Archive for November, 2013

The Morning After

November 29, 2013

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Whew, it’s over! Whether you spent the last day ( or two ) cooking or just hanging with family and eating like there is no tomorrow, lo and behold, that tomorrow is here. What to do now?
Take that turkey carcass, toss it in a big pot with carrots, celery, onion, and water, and cook it into submission, until you have a rich, flavorful stock.

Eat a light, but healthy breakfast, like some fresh fruit, or a smoothie. Tempting as it may be, pumpkin pie is not the breakfast of champions. (Yes, I am talking to you!)

Get active! Go to the gym, go for a run, play football with the fam, or at the very least, shop the Black Friday sales until you go anaerobic from the sheer frenzy of it all. Turn all those excess carbs into fuel, and burn them off, any way you can. You will feel much better afterwards.

If you hosted the dinner, put your house back into some semblance of order. You will be able to relax and enjoy it, if it is neat and all signs of chaos are eliminated.

Assess the leftovers. Do you want to eat them as is, make sandwiches, or turn them into something else? Leftover turkey can be used to create a variety of dishes from turkey salad, to turkey crepes and turkey tacos, just to name a few. Get creative, and turn those leftovers into something new that everyone will want to eat.

Monday is the absolute last day to eat those leftovers safely. Stretching that turkey and dressing through next week could result in your stomach rebelling. Eat them, freeze them or donate them, but do it within the first 3 days or so.

As the week progresses, and the stress of work and school set in, don’t forget to reflect on all of the things you are thankful for. Stretch those positive thoughts out to keep you grounded and grateful for weeks to come.

photo: Glasshouse Images

We would be very thankful if you would:

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Giving Thanks, Eating Well

November 28, 2013

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Today is the big day. It’s like the Superbowl of Eating. If you are health conscious, t’s not a bad idea to have a strategy in place. Here are a few tips and facts to guide you through the feast:

Don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation of the extra calories. Chances are, you will be miserable, and then over binge later.Have small, light meals during the day to keep your strength up, and calories down.

Load up your plate with the healthiest stuff: turkey, salad, vegetables, etc. Pre-game nibbles, like shrimp, hummus and vegetables with dip are better choices than starchy, cheesy appetizers.

We are having a non- creamy soup to begin, followed by a seasonal salad with a dried cranberry vinaigrette. Those types of foods should take the edge off, leaving you less ravenous for the main meal.

Decide what your very favorite dishes are, and take a portion of those first. Skip the others, or just take a little taste of them. Fill the rest of your plate with turkey and clean vegetable side dishes if possible. Creamy casseroles are not healthy diet choices regardless of what the main component of them is, but if you love gratineed squash, go ahead and indulge. It’ s Thanksgiving for goodness sake!

Sweet potatoes, are better choices than white potatoes.

Pumpkin pie is higher in vitamins and lower in calories than pecan pie. I can’t imagine how many calories are in the chocolate pecan tart with salted caramel and whipped cream, but I hope my guests will enjoy it regardless! If that’s your thing, have a small slice and enjoy it.

Move a little after your meal. Go for a walk, help with the dishes, or dance if the mood strikes. Moving around will aid in digestion, leaving you less bloated and sluggish the next day.

Remember that it takes 3500 extra calories to make a pound. Chances are, one meal, however outrageous it may be,  will not make a significant difference in your weight. To relieve the bloat, workout the next day, eat healthfully, and drink lots of water.

Thanksgiving is a time to be reflective about all of the blessings in your life. Don’t beat yourself up over indulging. Instead be grateful for the wonderful food, and the friends and family you shared it with. Tomorrow is a new day!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our supportive readers!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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How to Roast the Perfect Turkey

November 27, 2013

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I always hear people say they don’t like turkey. They describe it as dry, tasteless and lackluster. I always tell them they haven’t had my turkey yet!

It’s not that I am the best cook in America…nor is it due to a secret recipe. It is due to a great technique perfected over the years, and even more so to the quality of the bird itself. I get mine from DiPaola Turkey Farms, based out of Trenton, New Jersey, and sold at the Union Square Greenmarket. The turkeys are fresh, never frozen, and raised in a humane environment. Since buying from them each year, my turkey score has gone from very good, to great. The price is high, but the results are worth every penny!

Start with a cool, but not icy cold turkey. Rinse the bird, remove all of the innards ( the liver, neck and giblets are often stored in the cavity of the bird in a little bag. Be sure to remove them before cooking!!!) Pat dry and place on a rack in a heavy roasting pan. It’s easier to clean later, if you spray the pan and rack with cooking spray first.

Place a cut onion, 2 stalks of celery and 1 large carrot cut into chunks in the bottom of the pan.

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Season the turkey with salt and pepper and rub the bird all over with  roasted garlic and herb butter, being sure to loosen the skin and rub some underneath it, and inside the cavity, reserving some to use in the gravy. Stuff if desired, and stuff a little ball of foil into the edge of the cavity to keep the stuffing from falling out. Tuck the wings under the legs if you can.

Boil 1 cup of dry white wine and 1 cup of chicken broth, and pour it into the pan. Roast for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cover the breast loosely with foil so they do not brown too quickly, and roast another hour. Continue to pour 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of wine over the bird every hour until cooked through. Roast uncovered for the last hour to make sure the skin gets golden brown. The turkey should register 175 degrees when a meat thermometer is inserted in to the thickest part of the thigh. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest covered, for 30 minutes before carving. It will continue to cook slightly while resting.

The rule of thumb for turkey roasting times:

Roast for about 15 minutes per pound if it is unstuffed, and a few minutes longer per pound if it is stuffed. The internal temperature of the thigh should be 175 degrees, and the stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Our 18-19 pound bird takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes unstuffed, and about 4 hours and 45 minutes stuffed. Do not rely on the pop up times inserted in many turkeys. They often don’t pop until the turkey is already over cooked. Invest in a good digital meat thermometer for a more accurate and safe reading. A free range turkey will roast much faster than a previously frozen one, so start checking it after a few hours to make sure it is not cooking too fast.

Once the turkey is resting on the carving board under aluminum foil, its time to make the gravy. Pour any pan juices into a bowl and scrape the brown bits from the pan. Strain the juices and add 1/2 cup of wine and enough chicken broth to it, until you have about 6 cups of liquid.

Heat butter in a large skillet, and saute 2 pounds of sliced mushrooms until brown, about 18 minutes. ( You can do this earlier and just reheat them in the pan when you are ready.)

Mix in more of the garlic and herb butter. Sprinkle the mixture with 1/3 cup of flour and stir until the flour begins to brown. This will integrate it into the mushroom mixture, and avoid lumps later. Gradually whisk in the reserved liquid until it comes to a boil and thickens to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with the turkey.

Enjoy!

Photo of our Thanksgiving turkey from Spencer Jones/ Glasshouse Images

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Blending Hot Liquids

November 26, 2013

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If you have ever tried blending hot liquids and had the top of the blender fly off, spewing scalding hot soup everywhere, this tip is for you!

Here are a few tips to avoid this volcano-like eruption:

Blend in small batches, so there is less volume in the blender.

Hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender, to keep the lid from blowing off.

Start the blender on the lowest possible setting and gradually work up to the puree setting. You can also turn it on for a couple of seconds, and then open the top a little, to allow the steam to escape.

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OR invest in an immersion blender. If you are a regular to this site, you will know I am a big fan of this little appliance. You simply insert the blender into the food, rather than placing the food in the blender. You can puree the food right in the pot. No transferring, no washing another container or two, and no hot mess!

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Thanksgiving Menu

November 25, 2013

We are on the home stretch of Thanksgiving planning, and after a whirlwind month of working, I finally got around to taking my own advice and made my Thanksgiving game plan. Using mostly tried and true recipes, which are contemporary twists on traditional fare, here is my menu:Many of these recipes have been posted before, so just click on the link to take you there!

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Thanksgiving Dinner 2013:

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Creme Fraiche

Cheddar Corn Muffins with Jalapeno Butter

Arugula, Radicchio and Fennel Salad with Toasted Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey with Mushroom Gravy

Bread and Vegetable Stuffing, Cooked 2 Ways

Hot Cranberry and Apple Compote ( we call it Cranberry Jones!)

Roasted Sweet Potato and Banana Puree with Pecan Crumble

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Chocolate Marscapone Cheesecake

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

For a tutorial on making the perfect pie crust, click here.

Stay tuned this week, as we countdown the days until Thanksgiving, with cooking tips and recipes for the big day.

Photo: Glasshouse Images ( that’s actually our turkey made last Thanksgiving!)

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What’s Brewing? Dinner!

November 21, 2013

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Lately, I have been seeing all kinds of alternative cooking methods, ranging from poaching salmon in the dishwasher, to actually cooking the Thanksgiving turkey in it. One article suggested using it to wash large quantities of potatoes.

Of course we have all seen the trick of using an iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches, and isn’t a waffle iron just another texture of a Panini press or a George Forman grill anyways?
Today’s trick, discovered courtesy of NPR’s The Salt, shows you how to create an entire meal in a drip coffee maker!

While it seems a bit outrageous, we think it’s a stroke of genius!
Inspired by her nephew’s stint in Afghanistan, where the food was not up to par, and the only appliance the soldiers were allowed to have were coffee makers, Jody Anderson cooked up some recipes that he could whip up right in his quarters.

It turns out the coffee pot is very versatile, offering different cooking methods that can be used in tandem to create entire meals in 20 minutes.

The top basket functions as a steamer. Toss in a mix of cut vegetables that have similar cooking times. The vegetables can steam while the rest of the meal cooks elsewhere.

The vessel is the perfect place to poach meat or fish, boil eggs or grains, and cook oatmeal or soup.

The burner, albeit small, can be used to grill sandwiches, or fry an egg.

The NPR team attempted to cook a coffee pot meal, with astounding results.

They used the pot to cook up some cous cous, and then used it to poach a salmon filet.

While the food was cooking below, they steamed broccoli in the upper basket.

The finished product looked pretty appetizing, and the clean up was a breeze.
For how –tos, visit The Salt.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Butternut Squash Soup

November 20, 2013

The weather is changing and winter is in the air. For me, that spells the beginning of soup season. I used to start Thanksgiving dinner with pumpkin or butternut squash soup. As the crowd grew, and the accompanying extra dishes grew, I pulled back. This year, I am craving a warm start to the meal, and this soup fills the bill. I will serve it in teacups, to prevent everyone from filling up before the main event!

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Although the “unrecipe” calls for butternut squash, feel free to substitute fresh pumpkin.

This recipe serves 4-6 people.

Savory Butternut Squash Soup:

Finely chop the white and light green part of one leek, and saute it in butter or olive oil, until softened but not browned. Add 3-4 pounds of butternut squash, peeled and cubed*,  1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 tablespoons of curry powder, and  2 tablespoon of cumin, and continue to stir for a few minutes to allow the ingredients to merge. Season with salt and black pepper. Add a few tablespoons of Sherry, and cook long enough for it to evaporate into the mixture.

Add about 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, (enough to fully cover the squash), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until the squash is soft.

Puree the soup in a blender, or use an immersion blender until smooth. Add more stock if the soup is getting too thick. Taste, and correct seasonings if necessary. Stir in a little more Sherry if desired, when ready to serve.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and enjoy!

* many specialty food markets, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have already peeled and cubed butternut squash, which makes this much easier to make!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: How to Peel Squash

November 19, 2013

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I love winter squash; butternut, acorn and even fresh pumpkin. Peeling and dicing them; not so much. I often feel like I need a machete to slice through them, and fear that I will not come through the cutting process with the same amount of fingers I started with. This tip changed all that, and made the process of cutting hard squash much easier.
Rinse the dirt off of the outside of the squash. Use the tip of a sharp knife to poke a few holes in the squash to allow the steam to escape (and prevent it from exploding) and pop it into the microwave for 1-2 minutes until it is just soft enough to cut. If the squash is still too hard, try another minute. Just don’t leave it in there long enough to start cooking. This will make cutting it open a breeze!

Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp. Cut each half into smaller pieces and slide your knife between the skin and the flesh of the squash to remove the skin. This is easier in longer strips, as opposed to small chunks. Once it is peeled, cut it into smaller pieces, depending on what the recipe dictates.

You should have perfectly peeled squash with minimal waste, and all 10 fingers, when you are done!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Stay the Course

November 18, 2013

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Recently, I have been commuting to Boston for a project that I am working on. My hotel, while very comfortable, is isolated. Set on a cliff above a highway, there isn’t an opportunity to go out, without calling a cab. There isn’t anywhere near the office to walk to either, so I need to impose on someone everyday to take to me get something for lunch.

At home, I am very rigid about keeping to a routine. I eat very healthfully, bring my lunch to the office wherever possible, and exercise everyday. I walk everywhere, and easily log the suggested 10,000 steps before getting to the office many days.

Being away from home poses a challenge to an uber healthy lifestyle, but it is surmountable. Last week taught me a few lessons in sustaining my diet and workout while away from home.

If you are a morning exerciser, get up and workout, whereever you are. It’s harder when you are away, but I have found that sticking to my familiar routine helps my body adjust to jet lag, and keeps me from feeling out of control. My hotel has a small but serviceable gym, which helps, but going for a run outside, or even a brisk walk, is better than dropping the ball completely. That a.m. workout habit didn’t come easily…disrupting it for long periods of time can make it harder to get back on track when you are home again.

Don’t be afraid to be one of those people who ask for sauce on the side or specially prepared food. There were days I thought I was making wise food decisions, only to discover that my vegetables were slathered in butter, and my simply grilled chicken breast was sitting atop a big bowl of creamed corn, the advertised spinach being a mere garnish, rather than a side dish. The bread basket posed an unusual temptation; one that doesn’t generally phase me. From now on, I will ask them to leave it off my tray. Now that I know that they liberally butter the steamed vegetables, I will request them plain. I will ask for a simply grilled chicken breast or salmon filet, without the sauce and trimmings, and order a side salad, or unbuttered vegetables on the side. I will ask for olive oil and lemon, instead of creamy salad dressings, and grilled vs. fried chicken on my salad. I am not asking them to make me things that they don’t offer; I am merely requesting that they leave something off. I will ask kindly, and thank them profusely, and I am certain they will be happy to oblige.

I noticed a Trader Joe’s and a gourmet market near the office. I asked my taxi driver to pull up, and I ran in and stocked up on Greek  yogurt, nuts, green tea, and fruit to keep in the office. I now have healthy food on hand when I am hungry, and I am no longer at the mercy of others to get me lunch.

The occasional business trip is not enough to completely derail your routine, but those of who are traveling regularly to the same location, consistency is key. I hope to employ these tactics this coming week, to get me back on track.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Thanksgiving Game Plan

November 14, 2013

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if you are hosting dinner, it’s time to get cooking; in a figurative sense. Unless you prepare a massive feast for a crowd on a regular basis, planning ahead is everything.

Here are a few of our favorite tips to ensure a successful meal:

Nail down the guest list:

Our Thanksgiving guest list ebbs and flows each year, with regulars often asking to bring friends at the last minute.  While there is always room for one more, a few more, or a few less can wreck havoc. Try to get a head count so you can plan more efficiently.

Order the turkey:

If you have ever had a fresh, free range or organic turkey, vs. a frozen conventional turkey, you will know this step is critical. I order mine from Dipaola Turkeys at the Union Square Greenmarket, and you really can taste the difference.

Create a menu:

With the wide variety of traditional dishes served for Thanksgiving, a plan is necessary. Everyone seems to have a favorite side dish that they look forward to, and with all of the food issues floating around, it is important to serve items that fit into your guests’ dietary restrictions. Check to see if you have any vegetarians, vegans or gluten free diners. You can work around those issues in some dishes to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable meal. Copy your recipes, and place them in a folder so that they are all in one place when you need them. 

Make shopping lists:

The grocery stores get crazy the day before Thanksgiving. Other than the impeding nervous breakdown one might experience when food shopping the evening before the holiday, the most popular items are often sold out. You can’t make pumpkin pie without pumpkin, or cranberry sauce without cranberries. Dividing the list into non- perishables, which can be purchased far in advance, semi-perishables, which can be purchased a few days in advance, last minute items, and specialty store items, will allow you to be a stealth shopper, with a minimum amount of stress. 

Have a game plan:

Take that menu you just created, and figure out the best way to execute it. Several dishes can be made the day before and finished off right before dinner, and others can be prepped to minimize the muss and fuss. Cleaning and chopping vegetables, and making piecrusts are good items to get out of the way in advance.

Setting the table:

If you have room, go ahead and set the table the day before and cover it with a sheet.At the very least, inventory dishes, tableware, linens and serving pieces a week in advance. Polish the silver, wipe the dishes, iron the linens and make sure you have everything you need. When you discover you don’t have a serving piece, or a place setting on Thanksgiving Day, there is little to nothing you can do about it.

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Taking the time to plan ahead will be one of the many things to be thankful for, come Thanksgiving Day.

photo: Glasshouse Images


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