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6 Hot Cooking Trends and How to Do It Yourself

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The culinary industry is a fickle business due in part to the variable palates of its customers that change, not just from generation to generation, but from year to year. Kale, house-made soft drinks, bruschetta? So 2014. That's according to the National Restaurant Association's annual culinary forecast, which surveys 1,300 professional chefs to determine the hottest cooking trends 2015.

Some of the foods that have gained the most trendiness since last year's survey include ethnic condiments (hello sriracha!), wild rice and, just in case you thought culinary trends were all about health foods, donuts.

This uncovers an interesting point: Are the hottest food trends meant only for the chicest professional kitchens, or are they more accessible than we think? For those in the culinary field, or those who wish to learn to cook, here is a sampling of the National Restaurant Association's list of the hottest cooking trends 2015, along with DIY tips and recipes.


1. Local Sourcing

Local Sourcing

First off, there is no official definition of "local" food sourcing. Hardcore locavores would put the radius from farm to table at 100 miles, but others use state lines as a guide. Local food has grown in popularity because people are beginning to question the potential hazards of long-distance food sourcing on the planet, our tastebuds, and our bodies (chemicals are sometimes added to fruit to make them last longer.) Many people also choose local food to support their local economy.

Note: Buying organic is not necessarily the same thing as buying local, however it is common to find local produce that is also grown organically.

Local Sourcing DIY

In order to find the freshest produce from their area, most foodies ride the farmer's market circuit. There are several mobile apps to help with that endeavor, including Locavore, which allows you to pinpoint farmer's markets and farms in your area.

For those whose schedules preclude a trip to the market, there are also local grocery delivery services that will bring farm-fresh goods from your area straight to your door with a simple click. These include Good Eggs, which is currently available in Brooklyn, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, and Relay Foods, which operates in roughly 9 cities in the mid-Atlantic states. The market for these services is expected to surge to keep up with the rising trend in local food, so keep your eyes out for more providers in your area.


2. Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

A lot of complicated factors go into making food more sustainable for the globe, and not everyone is in agreement on how to go about it. However, food waste may be the most pressing issue in the sustainability movement: In the United States, 40 percent of the food produced is never consumed.

Environmental Sustainability DIY

You can do your part with these life hacks for reducing food waste at home:

  • Keep cookies fresh by storing them with a piece of bread. Heads up: Your bread will get stale, but your cookies will be delicious for days.
  • Store apples in your crisper with a damp paper towel over them. Apples store better in a cool, slightly moist environment.
  • Don't waste the dregs at the bottom of your peanut butter or almond butter jar. Toss some oats, berries, nuts and milk into the jar and stick it in the microwave for instant and delicious oatmeal.
  • Stale chips? Toss them in the microwave for a few seconds to crisp them back up.
  • Turn bad bananas into delicious banana bread.

And perhaps most importantly, whether it's in a coffee tin at the side of the sink or in a hand-cranked barrel in the backyard, be sure to compost!


3. Healthy Kid Meals

Healthy Kid Meals

In an effort to combat the childhood obesity crisis, First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign aims to put child nutrition back into our national consciousness, and healthy meals onto cafeteria and dinner tables across America.

Healthy Kid Meals DIY

Here are some tips for prepping healthier meals for children from the Let's Move campaign:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken or extra lean ground beef for hamburgers or pasta sauces.
  • Substitute olive or vegetable oil for butter.
  • Mix vegetables into dishes, like adding peas to rice, or cucumbers to a sandwich.
  • Portions should be about the size of the back of a fist -- a child's fist for a child's portion.

4. Gluten Free Foods

Gluten Free

Gluten is the protein that helps hold food together, and is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Some people are allergic to gluten, others have a sensitivity to the protein, but any way you slice it, a gluten free diet is jam-packed with the fruits, vegetables, and proteins that do a body good.

Gluten Free DIY

Due to the rising popularity of gluten free cuisine, more "GF" labels are being added to food packages every day. However, one of the best ways to ensure that you are eating gluten free is to avoid pre-packaged foods altogether. Baked goods, in particular, are a fun foray into the gluten free world. Here are some common GF alternatives to traditional flour:

  • Almond flour (also called almond meal): This is a great alternative to flour in baked goods such as cookies and apple crisp.
  • Brown rice flour: This is probably closest to whole wheat flour in consistency and usage.
  • Buckwheat flour: The most misnamed flour on the block, buckwheat flour contains no wheat (and no gluten), and is best used in combination with other flours due to its density.
  • Coconut flour: This is another flour that is best used in combination with other GF flours, due to its tendency to absorb moisture. It adds a delicious flavor and aroma to your gluten free baking.

5. Ancient Grains

Ancient Grains

The rise of the paleo diet, which touts the eating habits of our hunter-gather ancestors, has brought acute awareness to the fact that what we eat not now does not resemble what we ate even 100 years ago. This is due to the industrialization and mass production of food in the 20th century, particularly grain. Ancient grains predate this period, and provide a rich source of vitamins and proteins with minimal processing.

Ancient Grains DIY

Here is a list of ancient grains (not exhaustive), along with suggestions for quick at home recipes:

  • Quinoa: This gluten free grain makes delicious hot cereal with almond milk and maple syrup.
  • Millet: This is an incredibly versatile grain that when ground makes a great binder for meatballs and meatloaf.
  • Sorghum: This makes a great whole grain flour for use in cookies and brownies.
  • Amaranth: Another gluten free all-star, amaranth flour is great in pancakes.
  • Teff: Teff polenta is a delicious alternative for those allergic to corn.
  • Freekeh: With an appearance like wheat berries, this grain is great cooked and tossed in salad.
  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds can be added to just about anything, but they are particularly tasty in puddings of any kind.
  • Farro: Farro is a great alternative to rice; next time you are making risotto, try it with farro instead.
  • Spelt: Spelt flour works well in combination with flaxseed meal, particularly in muffin recipes.
  • Kamut: Kamut kernels can be cooked pilaf-style, similar to wild rice.

6. Donuts!

Donuts

Science suggests that both fat and sugar trigger reward centers in the brain. When combined in one food, it becomes downright addictive, which may help to explain the eternal popularity of donuts.

DIY Donuts: Apple Cider Donut Recipe

In the colder months, when the days are shorter, we crave more calories, which is why donuts are an annual fall favorite. Take a page out of New England's book, and try these apple cider donuts.

Ingredients

  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup boiled apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Safflower oil

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with a mixer. Add eggs, and mix again. Add the buttermilk, boiled cider and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
  3. Pour dough into a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour and lined with parchment paper. Stick in the freezer for a few minutes, then remove and cut donuts with a donut cutter. (You can use the round centers to make donut holes.)
  4. Heat the safflower oil in a large pot. Drop the donuts into the oil and cook on each side until brown.

Sources:

  • "The Big Trend: Local Sourcing in Restaurant Menus", http://restaurantschools.com/resources/the-big-trend-local-sourcing-in-restaurant-menus
  • "Buying Local Food, On Your Phone", http://modernfarmer.com/2014/05/tech-helps-local-food-markets-work-kinks/
  • "Fat Vs. Sugar: Which Do We Crave More", http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-obesity-sugar-fat-science-diet-carbs/
  • Healthy Families, http://www.letsmove.gov/healthy-families
  • Locavore, http://www.getlocavore.com/
  • National Restaurant Association, "What's Hot Culinary Forecast," http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/Research/What-s-Hot
  • "Top 5 Food Trends to Watch in 2015", http://www.theenergycollective.com/peterlehner/2181196/top-5-food-trends-watch-2015
  • "What Are Ancient Grains? And Why You Should Eat Them", http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/what-the-heck-are-ancient-grains/
  • "What is Gluten?", https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/what-is-gluten/
  • "Why Are We More Hungry in the Winter?", http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/12/19/143950231/why-are-we-more-hungry-in-the-winter

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