Thursday, September 18 , 2014

Elegant Way to Serve Butter

Are you planning a special dinner party or another event where you want every element to say “elegant”? Here's a special touch for the table that's fun to do.

Serve a bowl of butter balls instead of putting out sticks or individual pats of butter. Simply place a melon ball scooper in very hot water for about five minutes. While it warms up, prepare a bowl of cold water with lots of ice cubes in it. When the melon baller is warm, scoop out the butter balls from a large container of slightly softened butter, and drop each of them in the bowl of ice-cold water. Let them sit in the ice water for 10 minutes or so, and then remove the balls carefully with a spider strainer or a slotted spoon. Keep the balls cold in the refrigerator until you're ready to put them on the table for your guests.

Ways to save on entertaining…


Tuesday, September 16 , 2014

You’re Cooking Bacon Wrong

What beats the smell of bacon and coffee on a sunny weekend morning? Here are some tips for perfectly fried bacon...

First, rinse the slices in cold water before frying, and they won't curl in the pan. To minimize the shrinkage of the bacon, do not preheat the skillet. Just plop the bacon into a cold pan, and turn the heat to medium. Try to turn the bacon only once to keep the slices as flat as possible. (We know that's hard to do!)

If you throw a few celery leaves into the pan along with the bacon, the grease will stay in the pan instead of splattering. Another way to prevent splatter is to add a thin layer of water to the pan with the bacon before you turn on the heat. Check this tip out here.

And don't forget to save the bacon fat for delicious (and cheap) future frying!

More help in the kitchen...


Thursday, September 04 , 2014

Easy Way to Make Meatballs

We just discovered this, and it works great. If you are pan-frying a close-knit group of delicate, small food items that each need individual attention (such as meatballs), don't flip them with a wide spatula (which will puncture your other meatballs) or a pair of tongs (which might cause the fragile meatballs to fall apart). Use this instead...

A metal pie cutter is angled to a point and can work around the tight spots between your meatballs or fritters, making it easy to turn each one over. This tip comes from a happy accident—Joan didn't have a regular spatula nearby and used the first thing she pulled out of our utensil drawer. It worked like a charm!

More help in the kitchen...


Wednesday, August 27 , 2014

The Right Way to Ripen Tomatoes

We love it when our local farmers' market has freshly picked tomatoes right off the garden vines! Or maybe you grow your own and are in the middle of a delectable harvest. Here's what to do to ripen your picked beauties quickly and to enjoy them more.

To ripen tomatoes quickly, place them in a brown paper bag with a banana or a few apples. The ethylene gas emitted by the fruit will help the tomatoes ripen fast. Check the bag frequently (every day) because you don't want overripe tomatoes.

Best way to slice a tomato for an unsoggy sandwich: Tomatoes have ovary walls, and when you cut into them, the pulp and juice tend to slosh out. But if you slice a tomato vertically—from the top of the stem down to the bottom of the fruit—the slices will stay firmer, which will keep your sandwich drier. Also, vertically cut tomatoes will not juice up your salad as much.

More help in the kitchen...


Tuesday, August 26 , 2014

Healthy Homemade Microwave Popcorn—Cheap, Easy, Delicious!

Sometimes you just want a single-serving snack of popcorn without harmful additives or expensive “gourmet” cheddar toppings. That's a good craving to have because popcorn (without the artificial butter flavoring) is a healthful snack food (read this to learn more). Got a microwave? Here's what to do...

If you don't have an air popper but you do have a microwave, you still can prepare fresh, healthful popcorn very easily. Put one-quarter cup of popcorn kernels in a lunch-sized brown paper bag. Fold the top over twice, and secure it closed with tape. Microwave the bag on high power until the kernels stop popping...from one-and-a-half to four minutes.

When the popcorn is done popping, carefully open the bag...face it away from you so you don't get a steam burn. Then put the popcorn in a bowl, and add salt or curry or any seasoning of your choice. You can also drizzle real melted butter on it. Stir and enjoy! Makes about one cup.

More great snacks...


Monday, August 18 , 2014

No More Tears When Cutting Onions

Do you dread chopping onions because you can't stand the tears? Onions have an interesting defense mechanism— when you cut into a raw bulb, a compound called propanethial-s-oxide is released in a vapor. When the vapor comes into contact with your eyes, it converts into a form of sulfuric acid. That stings! But healthful onions are a kitchen staple and a key ingredient to many savory dishes—so don't stop chopping. Do this instead...

You've probably heard numerous ways to cease the tears, from goggles to continuously running water, but this is our favorite way that's simple to do. Burn a candle in the area where you are cutting. Light it before you start chopping, and keep it as close as possible to your cutting board (without being a hazard). The tear-causing vapor from the onion is drawn to the heat source from the flame, and it will burn off some of the noxious fumes. It will also add a nice ambience to your food-prep area. And you don't have to buy a pair of goggles, waste tap water or stuff a piece of bread in your mouth. How's a cook supposed to chat with dinner guests when her mouth is full?

More help in the kitchen...


Tuesday, August 12 , 2014

Sweet Smell Curbs Your Appetite

“The stronger the flavor of the food, the stronger its power to satisfy and reduce hunger,” says Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurologist, psychiatrist and director of The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Based on his extensive research, Dr. Hirsch offers the following suggestions to curb your appetite.

The odor molecules of fresh-cut strawberries travel directly to the limbic system of the brain (which is involved in emotional behavior). From there, the molecules activate the hypothalamus (the brain’s satiety center) and trick it into believing that you’ve eaten more than you have.

So if you want to feel full faster, put some fresh-cut strawberries on your plate and sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff.

More help from Dr. Hirsch: Knowing how to use your nose with any food can help reduce your appetite. Sniff each bite of your meal quickly five times before eating. Fast sniffs signal food messages to the brain—this decreases hunger and works to satisfy the appetite without consuming excess calories.

More help with weight loss...


Monday, August 11 , 2014

Easier Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs remain our favorite “starter” at any family gathering, and even though they aren't new or hip—who cares, people love them! They can be a bother to make. So here's an easy way to make deviled eggs look great without a special pastry-making gadget.

When making deviled eggs (we like this recipe—Deviled Eggs with Horseradish and Black Pepper), put all of the filling ingredients—egg yolks, mayo, seasonings, etc.—in a resealable plastic bag. Close the bag and knead it—this blends the ingredients from the outside.

Then cut a small tip off one bottom corner of the bag. Line up the empty hardboiled egg whites, and fill them by squeezing the yolk mixture out of the bag through that little hole. Take your time, and make delicate swirls or swiggles...whatever you like. We're working on a batch right now!

For the rest of this tip and more help in the kitchen, click here.


Friday, August 08 , 2014

How to Grow Wonderful Radishes

Radishes are a very easy vegetable to grow, and they love coolish weather. So you can start a very successful crop in late summer or even early fall. Here's what to add to your soil to help radishes thrive...

To invigorate your radish plants, serve them a weekly tonic made from one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one gallon of water. They'll thrive on the trace minerals that the apple cider vinegar has to offer.

More help with your garden...


Thursday, August 07 , 2014

Make Sorbet in a Blender

We love those designer pints of gelato and sorbet as much as anyone, but have you seen how much they cost? And some gelato stands charge $8 for a quarter-cup scoop. Outrageous! Here are three delicious, easy sorbet recipes using four favorite fruit flavors...

Strawberry or Raspberry Sorbet

Blend one cup of frozen strawberries (or raspberries) with one tablespoon of maple syrup until it's the consistency of a creamy sorbet. (Add a pinch of cardamom, which adds a nice spice note and promotes digestion, or crushed mint leaves.) Serve immediately. Makes two one-half cup servings.

FYI—Strawberries pack healing nutrition: These vitamin C–rich gems may help fight cancer. In one recent study, they slowed the growth of precancerous esophageal lesions. The fiber in strawberries is also believed to slash colorectal cancer risk. If you don't like strawberries: Try raspberries—they're also great for your health, and the sorbet is scrumptious.

Thanks to Emily von Euw, a raw food recipe creator and author of Rawsome Vegan Baking (Page Street) for the above recipe. ThisRawsomeVeganLife.com

Banana Sorbet

Peel two medium-size bananas (the riper, the sweeter), and cut them into thick, coin-shaped slices to equal about one cup. Place them on a baking sheet covered with wax paper, foil or parchment, and put in the freezer. Leave for at least an hour, and then whirl the cut-up frozen pieces in your blender or food processer. We think the creamy banana flavor is sweet enough without added sugar, but feel free to add a little maple syrup to your processor just before whirling. Or blend in by hand some semisweet chocolate chips just before serving. Yum! Makes two one-half cup servings.

Mango Sorbet

The best mango sorbets are made with an ice cream maker, but here's an easy version that's refreshing and naturally tasty. You'll need two mangoes, some room-temperature water and a little honey for this recipe. Make sure your mangoes are ripe and smell sweet with a bright orange flesh (not a dry, pale yellow). Slice off the two fat sides (called the “cheeks” ) located along the flat surfaces of the mango's large pit, and scoop out the insides from the skins with a spoon. Cut the mango flesh into very small pieces (about one-half inch each) to equal a heaping cup (one to two mangoes, depending on their size). Place the pieces on a baking sheet covered with wax paper or foil, and place in the freezer until the pieces are frozen solid (at least two hours). Whirl the frozen pieces in a food processor with one-quarter cup of water and two teaspoons of honey (we like to use the mini-processor attachment that came with our immersion blender because it's easy to clean out and the blades are sharp). Serve immediately. Makes two one-half cup servings.

More great dessert ideas...