freedom and creating dishes that really suit your own tastes. Of course, not every choice you make will lead you to a perfect outcome but I can swear to the fact that you will really learn something that you simply can not learn from blindly following a recipe.

Here's to you taking some chances in the kitchen!

Quick note: the Love Your Food newsletter and blog will undergo a few changes this year in the effort to serve our readers in the most useful way possible. If you have any requests or suggestions PLEASE post them here!



I want what you've got!

This week it's all about you and what you love, and I want to know all about it!

I would be so grateful if all of you could take a moment to share your wisdom to help me grow FoodLove.

Here's what I would love to know:

What are your go-to resources (websites, magazines, blogs) for finding great restaurants in your own area and when you travel?

Do you search for anything special like locally-owned, vegetarian, gluten-free?

Do you ever search for farmer's markets or farm stands? Which resource is most helpful?

Do you ever search for health food stores or co-ops? Which resource is most helpful?

Is there a food resource of any kind that you just absolutely love?

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your input is SO valuable to me!

QUICK NOTE: FoodLove! will be on the road next week eating our way through London. We'll be back April 6 to tell you all about our gastronomic adventures!




Sweet & sassy

So, what is a botanical syrup?
It’s a simple syrup (water and sugar) infused with any flavorful plant-based thing. You pretty much make an infusion or a tea with boiling water and your botanicals, let it steep to your desired strength (I did about two hours) then strain out the solids and mix the remaining solution with sugar to your desired sweetness.

A note about sweetness: simple syrup is often made in a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar. If you’re following any cocktail recipe calling for simple sugar that’s what you can assume they mean. I fully intended to follow that ratio but after adding just 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of the first solution I found that I much preferred that lower level of sweetness. It let me use the syrup more as a mixer in place of juice or soda so each cocktail had a much stronger flavor and I didn’t need any other liqueurs to round out each cocktail. It also lets you make cocktails or homemade sodas with a lot more flavor without being so sweet.

There are lots of specific recipes for the exact amount of each botanical to add but my approach to almost all things in the kitchen is: use what have and make it work. So, that not only means use which things you have but also work with whatever amounts you have on hand. It may come out a little stronger or weaker in one flavor or another but I learn so much more effectively from just jumping in than by following someone else’s guidelines.

Ready to give it a try? Great! First take stock of what you have on hand: fresh herbs, dried spices (whole works best, more on that later), and fresh, frozen or dried fruit. Notice if there are any combos you really enjoy in other foods or drinks. Try to make combinations of two flavors for each then go back and see if any might taste good with a third botanical. 

Here are the combos I used:

  • frozen cherries, cracked black pepper, vanilla beans
  • orange zest, cardamom, rooibos tea
    (I used ground cardamom which is hard to strain out, whole seeds would be easier)
  • fresh cranberries, green tea with dried citron in it
  • lemon zest, fresh basil, cinnamon sticks
  • fresh cilantro, lime zest, frozen ginger, fresh pineapple

I used 20 ounce canning jars, filled them loosely with the bulky botanicals like the herbs and cherries and added a tablespoon-ish of any of the dried spices like pepper or cardamom, filled them with boiling water and let them be for a couple hours. I really did all this on a whim and had no idea how delicious they’d be!

Then strain out the solids, combine the solution and sugar in a pan and stir over med heat until the sugar dissolves, let them cool, pop them in the fridge and they should keep for at least a couple weeks.



Food is love.

Homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, scooped into little balls and frozen, ready for smooshing into ice cream = me loving my Chief Taster.

A fresh salad and/or tater tots (we really like healthy AND junky!) waiting for us whenever we eat at my mom's = her loving her kids.

The invite to get lunch at our favorite vegan place in VT = the in-laws loving us.

No matter if it's a cherished family recipe prepared in just the right way or a friend who who has a favorite indulgence waiting for you upon arrival at their house, those foods represent love. They are concrete expressions of the feelings and thoughts people have about you, and in turn, those gifts of food are imbued with loving energy. 

Gifts of food are my favorite gift to give: I not only get to show the recipient that I've cared enough about them to pay attention to what they most enjoy but I get to think about them and our connection as I'm preparing their gift, filling it with good vibes.

That's why this week I'd like to share a sweet story that struck a chord with me, The Healing Hoagie. I can't attest to healing a serious disease with a sandwich but sometimes the power of love is best conveyed through something tasty!



Happy Ground Hog Day and almost-Super-Bowl-Sunday!


Hey, Valley residents, don’t miss out! 

FoodLove! will be at the last of four
Winter Fares this year, all sponsored by CISA.

Join us this Saturday from 10am to 1pm for the Greenfield Winter Farmer’s Market
 at Four Corners Elementary School. I’ll be there sharing free samples and winter veggie recipes but there’s a whole bunch of fun stuff going on so be sure to swing by!

OK, time for a fabulous Super Bowl snack!

I’ll admit, I have almost no interest in football except that I always hope the Pats win because it keeps everyone I love happy. I do, however, love cooking up fun and healthy snacks for the big game. Why go healthy and not just make something from a brightly colored package that only requires heating? The junky-junk is just too easy, too available, and too horrible for you!

I do love a challenge and finding something crave-worthy for folks who don’t usually make healthy food a priority is my kind of challenge. I also happen to really believe in the importance of flooding your diet with as much real, whole food as possible because it makes you feel like a rock star (instead of flabby and crabby…you know who you are!).

Last week I introduced the concept of functional medicine, which relies in large part on eating excellent quality, whole foods. That topic is a big one that I’m sure to explore here more in the coming months, but right here, right now all you need to do is start replacing some of your processed convenience food with some real food. And what better way to begin than with something fun!

These two recipes are So. Darn. Good. Really, what’s better than spicy morsels and cheesy, gooey goodness, especially if they’re *almost* as good for you as a green smoothie? There is so much good stuff in both of these that you may start making them for every meal!

The first is an amazing nacho dip that has no dairy in it at all, so it’s great for anyone with an allergy. Even if you’re a cheese lover this is leaps and bounds more delicious than that nasty shelf-stable stuff in a jar, yuck. The very lovely and genius Angela Liddon is the creator and the recipe can be found in her cookbook Oh She Glows. I could not find a copy of this recipe on her website so the link will take you to another great blog, The Whole Table.

Life Affirming Nacho Dip

The second recipe is from the Thug Kitchencookbook Eat Like You Give a F*ck. The Thug Kitchen kicks ass at delicious heathy food that seems more like it’s something you’d grab from a taco stand. And all the recipes come with a big dose of sassy attitude and salty language! So, if you’re a delicate flower, put your big girl panties on and venture in because these recipes are worth it.
Roasted Sriracha Cauliflower Bites with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Here’s hoping you head off to your Super Bowl party with these yummy snacks in tow and may the Pats win!



Good food and good health go hand in hand!

Quick note to Valley residents: 
FoodLove! will be at the third of four Winter Fares this year, all sponsored by CISA. Join us this Saturday from 10am to 12pm at the old monkey house at Forest Park in Springfield. Free samples and recipes to help you enjoy cooking and eating all the amazing veggies you'll be able to buy!

On to all that good food! This week's post will be a quick one in large part because this topic – functional medicine – is new-ish to me but I'm thoroughly enjoying learning about it and I'm too excited not to share it with all of you.

So, what's medicine have to do with food? Well, going back thousands of years and also making a resurgence today, food is considered by many to be our primary medicine. What we put in our mouths at every meal affects our health more than almost anything else.

Hippocrates said it first: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

You'll find lots of different people talking about this idea but the person who has been popping up on my radar is Dr. Mark Hyman. I'm just getting to know what he's all about but so far I think he's great and I wanted to share his ideas with you. 

His website has tons of info but I also saw him in this interview with the wonderful Marie Forleo and in it he talks about what brought him to studying and practicing functional medicine.

I hope you find all this as interesting as I do. As promised, this week is a short one, enjoy!



It's the season for baking!

I have some serious bread on the brain this week and I will jump right into a terrific, easy recipe in just a sec...

Quick note to Valley residents: 
FoodLove! was asked to do our veggie deliciousness demo at the Amherst Winter Farmer’s Market 
this Saturday from 11:45 am to 2:00 pm. This date was just added to our schedule of Winter Fare participation and we’re thrilled to join CISA yet again!

Allright, bread time! I have a super-simple, works like a charm bread recipe BUT I have no photos of these gorgeous loaves so that recipe will have to wait for another week. Take heart! I have a second-easiest (maybe easier, really) bread recipe but all credit for this guy goes to King Arthur Flour
which by the way, if you like to bake should be one of your go-to resources. These people know baked goods and they offer tons of friendly support via their blog or by phone where you can contact them with simple to complex questions and get spot-on answers.

So, what are we baking? Just about the easiest focaccia I’ve ever made! Here’s a link to their site where the recipe for Blitz Bread lives 
but I’ll include it here, as well.


Blitz Bread: no fuss focacciaOPTIONAL FLAVOR ADD-INS
(K.A.F.’s suggestions)
(my suggestions)
  • either leave it plain, it really is delicious as is
  • sprinkle on any fresh or dried herbs you happen to have on hand
  • sprinkle on some grated cheese like Parmesan, Romano, asiago or mozzarella
  • add a minced clove of garlic into the dough before mixing
  • a handful of halved cherry tomatoes or some caramelized onions on top before baking
  1. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom. (I find that it doesn't always release from the pan so I will line it with parchment paper to make sure theres no extra fussing getting in the way of eating it hot form the oven!)
  2. Combine all of the ingredients, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.
  3. Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it's become puffy.
  4. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.
  6. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with pizza seasoning, and/or the dried herbs of your choice, if desired.
  7. Bake the bread until it's golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.



'Tis the season for sweets!

Happy first day of December, FoodLover!

It's the time of year for fun indulgences and how better to start off a few weeks of sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes than with cake!

This recipe was a surprise hit at our Friendsgiving gathering last month. In fact, one FoodLover said she will always choose chocolate over anything else. ALWAYS. But! She'd choose this cake over chocolate. Sounds like one heck of an endorsement to me!

Two of my favorite holiday flavors, orange and cranberry, which may be unexpected in a cake, come together in this beautiful dessert. And although it's easy to assemble the result is striking with the gorgeous rich color of the cranberries so it's a perfect end to a festive meal. Spiced Cranberry-Orange Cake with Marscarpone Frosting

FILLING * 1 pound fresh cranberries * Juice of one orange (zest before juicing!) * 1.5 cups sugar

Bring all ingriendts to a boil in a small sauce pan, reduce heat and simmer 20 mins. Allow to cool in refrigerator over night.

CAKES In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure water does not touch bottom of bowl), melt: * 2 sticks butter

Add: * 1 cup orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau * Juice from 2 oranges (zest these before juicing!) * 12 oz white chocolate chips

Stir gently until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients: * 2 cups flour * 1/2 tsp salt * Zest from two oranges (from oranges you juiced, above) * 1 tsp each: powdered ginger, cardomom and clove * 2 Tbs finely chopped candied ginger

In a mixing bowl, beat on medium speed until pale yellow and fluffy: * 8 eggs * 2 cup sugar * 1/4 tsp orange oil or Fiore di Sicilia http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=8146eb5ba3&e=0ab9ec18fb

On low speed, add cooled chocolate mixture to mixing bowl. Then add dry ingredients. Stir until just combined making sure to scrape the bowl. Divide into three greased and floured 8" round cakes pans. Bake 25 mins at 350º. Toothpick inserted in center should come out clean. Cool 5 mins in pans, turn out onto cooling racks until completely cooled. (These cakes are unusually sturdy and dense so you should have no trouble handling them.)

FROSTING * 3- 8oz containers marscarpone * 1.5 cups confectioners sugar * Zest of one orange (from orange you juiced for the filling) * 1 cup heavy cream

Add all ingredients to mixing bowl and whip until fluffy and thick.

ASSEMBLY Note: this is a naked cake, meaning you do not frost the sides, only between each layer and on top, so be a little sloppy and spread frosting and filling right to the edges so they'll show between the layers.

Place a scoop of frosting on cake plate, center first cake layer on plate and gently press down to spread frosting and secure cake to plate. Spread one-third of the frosting to the edge of the cake. Spoon one-third of the filling to the edge of the cake. Place next cake layer on top pressing gently so some frosting and filling will be visible along the edges. Spread one-third of the frosting to the edge of the cake. Spoon one-third of the filling to the edge of the cake. Place next cake layer on top pressing gently. Spread remaining frosting on top of cake. Mound remaining filling in center of cake and top with a satsuma or slices of orange. Store somewhere cool or in refrigerator. Allow to come to cool room temp before eating (just don’t keep it in a super hot kitchen or it may melt!).



No lumps, please!

FoodLove's newsletter for 11/17/16 View this email in your browser (http://us13.campaign-archive1.com/?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=544709067f&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=c929e3dab4&e=0ab9ec18fb Share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=c9ef367cd7&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=31e5e0c88f&e=0ab9ec18fb http%3A%2F%2Feepurl.com%2FcpaQsT Tweet (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=57e5b76c48&e=0ab9ec18fb http%3A%2F%2Feepurl.com%2FcpaQsT) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=ea694a253e&e=0ab9ec18fb Pin (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=bc7a08f528&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://us13.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=544709067f&e=0ab9ec18fb Forward (http://us13.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=544709067f&e=0ab9ec18fb) Only 15 minutes, FoodLover, and you'll have perfect gravy! Please note: This week is the last installment of the Thanksgiving prep series and we're taking next week off because I'll be knee deep in holiday preparations at the FoodLove house!

You now know how to choose a turkey and how to brine it but what about the gravy??? There are TONS of recipes and methods for making gravy and many of them will yield a delicious result. But, not many of them are as easy as this one, and the credit goes entirely to my mother because this is the method she always used.

So, what's our secret? Browned flour. Yup, that's it, you dump some plain old flour in a skillet over medium heat and stir it until it's a deep golden brown. This step brings a tremendous amount of flavor and richness to the gravy with no extra fat or other ingredients.

You can brown the flour several days or even weeks before you need it (in fact the batch pictured here is what I'll be using for my own Thanksgiving next week) just store it in a glass or metal container as plastic may affect the flavor.

What next? Choose your liquid. You can get all kinds of complicated by using pan drippings, making your own stock separately from the turkey, adding white wine, odd-ball ingredients, you name it! But the easiest choices are these: for maximum flavor use the pan juices simply poured from the roasting pan into a fat separater; for less intense flavor but the option to make ahead, use a store bought stock that you like the taste of.

Pour the pan drippings or stock into a large skillet or sauté pan, bring to a boil, turn to medium, then sift and whisk until your reach your preferred thickness. You can season with salt, pepper, fresh or dried sage, thyme or rosemary, onion powder or whatever else your heart desires but that's it! Make it days in advance, refrigerate it, then reheat and whisk until smooth. You can even freeze it, allow to defrost in the fridge then reheat.

Here's the recipe and some photos to walk you step by step through the process.:

Basic gravy, yields about 3 cups

1/4-1/2 cup browned flour 4 cups stock, from turkey pan with fat removed or store-bought

OPTIONAL ADDITIONS any combination of the following: salt & pepper to taste 1/2-1 tsp dried sage, thyme or rosemary 1 tsp onion powder 1/2 tsp maple syrup and/or cider vinegar 1-2 Tbs white wine, apple cider or a dark beer 1-2 Tbs butter Begin with plain white flour in a large skillet. I browned 2 cups so that I'll have plenty on hand for several meals' worth of gravy. This is perfectly browned. It took about 6 mins over medium heat in a heavy bottom stainless steel pan. Keep in mind every stove and pan will heat differently so you'll want to keep a close eye on it after the first two minutes and then stir every 30 seconds or so. It may smoke a little, that's fine, as long as it's not burning. You can turn it down a little if you need to. Then remove the flour from the pan, add a half cup to a sifter, and pour your stock into the pan. Use a baking sifter or a fine mesh sieve and sprinkle the flour in slowly while whisking the entire time. (You don't see my whisk because I needed my hand to photograph!) Do this slowly and you won't get lumps but if you like lumps add the flour more quickly. Choose the thickness you prefer. This is with only 1/4 cup of flour added. This is with 1/2 cup of flour added. Time to taste your gravy! If you use pan drippings it may have plenty of flavor but a store-bought stock will almost definitely benefit from some added flavor. Choose something from the list above, add a little at a time, and keep tasting until you get a flavor you like. Here'e the finished product! I have a jar of browned flour, which I'll just store in the pantry until I need it, and I ended up with 3 cups of gravy. This, I will admit was a bit of a surprise. Because I used a full quart of stock (4 cups) I expected to have closer to 4 cups of gravy but I'm guessing that I lost a cup of liquid through evaporation while it was boiling. So, decide how much gravy you want to end up with and plan accordingly! Thanks, friend, for reading. Head on over to our blog (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=61c2ba31ad&e=0ab9ec18fb) to join the conversation and please share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=8ec7768066&e=0ab9ec18fb) with all the FoodLovers you know! Hi! I'm Tonianne, food evangelist and creator of FoodLove. That's me happy as can be, cooking for friends on a camping trip, and sharing wonderful conversation about – yup, you guessed it! – food. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the conversation, too. PHOTO CREDIT: D. SHEA

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Salt + water = best turkey ever!

FoodLove's newsletter for 11/11/16 View this email in your browser (http://us13.campaign-archive1.com/?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=07da6fd528&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=4456c86fce&e=0ab9ec18fb Share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=cd34d866c5&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=89ad183648&e=0ab9ec18fb http%3A%2F%2Feepurl.com%2FcoksQf Tweet (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=9ad9958e37&e=0ab9ec18fb http%3A%2F%2Feepurl.com%2FcoksQf) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=d55599f1e2&e=0ab9ec18fb Pin (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=fd6855a0cb&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://us13.forward-to-friend1.com/forward?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=07da6fd528&e=0ab9ec18fb Forward (http://us13.forward-to-friend1.com/forward?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=07da6fd528&e=0ab9ec18fb) It's time for your juiciest turkey ever, FoodLover! PHOTO CREDIT: VIRTUALWEBERBULLET.COM I've always been an experimenter with food and I'll give anything that sounds interesting a try. Well, at least 20 years ago I first heard of brining a turkey and it may have been one of the best experiments I've ever done!

Brining at its most simple means soaking a piece of meat, most often poultry, in salted water. This serves to pull the blood out of the flesh and replace it with the salted water (remember osmosis from 5th grade science class? Yup, that's this!) resulting in a turkey where every single bite is juicy and flavorful.

In addition to salt, a myriad of flavors can be added making your bird totally custom to your preferences. I favor the addition of apple cider, juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves and onion. In addition to flavor and moistness (two things seriously lacking in almost every bird I've ever eaten that goes unbrined, yuck) a brined turkey tends to cook faster, like a solid 30% faster, and remain moist even as leftovers.

I really can't say enough about brining! A professed poultry hater has told me over and over how he can't believe a turkey can be so delicious and a lovely lady well into her 80s told me it was the best, juiciest and tastiest turkey she'd ever had. When someone who's eaten at least 80 turkeys tells you that, you know you're on to something!

So, think you want to give it a try? Great! Follow these steps and you’ll be eating the best bird you’ve ever had!

Choose an untreated turkey. That means a turkey that is not koshered or injected with any flavor solution. Many grocery store turkeys are treated for flavor with a salt and sometimes chemical solution and if you brine them they’ll be too salty to eat. Koshered birds are also treated with salt to remove the blood from the flesh, which is exactly what brining does. So, why not just buy a treated turkey and skip the brining effort? Not one of these treatments even comes close to the juiciness and flavor a home-brined bird.

Choose your brining container and location. A large soup or lobster pot is a good choice if you can make space in your fridge. I prefer using my cooler (make sure it’s CLEAN!) and keeping it in the garage so my fridge is free for everything else! You can line your cooler with a clean garbage bag because that will allow you to pull the bag close around the turkey ensuring the brine surrounds it. I also like using these (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=2e6ea43b91&e=0ab9ec18fb) because they're made from a nice heavy plastic and they tend not to leak.

Choose your brine flavor. The simplest brine is just salt and water. These alone will dramatically change the quality of your meal. Kosher salt is the salt of choice as it has a clean flavor and most brine recipes are created to accommodate it's particular grind. A medium grind sea salt is a fine alternative but do not substitute table salt; it'll be too salty and have a slight chemical flavor.

Brining is so effective as a way to flavor meat (like a marinade on steroids!) that it’s the perfect vehicle for other flavors. Here are some options:

Sugar, or honey/maple syrup/molasses: Any sugar substance will aid in the gorgeous browning of the skin and provide a balance to the flavor so go cheap and easy with plain white sugar or add more flavor with one of the other options.

Cider, beer, wine or whiskey: I’m a HUGE fan of cider in the brine because the flavor of apples is so complimentary to a turkey. Adding some beer, wine or whiskey will also up the flavor and if you have an affinity for any of those beverages then go for it, you’re unlikely to be disappointed!

Herbs and spices: This is entirely up to your personal preferences. For most people, sage is the quintessential Thanksgiving herb. Just the scent of it evokes the holiday so that’s a totally safe bet. Thyme, bay or rosemary are terrific and peppercorns, allspice berries, juniper berries or ginger are terrific as well.

Aromatic veggies: I like to stuff the turkey with the classic French mirepoix combo of onion, celery and carrots so the flavor can permeate the flesh as it cooks but you could also add any or all of these to your brine.

Give your turkey a bath! Unwrap the turkey, remove the giblets and neck from the cavity, submerge your bird in the brine and set aside for at least 12-24 hours, or more. I leave mine in for close to 72 hours because during the very busy Thanksgiving week picking up the turkey and making the brine on Monday leaves me free for all other tasks the rest of the week.

The important thing is that your turkey should remain at about 40º to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Thats the temp of a home refrigerator so no worries if you’re brining in the fridge. If you’re using a cooler, make sure to refresh the ice every 24 hours (if you choose to do a long brine). If you’re just doing a 12-14 hour brine one batch of ice will suffice. If it’s your first time brining, a 12-24 hour brine is probably the easiest and safest way to explore brining.

Note: Keeping the turkey at 40º is widely accepted as the only way to insure food safety. However, salt has been used for centuries as a way to preserve meat and allow it to be stored at room temperature (that’s how we got ham!) so all that salt in your brine is also working to inhibit bacterial growth. I’m sharing this with you for the sake of easing your mind should the temp in your cooler rise somewhat above 40º. No need to freak out!

Here’s the brine I’ve been using for years. Make the flavored version or the basic, your choice!

This is enough for a 12-16 pound bird. Double it if your bird is 20-28 pounds. Depending on the shape and size of your container you may need just a little more brine to cover. In that case, just mix 1/4 cup salt with 1 quart of water. You can add as many additional quarts of salted water as needed. If you’re using the full flavored recipe don’t worry about diluting the flavor, it’ll be great no matter what!

In a med/large pot, bring to a boil: * 2 quarts water

For basic brine, skip these additions. For flavored brine, add: * 10 bay leaves * 1 Tbs each: dried sage, dried thyme * 1/4 cup each: peppercorns, juniper berries, whole allspice * 1 med yellow or sweet onion, quartered

Simmer over low heat for 20 mins.

Remove from heat, add: * 2 cups kosher salt * 1 cup sugar or dark maple syrup

Stir until salt and sugar/syrup are completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into brining container.

Add: * 2 quarts cold apple cider * 4 quarts ice water

Stir to combine.

Submerge turkey and allow to soak for at least 12 hours and up to 72. Remove from brine, rinse in cold water, pat dry. Place on rack in roasting pan and loosely stuff with aromatic veggies (see above) and fresh herbs. (I do not recommend stuffing with bread stuffing. It affects how evenly the bird cooks and it creates several extra messy steps with no real pay off!) Coat skin with oil or butter and pepper, if desired. Do not salt the skin or the cavity, the brine did all the salting for you!

Roast at 325º until an instant read or meat thermometer reads 165º in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. The pop up timer that comes in most birds is an ok indicator but isn’t as accurate as a quality thermometer.

Estimate how long you should cook your bird according to this chart (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=d8acca9ec9&e=0ab9ec18fb) but start checking for doneness about two-thirds through the cooking time because brined birds often cook faster. Also, there’s no need for basting; it really just cools the oven down every time you open it. If the skin is perfectly browned before the meat is cooked just tent a piece of foil over the bird to prevent excessive browning.

When the turkey reaches 165º, remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest 10-15 mins before carving to insure maximum juiciness. Carve and enjoy!

Next week, delicious, easy, lump-free gravy!

Thanks, FoodLover, for reading. Head on over to our blog (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=d73d54aeef&e=0ab9ec18fb) to join the conversation and please share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=ea2f7b82b2&e=0ab9ec18fb) with all the FoodLovers you know! Hi! I'm Tonianne, food evangelist and creator of FoodLove. That's me happy as can be, cooking for friends on a camping trip, and sharing wonderful conversation about – yup, you guessed it! – food. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the conversation, too. PHOTO CREDIT: D. SHEA

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Choose the perfect turkey without feeling like one!

FoodLove's newsletter for 11/3/16 View this email in your browser (http://us13.campaign-archive2.com/?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=7d0bc01c05&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=f58648c436&e=0ab9ec18fb Share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=763a38a906&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=9e5ffb0de4&e=0ab9ec18fb http%3A%2F%2Feepurl.com%2Fcm659D Tweet (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=b6a7776b97&e=0ab9ec18fb http%3A%2F%2Feepurl.com%2Fcm659D) http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=f9c01005d2&e=0ab9ec18fb Pin (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=9b7c2cb9b2&e=0ab9ec18fb) http://us13.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=7d0bc01c05&e=0ab9ec18fb Forward (http://us13.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=7d0bc01c05&e=0ab9ec18fb) Let's talk turkey, FoodLover! You may have noticed that this blog is not very meat-centric. It's true, my first love is veggies but the Chief Taster and I do occasionally eat meat and one of our favorites is a gorgeous Thanksgiving turkey so I will be doing the next few posts about how to choose a turkey, how to brine, and how to make foolproof gravy.

Today's post is about choosing the right turkey, which includes a lot more than just figuring out what size to get!

The Chief Taster no I are not vegetarians but we do enjoy a mostly plant-based diet for the sake of our own health and for the benefit of the environment and the welfare of animals.

Over the years we've attempted to educate ourselves on how animals are raised and slaughtered and we decided that for the reasons mentioned above the animals we eat should be raised humanely in a way that is symbiotic with other animals and plant life. That means you need to buy your meat from a reputable store or from a farmer you trust.

Luckily, we have access to many local farms so I started calling around to find out what prices and quantities meat was available in. The least expensive options meant buying in the largest quantities and we didn't want to eat THAT much meat (even at our most carnivorous we still loved our veggies!).

That left the option of purchasing from a butcher or a natural foods store where I could speak to the in-house butchers and learn some things about what they sell. I found that locally Sutter Meats, River Valley Co-op and Whole Foods all have great options but I won't lie; they all gave me sticker shock!

We instantly went from $1.49 per pound chicken breast from the local discount meat market to $6.99 per pound humane and organic chicken. That's a big difference! But we gave it some consideration, decided our health and the lives of the animals mattered so we allotted a little more of our budget to food purchases and decided to eat less meat.

You know what? It was an easy change. And we felt so good doing it. Then came Thanksgiving and a new challenge: how to choose a bird we could feel good about? Again, that first year was a little surprising in the price department (Note: a turkey raised humanely by local farmers does not sell for the same price as that frozen-supermarket-Thanksgiving-sale turkey!) but absolutely worth it!

At a holiday feast focused on giving thanks for life, love, family and friends I could feel 100% good about what I was serving. And now we eat that one turkey a year and we look forward to it as the special meal it really is!

So, what's the right choice for your family? Here's some guidance (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=5d8115bb6a&e=0ab9ec18fb) to help you find the best bird for your special meal!

Next week, brining!

Thanks, friend, for reading. Head on over to our blog (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=cd53be6803&e=0ab9ec18fb) to join the conversation and please share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=1ac6863389&e=0ab9ec18fb) with all the FoodLovers you know! Hi! I'm Tonianne, food evangelist and creator of FoodLove. That's me happy as can be, cooking for friends on a camping trip, and sharing wonderful conversation about – yup, you guessed it! – food. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the conversation, too. PHOTO CREDIT: D. SHEA

** (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=93a99be793&e=0ab9ec18fb) ** Like us (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=0099fa6585&e=0ab9ec18fb) ** (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=3998747e1a&e=0ab9ec18fb) ** Visit our site (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=e1d16a9bac&e=0ab9ec18fb) ** (mailto:info@foodloveinc.com) ** Connect with us (mailto:info@foodloveinc.com) ** (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=b29fcea3da&e=0ab9ec18fb) ** Comment on our blog (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=1176ea1502&e=0ab9ec18fb) Copyright © 2016 FoodLove, Inc., All rights reserved. You're feeling the Love! because you shared your email address with us at an event here in the Valley or you opted in at our website.

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