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Foods of the Midwest

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Foods of the MidwestThe mysterious midwest of the US isn’t just understated, it’s got a whole lot of pent up energy the world knows nothing about. Case in point, there is a delicious little juicy ball called a Juneberry that makes its home there, and most people haven’t ever heard about June or her deliciousness.

The U.S. midwest refers to north, central portion of the country. States in the midwest include but are not limited to Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The region provides the US with a wealth of grain and has also traditionally produced large amounts of all-American beef and pork for country-wide consumption. The region also has a large dairy industry so there is a lot of milk and other forms of dairy found in cooking.

The original settlers of the Midwest were British, however a large wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe changed the make up and the local cuisine. The cuisine reflects not only those foods that are locally available, but also the lifestyles the immigrants brought over.

Waves of immigrants of Poland and Ukraine brought over foods like goulash and perogies while the Italians brought their love of good cheeses and meats. The Germans brought sausage and sauerkraut while the English brought handy dishes like cornish pasties. All of the old world influences married with local food wealth to create a very interesting, rich cuisine.

The Casserole
If you’ve ever enjoyed yourself a nice, hot, comforting casserole on a cold winter’s day you can thank the Midwest for that. Casseroles are essentially a protein, a starch and a liquid thrown into one big glass dish and baked into hot gooey perfection. Casseroles can feed a lot of people and require a short time to make. In fact casseroles can be made out of just about anything including some combo of leftovers and new stuff. A typical casserole can include steak, potatoes, carrots and chicken stock or something as simple as tuna and pasta.

Deep Dish Pizza
Perhaps it’s an ode to the Italian love of cheese and good meats or maybe it represents Midwest heartiness, but you cannot talk about the Midwest without talking about Chicago’s very own deep-dish pizza. You’ll find a visitor few and far between who would even think of leaving without trying a deep dish of their own.

A deep-dish pizza will resemble more of a pie than a pizza since its edges are high and the pan that it’s baked in is deep so you get a whole lot of gooey, cheesy medium-thick crust, topped with tangy tomato sauce and toppings as you like.

Hot Dogs and Brats
It is likely the German immigrants that gave the midwest it’s love and popularity for the amusement park staple hot dog. In fact the Coney Island Dog of Chicago is famous for its all-beef juiciness topped high with onions, relish and mustard. Wursts are popular at summer bbq’s and with a throwback to the ol’ days some people still saturate them in some beer before firing them on the grill.

Cincinnati Chili
If you thought you had a love affair with chili, you ain’t got nuthin on the people of Cincinnati and their serious relationship with the saucy ground beef stuff. You see ordering chili in Cincinnati might even require a short lesson from a local.

First of Cincinnati chili is a little sweet with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg on top and secondly if you order yourself just a bowl full of chili everyone will know you’re not a real Midwesterner.

Chili in cincinnati can be served up with one or all of the following: spaghetti, cheddar cheese, beans and onions. And yes, Cincinnati chili is not made with beans and sticks to a pot full of ground chuck in sweet, tomatoey sauce.

The Loose Meat Sandwich
This particular Midwest sandwich hasn’t made it far out of the Midwest but is extremely popular in the region. As the name suggests, you are actually eating loose meat in the form of ground beef, seasoned and cooked and stuffed in between two slices of bread or in between a bun. In fact there’s even a fast food chain that provides these puppies all day long in every state within the region.

Perogies
Although, Polish in tradition, the perogie has become a favorite in the Midwest. The potato-filled pockets of dough were introduced to the region by immigrants from Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. Perogies also come stuffed with cheese as well as other times and are enjoyed with sour cream.

Cornish Pasty
Cornish pastries were introduced to the Midwest by British settlers. Cornish Pasty is essentially a pastry stuffed with vegetables and meat, a food that is both filling and easily portable. Although cornish pastries have been adopted into many Midwestern kitchens, they were originally the choice of local miners as a handy portable lunch.

Juneberry Everything
Juneberries are native to the Northern part of the U.S. in the center and east. The berries are bright purple and plump and due to their abundance are popularly used in all sorts of desserts. So if you’re in the midwest be sure to try a Juneberry Pie or a slice of toast with some locally-made Juneberry jam. Native Americans have been utilizing the juneberry for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes as well as foodstuffs.

The Midwestern part of the U.S. enjoys cuisine that differs significantly from other parts. While in other U.S. regions the local produce changed the types of foods that were cooked, in the case of the Midwest many food styles were brought over from the old world and enhanced with the abundance found in the new world.

One thing you can be assured of if you go on a Midwest food adventure is that your dishes will be hearty and your stomach full of old world stick-to-your bones goodness.

Foods of California

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If there is one place in America where you will find the opposite of American food, that is in the sun-worshipping, bikini-clad state of California.

Many people reference “American Food” as a type of cuisine, but the United States of America is such a large, expansive country that the foods found in certain regions, or even certain states, is often distinctive from the American stereotype.

“American food”, to most people, means burgers, pizza, hot dogs, packaged sweets, and mostly anything that is considered considered unhealthy. “American food” means the opposite of fresh or natural. This stereotype is really unfortunate because there are culinary cultures all across the United States that offer truly unique, fresh, healthy, and delicious food. California is one region in the United States that sets itself apart from that “American food” label. California has it’s own unique food culture, and a lot of that has to do with the fact California is incredibly fertile. The Mediterranean climate and rich soil give Californian farmers the ability to grow a wide variety of crops. This abundance has influenced the cuisine of California in a big way.

Health Conscious Eating

If Californian cuisine is known for anything, it is known for its emphasis on health. This does not mean diet food. This does not mean weight loss shakes. This means true, old-fashioned health food. California is home to a very wide diversity of crops. Because Californians have access to such diversity, their diets tend to be rich in produce. Perhaps because that variety is so available, Californian chefs and eaters put emphasis on seasonal, local, and organic produce. Just some of the crops grown in Californian soil are grapes, strawberries, avocados, melons, walnuts, olives, almonds, dates, and figs. These ingredients are incredibly nutritious, and they make up the bulk of the Californian diet.

One way to get a look into Californian’s unique take on health is to look at how Californians have tackled the all-American staple: the pizza. Sure, pizza is not considered a health food, but Californian cooks have turned that idea on its head. California style pizza is not simply cheese and sauce on bread. California style pizza is covered in produce: asparagus, spinach, kale, and artichokes all show up to keep things exciting. California takes pizza and makes it not only nutritious, but delicious.

Coastal Seafood Focused Eating

It’s no surprise that seafood is very popular in California. With the entire west side of the state running along the North Pacific Ocean, seafood has been making its way to Californian tables ever since humans have lived there. Not only does seafood fit the Californian health-focused priorities, but, thanks to the proximity of the ocean, it tastes super fresh.

Sushi is now ubiquitous across the entire United States, and that is thanks primarily to California. Sushi has been eaten in Japan for ages, but it wasn’t until Californian chefs started to play with the cuisine and make it their own that sushi became the staple cuisine it is today. Almost every single sushi restaurant in the United States features the classic California roll: cucumber, crab, and avocado. These are not classic Japanese ingredients. These are ingredients found and loved in California.

Latin Influenced Eating

The history of latin influence in California is as long as the state’s founding. That latin influence is seen mostly clearly today in Californian cuisine. One of the types of cuisine that is very popular is “baja”-style. Baja style food is derived from Baja, a region in Mexico that extends off of California. The food found in the Baja region has had a large influence on Californian cuisine. The flavors found in Baja cuisine are incredibly fresh and light and feature seafood. The most common item is the baja fish taco. These are grilled fish tacos, usually served with lightly dressed cabbage slaw and lime.

Another style of latin food found in California is the Mission style. This usually refers to a type of burrito that originated in the Mission District in San Francisco. A break from the typical beans, cheese, meat formula, Mission burritos include a wide variety of ingredients such as pico de gallo and rice. This type of burrito has spread across the country and has become quite popular.

Foods of the Southwest

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If you like your tongue exploding with flavor in every bite than you’re going to love the foods of the southwest. Any cuisine that considers chili peppers a main ingredient will most definitely have some verve to their vroom and why should the verve to

Southwest food be any different.

When we’re referring to the American Southwest we are referring to the states in the bottom right corner of the country such as New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Although states like California and Utah fit the southwestern bill, some of the cuisine you find in those states will differ from what is typically known as southwestern cuisine.

Southwestern food is an interesting mix of flavors with Spanish influences as well as some of the earthiness found in traditional Native American cuisine. Additionally the hot climate comes with a distinct set of fresh fruits and vegetables which play a big influence in dishes that are historical to the area.

Additionally nouveau Southwestern cuisines has become wildly popular in recent years. The unique blend of bold Texas flavors coupled with the zing of Mexican deliciousness has resulted in a cuisine that is big in portions, big in delicious and has slowly made itself one of the big love cuisines of the country.

Interestingly enough, the rise of Southwestern food was not entirely by accident. A meaningful push in the 80s by a number of famous chefs helped in turning Southwestern cuisine from a regional oddity to a cuisine that is nationally embraced.

However don’t get it twisted, although there may be one name for the style of cuisine, the flavors differ from state to state.

Popular southwestern dishes

Sopaipilla

This deep fried dough called sopapilla can be served up sweet or in place of bread, but one things for sure, you’re going to find a whole lot of it in the southwest. The dough has Spanish roots and one variation or another of it can be found in countries all over South America. In the U.S. it’s served in place of your typical roll or is lovingly dished up after dinner with a drizzle of honey.

Oooh, and let’s not forget another favorite. You can also find the sopaipilla playing the typical roll of taco. The same fillings you would find in a taco like beef, lettuce and the like can are also found stuffed into a sopaipilla and a double-helping of sour cream.

Cactus Fries

There’s nothing quite as southwestern as cactus fries. Cactus fries are in fact made out of real cactus that’s had its prickly parts removed. The fries are dipped in a spiced batter and fried up as a delicious alternative to potato fries. You can find these cactus guys served as a side or a snack of its own with dipping sauce.

Chili Con Carne

So what’s this fancy “con carne” addition to good old-fashioned chili? Chili purists will tell you that chili does not include beans while chili con carne can. A chili con carne then is a stew typically made with beef along with the addition of beans, tomatoes and other ingredients like garlic and spices. Chili has a unique history going back to the days of explorers and tough times on the road (or mountain).

What is one to do when exploring the trails with little money but a whole lot of hunger? Well, one might pound together some beef fat, meat and spices, store them as a brick and take that brick on the trail. Travelers, explorers did exactly that and so when it came time for supper all they needed was some hot water to throw their beef brick in to cook up a chilli worth its salt.

Quesadilla

It’s a cross between pizza and a cheese sandwich but then infinitely better in its own way. The Quesadilla is the Southwest’s answer to supreme comfort food with a twist. Thin tortillas are stuffed full of cheese and can include veggies like bell peppers and onions as well as chicken or beef. The tortilla is folded into a half moon and baked so you have a nice baked pouch of yummy goodness served up with a side of sour cream and salsa.

Chimichanga

The chimichanga has a whole lot going on from being stuffed, fried and oozing with delicious flavor. A chimichanga is held together by a thin tortilla, inside that tortilla you’ll commonly find shredded chicken, rice and cheese. This whole caboodle is wrapped up into a tight little package and fried for another level of flavor – soft on the inside and a whole lot of crispy on the outside.

It is safe to say that popular cuisine in the southwest is heavily influenced by its neighbors south of the border. Many of the dishes found in southwest restaurants have pure Mexican flavor, but that flavor is given a twist that can really only be made in America. The twist can come in the form of an additional ingredient within or a slightly different method of cooking.

Southwestern food is fusion at its best. Meals are always chock full of flavor and full of color and variety. Southwestern food is comfy with a twist of spice so you’re always assured of food that’s delicious and is gonna hit that Friday night comfort food spot spot even if it’s Wednesday afternoon.

Foods of the Deep South

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Butter. Boom. Now you understand a little something about the Deep South. Deep-fried butter. Bo- um no. That is just a little too far.

The point is, when a chef from the deep south decides to cook, she means it. There’s no dilly-dallying with fat and sugar reduction and certainly no one is going to start reducing the salt and flavor. Cuisine from the Deep South reflects that time when food was about family, comfort and slow-cooked loving.

Before delving into the delights of cuisine from the deep south let’s break down what exactly the Deep South is. The Deep South refers to the south and eastern portion of the United States. Although there is some debate about which states actually compose the actual Deep South, the area definitely encompasses Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.

Deep South cuisine is heavily influenced by cuisines from around the world including a heavy dose of Acadian which itself is a mix of French, Native American, African., etc.. In addition to influences from around the world is the influence of what exactly is available locally.

Foodstuffs like corn and squash play heavily in meals as they are available in abundance locally.

Local dishes include:

Chicken Fried Steak

This particular concoction represents a whole lot of Deep South decadence. So you feel like eating chicken and you feel like eating steak, so what do you do? If you’re in the south you do up your steak like you do up your chicken to get the best of both worlds. That means you breed your steak and then deep-fry it as you would chicken Typically the cuts used for chicken fried steak are round or chuck steak. The steak is served with a creamy gravy on top.

Jambalaya

This flavorful stew has characteristics of similar dishes coming from Spain as well as France. Jambalaya is a delicious combination of meat, rice, stock and seafood. The Creole version of the dish includes tomatoes while the Cajun version doesn’t. The combination of ingredients in a jambalaya can differ from cook to cook which makes it one great way to utilize all sorts of ingredients you have in your refrigerator. Jambalaya is viewed as a hearty dish to enjoy in large gatherings. Its delicious flavors are a result of a slow cooking process and a little Southern cooking finesse.

Collard Greens

This super green dish is quite popular thanks to it being locally grown and fairly easy to cook (you can make it hard if you want to). Collard greens are often combined with other greens like turnip greens or spinach as well as some sort of animal protein like ham. They are cooked up stovetop and served often with other delicious dishes like the aforementioned chicken fried steak. By the way, collard greens are a great source of Vitamin K and C aas well as a good source of fiber so that’ll help you balance that chicken steak out.

Okra

This delicious speciality is about as Southern as you can get. Okra is not native to the US. The vegetable was likely brought to the United states some time in the 19th century. The veggie grows amply in Asia and in the Middle East and also made its way to Africa several hundred years ago. The popularity of okra today is linked to the south’s strong African roots. One of the most popular ways to eat this viscose veggie is by rolling is by dipping it in batter and frying it up – almost like an okra fry. In fact deep-fried okra can be found at many restaurants in the South. Another popular way to eat the dish is in the French-African dish gumbo which is a stew that often features okra.

Chicken and Dumplings

A mainstay on Southern menus, both at home and when dining out, chicken and dumplings is a simple but hearty dish.

Chicken is boiled in spiced water, once cooked the chicken is removed and and strips of dough made from flour, shortening and water (or milk)are dropped into the same water. These two hearty items are plated together for the chicken and dumplings traditional dish.

It is believed the dish has French roots. Today the chicken is often boiled with onions and celery while traditional versions would’ve had no veggies at all.

Fried Green Tomatoes

These guys are exactly what they sound like, fried green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes coated and fried. The Southern Fried Green Tomato is often coated in cornmeal although flour will do when necessary. Thanks to this particular dish, lovely tomatoes that didn’t get a chance to ripen due to chilly weather have been given a home on dining plates. However, due to the popularity of this dish, the green tomatoes that are served up today are often purposefully picked ahead of schedule. A green tomato is sturdier than its red counterpart which means it is far easier to coat and fry. Plus the tartness of a green tomato goes particularly well with a crunchy, fried exterior (some would say).

Cornbread

If you don’t a slice of delicious cornbread accompanying your southern-style meal, you’re being cheated. Cornbread is as southern a staple as you can get. Cornbread, as the name suggests, is bread made from cornmeal. Corn is plentifully grown in the region with Native Americans incorporating corn meal into their cuisines prior to European settlers arriving. It is believe it was the local Native American tribes that first introduced cornmeal to the settlers. The settlers then used the cornmeal in dishes that would have traditionally used flour – and there we have the beginnings of cornbread. Cornbread can be made in a variety of ways including the traditional baking method as well as steaming or the particularly popular skillet version.

Southern Food clearly sautees to its own tune. The flavors found in Southern dishes don’t shy away from bold nor do dishes shy away from fat and creaminess. If you’re looking with food with comfort that you can serve family style than southern cooking is where it’s at. The simplicity of cooking methods as well as simplicity in techniques by no means equals simplicity in flavor. You’ll have to go South to find out – and if you can get a seat at a Mama’s table – you’ll be hooked.

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