Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Best Low Calorie Ice Creams

It's another hot summer and that means eating a lot of ice cream. Unfortunately it also means saying goodbye to that beach body. A steady diet of the chilled stuff can put on pounds  - not a good thing in this season of skimpy clothes and skimpier bathing suits. However you can have your scoop and eat it too if you go low calorie.

Years ago low fat ice ream was a bit of a unicorn.If you wanted something low in calories and high in chill, it was  the old stand by Italian ices. These are refreshing yet somehow lacking in satisfaction. Nowadays many companies produce a lighter , yet still tastier version of their regular flavors. One at the fore front of this is Breyers. They have a wide variety of different "healthier version". You could easily pick up their fat free vanilla and chocolate versions, pair it with a flavored seltzer for an indulgent yet guilt free soda.They also have CarbSmart cartons and bars  that have reduced carbohydrates.Like the fat free, it comes in chocolate and vanilla while the bars have such exciting flavors as vanilla almond,, mint and an old fashioned chocolate coated vanilla. There is also an old fashioned Fudgicle that's less than a hundred calories. They also have Breyers Delights, which comes in two sizes, a cute mini pint or cupcake size and a regular pint. The mini which have add in like sprinkles are only eighty calories a cup while the larger ones are between 260 and 330 calories. Again, there a wide gamut of tastes,from butter pecan to raspberry fudge to cookies and cream.

Another classic brand that weigh watchers will like is Edy's. Their slow churned variety is only 110 calories a cup. Their flavor selection is much wider including caramel , Neapolitan and coffee. They also sell a slow churned version that has cores such as fudge and caramel for an extra treat. Anyone who loves the healthy Greek yogurt will appreciate Yasso. The company first started out with bars and now have recently added pints. Both are 130 calories each and have all sorts of delicious flavors.They've expanded on the bars that now include S'Mores and Pistachio Brittle as well as their classics such as chocolate chip and vanilla bean. Their pints celebrate all the trends from salted caramel to coffee and brownies. Of course there is the dieter's go to Skinny Cow which has the most choices.Their pints have only ninety calories of fat with 370 in total.  The flavors are indulgent with a chocolate peanut butter along with a mocha one. Try their cones at only 170 calories each or their bars at 200 calories.The giant of the industry , Ben and Jerry's also has jumped on the diet bandwagon. Their cups, chock full of fun ingredients like fudge and peanut butter are only 140 calories a cup.

You can have your ice cream and eat it too. Don't deprive yourself of a cooling treat on a hot day,Indulge in the lower calorie ice creams. They can help you beat the heat and keep that beach body.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Salads With Spin

If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, chances are you're sweltering and uncomfortably hot right now. It's definitely the season for salads.They're easy to make , easy to eat and easy to put you to sleep. It's time to take this summer staple and give it a new spin.

 Home chefs and foodies have been avoiding romaine lettuce since the whole salmonella scare back in April. That's over and it's time to rediscover this tasty leaf.Romaine leaves are used mostly in Caesar salads which is a fine salad. Liven it up with un-traditional- add ins like seared scallops or crumbled bacon.Steak - always good on its' own adds an unami flavor to the mix and makes it more filling. If there's any leftover put it on a hero roll and turn it into a sandwich for the beach or the park.  Wedge salads are making a big  comeback, especially with romaine and iceburg heads. It's a nice alternative to a traditional mixed salad and makes for a filling lunch or dinner. It's quartering the heads and then pouring on the dressing. You want to use a lot of dressing so that it dribbles down into the nooks and crannies , sort of like butter seeping into an English muffin.Top with anything crumbled like bacon or soy bacon , almonds or sunflower seeds. Should any other veggie share the plate with it? Think sliced cherry or grape tomatoes for color and flavor. Another spin is roasting the wedges. Rub oil on them , season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and place on the barbecue, roasting for thirty seconds on each side.

Another spin on salads is adding the fruits of the season. Cherries are in season right now. Those ruby red, rich in flavor gems would be perfect in a salad that features chicken or steak, To emphasize the flavor, you can also make a cherry infused  vinaigrette. Use Bing cherries , mix them with oil and apple cider vinegar and pinches of rosemary, garlic and allspice. Strawberries, good on their own, add a sweetness to a grilled chicken salad. Combine the two with red onions and almonds with torn romaine leaves as the base. You can try a peach version subbing in mixed spring greens  for the romaine. A fun variation is combining the peaches with cut nectarines.Blueberries are chock full of antioxidants and flavor. Imagine adding them to any salad. Combine them with a creamy feta cheese to balance the fruity flavor. Greens don't have total domain over salad. A refreshing one is a Neopolitan bread salad which pairs cubes of Italian bread with sliced vine ripe tomatoes.Bathe in olive oil infused with mashed garlic and basil leaves. For more bite toss in sliced red tomatoes.Broccoli and string beans make for excellent salad bases Sliced ham and shredded cheddar pair well with the first, although just a plain broccoli salad with garlic is a nice lunch. Add chopped onions to the string beans for a refreshing break from the usual mixed greens. Corn salad is both fun and tasty. It can be combined with all sorts of ingredients for a cool meal.

Liven up salads with meats and fruits for a refreshing new spin. They give a summer classic more zing and flavor. Try them for a tasty hot weather lunch or dinner.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Big Focaccia Adventure

What do you do with a box of pancake mix?Turn it into a centuries old recipe. That's exactly what I did with my box of Trader Joe's Baking Mix.Pancakes aren't really our thing so I looked on the box , poring over the different recipes. Most called for flour  which I didn't want. One stood out - the focaccia .it looked easy enough and didn't have too many ingredients. What the hey - I decided to give it a shot.

First thing  - get a big bowl.I use the one, my Mom's  - the once I use to mix my frostings.
This was the perfect bowl to mix all of the below

Trader Joe's focaccia recipe calls for two cups of the mix, teaspoons of garlic powder and freshly cut rosemary along with yeast and olive oil. It does ask for basil which I omitted.Fresh basil can have a medicinal taste which can permeate bread.
This is the chopped rosemary
mixed with the garlic powder.
Added to  them is the mix and the yeast.
The wet ingredients are 3/4 cup of warm water and three tablespoons of good olive oil.
Using a wooden spoon, beat one hundred strokes.
The dough is really sticky and gooey.. 
Now it's time to rub olive oil in a cake pan which was too small.

Using the wooden spoon, spoon the dough into a nine inch (I used an eight and a half ) sized one and wrap in plastic wrap. The dough has to rise for half an hour in a warm place.  I used my range..
Except there was a slight problem. The dough threatened to rise over the edges. Quick change to a deep dish pie pan
Before baking I sprinkled more rosemary sprigs on top of the focaccia.
It was then baked for twenty minutes in a 425 degree F oven.
The beautiful finished product.
How was the texture and taste? The tetxure was very crumbly but the flavor was rich and redolent with rosemary.
I paired a slice with salami for a tasty and easy Saturday night dinner
Would I make it again? Maybe - but I'd cut down on the oil. and possibly add sliced olives.

It was a fun experiment , especially since I 've always wanted to make this classic Italian bread.Try it. It's a gateway recipe for more complex loaves.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Recipes For Your Toaster Oven

The toaster oven is one of the most used , yet least praised of all the kitchen appliances. Most home chefs usually relegate it to toasting garlic bread or reheating leftovers. Yet it can be used for so much more from cooking meals to baking cookies and cakes.A new cook book shines a light on this heavy hitter of home cooking.

Linda Stephens has created a comprehensive cookbook centered on the toaster oven. 150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes (Robert Rose Inc. 2018) is perfect for those home chefs, like myself, who enjoy using their toaster ovens, Chef Stephens, who had her own cooking school and also wrote cookbooks featuring convection ovens  is a big fan of this kitchen must have. The recipe book is a comprehensive one that includes reasons why a toaster oven  outshines traditional ovens. She does recommend a larger sized one that can do everything from reheating to defrosting along with buying a name brand, She also states that a toaster oven is also more energy efficient than a range and is perfect to use during the summer because it doesn't give off the large amount of heat  that a stove does. Another plus is that she explains the settings. There's also a section on what types of cookware to use along with vital safety tips. Chef Stephen also advocates buying a meat thermometer to check roasts internal temperatures. The book is divided into chapters starting with Basics for simple but delicious recipes. There is also a chapter on meatless main courses, perfect for vegetarians along with a chapter on breakfast and brunch dishes.

I love this book!! Toaster oven cooking is a lot easier and less stressful than oven cooking and I'd love to cook most of my meals in it. There is a delicious tuna melt zinged up with Greek yogurt and scallions. Nachos can also be made in a toaster oven which gives the chips a nice crunchiness. Seafood lovers will love Chef Stephen's chapter on fish. Her recipe for baked scallops is flavorful, They're dipped in herbed breadcrumbs and roasted to be served with an accompanying tartar sauce.Chicken and roast beef lovers will marvel at the many different ways their favorite meats can be prepared, Whole chickens aren't used, just chicken breasts which is good if you're only cooking for two .She recommends using small cuts of beef and pork for cooking.Another plus is that she also has a chapter featuring meatless recipes, perfect for my vegetarian household. I am going to try chickpeas in tomato sauce and an interesting zucchini and feta flan.Of course there are chapters on sweets and desserts. Fruit lovers will enjoy baking the peach cobbler  along with a sophisticated pears in honey and rosemary. There are cookie and muffin recipes, from shortbreads to banana oat muffins. You can even make a baked Alaska in a humble toaster oven!

150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes is the must have book for all toaster oven affectionados . It is a comprehensive book, full of delicious recipes for dinners, parties and brunchs. It is definitely a kitchen must have.!!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chinese Ribs Homestyle

One of the standouts in Chinese cooking is a rack of ribs or cha sui.There's nothing like a succulent gleaming plate of them for a delicious dinner. The only problem is that they 're a specialty usually found at a Chinese restaurant  - until now.  Home chefs can recreate this dish with simple ingredients for the same flavor.

Julia Moskin is the one tho thank for this. Her article and accompanying recipe appeared in the New York Times Food section yesterday. Chinese ribs are part of a way of cooking meat called  siu mei or fork burned meat in Cantonese, and is a specialty of the city, Guangzhou. It is where  the first wave of Chinese immigrants came from, bringing the recipe with them/Its' origins come people wanting this oven roasted cut in a time when Chinese kitchens did not have ovens. They were made in shops by experts,bringing the recipe here to the States where they were one of the first take outs. For Ms. Moskin, it is nostalgia and passion combined. The taste is a combination of salty and sweet, tender but not falling off the bone. The exterior has to be crusted with a sticky exterior. Think candied meat. Cantonese ribs can be replicated in an American kitchen but there may be some hiccups. One is the use of ketchup which may make purists blanch. The ribs' usual red color comes from a creamy funky bean paste called nan ru. This is tofu that has been brined and fermented with rice. A deep red strain of mold has been added and this brings unami, the savory taste that makes plain foods pop in taste.

Ketchup can be used for this. It has unami in its' saltiness, and in its' cooked concentrated tomato flavor. This American standard for fast foods doesn't seem proper to use on Chinese ribs however, as Ms, Moskin points out that's wrong.The condiment  started out in Asia as a fish sauce called ke-jap. It went through a variety of incarnations , with ingredients such as oysters and plums. Yet the tomato version is perfect for the ribs.it has a definite stickiness and caramelizes when cooked.It's mixed with garlic, scallions and hoisin sauce. Rice wine is added but home chefs can also use vodka or any clear spirit..The strong alcohol enables the other flavors to penetrate the meat. As for the meat itself, use baby back or St Louis style ribs. The ribs also need a steam bath to get that tender texture along with a succulence The baths are made by placing baking racks  - those used for cooling off baked goods - in foil lined pans. Hot water is poured into them while the ribs are placed on the racks. The baths are them removed and the ribs are returned to a 450 degree F oven or grill to  roast for twenty to thirty minutes. This will give them a crispy, chewy crust, Ms Moskin serves the ribs with smashed cucumbers. and rice.

Rib lovers will love this recipe. It's easy to recreate  these Cantonese ribs for a tasty summer treat. All it takes is a dash of ketchup and a steam bath to get these delicious ribs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Welcome To The Times

The New York Times Food section has a brand new writer and a  brand new column. Allison Roman is the newest member of the family.  Like her coworkers, she  will give readers and foodies
 good recipes and excellent information. Also like them, she knows food and will undoubtedly give us all good advice easy weekday and weekend cooking.

Who is Allison Roman and why is she worthy of writing for The Times?  She has contributed to the Food section in the past along with being the author of the cookbook, Dining In. Highly Cookable Recipes. which reflects American cooking and our changing tastes. She's also the former food editor at Bon Appetit and Buzzfeed magazines. She had also contributed to Cherry Bombe,Darling and the former Lucky Peach. - various  magazines catering to the trendy and hungry. Her first cookbook, Lemons was a mini book centering on just lemon recipes., her favorite ingredient. Her new column will be sort of like what Pierre Franey, the great Franco-American chef once wrote for the newspaper.. Every recipe will only take a home chef an hour to whip up. Her first article is a homage to her mother - a one pan affair that  pairs butterflied trout with  garlic laced broccolini.For Ms. Roman it's basically unfussy cooking with little effort and few ingredients.

Minimalist cooks will like this recipe.Butterflied trout can easily be bought at your local fishmonger's  (it's not fully deboned - only the spine and larger bones are removed). She points out that it's better to cook the whole fish than just fillets. Doing such will greatly reduce the risk of the fish from being overcooked. A larger piece also buys the home chef time in the oven. That means a side dish can also be cooked at the same time alongside the trout. For this sheet pan dinner, Ms. Roman uses broccolinii. because it crisps up nicely in the oven. Other veggies such as boiled and crushed potatoes, stripped leaves of kale,or halved cherry tomatoes  can also be used. She tells home chefs that they can make ir as simple or as complicated as they wish. Scatter a few slices of lemon over the trout, drizzle olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. The fish is placed in the center of the sheet , covered with lemon slices.The broccolini is then  placed around it and then drizzled with olive oil. Garlic gives it more flavor as do capers - which you can omit if you 're not into them.

No doubt that Alison Roman will leave her mark on The New York Times Food section. Home chefs will love her no fuss meals that can be made in less than an hour. She will definitely have a following.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Niche or National

What's the better choice for food shopping? The smaller niche shops that have either gourmet or fresher products or the national chains where you can pick up anything and everything?Or is it a combination of both?

Niche markets can be expensive. Ones such as Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck as some consumers call it) which always touted organic food is over priced . Their wild sockeye smoked salmon is a whopping seventeen dollars, even too pricey to be considered for an occasional treat. A can of their organic beans is three bucks, You could buy three cans of those at Stop and Shop or eve four cans for that cost at Acme.,Granted some of their fresh baked cakes and cookies are worth the price - although ten dollars is a bit steep for apple pie.Another smaller yet just as popular grocery store is Trader Joe's. Their food tends to me more gourmet than Whole Foods and surprisingly better priced too. I went there recently and was awed by what ten dollars can buy. A home chef can shop frugally there and wind up with some tasty bargains. Their Italian  breadsticks or grissini  cost just as much as Stella Doro's and have a better flavor. They're more artesanal thanks to the addition of olive oil. The pancake mix is a bit more labor intensive to work with than Bisquick but the end result was delicious,You get a lot for the price which was around three dollars

As fun as these stores are to occasionally visit, I find them lacking  in many products. Trader Joe's does not have a big paper product section or soaps. A shopper would still have to go to Acme or Stop & Shop for more choices. Bigger supermarkets such as these have huge options for everything and there's more to choose from. One of the best aspects of Stop & Shop is that it caters to home bakers. You can find everything from rice flour to sanding sugar , and everything in between in their baking aisle. I love their herbs and spices section because there's so many different kinds. Another plus for it and Acme is that they have excellent deli counters.Again there's this vast array of meats and cheeses. that are perfect for a quick dinner or a picnic.Their cooked offerings are the same too, with main and side courses ranging from pot  roast and mashed potatoes to roast chicken and cooked Brussels sprout salad. One reason to absolutely love supermarkets is that they buy from local farms within the state. You can get just picked corn and tomatoes without the two hour long haul south .

So which is the better choice. Foodies will tell you the niche supermarkets. Those shopping for families and on a budget will swear by the larger chains. My advice is stick with works best for you.