July 21st, 2014

Got Enough Gadgets?

A well-stocked kitchen doesn’t require a massive amount of gear. You don’t need an egg scrambler, a fondue pot or even an omelet pan. Here are the 10 simple essentials that will empower you to get most any meal on the table with a minimum of fuss.


• Knives. You can get by with just three good, steel-bladed knives: a solid chef’s knife, a smallish paring knife and a serrated bread knife (which will do double duty as a tomato slicer). A sharpening steel is also good to have for regular maintenance, but professional sharpenings (annually, at minimum) will restore your knives to greatness.

• Cutting boards. Wood boards are pretty and can double as serving trays (try bamboo or teak from a reliable resource); plastic ones can go in the dishwasher.

• Spatulas. A flexible spatula with a thin metal blade (or a thin nonstick blade, if you use nonstick pans) is invaluable for turning fish, eggs and so forth.

• Cast-iron pans. A well-seasoned (that is, well-used and oiled) 15-inch cast-iron skillet is the workhorse of the kitchen. You can use it for everything from frying a single egg or searing a steak to baking cornbread or braising a whole chicken. Get a lid for it to quadruple its uses.

• Pots. A small saucepan is great for cooking things like sauces, but a 3- or 4-quart saucepan will be the pot you use for simmering, steaming, reheating and more. Heavy-bottom, straight-sided pans are the most versatile.

• French oven. Sometimes called a Dutch oven or soup pot, a good 6-, 9- or 12-quart cast-iron pot is a kitchen necessity that can move from stovetop to oven. Use it to make chili, stew, soup and even bread. The best are the enamel-coated ones from Le Creuset — if you can afford one, their heat control is unparalleled, and they’ll last a lifetime.

• Spoons. Chefs use big spoons for sauces, for plating, for everything. If you want only one, get one with a flat-edge that will allow you to clear the bottom of a pot effectively.

• Rasps. Rasps have moved out of the woodshop and into the kitchen. Choose a tiny-holed rasp for grating fresh nutmeg, get a medium-holed version for zesting citrus, and an even larger-holed one for grating hard cheeses.

• Strainers. Some people like colanders, and some prefer strainers — which are you? A colander can also double as a decorative serving basket for fruit. You can use your strainer when cleaning veggies, but if you buy your greens unpackaged, then a salad spinner will come in handy, too.

• Vegetable Peelers. The classic U-shaped ones are preferred by chefs, though the most important thing in a vegetable peeler (as with most kitchen gear) is that you’re comfortable using it. Because, after all, the whole point of a well-appointed kitchen is to help you cook contentedly.

May 12th, 2014

The Healthy Pantry

Stock your cupboards with wholesome essentials and create easy, satisfying meals — fast.

April 30th, 2014

Spices not only enliven the foods we eat, they can also enhance our overall health.

Check out the health benefits of these six common spices.

April 23rd, 2014
March 17th, 2014
Celebrate the Delicate Side of Cabbage this St. Patrick’s Day.
One cup of raw, shredded savoy cabbage provides 60 percent of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin K, which is important for healthy blood coagulation and maintaining bone mass. It’s also loaded with vitamin C, phytonutrients and fiber.
When cooked, savoy’s vitamin K disappears. But steaming or lightly boiling savoy makes other vitamins — especially vitamins C and A — more accessible during the digestion process.
Raw, shredded napa cabbage offers plenty of vitamin C, plus some vitamin A and calcium. The vegetable’s folate, manganese, copper and iron are not readily accessible to the body when it’s raw.
When steamed or lightly boiled, though, a cup of napa cabbage delivers 12 percent of your RDA of folate, as well as a healthy mix of manganese, vitamins A and C, copper, and iron.
The strong flavor of cabbage comes from its glucosinolates, which contain sulfur and nitrogen. Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates are phytochemicals in cabbage that help ward off cancer. By signaling the genes to increase production of certain enzymes, cabbage’s phytonutrients also help optimize the body’s detoxifying abilities.
Raw cabbage juice has been shown to be effective in treating peptic ulcers.

Celebrate the Delicate Side of Cabbage this St. Patrick’s Day.

  • One cup of raw, shredded savoy cabbage provides 60 percent of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin K, which is important for healthy blood coagulation and maintaining bone mass. It’s also loaded with vitamin C, phytonutrients and fiber.
  • When cooked, savoy’s vitamin K disappears. But steaming or lightly boiling savoy makes other vitamins — especially vitamins C and A — more accessible during the digestion process.
  • Raw, shredded napa cabbage offers plenty of vitamin C, plus some vitamin A and calcium. The vegetable’s folate, manganese, copper and iron are not readily accessible to the body when it’s raw.
  • When steamed or lightly boiled, though, a cup of napa cabbage delivers 12 percent of your RDA of folate, as well as a healthy mix of manganese, vitamins A and C, copper, and iron.
  • The strong flavor of cabbage comes from its glucosinolates, which contain sulfur and nitrogen. Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates are phytochemicals in cabbage that help ward off cancer. By signaling the genes to increase production of certain enzymes, cabbage’s phytonutrients also help optimize the body’s detoxifying abilities.
  • Raw cabbage juice has been shown to be effective in treating peptic ulcers.
March 12th, 2014
Chickpeas
Purée chickpeas with olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini (sesame seed paste) and lemon juice to make hummus, which you can serve with pita, vegetables or as a sandwich spread to accompany meats, vegetables or fish.
For a crunchy, flavorful snack, season chickpeas with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, then roast at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes. Stir, then roast for another 15 minutes.
Add chickpeas to vegetable soups to enhance flavor and protein content.
Sauté chickpeas in olive oil with garlic, then combine with spinach, tomatoes, feta and quinoa pasta for a fast, delicious and nutritionally balanced meal.
Chickpea (garbanzo) flour makes a flavorful, light and nutritious whole-grain alternative to wheat flour in pancakes, fritters, crackers and polenta.

Chickpeas

  • Purée chickpeas with olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini (sesame seed paste) and lemon juice to make hummus, which you can serve with pita, vegetables or as a sandwich spread to accompany meats, vegetables or fish.
  • For a crunchy, flavorful snack, season chickpeas with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, then roast at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes. Stir, then roast for another 15 minutes.
  • Add chickpeas to vegetable soups to enhance flavor and protein content.
  • Sauté chickpeas in olive oil with garlic, then combine with spinach, tomatoes, feta and quinoa pasta for a fast, delicious and nutritionally balanced meal.
  • Chickpea (garbanzo) flour makes a flavorful, light and nutritious whole-grain alternative to wheat flour in pancakes, fritters, crackers and polenta.
February 25th, 2014

Chocolate Choices

Unlike money, chocolate actually grows on trees. The seeds found in the pods of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) are processed in different ways to create a variety of foods:

Cacao nibs — Cacao nibs, which taste somewhat like coffee beans, are the broken pieces of cacao seeds left after the outer shells are cracked and removed. Available raw or roasted, nibs are the least-processed edible form of chocolate.

Cacao-Nibs

 Cocoa —Cocoa is created by grinding the nibs into a mash called “chocolate liquor.” Cocoa butter and unsweetened cocoa powder are products of the liquor.

Cocoa

Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) — Made nearly entirely of cocoa butter and cocoa solids, unsweetened baking chocolate is chocolate liquor in its solid form.

Unsweetened-Baking-Chocolate

Sweet chocolate — Most of the chocolate we eat falls into this category. It always contains cocoa solids (usually in the form of cocoa powder). High-quality chocolate uses cocoa butter as the fat, while low-quality chocolate uses substitute oils. Sweet chocolate contains varying amounts of sugar, but in general, the higher the quantity or percent of chocolate, the lower the sugar. The FDA states that in order for chocolate to be called dark (or even bittersweet or semisweet), it must contain at least 35 percent cacao and less than 12 percent milk solids. Milk chocolate usually has about 10 percent cacao but can have up to 40 percent, depending on the maker. Most nutrition experts agree that chocolate with 60 percent cacao or higher has the most health benefits.

Sweetened-Chocolate

 White chocolate — Contains at least 20 percent cocoa butter, as well as sugar and milk, but no cocoa powder. Because it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, white chocolate doesn’t offer the same nutritional benefits as dark chocolate.

White-Chocolate

Read more about “The Healing Powers of Dark Chocolate.”

February 4th, 2014
Kale Cooking Tips
Blend a few chopped-up young kale leaves — but not the stems or very thick leaves — into fruit smoothies. It’s a great way to sneak greens into the diets of the veggie-averse, especially kids.
Add kale to breakfast egg dishes. Try an omelet with par-cooked potatoes, caramelized onions and steamed kale — or a scramble made with tomatoes, bell peppers, green onion and kale sprinkled with feta cheese.
Whip up a quick summer kale sauté with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and basil. Sauté kale with small amounts of bacon for flavor, then lightly braise it in vegetable stock to soften. Great with roasted turkey, meatloaf or grilled tofu.
Chop, cook and mix kale with grains to add nutrients and flavor to dishes like barley risotto or rice pilaf.
Kale is wonderful in miso soup or tossed with rice noodles.
Kale’s earthy flavor pairs well with hearty meats, beans and sausages. I particularly like kale with braised pork. I often substitute sautéed kale for cooked spinach in spanakopita, on pizza, or layered with ricotta cheese in calzone.
Blanched and frozen kale is great to have on hand. If you gently break it in the bag, it can be easily added to simmering marinara sauce, soups, stews and beans.

Kale Cooking Tips

  • Blend a few chopped-up young kale leaves — but not the stems or very thick leaves — into fruit smoothies. It’s a great way to sneak greens into the diets of the veggie-averse, especially kids.
  • Add kale to breakfast egg dishes. Try an omelet with par-cooked potatoes, caramelized onions and steamed kale — or a scramble made with tomatoes, bell peppers, green onion and kale sprinkled with feta cheese.
  • Whip up a quick summer kale sauté with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and basil. Sauté kale with small amounts of bacon for flavor, then lightly braise it in vegetable stock to soften. Great with roasted turkey, meatloaf or grilled tofu.
  • Chop, cook and mix kale with grains to add nutrients and flavor to dishes like barley risotto or rice pilaf.
  • Kale is wonderful in miso soup or tossed with rice noodles.
  • Kale’s earthy flavor pairs well with hearty meats, beans and sausages. I particularly like kale with braised pork. I often substitute sautéed kale for cooked spinach in spanakopita, on pizza, or layered with ricotta cheese in calzone.
  • Blanched and frozen kale is great to have on hand. If you gently break it in the bag, it can be easily added to simmering marinara sauce, soups, stews and beans.
January 28th, 2014
Quinoa: The Super Seed
Called an “ancient grain” — like teff, buckwheat and amaranth — quinoa is the seed of the chenopodium plant, a relative of Swiss chard, spinach and beets. There are more than 120 species of quinoa, but only three main varieties are cultivated: gold, red and black. Which one should you buy? Depends on how you want to use it.
Gold — Fluffy, light and creamy, gold quinoa is the most common variety. Enjoy it as a substitute for rice, a breakfast cereal, in baked goods, and in cold or warm salads.
Red — Because of its slightly bitter taste, gorgeous red quinoa pairs well with mild, creamy foods like squash, avocado and soft cheeses. Red quinoa is also crunchier than gold, so it can be used as a substitute for chopped nuts.
Black — Black quinoa’s dramatic appearance belies a subtly sweet flavor and nutty texture. Crunchier than red quinoa, it stands up well to long baking times and pairs well with citrus and other fruits.

Quinoa: The Super Seed

Called an “ancient grain” — like teff, buckwheat and amaranth — quinoa is the seed of the chenopodium plant, a relative of Swiss chard, spinach and beets. There are more than 120 species of quinoa, but only three main varieties are cultivated: gold, red and black. Which one should you buy? Depends on how you want to use it.

Gold Fluffy, light and creamy, gold quinoa is the most common variety. Enjoy it as a substitute for rice, a breakfast cereal, in baked goods, and in cold or warm salads.

Red Because of its slightly bitter taste, gorgeous red quinoa pairs well with mild, creamy foods like squash, avocado and soft cheeses. Red quinoa is also crunchier than gold, so it can be used as a substitute for chopped nuts.

Black Black quinoa’s dramatic appearance belies a subtly sweet flavor and nutty texture. Crunchier than red quinoa, it stands up well to long baking times and pairs well with citrus and other fruits.

November 21st, 2013
Bacon-Wrapped DatesMakes 24 pieces
24 dates, pitted
4 oz. blue cheese crumbles
12 thin slices nitrate-free bacon, cut in half crosswise
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Make a lengthwise slit in each date with a paring knife and open just enough to stuff in ½ teaspoon of blue cheese. Wrap each date with a bacon slice and secure with a toothpick. Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp and browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the dates on a paper towel for a few minutes. Serve warm. 
You may also want to try these succulent little bites with dried figs instead of dates.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Makes 24 pieces

  • 24 dates, pitted
  • 4 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 12 thin slices nitrate-free bacon, cut in half crosswise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Make a lengthwise slit in each date with a paring knife and open just enough to stuff in ½ teaspoon of blue cheese. Wrap each date with a bacon slice and secure with a toothpick. Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp and browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the dates on a paper towel for a few minutes. Serve warm.

You may also want to try these succulent little bites with dried figs instead of dates.

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