Tag Archives: easy

Epicurean Evenings

29 Oct
My education and career trajectory is in clinical nutrition, dietary management, and healthcare business strategy, but cooking is definitely my passion. I love the creativity of decadent ingredients, plate presentations, fresh flavors, and lingering over home cooked meals filled with spirited conversation.  My enthusiasm for food, at times, mingles with my love of writing, and that dwells in the core of my spirit.
I have several outlets to feed that need, and at one point I spent time writing for a food and wine magazine. Sometimes my editor (and friend) Katherine would come over to chat about upcoming assignments. I was not inconvenienced by having to answer the door when Katherine stopped by. Always welcome and with a quick “hello I’m here” knock, in she came.

A few years ago on a cool fall afternoon she popped in. A few steps in the door she stopped, her head slowly floated back as her eyes closed, and drew in a deep breath. Then her eyes slowly opened and she said “I just love coming into the house of an epicurean. It always smells so good!”

At the time I wasn’t completely sure what an epicurean was. When I finally understood what it meant, the comment from Katherine turned into an intuitive compliment-one that I savor to this day. What is an epicurean? If you go to the dictionary you will find something like this:

adjective
1. fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating.
Yup, that describes me. I am an epicurean. But what was I cooking on that cool fall afternoon that elicited such a reaction from Katherine? I was teaching myself how to make a brown butter sauce. Dinner that evening included wild mushroom ravioli, and I had decided to stretch my skills by learning a new sauce.
Want to know how to make a brown butter sauce? You’ll be happy you did-it has endless possibilities! High quality European butter is the key here. I always use unsalted for 2 reasons: Salt is a preservative, so unsalted butter is fresher, and I like to adjust my own seasonings.

So here is what I did. Into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, I started melting a half pound of lovely french butter on low heat.


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Soon the butter started to brown. I began removing the foam to clarify the sauce. The aroma that began filling the house was amazing. Warm, nutty, rich!

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My sauce continued to deepen. The flavors were concentrating. And the scents wafting around the house were incredible. I kept stirring.

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Do not walk away from this sauce, as it can burn quickly. Let it deepen slowly and keep your eye on it. But that is it. Simple.

The real beauty in this sauce is the ability to adjust it to any taste. You can add garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, almost anything to customize it to your taste. Add it at any point while browning the sauce. How easy is that? Fabulous!!

The first time I made the sauce, I drizzled it over wild mushroom ravioli and sprinkled it with some fresh parmesan cheese. Since I like acid, I also drizzled a balsamic reduction over the ravioli as well. A garnish of fresh basil perfected the balance. I added a salad and some crusty bread. It was a decadent dinner.

I continue to use the brown butter sauce for a variety of finishes. What can you do with it? Send me an email and let me know!

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Get started! Feel the love!

16 May

Baking is an exact science.  A chemical reaction needs to occur for the recipe to work.  Cooking is the opposite.  Its a little of this and a pinch of that.  Cooking can change with your mood, what you have available, or who will be eating it.  Thats what I love.

I am a touchy feely feel good person, and so is my food.  I make a recipe as it appears the first time.  I take it for a test drive and make it pretty much as it appears in print…but that is just a starting point!  Then I drive it my way!   Then I grab my pen and add notes.  My cookbooks are filled with notes of how recipes turned out, what changes to make, and if it should be made again.   And everyone should know this little secret…when looking through someone’s cherished cookbooks, the pages with drips, dribbles and stains on them contain a very special recipe!  that is a dead give away that a recipe on that page has been used many times!   Mine are certainly that way.  I would like to think that these books will be cherished many years after I am gone and that it is what my kids will fight over…but I digress!

I write these notes next to the actual recipe.  I also have a 3 ring binder in case I print a recipe off of the internet.  I can 3 hole punch a printed page or a ripped out magazine recipe and add it in…if it is deemed worthy!   Cooking takes experience, and it can be a little scary to begin.  I get a little mad if I make a dish that does not turn out and my ingredients and efforts are wasted.  But wasted is the wrong word to use.  When you learn something, it is not time wasted!  Just have a backup plan in the freezer to pull out just in case!  

I understand that it can be a little intimidating to begin cooking.  But do it anyway.  You know the old saying that everyone should ask themselves…”What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”.  Get over your fear and start having fun!  When starting, try a recipe that does not have expensive or complicated ingredients.  Then jump in and go for it!  Have fun!  And don’t forget to add your own personal touch!  Feel the love!  Give your self and your family a little of yourself.

Breakfast for dinner!

2 Oct

Why not have breakfast for dinner?  Every one that knows me knows that I despise labels.  They are limiting.  And to me life is limitless!  I apply this philosophy to life, as well as to food and meals.  This includes the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Yes, cereal and eggs are for breakfast.  Sandwiches are for lunch.  Dinner is a big hunk of meat and a couple of side dishes.  Right?  I say forget that!

My youngest son loves breakfast for dinner. So much so that he has chosen breakfast for his birthday dinner more than once.  Leftover chicken and rice for breakfast?  Sure!  Why not!  A good diet is all about balance.  There is no specific order here…no labels.

Listen to your body, and give it what it asks for.  There is a reason you might crave a bowl of cereal for dinner or pasta for breakfast.  After all, isn’t pasta categorized as a grain just like breakfast cereal?  Yes, it sure is.  So dig in when your body asks you to!

A healthy diet is balanced with grains, dairy, protein, fruits and vegetables.  The order of intake really doesn’t matter for most of us.  The exception might include a professional athlete that needs to eat certain things at certain times to maximize training.  The rest of us can pretty much each our daily intake in any order we want.  I love the freedom of that.

As a nutrition professional, I am very aware of what I eat, and what my children eat.  I actually prefer to “front load” my meals.  In other words, I like to eat heavier earlier in the day.  I like to lighten up as the day goes on.  This works for me most days.  Find what works best for you!

For snacks, an easy way to think about them is for snacks to “fill in the blanks”.  By mid afternoon, if I haven’t had enough of my fruits and vegetables, I try to snack on, for example, fruit and yogurt.  It is a sweet afternoon “pick me up”.  If I feel the need to crunch, I have 1/4 cup of mixed nuts with perhaps some dried fruit.

So as I mentioned, I am not a person that likes labels.  Nor am I a morning person.  With that in mind, taking a few minutes in the evening to plan meals and snacks for the next day helps me balance my intake and keep it healthy.  I portion food on weekends or in the evening so that healthy food is a quick grab in the morning.  I get snacks ready and fill up plastic ware and sandwich bags with portable foods.  In the morning I can grab and go.

Take some time, leave the labels behind, and balance out your foods.  Don’t get all caught up in the order and start listening to your body.  And do a little planning ahead of time.  When you come home from the market, that can be a good time to get your food ready to grab out of the fridge.  Put your portable produce, your grapes, your berries, your celery sticks, into sandwich bags.  That makes it super easy to grab a bag in the morning, head out the door, and assure yourself that you have healthy food options for your day!

Sexy Vegetables

30 Sep

Oh yeah!  I said it.  You too can rev up your vegetables and make them appealing to any one!  Vegetables are fantastic, and eating seasonally can be very budget friendly. Many vegetables are available year round but since we are entering fall, let’s talk fall vegetables.

Seasonal fall vegetables are sweet and hearty.  It is economically easy to eat in season with fresh produce, so with a budget in mind, let’s get going.  Vegetables in season, or coming into season quickly, include:

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli (available year round, but sweetest and in season in the fall)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (again, available year round but naturally a fall harvest)
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini (hotly debated-summer or fall veggie-but it’s available until late fall!)

Most of these vegetables can be easily diced up and mixed in multiple combinations.  Toss them on a grilling sheet or put them in a tin foil pouch, but get them on the grill!  Here is what you do…and men, listen closely.  Why?  Because men who can cook are sexy!

Here we go guys.  Dice up 2-4 different vegetables in a nice 1 inch square dice.  Grab  your grilling sheet or make a tin foil pouch.  Fire up the grill to a solid 400 degrees.  Mix the vegetables up in a bowl.   Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on them, some salt, some pepper, some fresh garlic, and if you are feeling naughty, some red pepper flakes.  The red pepper is sure to jazz up the works!

Toss the vegetable mixture onto your baking sheet or tuck them into a tin foil pouch.  If using a pouch, seal it up tight.  Put them on the grill, pour your best girl a drink, and sit back.  Grilled fall vegetables take about 30-40 minutes to cook.

A tray and a foil pouch of veggies on the grill. Still plenty of room for some chicken or salmon on the grill!

About 20 minutes into the vegetables cooking process,  toss your favorite protein on the grill too.  Salmon or a nice piece of well seasoned chicken will do.  Let that cook for about 20 minutes, and everything should be ready to come off the grill.

Grab some crusty bread, sweet delicious butter, take the food off the grill and voila!  A wonderful, flavorful dinner!  And you, my friend, are a huge hero!  Why is grilling so delicious?

Grilling, first and foremost, allows the Maillard reaction to occur.  Yup, go ahead and say that to your date and your sexy quotient just skyrocketed!  The Maillard reaction refers to the browning of food.  It is a chemical reaction usually requiring heat.  The amino acids in the food react with the reducing sugar, of which vegetables contain.  This produces fantastic odors and flavors.  It will also brown the food and give your vegetables delightful colors.

Second, grilling carmelizes the sugar in the food.  That adds to the browning, and also makes the food a little sweeter.  More savory.  And as far as clean up goes?  It is so easy when grilling.  Yes..this grilling thing just gets better and better.  So enjoy a fabulous meal.  Grill, enjoy a great meal, have minimal cleanup, and become king of your grill!

Appetizer in an Instant!

13 Jun

Need a fast appetizer?  Open your fridge, open your pantry, and start picking things out.  Arrange the food in a beautiful way onto a platter.  Add a little of this, a dash of that.  You now have an antipasto platter fit for any gathering.  And you will look like a hero in a snap!  Love that!

An antipasto platter is a quick and lovely appetizer.  A great addition to any get together.  Think easy finger food.  Tasty tidbits.  Savory bites.  Succulent scents and vibrant colors.  It is a relaxed and rustic, yet somewhat sophisticated appetizer or first course.  Antipasto means “before the meal”, so it need not be large.

The secret to a good antipatso platter is the presentation.  Organized chaos.  Anyone can do it.  And you will always be party ready if you keep the right staples in the fridge and pantry.  Here is a super easy list to pick from, so keep these things handy and you are always party ready!

  • Marinated artichokes
  • Assorted olives
  • Rustic bread (store in the freezer)
  • Lunch meat-a nice variety
  • Roasted and/or marinated peppers
  • Variety of cheeses
  • Roasted nuts
  • Grapes
  • Assorted crackers
  • Mushrooms
  • Cherry tomatoes

And don’t forget to keep cocktail size napkins and toothpicks in the cupboard as well.  These items can be easily assembled and will make a wonderful presentation to any party.   So open your door, welcome your friends, and relax. You are always ready for a party!

Quick antipasto platter