Archive for December, 2013

Unrecipe of the Week: Zucchini “Pizza”

December 30, 2013

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The holidays have taken their toll, and we would be hard pressed to find anyone who is not interested in “reeling it in” a little bit, on the indulgence side. This quickie vegetarian dish could be the centerpiece to a meal, or a great appetizer. The zucchini base functions in lieu of a crust, and is topped with tomatoes and cheese like a pizza. It has all of the flavor, and none of the guilt of the real deal. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it replaces traditional pizza, I will say it’s a darn good alternative when the craving strikes and the scale is recommending abstinence!

Zucchini “Pizzas”

Slice open a zucchini lengthwise, and shave a little off the bottom so that it lays flat. Place it on a cookie sheet, brush it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle it with finely diced garlic. Top with thin slices of tomato, and sprinkle with some shredded basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Top it with mozzarella cheese, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. For an even lighter version, use Parmesan cheese instead of the mozzarella.

Enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Asian Vinaigrette

December 27, 2013

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On Saturday night, I set out to make Ming Tsai’s Asian shallot vinaigrette to marinate fresh tuna, scallops and shrimp. I waited until I was all huddled in for the night, and was surprised to discover that I lacked most of the ingredients, first and foremost the shallots. Not one afraid to improvise, I used what I had and somehow it worked out just fine. It’s a little bit Asian by way of the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, and very French, as it is a riff on the classic vinaigrette. The leftover portion is sitting in a jar in the refrigerator, waiting to flavor chicken, meat, sauteed vegetables, or top a green salad. Got an extra 2 or 3 minutes? Whip some up for dinner tonight!

Pouring a spoonful of olive oil

Asian Vinaigrette 

Place the ingredients in the blender (or if you are really lazy, in glass jar with a tight fitting lid)

1/2 cup of grainy Dijon mustard

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar

a pinch of sugar

a tiny pinch of salt

black pepper to taste

With the motor running, drizzle in oil ( I used sunflower oil, but safflower, canola or any bland oil will work ) until it starts to emulsify. It will probably take 1/2 cup or so. If you are using a jar, shake it until it is fully mixed. It won’t thicken as much.

Feel free to add finely diced shallots, garlic or a dash of sriracha to give it an edge.

Use as a dressing or marinade and enjoy!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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One More One Day Sale

December 25, 2013

 
Screen shot 2013-12-25 at 3.40.38 PMIt’s Christmas Day, and we are relaxing at home. Gifts have been opened, and wrapping paper remains have beeb packed away for recycling. I stopped to check my email, and  I am shocked to see that I am STILL being inundated with messages from retailers, hoping upon hope that I still have some shopping left in me to help them push their numbers into the positive zone. I’d like to send them back a message:
Dear Retailer,

Get a grip dudes, it’s over. Move on. You’re starting to look pathetic.

Merry Christmas to you too!

The sales began before Thanksgiving, and those”special one day only” Black Friday specials lingered throughout the month. Customers were bombarded with emails, and anything and everything they could do to buy our business was shamelessly done. Christmas has become a giant end of the year sale, which looks like it will extend into the New Year.

I cringe when I see the seasonal Facebook postings where people are offended that the term “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by the more politically correct “Happy Holidays!” Clearly, the whole Christmas spirit has gone awry in more ways than one. Call it what you will, but what began as a religious celebration for Christians, has evolved into a bargain basement shopping frenzy for all cultures.

So, if you will excuse me, I am going to step off my soap box and go off with my family to celebrate the day as Jews worldwide have done for decades: We’re off to the movies followed by Chinese food!

I  hope you all have a Happy Holiday, a Merry Christmas, and if it suits you, Jolly Bargain Hunting on the internet!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Musings from the Front Row

December 24, 2013

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I work out religiously, but I am not a fitness class junkie. I do take cycling classes, and about once a week or so, I add in a high intensity metabolic conditioning class. The rest of the time, I work out on my own. I am not overly social at the gym, and I am far from an exhibitionist.

In classes, I tend to find a spot in the back, often near the door in case I decide to make an early exit ( which I never actually do!) I don’t coordinate my gym clothes, create elaborate hairdo’s, nor do I yell “whoo” during the difficult times. I go to sweat, I work hard, and I tend to blend into the group.

Until yesterday. I took  a class with a favorite instructor I hadn’t seen in awhile, and he talked me into a spot right next to him in the front row. He would demo an exercise, and then move around the room, timing the intervals, tweaking and motivating the group, Once we was off, the focus was on me, and the others situated front and center. CRINGE! I cautiously took my place, feeling the pressure of everyone being able to see me. The view from up there is decidedly different, and in the end I learned a few things.

1. I was extremely conscious of my form. Although I generally try to put form first, it’s easy to get a little sloppy, and not lunge or squat as deeply, or straighten your arms fully on overhead presses when you get tired. With the knowledge that 40+ people were standing behind me watching my every move, I perfected my form on each and every rep.

2. There is no slacking in the front row. During the series of one minute all out intervals, it’s easy to get tired and skip a few beats. Knowing that everyone would know if I stopped, forced me to keep going, even when the urge to back off was overwhelming. Further note to self: Some of that fatigue is all in your head. Push past it!

3. When you make faces, roll your eyes, or mutter during the hard parts, the instructor totally knows. BUSTED!

Today, I assumed my normal position in the back near the door, but my inner mantra became ” work like you’re in the front row and everyone is watching!”

My experience did not make me want to live life in the proverbial  spotlight, but it did make me more aware of my actions.

While the old adage ” dance as if nobody is watching” is a good one, in this case, the moral of the story is: “work like everyone is watching!”

Where do you like to workout in your fitness classes?Are you a front row type, or a back of the packer,like me? Let us know in the comments!

photo: Of someone that isn’t me: Glasshouse Images

Kitchen Tip: Efficient Cookie Baking

December 23, 2013

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For those of you cranking out the last of the Christmas cookies, here is a tip that could be a game changer:

To save time and cookie sheet washing, prepare all of your raw cookies and place them on parchment paper, cut to fit your cookie sheets.

As the cookies come out of the oven, take them off, paper and all, and place the next pre-filled parchment sheet on the cookie sheet, and  whisk it right back into the hot oven. This production line technique will give you the most efficiency for baking and you’ll than us when it’s time to do the dishes.

Happy Baking!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Vitamin Power

December 19, 2013

Most of us grew up taking some kind of vitamin suppliment. As adults, we have continued that habit, with the belief that we are doing something healthy for our bodies. Well, according to the Annuls of Internal Medicine, “enough is enough.”

Vitamin Capsules

New studies released this week, indicate that those who have a healthy diet, are wasting their money on additional vitamins: $28 million per year, to be exact.

In the past, it was discovered that certain vitamins were linked to illness. Vitamin D deficiency caused rickets, lack of folic acid caused spina bifida, and lack of sufficient vitamin A caused blindness. Over the years, better nutrition and vitamin fortified foods have made these risks almost obsolete.

While we load up on vitamin C to prevent colds, and calcium to strengthen our bones, all of the supplements we are taking can add up to too much of a good thing.

New information shows that too much beta carotene and vitamin E can cause cancer, and over loading on vitamin A can cause liver damage.

The vitamin habit may be a hard one to break. While vitamin supplements  are shown to provide no added benefit in preventing early death, or cognitive decline, more than 40% of us currently take them.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Hot Chocolate Mix

December 18, 2013

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Homemade gifts embody the true spirit of the season. They come from the heart, are made with love and tend to be sweet.
This recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix is perfect for gift giving. It’s easy to make, and is can be customized to suit the recipient.

Package it in a mason jar tied with a beautiful ribbon, or in a bag tucked inside a lovely mug. Add a special spoon, or a bag of homemade marshmallows. Perhaps a small bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream or Peppermint Schnapps with some candy canes on the side might take the edge off of a cold winter’s night. The possibilities are myriad, and the results well worth the effort. Why use preservative laden mixes when making your own is so simple, and so much more flavorful?

Hot Chocolate Mix: 

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup Dutch processed high quality cocoa powder

2 1/2 cups powdered milk ( many hot chocolate aficionados swear by Nestle’s  “Nida” whole milk powder )

1 scant teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch

* add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a spicy twist if desired

Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly with a whisk to prevent clumps, and store in an airtight container.

To serve:
Fill a mug 1/2 way with the dry mixture and pour in hot water. Stir until mixed, add the garnish of your choice and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Substituting Chocolates

December 17, 2013

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When baking, different recipes call for different types of chocolate. Recipes that call for unsweetened chocolate for example,require more sugar, than those calling for bittersweet chocolate. Substituting chocolates requires tweaking other ingredients to compensate for the change in consistency or sweetness. Below of a few basic substitutions for those days when you have the urge to bake and the wrong type of chocolate in the pantry.

1 ounce of semisweet chocolate=1/2 oz. of unsweetened chocolate + 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate = 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon of butter

6 oz. of semisweet chocolate chips = 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder +1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar + 3 tablespoons of butter 

Happy Baking!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Ski Sweater Goes Rogue

December 16, 2013

It’s that time of year again. The time when all those tacky Christmas themed sweaters come out of the closet to taunt us. You know the snowflake sweater, the Fair isle, and the animal motif; the stuff us fashionistas thought we’d never be caught dead in? Well, I have bad news for you: they’re totally in fashion this season! But wait a minute… before you start digging out the gift Aunt Ethel send years ago from the dark recesses of the basement, let’s look at what makes this year’s versions cooler than their predecessors.

They’re more graphic in nature.

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The colors are more sophisticated.

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The proportions are different.

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They are worn with more attitude.

Please remember that while scarves, layered shirts, and oversized jewels add to the fun, those Christmas light necklaces that flash on and off are never going to make the cut. EVER.

Images from JCrew, Madewell and Anthropologie

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Unrecipe of the Week: Moroccan Chicken Tagine

December 11, 2013

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Those of you who follow us on Facebook ( and you really should!) know that I got a slow cooker as a gift. Those of you that follow this blog, know that I am more of a fast cooker type, using fresh ingredients to create seasonal, flavorful and simple dishes. I admit to being a bit intimidated by this concept of slow cooking, and put off trying it out. Finally, on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I was home long enough to attempt to try it out. First, I did my due diligence, researching recipes, and reading the comments. Many of the readers complained that the cooking times were off. There was lots of conversation about too much liquid, or not enough. Many of the recipes were for dishes I simply don’t care for. Finally, I stumbled upon a recipe for a Moroccan Style Chicken Tagine, with dried apricots and chickpeas. The comments were all favorable, and dish did not disappoint. The rich flavorful stew that accompanies the chicken is hearty and tasty enough to hold its own as a vegetarian dish, with a few minor tweaks ( like losing the chicken!).

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I learned a few lessons experimenting with the slow cooker:

Just tossing the ingredients into the pot and turning it on isn’t going to happen very often. Browning meats, sauteing onions, and finishing sauces on the stove top are part of the success of slow cooked foods. This (un) recipe, is adapted from the Kitchn, and requires a bit of before and after work, but the results were worth the extra effort, and the added mess.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Chickpeas:

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them in olive oil until golden. Work in batches if necessary, until all pieces are done.  Transfer them to the slow cooker.

Using the same pan, saute one diced onion and 2 peeled and diced carrots in olive oil, until soft and slightly brown. Add 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves, and a chunk of ginger root, peeled and minced to the pan, and cook for about 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon or so of cumin, and cinnamon. Continue to saute until mixed.  Pour the mixture over the chicken. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, and a few large handfuls of dried apricots, chopped.

Turn the slow cooker up to high, and cook for roughly 4 -5 hours.

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Remove the chicken from the cooker, and place on a platter, covered with foil to keep warm. Pour the sauce, including the fruit and vegetables into a pan, add 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed.  Simmer until the sauce reduces a bit and starts to thicken.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the finished sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped almonds.

Serve on a bed of cous cous and enjoy!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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