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Brenda's Bites



Taste of the NFL: Party With A Purpose

The Taste of the NFL is a strolling food and wine event held on the eve of Super Bowl. This year chefs from each NFL city will host the extravaganza in the San Francisco Cow Palace. There is also an NFL player (either current or alumni) seated at each food station. Famed local chef and restauranteur Mike Andrzejewski is preparing Pork Shiu Mai with Soy Ginger Dip and Napa Salad, pairing it with a Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.

Speaking of pairings, Hall of Famer and former Bills lineman Joe DeLamielleure will join Mike as the Bills representatives. Money raised from the event supports food banks throughout the U.S., including here in Western New York.

Here is my interview with Mike A:
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Put This On Your Bucket List: Celebrate National Popcorn Day!

There’s more than a kernel of truth in this statement: I love movies almost as I much as I love food.
Almost.
As with a good meal, a movie can take you to another place. For my husband, Dan, and me, the cinematic experience wouldn’t be the same without a jumbo bucket of popcorn, sans the butter.
From the moment you walk in the theater lobby, the aroma of freshly popped goodness and warm butter wafting through the air draws me in and all my willpower melts away.
Every day could include this crunchy goodness for me, but did you know today is National Popcorn Day?
Here’s a little history to chew on, according to the folks at National Day Calendar.com:
The word “corn” in Old English meant “grain” or more specifically the most prominent grain grown in a region. Maize being the most common grain in early America, the word “corn” was aptly applied.
As early as the 16th century, popcorn was used in headdresses worn during Aztec ceremonies honoring Tlaloc, their god of maize and fertility. Early Spanish explorers were fascinated by the corn that burst into what looked like a white flower.
Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.
Today, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn a year, more than any other country in the world. A majority of the popcorn produced in the world is grown in the United States with Nebraska in the production lead.
And who better to weigh in than WBEN’s Cinema Bob Stilson, an authority not just on the silver screen, but popcorn too:
“Historically, serving popcorn at the movies was inspired by one simple thing -- it was cheap.   But when done right, it's a delightful snack that adds warmth and charm to any cinema.  Personally, I've never been a "with lots of butter" type of guy.  My fingers get too greasy and I worry about dripping butter on my clothes in the dark.  The Dipson chain offers the best popcorn I've ever had,” Bob said. “Fresh, delicious, and light.  To add any extra toppings or flavorings would be a sin.  It's perfect ‘as is’.”
 
Bob was a film buyer for the Video Factory rental chain in the 1980s and ‘90s. 
 
“When we opened our first location, we wanted to achieve a ‘classic Hollywood’ look.  We framed classic posters, dressed our employees in tux shirts and bow ties -- we even had a red carpet.  But the ‘cherry on top’ was a popcorn machine with free popcorn for customers.  The aroma filled the store.  We didn't just look like the movies, we smelled like the movies.  That's the power of popcorn,” Bob recalled. 
 
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From the Steel City to the Queen City: A Delicious Show of Gratitude

The Bills win over New York Sunday was more than sweet revenge for former jets coach Rex Ryan. The game affected several other teams too. With Buffalo’s victory over Gang Green and Pittsburgh’s win over Cleveland, the Steelers made it into the playoffs.
Steeler fans were understandably ecstatic. One well-known Pittsburgh eatery decided to show their gratitude in a unique way.
Primanti Bros., known for its mile-high slaw and fry-stacked sandwich, thought it would be a no-brainer to send a thank you to the Bills. So, the restaurant packed up 20 boxes – enough for 100 sandwiches-- threw in some Terrible Towels and T-shirts and shuffled them off to Buffalo.
I talked with Primanti Bros operations director Mike Mitcham, who has all the meaty details.

 
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No Frightful Weather As We Celebrate Christmas & Festivus

So, you thought December 23rd was just 48 hours from Christmas?
It’s also Festivus, made famous by Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld.” The “festival for the rest of us” has its own traditions, one of which includes the Airing of Grievances occurs during Festivus dinner. Each person takes turns describing how the others have disappointed him or her in the past year.
Nothing says the holidays like family discord!
On a brighter note, did you know that today is National Pfeffernusse Day?
December 23rd is reserved for this German spice cookie, made with ground nuts and spices and covered in powdered sugar.
Speaking of cookies, I recently discovered that Animal Crackers were introduced at Christmastime in 1902. The string on the box was designed so it could be hung on a Christmas Tree.


Here are a few other fun food facts as you ponder your Festivus family fun:
Early New Englanders gave carrot cookies as Christmas gifts.

In 1806, American explorer Zebulon Pike celebrated Christmas by allowing 'two pounds extra of meat, two pounds extra of flour, one gill of whiskey, and some tobacco, to each man, in order to distinguish Christmas Day.'
Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy turkey, although Edward VII made eating turkey fashionable at Christmas.
 

 
  • More than 1.75 million candy canes are currently made each year for the Christmas season.  Candy canes, it’s been said, originated in 1670 when the choirmaster of Cologne Cathedral had candies made in the shape of a shepherd's crook. He distributed them to youngsters who were attending the church's crèche scene to encourage them to stay quiet.
  • Bizochito is a small anise flavored sugar cookie or shortbread cookie. The sweet is traditionally served at Christmas and special occasions such as weddings and baptisms. It is the official state cookie of New Mexico.
  • The Christmas mushroom is the enoki.
     
  • A custom originating in Germany says good fortune or an extra present goes to the first person to find a glass pickle ornament hidden on a Christmas tree.
  • Mince pies date back to medieval times originating from a huge pie baked on Christmas Eve with  chopped beef, suet, nuts, spices and fruit. A crust was added later, on top of which a pastry effigy of baby Jesus was laid to represent him lying in his cradle.
    Source: Food Reference.com
As the year winds down, thank you for reading and listening to “Brenda’s Bites,” and for the feedback on food and the other gustatory pleasures in life.
Wishing you all the best for a Merry Christmas, a healthy and prosperous 2016 and many good meals to come!
 

 
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Turkey Talk, Trivia, & Fun Feast Facts

What a difference a year makes when it comes to WNY weather at Thanksgiving time. Does it even seem possible that much of our region last year was in the frosty and relentless grip of “Snovember,” which probably bumped up the birth rate nine months later in these parts? I’m so glad the weather gods are not doing a repeat performance in 2015.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, repetition is not a bad thing: the traditional tasty fare of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie will still be prominently featured on most tables.
Here are some nibbles for you to ponder as you digest course after course this holiday: 90% of American homes eat Turkey on Thanksgiving
  • Abraham Lincoln chose the last Thursday in November for Thanksgiving
  • More than 45 million turkeys are eaten on thanksgiving, over 675 million pounds (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • 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.
  • Sweet potatoes have been around since prehistoric time
  • The potato produces more food per acre than any other crop.
 
  • Potatoes are grown in every state in the United States.
  • Potatoes, contrary to popular belief, were not part of the original Thanksgiving. They had not been introduced to North America at that time.
  • About 50% of Americans stuff their birds with stuffing (or “dressing”)
  • There are regional differences with stuffing- in the South cornbread stuffing is popular, and white bread is common is most other parts of the country. Although, there are many variations to ingredients added with the bread.
  • Stuffing dates back to the Roman Empire, where the ancient cookbook “Apicius de re Coquinaria” had recipes that called for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pork and more.
  • Stove Top, introduced in 1972, now sells around 60 million boxes of their stuffing around Thanksgiving.
  • There is no evidence to support that stuffing was served at the first Thanksgiving.
  • An estimated 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving
  • Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole recipe (using their cream of mushroom soup) was developed in 1955.
  • There is only around 40 calories in one cup of green beans.
  • The first to put green beans on their menu were the French.
  • China is the largest producer of fresh green beans.
  • An estimated 20% of cranberries eaten in the year are eaten on Thanksgiving
  • Native Americans not only ate cranberries, they also used them for their fabrics, pottery and medicinal purposes.
  • There was approximately 709 million pounds of cranberry produced in the United States in 2009.
  • The top cranberry growing states are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
  • A cranberry is most ripe when it is able to bounce.
  • Only 5% of cranberries grown are sold fresh, the remaining percent are sold as cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, etc.
  • A cup of fresh cranberries is about 50 calories whereas a cup of cranberry sauce is around 400.
Source: “Reluctant Gourmet”
 
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Saluting Servicemen: Free Food & Drink On the House

Freebies from a cup of coffee to a full meal to a sweet treat are on the menu for service men and women who have served our country or who are currently active as the nation prepares to commemorate Veteran’s Day on the 11th.
Most offers are available to active, inactive and retired personnel who can show identification.
Here is a list of area eateries that are promoting patriotism and creating opportunities for their businesses to show gratitude to those who protect and serve the red, white and blue:
Bob Evans: Free breakfast from which to choose: Hotcakes, brioche French toast, and the country biscuit breakfast are among the options available to veterans and active-duty military in a special free menu.
Bonefish Grill: Free order of Bang Bang Shrimp on Veterans Day.
Denny’s: From 5 a.m. to noon, all veterans and active-duty personnel get a Build Your Own Grand Slam meal, with possibilities including pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit, and hash browns.
Friendly’s: Participating locations are giving veterans and active military a free Big-Two-Do combo meal for breakfast, or free All American Burger with fries and a drink for lunch or dinner.
Golden Corral: From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., anyone who has ever served in the U.S. military is welcomed to a special sit-down dinner, free of charge.
Hooters: All veterans and active-duty military personnel get an entrée on the house.
IHOP: From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., all veterans and active-duty military members are welcomed to one order apiece of Red, White & Blue Pancakes, which come with glazed strawberries (red), blueberry compote (blue), and whipped cream (white.)
Little Caesars: Vets and active military can help themselves to a free, $5 Hot-N-Ready lunch combo, including four pizza slices and a 20-ounce beverage, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at participating locations.
Olive Garden: Free entrée: chicken parmigiana, lasagna, or cheese ravioli, with unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks, and family members joining a veteran or active military member at the table get 10% off on Veterans Day.
Outback Steakhouse: Free Blooming Onion appetizer and free beverages on November 11, and all military and their families get 15% off the bill anytime from November 12 to December 31.
Ponderosa Steakhouse: Both Ponderosa and its sister chain Bonanza Steakhouse offer free meals for veterans and active military from 4 p.m. until closing.
Red Lobster: From November 9 to 12, veterans and active military receive a complimentary appetizer or dessert.
Red Robin: Help yourself to a Red’s Tavern Double burger and bottomless steak fries if you’re a veteran or active-duty personnel
Cracker Barrel: Complimentary slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola® Cake*. Also, on Veterans Day, 10% of the sales price** of all purchases of our Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola® Cake will be donated to the USO Transition 360 Alliance.
Starbucks: Active duty service members, veterans and military spouses: tall (12 fl oz) hot brewed coffee is free.

 
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Halloween 2015: Scarier than the Bills Game in London?

Halloween is frightfully fun for kids of all ages as the holiday has evolved into a big money-maker for candy, costume, party spots…and dentists!
Here are some tasty tidbits on the origins and traditions of this ancient holiday, according to the Huff Post:  
  • Americans purchase 600 million pounds of candy a year
 
  • $90 million pounds of chocolate is sold each year for Halloween, leading the pack over Easter week at $65 million and Valentine’s Week at $48 million
 
  • The leading best sellers: Snickers, Reese's, Kit Kat and M&M'S.
 
  • The top selling candy? Twenty million pounds of Candy Corn.       
 
  • Did you know that chocolate is better for your teeth than hard candy? Chocolate rinses more easily from the mouth by saliva, leaving it in contact with teeth for a shorter time. Chocolate also contains tannins, which inhibit the action of cavity-causing bacteria.
 

 

ØAnd last but not least….The first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips.

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Here is the Dish: Local Restaurant Week is Served Up All Week

Stash your tight jeans in the back of the closet; it’s time to tune up your knife, fork and treadmill.
Would you believe we are once again celebrating the autumn edition of Local Restaurant Week, running from October 19th – 25th? The biannual event is sponsored by Menu Venue, an online guide to area independent eateries.
 
Local Restaurant Week is a biannual event that celebrates the vital role our local independent restaurants and vendors play in contributing to Western New York’s cultural identity and regional economy. Coinciding with the year, restaurants from all corners of the region offer a variety of specials starting at $20.15.
 
This year’s theme is “Dish it Up.”
 
“It’s meant to be a challenge to our restaurants and diners,” Christa Hobart LRW event organizer noted. “Local Restaurant Week is the time for places to serve up some of their most exciting dishes at great prices. But it’s also a time for diners to step up their game, to break out of routines, meet up with friends, maybe even on a weeknight and try someplace new.”
 
  • Includes 200 participating restaurants: casual, fine dining, ethnic and eclectic
  • Two annual $8 million annual local economic  impact
  • Local food service industry is the region’s second largest employer
  • Local independent restaurants contribute immeasurably to our regional culture
  • Encourages participating restaurants to support local vendors
 
 
Additional Helpings:
www.LocalRestaurantWeek.com
 
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The Dish: Local Restaurant Week is Served Up All Next Week

Stash your tight jeans in the back of the closet; it’s time to tune up your knife, fork and treadmill.
Would you believe we are once again celebrating the autumn edition of Local Restaurant Week, running from October 19th – 25th? The biannual event is sponsored by Menu Venue, an online guide to area independent eateries.
 
Local Restaurant Week is a biannual event that celebrates the vital role our local independent restaurants and vendors play in contributing to Western New York’s cultural identity and regional economy. Coinciding with the year, restaurants from all corners of the region offer a variety of specials starting at $20.15.
 
This year’s theme is “Dish it Up.”
 
“It’s meant to be a challenge to our restaurants and diners,” Christa Hobart LRW event organizer noted. “Local Restaurant Week is the time for places to serve up some of their most exciting dishes at great prices. But it’s also a time for diners to step up their game, to break out of routines, meet up with friends, maybe even on a weeknight and try someplace new.”
 
  • Includes 200 participating restaurants: casual, fine dining, ethnic and eclectic
  • Two annual $8 million annual local economic  impact
  • Local food service industry is the region’s second largest employer
  • Local independent restaurants contribute immeasurably to our regional culture
  • Encourages participating restaurants to support local vendors
 
 
Additional Helpings:
www.LocalRestaurantWeek.com
 
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Wing Fest and the Healthy Zone: Is it an Oxymoron?

Flats, drums and sunblock were on the menu at the 14th annual Wing Fest, held over Labor Day weekend.
Hot and steamy not only described the fowl fare but also the conditions inside Coca Cola Field. The heat and muggy conditions, however, certainly didn’t deter the enthusiastic crowd of hungry wing fans from all corners of the globe.
In previous years, several of my Entercom colleagues and I judged a variety of wings and sauces ranging from tame to firecracker hot.
Just like a peanut butter and jelly wing, this year’s invitation included a twist. The fine folks at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York invited me to participate in the Healthy Zone Recipe Challenge.
Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?
The rules said that the dish could be anything “wing-inspired” but had to be more healthy than not.
I came up with a healthy dip that featured typical wing ding deliciousness.
The Wing King himself, Drew Cerza, along with two people from Blue Cross Blue Shield evaluated my dip and three other recipes with that healthy twist. While my presentation wasn’t didn’t garner any awards, it all came down to taste. In a tight competition, the judges awarded me first place, capping it off with a beautiful trophy! Thanks to the judges, fellow participants and the organizers.
Here is the simple and oh-so-tasty recipe:
Combine 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup of light cream cheese, 1/4 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese, 1 cup shredded chicken breast, 1/4 cup hot sauce (or more depending on your tolerance), 1/4 cup Ranch dressing, seasonings of your choice. Combine all ingredients and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with carrots, celery or raw veggies of your choice.
 
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