Epicurean Charlotte

Food & Wine Magazine

CHRONICLING THE JOYS OF FOOD AND WINE IN THE CHARLOTTE METROPOLITAN REGION

Farm-to-Table: The hot food trend you can enjoy without leaving home


reprinted with permission from Brandpoint


If you’ve eaten out recently, you’ve probably noticed many of the menus feature locally-sourced ingredients. The farm-to-table movement continues to flourish at restaurants throughout the country.

In fact, rather than the exception, it’s become the expectation. According to the National Restaurant Association, farm-to-table is quickly becoming the new norm. Diners are so attracted to the freshest fare possible, that it’s inspiring some restaurants to start their own gardens—on a rooftop, terrace, or simple outdoor plot. Hyper-local culinary concepts like these represent the top trend on the annual “2018 Culinary Forecast” report.

Take a cue from this hot trend and start your own farm-to-table concept garden at home! Just imagine plucking ruby red tomatoes and rich green basil straight from your garden to make a farm-fresh, scrumptious caprese salad without ever leaving home. An at-home take on the farm-to-table trend can easily be translated to a convenient “garden-to-table” concept in your own backyard. Growing your own at home will elevate your cooking, and you’ll feel good about being able to produce your own food while lowering your grocery bill (and certainly save by not dining out as much).

No matter the size of your garden space, you can grow fresh foods that are readily available right at your fingertips, even if you just have a small patio or balcony. What’s more, some of the most popular produce to eat is also easy to grow.

The experts at Bonnie Plants offer some easy-to-grow, space-saving suggestions to encourage a garden-to-table trend at home.


Caged Peppers
Try popular and versatile Green Bell, a heavy yielder of large fruits and a good all-round pepper for slicing and stuffing. Or, spice up your recipes with jalapeño chile peppers, which yield a bountiful harvest.


Caged Tomatoes
Whether you choose big, juicy slicers or sweet cherry-sized snackers, caged tomatoes are easy to grow and offer endless cooking opportunities. Determinate varieties of tomatoes are container favorites because the vines are relatively compact yet bear a productive harvest. Or, create your own container garden using tomato varieties especially bred for small spaces.


Strawberries in Hanging Baskets
Sweet, juicy strawberries add loads of flavor to salads, dressings, drinks, and desserts. Think you need a plot to grow a productive strawberry patch? Think again. Maximize space with Bonnie Plants’ strawberries in hanging baskets, which are everbearing and produce cascades of berries throughout the growing season.


Herbs in Combo Pots
Want to raise the flavor profile of any culinary dish? Fresh herbs are your best bet. Herb gardens can be grown in compact spaces, which means you can fit your favorites in no matter how much space you have.

For example, a kitchen herb combo container featuring sweet basil, cilantro, and curled parsley is a powerhouse pot that’s both practical and pretty. You can set it right outside your door for convenient access and continuous harvest. Herbs are ready for harvest upon purchase and will keep growing and giving all season long.

Bonnie Plants offers more than 250 varieties of vegetables and herbs, from tried and true classics to some unusual varieties you may not have tried, such as Holy Basil, Tepin Chili Pepper, Barbeque Rosemary, Little Napoli Patio Roma, and many more.

Once it’s time to harvest, have fun exploring new recipes and experimenting with home-grown, fresh-picked produce that will shake up your supper and then some. For more inspiration for easy at-home gardening, visit bonnieplants.com.



Caprese Salad

This recipe for a classic caprese salad is sure to hit the spot as a light lunch or satisfying start to dinner.

Ingredients:
• 1 fresh tomato
• 1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
• basil leaves
• olive oil
• balsamic vinegar
• salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Slice tomato in ¼-inch thick slices. Do the same for the mozzarella. Alternate layers between the tomato, mozzarella, and basil. First, a tomato slice, then a mozzarella slice, then a few leaves of basil; begin and end with tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or your favorite Italian dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fast Facts for Navigating the Cooking Oil Aisle

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courtesy Family Features


Corn may be the top crop in Iowa, but many consumers are not aware of corn oil’s heart-healthy benefits and its versatility in the kitchen.

When cooking for your family, selecting the best ingredients for a heart-healthy meal can be challenging, and there is one ingredient that is often the core of any recipe: cooking oil. However, navigating the cooking oil aisle can be confusing, so this guide breaks down everything the home chef needs to know about cooking with oil.


Heart-Health Focused
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important to your heart health, and when it comes to impact on cholesterol, not all cooking oils are created equal. Next time you find yourself reaching for extra virgin olive oil at the grocery store, consider swapping it out for corn oil, which a study shows can help lower cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. Corn oil also has nearly five times the amount of polyunsaturated fats compared to olive oil, and these heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood. Making a conscious effort to use ingredients like corn oil is a smart, heart-healthy choice for your family.


A Gut Decision

When it comes to lowering your cholesterol and staying heart healthy, go with your gut. Corn oil contains cholesterol-blocking plant sterols—plant-based micronutrients that help block the absorption of cholesterol in your gut and work to prevent bad cholesterol (LDL) from entering the blood stream. Corn oil contains nearly four times more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than olive oil, three times as many as vegetable oil, and nearly 1.5 times more than canola oil.

Sourcing the Best Ingredients

Today, more and more families are paying close attention to where their food comes from and prefer locally-sourced ingredients. Opting for local food can give you more confidence in the ingredients you use in your family’s meals. Mazola® Corn Oil, for instance, is produced from corn in the Midwest, including corn grown in Iowa. A lot of olive oil is imported from the Mediterranean region, while most canola oil comes from our friendly neighbors up north in Canada. But, did you know that you can get heart-healthy corn oil that’s grown and made right here in the U.S.?
 
Multipurpose Functionality
Whether you fancy yourself a top-notch baker, grill master, or are just starting out, each ingredient selected plays an important role in obtaining the meal’s desired taste. Extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor that can change the taste of the foods you cook. Corn oil is an all-purpose cooking oil with a neutral taste that lets the true flavors of your dish come through, making it the perfect ingredient for heart-healthy dishes like pan-fried salmon or in a salad dressing over a bed of spinach.

Corn oil can also handle the heat in the kitchen because of its high smoke point (450°F), making it a great, all-purpose cooking oil for everything from grilling and sautéing to stir frying and baking. This is key for crafting quality meals at home, because once a smoke point is exceeded, the food flavor and nutritional value are negatively affected.

Five Kitchen Upgrades to Make Your Inner Host Flourish

published with permission from Brandpoint


You love entertaining and treating guests to delectable dishes and fun times. Unfortunately, your kitchen layout, appliances, and even the faucet are so downright unappealing that the thought of planning and preparing a party menu is equally unpleasant.

What do you do when you’re built to entertain, but your kitchen isn’t? Renovate!


Reasons to Renovate
The kitchen is a favorite room to remodel, and a minor kitchen refresh can return more than 80 percent of your investment at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report. But ROI isn’t the top reason people renovate kitchens. According to the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, most people who remodel their kitchen do so because they just can’t stand it anymore.

So, if you love playing host but don’t like the kitchen that stands in the way of your entertaining, revamping the room is the perfect way to make it more party-friendly.


Renovating for Entertainment

Here are five upgrades that can help make your kitchen the perfect platform for entertaining:

1. Give yourself some space. If you’ve decided to go all in for your kitchen renovation and have an older home with a closed-off kitchen, consider opening the space to the home’s main living area. If your home already has an open floor plan, consider ways to tie the kitchen more intimately to the living area, such as continuing one style of flooring through both rooms or repeating an accent color in the kitchen and adjacent common space.

2. Work smarter with a new faucet. The sink is a key point in the workflow triangle for any kitchen, and the faucet should take center stage in this performance. A contemporary faucet with task-driven spray patterns is a must for entertaining, but wouldn’t an extra pair of hands also be great to have with the flurry of pre-party activities? An easy and quick solution is a hands-free faucet, such as the American Standard Beale kitchen faucet with Selectronic technology, which allows you to turn water on or off without the need to touch the faucet. This touchless technology makes food prep easier, while also helping to prevent cross-contamination of foods.

Taking hands-free technology one step further, the addition of a sleek, European-styled GROHE kitchen faucet with Foot Control allows you to control the flow of water with a tap of your toe at the base of the sink cabinet. Now it will be super simple to fill a big pot or rinse off a large skillet, using both hands to hold it securely while turning on the water at the same time.

3. Upgrade appliances. Depending on your budget, you can find appliances to help with virtually every aspect of entertaining, from dishwashers that entirely eliminate the need to pre-rinse, to refrigerators that help compile your grocery list. Even on a modest budget, you can improve on your current appliances, especially if they are older and less energy efficient. Double stoves are great for cooking a lot of food for large groups of guests, warming drawers keep food warm until ready to serve, and beverage drawers ensure you’ll always have enough refreshments for everyone.

4. Choose cleaning-friendly surfaces. Did you ever wonder why stainless steel sinks continue to be a popular choice in kitchens, regardless of the room’s decor? It’s because stainless steel sinks not only look good, they also retain their beauty longer by resisting stains and scratches. Plus, drop-in and undermount stainless steel sinks from American Standard offer both single and double bowl options for simplifying kitchen tasks. Picking dirt and germ-busting surfaces like stainless steel, stone countertops, ceramic tile, etc., can help make it easier to keep your kitchen clean, leaving you more time for entertaining.

5. Create an island paradise. The standalone island has become a must-have for entertainment-minded homeowners. An island can serve multiple purposes when throwing a party, from providing extra workspace or hosting a second sink, to giving guests a seat closer to the action. You can even choose a multi-level island that will allow you to interact with guests while concealing work areas and sinks from view.


If your kitchen has been holding you back from blossoming into the host of your dreams, these easy upgrades can help the room better match your personality and entertainment needs.