Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

October 20, 2014

Pine Mouth vs Local Pecans

For many years now, I have gotten a large bag of local pecans from a family just over the border in Georgia.  This family has a bunch of pecan trees, and grandma spends time hand cracking open the pecans, puts these beautiful pecans in ziplock baggies, and I go and get them to use through the year.  I use these pecan when ever pinenuts, walnuts, or almonds are called for in recipes.  I have been making a sort of pecan pesto of late with my Georgian pecans, Barefoot Farmer flat leaf parsley and garlic, and The Olive Press Arbequina olive oil.  I take the base ingredients and whirl them  up in a food processor, and use it on salads, meat marinades, or simply stirred in with pasta and rice.  This stuff is so good!

I have not bought pinenuts for years because the last time I did, these little gems were way more expensive than other  nuts, and my local Georgian pecans, so I just substituted my local pecans for the pinenuts.  I am sure it has been at least 10 years since I have purchased pine nuts.  10+ years ago, pinenuts were $20/lb more or less.  The pinenuts were of either USA or Europe varieties, and the price back then reflected the rareness of the resource, the time and process it takes to harvest pine nuts.  Back in the 1980s and 90s, pesto with pinenuts became all the rage for dining experiences, but because pinenuts were so expensive, pesto made with pinenuts was a real treat, something special.

Fast forward 20 years to 2010, with the demand for pesto and pesto made with pinenuts at an all time high with pesto being the sandwich spread of choice over mayo, and a bad year for harvest of pinenuts in the USA and Europe,  Chinese pinenuts arrive to the USA through big box price-club stores and mainstream grocery stores at a cheap price.  Inexpensive Chinese pinenuts made pesto as common as mayo and ketchup.

BUT, there is one big difference between Chinese pinenuts and USA and European pinenuts, and it is simply that the Chinese variety of pine trees are a different variety than those of the USA and European varieties, and USA and European varieties are also different from each other. 

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration put out a general warning about Chinese pinenuts.  It says that usually 1 to 2 days after eating Chinese pinenuts, peoples perception of food eaten tastes bitter or metallic.  This perception may last for a day up to about 2 weeks.  The condition will resolve itself without intervention, and does not seem to cause any permanent damage to taste buds.  Not everyone is effected, and symptoms vary and duration of symptoms vary as well.    It is also noted that the pinenuts tasted good, were fresh, and not rancid when people reported to the FDA about their pine mouth experience.   It is hypothesized that the Chinese pinenuts cause pine mouth because of the variety of pine tree, or it is caused by potential haul stripping chemicals during processing in China.  The last part is conjecture which I have read in opinion pieces, but it is possible.

There are 4 of who conducted the experiment of eating a couple handfuls of known imported cheap big-box store pinenuts (photo above).  One of us had noticeable bitter tasting food, especially sweets.  The sweeter the pastry or candy was, the more bitter the taste became. The bitter taste effects started 2 days after dosing, and the bitter taste lasted for about 3 days.  Water was neutral, and did not have a bitter taste.  Another one of us thought lettuce tasted bitter, but the lettuce came from a the same head of lettuce that was thought to be fresh, green and almost a little sweet days before.  Effects started 2 days after dosing, and only lasted for about 4 hours for the 2nd person.  For this second person, sweet drinks on day 3 seemed to be as sweet as they ever were, indicating that bitter tasting effects were short lived.  The last two claimed no change in taste perception.

If you run this experiment, please leave a comment or email  me at LannaeFood at Gmail dot com and  tell me about your experience with pinenuts.

For me, I am going to continue to substitute pecans and walnuts myself, and let the pinenuts be.

October 12, 2014


Taqueria Sofi
5915 Morrow Rd
Nashville, TN 37209

Sofi is an adorable toddler with an equally cute older brother, with parents and grandparents who decided to open a family owned taco shop up in the Nations.  Sofi just opened last week, and is a grassroots family taqueria.

What this taqueria has to offer is 1. The best of what you can get at a taco truck, but with dine-in ability at a few tables and chairs, 2. Mexican cokes and soda make with sugar (not corn syrup) to go with your meal, 3. Home made sauces (as seen above) which are fun to mix and match on various tacos, 4. A menu with tacos, flautas, burritos, and enchiladas, 5. reasonable prices that will not break the bank, 6.  Earnest women who in the open kitchen who want to make a nice meal for you, and 7.  It is within walking or 1-2 minute drive from most homes in the Nations, so it is so dang convenient.

Because Taqueria Sofi just opened, they do not have a menu board, or paper menus.  The gig is, you go to the register, and one of Sofi's relatives will be there to tell you want they have to serve for the day.  On the days I went to Sofi's, they have spicy pork, beef, tongue, tripe, lamb, and chicken to make tacos.  The times I have been there, they had chicken flautas and vegetarian enchiladas.   I really liked the chicken flautas with the crispy shell on the outside and shredded chicken on the inside.  The plate came with four chicken flautas, rice,  and salad.  The flautas were the perfect crispy taco roll with the homemade sauces.  I also got the enchiladas, and on this day , they were vegetarian.  The enchiladas had crumbled cheese and sauteed red peppers in side a rolled corn tortilla.  The outside of the rolled tortilla had a thin coating of red mole.  The mole was sweet, earthy and savory at the same time.  The enchiladas were light, and not weighed down with excessive amounts of mole or cheese.  The tacos are made with the type of meat you want, and the lovely ladies toss the tortillas on the griddle to crisp up the tortilla, which adds a nice texture to the taco.

I want to close this blog post by writing about the sauces on the come on the side.  When I visited, there was salsa verde, salsa rojo, and crema rojo.  I normallly do not use the side sauces because they are usually made with too much chili heat, that I can't taste my food anymore.  These sauces were made at a Scoville level that I can tolerate, and a level which I consider a flavor, not just capsaicin.  I really like the salsa verde with a bit of jalapeno heat, and a nice garlic and green tomatillo flavor.  The salsa rojo was much more pungent in chile pepper heat.  It was almost like the verde was the salt component, and the rojo was the pepper component of for the table.  Lastly, the crema rojo tasted like crema and salsa rojo together, so there was a cooling effect from the crema, and mile punch from the chile peppers.

The next time you are in the Nations, gather up your spare change, and stop on in for a tasty taco.

October 8, 2014

I Can! You Can!

  I Can!  You Can!  We all can Can!

 I took a canning class from Lyn back in September, and it was the best class in canning I have ever had!  It costs $75, Lyn came all the way from Atlanta to teach this hands on class, and I came away knowing how to can!  You too can Can this coming weekend on Sunday October 12 at the Nashville Farmer's Market at the Grow Local Kitchen.  Click here to see website and Click here to see the Grow Local Kitchen website to learn more about this up coming class.

When I signed up for this 4 hour class, the description said that I will know how to can a pickle, a tomato and a fruit.  I was a little skeptical because I took 4 other canning classes, and I did not learn how to can.  So, coming face to face with Lyn, I looked her up and down, and said, "I want to know how to put tomatoes in a jar, and can the tomatoes to put on the shelf.   I have taken 4 canning classes before, and left knowing nothing more than I just lost some cash out of my pocket to pay for those classes."  Lyn, who is delightful, has heard this before, she promised to teach me how to shove tomatoes in a jar, and indeed I learned how to CAN TOMATOES to keep them safely on my shelf!  Thanks Lyn!  Just learning this one thing make the class worth it for me!  We also learned how to make and can pickles and apple butter.  I now believe I can CAN apples, pears, and pickles too!

 I have been wanting to can for a good while, ever since we moved into our little house.  We have 3 rooms, no pantry closet, and a small 1980s style fridge/freezer.  We have no where to keep sundries, cans, or frozen foods.  If I could can, I could put cans under the bed, under couch and under the sideboard.  I started out on this odyssey trying to learn how to can safely, and learn the steps to do it.  I am an engineer,  and I like a good set of instructions that will get me from point A to point B.  All the other canning classes were led by artist types, who are more about "exceptions" and and no concrete rules to getting something done. 

This class, Lyn presented a concise way to canning, a specific method to can, and I can follow these instructions easily.  This class is how I learn best.  Lyn give me a set of instructions, and let me give it a try with my own 2 hands.  This class is the best canning class ever!  I like the instructions for canning the tomatoes because I know it will keep me safe, there is science behind the the method so botulism will not grow in the can, and I am confident I can replicate the method.

 Here is how to can tomatoes:
1.  blanch to peel tomatoes
2.  dip clean pint jars into boiling water
3.  chunk tomatoes and shove them into pint jars
4.  add 2 tablespoons jarred lemon juice from the grocery store
5.  add boiling water to top the tomatoes leaving 1 inch head space at the top
6.  stick a knife down into the edge of tomatoes and wiggle out air bubbles
7.  put a new lid on the jar, and finger tight the threading ring
8.  water bath in boiling water for 40 minutes
9.  leave the jar on the counter for a day to see how it does.  if the lid is not on tight, toss it.

That is it.  I can do this.

Helpful Hints: 
1.  The lemon juice in the jar from the grocery store is pH acidic to meet a certain level which guarantees to fend off botulism.  Lemons may not have the same acidic pH level, so it may  not add the right amount of acidity to fend off botulism.
2.  Our canning ancestors may not have used acid in preserving tomatoes before, but tomatoes were different back in the day, when tomatoes had a high level of acid.  Now, with selective farming, hybridizing and GMO, acid levels in tomatoes may vary and have less acid.  Having less acid in some modern tomatoes will not guard against botulism in canning, so adding lemon juice give the insurance policy to canning tomatoes.
3.   After the 1st 24 hours on the counter after the water bath, take the threaded ring off the jar to store.  If things go awry in the jar, you will know it by the lid coming loose.  It is harder to tell when the threaded ring is on the jar.

October 6, 2014

The Best Food Lids

 These are the best food lids ever!  Charles Viancin, a Canadian company has created silicone lids that fit on any smooth edged pot, pan, bowl, dish, and cup.  These lids provide an airtight seal, but will allow for internal gasses to escape while keeping outside air out.  These lids eliminate the need for cling wrap and foil.

The pros as I see it:
1.  BPA free
2.  Microwave safe
3.  Fridge safe
4.  Can withstand high temps to about 480F
5.  Reusable
6.  Eliminates the need for cling wrap
7.  Easy to wash
8.  Does not promote microbial growth
9.  Seals keeping air out
10. Easy to remove and replace the lid
11. Adorable to look at

These lids are now on sale all around the USA, including at least 25 stores in and around the Nashville Metro area.

A few years ago, I was in a Canadian border town, and I was walking through a local gift shop with lots of interesting cool regional gifts, including Charles Viancin food lids.  They had a display with a bowl and cup to try out the lids.  I put the lid on the bowl and the lid made an airtight suction lock on the bowl, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  I did not buy these lids during that trip, and I just assumed I would be able to find these lids at home in Nashville.  I got home, and I went on the Charles Viancin website, and to my surprise, they were only sold in Canada.  I was so sad.  I kept on thinking about these lids, and all the whilst I was buying cling wrap, throwing away my money and throwing away used cling wrap in the landfill.

A few weeks ago, I went back to my favorite Canada border town, I left space in my carry-on luggage to get these lids, and I went to the little gift shop and loaded up an Charles Viancin silicone lids.  I got big bowl lids, cup/can lids, and soda bottle stoppers.  I was so thrilled.  Then I came home, and went back on the Charles Viancin website to discover these lids are no being sold in the USA, including Nashville!  Yes, there are about 25 retailers in the Nashville Metro area which sell these gems.  On my next day off, I am going to get more lids, and try to eliminate cling wrap in my house.

I just adore my new silicone lids.  They are so easy to use, and they are reducing the amount of trash generated in my house.  And, I think they are cute.