Smart mouth, smart cookie

Happy Women’s History Month.

As the great orator T.D. Jakes often wails in the throes of his sermons, “Get ready, get ready, get ready!”

Stories of amazing, everyday women abound the entire month of March. I frankly bask in their awesomeness, drawn from their strength and courage, and get inspired by their indomitable spirits.

National Women’s History Project

The National Women’s History Project has published this year’s National Women’s History theme. It is: “Nevertheless She Persisted.”

It pays homage to women whose lives “demonstrate the power of voice, of persistent action, and of believing that meaningful and lasting change is possible in our democratic society.” (Click here to learn more about how the actions of Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA inspired this year’s theme. Chick here for this year’s Women’s History Month Presidential Proclamation.)

Katherine Spiers, food writer and food anthropologist.

Local writer, local props

As a food writer and native Angeleno, I had to look no further than my own  backyard to find a woman in my industry that, despite the changes and shifts in the print and digital media, nevertheless she persisted.

That woman is Katherine Spiers.

Remember her name.

She was the former Food Editor at LA Weekly, one of the largest alternative weekly newspapers in the United States.  She’s been writing about the vibrant and often transcendent food culture in Los Angeles for over 13 years.

The “cuisine and culture” maven has some noteworthy chops which include her boots on the ground approach to covering the LA food scene at seriouseats.com, followed by time she spent as Managing Editor of  the “Food & Living” digital section at Los Angeles  based KCET, the nation’s largest independent public television station.

LA Weekly gave her the opportunity to explore and unearth the obscure and unsung eateries in LA, and cover these stories from a myriad of social, economic and human perspectives.

“A lot of immigrants start restaurants and people were starting to realize that covering the scene food is more than just about the food. We eat the food of immigrants. So when you talk about immigration issues, food is part of that discussion. As Food Editor, I wanted to make sure we were getting the full breath of the City covered,” said Katherine.

She did exactly that during her two year stint at LA Weekly. Late last year, the paper was sold. To the shock and disappointment of many Angelenos, Katherine, along with other beloved editorial staff members were laid off.   This was a huge loss because there are very few writers, particularly women, who focus on covering LA’s diverse and vibrant food scene.  Nevertheless, she persisted.

Smart Mouth Podcast logo. Fun fact: this is an actual photo of Katherine’s mouth.

Smart Mouth, smart moves

Thank heaven for Smart Mouth Podcast. Katherine and her producer partner Michelle Lanz started the smart and engaging endeavor just over a year ago. They have persisted and elevated their coverage of the food culture which not only includes the voices of the usual culinary suspects, but voices of those outside of the food industry like actors, comedians, and other interesting personalities. As stated on their website which is chalk full of fascinating interviews which you must check out:

“We talk to the most interesting people we know, working in all kinds of industries, about their favorite dishes. It’s a way of finding out what makes them tick.”

The chemistry of Katherine and Michelle is warm, conversational and cozy. The interviews are lively, insightful, revealing and so fresh.

Katherine Spiers and producer partner Michelle Lanz.

Food anthropologist

But I am burying the lead here. To borrow a term from the hip-hop vernacular, Katherine “spits” some serious food history knowledge throughout her podcasts. She is a seasoned journalist to be sure. But you can’t help but be struck by how the inner anthropologist comes out as she blends in examples about why the history of food matters and why it’s important to talk about where food comes from.

“People will tell stories of early American food, and President Thomas Jefferson comes up a lot because of his amazing farm. He’s often credited with being the first to introduce certain foods to the states,” said Katherine. But the food historian emphasized that it was his slaves who also brought many plants, vegetables and legumes to the United States from Africa through the Atlantic slave trade; and they tended his farm and prepared his meals often using methods native to their homeland.

“I think it’s really important not give all the credit to white males in history because that just wouldn’t be the truth,” said Katherine. “What happens in the world is much more interesting and involves a lot more people than we think it does. I really try to bring light to the stories that are easily glossed over.”

Katherine recently enjoyed Halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert, at a  local restaurant.

What’s trending on the LA food scene

Vietnamese and Filipino food are certainly trendy cuisines in Los Angeles, as well as cities across the states.  But Katherine says the concept of “pop-ups” or eateries that don’t’ confine themselves to the traditional brick and mortar model, are the most interesting.  She believes changes in the economy and an often unfriendly business environment have lead many culinary entrepreneurs to find creative venues and novel ways to reach people who are looking for good food and unique dining experiences.

“Some of my favorite Vietnamese food was being served at a pop-up that was in a break room of the chef’s uncle’s mechanic garage,” said Katherine with a whimsical tone. “The food was really incredible. I love that Angelenos seem to really be down for adventure. It’s part of the City’s culture.”

What’s up with that?

The popularity of food television shows has yielded a bumper crop of celebrity chefs and food personalities. When Katherine surveys the current landscape of food shows, she notes that there has been a noticeable shift, leaving women noticeably absent.

“When food shows started becoming popular in the early 2000’s, there were a lot female hosts because they were primarily cooking shows. But I think in the last couple of years a lot of the food content has turned into shows that feature hosts who travel around the world and eat various types of foods from that region,” observed Katherine.

“Most of those shows have men as hosts.  I’m guessing it’s because no one wants to see women eating. It’s cool that more people are learning about the world through these shows, but women are missing when it comes to these opportunities.”

Katherine served as a judge for a cocktail competition.

What’s next?

Katherine is focusing on expanding the reach of her podcast, moderating discussions at food events, and who knows – you  may see her pop up as a host of a food travel show.  But in the meantime, you can keep up with Ms. Spiers by listening to Smart Mouth Podcast and following her on her various social media platforms. She’s the one to watch in this ever evolving food space.

Twitter  @katherinespiers
Instagram @smartmouthpodcast
Smart Mouth Podcast
iTunes
Soundcloud
Facebook

A recipe postscript

Yup, Katherine Spiers is a smart cookie.  But this post wouldn’t be complete without sharing one of her favorite smart cookie recipes. It’s a take on the basic Toll House cookie recipe with a Smart Mouth twist. Katherine explains her approach here:

“I’m generous with the vanilla and salt, and I swap out the walnuts for one cup honey roasted peanuts, slightly smashed, and I use an 8 ounce bag of toffee bits (that’s 1 1/3 cups) and 2/3 cups chocolate chips.”

There you have it. Here’s the recipe.

Smart Mouth Toffee Bits Cookies

  • Servings: 4-5 dozen
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A really tasty cookie

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (Kathrine says be generously here so try 2 teaspoons)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Katherine would use more so try 2-3 teaspoons)
2 large eggs
1~8 ounce package (1  1/3 cups) Hershey Heath English Toffee Bits
2/3 cup Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped honey roasted peanuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  6. Stir in morsels and chopped peanuts.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Holiday cooking tips from Celebrity Chef Jamika Pessoa

Chef Jamika Pessoa. Photo credit: Chef Jamika.

Chef Jamika Pessoa is one of my favorite celebrity chefs.

This Atlanta resident built a wildly successful catering business and garnered the title “Chef to the Stars,” because of her  A-list of loyal clients in entertainment and sports.

Chef Jamika has serious culinary chops. She graduated from the International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute of Atlanta and studied in several European countries.

It was her appearance on season 5 of The Next Food Network Star that we saw her beauty, brilliance, creativity, talent and skilled execution as she competed down to the final rounds in the competition.

Chef Jamika in action. Photo credit: Chef Jamika.

Today this culinary entrepreneur makes regular appearances on shows like The Chew, The Today Show, the Cooking Channel, and the Food Network. She is among the bright lights in the culinary world and a leading subject matter expert in meal planning and entertaining at home.

Clash of the Grandama’s judges and host Cameron Mathison (top). Left to right: Lifestyle expert and POPSUGAR.com Reporter/Producer Brandi Milloy; former NFL player and Food Network star Eddie Jackson; and Food Network Star;Celebrity Chef and Television personality Jamika Pessoa. Photo credit: Chef Jamika.

I had the opportunity to meet Chef Jamika last year when I was contestant on the Food Network Show Clash of the Grandma’s.  She was as amazing judge filled with charm, personality, insightful and didactic critiques that not only elevated my culinary perspective but helped me become a more descriptive food writer.

Thanks chef!

Chef Jamika to the rescue

With the holiday season in full throttle, you undoubtedly are planning your holiday menu or soiree. If not, it has certainly crossed your mind a time or two. This can be overwhelming, even for fairly competent cooks like me.

I sent out an SOS to Chef Jamika and she was gracious enough to provide a few practical  planning and cooking tips to help allay this seasonal anxiety so you can enjoy the holiday season. She even shares an amazing recipe for a  Herb Crusted Prime Rib that the carnivores in your life are sure to love.  It’s at the end of the story.

Wait. I think I heard a somewhat inaudible “whew – thank you Ms. Collard Greens and Caviar.” And to that I say –  you are very welcome!

Make sure to visit her site at http://www.chefjamika.com/recipes/ for more mouth-watering  recipes and please follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook  to keep up with her amazing culinary journey.

Without any futher yadda yadda and pithy prose, the following is offered courtesy of the illustrious Chef Jamika.

As families begin to plan holiday gatherings, the worry of preparing the food always seems to rest on the “head chef” of the family. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips designed to make the meal preparation a special and stress free one.

Plan ahead.   There are benefits to being prepared before a big meal. Organizing yourself will mean a smooth transition from start to finish. Purchase food items as far in advance as possible. Waiting until the last minute does not mean that you will get fresher produce or meats. This only means that you will get items that are picked over and of less quality and taste.

Prep dishes in advance by freezing casseroles and pre-seasoned meats. On the day of the meal, all you have to do is bake them. This will save time and storage space in the refrigerator.

Also, if you are serving hors d’ oeuvres, have them prepped  and as the guests arrive you simply pop them in the oven. Hot and fresh hors d’ oeuvres will buy you some time as the remainder of the meal is still cooking. You never want a room full of hungry guests.

Cook what you like. Who ever said that you have to serve turkey or ham for the holidays? Change things up a bit by preparing dishes that you and your family enjoy the most. Try debuting some of those recipes you have collected over the year, but never tried.

Here is a fun suggestion; before you go shopping, have the kids research recipes they want to see on the table. Make this year’s menu a contributive effort from each family member. Moreover, having family favorites on the table will pay off when it comes time to eating leftovers.

Get the whole family involved. Since the holidays are about family, make cooking time quality time. Create kitchen task lists for each person to complete. While you supervise the entire operation, have dad and the kids measure out ingredients, clean vegetables, or even wash dishes. Each person can proudly present his or her involvement in the meal at the table.

Do not be embarrassed to hire out. Take some of the pressure off of yourself by hiring a professional catering company or a personal chef for the day. The meal will have just as much meaning, without a lot of the hassle. Private companies and chefs book fast around this time, so make sure you place your order in time.

If private catering is not in your budget, your can still seek help outside of your kitchen. Instead of making everything from scratch, try purchasing your breads, side dishes, and desserts from the local bakery or specialty shop. The best way to enjoy a meal is to have someone else do the work.

Get creative with leftovers. There is more to leftovers than sandwiches and soups. Get creative! Take those candied yams, mash them and make a sweet potato soufflé. Try using the cranberry sauce to make cranberry muffins.

Check out her delicious recipe for Herb Crusted Prime Rib. Chef Jamika says your guests will go crazy when you bring this to the table.

Herb Crusted Prime Rib

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe courtesy of Chef Jamika Pessoa

Ingredients

8 cloves of garlic
½ cup parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, stem removed
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
1 bone-in rib roast (prime rib), 8-10 pounds

Directions

  1. Position oven rack on the lowest level and preheat to 450 degrees. Place the garlic, parsley, thyme, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process into a coarse paste.
  2. Coat outside of rib roast generously with olive oil. Smear the paste over the top and sides of the rib roast. Place the roast bone-side down (fat side up) in a heavy roasting pan. Add cup of water to pan and place in the pre-heated oven.
  3. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until a thermometer with the tip inserted to the center of the roast reaches 125 degrees.
  4. Transfer the roasted prime rib to a serving platter, and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

A special way to end the evening is to share your blessings with someone else and give leftover portions to those in the neighborhood or at your local church who are less fortunate.

Holidays should be a time of giving and spending time with family. Make this holiday an impressive one by being prepared. Plan down to the smallest detail so that the day is one filled with fond memories and not piles of dirty dishes.

Your lucky pot of peas 2.0 Hacked

You gotta have your black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!

black-eyed-peas-in-pan-blog-post

Stove top view of Sassy black eyed peas 2.0 Hacked

It’s tradition.

You know the story. That pot of peas holds the promise of a happy and prosperous new year. See my post Get your lucky pot of peas simmering for the New Year.

Having black eyed peas on New Year’s Day is serious business in my family and has been for generation. There is no way we are going to enter the new year with having them.

You  need your peas

With the United States and the world polarized by the results of our Presidential election, perhaps we all need a lucky pot of peas simmering on our stove tops on New Year’s Day, along with a generous helping of collard greens  which symbolizes the hope that more  moola – you know the green stuff that buys stuff –  is headed your way.

If you stick with tradition, that pot of peas is cooked low and slow, simmering for over an hour on your stove top.

Nestled among the simmering peas is often a smoked ham hock or turkey parts. The aroma of the smoked meat wafting through the air, along with the sound of the slightly ajar lid clinking back and forth on against the simmering pot, is the stuff that my memories are made of.

Hacking the peas

You want that lucky pot of peas. You gotta have that luck pot of peas. But what if you don’t want to go through all that work  soaking and simmering?

Recently, I was a contestant on the Food Network show Clash of the Grandmas. One of the challenges on this special “on fleek” or on point episode involved using a food hack to create an entrée.  Food hacks are tricks, shortcuts, or novel methods in creating or recreating a dish.

In channeling my Food Network experience, I created a tasty black eyed peas food hack for you. I call the recipe Sassy Black Eyed Peas 2.0 Hacked. For this recipe you will need unseasoned, canned black eyed peas – yes you read that right – which I will shamelessly tell you I get from Ralphs or Kroger Market.

This recipe is great to serve for your New Year’s dinner or anytime. It is smoked meat free and tangy, savory, delicious and full of flavor. Your vegetarian friends will rejoice and the carnivores in your life will not even miss the meat.

Now you can have that lucky pot of peas 2.0 style – which simply means updated and recreated using this easy food hack.

Happy New Year to you and your family.

Sassy Black Eyed Peas 2.0 Hacked

black-eyed-peas-in-bowl-2-blog-post-brighter

Sassy Black Eyed Peas 2.0 Hacked, served with Simple Truth Chicken glazed with barbecue sauce.

Ingredients
2  15.5 ounce cans unseasoned black eyed peas (Kroger/Ralphs featured here)
2 tablespoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup red chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
¼ cup liquid
Cracked pepper
Crushed red pepper

black-eye-peas-ingredients-picmonkey-collage

Sassy Black Eyed Peas 2.0 Hacked simple ingredients

Method
With a skillet set on medium heat, add sesame seed oil and butter. When butter is melted, add chopped red onion and red bell pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chopped garlic to pan and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add two cans of Kroger black eye peas, drained. Reserve ¼ cup of liquid (optional).

Add juice of one lime, ¼ cup of liquid (water, vegetable stock or reserved liquid from drained peas) and cilantro, crushed red pepper and cracked pepper to taste. Stir well. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes or until well heated. Serve.

Los Angeles Food Blogger Mixes It Up on Food Network’s Clash of the Grandmas Show December 11, 2016

That blogger is moi!

Now that the Food Network has made the official announcement about my appearance on an upcoming episode of Clash of the Grandmas – yes I said Grandmas – now I can officially announce it to you.  See the information below about my debut on the Food Network show which includes details from their official media announcement. I hope you get a chance to watch me in action. Oh – make sure to use the hashtag #ClashofTheGrandmas if you want to chime in on social media. Now that would be super cool!

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Veronica Hendrix,  Los Angeles based journalist, food blogger of  the widely read food blog  Collard Greens and  Caviar, cooking coach and cookbook author, will make her debut on the Food Network’s Clash of the Grandmas Show, Sunday, December 11, 2016  at 10:00 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time).

clash-of-the-grandmas-contestants-12-11

Left to right: Joan Channon (Hawi, Hawaii), Dale Roland (Groveland, Florida), Neera Sharma (Columbus, Ohio) and Veronica Hendrix (Los Angeles, California)

Hendrix, a native Angeleno and grandmother of a 3 year-old grandson, competes on the hour long show against three other grandmas from Hawaii, Florida, and Ohio. This “on fleek” episode challenged contestants to make dishes that were on point with the latest food trends. This was a perfect episode for Hendrix whose personal style, culinary perspective, and youthful outlook shatter all expectations of the “traditional grandma.”

The panel of show judges on this episode are former NFL player and Food Network star Eddie Jackson; Lifestyle expert and POPSUGAR.com Reporter/Producer Brandi Milloy; and Food Network Star, Celebrity Chef and Television personality Jamika Pessoa. The show was taped in Los Angeles.

Up for grabs in the kitchen battle is $10,000 and Hendrix and her staunch competitors battle mixing bowl to stove top in intense elimination rounds that tested their cooking chops, creativity and nerves.

croquettes-two-shot-2

So Cali Chicken Croquettes  I  made in the first round. These moist and crispy, deep fried bites were called “the next big thing” in food trends by one judge [Photo credit: Veronica Hendrix home kitchen]

With 45 minutes or less in each elimination round, here’s the challenge rundown:

  • Round One – four contestants make an after-school snack featuring each of their grandkids’ favorite ingredients.
  • Round Two – three contestants make spicy fried chicken and grits using quick grits and a baking mix.
  • Round Three – the final two contestants battle for $10,000 and make a savory dish that looks like a dessert.

“It was an incredible experience that tested my skills and creativity. The inspiration of my mom, and the spirit of the many women and men in my family whose food nurtured me and generations was with me in that kitchen,” said Hendrix. “My competitors were fierce, and I learned so much about myself with each challenge.  I really am a fearless cook!”

So how did Hendrix handle the challenges?  Did she win the coveted prize? She can’t say, but make sure to watch Los Angeles’ favorite food blogger in action on the Food Network’s Clash of the Grandmas Show on Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 10:00 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time) and find out.

Social media

Follow Veronica on Instagram @collardgreenscaviar, Twitter @collardscaviar @vhend, and on Facebook at Collard Greens and Caviar.

About Veronica Hendrix

Veronica Hendrix is a journalist, a food blogger, columnist, cookbook author, cooking coach and healthy cooking advocate. Her column Veronica’s View covered a myriad of social and political issues and appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper and other online outlets for 12 years.

Today her widely read blog Collard Greens and Caviar (collardgreensandcaviar.com) features food stories and recipes of personalities behind the food, and has featured chefs, radio personalities, home cooks and her own personal foray into the kitchen. The stories are smartly written and entertaining. Veronica co-wrote the popular Taste of Soul Cookbook for Bakewell Media, a recipe book that celebrates the largest annual food festival west of the Mississippi.

She is the author of a cookbook that highlights the use of her Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning mix she created after a doctor’s diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Veronica also produced a half hour talk show called “LA Woman,” which aired on Los Angeles City View Channel 35. She is a Los Angeles Emmy nominated producer, has been a reporter for USA Today and KLCS News in Los Angeles. She is a 15-year member of the National Association of Black Journalists-LA and the Association of Food Journalists. Veronica is a native of Southern California, has two adult sons and a 3- year-old grandson.