Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Paleo fried chicken with almond crust

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I've been trying to eat fewer grains lately. This is tough for me - no one is a bigger fan of the white starch category than I am. But hey, I'm coming up on 50. I figure it's time to make a few adjustments.

I came across a few "Paleo" recipes for fried chicken coated with almond meal instead of flour. I doubt I'll ever move all the way over to a true Paleo diet - it's pretty restrictive - but I thought I'd give almond-crusted fried chicken a try.

It. Was. Stupendous.

I went full-on Paleo and fried the chicken thighs in coconut oil, but if you're not following the Paleo diet strictly you can use any other high-heat frying oil, like grapeseed oil or canola oil.

ON THE SIDE: I served my fried chicken with my Not Ketchup fruit "ketchup" sauces, of course. Sweet and tangy, they're the perfect partner for this crispy, salty, umami-rich fried chicken. Pick up a bottle at or today!

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Paleo Fried Chicken With Almond Crust
Fried chicken coated in almond meal and spices and fried in coconut oil. Grain-free, Paleo and delicious!
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups coconut oil (can substitute grapeseed or canola oil)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl and whisk until frothy. In another bowl, mix together the almond meal, garlic salt, smoked paprika and pepper until combined. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy pot. I use a 5-quart cast iron Dutch oven. Get the oil up to about 350 degrees F. If you're too impatient to use a thermometer (like me), wait until the surface is visibly shimmering. Dip a piece of the chicken first into the egg, then into the almond meal mixture. Make sure the chicken is coated all over with the almond meal. Drop the chicken gently into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. You'll have to work in batches, frying three or four pieces at a time (depending on the size of your pot).When the chicken is golden brown, put it on a rack set over a sheet pan (or just on a sheet pan if you don't have a rack). When all the chicken is fried, slide the pan into the oven for 15 minutes. This will ensure that even the thickest parts of the chicken are cooked through and will re-warm the pieces you fried first.Serve hot with your favorite flavor of Not Ketchup for dipping.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Perfect tomato soup {no dairy}

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Got tomatoes? I'm not growing any this year, but I often buy "second" heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market. They're a little soft and scarred, but they taste the same and they're much cheaper. And they're perfect for tomato soup.

I've seen tomato soup recipes that add sugar and baking soda to smooth out the flavors and balance the acid in the tomatoes. I don't. I want my tomato soup to taste like tomatoes. I don't add cream, either, although I guess you could. Personally, I think it's great just the way it is.

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Perfect Tomato Soup
Six ingredients, half an hour, and a good blender: That's all you need to make this perfect classic tomato soup.
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated or shredded
  • 3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and basil (if using). Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft.Puree the soup in a blender (or in the pot using a hand-held blender) until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to make perfect cheese popcorn

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Every afternoon around 3 p.m. I look around my home office and think "Yep, time for a snack."

Popcorn is one of my go-to afternoon snacks. I used to do the nasty microwave bags. But then I read Elise's "Perfect Popcorn" method on Simply Recipes and threw the bags away. A pot, some oil, popcorn kernels, salt, and five minutes: That's all it takes to make truly perfect popcorn with virtually zero unpopped kernels.

It pays to start with high-quality popping corn. I buy mine in the Whole Foods bulk food department and store it in a recycled jar in the pantry.

What do you like on your popcorn? My favorite topping is Cabot Creamery's Cheddar Cheese Shake, real cheddar cheese in a soft flowing powder that coats each fluffy kernel. It's so flavorful that I don't even need any extra butter or salt. Sometimes I add a little chili powder or garlic powder along with the Cheddar Cheese Shake, just to change things up.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I am eating a bowl of cheese popcorn right now as I type this! Sorry, keyboard.

Disclosure: Cabot Creamery provided me with a sample of Cheddar Cheese Shake as part of their Cabot Cheese Board blogger program. No actual money changed hands.

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Perfect Cheese Popcorn
All it takes to make perfect cheese popcorn is five minutes and a few simple ingredients. You'll never go back to microwave popcorn after trying this simple method.
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil (can substitute a more neutrally flavored oil like canola or grapeseed)
  • 1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cabot Creamery Cheddar Cheese Shake
Put the oil and 6 kernels of popcorn in a heavy 5-quart pot with a tightly fitting lid. Turn the heat to high. Wait about 45 seconds.When the first kernels start to pop, turn off the heat. Pour in the rest of the popcorn kernels and the salt (if using), then cover the pot again. Count to 30, slowly.Turn the flame back on to medium-high and start shaking the pan gently, back and forth across the burner - this keeps the popcorn from burning. It's a good idea to vent the lid slightly, but you'll need a heavy-duty oven mitt on the hand that's holding the lid ajar, as steam will be escaping.Keep shaking the pan as the popcorn starts to pop. After about a minute, the popping will stop. Turn off the flame and pour the finished popcorn into a large bowl.Sprinkle the popcorn with the Cabot Creamery Cheddar Cheese Shake. Toss the popcorn to distribute the cheese powder. Eat immediately, licking the extra cheese powder off your fingers between bites.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 6 cups

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Roasted Hatch chile mayonnaise

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It's almost Hatch chile season again, and foodies around the U.S. are getting excited.

The long, tapered green chiles from New Mexico have a cult following here in southern California. I can get both the hot and mild varieties at just about every grocery store within a 10-mile radius. Many stores have chile-roasting events in their parking lots so you can take home bags of freshly roasted chiles instead of having to roast them at home. (Hatch chile roasting starts August 15th at Bristol Farms - more stores will be posting their schedules soon, no doubt.)

Personally, I don't mind roasting them at home. I wash the Hatch chiles, turn the burners on my gas stove to high, and lay the peppers directly on the iron grates of my stove. I turn them until they're blackened on all sides, then pop them into a zip-top bag to steam. The charred skin slips off easily and I'm left with strips of fragrant roasted chiles to use in sandwiches, quesadillas, casseroles, and condiments like this Hatch Chile Mayonnaise.

Some ideas for this delicious and simple Hatch Chile Mayonnaise:
  • Spread it on a sandwich with roast turkey, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, shaved red onions and watercress
  • Spoon it on a burger (put some diced roasted Hatch chiles in the burger itself, too)
  • Serve it with broccoli fritters, zucchini fritters or spinach pancakes
  • Use it as a sauce for oven-roasted salmon fillets or chicken
  • Mix it with chopped hard-boiled eggs for the best egg salad of your life

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Hatch Chile Mayonnaise
A simple condiment made with roasted fresh Hatch chiles from New Mexico
  • 6 Hatch chiles (hot or mild)
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
Wash the Hatch chiles. Roast them over an open flame on a gas stove (I lay mine directly on the burner grate), turning frequently, until the skin is black and charred on all sides. (If you don't have a gas stove, broil the peppers in the oven, turning frequently.)Put the charred Hatch chiles in a zip-top bag for 30 minutes. They will steam as they cool.Slip the charred black skin off the chiles. If you want your Hatch Chile Mayonnaise very mild, remove the seeds and ribs from inside the peppers. Put the roasted Hatch chiles, mayonnaise and lime juice into a food processor. Process until smooth.Store in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dazzling food and complex business logistics at Dodger Stadium

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Once a year the Los Angeles Dodgers invite food bloggers like me to visit Dodger Stadium, sample the new menu items from the stadium's ever-improving concession stands, and take in a game. I've been lucky enough to be on the list twice now, and it's one of my favorite events of the year.

The food at Dodger Stadium, where Executive Chef Jason Tingley is in charge of all the kitchens, seems to get tastier and more interesting every season. This year we tried a hot dog Tingley created to honor Los Angeles's firefighters, topped with spicy cheese, jalapenos and Flaming Hot Cheetos; smoked chicken wings; Street Corn Nachos, topped with grilled fresh corn kernels; a really terrific pepperoni pizza. Tingley adds new items throughout the season - look out for that same pepperoni pizza with an actual Dodger Dog baked into the crust (yes, really).

But you know where my head is at these days - I'm thinking like a small business owner 24/7 because of Not Ketchup, my condiment business. So while I was tasting all this delicious food, I was thinking about bobbleheads.

And logo-imprinted barbecue tools, too.

David Siegel, the Dodgers' VP of ticket sales, showed us the many promotional items the Dodgers will give away to fans this season, including multiple bobbleheads, the barbecue tools pictured above, a pop-up laundry hamper, and several dozen more. High quality stuff, not throwaway trinkets. In all, the Dodgers will give away about 1.5 million promotional items this season.

And while he was talking, all I could think about were logistics - the same kinds of things that I have to deal (on a smaller scale) with when buying and distributing promotional items like t-shirts, hats, basting brushes, squeeze bottles and more for Not Ketchup.

For example:

  • Where do they store 1.5 million promotional giveaway items? I order a small fraction of that amount and the boxes are taking over my living room, family room, bedroom and office. Is there a cavernous warehouse under the stands near the outfield? As it turns out - no. The Dodgers work with a promotional company that warehouses the items until they're needed on game day. 
  • What happens to leftover items? The Dodgers handle this the same way I do: They give them out throughout the year for community outreach and other fan events. I stick mine randomly into online orders - one of the advantages of ordering from the Not Ketchup website instead of Amazon.
  • How many ideas do they consider before choosing the winners? I have an amazing promotional products guy, and Keith and I have looked at very long lists of possible Not Ketchup giveaways, including pens (boring), pads (maybe someday), barbecue tools (expensive), oven mitts (couldn't find good ones), wooden spoons (ditto), and more. The Dodgers marketing team says they consider more than 100 product ideas each year, ultimately choosing the things they think will resonate best with fans. (I suspect price has something to do with it as well - at least it does for me.)

The Dodgers also have to think about logistics I don't deal with. For example, they hand certain giveaway items to fans as they enter the stadium, and others on the way out. How do they decide? Items that are heavy, bulky, or could be used as a weapon wait until after the game. Safety first.

As I was leaving Dodger Stadium on a beautiful Monday night, it struck me that I may never again be able to enjoy a baseball game - or a trip to Disneyland, or a visit to the mall, or grocery shopping, or ANYTHING ELSE - without this business-oriented undercurrent of questions, ideas and analysis running through my head. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Just a different way of looking at the world.

Disclosure: The Dodgers invited my family and me as their guests for this event. All opinions and weird logistical musings are, of course, my own.