Monday, January 28, 2013

National Blueberry Pancake Day

There are holidays for virtually every kind of food, from frogs' legs to chocolate ice cream. But few are as fabulous as National Blueberry Pancake Day!

I've doubled the blueberries for today's festivities because ... well ... just because! The wholesome pancakes, with some whole grains added, feature these gorgeous fruits; and they're doused with a sweet sauce to further showcase the beautiful berries.

Happy holiday! Enjoy!!!

Be sure to watch the world's most prestigious culinary competition, the Bocuse d'Or, tomorrow and Wednesday as the United States takes on the Scandinavians (who swept the top three spots last time, in 2011), the French (who host the event and are peeved that they've not won for awhile), and other countries vying for the gold! Click here for more information and to watch online.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

  • 2 cups frozen wild blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water

Place blueberries, sugar, water, and maple syrup into a small saucepan; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Stir together cornstarch and water; stir into sauce, cook 1 minute, then remove from heat. Let rest while making pancakes.

  • 1/2 cup quick-cook oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries

Combine oats, flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl. Beat together buttermilk and egg; stir into dry ingredients. Gently fold in blueberries.

Brush a skillet with butter and set it over medium heat. Drop batter by 1/4-cupfuls and cook 3 minutes or so per side until golden brown and set when nudged a bit with a spatula.

Makes 6 hearty pancakes and a generous amount of syrup to pour over them.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Frugal Floozie Friday - Samosa House

I hadn't seen my friend Carolyn in some time, so it was wonderful to have a chance to get together and catch up when we met for lunch recently at today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature, Samosa House, which has brought the delicious food of Somalia to Ann Arbor.

I've been trying to get to Samosa House for ages, since a reader named Jamie first recommended it. I inevitably found my way there when it was closed - most notably when nothing was being served during sunlight hours during Ramadan, which I completely understand. Or I've been looking for places to eat when my companions were not particularly adventurous, and disinclined to try something so different from what they're accustomed to ... pffft.

But Carolyn is an adventurous eater who loves both spiced and spicy food.  So we enjoyed an amazing lunch filled with all sorts of items that are somewhat familiar - as Somali cuisine shows influence from Indian, European, and other African cooking styles - and yet remains unique. I took Carolyn's recommendations, as she'd been fortunate enough to eat at Samosa House before and had suggested it for our lunch date. We also experimented a bit, trying several selections just to taste the variety.

Clockwise from left: muufo, sabaayad, and canjeero
We tried each of the crisp, flaky samosas (pictured above) - vegetable, chicken, beef, and lamb - which were beautifully spiced without being hot. The meats and vegetables are very finely shredded and chopped, and hints of coconut shine through. The dipping sauce is quite spicy, but is a fabulous complement to the crunchy appetizers, which are very large and a tremendous bargain at only $1.48 each.

We also asked to try an assortment of breads - muufo, canjeero, and sabaayad - as each is completely different from the other. Muufo is cornmeal-based and tender. Sabaayad is very flaky, and canjeero is light and spongy. Together, the three cost $4.74.

The breads can accompany the fragrant, delicious curry dishes. Carolyn and I split the Chicken Sukhar Curry - "Marinated chicken cubes cooked with onions, peppers and butter beans in special butter sauce" - which was accompanied by a beautiful, colorful rice. Tender meat and vegetables, and a luscious sauce, made for a fabulous entree that provided not only our lunch but generous leftovers as well; for $10.91, it could easily have served 4 along with the bread.

We also indulged in a small dessert, deciding to share a little something sweet to end our meal. Our waitress was very warm, friendly, and helpful; so when left to decide among an array of treats - cookies, baklava, coconut squares - we asked our server's recommendation. When she said that she particularly likes the coconut scones, we were determined to try one.

Not a traditional English scone, but rather crisp (like a cookie), filled (like a pastry), and glazed, the scone was crumbly and sweet and wonderful with a cup of coffee. Samosa House's coffee is infused with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger; its scent is enticing, and it is lovely served with rich cream. The scone cost $2.12 and the coffee cost $1.37; together, these would make an excellent snack or treat.

One can readily eat exceptional and delicious food at Samosa House for very reasonable prices well within our mandatory Frugal Floozie Friday budget of $5 per person. The restaurant offers a unique and welcome addition to Ann Arbor's dining options!

Samosa House
1785 Washtenaw
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

Sunday morning, as regular readers know, is often a time for baking. It's peaceful, it's quiet, and I don't usually have any place I need to be at any particular time.

And so, I bake.

And after the excesses of the holidays - which begin here at Hallowe'en, move on to Thanksgiving, my birthday, Chanukkah, Christmas, New Year's, bowl games, and then end with Jeremy's birthday - I've been feeling the need for salad and a juice fast. Not that I've gone to such an extreme! But I'm definitely trying to eat better.

Rather than suffering utter deprivation, it's possible to eat more nutritiously without completely sacrificing treats. So I made this lovely, sweet blueberry bread with whole grains and also made it dairy-free.

For Christmas, a very dear friend gave me a gift certificate to Spice Merchants, a fabulous store with every variety of spice you can imagine - hot, mild, sweet, savory, and then some! Well, I ooh-ed and ahh-ed and pondered and debated, and selected Mexican and Moroccan spice mixes, some truffle salt, and some lovely wild blueberry sugar on my initial spending spree. (I still have half the certificate left, for more shopping and cooking entertainment!) The fragrant sugar made a very pretty, and delicious, sprinkling for the top of the bread, just to give it an extra nice touch.

This isn't a supermodel to look at, simple bread that it is. But it is exceptionally tender, sweet, and delicious.

Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

  • 1 cup quick-cook oats
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-1/3 cups + 3 tablespoons So Delicious dairy-free creamer, vanilla flavor
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1 clementine
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • blueberry sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8"x4" glass baking pan.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a large measuring cup, whisk together 1-1/3 cups creamer, vinegar, oil, egg, and clementine juice; pour into dry ingredients and mix lightly. Stir in blueberries just until batter is combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan, and bake 45 minutes until a tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Place bread onto a serving platter, and tuck small pieces of foil under the edges of the cake to catch drips from the glaze.

Whisk together confectioners' sugar and the remaining 3 tablespoons creamer. Drizzle over bread, then let rest 5 minutes. Sprinkle with blueberry sugar, if desired.

Makes 12 slices.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Brown Sugar Apple Pie for Inauguration Day

What dessert could possibly be better for Inauguration Day than one that's as American as apple pie?

It's even being served at today's official post-Inaugural lunch, which is offering the following dishes on its menu:

Steamed lobster with a New England clam chowder sauce
Grilled bison with a potato horseradish cake and a wild huckleberry reduction
Apple pie with sour cream ice cream
Cheese and honey

Whether your candidate won or not, it's time to move beyond partisanship and show up for the food. And to remember that, even if our favorites don't always win, we still have the privilege of being able to make a choice. That alone is worthy of a celebration!

And so, here's a simple pie sweetened with brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon - traditional and delicious. You, too, can eat like the dignitaries who have been invited to the party in Washington, D.C.!

Brown Sugar Apple Pie

  • 5 pounds Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1-1/2" chunks
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Place all ingredients into a large saucepan, stir to combine well, and bring just to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 10 minutes 'til just tender, stirring once halfway through. Let cool while preparing crust.

Crust (slightly adapted from a recipe on
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup shortening, at room temperature
  • 5-6 tablespoons (or more) ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and shortening, mixing with a fork until the mixture resembles meal. Add 5 tablespoons ice water, mixing until the dough starts to adhere and form a ball, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if still dry. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces, one a bit larger than the other. Form each piece into a ball; flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 425F.

Take one portion of crust and roll to a 12" circle. Place into a 9" pie pan.

Pour filling into crust.

Roll remaining portion of crust into a 12" circle. Lay over pie filling, trim edges (leave a 1" overhang), fold edges of top crust under bottom crust, then crimp to seal. Cut small slits into the top of the pie.

Combine egg and water, and brush egg wash over the top pie crust. Sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake pie for 30 minutes, then lower heat to 350F and bake for 10-15 more minutes until filling is starting to bubble and crust is golden. Remove from oven and let cool.

Makes 1 pie.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Frugal Floozie Friday - Star's Cafe

Craig and I went out to lunch over the weekend at the lovely Star's Cafe, today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature. We ate very well within our mandatory $5 per person budget, with many fresh, flavorful options to choose from.

I picked from among the vegetarian sandwiches, and selected the one stuffed with grape leaves, hummus, tabbouli, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles (pictured above). Bright and lemony, it was unique and delicious; and it cost only $4.75 for a foot-long feast.

Craig chose the Shish Kafta sandwich - which also cost $4.75 - filled with ground lamb, onions, parsley, tomatoes, pickles, and hummus. He asked if he could also get a schmear of garlic sauce; any extra sauce costs just 50 cents. We also shared an order of exceptionally crisp, excellent fries for only $1.99.

Other options that fit within our budget would be hummus and baba ghannouj (small - $3.95, medium - $4.95), falafel for $3.95, and several salads from $2.95-$3.95 (garden, fattoush, Greek, tabbouli).

Most of the sandwiches cost $4.75, soups cost $2.75, and spinach or meat pies are a mere $2.25.

Star's Cafe also offers a variety of hot and cold drinks that all fit nicely within the Frugal Floozie Friday budget - smoothies, fresh juices, teas, and coffees. Traditional Middle Eastern pastries are available for $1 or less; and homemade baked goods are another temptation.

For friendly service, good food, and great value, Star's Cafe is a fabulous choice!

Star's Cafe
2575 Jackson Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday: closed

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Next Best Thing to a Free Lunch

I think we all know I'm a frugal girl.

That's not the same as cheap - I expect some value for my expenditures. I'm not just trying to save money, I'm also trying not to waste it. I shop sales, and am the Queen of the Thrift Stores. I also love Manager's Specials - deals at the grocery store when foods are near their expiration date, so that they're being pushed off the shelves at half-price or less. There's nothing wrong with the food, it's just that new stuff is moving in to take its place if the old stuff will go away to make some room. I'm happy to help, and do a little tour of the store each time I'm there - I'm on a mission to look for the prized orange stickers indicating reduced prices.

So, needless to say, I'm also a fan of leftovers. Sometimes I'll eat them "as is," and sometimes I'll re-purpose them. Jeremy and I watched an episode of "Chopped" recently in which the entire show was devoted to leftovers; most of the chefs groused and whined, whereas I was in my glory coming up with ideas!

When I happened to have a number of items to combine into one stellar meal recently, I made myself a lovely lunch to take to work.

Having enjoyed a fabulous Indian meal from Curry Up, I had extra sambhar sauce that had been served with lentil dumplings. Having also eaten a great Chinese meal from the Evergreen Restaurant, there was plenty of rice waiting for a new lease on life.

I also had a small carton of coconut water that my friend Deborah had given to me. She remembers having visited her grandfather in Puerto Rico when she was young, and his having cracked open a coconut for her to drink from; the fresh beverage was amazing! So when she found coconut water for sale at the market, she instinctively bought some ... too bad. She said herself that she didn't know what she was expecting or thinking, but this stuff was not even remotely close to what she remembered. So she gave it to me, confident that I could find some use for it. I'm still contemplating a really noble purpose that lets it shine; but in the meantime, it definitely served me here.

And the final piece to my ridiculously inexpensive dish was a can of chickpeas that I'd bought on sale for less than $1.

Who would have thought such a mishmash of items would make such a fabulous, nutritious lunch to bring with me one cold day when hot food was very much appreciated???

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

  • 1 cup leftover Sambhar sauce (or use a jarred curry sauce)
  • generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • leftover rice from a Chinese dinner, reheated for serving

Place the sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, curry powder, chickpeas, and coconut water into a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in spinach just until wilted. Serve over rice.

Makes 2 servings.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Brandied Apple Cranberry Compote

This was a concoction that simply struck my fancy one evening, when I had a bag of cranberries left over from Christmas and some beautiful green apples. It was cold out, and it just seemed right to make a lovely warm fruit compote.

This can be eaten "as is" (which, admittedly, is how I polished off every bit of it without sharing). It can be stirred into oatmeal. It can enhance roasted pork or chicken. Wrap it up in squares of puff pastry and make turnovers.

The choice is yours ....

Brandied Apple Cranberry Compote

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Place apples and butter into a small saucepan; cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes until apples are tender and cranberries have burst.

Makes about 1 cup of compote.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Frugal Floozie Friday - Dos Hermanos Market

Dos Hermanos Market - the fabulous Latin grocery store on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti - offers more than produce, freshly fried pork rinds, a meat counter, traditional baked goods, dozens of spices and salsas, and even rosaries. On the weekends, you can also buy an excellent lunch of delicious but inexpensive food. And so, today I'm featuring it for Frugal Floozie Friday!

As you can see from the menu, you can eat very well at Dos Hermanos within our mandatory budget of $5 per person. You could stand at the counter where the food is ordered and enjoy your meal among the busy-ness of the store, or you can get your food packaged to go; given the small space for eating in, my family voted for take-out.

I love tamales, which cost only $1 apiece, so I ordered two - the only variety available is pork, which was perfectly fine and made me very happy. I planned to eat one myself and then share the other.

Tacos, which cost only $1.60, can be filled with chicken, pork, or beef; we chose two each of the first options and one of the last, so we could taste each of them. Once you order, the men preparing your lunch take portions of the available meats (BBQ de Res = barbecued beef, Pollo Rostisado = rotisserie chicken, Carnitas de cerdo = braised or roasted pork) and chop them by hand before generously filling the tacos with meat, onions, and cilantro. The take-out boxes are wrapped in plastic to help keep them sealed and to limit any potential leaks, and then you pay for your lunch at the market's check-out counter.

The meats are tender, and perfectly enhanced by a squeeze of the accompanying lime. The tamales are tender and full of flavor. You could order an assortment of tacos plus a tamale and still eat a great, filling lunch for our mere $5. This is a great value!

Dos Hermanos is also a great place to shop, where you can get a Mexican soda to go with your lunch, or perhaps buy a cookie or other treat to bring home and enjoy later. You could also buy ingredients for making your own feast, as I found that indulging in this fabulous fast food only caused me to crave it more.

Dos Hermanos Market
412 W. Michigan Ave
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197
Friday - Sunday: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bear Claws

Although he was raised in the Detroit suburbs, Craig spent many years living in California, primarily the San Francisco area. He often tells me of fabulous Mexican or Asian dishes he ate while there, of favorite restaurants he remembers fondly.

But what he seems to miss most of all is the giant bear claws - puffy, flaky, almond-filled delicacies - from the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes, which "has been bringing fresh, organic, handmade pastries ... to the North Bay for over 20 years."

Well, you know me - I love to bake, and I have a lot of air time to fill both here and on I'm always looking for kitchen entertainment, something new and novel to write about.

And so, we undertook a baking adventure and sought to replicate - or, at least, approximate - the Bovine's delicious goodies.

I emailed the bakery and was thrilled to get a lovely response:

"Thanks so much! Love to hear about people hooked on our treats! :)

It is our policy not to share exact recipes (proportions and process), but I will happily tell you the ingredients. Unfortunately for the home baker, bearclaws are probably one of the toughest products to replicate."

They proceeded to let me know what they mix into the filling, and that their recipe for croissant dough - which they also use for these pastries - is so overwhelming (both in quantity and difficulty) that I'd be "better off finding a smaller scale recipe to follow." I was so happy to receive so much information and such gracious guidance!

Craig told me that the pastries are flaky rather than doughy, so I decided against making my own yeast dough and let Pepperidge Farm do the labor-intensive work for me; I purchased a box of its puff pastry, ready to use.

For the luscious center, I relied upon a can of Solo filling, which would offer a rich and sweet almond taste. Since I also had some poppy seed filling, I stirred a bit of that in, as well, following the Bovine's lead. (They combine poppy seeds with everything else, for a very complex flavor.)

I read up on the procedure for making and baking the pastries from a variety of recipes, trying to determine how large to make them and how long to keep them in the oven in order to cook the centers while not burning the edges.

And then, on a cold (wind chill of 16!) and snowy (7" on the ground) evening, I set to tinkering with my project. Although there are a number of steps involved, these treats are actually very easy to make since they rely upon some convenience products.

Sometimes, our adventures provide us only with a story to tell. Other times, we also get success, pride in accomplishment, and fabulous things to eat. The bear claws worked out perfectly in every way - light, puffy, golden, toasted, rich, delicious, decadent, and indulgent!

With many thanks to the Bovine Bakery for its inspiration, assistance, and support ... :)

Bear Claws

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Combine almond filling and poppy seed filling; set aside.

Lightly flour the countertop and unfold one of the two sheets of puff pastry on top of it; lightly dust the top of the dough with flour, too. Roll dough to a 12" square, then cut into 4 squares.

Place a scant 1/4 cupful of the filling onto the center of each dough square.

Combine the egg and the water to make an egg wash; brush on to the edges of one dough square.

Fold dough over and lightly press edges to seal them.

Cut several slits into the long sealed edge of the dough.

Curve the pastry a bit to open up the notches, then place onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining squares of dough.

Brush the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle the tops with almonds.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until pastries puff up and are golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool completely, then repeat with rest of dough, filling, egg wash, and almonds.

When pastries are cool, stir together confectioners' sugar and half-and-half. Drizzle glaze over pastries and let set.

Makes 8 large bear claws.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Food Trends - Throwing My Spoon into the Mixing Bowl

Well, as John Lennon sang, "another year over and a new one just begun."

The former inevitably leads to "best of" lists, a practice I engage in myself by offering some of my favorite food memories of the past twelve months. The latter brings predictions for the coming year.

Numerous sources have offered ideas for food trends in 2013: Bon Appetit, Food Network, the Sterling Rice Group, ABC News, Cooking Light, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and Kitchen Daily among them.

One suggestion is that popcorn will be all the rage - as a snack, with many different flavorings, and even as an ingredient. Although I personally think that popcorn is merely buttery, salty styrofoam, enough entities have proclaimed its coming resurgence that I suppose I'll watch as that trend takes shape.

Korean hot sauces are expected to be enormously popular. KIMKIM sauce won gold for "Outstanding Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer" at the NASFT's (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade) sofi awards this past summer. I know several people who are completely enthralled by it.

Pickled and fermented foods are also going to be "in," they say, and I know that these brined and vinegary foods have shown a huge uptake in popularity. Here in Ann Arbor, The Brinery is a much-loved company that's been winning fans at the forefront of the movement.

Tasting menus, too - a tidbit here, an enticement there, allowing you to try a variety of treats - seem to be very chic in coastal restaurants, particularly in New York City. As Pete Wells recently wrote in The New York Times: "Across the country, expensive tasting-menu-only restaurants are spreading like an epidemic. This year in New York, two such places were born ... while two other restaurants ... dropped their à la carte menus in favor of all-or-nothing tastings." Sure, in many cases it's a pretentious and costly way to get one measly nibble each of a number of dishes. But indecisive girl that I am, I love this concept that would allow me to try several items without having to make a full commitment to only one.

Chia seeds seem to be the latest health craze, having gone beyond merely growing "hair" on ceramic pets. According to another New York Times article, "chia, like fish, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, though of a different sort. It also has antioxidants, protein and fiber. Recognition of its nutritional value can be traced as far back as the Aztecs." They can be used ground or whole, stirred into foods, incorporated into puddings ... these little powerhouses are very flexible and adaptable.

I think these lists have missed some other potential trends, though. Here are a few that I believe have some merit and possibility:

Scandinavian food. In 2011, the Scandinavians swept the Bocuse d'Or [boh-KOOS DOHR], one of the premier international cooking competitions: first place went to Denmark, second place to Sweden, and third to Norway. The biannual event will take place again on January 29th and 30th, and the Scandinavians must be coming in as the favorites. Beyond this, Copenhagen's Noma was named Best Restaurant in the World once again in 2012, for the third consecutive year. In addition to that, Aamanns-Copenhagen - a Danish restaurant serving innovative versions of traditional sandwiches and infused aquavits - just opened in New York; Denmark’s crown prince and princess came for the ribbon cutting last year, when construction began. And, of course, IKEA is a force that's been bringing lingonberry jam and elderflower syrup to the masses, to enjoy once they've polished off their plates of Swedish meatballs. The New York Times (my beloved fix, if you couldn't tell!) is the only one that picked up on this, noting it very briefly. But I've been talking about it for awhile, and brought it up on Facebook just after Christmas - I'd like to take credit where it's due!

Brazilian food and the Paleo Diet. Brazil has been poised to join the proverbial world stage for awhile now; its economy is thriving, and it is full of natural resources and beautiful scenery. Yes, there is also extreme poverty and continued corruption; I don't deny, or excuse, that. But the country is on the brink of becoming a star player. In 2014, Brazil will host the World Cup; in 2016, it will welcome athletes to the Summer Olympics. And if the Paleo Diet is all the rage right now, Brazilian eating habits are ideal for those jumping on the bandwagon. The Paleo Diet features items that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten: "fresh meats ... fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed). Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu." In nearly every way - with the exception of enormously popular beans and rice, and the country's famous pao de queijo [POW deh KAY-ee-zhoh (cheese bread) - this describes Brazilian cuisine, which is particularly noted for its beef.

Locavore expansion. I think the locavore movement - focusing upon eating seasonal, locally-grown produce - is quickly expanding to encompass more eating of locally-made products, as well. People seem to be supporting local bakers, local picklers, local cheese makers ... their friends, family, and neighbors who have small shops and small businesses, but big dreams and bigger flavors. For all the fuss about "big box" stores seeming to invade every community, there seems to be a new-found resurgence in small-batch producers, in wanting to support the folks next door and respecting their crafts and expertise. Ann Arbor welcomed several new farmers' markets this year, which featured beautiful produce and a wide variety of handmade/homemade treats. While it used to be so easy to go to a behemoth grocery store and buy everything in one spot, it seems more and more that people are learning about, buying, and - especially - eating locally-made products that might even require a few extra stops while out running errands.

Charcuterie. Charcuterie - smoking, salting, curing, and otherwise preparing specialty meats (sausages, hams, etc.) - has been making a resurgence at restaurants, but it is also being practiced at home. I know of several folks in their 20s who experiment with these beautiful, savory treats as a hobby, as a passion; and if the cool kids half my age are doing it, it must be fashionable! A labor of love, charcuterie has also inspired the charming folks at Ann Arbor's Biercamp to open a shop devoted to wonderful handmade sausages, bacons, and jerkies. Award-winning Detroit-area chef Brian Polcyn and his collaborator, Michael Ruhlman, have written a second definitive book about this culinary art form - Salumi: The Art of Italian Dry Curing - to follow Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. As Sylvia Rector of The Detroit Free Press wrote not too long ago: "Polcyn's first book isn't the only reason hundreds of American chefs are now making and serving delicious cured meats and scores of new companies have sprung up to produce hand-crafted sausages and cured meats. But he surely helped light the fire." And that fire seems to be burning even more brightly now, as I believe the trend will grow and flourish. In fact, just last week I found out that Chef Steven Grostick, who is noted for butchery and charcuterie, will very soon be working at one of my favorite gourmet shops, The Produce Station.

So, what trends do you see where you live? Which ones do you think are overdone or passé? Which foods are you tired of? And what do you wish others would pick up on and turn into a trend that we can all catch on to?

(With thanks to Andrew Gorsuch of The Produce Station for the photo of KIMKIM sauce.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Frugal Floozie Friday - Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger

"Two men bears and a truck box"

Da bears are back! The one - the only - good thing about snow is that today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature, Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, builds snow bears in front of the restaurant each winter, taking the dreaded white stuff and turning it into something wonderful and fun. How could we not visit - and love - a place that's been featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and which bills itself as "cheaper than food"?

Craig, Jeremy, and I enjoyed a great, greasy meal at Blimpy Burger recently, reveling in fabulous comfort food. There are so many items on the menu that meet our $5 per person budget that it was hard to choose among them.

But then, choosing is always difficult at this place. You get to select how many patties you want (2-5), what kind of cheese and roll (4 and 6 options, respectively), whether you want any grilled items (9 choices), and then top it all off with condiments (an even dozen). Some mathematical wizard has determined that there are 2,147,483,648 possible combinations.

There is a very precise regimen for ordering at Blimpy Burger, to facilitate efficiency: pick up a tray, order the type of bun and number of patties when asked, order grilled items (fries, deep-fried vegetables, etc.), then move on down the line 'til you're asked about toppings. Heaven forbid if you violate the rule about not using your cell phone while proceeding along the assembly line. Nearly everyone who's eaten there in its 60 years has a story about being chastised for one misdeed or another!

We followed all of the protocols, received very friendly service, and then sat down to our dinner. For $4.90, Jeremy ordered a quad - 4 flattened patties - topped with blue cheese, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a regular bun. Cheese and the dozen aforementioned condiments are included in the price; but a kaiser, onion, or pumpernickel roll would have cost an extra 65 cents.

For $2.65, you can get a double with cheese, which includes the possibility of many, many extras. Craig devised an excellent creation with Feta, onions, mustard, ketchup, and pickles, all served on a regular bun. He then complemented it with an order of the famous onion rings for only $2.95.

I also ordered a double with cheese - Swiss - and I had debated adding blue, as well, which would not have cost anything extra. I added mayonnaise, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes, deluding myself that I was eating my vegetables and thus ingesting at least a tidbit of nutrition. The regular order of french fries cost only $1.85, so my burger and side dish together came in at less than our mandatory $5 budget. (And if you're feeling particularly indulgent, you can satisfy your junk food cravings with a basket of chili cheese fries for $4.61, no burger needed.)

Vegetarians can even find a guilty pleasure at Blimpy Burger, where they can enjoy the regular-sized fried Mixed Veggie "Feast from the Deep" for $3.45 or the Ultimate Cheese Sandwich for $4.30 ("Five Cheeses & Grilled Egg With Onion and Peppers On An Onion Roll"); there are also salads, for those with noble intentions. Everyone will like the brownies, the cookies, and the assortment of specialty sodas.

A long-time institution, Blimpy Burger offers a great meal of ol'-fashioned "greasy spoon" delicacies for exceptional prices. And although I loathe the snow, I have to admit it's good to have the snow bears back where they belong!

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
551 South Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Monday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 12 - 8 p.m.

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