History of the Pumpkin

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C.

References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for “large melon” which is “pepon.” “Pepon” was changed by the French into “pompon.” The English changed “pompon” to “Pumpion.” American colonists changed “pumpion” into “pumpkin.”


Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin soon became a staple in their diets. As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from desserts to stews and soups. The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.

Random Info About the Pumpkin:

  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  • Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
  • Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
  • Native Americans called pumpkins “isqoutm squash.”
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

Hot Apple Cider Recipe

hot-apple-cider-400Being an East Coaster nothing ushers in the fall for me like a cup of hot apple cider.  The smell of cinnamon and cloves in addition to the heat of the mug warming my hands on a cold day is one of the great experiences of fall.    Enjoy this recipe from all recipes.com – Crystal Johnson, MCCN Editor

(Serves 6)


  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1 orange peel, cut into strips
  • 1 lemon peel, cut into strips


  1. Pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a large stainless steel saucepan.
  2. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel in the center of a washed square of cheesecloth; fold up the sides of the cheesecloth to enclose the bundle, then tie it up with a length of kitchen string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture.
  3. Place the saucepan over moderate heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cider is very hot but not boiling.
  4. Remove the cider from the heat. Discard the spice bundle. Ladle the cider into big cups or mugs, adding a fresh cinnamon stick to each serving if desired.

Restaurant Review: Citizen Smith in Hollywood

citizen_smith(We Believe this Restaurant is Now Closed) During this recession people are looking for food which provides the comforts of home. Citizen Smith restaurant in Hollywood combines comfort with an imaginative menu. Located on Cahuenga and just below Hollywood Boulevard, this restaurant boasts of menu items reflecting southern style comfort food but there are some splendid choice exceptions.   When you walk through the doors you get a rustic yet chic feel.
There is a hip back outdoor lounge with couches. Candelabras fill the establishment, but let’s get back to the matter the food shall we?  Citizen Smith prides itself on the “Comfort Macaroni and Cheese.” What distinguishes the dish is the addition of jalapeño to the classic.   The flavor of the jalapeño permeates the dish without overwhelming it.  My guest, Chef Tachelle Lawson, was less than enthused, citing how roasting the jalapeño could have enriched the flavor.

Creme Brulee French Toast with Drunken Strawberries


  • * * * * Creme Brulee French Toast * * * *
  • 1 loaf Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup Butter, unsalted (1 stick)
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons Corn Syrup
  • 5 large Eggs
  • 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
  • 3/4 cup Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • Powdered Sugar (optional)
  • * * * * Drunken Strawberries * * * *
  • 1 quart Strawberries, hulled and sliced 1/4-inch thick (lengthwise)
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau


Make the French Toast

Butter a 9 by 13 baking dish.

In a small pot, melt the butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir together until the sugar is completely melted. Pour mixture into the baking dish.

Place the bread slices on top of the butter and sugar mixture in one even layer. Squeeze the edges slightly to make the bread fit.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla, salt, and 2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier. Pour this mixture over the bread. Tightly cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Let dish stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before placing in preheated oven at 350 degrees.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until french toast is golden and puffed.

Serve hot with drunken strawberries and powdered sugar sprinkled on top.

Drunken Strawberries

Combine sliced strawberries, sugar, and Grand Marnier in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate

The History of French Toast


Challah French Toast

The popular history behind French toast (aka German toast, American toast, Spanish toast) is that it was was created by medieval European cooks who needed to use every bit of food they could find to feed their families. They knew old, stale bread (French term *pain perdu* literally means *lost bread*) could be revived when moistened and heated. Cooks would have added eggs for additional moisture and protein. Medieval recipes for “french toast” also suggest this meal was enjoyed by the wealthy. Cook books at this time were written by and for the wealthy. These recipes used white bread (the very finest, most expensive bread available at the time) with the crusts cut off, something a poor, hungry person would be unlikely to do.

Actually, recipes for “french toast” can be traced Ancient Roman times. One of the original French names for this dish is pain a la Romaine’, or Roman bread.

“This dish does have its origins in France, where it is known as “ameritte” or *pain perdu* (“lost bread”), a term that has persisted, in Creole and Cajun cookery; in Spain it is called “torriga” and in England “Poor Knights of Windsor,” which is the same name for the dish in Denmark, “arme riddere,” and Germany, “arme ritter.” At one time or another in America it has been referred to as “Spanish,” “German,” or “nun’s toast,” and its first appearance in print as “French Toast” was in 1871. ”
—The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani

“French toast is a dish we have borrowed from the French, who call it pain perdu’, or lost bread…It is known in England as the poor knights of Windsor, which is the same phrase used in many countries: fattiga riddare’ in Sweden; ‘arme ridder’ in Danish; and armer ritter’ in German. One theory about how the latter name came about goes as follows: In olden times, one of the symbols of distinction between the gentry and the common herd was that the former were expected to serve dessert at dinner. Knights, of course, were gentry. But not all of them were rich. Those who were not, in order to maintain their status, made do with armer ritter’, often served with jam.”
—Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Food Encyclopedia, Craig Claiborne

Less Than Obvious Factors Influence the Food You Eat

What people eat in all places and through all ages depends upon six primary factors:


  • Food availability—-indigenous animals & plants, imports
  • Technology—cooking methods & scientific process/progress
  • Seasons & climate—menus prepared according to ingredient availability; droughts & famines
  • Religion—customs, rituals, & taboos
  • Socio-economic class—nobles? merchants? laborers? peasants? slaves?
  • Politics—foreign influence, immigration patterns, regulations & rations

The impact of ethnic foods on American cuisine is a study of:

  • Original culture…traditional foods, recipes, dining customs, religion–people eat “what they know.”
  • Migration patterns…where did these folks settle?
  • Economics & labor… where did they work? farms, fishermen?
  • Adaptation & assimilation…think weinerschnitzel and chicken fried steak. The “Americanization” of ethnic cuisine.
  • Business patterns…1920s speakeasies, contemporary specialty restaurants, fast food joints and 5 star restaurants
  • Consumer behavior…soldiers returning from WWII craved international foods they tasted abroad

See More at : http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq6.html

Chocolate Festival of Texas

swirl_cakeWhat is all the excitement about………
Great Family Fun.
The festival is an inexpensive way to sample delectable chocolates from local and national chocolatiers, chefs, and bakeries including truffles, bon-bons, fondue-along with sampling great Texas wines. Take your sample glass and enjoy sample from all your favorite wineries. All attendees receive an eco friendly shopping tote goody bag with recipes, coupons, and more at the entrance.
Great New Sugar & Spice Kids Korner. Your little chef will enjoy making their own chocolate dessert treat.
Chocolate Competition. Enter  your favorite chocolate desert into our competition. Professional and Amateur categories with ribbons and prizes to be awarded. All entries will be included in a silent auction for attendees to purchase. Take home something yummy!
Fantastic Crafts & Culinary Gift Items. The show features over 50 different exhibitors that will offer neat gift ideas, chocolates of course and wine accessories for the foodie in you and your friends.
Culinary Theatre. Increase your chocolate knowledge, enjoy chocolate baking classes, demonstrations and culinary classes by some of Houston’s and Texas’ Best Chefs. For more information visit: www.chocolatefestivaloftexas.com

strawberry chocolate

Why Taste?

Taste of Burbank, Taste of Chicago, Champagne and Truffle tastings are all the rave across the country. Why should you attend these events?  It is like one stop shopping and it tastes so good.

Taste of Burbank

Downtown Burbank recently had its Taste of Burbank to raise funds for the local YMCA.  Priced at $30, attendees got the opportunity to taste cuisine of Cuba, Thailand, France and more.  Music filled the air while people danced and ate all night long.  Portos, Z Pizza, Exotic Thai and many other restaurants in Burbank participated.

Champagne and Truffle Tasting

Crystal with Champagne 2

I recently got the opportunity to attend the Beverly Hills Morton’s Steakhouse Champagne and Truffle tasting.  The champagnes featured were Piper Sonoma Brut, Piper Hiedsieck Brut and Piper Hiedsieck Rose Sauvage.  Before sampling of the Vosges Truffles, waiters served us with smoked salmon wedges, broiled sea scallops and petite filet mignon sandwiches.  All of these appetizers were divine.

Chocolate lovers, contain yourselves, I am moving on to the decadent part.  From white truffle ambrosia paired with the Brut to the Naga sweet Indian curry coconut and deep milk chocolate truffle paired with the Rose Sauvage, there are nuisances to discover.  Balance your sweeter chocolate with a more dry champagne and the less sweet chocolates with a more smooth champagne.  This experience was priced at $45.

MSU 056 About Taste of Chicago

In 1980 a group of restaurateurs approached the Mayor of Chicago with the idea of a food festival on the Fourth of July, and Taste of Chicago was born. Inspired by a “build it and they will come” attitude, a $150,000 budget, and confidence the event could attract 75,000 people, plans for the one-day food frenzy got under way. The festival was held in a three-block area of Michigan Avenue bordered by the Chicago River and the upscale stores and buildings that were then beginning to grace the Magnificent Mile; and between the architectural wonders of the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower.

It was a huge success, (250,000 attended the first “Taste,” and food and soda sales grossed $330,000) destined to change the way Chicago celebrates the Fourth of July.

Japanese/Mexican Fusion: Intriguing and Tasty



Mexican-Sushi Roll

It’s always interesting when two cultures merge and create interesting and delicious cuisine. Although seemingly strange at first, the concept of mexican-sushi is not so far fetched. Both cultures adore fresh seafood dishes, spicy toppings and fun textures. It actually makes a lot of sense to take a new twist on the rolled food.

What makes Japanese food so appealing to different cultures is its ability to assimilate into local fare. Futomaki is a type of roll that utilizes four different ingredients that do not have to include sushi. What is usually standard for the roll is that it is quite fat.

In the major cities throughout Mexico it is not surprising to see many different cultural restaurants. Besides offering a change from the ordinary for locals, it offers a taste of home for visitors from other countries and expatriates living in Mexico. The Nissan plant in Aguascalientes increases the rate of Japanese residents to 2% in that state. It makes sense for Mexican restaurateurs to offer indulges to many palates.

The popular Mexican roll is finding its way into many sushi restaurants around the world. The roll usually contains a tempura shrimp and some type of salsa or spicy sauce. Tomatoes, avocado and nopales are also sometimes added.

Just as in art, music and fashion, a mixing of cultures usually creates some amazing culinary creations. When in Mexico, take a walk on the wild side and give some Japanese/mexican food a try.


The History of Fusion Cuisine


Chili Crab Spaghetti Sauce

Fusion Cuisine is actually not new. It has been around for a couple of decades. Chefs started to merge cuisines around the ’70s. Culinary legends like Wolfgang Puck among others introduced this concept. He actually laid down the foundation for this technique. He is the brains behind the common culinary fusions and pairings. An example of which is the fusion of European cuisine with Asian cuisine, commonly referred to as Eurasian cuisine. This was easy for Chef Puck because of his knowledge of both cuisines. He was originally trained in Europe, but he is thoroughly familiar with the Asian dishes. Eurasian basically combines two cooking techniques and dishes, so you can end up with poached tofu, for example, which generally mixes European and Asian method of poaching.

Over the years, fusion cuisine restaurants emerged all over Europe. Many of these restaurants were established in urban areas. In fact, you would likely find these restaurants still offering the same mixed cuisines. Urban areas are actually prime spots for fusion cuisine restaurants since these are also the areas where cultural integration is more predominant. Thus, people are more acceptable of the combined culinary dishes.

Of course, this form of cooking is not limited to Eurasian cuisines. Asian foods are also combined. You can find dishes that combine Thai food with Malaysian food or Malaysian cuisines with Vietnamese dishes. Combining cuisines of countries from the same region, however, is less challenging. It is actually easier to combine ingredients from the same region because these countries have, more or less, influenced each other in their cooking.

See Angel Hair Pasta with Chili, Crab and Tomato Sauce Recipe