Category Archives: Interesting Miscelleana

The Rich and Flavorful History of Soul Food

Please, when I mention soul food, do not think only of the food marketed by some older gentleman parading as a colonel from Kentucky.  Soul food, as I discovered while researching this post, is so much more than just fried chicken, corn bread, and sweet potato pie.  Although those dishes do play a role, they are not the end-all, be-all of soul food, far from it.  Soul food has its origins, as one might expect, from West Africa, but it also contains ingredients from Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas as well.  It is, in fact, a fusion cuisine that has evolved over the centuries and is, perhaps, rediscovering its vegetable roots (no, not like turnips or carrots).

What we now refer to as soul food has its origins in West Africa.  When millions of African slaves were forcibly removed from their homeland and brought to North, Central, and South America, as well as numerous Caribbean islands, one of the memories they brought with them were of the culinary variety.  The Columbian Exchange (the transfer of foods, animals and ideas among the Atlantic world) began almost immediately after Columbus first landed in the Bahamas in 1492.  Eventually, African plants and seeds arrived in the slave states of the South, sometimes via the Caribbean.  One of the most significant was rice, along with okra and black-eyed peas.

The West African diet consisted mostly of vegetables and meat was usually only used to flavor the dish.  This tradition easily transferred itself to America as Southern slaves usually only had access to limited amounts of meat.  And what meat they did obtain was of the variety not eaten by their owners, such as ham hocks, oxtail, chitterlings (or chit’lins…pig intestines), or gizzards.  Many slaves also were permitted to supplement their diets through the use of their own gardens, where they grew vegetables that were common to the Native Americans…sweet potatoes and corn.  Hence the inclusion of many corn based items, such as hominy, grits and cornbread under the soul food umbrella.   The slaves also grew “new” greens such as collard, mustard, turnip, cabbage and kale.

After the Civil War, many Southern blacks became share croppers, still tied to the land that others owned.  However, by the time the U.S. entered World War I, in 1917, many Southern blacks began what has come to be known as the Great Migration as they headed north in search of manufacturing jobs and they took their soul food recipes with them, along with their music.  These African-Americans then began to use lard to cook the meat that they now acquired through better paying jobs, to include chicken and pork.  Some of these transplanted Southern blacks managed to open their own restaurants and they became community gathering places within cities, both north and south.

As for the term “soul food,” African-Americans began to use that term in the 1940s, but it went mainstream with the arrival of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, as “soul” was also placed in front of man, brother, sister, and music.  Simply stated, during this time, “soul” equaled African-American, while “Southern” came to be associated with white.

Around this period, the American diet began to change with the mass consumption of processed and fast food and this is when soul food was transformed and came to be considered part of an unhealthy diet.  While a soul food diet has always had healthy and unhealthy elements, this equilibrium was unbalanced when processed and fast food manufactures altered its composition.

However, recently, many African-American chefs have been leading the way back to the roots of soul food as they take it back to its veggie-centric beginnings.  Often referred to as “down-home healthy soul food,” it features meat dishes, but they’re now grilled or baked rather than fried in lard.  Dishes are also prepared with less salt and sugar and are flavored with onions, pepper, garlic, herbs and spices.  It has been referred to as a sort of homecoming by African-American chefs and culinary experts.  Imagine, soul food as a synonym for health food…well, imagine no longer.

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month…

ada-logo…And in order to help raise awareness about this disease that currently afflicts more than 29 million people in the U.S., MagicKitchen.com is awarding a $250 gift certificate to one lucky entrant.  All that’s required of you is to go to this site: http://www.magickitchen.com/diabetes-awareness.html and simply enter your name and email address.  The contest opens on November 1 and the winner will be announced on December 3.

Lemon Rosemary PorkSince the whole idea of our contest and designating November as Diabetes Awareness Month is to…well…raise awareness among people about diabetes, here’s a few facts regarding the disease as cited by the Center for Disease Control:

  • Of the 29.1 million people who have diabetes, 8.1 million of them (or 27.8%) are undiagnosed.
  • At least 1 in 3 people will develop type II diabetes in their lifetime.
  • The risk of death for adults with diabetes is 58% higher than for adults without the disease and their medical costs are twice as high.
  • Those who have diabetes are at greater risk for blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

ground-turkey-noodles-IMG_3995-(2)In addition to the 29 million who have diabetes, 86 million have pre-diabetes (those whose blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as type II diabetes) and 90% of them are unaware of this fact.  Hence the need for Diabetes Awareness Month…to make them aware of the disease and to convince them to see their doctor for a blood glucose screening.  Because for many of them, there’s still time to stave off full-blown diabetes by simply eating healthy, losing weight and leading a more active lifestyle.

Since there are often no signs or symptoms of pre-diabetes, you should get a blood glucose screening if you have any of the following risk factors:

    • Overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 25.
    • Are inactive
    • Age 45 or older
    • Have a family history of type II diabetes
    • Have high blood pressure
    • Your HDL is below 35
    • You are African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander.
    • Have polycystic ovary syndrome

Portion Control mealsSo what can you do if you’re diagnosed with prediabetes?  Well, the treatment is simple and totally within your hands.  The CDC states that you can lower your risk for type II diabetes by 58% if you lose 7% of your body weight (or 15 pounds for someone who weights 200 pounds) and perform some moderate exercise (like brisk walking) for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

The lessons to be learned here?  You can win a $250 gift certificate from MagicKitchen.com simply by registering and if you or someone you know is at risk for pre-diabetes, get them, or you, in for a blood glucose screening and then start eating healthier, lose some weight and become more active…the ball is in your court.

That link again is http://www.magickitchen.com/diabetes-awareness.html

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Trouble at Blue Apron

blue-apron1The rumor mill and news agencies are twittering away about the problems multi-billion dollar start-up Blue Apron is having. As we keep our ear to the ground regarding food safety and nutrition, we couldn’t help hearing the news.

In case you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t heard of Blue Apron, let me bring you up to date. They are the company who sends you a box with all the ingredients for making several meals, along with the recipe cards for doing so. Everything is packaged so that you get exactly as much coconut milk or butter as you need to create the meal. Just dump it into the pan according to their directions.

They were founded in 2012, and already they deliver 8 million meals per year. That’s a huge growth spurt, and like most adolescents, they’re having growing pains.

Most of the reports have to do with violence and predatory behavior between employees,  including bomb threats being called in at their Richmond warehouse.

There have been at least four people arrested, and employees have complained of being punched, groped, bitten and even choked by other employees at various times. Bomb threats have been reported as well.

There are some complaints about the work environment as well.  People are hired, fired and quit regularly, causing some chaos.

Buzzfeed’s report states, “All told, interviews with 14 former employees describe a chaotic, stressful environment where employees work long days for wages starting at $12 an hour bagging cilantro or assembling boxes in a warehouse kept at a temperature below 40 degrees.”

The same facility in Richmond has been visited multiple times by OSHA officials, and some complaints have been registered as to employees’ safety. Buzzfeed adds, “In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Blue Apron said it appealed some of these violations and the case has “yet to be fully resolved.””

So all is not rosy in Blue Apron land.

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger.

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The History of Meal Delivery

father and daughter in kitchenI learned to cook when I was a young teenager. My dad was a wiz in the kitchen and he taught me how to make great meals. Like he did, I taught my children their way around a kitchen. They are much better than I am at some recipes. Home cooked meals are truly fantastic, however there doesn’t seem to be as much time to cook as there once was.

Thank goodness we can order from certain restaurants and have them deliver dinner (and sometimes lunch). Most people in the U.S. have had a pizza or Chinese food brought to their front door. Food delivery is a common occurrence for a lot of homes.

Who was the brilliant person to make the first home delivery? When did having hot meals delivered spark the idea of delivering pre-cooked, frozen meals? In order to figure this out, let’s take a look at the history of meal delivery with the facts below:

  1. The first meal delivery most likely was conducted somewhere between 3000 – 700 BC. It wasn’t exactly pizza they were delivering, but something very similar. The crust portion consisted of a breaded type pastry with different herbs, veggies, and cheeses. Surprisingly, people paid the exorbitant price of an entire herd of sheep. If the patrons wanted extra cheese, no problem. That would just be one more sheep, please.
  2. Butchers in 14th century France would send their wares from the block to the homes of the families who could afford it.
  3. Photo from http://www.theskinny.co.uk
    Photo from http://www.theskinny.co.uk

    Cohorts of dabbawalla in Mumbai began feeding hungry workers across the city with home-cooked lunches, back in the 19th century – and they still do it today. Such dedication is astounding.

  4. Food delivery became very popular during World War II, as the Women’s Volunteer Service delivered food to those who had their homes bombed so badly, their kitchen was no longer in working service.
  5. Of course, the Americans took this one step further. During the Colonial era, some of the restaurants in hotels provided patrons with additional plates for the guests’ servants.

The American form of take-out is something more than just delivering boxed lunches and additional plates of food. The way the country has embraced this exposes changes on a larger scale as far as social, economic and tech history. When American troops were over in Japan and China, they would purchase boxed lunches on the trains they had to take.

This showed the locals that the U.S. troops weren’t wealthy, but laborers. Restaurant delivered meals were in the sphere of the wealthy, normally. The deliveries the soldiers received signified they weren’t part of the wealthy.  Eventually, African American women took over the scene by selling take-away. It was a great entrepreneurial stance and it helped feed their own families.

Jamaica_sweetsDelivery and take-away food was soon started down a new path. Fast food joints were popping up all over town and pizza was being sent home, extremely hot, dripping with cheese. Now, there are grocery deliveries, trucks with freezer compartments bringing food to your door, and companies like Magickitchen.com with their meals to go. This adaptation allows for those who can’t leave their homes to grocery shop or who are on very specialized diets to be able to order meals to go right from their computer screens. They can order a meal at a time, enough meals for a week, and some even order a 2 to 3-week supply.

family_diningVery smart people started the delivery and take away food services for the world. I’m sure when they first started in that business, they never thought  that it would never take on wings and fly like it has. Not only has it filled empty bellies of young families, starving college students, and those oh so wonderful romantic scenario dates; it has also allowed those who can’t grocery shop or cook for themselves an opportunity to order tasty and healthy meals.

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Tomorrow is National Left-Handers Day!

Here are 5 Kitchen Tools for Left-handers

Are you a southpaw? Don’t you wish companies would take Left-handers into consideration when producing kitchen tools? Well, it looks like some have started doing just that. Some of the gadgets look pretty intriguing. The holidays are just around the corner, so making sure you have the proper tools to make your family meals easier for you to cook, is vital for kitchen success. in order to assist you a bit, here’s a list of some incredibly useful tools, toys, and gadgets – made especially for the southpaws.

  1.  4 Piece Bamboo Utensil Set – This set is from Lefty’s The Left Hand Store. I love using bamboo utensils. They are elegant and strong at the same time. There aren’t many things you can say that about. This set is specifically designed for the lefty. The ends are angled to have an ergonomic fit, making cooking easier on the hands. This set includes: 14″ Slotted Spatula, 14-1/2″ Pot-Sitter, 15″ Wok Tool, and 13″ Stir Spoon.
  2. LH Salt_Pepper  I couldn’t pass this one up. Everyone needs a salt and pepper shaker. Lefty’s has this quirky left hand that serves as a pepper mill and salt shaker. I know its not possible for these things to be specifically designated left or right handed. It’s just not every day that you see someone using a hand to season their food!
  3.  minnowHanging on for a moment longer to the odd and quirky gadgets for southpaws, I found a minnow cork screw. Yes, I said minnow. The fin even has a function. This little fish corkscrew will make opening a bottle of wine a pleasure.
  4.  Can openers…two words that used to send a left-hander running out of the kitchen pulling their hair out and screaming. Finally, there are several companies that make opening cans for southpaws a breeze. Check this one out here.
  5.  Some veggies just need to be peeled. Some fruits just need to be peeled. Now the left-handed community can do so in sheer comfort. This peeler has 3 different positions so your creative mind can peel as you please. They include vertical, horizontal, and one at a 45 degree angle.

Since I’m a right handed girl, I may have over looked an important tool that you use in the kitchen. If I did, let me know in the comments. Another thing I would love to learn about is the left handed knives. Do you use those or knives made to be ambidextrous? The comments below are open.

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The Way Food Used to Look

This is going to amaze you. The vegetables and fruits we know today are vastly different from what they began as.

banana-before

OK, three guesses, what is this?

A. Squash
B. Banana
C. Some kind of starchy vegetable

If you guessed B. banana,  you were right! There were two types of this banana with hard seeds in Southeast Asia, about 7000 years ago. Someone made a hybrid, and our delicious, soft, sweet banana is what eventually came of it.

What about this tasty-looking item?carrot-before2 Those are early carrots.  Carrots started their life in and around Afghanistan. The early ones were purple or white, and they didn’t become orange until at least the 15th century.

wild-cornHere’s wild corn, before it was domesticated.  European settlers started the domestication process in the 1400s.

Eggplant1Eggplant, anyone?? Wild eggplant had a lot more seeds than our modern variety.  It wouldn’t make a very good eggplant parmigiana.

Here are some other foods you may not recognize. These are what certain foods look like when grown, before they reach the market. This is the way they look today, not in yesteryear.

cashewCashews grow from the bottom of these “cashew apples”, which are not edible but can be made into a stringent juice.

cacaoCocoa pods eventually turn into your favorite chocolate bar, but cocoa starts out looking like this.

cinnamontreeThe bark of this tree turns into everyone’s favorite spice, cinnamon!

And finally… the chickpea! These are green when raw, and perfectly edible. A little prettier than those you get in a can, wouldn’t you say?

chickpea-plantMelody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Novel Ways to Keep Warm this Winter

With the arrival of winter comes colder temperatures and, as a result, we all struggle to keep warm without going broke due to high gas, oil or electric bills. Well, here are some unique, if temporary solutions to your cold weather issues, and, despite my perverted mind, none of them include the use of another human being (sorry if you’re disappointed).

chilisEat spicy (not just hot) food – Since this is a food-centric site, this solution only seemed appropriate to list first. If you’ve ever broken out in a sweat during or after the consumption of a spicy Thai dish, you understand the thinking behind this idea. Simply cook up some recipes that include curry, chilies, hot peppers, wasabi, ginger, or any other spice that induces sweating. One side note: remember to account for the workings of your gastro-intestinal system, especially post-meal.

Hot Potatoes – Well, hot, tiny potatoes…that have been nuked (microwaved) and then placed in your pockets, on your lap, or in your slippers. Think of them as inexpensive and primitive hand warmers strategically placed around your body. Fingerling or petite potatoes work best if they’re to be placed in confined spaces, like your pockets or slippers, while russets are best for your lap (just take care not to scald sensitive areas).

Warm clothes – Prior to getting dressed, place your outfit in the dryer and crank it on high for about ten minutes…heavenly! Or do the same with your favorite blanket just before settling in front of the TV, computer, or retiring to bed for the evening. You could also “cook” your clothes in the oven, but then you run the risk of “burning” them. (See “The Calzone” episode of Seinfeld, season seven, episode twenty, in which Kramer does just that- see below).

dog-hugUse your pets – You feed, house and clean up (yuck!) after them, so why not have them contribute to your warmth? While binge watching your favorite series, simply cover yourself with pets; dogs, cats, ferrets, dozens of guinea pigs, snakes…(wait, never mind, they won’t work as they’re cold blooded reptiles), or pygmy goats, it matters not. And if you’d like to be even warmer, convince your pets to cuddle UNDER the blankets with you. It makes quite a difference.

A warm bed – prior to getting in that bed. This can be achieved in any number of ways, to include a hot water bottle, a warm frying pan that’s been rubbed over the sheets, or warm bags of rice or dried beans. Who said food’s just for eating?

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The Master of Illusion Makes 105 lbs. Disappear

pennPenn Jillette has a ton of titles; magician, musician, juggler, inventor, comedian, author and actor, among others. Now, he can add successful extreme weight loser…yes, I realize that’s a contrived and awkward title, but work with me here.

Back in late 2014, Penn, who stood 6’ 7” and weighed 330 pounds, was informed by his doctor that his weight and poor diet was largely responsible for his high blood pressure, which briefly hospitalized him in December. Penn, who tends to take things to the extreme, to include his magic, atheism, libertarianism, and opinions in general, then made the extreme decision to adopt an extreme weight loss program.

He went vegan…no animal products, whole grains, added sugar or salt. He then cut his caloric intake from roughly 3,000 per day to 1,000. This extreme reduction in calories caused him to lose 105 pounds from December of 2014 to March of 2015. Do the math. That works out to a loss of almost one pound per day which most medical experts claim is an unhealthy and dangerous rate.

The fear with that type of calorie reduction is that, without supplements, which Penn eschewed, one is not providing the body with all the vitamins and minerals required to maintain proper health. By eating primarily raw fruits and vegetables, which Penn embraced, it is difficult to get the proper levels of iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins D and B12, again, without supplements. And without those essential nutrients, anemia, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis, fatigue and memory loss could be the consequences.

Lastly, when one adopts such a drastic change in diet, maintaining that diet over the long-term can be a problem for most. That’s not to say that Penn will “fall off the vegan wagon” in the future, but the ride could become extremely rough moving forward. One’s dietary enthusiasm tends to wane as you face yet another day of leafy greens and citrus fruit…Mmmmmm, fiber.

While a healthy diet is essential for your well-being, both mental and physical, extreme diets should only be adopted in extreme circumstances under the supervision of a medical doctor or certified nutritionist. Remember, your body requires a variety of nutrients, and a balanced diet it the best way to ensure those dietary requirements are met. Make sure you don’t get too much of anything and enough of everything…no magic necessary.

MagicKitchen.com has delicious portion controlled meals that can help you lose weight in a more healthy, albeit less spectacular way.  We all don’t need to be as showy and flashy as Mr. Jillette, right?

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What Will Food Be Like in 100 Years?

jetsonWhile it’s difficult to predict what will happen tomorrow, let’s not allow that to preclude us from speculating on what will become of food as we move toward the year 2100 and beyond. And futurists are predicting neither a Jetsons-like meal in a pill, nor the mass consumption of Soylent Green (don’t know or remember The Jetsons or Soylent Green?…Google them).

There are two main scenarios that currently exist for our future, optimistic and pessimistic and they are based on the effects of climate change and the growth of the global population. Most think-tanks have the global population growing from its current level of 7.1 billion to 10-11 billion by the start of the 21st century barring a global conflagration, pandemic or extinction event due to severe climate change (think happy thoughts).

Since nobody likes a Debbie Downer, let’s focus on the optimistic models. The other one’s just too depressing to contemplate. What follows are the three most common predictions made by futurists who study, well…the future. They are in no way guaranteed to occur.

  1. We will eat less meat. Especially beef, due to the fact that it is one of the most inefficient methods of calorie production. It takes an average of 13 pounds of grain, fed to cattle, to produce a single pound of beef. We will no longer be able to devote that kind of time, space and energy to beef production. That time, space and energy will be devoted to growing high-yield, high-calorie, and high-protein crops for humans. Could this lead to less McDonald’s and Burger Kings dotting our landscapes? One can only hope.
  1. garden-hiriseA paradigm shift in agriculture. How we grow food will fundamentally change as current crop production must increase by 103% to feed 10 billion people. Some envision urban-based, vertical agriculture in which crops are grown in massive glass skyscrapers as farmland expands upward rather than outward. Others predict exponential growth in self-sufficient agriculture in which crops are grown at home, on campus, or within local communities. In other words, food will become more localized and decentralized. Still others see the growth of both hydroponic and aquaponic agriculture. The former involves soilless crop production with the plants feeding from a nutrient-rich, liquid solution and the latter involves crops and fish living in a symbiotic relationship where the fish fertilize the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. Lots to think about, no?
  1. We consume the planet’s most abundant, edible lifeform. Yes folks, we begin to eat more insects for nutrition, not because we lost a bet. Many cultures already consume cricket flour, yellow jacket larvae and various kinds of beetles not named Paul or Ringo. Biologists predict, at any moment, there are over 10 quintillion insects just waiting to be eaten on the globe. Why not oblige them?

English scholar, Thomas Malthus, predicted at the turn of the 18th century that, eventually, global population would be curtailed by the spread of famine and disease associated with a more humans than the earth could sustain. Let’s hope that the same humans find a solution before that occurs.

In the meantime, fill up on delicious meals from MagicKitchen.com, and let those images feel from your head.

chicken-cordon_bleu

Shrimp Fettucini Alfredo for two

Beef Pot Roast

A sprig of basil adds taste and beauty<

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Heat Things Up for National Frozen Food Month

1940s“Honey, can you get some frozen vegetables from the ice box?” If you were trying to make something for dinner before 1945, you might have asked this question. That’s because there was no such thing as an electric freezer before then. If you wanted to keep food frozen, you had to put it in an ice box surrounded by ice and insulation which was often kept underground in basements and cellars.

Fortunately, electric freezers are standard in most households these days. When you stop and think about all the healthy foods, like MagicKitchen.com meals, and delicious desserts you can store in your freezer just a door-handle away, it’s a game changer. And it’s a good reason to celebrate National Frozen Food Month.

sub-zeroWho invented the electric freezer?

A guy named Westye Bakke went to work for the refrigerator company Frigidaire in 1926 as a salesman. It was a good learning experience for the experienced entrepreneur, who previously operated a motorcycle business with his brother. And it got him thinking about how cool it would be to have an electric freezer. So he turned in his notice at Frigidaire, developed a working electric freezer, and started filling freezer orders for the company he named SubZero. It was so successful, popular appliance manufacturers soon copied his idea and began marketing their own electric freezers.

Stock up on frozen food

Kids will tell you the best thing about having a freezer is a place to store ice cream, frozen gelatin squares, and fruit-flavored ice pops. But if you’re the one in charge of making meals, you know the freezer is your lifeline to food storage and easy-to-prepare frozen meals.

If cooking in the kitchen, trying to decide what to eat, or making your way through the grocery store to find all the ingredients in a recipe makes you crazy, give yourself a break and stock up on frozen meals.

Meal Delivery
Stuffed Chicken ana Luisa

Fill your freezer with frozen meals made from fresh ingredients

At MagicKitchen.com, our professional chefs have developed hundreds of health and tasty meals from fresh ingredients, flash frozen them, and packaged them to make it easy to prepare in the microwave. We’ve even created meal plans to meet the needs of picky eaters, and just about anyone with specific dietary needs.

In fact, our line of HomeStyle Healthy Meals includes customized entrees, side dishes and desserts for the following special diets: diabetic, dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carbohydrate, low-cholesterol, low-fat, low-sodium, vegetarian, and even a WeightWatchers PointsPlus® option.

If you were trying to make every meal from scratch and keep it healthy, it could take hours of prep and cooking time in the kitchen. But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to Mr. Bakke and his invention. Just stock up on your favorite MagicKitchen.com meals, put them in the freezer, and you can be eating a hot and healthy meal in minutes. Pretty cool, right?

Give us a call at 877-516-2442 or visit our site at MagicKitchen.com to place an order and celebrate National Frozen Food Month with us.

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