Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Healthy Snacks For The Suoer Bowl

The Super Bowl is always a day geared towards snacking .There are platters of buffalo wings, endless pizzas and plates of sliders or pulled pork.These may be tasty but they,re a fumble diet wise.You can still score, but with healthier sandwiches and treats.They're the touchdowns of the day! One of the healthiest game day treats is a sub sandwich.You can start with a base of whole-wheat bread and then add on healthy lean meats like chicken or turkey.For even more of a bonus, think soy cold cuts.These come in a variety of flavors,from pepperoni to baloney and taste pretty much like the real deal.Make a simple dressing of just oil and red wine vinegar as you also layer on shredded lettuce, onion slices and low fat Provolone and American cheese.A warmer dish is vegan chili.This can be made solely with a variety of beans or again with a soy version of beef.You can make it as hot or mild as you want.Serve with polenta, brown rice or whole-wheat tortilla chips. Pizza is another Super Bowl fave.You can make your own with pita bread and fresh tomato quarters along with a minimum of mozzarella cheese. Add some heart healthy toppings such as mushrooms, scallion, artichoke hearts and olives. bruschetta, usually reserved for more formal affairs is another great nibble.Again go for whole wheat Italian bread and mix tomatoes capers and bell peppers to create a topping.You can serve them hot with a light sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.Prefer more South of the border?Then think chicken or tilapia tacos with guacamole and minced fresh veggies to put on top.Hold the sour cream and pour on the home made salsa . finish with fresh fruit kabobs, made from apples, oranges and grapes.Serve these with a honey sweetened Greek yogurt. Make your game day a winner with healthy nibbles and bites.Serve dishes that are bursting with vitamins and minerals.You're sure to touch down with high points for staying away from all that grease ,salt and fat!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Super Foods

This Sunday will be a paean to football and all kinds of snack foods.Unfortunately Americans turn to outside sources as opposed to making their own quick bites.That shouldn't be.You can create a tasty snack filled homemade platter for SuperBowl Sunday. Sam Sifton, one of the New York Times' great food writers , asked this question in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.He came up with a tasty and much better solution than a list of take out phone numbers.He has updated three classic Sunday football dishes, fried chicken ,nachos and clam dip.These are the perfect dishes to serve not just for a football themed day but for parties as well.His fried chicken is heavenly.This is a Coke brined chicken where it's marinated in a mix of The soda ,thyme and hot sauce infuse the meat with a sweet and fiery flavor.The crust is a mix of flour ,cayenne pepper along with onion and garlic powder.It's fried quickly in a mix of peanut oil and lard. If that's not enough Mr Sifton gives us an old classic clam dip and a new one ,nachos.Clam dip was almost a requirement for every party thrown during the 1950's.Thanks to the season being one for fresh clams ,you can make a very fresh dip using the freshly caught seafood along with sour cream.Again cayenne pepper and Worcester sauce give the dip zing.Serve with potato chips for a classic treat or fresh veggies for a healthier twist.Nachos ,another game day must, are made with a shredded pork shoulder moistened with lime juice instead of the usua Ground beef.This is layered over tortilla chips along with more lime infused sour cream.Crunchy radishes not only decorate it but give it a nice pop of sharpness. Cilantro is then sprinkled on for more flavor as is another layer of meat ,sour cream and cheese. Game day dishes don't have to be take out fumbles.They can be hot, fresh and inspired.It's a great way to celebrate a modern American tradition.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Perfect Marinara

The perfect tomato sauce is a relatively simple goal surprisingly .It doesn't take special prep or fancy ingredients.There are no elaborate machines involved, just knives a pot and a wooden spoon., That's it. Stick to this recipe and you have a sauce for life.

Julian Moskin explored this in her Recipe Lab Column in today's New York Times Dining section. She corrals the best Italian cook present, Lidia Bastianich  to help her in this quest. Marinara has undergone some interesting transformations since American GIs brought it back after their tour of duty in Italy  during the Second World War. Most Yanks  think it should be with meat (sorry, that's Bolognese) and have also used it for a base for soups and even stews.Use it for it;s original purpose, over any kind of chunky or thin pasta (more on that in the next paragraph).

Chef Bastianich tells us that a good marinara should have only a few ingredients. The tomatoes , which should be San Marzano, olive oil, basil , a bit of chile pepper and oregano. There should be absolutely no tomato paste and no butter - which was a must according to another great chef.,  the late Marcella Hazan. The tomatoes are the key to the perfect sauce. They should be from the San Marzano region of Southern Italy. This area is in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and the ash rich soil makes for a sweeter fruit. You can use any other tomato, There are San Marzano strains being raised all over the world and these can be used too.You can use any olive oil and as for the basil, go for smaller leaves which have a sweeter flavor.Use firm white garlic too, to get just the right flavor.A more watery sauce is perfect for thin spaghetti or angel hair.Chunkier sauces call for chunkier pastas such as penne or ziti.
For the perfect pasta dish, start with  the perfect marinara a simple sauce , not fancy but packed full of complex flavors melded together. It's makes for a memorable and classic dinner.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Perfect Cake The Swiss Roll

One of the most perfect cakes is the Swiss roll.This is a simple cake with a complex look. It is a great cake to make for a Sunday dinner or to bring as a  dessert. It can br made in a variety of flavors with a variety of fillings . It is one of the most customised cakes any one can create.'

Swiss rolls came into being during the Victorian Era and was quickly incorporated into teas. Its' origins were not in Switzerland but probably in the Czech Republic or Austria where baking hit its' height during the 1800s.It was also called a jelly roll in American recipe books and magazines.This version was more of a fancy cake made at home for holidays or for  weddings The French Christmas favorite, buche de Noel is  one of the most famous examples of a roll cake. .The  recipe is a simple one. Bake a square of sponge cake let cool, butter on a filling and then roll it. It does take a knack to do the latter. however and you may want help for your first cake.,

Most Swiss or jelly roll cake recipes use a simple sponge cake as a base. A sponge cake has a well beaten batter similar to an angel food cake. It should have the texture of a sea sponge with air pockets laced through it.As for the filling, raspberry seems to be the one of choice .Most bakers use a raspberry jam however you can also use marmalade too for more zing. Some also use a butter cream however a light touch would be a  slightly sweetened whipped cream.. You can decorate it with a simple dusting of  confectioner's sugar or with puffs of cream.If you want a lusher roll then ice it completely but again  use a lighter whipped cream.A regular buttercream may be too much and too sweet in taste/.

The Swiss or jelly roll is an easy but elegant cake to make. It's a nice ending to a dinner party or made as a gift . It's perfection and prettiness rolled together,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hot Savory Pies

This is the weather that calls for a hot pie- no, not one bursting with fruit but with savory goodness.There's nothing like a pie that explodes with flavor.A hearty slice is the perfect dinner or lunch,especially teamed up with a salad. Quiche is one of the easiest savory pies to whip up.What is great about it is that it can have a variety of fillings.A typical Quiche Lorraine has bacon and Swiss cheese in it.This centuries old dish is staple in almost every brasserie in France.It is easy to make ,simply using a pre made pie shell.It is actually German in origin as is the recipe zweibelkugen.This is an onion rich quiche which can also have ham strips or chunks added.Quiches can also be made with chicken or seafood such as crab.You can also make what's known as quiche lets, small individual pies for a Sunday brunch too.You can vary the ingredients on this, going from tomato basil to four cheese Another hot savory pie is a meat pie.Nothing beats a homemade beef or chicken potpie on a colk night. This takes a little more work than a quiche.You have to make both the bottom and top crusts.What you put in them is up to you.You could easily fill it with a type of thick stew, redolent with potatoes, corn,peas ,and carrots.Meat pies can be made individually too ,using pre made biscuits and muffin tins.For these you can think fun.Experiment with chili or ratatouille. Calzones and empanadas are variations of pies and these, too , are perfect for a weekend night. Calzones are good stuffed with ricotta and ham while the empanadas are open to any filling.Both are easy to make and bake,and you might want to start with them before heading onto meat pies. Nothing beats a hot savory pie on a cold night.Enjoy an egg rich quiches or a gravy laced meat one for lunch or dinner. They are warm and hearty, the perfect meal for these chilly days.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hot Baked Dishes

A cold weekend night demands a hot baked dish.It's a great meal to come home to, especially after shoveling or just sleighing.This kind of dinner is versatile too.You can try a hearty shepherd's pie one week and baked cannelloni the next.Either way, they're a great way to warm up an empty stomach. Lasagna is one of the most popular baked dishes.Kids go mad for it and it 's guaranteed you'll have few leftovers afterwards.The recipe is basic, starting with layers of wide noodles alternating between ricotta cheese and sauce.Some add chopped meat or for a vegetarian spin ,layers of roasted eggplant ,carrots and asparagus.You can also try the Greek version of moussaka.This is made with eggplant ,red wine and a variety of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg .A béchamel sauce is then poured over it and then it is served.A real crowd pleaser is shepherd"s pie.This really isn't layered so much as it is topped off.A crispy mashed potato covers a rich lamb or beef stew. These are the most popular however there are other baked dishes that are equally delicious. Manicotti or stuffed baked crepes are another perfect oven dish.Like lasagna, this can have variations.Usually stuffed with ricotta cheese, they can also be filled with spinach.You can also fill them with ground beef too.Cannelloni is similar too ,made with roman cheese.A mid century classic is tuna casserole.Not many make it these day,heaven only knows why because it's just as good as any other dish.The ingredients are egg noodles,tuna, mushrooms and mushroom soup?Noodle casseroles don't have to layered like the others.Simply mix in a buttered pan and bake. The weather outside may be frightful but a baked dish inside is delightful.Make any baked dish from lasagna to shepherd's pie ,from moussaka to tuna casserole for a tummy warming dinner.It's the perfect antedate for a chilly weekend dinner.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oatmeal Your Winter Friend

One of the most versatile cold weather dishes is oatmeal.It makes for a great start to the day along with being a neat and unusual ingredient for main meals.It is also loaded with all that good stuff to keep you healthy and happy during these bitter cold snaps.Best of all this centuries old classic is one of the easiest to use. We actually have the Egyptians to thank for this grain however it was the Scots who truly integrated it into their cuisine.Oats were a main ingredient in the New Year's dish ,haggis.In this country oatmeal was and still is the healthiest breakfast there is.It lowers cholesterol as well as helps to keep the heart healthy.It also lowers blood sugar and regulates diabetes.A hot bowl of oatmeal is one way to chase the chill.You can get the already flavored or make your own using either cinnamon or maple syrup for sweetening.You can also add fruits such as sliced banana or dried cranberries or blue berries.A weekend treat is oatmeal cookies.They"re not only fun for the kids to make, they're also good for them too.Add to the goodness by using whole wheat flour instead of usual white and brown sugar instead of the refined. Now here's a surprise - oatmeal can also be used as a savory dish - and not only in haggis.There are several recipes from breakfast to dinner that features this grain.You can try it with a poached egg for breakfast,breaking the yolk so that it mixes with the grains.You can also add mushrooms and onions to it as a side.For a quick lunch add any shredded cheese to plain oatmeal.For a thickener you can add oats to a watery curry to make it thicker.Oatmeal bread is one a fun thing to do on a snowy day and two, a great way of making a sandwich healthier.You can use other all natural ingredients like dark wildflower honey and whole wheat flour along with tossing in some sunflower seeds too. Oatmeal is one of the best 'winter' foods to have.It is versatile ,going from breakfast to bread along with being super healthy.Make it a cold weather must have.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stews For A Winter's Day

Chilly days call for hot stews.There's nothing like them to warm the body and the soul.They're also great to male and freeze for a later date too. they're also one of the easiest dishes to make too. Dave Tanis gives his own spin on this great cold weather dish in yesterday's New York Times Wednesday Dining section.He uses winter vegetables, French cooking methods and Indian spices to create a warm, toasty and flavorful dish.He mixes squash and parsnips along with cauliflower and chickpeas with curry and turmeric for bounce and flavor.With these he layers the veggies in true Gallic fashion with the onions first as the base followed by potatoes, then after these are semi cooked, carrots and peas are the final level.It's a great way of melding and blending all the flavors. You don't have to make your stew that fiery.A French style stew is always welcomed.While Mr. Tanis omitted any kind of meat you can add beef, chicken or lamb.The classic , though is beef in a red sauce.A good red wine, onions and carrots also add taste and texture. Italian bacon , panecetta is used to give it more flavor and body (if you want, you can omit this)Garlic is also employed as is cremini mushrooms.A classic stew dish is a lamb oneBritish chef, Gordon Ramsay,t's it with muffins(but you can use dumplings) All you need is a good leg of lamb ,red wine onions and thyme.If you want ,you can add whatever veggies you want to it but add it towards the end of the cooking time, for a firmer texture and richer flavor. Stew is the perfect dinner for a cold winter's night.Make it spicy with an Indian twist or traditional with red wine and onions. Either way a plate of it is a great chill chaser.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Women In The Kitchen

You would think that women running restaurants and being top chefs would be common by now.Surprisingly it isn't.For the last two centuries men have been on charge of the world's best eateries.However that's all changing.There are a growing number of influential female chefs who have making their mark in the tough and demanding world of the industry. Julia Moskin explored this in today's New York Times Dining section.Ms.Moskin herself is the doyenne of this newapaper's section and she ,too has contributed some of the best written features and recipes over the years. her research has shed light on the restaurant industry.While top female chefs are no longer a rarity. They aren't exactly commonplace.Men still rule because there are no perks.As any restaurant worker can tell you, there are very few benefits.No insurance palms are offered as wells no paid vacations or pay raises.However that's changing Some of Manhattan's top restaurants like Momofuko are offering paid maternity and paternity leaves as well as all inclusive health and dental insurance.Progressive chefs like the famous Alice Waters who created Chez Panisse wants fellow restauranteurs do to more.She herself has pioneered job sharing jobs for parents along with furloughs to allow workers to take a break from the busy and always stressful life that comes with kitchen work. This way of thinking and treating employees fairly is still an uphill battle.A restaurant kitchen is like a combat zone and workers from the sous chef to even busboys get stressed out by it.Unfortunately when they do complain to their managers ,they're almost always shown the door.(especially in diners).Even famed places ,like the late great Lutece was Dickensian to work for as one chef recounted.Ivan Orkin who now owns his own restaurant,IvanRamen Slurp Shop has said that even if you broke your leg ,just lean against the wall and continue on.Luckily for women restaurant workers nowadays there is the Toklas Society which helps them.Named for Gertrude Steins"s friend Alice B. Toklas. This networking group helps them find jobs as well as INS in some of the best restaurants. Hopefully there will be more women chefs than men one day.Thanks to better work conditions it will happen.The kitchen is a workplace and like any workplace equality should reign supreme.

is Veganism For You?

A lot of people want to change their lifestyles with a new year.One choice is This is vegetarianism to the extreme.Is it feasible to go from a dairy loving carnivore to all natural herbivores.Yes and no.The answer depends really on the person. True vegans eschew meat, dairy and eggs.They probably are choosing this life style because they are true animal lovers and cringe at the idea of harming any living creature.This is solely a plant based diet.It can be extreme, especially if a person loves ice cream or a Western omelet.There are substitutes such as soy eggs as well as varieties of soy and coconut based ice cream.Cow's milk can be replaced with almond or rice.It doesn't have the smoothness or body of "real milk" and may ruin a recipe calling for milk.You can also buy vegan cheeses too made with soy.They can be used to make grilled cheese or used in salads.Portabello mushrooms are a must if you switch over.They are a whole food and can be cooked like any steak. One of the problems with veganism is trying to replace a favorite food.Sometimes that garden burger just won't cut it and that newly minted vegan really wants a juicy burger.Another problem is most fast-food joints and restaurants are not truly geared for vegans.Your best bet is Wendy's where you can get a baked potato with margarine.Also try pizzerias that feature a no cheese version of Sicilian pizza known as nonna's or grandma's style.Chinese restaurants and take outs have a little more variety as far as with true veggie dishes.Settle on any noodle, rice or bean curd based dish.Also spring rolls and cabbage stuffed dim sum are good choices whether for appetizers or the main dish.As for desserts ,most large cities like New York andLos Angeles have vegan geared bakeries.Also the web can lead you to vegan bakery sites where you can order on line. Veganism is a healthy route to take.It can also be a difficult one too.Luckily you can sub in non animal based foods with plant based ones

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blizzard Shopping

We're firmly entrenched in winter right now and that means there's a chance of a blizzard or two .The question are you ready? You may have the salt and the shovels but do you have what matters most - supplies.Even if you have a few of the meager basics you'll be OK.It's just a matter of having enough for three meals. The three items that sell out during any predicted weather problem are eggs, milk and bread.There 's a joke that people have the urge to make French toast during these times.It's just these food stuffs are so versatile.Bread can be used for sandwiches or toast.Eggs can be made into a variety of different dishes and figure largely in other dishes as well.Milk can be drunk by kids and adults and ,like eggs, is an ingredient in many dishes.There are other basic ingredients that you should have as well, namely soup.YOu can stock up on cans or get bouillon cubes and make your own. Microwave dinners are another plus if you've spent the day shoveling and don't want to cook a whole meal afterwards. Pasta and tomato paste are items you should have for a snowy day.It's easy to mAke a meal with these and everyone loves a hot spaghetti dinner. What else should you store up on? fruit is always good .There's nothing like loading up on Vitamin C with some oranges and tangerines. Bananas are a quick boost of energy , when you have to clear off the walk and driveway.For relaxation afterwards have a hot tea.Herbal teas are not only good for de-stressing but also for warming up.Hot cocoa is a must , especially if you have kids.You can go with packets or do the old school way with cocoa powder.Also have plenty of water to stay hydrated especially during shoveling.You also may want to buy a box or two of energy or power bars .These stave off any hunger no matter what you do and they're better snack than chips or cookies. Let it snow! Let it blizzard! As long as you have a well stocked kitchen you'll be set. Bring on the bad weather, and enjoy it with a cozy dinner!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ireland 's Culinary Star Cooks Bright

Ireland has always been the butt of culinary jokes.Yet this amazing island has produced some of the best beef ,fish and dairy along with world class fruits and vegetables.Now the Emerald Isle has another reason to attract foodie's,the chef Kevin Dundon.He is changing the face of Euro cuisine while honoring timeless Gaelic recipes. Chef Dundon has an easy laidback style.He's not competitive like Bobby Flay or in your face like Guy Fieri.He has the quiet ,low key yet comfortable attitude of Brit chefs Nigella Lawson and Tamasin Day Lewis.His public TV show is a gentle how to with breathtaking scenes of the Irish seascape and landscape.He goes about his kitchen ,much like a cooking instructor conducting master class . He uses everyday ingredients ,nothing exotic or fancy.It can be hearty dishes like an apple pie or a simple lobster dish made without the usual bells and whistles. This doesn't mean that he hasn't turned himself into a brand.Check out his website and you'll see some pretty expensive equipment(although truth be told it's on a par with Farberware).Mr. Dundon probably uses the pots and pans himself.He also sells some very impressive knife sets ,which are a must for anyone using his recipes.His site has the added plus of those recipes. His are quietly elegant as in his chicken crepe bake or his Eton mess,a traditional British dessert .They are also divided into seasons, new and old Irish along with family. Anyone can make these from novice to master chef.The results will be the same good food using basic ingredients. Kevin Dundon may not have the flashiness of some chefs He one ups them with his low key style and high quality recipes and style.A true Irish gem? Yes and probably the newest gem of Euro-cuisine,

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Taste Of The Caribbean

There's nothing like an escape to the West Indies during the cold winter.However if you can't get away you still can have a taste of the tropics.Nothing is as fun and even fiery than island cooking.It's a great way of taking a break from the ordinary winter foods. Caribbean cooking is a fusion of African,Amerindian,European along with East Indian,Arab and even Chinese.Most of the island dishes have plantains, beans, cassava along with chick peas, coconut and tomatoes.Most people known only Jamaican and Puerto Rican cuisine however there are some good dishes from the other islands such as Trinidad and Cuba.One popular and easy to make dish is jerk.You can make it with the traditional pork and chicken but if you want to try London broil or flank steak this way you can.Some recipes call for that killer pepper ,the Scotch Bonnet however it is truly lethal.You can make a milder version with thyme ,allspice along with cinnamon and even cloves.Rub this on the meat and let it marinate overnight.Since the Caribbean is also all islands ,then serve up a sunny red snapper coked with coconut milk. The islands are chock full of different veggies and fruits. For fun think about fried plantains .These banana cousins are good sliced thin like potato chips and then deep fried.Another dish is a curried chickpea stew that's bbig in the East Indian influenced regions .Another side is the whimsically named callaloo. A traditional recipe that calls for amaranth ,you can sub in spinach and okra to make this verdant and healthy sides.Rice is a must have in all Caribbean cooking.You can mix it with any kind of beans for a tasty side.Another is mofongo ,a mash of plantains and garlic that's liberally laced with pork strips and crackling .Finish your meal with a coconut based dessert,whether ice cream or cake. A night of Caribbean food is a nice getaway from typical winter food.It has the bright colors and intense flavors of the islands.Plan a fun dinner and enjoy a culinary tropical getaway.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Fiery DIsh For A Cold Night

A cold night calls for a hot dish. What better than to combine three of our favorite things,bucatini, seafood and heat into one bone warming dish. It's a great way to reinvent any type of pasta, along with adding a summery shot of lobster.

David Tanis came up with this tasty idea for his A City Kitchen column in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.His inspiration came surprisingly from the Italian Alps where he first ate this dish, Mr Tanis also gives a nod towards the Italian American dish lobster fra diavolo where lobster along with its'shell is bathed in a fiery tomato sauce.This infuses the sauce itself with the lobster broth ,blunting the pepper's sharpness.As Mr.Tanis cooks it , there is only only shell the claw to deal with as the rest of the meat is loosened in cooking. He serves this on a bed of bucatini ,the thick drinking straw kind of pasta.You can also make it with angel hair or regular spaghetti for a finer dish.You could also sub in shrimp for lobster if you want slightly different flavors.Also if the spiciness, is off putting ,then omit it or add vodka instead for a take on the classic vodka sauce and omit the wine needed.You could also add more wine to the original sauce and create a more winy sauce by omitting the cream and adding more tomato. if you want to heat up a January nigth,try this spicy, tongue tingling pasta dish.You get the taste of summer with the lobster and the comfort of pasta.It's a great combo that will get you going.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Sunny Goodness Of Plantains

Winter cooking can be blah at times.It 's the same old ingredients in the same old dishes.It , like any bored foodie needs a jolt.Luckily this comes in the sunny yellow form of a plantain.It's a great addition to any recipe or good on it's owm. Melissa Clark raved about it in her A Good Appetite Column in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section. Plantains or plantanos are a cousin of the banana.It is less sweet but more meatier than it's relative.They are bigger and firmer too which makes them excellent for any kind of cooking or frying.Like bananas ,they are best bought and cooked when they are over ripe.The skins should be black however you can buy them both yellow and green skinned and let them ripen as you would bananas.The outer layer ,exactly like a peel ,will slide of easily when gently tugged. The recommended recipe is a chicken stew.It's one of the easiest plantain dishes that require stewing a whole chicken with various spices along with tomatoes and green olives.Ms Clark uses the flavors of the Caribbean ,such as cumin and chile with a squirt of lime juice.She also throws in oregano and red peppers for added zing.If you want to make a true WestIndian plantain dish ,try mofongo. This is a trickier recipe that calls for green plantains?it involves garlic ,pork and crackling for flavor.You can also just slice the plantains lengthwise and then fry them.They're sort of like sweet potato fries and make a fun side. If yo want to liven up your winter cooking then throw in a few plantains.They can make an ordinary stew zesty.They are also a great departure from regular fries?Try then and get a taste of the islands!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hot Potato Dishes

January is the time for hearty dishes and rich ingredients. What better than a dish revolving around potatoes?These tubers work well with almost any ingredient thrown at it and gives a richness to any dinner.A potato can be a side but it can also be the star of the dinner table too. One of the easiest tater dishes is a simple baked.This works well with steak but it can also be a good meal on it's own.There's nothing as fun as a loaded baked potato,whether it's filled with chili or a mix of veggies,topped off with melted cheddar cheese.For a different and tad fancier spin try twice baked potatoes.They're easy to make ,just scooping out the insides of a baked.They're then mixed with sour cream , butter and then put back into their skins and then rebaked for 15 minutes to get a crispy top. Of course mashed potatoes are always good too.You can liven them up by adding different herbs and butter as you mash.For a heartier mash, try sprinkling in bacon bits or shredded cheddar. Sometimes potatoes can be the star of the dinner table.The Swiss dish rosti is a large pancake that can easily serve a family of four.It's also easy to whip up, making it the perfect weekend supper.It just needs potatoes that have been grated, pressed free of any moisture and then fried in either lard or butter mixed with canola oil.You can add bacon or ham to it for extra flavor.For a more elegant yet simple dish try scalloped potatoes.This is taking Russet potatoes and slicing them very thin(you can use a mandoline for this).It's then layering the slices over browned onions and butter.Cream and milk is added along with herbs such as thyme and bay leaves. Potatoes are a perfect dish for these cold,snowy days.Try them a variety of ways to enjoy their earthy goodness.Have them in the hearty rosti or the elegant scalloped for complete enjoyment.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Best Beginner's Cookbook Ever!

Cookbooks for kids and novices have a tendency to talk down to their readers.That's the quickest way to turn anyone off to the great experiment of cooking. However there's a really neat and informative one out there. This is the perfect must have not just for those little chefs and newbies but also for kitchen experienced foodies too.

This marvelous book is called Starting from Scratch:What You Should Know about Food and Cooking (Owl Kids Books) and it was expertly written by Sarah Elton and sweetly illustrated by Jeff Kulak. Ms..Elton is a Canadian author on several books ranging from locavore  dining and Canadian cuisine. She also is a food columnist for the CBC's Radio program Here and Now. She has a deft hand at explaining even the most complicated of cooking methods and putting them into simple terms. and ideas.Everything from food prep to clean up is listed and explained why . Also thoroughly explained are the tools used from pots to measuring cups and their purpose. There is even a section on how to stock a pantry which is one of the most important factors in running a good kitchen. She also is big hearted to mention other cookbook authors like Jamie Oliver and Mark Bittman in one section.

What I like the most (although I like every page of this amazing guide) is Ms. Elton's push for healthy eating. She wrote a very good section on the evils of fast food and why it's always better to create your own fun snacks and treats.Another plus is her What Goes With What chart on making different types of cuisines, from Italian to Indian. .It's a great way to create the perfect themed dinner thanks to four columns of herbs, fats, flavors ,veggies and other foods. A novice chef can create a pretty authentic meal. her recipes are simple and best of all healthy. Kids can cut their culinary teeth on oatmeal cookies, pasta sauce and granola. She throws in the tasty and grown up recipe lentil soup too for some sophistication.

Starting From Scratch:What You Should Know about Food and Cooking is one of the best kid and novice cookbooks out there.It is the perfect way to introduce any kid or even kitchen challenged adult to the fun and amazing world of  cooking . They will learn a lifetime of lessons and hints!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Your Sick Day Foods

This is the time of year when you're either sick with a cold or worse ,the flu.You don't feel like eating even though you have to just to keep up your strength.What to do when this happens? Eat the right foods.You'll feel a tad better- maybe even sneaking in a favorite snack. Dehydration is one of the problems when you fall ill.Make sure you have plenty of fluids.One of the best is chamomile tea.It has a mild flavor ,perfect for when your mouth has that cottony feeling thanks to the sniffles.If you're recovering from a stomach virus ,think anything ginger.This rhizome is a natural stomach calmer that settles any upset.Have a tall glass of ginger ale over crushed ice or even better ,fresh Ginger tea.Take Ginger root and slice it into either thick chunks or wafer thin slices (this is up to you).Steep in boiling water for a good five minutes to get the full effect.Add anti oxidant rich dark honey if you wish to sweeten.If you have a cold , soothe it with orange juice.You can even semi freeze it to create a refreshing slushie. No matter how sick you are, you still have to eat.Broths are always the best in this situation.It pays to have bouillon cubes on hand anyway , but now is definitely the time for them.Have a bowl of any kind of broth,whether chicken ,beef or vegetable with a simple side of Saltine crackers.The last is even good as a snack if your hunger returns.They're not greasy or too strong in taste .Once you start to feel better you can add peanut butter to them to get much needed protein.As your symptoms subside , you may want to try some milder soups, like egg drop(or panpiest ,the Northern Italian classic made with just broth ,eggs and breadcrumbs) or a vegetable soup.When those hunger pangs return don't go hog wild with hearty eating .Try a simple brown rice or just plain pasta with only melted butter on top.You could also eat mashed potatoes too as a main meal until you feel right again. The appetite is the first thing to go when you feel sick.Yet eating is the most important step in getting well again.Take it easy with the right food and drinks.Save the fun stuff for later when you're flu and cold free.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flipping Meals

Sometimes winter weekends can be topsy turvy.It's a fun way to vary the schedule with something wild and unexpected happening.You can do the same with meals.Why should steak be just for dinner? Or a sandwich for lunch.Mix up your meals on a sleepy Saturday or Sunday .It'll make mealtime more exciting and chase away those winter blahs. Starting the day off with a sandwich can bring about a few smiles.You can buy pre made ones from Marie Callendar or Jimmy Dean.You can also make them yourself.Try mini omelets or scrambled eggs with cheese and Taylor ham on either croissants or biscuits.Both breads easily can be baked in the toaster oven.You can also slice up hotdogs and add them to scrambled eggs for some fun.Another idea is an oatmeal salad.Slice up bananas ,apples,pears and oranges.Make a "dressing " of hot oatmeal to pour over it. Try a light supper menu for lunch.Think about chili served over rice or polenta rounds.You could also make a roast chicken with stuffing and veggies for a Saturday lunch.It's a nice reward after a morning of shoveling snow or cleaning house.Also spaghetti is always a good choice too and a fun way to break up a Saturday or Sunday. For a lazy Saturday or Sunday nigth dinner.think waffles or pancakes.Both are filling and a nice departure from the ordinary.Another flip meal is French toast.It's easy to make and always gets a smile.You could also go. With omelets and bacon too.Just as easy is making a lunchtime sandwich.Try creating a hero.Use Italian cold cuts like salame and prosciutto along with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.Another tasty one is a meatball sub.It's filling and hot ,the perfect dinner for ending a busy day.If you've eaten too much ,then go with that mid day favorite ,soup and salad.You can make a creamy bisque or chowder and serve a hearty mixed greens plate with it.You could also just serve a soup, with hot crusty rolls or a big chef's salad with breadsticks. Flipping meals are a fun way to mix up a weekend.It keeps the family happy and it also satisfies picky eater.Try serving a breakfast for lunch or launch for dinner to keep it interesting.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Healthy Dose Of Bugs?!

We all know that protein is good for us.It's a vital part of our diets.We get most of it from the usual ,beef ,oultry and fish.Yet,there's another source - insects!Yup, those creepy crawlers are actually good for us and they 're showing up in a very common snack. Crickets are now appearing in energy bars.Really????Apparently so.A brand new energy bar has come out and Sophie Brickman wrote about them in an article in yesterday's New York Times Dining section. Two fresh out of college entrepreneurs ,Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis came up with this novel idea after Mr.Sewitz ,a cognitive neuroscience major attended a conference at MIT about sustainable foods.The subject of using insects as a food source came up and that's when a light went off in the young man's head.Both researched the idea,discovering that insects are actually sixty-nine per cent protein dry weight while chicken breast is only thirty one percent.Surprisingly sirloin steak is a measly twenty nine . Mr. Sewitz and Mr. Lewis ordered boxes of them and then started on their journey.It turned out they had a potential hit on their hands. fellow students fell in love with the mix of bug,almond and date along with honey and coca nibs.Although it started out as a hobby ,it soon turned into a business.They also had help from Kyle Connaughton ,research developer at England's famed Fat Duck along with the restaurant's innovative and edgy chef,Heston Blumenthal.Chef Blumenthal is no stranger to crickets as an ingredient.He is famously known for mixing them and meal worms with mayo and an onion gel.Will this get people buggy about their protein bars? probably.It's not the ingredients that people reallycare about but the taste.If it's delicious then it will sell.Kids will love it for the cricket factor.Young people will just like it because it tamps down hunger pangs and it's both healthy and nutritious. Will these bug bars catch on?Probably.As chefs and companies explore the benefits of eating insects more and more products will be made.It may be strange at first ,but crunching on crickets soon be popular.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cheese Lesson

Cheese is so common you would think the average foodie would know it inside and out.Surprisingly this age old food has several varieties.They come in all sizes, from wheels to wedges and flavors ranging from sharp to mild. used the right way with the right accompaniments, they can be just heavenly.The question is do most people know their cheeses? Suzanne Lenzer asked this in her column in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section.Luckily she has expert help thanks to Liz Thorpe , a cheesemonger and author of the 2009 book "The Cheese Chronicles". Ms. Thorpe breaks this fermented casein down into six categories.They are fresh, bloomy rind , washed rind, pressed,cooked and blue.Ms Lenzer decided to first try the bloomy kind so called because the soft mold or yeast rind blooms on the cheese's exterior.She selects a creamy Brie first and uses it for a dressing.It works well with emulsions such as salad dressings and dips.A fresh cheese such ricotta or mozzarella softens rather than melts in direct heat ,which makes it an excellent topping for pizza. Ms.Lenzer also discovers some misconceptions about cheese too.Most. Think that cheddar is the perfect cheese for melting.It is not.Thanks to its high acidity( which gives it that sharp bite of taste) the texture only melts into small oily globules or nubbins.If you want a melty cheese go with a Gruyere which is the backbone of any good croquet Monsieur sandwich.For a perfect wedge that compliments fruit ,think about ones with a washed rind,.These hold up really well as just slices.For another good melting cheese consider the cooked kinds, such as Parmesan and Gouda. Everyone's fave ,blue cheese should have fewer blue veins which signifies a sweet taste.Blue cheese with huge pockets of blue are best for crumbling over soups and salads. Cheese is as complex as wine.It has different varieties and flavors, textures and properties.Like a good Merlot ,it should be taken with seriousness.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hot Comfort

With the arctic vortex causing the world to resemble a meat locker, it nice to know that we can always turn to a hot dish or cup of comfort. This is the time to  bring out all our favorite steaming, homemade faves. They're like a culinary version of a warm fleece blanket.

One of the best cold weather comfort foods is baked mac and cheese.Making it from scratch is relatively easy  and you can customize it to your family's tastes.It could be healthy with lite cheddar and whole wheat macaroni or decadent with the addition of bacon strips under the top coating of cheese.Chili is another comfort food that's perfect for a frigid day.It's an easy mix of tomato sauce, onions, garlic, beans  and chopped meat. If you can stand the heat drop in sliced jalapenos, if not just add the right amount of chili powder for flavor. Serve it over a bowl of either straight from the pot rice or polenta.Another fave is any meat pie. If you have the time to make it from scratch then do so.Luckily there are several different brands of chicken, turkey and beef pot pies to choose from

A hot drink will never go amisswhen temps plummet.If you feel decadent go for a hot buttered rum( although you shouldn;t just be drinking straight alcohol during this time. It only warms you for the second)It's a mix of spices along with  butter and brown sugar and a good helping of rum. A better and more soothing cup is one of hot tea, with honey and lemon. Try an herbal tea , perfect for de-stressing after being out in freezing temps. Everyone likes the classic hot cocoa. You can make it with a mix  or go old school and use real milk and cocoa powder. Droste has the best for this and it produces a rich creamy drink when mixed with real milk.Top with whipped cream or marshmallows and just let the warmth seep through you.

Nothing beats hot , comforting food or drinks during these downright frosty days. Enjoy a hot plate of your favorite comfort food and follow with a steamy cup of your choice. You'll feel toasty inside and out!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Knives Are Out

Knives are the most vital and important instruments a home chef can use.They can help in cutting poultry into bite size pieces or perfectly slice roast beef.They can pare any fruit with expert precision and render whole vegetables into strips or wedges.Many cooks, however, really don't know how to use them or only rely on one.This is not good.Know your knives for a safer kitchen. One of the most popular and often used is a bread knife. This has a thick ,serrated blade, usually eight to nine inches in length.They're perfect for slicing through crusty French or Italian bread or even a loaf of challah Or stale unsliced white bread.The next popular is the chef's knife.It can be used from slicing meat to chopping vegetables. A good one one will have a bolster or a thick ring like collar where the blade joins the handle.Blade lengths vary from six inches all the way up to twelve.If you're a more involved cook then think about getting boning knives.These come in three widths to deal with the different joints and cuts.You can buy them separately or as a trio depending on your needs. For the more adventurous consider a Chinese cleaver.This is a wide bladed,narrow spined one that cuts through any meat or veggie.The wide blade allows for scooping up the food and depositing into any pot, pan or wok.I's also good for tenderizing meat and crushing garlic cloves.A regular cleaver has a much more thicker handle and can be used to chop through bones.If these are too scary or daunting to use ,then stick with the regular ones.Try a utility knife which can cut through large vegetables such as red peppers or beefsteak tomatoes.You can use it to cut through sandwich meats and some smaller beef roasts.If most of your dishes are tomato based then consider a good tomato knife or the Japaneses santoku variety.This last is as versatile as a Chinese cleaver.It can be used mostly for vegetables and fruits but can also be used for meats.It's perfect for vegans who really heavily on plant based dishes Knives are a vital part of any kitchen. Make sure you're using the right ones to ensure a better meal and personal safety.Doing such will make for easy prep for any meal ,big or small.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ah, Those Holiday Leftovers

They're lurking in our fridges,hiding between our fresh produce and mayo.They being our holiday leftovers.It could be a chunk of New Year's ham,grilled veggies or even those extra cookies and fruitcake.Throwing them out would be a shame.Luckily they can repurposed into tasty new dishes. If you still have any ham left over from New Years, then rejoice.It's one of the most versatile meats out there.It can be diced into bits for Western omelets or minced into a new kind of deviled spread.The bone itself can be used to flavor homemade pea soup.Turkey can also be refashioned into a salad or as stuffing for a crepe.What about those left over veggies?Mashed potatoes can be gummed into fried puffs.Make balls with the cold potatoes,dip in eggs and them bread crumbs,Fry in olive oil or butter and then serve with a side of ketchup.Root vegetables can also be refashioned as a healthier base for Eggs Benedict or into a veggie lasagna.You can also add them to a plain tomato sauce for a new spin on primavera sauce. Sweets needn't be thrown out either.You can refashion that panettone a number of ways.The Italian fruit cake can be soaked with rum and then lit for an exciting spin on baba au rhum. It can also be turned into a French toast that just requires the lightest dusting of powdered sugar.Leftover cookies can be turned into sandwiches either with butter ream or vanilla ice cream.Shortbread can be turned into a buttery crumb pie crust with the addition of butter.Holiday cakes cam be made into trifles with the addition of pudding and any liquer.You can also used plain cake for chocolate fondue as well Don't despair if you have a fridge full of leftovers.They can be turned into delicious new dishes.You'll empty your fridge and create new classics too!

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Big Bowl Of Hot

This is the weather for something hot and satisfying.Nothing beats a big bowl of anything steamy and tasty.It'll not only thaw you out but provides comfort for the soul.Best of all it's easy to create them,a boon after some heavy duty shoveling and sledding. You can start a cold winter's day off with a smoking bowl of hot cereal.Oatmeal is not only delicious but high in fiber.Add some cinnamon or maple syrup for flavor.Farina is another great start on a frigid January morning.You can have it with milk or even cream .The best bet for both is adding dried blueberries or cranberries for extra flavor and nutrition.For lunch think about a hearty soup. Minestrone is one of the easiest and creative to make.You could start with a rich beef broth and add tomatoes , onions and celery.For true heartiness ,think about adding beef or hamburger along with elbow macaroni.You can also sub in a variety of beans for the meat.Chowders are another sustainable choice.You can use canned corn to make a rich corn chowder.Like minestrone ,it's pretty easy to make up.With any homemade soup it pays to make big batches so you can freeze it and cook them when another storm comes. Luckily a snow day off means time in the kitchen.You can create some big bowls of chili and stews.Chili is one of the easiest dinners and even lunches to make.Just mix up beans tomato sauce along with onion and garlic to create some to definitely take the chill away.Chili powder is a must but you can make it as mild or as hot as you'd like.Crackers are a nice side but it definitely tastes better over polenta or rice.If you want something milder but still as good then think about making goulash.This is a classic Hungarian dish that has a mélange of beef chuck ,onions and tomato paste.Paprika is liberally sprinkled in to give it a sweet heat.It's usually served over egg noddles but some American goulash recipes have it over macaroni.For sheer simplicity try stew. It's an easy blend of carrots, and onions with either beef ,chicken or lamb.If you're feeling ambitious you can also make simple flour dumplings to absorb the gravy. A big bowl of hot is one of your best defenses during this bone chilling time.Start or end your day with one to feel toasty. It's better than any blanket or scarf!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Onion Soup The Real Deal

With the temps plummeting down to almost arctic degrees and the threat of snow looming ,it's nice to enjoy the perfect bowl of soup.Nothing says this than bowl of fresh made onion soup.Add crusty French bread andGruyere cheese and you'll feel like you're spending a winter's day in a cozy Parisian bistro. David Tanis wrote and created this classic Gallic dish in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.It has long been a dish for French families during hard times.All it takes is just onions, salt and pepper along with a few other simple ingredients.The most important part is how the onions are first made.Mr. tanis is taking the great chef's Jacques Pepin's recipe and uses red onions however you can use yellow ones as well.They should be chopped into small,manageable pieces and then sautéed in olive oil.Afterwards the onions are added to a stockpot.Water is then poured into the skillet ,deglazing the pan's bottom .This liquid will be the base of the soup.This is the true French fashion and not beef broth (this is an American invention).A splash of red wine is reccomended but you could add cognac too for a real Gallic flavor. What gives the soup it's true bounce are the extras.Garlic is also added along with thyme and bay leaves.Both impart an earthy taste that's important to the flavor.Also cooking the onions until They're a dark, ruddy brown also helps(this gives both the onions and the broth that rich deep brown color thAt many assume is beef broth).Finishing the soup in just the right way is also vital.Most restaurants in the New York area top their onion soups off with mozzarella which is just incredibly inappropriate.Onion soup is usually decorated with a single , toasted slice of French bread topped with shredded Gruyere cheese.Mr.Tanis adds thyme and dried sage to this mixture.It's then toasted until the cheese is brown and bubbly.Don't make the mistakes so many restaurants and diners do ,cover the whole crock with a gooey cheese, unfortunately choosing mozzarella.The cheese toast is good on it's own so make extras for those hungry nibblers. We're smack dab in the middle of snow season.Make an earthy ,filling soup like French onion to warm up.It'll make you feel like you're spending January in a cozy Parisian bistro on a winter holiday. .

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An Interesting Resolution List

Yes this is January 1st.Yes, this is the time for resolutions (as I pointed out in yesterday's entry) and yes you should resolve to eat right.The problem with trying to break bad habits is that all of us attempt a Herculean feat when baby steps do the trick better. Try little tricks to eat healthy instead of going cold turkey . Mark Bittman gave his spin on resolutions in the very first issue of The New York Times Dining section.His ideas make very good sense.One is buy half as much meat but make it a better quality.With it comes a recipe for a tasty Thai beef salad using grilled flank steak with a dressing part fish sauce and part jalapeño.Another good idea is cooking big batches of grains and beans.This lightens the daily cooking load because both are easy to make.It's also a healthy switch to pastas and bean dishes.Again the recipe he includes with this is a tasty white bean one with kale and sausage, a perfect dish for a snowy day.Mr Bittman does not recommend getting out of season fresh fruit and vegetAbles because they don't taste as good as when they're in season.He believes that the frozen kind can do the trick as well.His best resolution is splurge when you can but on good stuff such as dark chocolate.That way it really is a treat. Some of his recommendations seem a little off the wall.Not many people would cotton to his eat veggies for breakfast philosophy.His reasoning is that we eat fruit ,so what's the difference?Also he cites other countries such as Isreal that make salads as a day starter.Stick with fruit and oatmeal if you want better eating.He also suggests cooking plants as you would meat.With this he gives recipes for breaded eggplant ,which is always a crowd pleaser.Some veggies such as the root ones do taste good roasted.The better way is steaming them for optimum nutrition and adding spices , lemon juice or even soft tub margarine later on.Since Mr. Bittman is a gourmand, one of his ideas is cooking out of one's comfort zone.This will work for the adventurous home chef but may be daunting for the more timid ones.A better idea would be stick with what you know and then vary it when you become bored with it ortheway it's prepared. Resolutions regarding food are always hard ones.The best advice is to not only eat wisely but shop wisely too.Take from what experts ,like Mr.Bittman,say and make it your own. Decide what works for you and go with it.