Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm baaack!...... Sorry for taking so long to post.....

Well, times in Las Vegas have been challenging to say the least and while we've been lucky to land on our feet and be able to get organized pretty quickly, it's still takes time to make it all "jell".... especially the part of being back in the "rat race" after having lived so long under Mexico time and having the luxury to take things at a slower pace.....

Yes, Las Vegas has taken quite a blow from the current economic slowdown and you can see it all over town with many closed businesses and vacant locations, and even though there are many jobs being advertised for, there are so many unemployed (and more every day as benefits run out) there aren't nearly enough to go around..... I'm sure it's the same way all over the US, but it's still hard to see, you know?

So, people are all trying to "make it do - make it last - fix it up or do without", returning to the old style of doing things which our grandparents used to be familiar with yet for others, growing up during the bounty days of the post-war and fifties affluent years, never had to consider.... especially in the US where convenience became the keyword for goods and services.

Food and the manner it was prepared underwent drastic overhaul during the post-war years with the advent of "convenience foods" and Mother's having gone out into the workforce; changes which to this date have revolutionized the way of life for most families. Around these times, preservatives / additives / chemicals and more became the norm for food since it was vital that shelf life be prolonged in order to provide a lot of the convenience that was needed.

Frozen foods also became popular, along with TV dinners and home freezers which for the first time, allowed families to space trips to the grocery store and buy in larger quantities instead of having to purchase smaller quantities of fresh foods which needed more preparation time in order to feed a family; these changes made life as it was lived before change and gave people time to spend on other pursuits instead of time spent in front of the stove.

So from that time on the grocery stores changed as well and all types of new service businesses appeared to provide them with a veritable wealth of selection on everything under the sun you could think of. People earned more than ever and consumed more than ever too. Companies gave them studies on shopping patterns, buying and eating trends, the psychology of food and more.... the changes also created a boom for the restaurant and hospitality industry since families where no longer tied to eating at home and preferred to eat out instead and having higher incomes made it possible. I don't have to even mention the changes this brought to the country's diet and health which now more than ever, are causing people to take another look at the food they buy and eat and are finally considering "what" is in the food they eat as an important factor in their lives.

In any case it became rare to find people that still cooked and made "from scratch" meals as these were usually reserved for grandmothers or traditionalists and it wasn't until it became "cool" to know how to cook that it began to change. The Food Network and celebrity Chefs had a big hand in this, since now more than ever you find "foodies" going all out for specialty food and have created new food services as well in the healthy food genre. Organic and natural used to be associated with hippies or nature types during the good years and fortunately all this is now mainstreaming into the general population from public schools, fast food, restaurants and home cooks so maybe we can undo some of the damage done by "progress".

Today, more than ever, it has become "very cool" to be a"foodie" or know how to cook; Chefs and home cooks are celebrated for their talents and the quantity of cookbooks flying off bookstore shelves has never been higher. Plus the economic slowdown has made the rest of the population take notice and admit that in order to stretch one's budget while still eating well, it's necessary to begin eating at home again which has caused many families to return to the old way of doing things. Add the Internet into the mix and there isn't anything you can't find online to teach you how to prepare it all! YAY! (of course the opposite is also true and you can find the absolute worst online too...)

Nostalgia is big of course, "one dish meals" or "casseroles" are back. Recipes to recreate favorite restaurant foods are popular, and some are even asking parent's or grandparents for time-tested family favorites. Men are also coming into the kitchen and cooking for the family, even though traditionally famous Chefs where usually all male (go figure...) and anyone having a boyfriend or husband that cooks is considered "lucky"......lol, but knowing where your kitchen is located in the home is "very cool" and producing great food is too.

There isn't anything you can't prepare at home actually- depending on how "nitty gritty" you want to get and what your budget allows- and nothing is off-limits either. Imported food stores and specialty markets offer all the ingredients you need and the applause from loved ones creates a never ending opportunity to expand your horizons while enriching your life that becomes quite addictive, plus you can save money and improve your health too, what more could you ask for, right?

That's enough from my soapbox, but I though I'd send along this nifty little ditty called "Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup" that might be perfect for the cooling weather most of us are experiencing now.... in any case it's yummy, easy to do one-dish meal and very satisfying:

Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup.-With its seductive flavors of coconut, lime, ginger and cilantro, this Thai soup will quickly become a favorite at your house. This version includes enough chicken and noodles to make it a main course, but you can leave it out if you like. Also, you can turn up the heat with more cayenne or Thai chilies and really turn it into something fabulous!

1 1/2 tbl cooking oil
small onion, chopped
cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2
tsp ground coriander
tsp ground ginger
tsp fresh-ground black pepper
tsp cayenne
4 cups chicken broth or homemade stock
cup unsweetened coconut milk
tsp Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam) or soy sauce
1 3/4
tsp salt
strips lime zest, about 3 inches long
lb fettuccine or broad noodles
lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), cut into slices
tbl lime juice
tbl chopped cilantro (optional)

In a large pot, heat the oil over med heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 min. Add the garlic, coriander, ginger, black pepper and cayenne; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Add the broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, salt and lime zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 min.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles. Drain.
Add the chicken to the soup and simmer until just done, about 1 1/2 min. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the fettuccine, lime juice and cilantro. Serve.

Note: The spices and the coconut milk will be best accompanied by a wine with a hint of sweetness. Try a chenin blanc from California or a demi-sec version of Vouvray (also made from the chenin blanc grape). Serve with some crusty bread and a side salad and you'll have a lovely supper! (I also add some chopped chives, baby peas and sometimes small carrot cubes or other veggies).

I will try to maintain my posts and not let so much time go by in between.... the weather in Las Vegas is showing definite signs of Autumn and snow has already fallen on Mt. Charleston during the first week of October! The winter will not be far behind..... Hoping everyone is healthy and happy.... Talk soon!

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