Lunch Review

Bacon + Donuts ?

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Today I ate a bacon donut…and it was pretty awesome.

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It initially sounds like an unappetizing pairing, but the salty/sweet combination of the dessert is delightful. And this is coming from the girl who just yesterday admitted to not liking bacon all that much.

Today’s Valley Café was full of the best selection of comfort food from macaroni and cheese to sweet potatoes and crispy bacon. It was the perfect combination of recipes for a rainy afternoon. And that donut was a spectacularly unique ending. 

What did you think of the bacon donut??

Southwestern Spice & Everything Nice (or Breaking Bad)

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The Valley Café explores a lot of international cuisine from around the world; however, here within the United States there are just as many varieties of meals. Chef Anthony decided to design today’s lunch around one of our great states: New Mexico. Although an American territory, the state’s food is heavily influenced by its Mexican neighbors to the south. The southwest region of the country, in general, is a great place to taste authentic Mexican flavors without having to whip out your passport.

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The quintessential Mexico flavors were in abundance this afternoon from avocados to beans and rice…but the tastes of New Mexico wouldn’t be complete without some spicy ingredients. Jalapeno poppers were also found at the buffet as well as some papas con chile (chile potatoes). I’m usually very sensitive to hot ingredients, but this afternoon’s Valley Café was delicious with just enough spicy kick. It was a great way to experience a part of my country that I have never been to before.

Also, let’s not pretend like we aren’t all thinking about Breaking Bad at the New Mexico themed event

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…had to throw that in there.

See you next week for another piping hot, local meal!

 

Cooking Lesson: Fresh Mozzarella

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This week’s Italian Valley Café was a sell-out! The atmosphere was bustling and exciting as everyone enjoyed the tastes of southern Italy.

In addition, Chef Anthony was in the cabaret all afternoon turning fresh curd into a ball of stuffed mozzarella from which he was slicing pieces for customers drizzled in olive oil and garnished with a basil leaf. It was a great opportunity to see the fresh, local ingredients and kitchen’s culinary skills at work!

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But you don’t need to be a Chef to make your own mozzarella…just follow the Valley Café recipe!

1. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid to 1 cup cool water. Stir into 1 gallon of cold milk. Heat slowly to 90 degrees.

2. Remove pot from burner. Dilute a 1/4 tablet or 1/4 teaspoon of rennet in 1/4 cup cool water. Stir diluted rennet into pot for 30 seconds. Cover and leave for 5 minutes.

3. Check the curd. It should look like custard and the whey will be clear. If too soft, let set a few more minutes.

4. Now cut the curd into 1 inch squares with a knife that reaches to the bottom of the pot.

5. Place pot on stove and heat to 105 degrees while stirring slowly. If you will be stretching in water, heat to 110 degrees.

6. Take off the burner and continue stirring slowly for 2-5 minutes. Transfer curd to a colander or bowl using a slotted spoon.

7. Notice how the curd is beginning to get firmer at the whey drains. Continue separating the curd from the whey by gently pressing the curd to encourage the whey runoff.

8. Transfer curd to a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute on medium heat, then pour off the whey.

9. Knead and reheat for 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary until the curd reaches 135 degrees–almost too hot to handle.

10. Knead the curd as you would bread. If it is hot enough the curd will stretch. If it will not stretch, return it to the microwave as needed. Continue to pull and stretch. This will turn the curd into mozzarella.

11. Once the mozzarella appears smooth, form it into a ball and get ready to add it to your recipe or eat it as is.

Enjoy!

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Prepare for Spring Break: Tips from Chef

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This week’s menu was packed with healthy dishes by Marist’s own Chef Anthony. Chef’s idea for the menu was to focus it around identifiable, local and relatively easy to prepare dishes. He was also focused on not making the meal itself scream HEALTHY, joking that then no one would want to eat it!

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But spring break is approaching and for many people that means bathing suit season after a long winter, so fitness seems to be on everyone’s mind…

When designing a well-balanced and nutritious meal, Chef Anthony adheres to general guidelines that can be applied to daily eating:

Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foodsNo single food supplies all the nutrients you need, so mix and match.

Enjoy plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetablesAnd don’t be afraid to get creative in how you incorporate them into your diet!

Control your portions Did you know the recommended serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces, similar in size to a deck of playing cards?

Eat regular mealsSkipping meals can lead to out-of-control hunger, which can result in overeating. So don’t be afraid to snack, just keep portions reasonable.

Reduce, don’t eliminate certain foodsYou don’t have to give up your favorite food if it’s high in fat, salt or sugar. Just moderate portions and how often you eat it.

Foods are not good or badSo don’t feel guilty for liking potato chips, apple pie or milkshakes.

Balance your food choices over timeMake sure you get all the foods you need in a reasonable a period of time.

The Valley Café always works to maintain its customer’s health, but enjoying healthy meals every day best starts with your habits!

What other successful healthy eating tips do you have??

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Returning to Asia

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The past couple of meals at The Valley Café have returned back to crowd favorites from last semester, back by popular demand.

Indian cuisine on February 11th featured lots of spices–chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and plenty of curry. The tastes of Asia continued the following week with the eclectic Burmese menu from the country of Myanmar, featuring briyani, cabbage and noodles.

Asia offers ingredients and tastes that are very unique to our American culture. Giving them a try at The Valley Café is a great way to learn to love them!

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For more information, you can also read about India and the Festival of Lights and the cuisine of Myanmar in my past posts.

More meals to come!

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to

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The amount of potatoes that were present at today’s opening Valley Café was slighting overwhelming. The variety ranged from red potatoes, to Yukon gold and russet potatoes. Then there were our locally grown fingerling and deep purple Peruvian potatoes from RSK Farm in Prattsville, New York. (Unfortunately, the farm experienced significant damage from hurricane Irene in 2011 and is now working to re-develop its damaged farm land. Sourcing from RSK not only provides us fresh, local ingredients but also helps the farm recover!).

I learned quickly as I was filling up my plate  that I had to pick and choose which potatoes I wanted for lunch or else I would be consuming more starch than I could handle. But choosing from the many delicious and steaming recipes was no easy task. My favorites ended up being the oven baked parmesan fries seasoned in thyme, oregano, rosemary garlic and cheese. Chef Anthony and I went back for seconds, as he was a fan of them as well.

But dessert was my absolute favorite. Potatoes and dessert was never a concept that fit well in my head before today’s lunch. However, the fruit banana and sweet potato casserole was the perfect ending to my meal. The naturally sweet flavor of the bananas and sweet potatoes, enhanced by brown sugar and cinnamon, created one of those “melt in your mouth” desserts. I’ve never been much of a sweet potato fan, but this may have converted me.

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Chef Anthony will be sharing the recipe for the banana and sweet potato casserole for those of you personal chefs who wish to re-create this glorious dessert moment. I’ll keep you posted with the details!

It was great to see such a good turn out at The Valley Café’s first meal of the semester. Who else had a favorite potato dish from today??

Two Helpings

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Today’s Native American themed Valley Café was a success and a great way to celebrate the heritage so essential to our country.

The corn was the key ingredient in the menu and lived up to the Ulster County farm’s reputation! I’m willing to admit the Corn Stew was so delicious that I had a serving before class and a second one afterwards…

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Thanks to the local Gill Farm and the Valley Café for a wonderful lunch!