[rede]Sign of the Times

February 27, 2014

Accessing nutrition information has always been a bit of a challenge. Even Burkey Belser who designed the original nutrition label has spoken about the complexity of presenting data which is part scientific and part public policy: “As soon as you make an item on the nutrition label bold, you are venturing into public policy, which was the challenge of the design initially.” (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/Nutrition-label-update-A-tweak-or-an-overhaul?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright)

Today’s New York Times reports that the time is right for re-design and the public will certainly take notice. With daily media reports on how fat we are as a nation, the use of graphic design to change our behaviors sounds downright propaganda-like. The content of the nutrition label will remain the same, part science and part public policy. But through the magic of typography, the communication about a food’s “value” to the body (consuming the food) will change in very noticeable ways.

Cheers!

Nutrition-Label-RedesignNew F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings

By SABRINA TAVERNISE FEB. 27, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration for the first time in two decades will propose major changes to nutrition labels on food packages, putting calorie counts in large type and adjusting portion sizes to reflect how much Americans actually eat.

It would be the first significant redrawing of the nutrition information on food labels since the federal government started requiring them in the early 1990s. Those labels were based on eating habits and nutrition data from the 1970s and ’80s, before portion sizes expanded significantly, and federal health officials argued that the changes were needed to bring labels into step with the reality of the modern American diet.

“It’s an amazing transformation,” said Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the F.D.A. “Things like the size of a muffin have changed so dramatically. It is important that the information on the nutrition fact labels reflect the realities in the world today.”

The proposed changes include what experts say will be a particularly controversial item: a separate line for sugars that are manufactured and added to food, substances that many public health experts say have contributed substantially to the obesity problem in this country. The food industry has argued against similar suggestions in the past.

“The changes put added sugars clearly in the cross hairs,” said Dr. David A. Kessler, who was commissioner during the original push for labels in the 1990s. “America has the sweetest diet in the world. You can’t get to be as big as we’ve gotten without added sweeteners.” Millions of Americans pay attention to food labels, and the changes are meant to make them easier to understand — a critical step in an era when more than one-third of adults are obese, public health experts say. The epidemic has caused rates of diabetes to soar, and has increased risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The proposal will be open to public comment for 90 days, and it will take months before any change is made final. In a special concession to industry, the agency is allowing companies two years to put the changes into effect.

The Obama administration will promote the measure in an anniversary event at the White House on Thursday for Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which aims to reduce obesity in the United States. Dr. Hamburg and Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, are expected to be among the participants.

It was not clear how the food industry would react to the proposed changes, which Michael R. Taylor, the agency’s deputy commissioner for foods, estimated would cost about $2 billion to carry out. (He also said the health benefits could eventually be as much as $30 billion.) The Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, an industry group, said, “We look forward to working with the F.D.A. and other stakeholders.” It added, “It is critical that any changes are based on the most current and reliable science.”

Public health experts applauded the proposed changes, which they said were long overdue.

“I really like them. I’m kind of stunned actually,” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. The proposal “emphasizes calories; it’s got added sugars; it fixed the portion-size problem.”

She added, “My prediction is that this will be wildly controversial.”

In all, the agency has proposed changing the serving size in about 17 percent of the approximately 150 categories of packaged food, Dr. Hamburg said. It would also add labels to some foods that were not mainstream in the early 1990s, such as pot stickers, won ton wrappers and sun-dried tomatoes.

Twenty-ounce bottles of soda would be counted as one serving, rather than the 2.5 servings often listed now. And the serving size listed on cartons of ice cream, currently a half-cup, would be increased to one cup.

Continue reading the main story

“Half a cup of ice cream is absurd,” Professor Nestle said. “Unless you go to a really fancy restaurant, you’re lucky to come out under two cups.”

The American Beverage Association said that its members already counted 20-ounce bottles of soda as one serving on the label, a commitment they made several years ago as part of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Tracey A. Halliday, a spokeswoman, said that members also show calorie counts on the front of bottles. An F.D.A. spokeswoman said that the one serving count was not a federal requirement and was practiced by some producers, but not all.

Getting nutrition labels on food packages was a major battle. Dr. Kessler, the F.D.A. commissioner at the time, said the fight went all the way to the Oval Office, where President George Bush sided with the agency in what was considered a major victory for public health. More recent efforts have stalled, he said, including a push to get restaurants and movie theaters to put calorie counts on menus and efforts to put codes on the front of food packages to signal how healthy or harmful a food is.

He called the proposed changes “one of the most important public health upgrades in this decade.”

Other public health officials were skeptical, arguing that too few Americans use nutrition labels for the changes to make much of a difference. Others argued that restaurants, which are a major source of calories for Americans and have increased portion sizes substantially, are the biggest offenders.

“This is a false victory,” said Barry M. Popkin, a health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose project to map what Americans eat has found that the average American consumes 300 calories of added sugars per day. “It will affect just a small segment of consumers who carefully study nutrition fact panels.”

Dr. Hamburg said that the changes were meant to improve “people’s awareness of how much and what they are eating” but could also have a helpful side effect. Detailing calories and portion sizes can be a strong market incentive for food companies to adjust what they put in food, she said. For example, when the agency last tinkered with labels, adding a category for trans fats in 2006, companies soon reduced the amount they added to food.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/health/new-fda-nutrition-labels-would-make-serving-sizes-reflect-actual-servings.html?hp&_r=0


Real Food Through Raw Nutrition Data

November 17, 2013

Food: health, obesity, diet, choices, calories, sugar-free, fat-free, low-sodium, plant-based, high-fiber, mineral-enriched, organic, all natural, whole grain. There! – now with all these terms you should feel motivated and more informed to eat right and live healthy. No? Really? We are subjected to these words over and over and over, each and every single day from the messages we receive, all trying to influence our food choices and sway our food dollars. What kind of real information are these messages communicating? Look at the sources.

The tv celebrity or talented performer who smiles sincerely and places her hand on her newly-slimmed waist – see – she did it, you can do it! “Thank you <insert company here> for making it so easy.” Count your food points, buy the endorsed shakes-meals-supplements, and watch the pounds drop. No? Perhaps all you need is a little governance by an ultra-wealthy civic-minded decision maker who merely tries to guide by vilifying soft drinks and restricting the size of a beverage a city can buy. This will help you be healthy! No? Even in rethinking the design of the nutrition food label (2011), Michael Pollan, food writer, admits, “The focus on nutrients is probably inevitable but it distracts from the issue of whether you’re getting real food or not.”

Real food. What is real food? Where can I learn about real food?

I have tried being shamed into eating well by following diets – South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers Diet, Overeaters Anonymous Diet and I failed. I was learning portion control and what foods to restrict – not what food to eat. I have tried being gluten-free, casin-free, meat-free, animal-free, and the Paleo Diet and I failed because I get too hungry living off what is left when you take out foods I just don’t like. And the herbs, vitamins, pills, supplements – forget it. I’ve tried and the whole approach is highly unsatisfying for a person who loves the taste, the texture, the presentation of food.

Mozzarella Cheese Stick labelThe messages about nutrition are really codified. Real food doesn’t exist on the nutrition label as it is designed or in the ways we measure vitamins. Look at the nutrition label – the font choices in bold are decoys. Those calories, carbohydrates, and fat ratios will not answer my doctor who always tells me to get more Vitamin D. Where do you get Vitamin D except from gooey-looking pills which are measured in UI or international units. Why are international units not yet a part of any international systems of measurement and why do they measure potency so there can never be a standardized conversion ratio? Can’t trust the label and can’t trust the measurement so I was determined to get behind the messaging with some real knowledge. I know enough about what I shouldn’t eat but not enough about what I should. The time had come to stop self-medicating with chocolate or convenience foods when I was stressed because I didn’t know enough.

I asked my doctor for some help. My health insurance plan offers two options. For learning about nutrition, the referral nurse looked up weight-management options: “There’s two,” she explained. Between the one that had to do with buying some kind of shake and one that offered 8 weeks of lectures, I jumped on the latter. Looking a bit startled at my quick and loud “no shakes” response, she referred me to a local program with a “nutritionist.” The patience and willingness of my doctor and her staff to help me with any health concerns are very significant reasons why I trust her and have seen her for so many years. My questions are heard.

When the nutritionist at the program called me, she had a clear understanding of what she needed to tell me. My question about wanting to learn more about nutrition was absorbed and subdued into a half-an-hour response which covered where the building was, how to get to the building, where to park, and clear instructions that under no circumstances should I knock on the door because on the weekend there were nurses inside working and the nutritionist did not want them disturbed. I should bring my co-payment in a check, please. There will be about 15 others in the class and although I’ve missed week one, I should be able to catch up. Each week has a weigh-in and a lecture. We skip Thanksgiving weekend. After each week’s lecture there will be time for 1-on-1 sessions with her for questions. Did I have any questions?

Would this class help me? Who knows? I took this example of a “Certified Nutrition Specialist” or Consultant as my inspiration. Although professionals, they were just professionals because of knowing where to look for objective information as issued by USDA standards. They weren’t experts deciphering holy texts from ancient languages and they weren’t artists creating great, unique solutions to my problems. Enough! Let’s get beyond the self-promoting presentation of healthy food talk we have all been subjected to for so long and get to the underlying nutritional information and learn. No more pre-digested bits of information about food, thank you!

Real food and raw nutrition data can be found:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/vitamins-and-minerals-good-food-sources

www.healthaliciousness.com (Top 10 lists for foods offering essential nutrients and vitamins)

http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/whats-your-plate

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/

www.chpp.usda.gov

Online, the choices that frequently come up in searches seem to be designed predominantly on intake measured in calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium and fiber.  These include apps and online programs. Know before you sign-up. Eating sugar-free, fat-free packaged food isn’t going to help the way that vitamin-loaded foods will! Look at that government regulated food label again. The more significant information about vitamin and mineral values is at the bottom. Inform yourself about how much you need of essential vitamins and nutrients for your gender and age. As we get older, the need for nutrients and vitamins changes in amounts. Remember your essential vitamins and look at the top 10 lists. And thank your doctor for listening. It is a rare qualification in a professional. Real health comes from knowledge, not mass-marketed programs.

I’m feeling much better and eating much better.


Smile! Cupcake Photo-Op on Friday August 1 at The Grove

July 26, 2013

Meet me at 3rd and Fairfax! The Grove (in the shadow of the Original Farmer’s Market) is introducing the world’s first cupcake photo booth at The Park on Friday, August 2 from 12 – 2pm. “Moments later, you will walk away with a cupcake adorned with your face on it!”
A word about parking: Grove parking IS NOT Farmer’s Market parking. Be sure you know which you need to be validated for. After my cupcake paparazzi moment, I’m looking forward to spending a moment reconnecting with all the great stalls/shops in the Farmer’s Market. Lunch might be waiting for me there!

http://www.thegrovela.com/event_promo.php?id_promo=1046


LA Weekly Picks at its Indian food in W. SFV @tasteofindiala @Anarbagh1

July 22, 2013

ImageOnline this week, the L.A. Weekly blog, Squid Ink, included a suggestion of Indian restaurants in Los Angeles,  “where there are dozens of wonderful and popular Indian restaurants.” Sadly they gave up the role of culinary sleuth only to pander exclusively to one region, West San Fernando Valley. Investigating and posting about Indian restaurants throughout Los Angeles would have been more worthy of the truly great hidden gems that deserve attention. Journalist, Emily Dwass, has no voice in the online quirkiness that online editors have chosen to post her article. For those trying to read or navigate this list online, be prepared for an excess of visual noise pollution – ads, photos, bad programing.  http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2013/07/10_best_indian_restaurants_in.php

For those with a taste for Indian and can afford the gas tank to head for West SFV, please enjoy!

Dilli Express:
When we wandered into Dilli Express, we actually were looking for another restaurant. It turned out that the prior place had closed, and there’s now a new name, owners and menu, described as fusion and Indian. While the décor is a work-in-progress, the food is ready for its close-up. You order at the counter, either from a large list on the wall (including unexpected dishes like chicken curry taco and spinach chole burrito) or from that day’s buffet, which is the best bargain. For $8 you get an all-you-can eat combo of mostly North Indian specialties. There are even cheaper vegetarian combos, as well. We’re not always fans of self-service buffets, but props to this buffet, where there’s a shield of glass separating hungry folks from the food. The wait staff fills your plate, but don’t let that discourage you from going back as many times as you want. 8406 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park; (818)347-6900.

Taste of India:
The first thing you’ll notice upon entering this cozy restaurant located between Ralphs and Sprouts, is how dark the interior is, with such low lighting that at some tables it’s hard to read the menu. Never mind. You can close your eyes and point to any page and find something to enjoy, especially if you’re an adventurous eater who is not intimidated by dishes like pudhina mutton (goat meat cooked on a slow fire, with a ginger, garlic and mint gravy) or nargisi kofta (lamb meatballs.) There are many signature North Indian specialties, such as onion kulcha, a naan stuffed with onions and seasoned with a mild mint sauce. Desserts include mango ice cream and gulab jamun (savory, deep fried cheese balls with rose syrup.) The best bargains are the combination dinners for around $15, with two entrees, rice, naan and salad or raita. On weekends there’s an all-you-can-eat Champagne buffet for $12.95. 21833 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 999-0600. http://tasteofindiala.com/

Streets of India Cafe:
This family run café in the heart of the Encino business district features homemade specialties from South India such as dosa (savory pancakes) and also from the north (tandoori dishes.) There are Indo-Chinese options, like chili chicken and other daily hybrid specials. Save room for the made-from-scratch desserts, including chikki, a candy with almonds and pistachios, and grajjar halwa, a lovely carrot pudding. You can order a variety of curries a la carte, but the best deal is the very popular weekday lunch buffet for $8.75 (on weekends and holidays it’s $10.75.) There’s also a dinner combo for $11.95. 16260 Ventura Blvd., Encino; (818) 325-2500. http://www.streetsofindiacafe.com/

Anarbagh:
Before anyone gets upset, we’re aware that half of the west SFV residents are on Team Anarbagh and the rest are on Team Shalimar, which is down the street. We’re not going to take sides — we think both restaurants are nice places to go for an evening out or a special lunch. Bring a friend with you to Anarbagh, because there are a lot of deals for duos, starting with a mixed vegetarian appetizer, with onion bhaje, vegetables, samosas and pakora, for $6.95. Midday, there’s the Executive Lunch for two, for $18.95 (not to be confused with the Business People Lunch for two, $16.95.) There’s a big selection of chicken, lamb, seafood, as well our favorites: more than two dozen great vegetarian entrees. We especially like the sag paneer, spinach and cheese cooked with onions, tomatoes and herbs, the best version of this classic we’ve had anywhere. Dishes can be ordered from very mild to very hot. We found medium pretty intense (in a good way) — so be warned. 22721 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 224-3929. http://www.anarbaghindiancuisine.com/

Shalimar:
This family-owned restaurant has been on the boulevard since 1983, with chef Salik Miah running the kitchen. The menu represents multiple regions of India, with traditional tandoori dishes, Punjab-style lamb and beef and a big selection of Bengali fish and seafood. We tend to go overboard on the appetizers, especially the vegetable samosas (with an order of mango chutney on the side) and savory papadam (lentil wafers), which are highly addictive. There are distinctive breads, including one that is grilled and stuffed with spiced potatoes and cauliflower (aloo gobi paratha). Monday through Friday there’s a lunch buffet for $7.99, which is a good way to sample the eclectic cuisine. 23011 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 225-7794.http://www.shalimarwoodlandhills.com/

Royal Delhi Palace:
The first time we visited here it was barely noon on a Sunday and the car thermometer read 99 degrees — no one in their right mind should have been in the mood for hot, spicy food. Yet the place was packed, which tells you something about how popular it is. When we arrived, a party was just beginning in the adjacent banquet room. As we watched the steaming trays being brought in, we were seriously tempted to crash the festivities and made a mental note to someday have a party there, or at least wrangle an invitation to one. Until then, we’ll be happy to keep sampling the many North Indian dishes offered in this family-run restaurant. We especially like the entrees from the clay oven, such as tandoori vegetables. While these look deceptively simple, each bite brings a burst of mystery spices. There are more than a dozen breads on the menu, including Peshawari naan, stuffed with cashews, raisins, cherries and coconut. Big crowd magnets are the daily lunch buffet for $7.49 and a Saturday and Sunday Champagne brunch for $10.95. 22323 Sherman Way, #11, Canoga Park; (818) 992-0913.

India Sweets and Spices:
Selfishly, we’re kind of reluctant to spread the word about this incredible place, because it will just get more crowded. Once you eat here, you’ll be back for more. This is a no frills, vegetarian, cafeteria-style eatery connected to a grocery store. The line is typically chaotic — and that’s part of the fun. Try to scope out what you plan to order before it’s your turn, because you won’t make any friends if you engage in a long discussion with the servers about what’s what. Trust us, it’s all great, even if you don’t know what you’re eating. For about five bucks you can get one of the specials, which will give you an overflowing plate. The masala dosa (stuffed pancake) and chai are considered some of the best in town. For the sweets part of the equation, pick something from the bakery case or get yourself a popsicle in the grocery store. 22011 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; (818) 887-0868. http://www.indiasweetsandspices.net/

Mother India Restaurant:
Drive here from outside the SFV, and you’re going to feel like you’re traveling to the end of the earth. Look on the bright side — if you start on Topanga Canyon by the ocean and take it all the way to Devonshire Street, you will experience a multitude of microclimates. Make it a road trip. You can sharpen your shopping skills at the Westfield Topanga Mall or get a different kind of workout hiking or rock climbing at Stoney Point Park in Chatsworth. Either way, bring a hearty appetite for lunch or an early dinner (they close at 8 p.m.) to this small, family-run eatery. We’re big fans of the Mumbai street food, especially pani puri, little puffs filled with potatoes, garbanzo beans and chutney. Another favorite is the uttapum, soft crepes topped with vegetables. Owner and chef Bharati Gholkar often stops by the tables to help you figure out what you want to order, and she’ll tweak the menu if you have any dietary concerns. 21032 Devonshire St., Chatsworth; (818) 534-8267.

Agra Tandoori:
Say what you will about the Kardashians, they (or someone on their team) have good taste in restaurants. On one of their infernal shows, the clan came here for dinner, helping put this Tarzana restaurant on the map. Even without reality television, Agra Tandoori already had a loyal following, with good reason. Not only is the food great but, of all the restaurants on our list, this is the nicest room in which to linger over your meal, especially when seated in one of the large, circular booths. We try to order something new whenever we’re here; so far, our favorites are chicken mango masala, mushroom biryani and eggplant bharta. There’s a good selection of Indian beer and a decent $4 glass of wine (how often can you say that?). The manager, Frank, is always charming and remembers you if you’re a repeat customer. (And he’ll graciously give you the discount, even when you forget your coupon.) 19560 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; (818) 342-2290.

Taj Mahal:
Located on the upper level of an awkwardly designed Encino plazo, Taj Mahal is definitely worth the trek up the stairs or the elevator ride from the free parking structure. Family owned and operated since 1993, there’s a pleasant dining room and also an outside patio. Start off a winning meal with a chilled lassi yogurt drink (sweet, salted or mango) or share one of the four Indian beers. All of the reasonably priced entrees come with basmati rice and raita. Our favorite dish is malai kofta, round vegetable fritters in a tomato and onion sauce. Also popular is fish vindaloo, Chilean sea bass cooked with potatoes and hot spices. Monday through Saturday there’s an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet with some 15 choices, for $8.95. On Sunday the buffet has more than 20 items and unlimited Champagne for $10.95. 17815 Ventura Blvd., suite 201, Encino; (818) 345-2215. http://www.tajmahaldining.com/

 


Quart Crockpot Chicken Mole

May 9, 2013
Quart Crockpot Chicken Mole serves 2
1 bottle IBC Root Beer

2 Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless)

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

dried parsley*

2-3 Tbs Cholula Chili Lime Hot Sauce

Use Quart-sized Crockpot

Add root beer

Stir in tomato paste

Sprinkle parsley* to taste (or cilantro option)

Stir in hot sauce

Stir well

place chicken breasts in pot, submerge under sauce as much as possible.

High setting for 10-11 hours

Serve with choice of side dish, e.g., rice, quinoa, pasta, warm corn tortillas, chilled avocado tomato salad, roasted corn salad.

Frozen or semi-frozen chicken breasts will fall apart less in cooking. I throw this together before going to work and enjoy a savory meal when I come home.


Looking for Aloo Paratha?

April 9, 2013

Salomi Restaurant http://www.salomiindian.com

5225 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood (across from the television academy)

818-506-0130

Indian and Bangladesh restaurant serving delicious traditional favorites – tandoori, korma, masala, biryani, vindaloo, naan, plus more – with a range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Open for lunch and dinner in the heart of No Ho, I was surprised to learn that Salomi had been serving since 1979. Portions are very generous and so flavorful. The attentive staff never hovers yet your glass is always quickly refilled and special requests are easily answered. Prices are very reasonable for table service menu this robust. A hidden gem, in plain sight on Lankershim.

On a Friday night after a long week of deadlines I was looking forward to seeing a friend in a production at the Actor’s Workout Studio. Grabbing a sandwich or burrito by myself after work didn’t interest me so I launched Open Table to find someplace nearby to eat. To my delight, Salomi didn’t have any reviews posted on Open Table, so the thrill of discovery whetted my appetite as much as as the promise of good Indian food.

As I walked into a lovely yet empty restaurant, greeted by several smiling faces, it looked promising. Looking over the lengthy menu, I knew I had found a new favorite. Names of dishes came rattling off my tongue – chicken korma, saag paneer, vegetable biryani, and of course aloo paratha. Iced Tea please. Did they open recently? How did they find the neighborhood?

Turns out, according to the chatty head waiter that Salomi had been open since 1979. He was oh so proud of their Yelp status, “Do write a review and you will see.” I explained that I found them on Open Table. His professed claim of how popular Salomi was simply wasn’t evidenced by butts in the seats. Where were all the loyal fans?

From my window table I could see the tall walls of the Television Academy screening rooms across the street, nestled in its driveway courtyard. Down the street was the latest Laemmle Cinema. With lunch specials this place must be a real hit in the arts community. Why was it empty?

Ordering beloved dishes that I had ordered from India’s Oven, Angara, Addi’s Tandoor, I had a good point of comparison. Would this food measure up? The spinach was not creamed but well-cooked in the saag paneer and lightly-spiced to bring out the flavors. I melted at the chicken korma! So “nummy” in taste and texture with a vibrant saffron yellow hue. The biryani tasted really, really good, a personality among rice dishes yet way too many peas or is it that I just plain don’t like them and will hand flick them out of any plate served to me…Salomi was a hit! (And the play to follow was too!)

A family arrived, kissed and hugged the staff nearest the door and sat in what sounded like their usual spot. Other people entered and were seated as my meal was enjoyed. (Upon leaving I think I even saw Hawk Koch, President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences enjoying a conversation and meal.) So much for my thought that this place was unknown. Yet with food this good and reasonably priced, Salomi on a Friday night should be hopping!

When favorite restaurants shutter their doors in Los Angeles, which happens too frequently, it is easy to forget that neighborhood gems are still out there to be found. When word-of-mouth and local publicity don’t bring in the patrons, services like Open Table can help non-franchise dining thrive.


Health Risks with Mom’s Tamales

December 27, 2012

I must have gone on a bad day for the staff but SO MANY things are wrong I removed this restaurant from my blog! AVOID MOM’s TAMALES and tell your friends to not put their health at risk.

Frozen vs. precooked tamales are $18 cash (instead of $20). No big savings there. The cost of making this failure right – DOUBLE.

I placed a phone order the day before and when I went to pick them up at the time they said the order would be ready, I had to wait 25 minutes while they assembled my order. Really? Calling ahead wasn’t enough advanced noticed? No instructions came with the tamales. If I had not reviewed the website I would not know that they took more than an hour to steam.

Tamales are handed to you in a plastic bag each wrapped in foil. You cannot microwave steam them, since the foil is not just wrapped on the outside but TUCKED into the corn husks. YOU CANNOT remove the foil before steaming. Each handmade tamale I have ever had came in a waxed/parchment paper which freezes and microwaves easily. The tamales were less than 4 inches long, open on one end and NOT completely wrapped in corn husks. They are not plump and tasty, they are skinny and look unprepared. Runts. My tamales were all runts. When you steam these tamales IF you are able to not break a nail pealing foil off, the MEAT AND SAUCE oozes out, IS MINGLED WITH FOIL and ends up coating the inside of your steamer.

I ordered three of 4 different kinds. The Sweet tamales with pineapple disintegrated into pulp – inedible PULP. The cheese with spinach spewed cheesy goo all over the inside of my steamer. The chicken mole were tasty but not plump. The beef were average.

I was so frustrated and disgusted that I went to In and Out and count myself lucky that I had real food to eat.

Perhaps the dine in experience is better.

The health department will be hearing from me about their take-out, to go food preparation! I am truly sorry I suggested it on my blog. http://momstamales.com/ RUN FAR AWAY!


Christmas Tamales in Los Angeles with Mom’s on Riverside

December 20, 2012

Networking is a beautiful thing! Check out http://momstamales.com/Tamales.html

moms

Today, a co-wacko and I were talking about where I could score some homemade tamales for Christmas. She didn’t know a resource but she knew someone who might. Having tamales as my contribution to Christmas dinner with my sweetheart’s family is my idea of a good thing! And that conversation at work got me talking with another co-wacko who highly recommended Mom’s Tamales (see link above) later in the afternoon.

You may have seen Mom’s, this hole-in-the-wall treasure, on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network. Sitting at lunch today I quickly scoped this place out on Foursquare, located the menu, address and phone number (323) 226-9383.

Mom’s offers several tamales to tempt you: Pork, Beef, Chicken, Cheese or try some of their specialties: Chicken with Mole, Cheese with Spinach, or a sweet tamal with pineapple. Yow! Buying them frozen to steam later (for 1 hour, 15 minutes) will save you $2 per dozen. Mix and match.

Remember it’s cash only, they close their doors at 4:00 pm and checking in on Foursquare will make it more visible to other tamale lovers seeking a source for handmade tamales. Mom’s Tamales & Mexican Food, 3328 Pasadena Ave, Los Angeles CA, 90031

If tamales for Christmas are not something you have time to make, try some love from Mom’s instead.


Holiday Recipes (6): Eight Layer Casserole and Greek Noodle Casserole @foodinjars

December 3, 2012

The rainy weather in Los Angeles this weekend prompted me to drive more cautiously and to think about casseroles – well, not in that order, but you understand. Truly, there is nothing more comforting after a long day of trying to create holiday cheer in the office (event planning and gift wrapping) than to arrive home and find a hot soothing casserole and a glass of wine waiting for you. Here are two recipes to boost the comfort in your comfort food this December. I am reminded of my childhood favorite we called “Ussi Souffle” – a cheese and egg casserole inspired by a Danish neighbor. I might post that recipe at a later time.

 

Eight Layer Casserole

eightlayer casserole

Makes 8 servings in 2-quart square baking dish

30 minutes prep, bake 55 minutes, 10 minutes to stand before serving

 

Ingredients:

3 cups dried medium noodles (6 oz)

1 pound ground beef

2 8 oz cans tomato sauce

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 8 oz sour cream

1 8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup milk

1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)

1 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)

 

Directions:

Grease a 2-quart casserole or a 2-quart square baking dish; set aside. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook beef until brown. Drain off fat. Stir tomato sauce, basil, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper into skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl beat together the sour cream and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in milk and onion. In prepared casserole or baking dish, layer half of the noodles (about 2 cups), half of the meat mixture (about 1 1/2 cups), half of the cream cheese mixture (about 1 cup), and all of the spinach. Top with the remaining meat mixture and noodles. Cover and chill remaining cream cheese mixture until needed.

Cover casserole or baking dish with lightly greased foil. Bake in 350 degree F oven about 45 minutes or until heated through. Uncover; spread with remaining cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

 

Alternate: Prepare as directed through Step 3. Cover with lightly greased foil and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until heated through. Uncover; spread with remaining cream-cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before baking.

 

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/beef/eight-layer-casserole/

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Greek Noodle Casserole (Pastitsio)

GreekCasserole

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis (tips from Marisa McClellan @foodinjars)

Prep Time: 20 min

Inactive Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 1 hr

6 to 8 servings in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish

 

Ingredients:

Butter, for greasing the baking dish

Kosher salt

12 oz egg noodles

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, chopped or smashed

1 pound ground lamb

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

One 26-oz jar tomato-basil sauce (3 1/4 cups)

1 1/2 packed cups fresh mint leaves, chopped

 

Sauce:

1 cup milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

3 cups grated Parmesan (about 6 oz)

1 cup plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, optional

 

Directions:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the noodles until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the lamb, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, 1 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and mint. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

For the sauce: Simmer the milk and cream over medium heat in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yogurt.

Add the meat sauce to the pasta and toss well until the noodles are coated. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Spoon the cheese sauce evenly on top and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped mint if using, and serve.

 

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/greek-noodle-casserole-pastitsio-recipe/index.html

 

Before you get cooking, here are a few things you should know:

— Ground lamb can often be quite greasy. If your meat seems to be swimming in oil after you’ve browned it, pour the fat off into a small dish before proceeding to the next step in the recipe.

— When you cook the pasta, make sure to stop just shy of al dente. Because this dish gets baked, this prevents the noodles from dissolving into mush during their time in the oven.

— This dish calls for a ton of mint. If your mint plants have died back for the season or you can’t afford the grocery store prices, use baby spinach instead. Simply chop it fine and stir it in. It won’t be quite as authentic, but you’ll still get your greens.

— I like to serve this casserole with a giant green salad to balance out its richness. Should you want to keep all the components of the meal warm, however, a pan of softened kale with garlic is also nice.

 


Holiday Recipes (5) @CoralTreeCafe Vegetable Soup

December 2, 2012

“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.” ~Laurie Colwin

coraltreesoup

Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 to 10
Vegetable Soup recipe adapted from Coral Tree Cafe in Los Angeles. http://www.coraltreecafe.com/

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced onions
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 quart vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce
2 cups quartered mushrooms (optional as I do not eat mushrooms)
2 cups diced zucchini
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Heat a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat until hot. Add the oil, then add the carrots, onions, bell pepper, thyme and barley. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden-brown, about 18 minutes, taking care that the barley does not burn.
Stir in the vegetable broth and marinara. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook until the barley is al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper (the amount of seasoning needed will vary depending on the vegetable broth and marinara used). Cover and continue to simmer until the mushrooms and zucchini are just tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
Remove from heat, thin if desired, and season again to taste, and serve. This makes about 2 1/2 quarts of soup.


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