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Brenda's Bites

Savoring Holiday Food Traditions

Sure, many of get consumed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays: shopping, party planning and party-going, visiting our houses of worship, dealing with changing weather.
With times so unsettled during the holidays and in the world in general, I like to remember specific food traditions that are meaningful at this time of year. My parents are both gone now, but I recall with much affection how my mother would make her raisin roll each year and my father would make dozens of pizzelles, both of which filled the house with the smell of walnuts, cinnamon and anise. Nothing quite compares.
For Christmas Eve, we always had 13 meatless dishes, all significant to out Italian heritage.
I asked a number of other people what their food-focused holiday traditions are. Check out the varied responses:
Sarah: Here is a cookie that we make for my father every Christmas, I now make these with my two daughters in hope that we get close to his mother's because he usually tells us "you're getting close"!
"Nanny Robitaille" fed her flock of 9 goslings by baking & cooking with very little, unfortunately she passed when I was 4 but my aunt & uncles always raved about her baking & cooking. She NEVER worked off a formal recipe but she once let my mother sit and watch her - mom had to estimate much of the following:
Bachelor Buttons or "Jam-Jams"
2 cups Brown Sugar
1.5 cups Butter (she used margarine but I'm sure it was a cost factor)
1 TSP Vanilla
2 eggs
3 T sour cream
3 cups CAKE flour - 2.5 to start, add more if needed
1 TSP baking soda
pinch salt
Raspberry Jam
-350, probably 8-10 minutes.
-Drop 1 tsp on cookie sheet (I use a small cookie scoop)
*Test one cookie, if it spreads then add more flour.
-Makes 4-5 sheets.
-Let cool then sandwich two cookies with raspberry jam
Alicja: In my home in Poland we celebrated Christmas Eve as a catholic families did. Twelve meatless courses such as clear beet borsch cooked on veggies with forest mushrooms, mushroom soup with noodles, pierogies with sauerkraut and mushrooms, carp fish in jelly, fried fish with cooked potatoes, herrings in sour cream, herrings with onion and oil , "kutia" - homemade kluski with poppy seeds, compote from dried fruits, poppy seed cake, farmer's cheese cake... Before eating we shared the wafer and wished all the best to each other. Older of the family had a short prayer and thanked the Lord for past year, blessing, health and the table full of food :). The straw was under the tablecloth and cross or Christ Child figurine on it, also an extra place at the table. After dinner we unpacked gifts and went to late night mass to our church
Sharon: As yours did it was just fish on Christmas Eve our tradition continued with the entire family going to Midnight high mass and then home. Grandma then broke out the Italian sausage and roast beef then off to bed and prayed you were good so Santa would come
Nancy: Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family, Christmas morning at home, Christmas Day with my mom's side of the family. Lots of (mostly Italian) aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides, and lots of great food, including my aunt's homemade pizza, cardoons, baccala, calamari, sauce, lasagna and, of course, at least a dozen different kinds of cookies, cuccidati, pizzelles, cannoli...all homemade. Santa always stopped by Christmas Eve, too! (With so many uncles, nobody missed one of them as they stepped out to "transform"!)
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While the table talk may be more contentious than usual because of the vitriol inspired by the presidential election, it’s a good idea to have a few other topics to discuss on the menu.
Here are some nibbles for you to ponder as you digest course after course this holiday: Believe it or not, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people is lower now than it was 31 years ago when adjusted for inflation!
A classic feast will cost just under $5 per person, according to the American farm Bureau Federation, so you can amp up the extra fixings. The Bureau tracks the price of 16 staples: turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls and butter, peas, cranberries, veggies, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk.
You may save some dough this year at the supermarket, but the National Retail Federation says holiday liquor sales are up four percent in 2016 from last year. No surprise here. Alcohol sales are much higher in the fourth quarter than during the rest of the year.
Abraham Lincoln chose the last Thursday in November for Thanksgiving.
The average Thanksgiving dinner has 4,575 calories.
Wild turkeys can run up to 20 mph and fly for short distances up to 55 mph.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird, one of his biggest arguments being that it is native to America.
Yams and sweet potatoes are NOT in the same family, they are in separate botanical families.
Native Americans not only ate cranberries, they also used them for their fabrics, pottery and medicinal purposes.
Source: “Reluctant Gourmet”
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Local Restaurant Week Starts Next Week

Another chance to break the chain restaurant habit

The bi-annual bites bonanza is almost upon us, running from October 17th through the 23rd.
This fall, diners can chow down at restaurants all over the region, with a record number of places participating. Organizers expect more than 200 eateries of every ilk to offer dishes starting at $20.16 and some at $30.16.
We’ve featured a number of owners and chefs on my “Brenda’s Bites” food show, heard Sundays from 10:30-11am Sundays on AM 1520. Be sure to tune in this weekend for another preview.
Local Restaurant Week is the time for restaurants to serve up some of their most exciting dishes at great prices”, explains Local Restaurant Week Event Coordinator Christa Hobart. “But it's also a time for diners to step up their game, too... to break out of routines, meet up with friends, maybe even on a weeknight, and try someplace new. It's a chance to mix it up, laugh it up and dish it up!"
It all adds up to big revenue for local restaurants, employees and other businesses. Because local restaurants tend to support local vendors, the additional money spent by diners during Local Restaurant Week makes a significant impact throughout the area’s food service industry. According to organizers, the two annual Local Restaurant Week events contribute an estimated $8 million to the regional economy.
“The food service industry is the region’s second largest employer,” says Sean Regan, President of the Western New York Restaurant Association. “Supporting local restaurants means supporting local jobs. All the money diners spend for Local Restaurant Week stays right here in Western New York. It’s a big win for everyone.”
Map out your plan now by checking participating places and their menus at www.LocalRestaurantWeek.com.
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Time to Perk Up: Today is National Coffee Day

How fitting that National Coffee Day follows yesterday’s National Drink Beer Day! You may need an extra-large Cup O’ Joe if you enjoyed too much suds.

While I’m not a big beer fan, I am a longtime coffee-holic and can’t imagine starting my day without a steaming cup of coffee. No cream or sugar or flavor shots for me. I like the undisguised taste of the heavier roasts, especially French or Italian beans.

Not only does my favorite drink taste good and give us java lovers a boost, it also provides us with some documented health benefits. According to the Medical Post, studies indicate that drinking coffee can prolong lives, and impact favorably ailments such as Parkinson’s, heart disease, risk of stroke, and even help prevent skin cancer!

Some of the chains are celebrating today with promotions: Tim Horton’s is offering a Twitter promotion, using #TimsCoffeeDay.
Starbucks isn’t pouring any free cups but will donate a coffee tree for every cup of brewed Mexico Chiapas cup of coffee in the U.S. or Mexico.
Dunkin’ Donuts will serve up a medium coffee for 66-cents, in honor of 66 years in biz.

I’ll drink to that!
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Don't 'Leggo' These Eggo Waffles!

Have a box of Eggo Nutri Grain waffles in your freezer?
The Kellogg Company issued a voluntary recall yesterday for 10,000 cases of Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles because of listeria concerns. .
The recalled waffles are available in 10-count packs with "Best if used by" dates of November 21, 2017, and November 22, 2017, which can be found on the side of the package. You can also look for the UPC product code on the label.
Discovered during routine testing, Kellogg’s says there has been no reports of illness. About 10,000 cases of Whole Wheat Waffles are recalled in several states.
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria spread through eating contaminated food and can cause causing serious infection and even death in children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
The company suggests discarding the affected products; contact Kellogg for a full refund by calling 1-800-962-1413 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or by visiting its website.
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"Fowl" Times in WNY! Wings, Wings and MORE Wings!

Labor Day weekend may signal the unofficial finish to summer but for many fowl fans that date means it’s time to consume chicken wings of every size, taste, and style.

The 15th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival runs this weekend from noon – 9pm on Saturday and noon – 7pm the next day at Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo.

The weather looks fantastic for this feeding frenzy, which Wing King Drew Cerza says has brought 860,000 people flocking to Buffalo; 4.5 million wings have been served and more than 200 eateries have dished out the fowl appendages over the past 14 years.

A couple even got married at the Wing Fest a few years ago! I wonder if either has since flown the coop.

If you think this is the same old Wing Fest, thing again. Cerza says there are many new features this year:

-VIP Party Deck, includes free samples and beverage, mug and seating
-5K Chicken Wing Run on September 4th at 11am
-Cooling Zone and Rest Place

Portions of proceeds from the National Buffalo Wing Festival are donated to several local charities.
National Buffalo Wing Festival has raised more than $325,000 for local charities over the past 14 years!

This year’s beneficiaries are the Alzheimer’s Association, Meals on Wheels and Food Bank of WNY.

More details on the Wing fest are available on the “Brenda’s Bites” podcast at www.espn1520.com. Cerza was a guest on the August 23rd show.

And speaking of wings, congrats to the new owners of the Anchor Bar on Maple Road near Sweet Home in Amherst.
The new place is spacious, bright, clean and sleek and features some of the same fun memorabilia—license plates, photos of well-known wing lovers, cycles—as the iconic original location on Main Street in Buffalo.

A ribbon-cutting took place on the 30th. With the proximity to UB and the heavily populated Northtowns, this Anchor Bar should be anything but foul.

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Recap: Record Number of Eateries Dished at the 2016 Taste of Buffalo

Organizers say nearly a half million  hungry people converged on Delaware Avenue and Niagara Square this past weekend at the 33rd annual Taste of Buffalo.
If you’re still recovering from your food coma, as am I, here are the winners from the nation’s largest two-day food festival. The judging took place by a panel of representatives from the local media, political, and business sectors.

Chair's Choice (chosen by 2016 Chair Jen Mitri): Deep Fried PB&J, Stack Burger
Children's Choice (chosen by Casey Mitri): Mac & Cheese, Fat Bob's Smokehouse
Pat Sardina Memorial Award for Best Comfort Food: Nani's Meatballs, Osteria 166
Lou Billittier Memorial "Rookie of the Year" Award: Jerk Corn, Curly’s Grille & Banquet Center
Best Overall Item: Deep Fried PB&J, Stack Burger
Best Meat Item: BBQ Ribs, BW's Barbecue
Best Seafood Item: Scallop Ceviche, Oshun
Best Dessert: Peanut Stick, Paula's Donuts
Best Red Wine: Cabernet Franc 2012, Hazlitt Vineyards
Best White Wine: Riesling 2013, Spring Lake
Best Sandwich: House Smoked Brisket Slider from Savor
Veteran Award: Chrusciki Bakery
Independent Health Foundation's Healthy Options:
  • First Place:  Sorbet with Fresh Fruit Topping, Sweet Melody's
Of the winners, I wholeheartedly agree about the Deep Fried PB&J from StackBurger. It was the quintessential comfort food, especially good because the peanut butter and jelly melded together in warm, gooey goodness. The shell offered just enough crunch.
So bad for you but so tasty! Some of the other memorable dishes for me included: 
Corn on the cob with coconut and spices from Curly’s, Beef and Veggie patties from Caribbean Experience; Black rice rolls from Sun; Thai tea smoothie from The King & I; Ceviche rom Oshun; Pesto slider from The Cheesy Chick Truck
A few of my Entercom colleagues were lucky enough to be selected as judges as well. Here are their favorites:
Susan Rose: Shrimp Po Boy - Flaming Fish food truck; Fried PB&J – StackBurger; Snow crab legs - Joe's Crab Shack 
Jud: Fried PB&J from StackBurger; Creme Brule from Bravo; everything at Chiavettas
Sue O’Neil: Hot pepper pizza and fried dough with Nutella from TC Wheelers; Pancake strawberry sundae from Andersons; Fish Taco from Oshun
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Audio Blog: Taste of Buffalo '16!

A record-setting number of eateries is setting up shop downtown for the annual Taste of Buffalo, which is serving up local flavors from eatreies, food trucks and breweries all over Western New York.  Listen in as Brenda 'bites' into it all!

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TGIF is Sweeter than Ever: June 3rd is National Doughnut Day!

Did you know today is a “Hole-y Day”?
National Doughnut Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in June?
This sweet tradition dates back to 1917 when 250 Salvation Army volunteers, led by Margaret Sheldon and Helen Purviana, were looking to provide comfort to U.S. troops fighting on the front lines in France during WWI. They decided to prepare doughnuts; some were fried in the soldier’s helmets!
Nicknamed the “Doughnut Lassies,” the women are credited with popularizing the doughnut in the U.S. In 1938, The Salvation Army celebrated the very first National Doughnut Day in honor of the Lassies.
The original doughnuts didn’t have holes, but were the size and shape of walnuts. That’s how the name was created.
Many area shops are offering sweet deals on this first Friday:
  • Dunkin' Donuts: Get a free doughnut of your choice at shops worldwide with the purchase of any beverage
  • Paula’s Donuts: Free donut with beverage purchase
  • Entenmanns: Visit Entenmanns on Facebook for their sweepstake contest. The company will donate $1 to the Salvation Army, up to $35,000!
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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Grills!

This month is chock full of wonderful food-based celebrations: Memorial Day,
originally called “Decoration Day,” is the second busiest grilling day in the U.S.
The first? Independence Day!  Labor Day clocks in as the third-busiest grilling
As you chill and grill, ponder this from the foodie front:
The holiday weekend falls during National Barbecue Month. May also happens
to be National Hamburger Month.
Many of us will be throwing down the grilling gauntlet and dishing out everything from apps to sides to entrees and even sweet treats on the barbie.
My favorite grilled dishes are salmon, eggplant, corn on the cob and peaches,
which caramelize beautifully on the grill and taste delicious over ice cream or
with a dollop of freshly whipped cream for a luscious end-of-meal treat.   
As you’re breaking bread –and buns –during the long weekend, you can nosh on these tasty tidbits:
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to host a BBQ at the White House. The featured menu item was Texas-style barbecued ribs.
  • Burgers and hot dogs are the first and fourth most grilled foods; steak snares the number two spot with the always popular chicken taking bronze.
  • The most commonly grilled side dish is corn, followed by other vegetables, and potatoes.
  • Hickory barbeque sauce is most favored, then mesquite, honey, and tomato based. In homemade barbeque sauces, garlic is almost always found in the recipe, as is brown sugar.
  • After aluminum foil, the preferred barbeque tools are long-handed tongs, clean brushes, and spatulas.
On this holiday weekend, let’s take time to thank the men and women who have served our country and those who wear the uniform today. I salute them today and every day and never take their sacrifice for granted.
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