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.

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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?

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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.

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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...


Thursday, July 31 , 2014

Make Your Cottage Cheese Last Longer

Sometimes you need only a dollop of ricotta to spiff up a swirl of pasta or to make a better meatball. Then the unused cheese doesn't keep very long if you just pop the plastic container back into the fridge. Here's what to do…

Once you open a plastic container of ricotta, cottage cheese or sour cream, you can do one of two things to prolong its staying power—either transfer the unused portion to a glass jar with a screw-on lid and refrigerate...or leave the cheese in its original container but store it upside down in the refrigerator. This prolongs freshness by creating a vacuum at the top of the container that helps reduce bacterial growth. Upside down, it should keep for up to three weeks rather than the usual week or so. Just make sure that the lid is on tight or you'll have some extra cleaning to do down below!

More ways to save on your food bill...


Thursday, July 24 , 2014

How to Get Eggshells Out of Your Food

Don't you hate it when a bit of unwelcome nonfood ends up in your culinary creation? It happens so easily! And your fingers aren’t the best tools in this scenario. Here's what to do with some frequent flyers...

We discovered an easy way to retrieve a piece of eggshell that falls into the bowl of eggs—just use a larger piece of eggshell to get the little piece of shell out of the bowl. The larger shell attracts the little shell, almost like a magnet.

What about pits? Those slippery devils! Keep a pair of tweezers in your kitchen to pick out pits that have escaped from your quick lemon squeeze. You can also use tongs, but tweezers get the pit and nothing else. Tweezers are also great for pulling stray bones out of fish fillets and feather pins remaining in chicken legs. Use them, too, for retrieving food that has leaped out of your pan and under the burner (thanks to TheKitchn.com for that tip). It's one of those normally noncooking tools that you should keep handy in your kitchen.

What about a hair? Yuck! Again, your fingers might be a little clumsy on this one. And who wants to put bare skin into a pot of hot food? Here's what to do: Simply take a pancake turner (what some people call a spatula), and dip it into the soup or stew in the area of the hair and the hair should attach itself to the flat part. If your food bowl is not a hot pot of liquid but something like a salad, dampen the spatula with water or a tiny drop of oil. After you catch the hair, go to your sink and rinse off the spatula with warm water.

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Thursday, July 17 , 2014

Homemade Sugar-Free Drinks

We love homemade lemonade. What we don’t love are all those lemons (buying, squeezing) and all that sugar it takes to make it! So we have moved on to a sweeter fruit and some ingenious help from a root to make delicious, no-sugar-added beverages—all without artificial sweeteners. These are quick, easy and super-refreshing drinks that you can make yourself. The following three recipes each make two to three generous servings.

Homemade Ginger Ale. As kids, we loved store-bought ginger ale. Then it got way too sweet. Then we looked at the ingredient labels on a few popular brands…ginger is not even listed! Ingredients include high fructose corn syrup and other euphemisms for sugar. Enough of that! Here are two ways to make your own…

In 12 ounces of plain seltzer water (original Perrier has the best flavor), add one teaspoon of pure ginger extract (available at specialty-food stores, such as Whole Foods or online at Amazon.com or iHerb.com). Make sure that it’s sugar-free ginger extract for consumption, not aromatherapy—alcohol-free extract has the best flavor. Pour over ice, and garnish with a lime wedge or a few sprigs of mint. This mix has a spicy zing with zero sweetness. If you’re tired of fake flavors from too much sugar, you’ll love this.

You can also peel and cut up two to three two-inch pieces of gingerroot (make sure the root is fresh with a strong ginger scent and bright yellow flesh), and use a garlic press to squeeze out fresh juice into your plain seltzer. Then add the pieces left in the press to your drinking glass. This also makes a great digestive!

Watermelon Raspberry “Ade.” Watermelon is everywhere in the summer! This lovely blend was inspired by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Here’s a version without the sugar…

Mix three cups of seedless watermelon cubes, one-quarter cup of raspberries, one-eighth teaspoon of salt (optional) and one cup of filtered water. Put everything in a blender, and whirl until smooth. (We used an immersion blender, and it worked fine.) Pour over ice, and add a lime-wedge garnish. Refreshingly simple and delicious!

Delicious Sugar-Free Iced Tea. This is just a basic way to make deliciously brewed sugar-free iced tea. If you’re trying to remove sugar from your life, try this and soon you'll be hooked.

Steep four black tea bags (any brand is fine) in four cups of just-boiled water for at least 15 minutes, but no more than an hour. We like to do this in a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Slice one-quarter lemon into smaller slices. Squeeze the lemon slices into the tea, and put the slices (rinds and all) into the tea. Add two sprigs of fresh mint (this is optional...still delicious without). Remove tea bags, and chill in the refrigerator overnight. (You need to cover only if there are smells in your refrigerator that you think the tea will absorb.) The next day, pour over ice. Delicious!

More summer recipes...