Archive for January, 2016

The New Year’s Resolutions That Never Happened

January 29, 2016

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Every January, I enter the gym in a state of dread, knowing that it will be swarming with people who aren’t normally there. Us regulars take a deep breath, secure in the knowledge that most of them will be gone before the month is over. This year however, they never actually showed up.

Did they give up the fight for a healthier and more svelte version of themselves? Are they all at Soul Cycle? I have a theory, and its not a bad one; they set themselves up for failure from day one.

In New York, we experienced mild temperatures all the way through Christmas Eve, which was a balmy 73 degrees. Suddenly, the thermometer dipped into the teens, and those dark, dreary mornings became instantly more difficult to navigate. There was little subtlety in the situation. It seemed like out of nowhere, winter arrived. It made it’s point this weekend, when 30″ of snow was dumped on our city, virtually shutting most of it down. When you aren’t used to getting up and getting out and hitting the gym while it is still dark, trying to do it when its freezing isn’t a good place to start. Eating clean, when all we crave is comfort food, is super hard this time of year. Setting goals like that are almost certain to fail. We opt to hybernate, instead of working out.

I never make New Year’s resolutions. I just resolve to try to do my best throughout the year. Perhaps deciding to become a morning gym person is a better goal for the late spring, when it is light out, and weather is more welcoming. Eating clean, while possible all year long, is much simpler when the produce is fresh and in-season, and lighter fare is more palatable than heavier choices. Getting out and running or biking is easier to achieve when there is more daylight available in which to partake in these activities.

May I suggest resetting some of these goals in the spring, with the intent to maintain them long term? Once the habits are set, they will carry through, regardless of the time of year.

I’m not advocating putting off trying to build a healthier lifestyle. I am however, suggesting that you cut yourself some slack and just do the best you can. Resolve to do better, and build on that throughout the year. Go to the gym whenever you can, and make some healthy food swaps when available. Come spring, you’ll be part of the way there, and easing into a more rigorous program will be much easier.

Photo:Glasshouse Images

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The Great Gluten Free Tart Off

January 28, 2016

I often get asked for gluten free baked goods. I have a few in my repertoire that simply don’t require any flour at all, and one that uses so little, it can easily be replaced with a gluten free option. This weekend, since we were pretty much snowed in here on the east coast, it seemed as good a time as any to experiment with one of the gluten free flour blends that have cropped up in the marketplace. Touted as being a cup for cup replacement, I picked up Trader Joe’s blend of rice flours, enhanced with potato starch and tapioca flour.

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I made a basic tart crust, using one stick of butter, a pinch each of salt and sugar, a cup of flour and some filtered water. The good news: The dough came together beautifully, and had a silky texture to it. The not so good news: I found it almost impossible to work with.
I rolled it on a sheet of wax paper, which had been floured, and rolled it with a floured rolling pin. When I went to transfer it to the tart pan, it was completely stuck to the paper. Subsequent chilling, flouring and re-rolling didn’t seem to help. The only time I could get any significant portion off the paper was when I chilled it so much that it wasn’t pliable enough to put into the pan. I used a section of this, and “pinch potted” the rest. Not the most beautiful crust but there is still hope that when it is filled and baked it will recover.

I also made a classic crust using conventional flour, and  put them in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly before baking.

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Once filled, they looked almost identical going into the oven.

The conventional flour tart browned more quickly and more evenly than the gluten free crust, even though I rotated the pan mid-baking. The noticably more profound difference was suprisingly in the filling. The gluten free filling seemed dry, with bits of the flour sticking to some of the apples, while the conventional tart had an evenly dispersed thick, juicy filling with large chunks of apples. It seems that the gluten free flour used as a thickener in the filling absorbed, rather than thickened the natural apple juices. If that is the only issue, it can be rectified with corn starch instead of gluten free flour next time.

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Both got a drizzle of caramel, and were left to  cool a bit before the big taste testing.

The outcome: The gluten free tart was a bit crumbly. The texture of the crust was sandy, as opposed to the regular crust, which was flakey. It came out of the oven with a few cracks in it.

One tester stated: “the first crust looks flakey, but the second one tastes flakey.

Another felt the gluten free crust was more like a cookie crust, and remarked that it “turned to powder ” when eaten.

I felt as though I could taste “flour”in the gluten free crust, vs. the taste of butter in the conventional crust.

Despite the textural differences, the testers liked both tarts, yet at the end, both preferred the conventional version. They felt that if they only had the gluten free tart, they would have been ok with it, but when compared to the regular tart, it fell short.
The final verdict: Okay, but not great. I might try it again with a shortbread crust, rather than a rolled traditional pate brisee and see how it goes.
I will give the flour another chance, trying it in muffins or a cake, where it might be more successful. Even with a flour mixture that is developed to be a cup for cup replacement to conventional wheat flour, the results prove that they are not apples to apples comparable.

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Take Flight

January 27, 2016

Look out leather moto jacket…there is a new style in town and it is gaining momentum!
We’ve been seeing the flight jacket popping up for a few seasons now, but it looks like it could be poised to replace our beloved biker jackets as the item of choice.

French label Sacai paired the classic olive flight jacket with a lace skirt for their pre-fall collection.

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Sacai pre-fall via Vogue.com

Burberry took their flight jacket to new proportions for their version in leather for pre-fall.

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Burberry Prorsum pre-fall via Vogue.com

Dsquared2’s ode to flight is in airforce blue and cinched at the waist.

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dsquared pre-fall via Vogue.com

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Rag+Bone pre-fall via Vogue.com

Cool kids favorite Rag + Bone got into the act with a quilted satin version for pre-fall.

The true test of a trend gone wild is the proliferation of them seen on the concrete catwalk:

NYMAG

via NYMAG

via the urban spotter

via the urban spotter

via whowhatwear

via whowhatwear

Kendell Jenner + GIgi Hadid via POPSUGAR

Kendell Jenner + GIgi Hadid via POPSUGAR

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Parmesan Rinds

January 26, 2016

 

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In our continuing quest to eliminate food waste, we’ve been saving the rinds from Parmesan cheese to add flavor to soups and stews.
This weekend, we were making our creamy cauliflower soup with parmesan crisps and realized that this was the perfect spot for those rinds. This  (un) recipe calls for adding a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese to the pot towards the end of cooking. Tossing in the rinds while it cooks instead, allows the cheese to slowly melt into the soup, delivery a savory and salty flavor.

The rinds can be kept in the freezer, and you can take out just enough to fill your needs.
Try tossing them into pasta sauces, ratatouille or vegetable soups.

Drop a rind into the sauce or soup while it is cooking, and allow the cheese to slowly melt into the dish. If there is still a solid portion when you’re ready to serve it, remove the rind and discard it.
Enjoy!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

January 25, 2016

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New York is experiencing a blizzard today, and everyone is longing for something warm, and hearty. Slow days like this call for slow cooking. This dish has all the right elements for a snow day. It comes together in no time, and fills the house with a delicious aroma of things to come. It is also made from things I have on hand since venturing out to the grocery store is not really an option.

This is one of the easiest ways to use the slow cooker, as this pulled pork requires no marinating, no pre-searing of the meat and almost no mess. Simply place the pork tenderloin in  the slow cooker, add the one bowl sauce, and let it cook. Later, the tender, juicy meat can be shredded and served on fluffy brioche buns for a comfort food sandwich that everyone will enjoy.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork: ( adapted from Le Creme de la Crumb)

Place a pork tenderloin into the slow cooker bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of honey, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Add a couple of diced garlic cloves and about 1/2 of a small onion finely diced. Sprinkle the pork with a black pepper and pour the sauce over it.
Cover, and cook at high for about 4 1/2 -5 hours.

Drain the sauce into a sauce pan and bring to a slow boil. Mix together a tablespoon of cornstarch and a some water until it forms a smooth paste. Whisk a little at a time into the sauce, and let it simmer for a few minutes until thickened.

In the meantime, use forks to shred the pork. Alternatively, you can toss it into the electric mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix on a low speed until it shreds. (It is easier, but you have to wash another bowl, and frankly, who wants to do that? But to each his own!)

Serve on toasted brioche buns and enjoy!

Photo: Spencer Jones Glasshouse Assignment

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Unbelievable

January 22, 2016

We try to keep up with the innovations and discoveries in the health and wellness genre, as recent studies reveal better ways of eating and exercising all the time. While many findings are premature and only point to certain conclusions, they come from reputable sources and are worthy of a look-see.

Some, however sound too good to be true, perhaps because they are.
My Facebook feed is full of people posting that certain things are good for their health, because they so desperately want them to be. Diet soda better than water? A glass of wine the equivilent of an hour in the gym?  A chocolate bar a day for weight loss? Pretty doubtful. Yet these are actual headlines that have popped up recently, that people have taken seriously.

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The University of Alberta, in Canada found that rats who consumed one glass of red wine per day had similiar benefits to an hour of exercise. Hmm. Although many studies have lauded the resveratol found in red wine, we find this one a little hard to swallow. Compared to an hour in the gym doing what? Drinking wine?  I love a glass of red as much as the next guy, but I don’t think I am going to give up on the gym quite yet.

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That study that found that drinking diet soda is better for weight loss than drinking water?Funded by an organization that has Coke and Pepsi execs on the board. The researchers were also paid a stipend by the group, and the lead author was paid by the British Sugar Bureau. Of the 55,000 studies carried out, only the information from three of them were used. Only one of the three was able to show a weight loss benefit for the diet soda drinkers, as compared to those that drank water. Credible? We say highly questionable.

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John Bohannon, a journalist embarked on a prank study which bestowed the virtues of eating a chocolate bar a day to promote weight loss. While the news from the faux German study swept the world, the conclusions were, in fact unfounded. You can read Bohannon’s account of the hoax here.

Like with anything else in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before you settle in for a night of Netflix, accompanied by a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate and some diet soda thinking it is a magic bullet for weight loss, I’d like to chat with you about purchasing a certain bridge in New York.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: How To Pack A Mason Jar Salad

January 21, 2016

 

How-Make-Mason-Jar-SaladAhh, mason jars; Pinterest’s vessel of choice. While we are totally tired of seeing them as mugs, vases and other types of kitchsy decor, we still love them for what they were originally intended to be used for, which is hold food. They are recyclable, don’t have any BPA’s or other harmful chemicals in them, and can go into the freezer, refrigerator and microwave when the metal top is removed.
The glass jars are the perfect vehicle for storing soups and sauces, and grains. They also allow you make a salad complete with the dressing and not let it get soggy. You can actually pack a few lunches in advance, and store them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. The trick is the order in which you layer the ingredients in the jar.

First, add the dressing. It might be a tablespoon or two, or even more, depending on how much dressing you like and how big the salad is.

Next, layer the heaviest ingredients on top of it, that will not absorb the dressing. This means items like carrots, cucumbers, celery, and beets.

Add any grains, pasta or beans on top of that.

Next up is the protein layer, containing any chicken, meat, fish, hard boiled eggs, tofu or cheese.  Don’t add these yet if the salad is going to sit for several days. We recommend adding it within 24 hours of eating for best, freshest results.

Any soft vegetables and fruits such as avocado, tomatoes, or berries go on next. Again, if you are keeping the salad for several days, add these at the last minute. Avocado or apple should be soaked in lemon juice to avoid it turning brown.

Add any nuts, croutons or seeds in the next layer, followed by a hefty helping of clean and well dried greens. Screw on the lid, pop it in the refrigerator and anticipate lunch!

Chopped Salad

When ready to eat the salad, give it a little shake and dump it into a bowl. The lettuce will be on the bottom, and the other items on top of it. The dressing will mix in as it is poured. Enjoy!

Photo: top: POPSUGAR

bottom: Glasshouse Images

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At First Blush

January 20, 2016

The Pre-Fall collections have been in full swing, providing a glimpse into what designers may be showing when fashion week rolls around in mid-February. Pre-Fall also tends to be more consumer focused, as opposed to the spectacles that take place on the runways. One thing is for certain, it seems that next season, designers will be tickled pink!
Shades of pink, from barely there blush, to fully saturated versions are popping up as accents to more nuetral collections.

Jason Wu showed an impeccably cut dusty rose coat with military details.

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At Dior, pink mixes with red and black for a graphic take on the trend. The soft pink double breasted coat provides a feminine touch to an edgy look.

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Iceberg keeps it young and casual with their red and pink blocked fisherman’s sweater, sans pants.

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Gucci continues with their girly and geeky gender bending look that took the fashion world by a storm, adding their now signature flower and bow to a peachy pink dress.

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Stella McCartney showed a sheer rose colored dress over wide leg pants for an unexpected take on layering.

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Ermanno Scervino added a buckle detail to his pink cape, shown with thigh high boots.

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Jason Wu mixed matte and shine for an icy pink pant and top look that exudes sophistication.

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Photos: Vogue.com

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cutting Tips

January 19, 2016

 

4326400712_compLately, I have been cutting through lots of different things that are dense, sticky, gooey or hard, often using a shape cutter to do it. After much frustration and a little trial and error, I have come up with some solutions to getting a good, clean cut.

Often super sticky items need something dry to keep the knife or cutter from getting stuck. For doughs, that means always dipping your tools and your hands into flour ( cookies, bread doughs and gnocchi ). For my marshmallows, I use a blend of confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch to absorb some of the sticky moisture and give me a clean edge every time.

When cutting through a dense chocolate item, such as a flourless chocolate cake, or fudge, dipping the knife into hot water allows you to slice through more easily. The heat melts the chocolate slightly, letting the knife or the cutter glide through. If that melted edge isn’t clean enough for you, try spraying your tools with cooking spray. Make sure to wipe the blade between cuts to avoid build up to keep your slices much cleaner.

Flakey items, such as tart crusts, benefit from a serrated knife and a gentle sawing action at the edges so that crust doesn’t crumble. Once you have gone through the edge,more assertive slicing is usually fine. This holds true for anything delicate, like cookies, or breads and cakes with a fine crumb.

When cutting through hard things, like a big block of chocolate, use a heavy knife and cut with a rocking motion. This will allow you to gradually slice through it, without it snapping and cracking.

Happy Cutting!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Its The Pits

January 18, 2016

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We’ve written about food waste here before, even documenting a weeks worth of efforts in trying to reduce ours.  So often, the parts of our food that we discard are among the healthiest.
We, and every other food writer and healthy eating guru has waxed poetic about the glory that is an avocado. The versatile fruit is delicious, sliced, diced, and smashed. Avocado toast acheived cult-like status in last year, and it can even be used as a substitute for butter in vegan baked goods. But did you know that the seed contains over 70% of the avocado’s antioxidants? Neither did we!

To reap the benefits, place the avocado pit into the food processor and grind it into a fine powder. Add it to your morning smoothie, or sprinkle on oatmeal or add to salad dressing for a jolt of antioxident rich fiber.

To read more on this subject, head over to One Green Planet.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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