Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Thanksgiving Countdown: Tip #3

November 13, 2017

Freeze it!

I have never been one to freeze things…I mean, if you make too much in advance, thaw and reheat it, you may as well just buy a TV dinner. That said, there are a few things that actually benefit from the deep chill. Pie crusts and biscuits to be precise. Go ahead and make your doughs now, roll them out and freeze them right in the pie or tart pan. If you are using a top crust, cut your lattice strips, decorative elements or full topper, and freeze it flat on a sheet pan. Just make sure that anything you freeze is well wrapped. Use plastic wrap and wrap in both directions to ensure that it is fully sealed and protected. Bottom crusts and biscuits can be baked frozen. Top crusts should be thawed just enough to be pliable. Frozen dough maintains its shape better and shrinks less during baking.  Brush it with a light egg wash to help it brown and you’re good to go.

It doesn’t take long to make crusts, so get them done now and save time and mess on the big day.

photo: Glasshouse Images



Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #2:

November 10, 2017

Today’s tip: Inventory your pantry.

definitely not our pantry

We take for granted that we have basics like salt, pepper, and oil on hand at all times. But remember, you are probably going to be cooking more than you are used to and using much larger quantities of all those staple items. This weekend, spend a few minutes taking inventory of your pantry and make sure that you have ample amounts of every spice, as well as oil, vinegar, flour, and sugar. Check for the freshness of your baking powder and soda, as they do expire and lose effectiveness. Make sure you have pan spray and aluminum foil, as well as parchment and plastic wrap. Trust us, you don’t want to have to stop everything to run to the store ( if you can find one that is open) or brave the crowds with overflowing carts because you ran out of cinnamon.

Bonus points for actually wiping down your shelves and drawers while you are at it. There is something about starting the preparation with clean and well-organized cabinets that makes the process much more pleasant.


photo: Glasshouse Images


Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #1:

November 9, 2017


It’s only two weeks before Thanksgiving. This year, we are going to toss out a tip here and there to help get you ready for the big day. Today’s suggestion?
Sharpen your knives! A dull knife makes food preparation a chore. Whether you own a sharpener or need to take them to someone to do the job professionally, get those knives honed to precision. You will give thanks for that while you are preparing the feast, and carving the bird.

photo: Glasshouse Images


Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Baking A Few Items At Once

October 24, 2017

I keep lots of cookie and scone dough on hand, so I can just pull it out and bake it off at a moment’s notice. Sometimes this means I need a few of these and a few of those. While all those cookies might fit easily on one cookie sheet, bake times are not always the same.

King Arthur Flour recently shared a great tip, which rectifies that problem completely. They suggest placing each type of cookie on its own strip of parchment paper on the baking trays. When one row is done, simply pull the entire sheet off the pan and continue baking the others.

Pretty smart, huh?

photo: Glasshouse Images



Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Raw Meat

October 17, 2017


Whenever I purchase raw proteins; chicken, fish or meat, I put them in a plastic bag in the store, before slipping them into my own canvas tote. While that may seem to defeat the purpose of bringing your own reusable bag, it keeps any juices and harmful bacteria from leaking and contaminating my bag, and in turn, my other foods. Those bags can harbor lots of nasty germs that can make you sick. It is important to wash your bags regularly to avoid cross-contaminating other foods, especially those fruits and vegetables that don’t get cooked.

Once you get home, be sure to place those foods on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so any leaks will be contained, and the chance of drips onto other items is limited. This holds true for defrosting animal proteins as well. It is safest to defrost them slowly in the refrigerator, and placing those high-risk items on a plate on the bottom shelf will protect your other foods and food surfaces from contamination.

photo: Glasshouse Images



Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Mirepoix

October 10, 2017


It’s no secret that I am a big Trader Joe’s fan. I brave the crowds frequently to stock up on items that are unbeatable for both price and quality.

One of my latest discoveries is not new to the brand, but it is new to me and it is life-changing. One word. Mirepoix. 

Mirepoix (meer – pwah) is a staple in the French culinary world, consisting of diced onion, carrot and celery, which provides the base for soups, stews, and sauces. It takes a bit of an effort to make, due to the washing, peeling, and dicing of the vegetables.

Trader Joe’s offers it in a 14 oz tub, layered with the perfect proportion of one-half onion, three carrots, and 3 celery stalks, all cut and ready to use. In the time it took to unpack my groceries, I had sauteed the Mirepoix and was ready to add the other ingredients for a quick pureed soup. And did I mention it’s only $2.99?

Quick Pureed Soup:
Slowly saute the mirepoix in butter or olive oil, until the vegetables start to soften, and the onion becomes translucent. True mirepoix is not meant to brown or caramelize.

Add the vegetable of choice, (zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli are all good options) and any herbs you might like. Add enough chicken or vegetable stock* to fully submerge the vegetables and simmer covered until they are soft. Puree the mixture until smooth, put it back in the pot, correct seasonings and enjoy!

* If you don’t have stock on hand, Better Than Bouillion is another easy fix. It comes in a jar and is spoonable, rather than dehydrated into a salty cube. It is organic, not full of fake ingredients, and a big dollop added to the pot of water makes a tasty soup. It is high in sodium, so be sure to taste before adding additional salt.




Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Rinsing Rice and Grains

August 8, 2017

When cooking rice and grains, most people just put them in a pot with the requisite liquid and follow the directions for cook time. There is a crucial step that is often over looked, and that is rinsing.

Rinsing grains dates back to a time and place when they weren’t processed and boxed like they are today. While most grains purchased in the USA aren’t considered toxic, they could benefit from a good rinse.

Rice: Giving rice a rinse takes off some of the surface starch, resulting in a less sticky end product. Many also notice debris in the rinse water, especially when the rice came from the bulk bins rather than a box. Imported rices, such as basmati and jasmine may have talc, or powdered glucose on them to make them appear cleaner looking. Looking cleaner, and being cleaner are two very different things, and it is advisable to rinse the talc off before cooking.

Other grains, such as quinoa, farro and barley benefit from a rinse, not only to remove debris, but to remove any saponins that may still linger. While domestically packaged quinoa has been treated to remove the dangerous coating, residual saponins are the source of the unpleasant and bitter flavor that sometimes occurs in cooking quinoa.

Rinse the grains either by running them under water in a fine mesh sieve, or by submerging them in cool water, straining them, and resubmerging them in fresh water until no more debris floats to the surface.

Soaking grains (and legumes) cuts down on the phytic acid, a compound which can make these foods harder to digest. Soaking also jumpstarts the process, cuts down on cooking time and tends to yield a better texture.

Taking the time to rinse grains is akin to taking the time to rinse vegetables. Well worth the extra few minutes for a safer, and better outcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images


Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

August 1, 2017

They are both white powders whose roles are to help your baked goods rise. They are often in similar packaging, and although they look the same, and have similar end uses, they are very different. I’m talking about baking powder, and baking soda.

Trust me, I have tossed multiple batches of scones because I grabbed the wrong container. While they looked ok, albiet a little more bronzed than usual, the taste of two tablespoons of baking soda is not the same as the required two tablespoons of baking powder.

Baking soda, is a base mineral, which when combined with acids produces carbon dioxide, and in turn, bubbles. Remember those grade school volcanos, where you mixed baking soda and vinegar to create an eruption?
In baking, it is usually something a bit less overtly acidic, like brown sugar, yogurt, buttermilk, lemon, or even pumpkin, that creates the more subtle reaction. The acid also interacts with the gasses to counteract that bitter, almost metallic taste that my scones had. Things baked with soda are usually crisper and more browned that those made with powder.

Baking powder, on the other hand, consists of baking soda, cream of tarter ( or another dry acid), and cornstarch. Most commercial baking powders are double acting. This means that the leavening is activated the first time it comes in contact with liquid, and the second action is heat activated. This allows it to be used without other acidic ingredients, without the nasty aftertaste.

Recipes sometimes call for a mixture of both products. This is usually the case where you don’t want to neutralize all the acidic flavor, such as when making buttermilk pancakes, but don’t want the bitter soapy flavor that comes with it. The delicate balance between the two, create the rise, keep the tang, and reduce the bitterness.

Remember that both of these products have a shelf life. Be sure to check dates to insure that the leavener of choice still has the power to lift your baked goods. To tell if baking powder is still fresh, you can place a 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and add 1/4 cup boiling water. If it bubbles up, it is still good.  To check the freshness of baking soda, place a spoonful into a bowl, and add a little lemon juice, or vinegar. It should produce bubbles if it is active.

Also note,that batters relying on baking soda should be baked as soon as possible, where baking powder based batters and doughs can usually wait to be baked, as some of the “poof power” is heat activated.

Confused? We hope not, but just in case, the most important take aways here, are that these items are not interchangeable, and must be fresh to do their jobs. Oh, and if you are like me, to always look twice to make sure that you have the right cylander in your hand before you scoop!





Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Getting Under Our Skin

July 25, 2017


I am mesmerized by all of those short little cooking videos. The ones where the entire recipe gets prepared and cooked in about 30 seconds. Today, as I was watching one from Food + Wine, showing New York restaurant Made Nice‘s chef prepping their chickens for roasting I had an epiphany.

It is fairly common for recipes to suggest rubbing some butter or tucking herbs under the skin of poultry before roasting to let the flavors really soak in, crisp the skin, and keep the meat moist. The problem is, it isn’t so easy to really get under there and get the mixture well dispersed. When I saw this chef using a pastry bag filled with herb infused butter to get under the skin, I had a major “aha!” moment.

The technique involved filling a pastry bag fitted with a large tip with very soft herb butter. The chef inserted the tip under the skin at the farthest point, releasing the contents as he slowly pulled the bag out, and then quickly massaged the area to disperse the herb butter evenly under the skin. It also allowed him to get into the harder to reach spots, such as the legs and wings.

This genius trick could totally change my poultry roasting game!  I can’t wait to try it with my roasted garlic and mustard herb butter.

Thanks Made Nice! 

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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CocoNOT Oil

June 21, 2017


The American Heart Association just released a study, showing that coconut oil may not be the health food we thought it was.

Touted to be the wonder oil purported to soften skin and hair, possess antibactierial properties and help us lose weight, coconut oil is being reconsidered as a coco-NOT.

The new study shows that the high saturated fat content of the oil raises LDL cholesterol  and contributes to heart disease. Experts believed that the saturated fat in virgin coconut oil reacts differently in the body than that of animal sources, but there is now evidence to the contrary.

Just as a point of reference, coconut oil contains a whopping 82% saturated fat, much higher than butter ( 63%) and beef fat, (50%). So while the ADA doesn’t dispute the other qualities that make the oil healthy, they equate the high saturated fat content with health risks far greater than the benefits.

The recommended consumption for saturated fats is about 5-6% of your daily calorie intake, which equates to somewhere around 120 calories, based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Other plant based fats, such as canola, sunflower seed and olive oil are shown to be much healthier choices. But before you toss that jar of coconut oil, you may want to continue to use it for hair and skincare, as well as dental care, and antifungal wound care.

photo: glasshouse images


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