Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 24, 2012

New food trends reported; celebrate spring with carrot cake

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — At the recent Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, Calif., the biggest health food trade show in the world, several trends were reported:

‰Healthier snacks are being sought by shoppers, as are more exotic-flavored waters and chips, including sweet potato, kale, bean and banana chips.

‰Every kind of fruit and vegetable drink is in, including a yoga drink called Bikram Balance, which is a blend of fruits and vegetables said to restore electrolytes after a workout and Fruitasia, a fruit and vegetable energy shot that claims to provide three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit in a three-ounce drink.

‰Natural baby foods are what parents want. Some pureed versions come in grab-and-go squeeze packs babies can drink or be spoon-fed from. Some of the ingredients include Greek yogurt and ancient grains such as quinoa. The idea here, according to the product’s maker: introduce babies to flavors so they grow up to be foodies.

‰Coconut flavor is making a comeback in the form of Coco’Mon, a coconut cooking oil from Jamaican musician Ziggy Marley’s collection of Ziggy Marley Organics. Also seen: coconut palm sugar, coconut water and dehydrated coconut (for making your own coconut water at home).

‰Chia seeds. Not to make a chia pet, but as an ingredient in a variety of food products. Chia seeds contain high levels of omega-3 fats. Observed at the show were FruitChia bars, Mamma Chia beverages, Coconut Chia granola, and Crunchy Flax with Chia cereal.

‰Organic is in again. Lots of organic products on display, plus representatives from the Just Label It campaign (justlabelit.org) which aims to force products made with genetically modified corn or soy to put that information on the label.

‰Ancient grains. Plenty of food products made with amaranth, quinoa, kamut, millet, hemp and buckwheat.

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The idea of carrot cake never appealed to me. I never liked mixing up my fruits with my meats or my vegetables with my sweets.

However, once I tried carrot cake for the first time, I decided it was a good idea.

Spring recipes usually include carrot cake and allrecipes.com is no exception in that train of thought. A recent email newsletter listed carrot cake as a seasonal favorite. Here’s the recipe.

CARROT CAKE III

Cake

4 eggs

11⁄4 cups vegetable oil

2 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 cups confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9-by-13 pan.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in chopped pecans. Frost the cooled cake.

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Peas are another food closely associated with spring, although not so popular with many.

This pea soup recipe from The Culinary Institute, is a tasty way to get a dose of the legumes.

THAI FRESH PEA SOUP

6 cups vegetable broth, plus as needed

1 cup chopped onions

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 teaspoons green curry paste

8 cups shelled peas (thawed if using frozen)

Salt and pepper as needed

1 teaspoon lightly toasted mustard seeds

1⁄4 cup chopped mint

Add about 1⁄2 cup of the broth to a soup pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and curry paste. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the peas, cover the soup, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let the soup cool for at least 10 minutes before pureeing with a handheld blender.

Strain the soup through a sieve and reserve the liquid if you are using a countertop blender or food processor. Add the solids to the blender jar or food processor bowl; do not overfill. Add a little of the liquid, replace the cover (without the vent from the lid or feed tube), and puree until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary to help puree the solids. Transfer the pureed soup to a clean pot. Continue until all of the solids are pureed. Blend the soup and adjust the consistency by adding some of the remaining reserved liquid. (The soup is ready to finish now or it can be cooled and stored up to 2 days in the refrigerator or up to 1 month in the freezer.)

Return the soup to a simmer over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Another food that’s still an oddity for many is soy, although some in the area seem to enjoy soy milk as a replacement for traditional cow’s milk.

Soybeans are high in protein and can be used in many forms, including tofu. I find the better you can disguise it, the better it tastes.

House Foods provides a few options.

HOUSE FOODS’ MANGO TOFU SMOOTHIE

½ package (7 oz.) House Foods Premium Tofu Soft, drained

½ cup orange juice

1½ cups frozen mango

3 tablespoon honey

½ cup milk or soy milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.  Serve cold. Yields one serving.

HOUSE FOODS’ TOFU AND TOMATO SKEWER WITH HERB SAUCE

1 package House Foods Extra Firm Tofu

20 cherry tomatoes

10 bamboo skewers

Sauce

1 clove garlic

1 large Shallot

½ bundle Italian parsley

 ½ bundle cilantro

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flake

1½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

Wrap tofu with paper towel and place on plate. Put it in microwave for about a minute to remove excess moisture.

In a food processor put garlic, shallot and give it a quick whirl. To it add Italian parsley, cilantro and give it another whirl.  In a bowl place chopped herbs and add vinegar, salt, black pepper, red flake, and extra virgin olive oil. Mix them together.

Cut tofu in cubes in the same size as tomatoes.  Place two tofu cubes and two tomatoes alternately on skewers. Brush tofu with the sauce and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Brush a couple more times until grill mark is shown. Brush tofu again before serving.

While I don’t claim to be an expert cook, I do like to cook and love to eat. Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking; I’ll try to find the answers. Also, if you’re looking for a specific recipe, send your request, or if you can offer a recipe to someone looking for something specific, please send email to lward@dailyindependent.com.