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On Why We Cook, Amie Valpone: Cooking to Live

VideoBy Liza de Guia on Apr 23, 2013
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“My whole life I thought I was healthy…”

What if you loved food, but the odds were against you? What if foods you knew to be good and nourishing were also the enemy? These are the questions I tackled this week for my short food. curated. series exploring the idea of Why We Cook.  Meet Amie Valpone, personal chef, recipe developer, food photographer and the Editor-in-Chief of The Healthy Apple, a clean eating blog based in New York City. For Amie, food is a long list of wants but cannot-haves. And this is her story about why she cooks.

I hope Amie’s optimism – despite all her challenges – inspires you to take a moment to think about what you put in your body. So many of us eat without thinking, but if you put more thought into it, if you questioned how your body reacts to certain foods, what would you discover? It’s worth thinking about. I’m certainly thinking about it. That’s why I love her story.

Enjoy. Overcome obstacles. Eat. Food awaits you.

Thanks for watching food. curated.! The James Beard Awards countdown begins. I’ve got my fingers crossed for next week! Happy Eating!

On Why We Cook, Jennifer Perillo: To Seek Refuge, To Inspire & To Remember

VideoBy Liza de Guia on Apr 15, 2013
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“Life’s goal is to beat you down. Our goal is to tell Life, ‘I’m here, I’m stronger than you.’ And for me, that anchor is the kitchen. The kitchen is my constant.” 

Meet Jennifer Perillo, a.k.a. Jennie, the food writer and cookbook author behind In Jennie’s Kitchen. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be profiling some very special people I’ve met for a short food. curated. series on Why We Cook.

What compels us to cook? That’s a question I’ve been tossing around my head these past few months. I’ve been feeling a bit sentimental these days, spending time in the kitchen to “work things out”. I’ve come to realize, that’s what I do. I come to the kitchen to be fully present in the moment, to not let the past or future bother me, but to have space to just be me. I guess you could say, I cook to help let go. Last week, I made a beautiful salad for a friend I hoped to make amends with, enjoyed the simplicity of finding that just-right recipe, with that oh-so-perfect blend of flavors and ingredients to make ’em know I cared. Over the weekend, I popped out of bed with a mission to bake fluffy, buttery biscuits, to help erase a heavy night of tears and bad dreams, after a week of some sad, personal news. So for me, the kitchen is where I go to repair and find peace. For Jennie, the kitchen is even more: Food. Family. And Life. Lots of life to be exact. A whole spectrum.

I don’t want to say too much, because I think her video says it all. I hope you enjoy Jennie’s story. I hope it inspires you like it inspires me. Every time I watch it, I’m moved.

To read more about her life stories and to try some of her recipe creations, you can purchase her new – and very first – cookbook Homemade with Love, here.

Homemade with Love Cookbook
Thanks for watching food. curated.! We’re honored to be nominated for our 4th James Beard Award for Best Video Webcast 2013. Wish us luck in May. Happy Cooking! 

Monk’s Meats: A Vegetarian Butcher Makes a Case for Wheat Meat

VideoBy Liza de Guia on Apr 9, 2013
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“Seitan isn’t a meat replacement, it’s a food stuff in its own right. Some of our happiest moments are when we get a meat eater who says, ‘You know what, this stuff is great. I didn’t realize vegetarian meat could be this good.'”

Meet Chris Kim and Rebecca Lopez-Howes, the co-owners and seitan specialists behind Monk’s Meats, a vegetarian butcher shop – with plans to open a storefront – in Brooklyn, New York. Monk’s Meats is on a mission to supply home cooks and local chefs with meatless raw materials made with a foodie in mind, whole foods made with integrity and a passion for flavor. Dissatisfied with the seitan options at grocery stores, Chris and Rebecca, both vegetarians, started making their own version at home three years ago, getting so good at it that they decided to launch a business. And I’m glad they did.

“Nobody else in New York City was doing it, so it made sense to me.” – Chris Kim

Monk’s Meats motto is Fresh Food. Tastes Good. and it hints at two of their beliefs: 1) they make fresh food and it tastes good, and 2) the key to high quality food starts with well-sourced, fresh, raw ingredients. Watching them make artisan seitan is a fascinating process, both very physical and very tedious too. But, according to Chris, “It’s fun!” And it certainly looked fun. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to throw down my camera to help him punch out and shape the seitan.

On a daily basis, they produce between 100 to 150 pounds of seitan for Monk’s Meats, hand-delivering them to restaurants, customers and a handful of retail shops around the city. I’ve tried all of their seitan flavors, and each one of them stands out distinctly – enhancing stir-frys, sandwiches, salads, soups, omelettes – you name it – with a great source of protein. Oh, and the texture is unbelievable too. Perfectly chewy. Firm. And succulent. Like they say, it IS meat. And it sure does feel like it.

SIGN UP for their weekly specials and delivery info here! Enjoy the piece.

Thanks so much for watching food. curated.! Happy Eating! 

Bacchanal Pepper Sauce: A One of a Kind, Hot Sauce Elixir

VideoBy Liza de Guia on Mar 25, 2013
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“Like everybody else, I have Tabasco getting dusty in my cupboard. For me, it’s always been about fresh peppers.”

Meet Sonya Samuel, the founder and owner behind Bacchanal Pepper Sauce, a Brooklyn made, Caribbean-hot, soul-satisfying pepper sauce that recently launched in New York City. Like her hot sauce, Sonya too is a party. She throws around “yeah babys” like I throw around smiles, engaging people with a lust-for-life attitude that you’re always glad to bump up into, when you do. Now, Sonya LOVES food. And I’m not saying it just to say it. I’m saying it because it’s something she’ll tell you often – and often with a very vocal opinion. She knows what she likes and doesn’t like, and isn’t shy about picking dishes apart. I appreciate that about her. She knows and trusts her palate, and I think that’s why her hot sauce is SO GOOD. She has standards…very high standards. Sonya wants her pepper sauce to represent what she believes in food: that good food should create memories and moments. It should “transport” you. And, you know what, I’ll give it to her. This pepper sauce is like a nice, spicy vacation.

Enjoy her story!

As of a few weeks ago, Sonya just started offering Bacchanal Pepper Sauce on her website online. It’s 100% natural with no preservatives – something very important to Sonya – and a great condiment for anyone who likes a bit of heat. Which, in case you’re wondering, is about an 8 out of 10 for most “pepper heads”. I’ve eaten it on eggs, in soups, on italian subs, on vegetables. It’s quite versatile and opens up dishes in a really nice way. I think you’ll be surprised how many layers of flavor you’ll experience. And the fruit, really, is what makes it sing (at least for me). I think that’s what sets it apart from all the other hot sauces in my fridge. It’s in a category of its own, and certainly worth a try.

Thanks for watching food. curated. and supporting small food makers! Would love to hear what you think of the story in my comments section! Happy eating!


The Well Dressed Nut: On a Mission to Make Nuts More Alluring

VideoBy Liza de Guia on Jan 30, 2013
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“When you use multiple versions of one ingredient, it makes a difference! We do a lot of blending with spices that way. These aren’t just one-note or two-note flavors.”

Meet Lynn Sterett and Joan Kass, the co-founders of The Well Dressed Nut, a 3-year old, premium, artisan nut company based in Tenafly, NJ. I will admit, I’m not the biggest nut person. I rarely crave them. In fact, I don’t seek them out. Nuts, in general, don’t make it into my pantry as a snack. So, when I came across The Well Dressed Nut, it’s not that I was skeptical, I guess you could say, I was just going through the motions of story research. I wasn’t thinking too much about it, UNTIL I took that first bite: CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH. Immediately, my brain and tastebuds kicked in: what’s that flavor, and THAT spice? What IS that? That hot, peppery kick in the back end of the bite, that’s new. That’s interesting. All these flavors, woke me up. It was a nice change. And, they have a nice story.

Lynn and Joan don’t come from the food world. They originally met, and became close friends, selling beauty products in New York City for twenty years. After they left their careers, they still wanted to work together. They searched and brainstormed ideas for awhile, hoping to find something fun and challenging, until one day, after one too many dinner parties, an idea fell NUT-urally into their lap. haha.

So, enjoy the story of The Well Dressed Nut! Hope you purchase a few pouches online to try them. They carry a variety of flavors in their “Flavor Wardrobe“. My favorites: the Spiced-Up Pecans (using a top secret spicy ground pepper in the mix) and the Cinnamon-Vanilla Pecans (incorporating 3 unique types of cinnamon to enhance the flavor).

Thanks for watching and supporting food. curated.! Happy eating!