Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Foiled Again

March 24, 2015

This one might sound like a no- brainer, but if you aren’t already doing it, you really should.

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When roasting something in the oven, or just reheating it, cover your baking sheet with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Either spray it lightly with cooking spray, or buy easy release aluminium foil to avoid having the food stick.
This saves so much clean up time and effort, that you will wonder why you hadn’t been doing this all along.

When you are done, toss the foil or paper in the trash and rinse the pan in hot soapy water. That’s it. No scrubbing, no scraping, no greasy film.

You’re welcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Shrimp with Beans and Kale

March 23, 2015

I am always looking for something new to do with shrimp, especially something that doesn’t involve them being served over rice or pasta. I stumbled upon a recipe a few weeks ago, and apparently, how I remembered it and what it actually was were not quite the same. I guess that’s what makes an unrecipe work so well. It is a combination of delicous flavors that are prepared to one’s liking, rather than measuring out specifics.

This base is a wonderful vegetarian dish on its own. The cannelini beans give it some heft and are a great plant based protein. The garlic and onions add lots of flavor and the kale is healthy addition adding color, taste and lots of vitamins!

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Shrimp with Beans, Kale and Tomatoes:

Saute a small diced onion and a couple of diced garlic cloves in olive oil until translucent. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch or so of red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like your food. Add some diced tomatoes and cook until the sauce starts to thicken a little. You can use fresh or boxed tomatoes.( We used a box of Pomi diced tomatoes.) Add strips of kale and a box or can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans, or other white beans. Simmer until the kale softens and the beans are fully heated through. Adjust the seasonings and sprinkle with a big handful of fresh, chopped basil.

In the meantime, shell and devien about a pound of shrimp. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan until very hot. Cook the shrimp until slightly browned and opaque. This should only take a minute or two on each side.

To serve, spoon the bean mixture into bowls, and place the sauteed shrimp on top, and enjoy!

 

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Seaweed Benefits

March 19, 2015

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Seaweed is a staple in the Japanese diet, but did you know it is good for more than just holding your sushi together?

This sea-vegetable is nutrient dense and low in calories. It also is thought to have health benefits that can help you lose weight, or cure a hangover.

Scientists at University of Newcastle have found that a substance called alginate found in seaweed can limit the body’s fat absorbtion by up to 75%.

Seaweed is a great source of antioxidents, calcium and a broad array of vitamins. It is also high in fiber, which helps you to feel full and more satisfied after eating, and aids in proper elmination.

Eating seaweed can also support healthy thyroid function, due to its high iodine content. About 2 sheets of dried nori can give you the recommended daily dose to balance the hormones that the thyroid produces that regulate weight, energy and metabolic levels, and mood. It can also help regulate estrogen and estradiol, hormones responsible for the development of healthy sexual organs, and can be attributed to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer, control PMS and improve fertility issues.

Seaweed also contains a high level of magnesium, which is depleted after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. Snacking on seaweed the next day can replace some of the lost nutrient and help minimize a hangover.

Seaweed is an algae, and comes in a variety of types. Most commonly consumed are the brown type such as kelp and wakame. Nori, the type used for sushi, is considered of the red variety.

In addition to eating sushi, try ordering seaweed salads made of hijiki or wakame, or snack on dried nori sheets, which are available at many specialty foods supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Lettuce for a Crowd

March 17, 2015

This tip comes from my mother, who suggested it when I was making salad for a crowd:

 

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Wash and tear or chop the greens as usual, and spin them in the salad spinner. Once done, store them in a clean pillowcase in the refrigerator.

The pillowcase not only houses as large quantity, but it also absorbs any excess water, keeping the greens crisp and fresh until it is ready to use.

Just make sure the pillowcase has not been dried with a scented dryer sheet or anything that could give off an unpleasant flavor to the food.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Between the Bread

March 16, 2015

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If turkey wraps or a ham and cheese on a roll are your go-to lunch staples, it might be time to re-think what’s going on between the bread.

Cold cuts fall into the category of processed meats. Processing occurs when meat is cured, smoked and possibly injected with hormones before being marketed as lunchmeat, bacon or hot dogs. Processed lunch meats also contain an array of meats and meat byproducts that might otherwise be thrown away.

In an article on the Daily Meal, cardiovascular surgeon Dr. David Gruener states that,”(they) are combined with other typically non-edible products and chemicals to artificailly create a palatable mixture.This means that not only are the least nutritious byproducts of animals used, but artificial fillers, flavors and preservatives are added at times, in large quantities, to ensure that the new concoction is both flavorful and visually appealing, despite the dismal nutritional profile.”

These meats also have very high sodium contents as well as potentially cancer causing nitrites used to preserve them.  There is also a high presence of E.coli and listeria found in cold cuts.

Using fresh turkey, chicken or beef in your sandwich can be a much healthier alternative to cold cuts. Once again, eating “real food,” instead of it’s highly processed and packaged counterpart is a much better choice.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Buttermilk

March 10, 2015

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What do you do if a recipe calls for buttermilk, and you don’t have any?
Do you frantically dash to the store and get some? Calm down. There is no need to make the trek to the store if you have the ingredients to make your own.

Buttermilk adds an acidity to batters and reacts with the baking soda or powder to create airy, fluffy and tender baked goods.

To make a good substitute, add a tablespoon of plain white vinegar or lemon juice to a scant cup of milk and let it sitat room temperature

for 5 to 10 minutes. The lemon or vinegar will begin to curdle the milk, and it will thicken slightly. If you use a heavier dairy product, like half and half or cream, the end result will be thicker than if you use regular milk.

Another option is to thin out plain yogurt or sour cream with one part water to three parts dairy. For instance, 3/4 cup of yogurt, thinned with one quarter cup of water. Stir until it reaches a more liquid consistency, and use in place of buttermilk in recipes.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Coconut Sugar

March 9, 2015

 

4093600152_compThe coconut seems to be the source of many healthy byproducts. We have long been aware of the hydrating benefits of pure coconut water, the dairy free milk that comes from inside the coconut, and the plethora of things that can be done with coconut oil. Recently, we have been hearing more and more about the natural sugar that is derived from the coconut tree.
Often referred to as coconut palm sugar, it is a naturally occurring sugar made from the sap of the plant,which is extracted and heated to create the commercially used sugar.

While regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup don’t contain any vital nutrients, coconut sugar does.

Among the minerals found in coconut sugar are iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. TIt also contains various antioxidants and a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption.

So, should we be replacing all of our sugar and sugar substitutes with coconut palm sugar? Maybe, or maybe not.

The American Diabetes Association warns that the claims regarding the low glycemic index ranking of coconut sugar were not tested, and that the use of coconut sugar should be treated the same as that of regular table sugar. Both products have the same amount of calories and carbohydrates per teaspoon.

Another downside of coconut sugar is that the tree cannot produce both coconut sugar and actual coconuts, which are the source for coconut oil, coconut milk and shredded coconut. It’s lack of sustainability is a concerning factor for both producers and consumers.

Like honey and agave, coconut sugar is another sweetener that does not provide health benefits, but could potentially be better for you than white table sugar.The verdict: None of these should be considered “health foods,” and should be used sparingly.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Keep Brown Sugar Soft

March 3, 2015

I finally got the last of the missing s’mores back on Friday, over 2 1/2 weeks after they were sent via the USPS’s 2-Day Priority  service. The good news: They traveled well. All 4 were still intact, and looking as though they were just packed. The marshmallows were still soft. The bad news: so were the graham crackers.

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I thought they would have been close to petrified by now; dried out and hard as a rock. Instead, the marshmallow made the cookies soft. In fact too soft. I tried to figure out what happened and then it hit me!

Storing brown sugar with marshmallow is a great way to keep it soft.  Since my graham crackers contain a high percentage of brown sugar, it would make sense that the marshmallows in the s’mores added moisture,making the cookie soggy, instead of dry.

While it’s not the optimum situation for a s’more, it is the perfect solution to keeping brown sugar from hardening.

I’m sold.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Matzo

March 2, 2015

With Passover just around the corner, I wondered why nobody ever made their own matzo. I mean, the stuff from the box is just shy of being cardboard. Surely, I could do better, right? Maybe.
Ever the kitchen adventurer, I decided to try my hand and it to see if was worth the effort.

I began by researching recipes. While there were a few different variations out there, the basic premise was to use flour and water to form a dough. While flour is not permitted during Passover, it is used in the making of matzo. As the story goes, our ancestors were rushing to escape the evil Pharaoh by hightailing it out of Egypt as quickly as possible. Therefore, the bread did not have time to leaven, resulting in a flat cracker, which became known as matzo.

When making matzo to commemorate Passover, it must be made from start to finish within 18 minutes, or it is no longer acceptable to eat during the holiday.

Ready, set....GO!

Ready, set….GO!

I assembled all of my ingredients and utensils and waited for the oven to preheat to 500 degrees. When the oven reached the ideal temperature, I set the timer and got to work. The first batch did make it through in the time allotted, but since this was also an experiment in getting the recipe and technique right, the subsequent tweaked versions were done more slowly. I also do not recommend stopping to document the steps on Instagram, which took precious minutes away from the process, and left my phone a bit gooey.

I opted to use a blend of white and whole wheat flours, sifted together with a little kosher salt. I used 2 cups of flour to one cup of water, and mixed the dough by hand.

Knead the dough into a ball

Knead the dough into a ball

Once it was mixed and kneaded for a few minutes until it achieved the desired consistency, I divided it into about 8 pieces. As I kneaded and rolled the dough, I continuously added a little flour to keep it from getting too sticky.

Cut into small balls

Cut into small balls

I tried using a rolling pin, and ultimately opted for putting the dough through the flattening gears of my hand crank pasta machine. I tried cutting it into crackers with a biscuit cutter, and tried baking it in a long sheet. The matzo gets pricked with a fork to keep it from puffing up in the oven.
The small crackers were not easy to cut, as the dough tended to snap back a little when the pieces were so small. I thought they might be good for making matzo brittle s’mores if they were precut, since it is hard to cut regular matzo evenly without it breaking. They never got quite brown enough and frankly they seem a little bland.

VERDICT: Not really worth it

VERDICT: Meh! Not really worth it

Verdict: not really worth it. (Although I will see how they do when slathered in toffee and chocolate!)

 

Now we're talking!

Now we’re talking!

Next, I tried to brushing the long flatbreads with olive oil and sprinkling them with coarse kosher salt and a little basil before baking. That seemed to up the matzo game considerably. Topped with a little chopped tomato and basil, and perhaps a bit of Parmesan cheese, these could be the perfect Passover pizza. Slathered with a little artichoke dip, or maybe some hummus? SInce they can be made in 18 minutes, with few ingredients, they could be a viable anytime snack base. I think we may be on to something here!

While not matzo in it’s purist form, these flatbreads do conform to the criteria necessary to make Passover matzo, and should be acceptable to eat during the holiday.

So, do you think it’s worth trying to DIY matzo for the holidays?

On your marks, get set…..GO!

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Table Settings

February 24, 2015

 

 

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Table setting can be tricky. It always amazes me that people who reached adulthood don’t know which side to put the fork on. This is probably because they have experienced incorrectly set tables for most of their lives. Even restaurants don’t always follow protocol.

Have you ever been seated at a round table and not known which bread plate is yours? Most people don’t, and wait awkwardly for someone to use a plate and follow suit. Often, it is the wrong plate, but at least everyone has one.

A long time ago I stumbled across this little trick and it solved that problem instantly.

With your palms separated and facing one another,make a circle with your thumb and index finger. The hand on the left will look like the lower case letter “b” which stands for bread plate, and the right hand will form the letter “d” for drink. It’s a great way to remember that your bread plate is on the left and your glass is on the right side of your plate.

Now for the rest of it:

The fork goes on the left, and the knife goes on the right side of the plate. The spoon goes next to the knife.  If there are multiple forks and spoons, they are placed from the outside in, in the order you will use them. Therefore, the salad fork is on the left of the dinner fork, and the soup spoon would be on the outside of teaspoon, at the far right.

If you have dessert cutlery set at the beginning of the meal, it is generally placed above the plate.

The napkin is traditionally placed under, or next to the fork, but it is often placed on top of the plate decoratively.

Bon Appetit!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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