Sugars and Alternative Sweeteners

How fitting to be discussing sugars and alternative sweeteners on Valentine’s Day, a time when candy, chocolate, cake or some other sugary treat is the order of the day. But, in a recent article from Specialty Foods Association, Americans are not retreating when it comes to cutting back on the amount of sugar they consume. Where does that leave things?

There’s no substitute for taste. But with shifting attitudes towards a healthier  lifestyle, sweeteners increasingly leave a bad taste. The good news is new label laws on nutritional values are providing additional information as well as clarity. This move, too, is a growing trend in the food and beverage industry.

For the average consumer, however, it can be confusing deciding what’s good or even better for you, what product is natural, which ones are actually sugar-free, and so on. Attempting to figure that out as you shop is not as easy as it seems.

On this Valentine’s Day, I’m gifting you this handy resource to help educate you on the types of sugars and alternative sweeteners on the market. The next time you take a trip to the grocer’s you’ll be better prepared to pick the product that’s right for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Hitting the Jackpot with Jackfruit

The name Jackfruit has been popping up lately. Do you know what a Jackfruit is? If not you should. Recent trend reports suggest it might become a staple at the breakfast and dinner tables. As someone who grew up eating Jackfruit like Americans eat apple, I can assure you if this trend holds true you’re hitting the jackpot with jackfruit. Big time! 

Jackfruit is an oversized fruit with a yellowish-green bumpy skin, with yellow fleshy pods on the inside. Both the flesh and seeds are edible. The flesh is firm, sweet and flavorful, and tastes like a bunch of tropical fruits rolled into one. The seeds are just as yummy when roasted.

But one thing stood out to me when I read a recent article. So many of the foods I grew up on are now all the rage. Avocado, Coconut, Pomegranate are fruits I devoured as a child. Every yard had some sort of fruit tree in it so there was easy access. As a matter of fact, these fruits were so plentiful that many times they had fallen off the tree and you were doing yourself or someone a favor picking them up off the ground. Seriously, that’s how abundant these superfoods were. And, no doubt, still are.

As I said, I grew up on these. Jackfruit is no different. I was so excited when I came across another article from Whole Foods that I contacted them immediately to see if they had it in store. And they do!

I will be updating this post as soon as I get my paws on some Jackfruit. Please post your comments if you’re trying it for the first time or if your first bite brings back memories of childhood days.

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Coconut Set to Sale Higher in 2017

There’s no shortage of predictions for 2017. From cool tech and funky fashion to moody color palettes, forecasters have weighed in on what we can all look forward to in the new year. On the culinary side, researchers and retailers are anticipating a rise for Coconut.

Given the coconut water craze of the last few years, one would think this hard-shelled fruit would have lost her luster by now. Not so. When it comes to food, apparently, there’s always room to grow, even in a seemingly saturated marketplace. The verdict: coconut set to sale higher in 2017!

Coconut

Consumers have had their eye on healthy, organic, cholesterol-free coconut for some time. But how familiar are most with edible coconut – that is, beyond the bars, water and infused products? Here’s a look at some that have been on store shelves for ever, some newer to the marketplace, and what’s projected to give foodies a run for their money.

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk is a staple in Caribbean cooking. Made from the ‘meat’ of the coconut, the milk is creamy and rich in texture. In Jamaica for example, coconut has never been reserved just for drinking. Coconut milk is used in dishes like Rice & Peas, and in other savory delights of fish, stews, and more. Coconut milk is also a gem in Asian cuisine and is part and parcel in curry and other dishes.

Coconut Cream

Coconut Cream as the name suggests is a creamier, more concentrated version of coconut milk and is used for similar purposes. Both the milk and cream form of coconut has been around for a very long time.

Coconut Sugar

Although Coconut Sugar has been popular in other cultures, its rise in the United States is relatively recent. Also referred to as Coconut Palm Sugar, it is mild in taste, has slightly fewer calories than refined sugar, and is regarded as an alternative sweetener. Coconut Sugar is a good source of potassium, zinc and other vitamins and minerals, and goes great in tea, coffee and other beverages that require sweetening. It also serves as a sugar substitute in baking.

Coconut Flour

Although it doesn’t fully replace wheat and grain-based flours, coconut flour is a great partial substitute in baking. Made from the ‘dried’ coconut (oil and fat removed), the flour is high in fiber and protein. Best of all, it is naturally gluten-free.

Coconut Butter

Coconut butter – not to be confused with coco butter, is the smooth, creamy and spreadable finish of the flesh of the coconut. It can be used in place of butter, cream cheese and other spreads. It is decadent, adding amazing taste and texture to smoothies, shakes, and sauces.

What’s on tap for next year? Whole foods and exotic foods! Organic, raw, plant-based fruits and veggies like coconut!

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Hire for the Holidays

janet-chef-coatDoing everything yourself is typically not a good idea. Add in the hectic pace of the holidays and you have a recipe for disaster.

In today’s marketplace, more companies exist than ever before to help busy consumers manage the times, seasons and events in their lives. This time of year in particular can be downright daunting. The triple crown of holidays as I refer to them – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s – while filled with food, drink and merriment, might leave a bitter taste in your mouth when you consider all that has to get done. How then do you stop the madness from wreaking havoc in your life? You hire for the holidays!

Here are three great reasons why outsourcing is one of the best gifts you can give yourself:

Time

Simply put, hiring a service or company saves you time. And who doesn’t want more of that? The older you get you realize just how precious time is; you can’t stop it, you can’t reverse it, it travels at warp speed, and more importantly, no one knows how much of it they have. Free up time to enjoy the things that matter most and hire for the things you can.

Personalized Service

Any way you want it that’s the way you need it! This line is part of the lyrics from a song by the band Journey, but it is also the embodiment of personalized, experiential service. It’s catering to a client’s specific wishes. The date, time and place of your choosing, with all the accompaniments you desire in a special event. It’s like being queen – or king for a day. You can’t top that!

Elevated Experience

When it comes to going hire for the holidays, having a professional do the work takes things to a whole other level. Professionals bring more to the table – it’s what they do. It’s why you hire them. More expertise, more experience, more knowledge. And you get to tap all of that.

Calling on the pros also elevates the quality of the experience for both you and your guests. For attendees, it’s a statement that highlights the superior service that lies ahead. For you, it’s no more missing out on the actual event. Instead or running around like a chicken with your head cutoff, you get the best of both worlds; playing host while partaking in the festivities like any other attendee.

Think of all the experiential services that exist today? From a culinary standpoint, there’s food shopping, meal delivery, meal kits, private chef and so much more. Then think of all the moments you miss tending to things that would be better off in someone else’s hands. Being present, without being present robs you from truly enjoying the occasion.

Of course there are costs involved. But the value far outweighs the price tag. So, this season pay yourself first by paying a professional to serve you. It’s our labor of love.

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From Start to Finish

It’s been said it’s not how you start but how you finish. It was last Sunday, October 9th at about 11:30am when I began loading my truck to head to Short Hills, New Jersey. I was on my way to Williams-Sonoma to teach a cooking demonstration.

The rain fell steadily as my son Robert and I packed up to leave. It wasn’t long before we were on our way. As we entered the New Jersey Turnpike, the rain began to pour. It did so the entire ride. Right up until the moment we exited the highway. What was a continuous shower for over an hour, subsided into a light mist.

The parking lots around the mall were fuller than expected. We entered Williams-Sonoma to tens of busy shoppers.

Cabbage Confetti

Cabbage Confetti

I began staging the countertop near the stove. My theme was Falsetto Cooking Demo: Fall Flavors that Make Your Mouth Sing. The menu featured Cabbage Confetti, a flavorful dish made with green cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, fresh thyme, a few spices, oil and water. Also on the menu was Sesame Chicken, an easy-to-make savory, Asian-style dish. I also brought along a couple dozen of my Rum Cupcakes. I hardly ever leave home without them.

The ingredients were laid out, so too were serving platters, pots and pans, and everything necessary for a successful demo event.

The class got underway with much chopping, slicing, shredding and seasoning. As the flame kicked underneath the frying pans, the fragrant flavor of freshly prepared food found its way out and into the mall. Within a few toss of the cabbage the demo area was littered with onlookers.

I cooked and served cabbage, chicken and cupcakes to an uber-satisfied crowd.

A dreary and damp day had turned sunny side up. We walked out of Williams-Sonoma and into a blindingly bright Sunday afternoon. It was a remarkable day from start to finish.

For recipes, entertaining ideas and more, visit www.jadegrill.com or email flavors@jadegrill.com.

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Alumni Recognized for Work at DNC

It’s nice to be noticed. And when an alumni is recognized by her alma mater it’s that much more special.

In July JADE Jamaican Grill participated in two events at the Democratic National Convention. Our selection and subsequent involvement garnered numerous mentions. The latest – a featured article by SUNY New Paltz News published August 31, 2016 in the alumni newsletter. Read our story here.

Chef Janet at the 2016 DNC Media Party - Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

Chef Janet at the 2016 DNC Media Party – Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

Visit our gallery for more photos of our grand showing at the Media Party at Citizens Bank Park on July 23, 2016 and the Welcome Delegate Reception at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts on July 24th.

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A Good Day to Air Things Out

Whenever you have the opportunity to share major news on air count it a good day. And that’s the day Jade Jamaican Grill enjoyed recently when I stopped by Good Day Philadelphia to dish about my company’s participation at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

This wasn’t my first time on television or at FOX 29 News for that matter. I’d been on with host Mike Jerrick and his colleagues numerous times over the years. But this particular appearance with Jerrick and his co-host Alex Holley took the cake!

FOX_PHL 2

Here I was – one of a select group of small business food vendors chosen to provide tantalizing tastes at this major national event. And not just one event either. JADE was selected for two; the Media Party on Saturday, July 23rd at Citizens Bank Park and the Welcome Delegate Party at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, July 24th.

So a few days prior to the start of the convention I took the opportunity to air things out on live television by showcasing the bites JADE would be serving at the DNC. Let’s just say our hosts could not keep their forks or fingers off the food. I mean chunks of spicy Jerk Pork and heaps of savory Rice and Peas disappearing in plain view. You can’t make this stuff up. See for yourself.

JADE Jamaican Grill at the DNC

It really was a good day to air things out!

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DNC Picks Jamaican Foodie for Events

Have you heard? JADE is heading to the DNC!

JADE Jamaican Grill has been selected to participate in the 2016 Democratic National Convention coming to Philadelphia. The DNC will be taking place July 25th through the 28th and our company is among a select group of food vendors chosen to satiate the palates of tens of thousands at this national event.

JADE LOGO_Final_A

We will be serving up some of our signature Full on Flavor fare at the Media Party on Saturday, July 23rd at Citizens Bank Park and at the Welcome Delegate Party on Sunday, July 24th at the Kimmel Center. How lucky are we? By luck I mean preparation, hard work, sacrifice and perseverance coming face to face with opportunity.

I thank the DNC for this tremendous honor and I look forward to taking part in what will be an amazing event.

For the latest news and to learn more about our company visit us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Salivating Over Sea Salt

With the official start of summer all I’ve been thinking about is the ocean breeze, soft shell crabs and other tasty treats from the sea. Hard to believe perhaps but I’m especially salivating over Sea Salt.

Unrefined, natural and nutrient rich, sea salt offers more than a salty bite. As someone who serves up heaps of flavor, the right sea salt adds color, texture and grain too, taking a dish over the top. Here’s a sprinkling of salts and salt blends that are sure to melt in your mouth:

Edible-Himalayan-Pink-Salt-Coarse

Fleur de Sel

Fleur de Sel or ‘Flower of Salt’ is fine, fluffy salt crystals hand-harvested from France’s Atlantic Coast. This moist French salt has a delicate flavor, distinct taste and refined quality, making it one of the best finishing salts. It is beloved by cooks all over. Use it to prepare dishes or sprinkle on just before serving.

Himalayan Pink Salt    

Himalayan Pink Salt is another gem in the kitchen. Known for its taste and rich trace minerals, this rock salt ranges in size from small crystals to large stones. Because of this, it offers a multitude of uses – mills and grinders to large stones for grating table side, to chunks that are best for brining. Himalayan pink salt range in color from white to deep pink – even red, and makes for a vibrant finish. It is said to be the purest of all sea salts.

Smoked Salt

Smoked sea salts add an extra layer of flavor to foods. Smoked on a variety of woods including apple, hickory and oak, these salts offer more to savor. Lightly smoked salts are great on veggies, while the more robust work wonders atop grilled meats. Boost your backyard BBQ to a new level this grilling season with smoked sea salt.

Flavored Sea Salt

Whatever your creative culinary mind can conceive it probably exists as a salt blend. Among my favorites are Habanero Salt, Black Truffle Salt and Lime Salt, but there are literally dozens on the market. Sriracha Salt, Rosemary Salt and Merlot Salt are a few others.

With so much to choose from it can be difficult to make that choice. Hawaiian-style Red Sea Salt and Mediterranean Black Sea Salt are eye-catching with their deep, bold color. Talk about making an entrance! Whatever you fancy you can just about find it. Not sure what you fancy? No worries. Ideas and inspiration abound at SaltWorks and Williams-Sonoma.

To be balanced, research is crystal clear that too much sodium is not good for you. But cooking without any salt whatsoever is just plain blah. You can take that with a grain of salt or you can find your perfect pinch.

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On the Road Again

Travel isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a food and special events business. But, when you’re based in New Jersey with a region that spans New York to Washington, D.C., the miles add up fast. Trips to the Hamptons are all in a day’s work… a very full day. And you find yourself on the road again and again.

As Memorial Day ushers in the unofficial start of summer, for JADE it signifies the beginning of the summer entertaining season. Just as private dinners and cocktail parties are a lifestyle for many clients, traveling is part and parcel of how JADE operates; a specialized service that brings food and flavor to the comfort of a client’s home, or during this time of year, their home away from home. So, travelling the distance is our normal.

Water_Mill_NY

This photo was captured recently in Water Mill, New York, a hamlet of Southampton. This Memorial Day weekend will find me heating things up on the eastern end of the south shore of Long Island in East Hampton.

There’ll be many more days like this one. A long drive; quiet time to think, plan my next adventure. It’s quite a trip but I think I rather enjoy it.

Happy Memorial Day!

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