When you commute between homes, have specific diet needs or feed children you find yourself bringing food back and forth and trying to maximize each trip to the market. When I plan for a weekend of entertaining, I love to cook things that make good leftovers and are easy to reinvent in the next dinner. I also plan my menus out in advance so that I can shop locally for any items that the town market won’t have and transport it on my way out of town.
The perfect accessories are coolers and containers. These are few of my favorites.
LLbean- the classic canvas tote, good for dry foods and walking the farmers market.
Flee a company I discovered when living in Boson, water resistant and super cute fabrics
Coleman, the Standard cooler made by a company that knows the outdoors
Crate & Barrel, sort of cheesy, but insulated and practical so you can’t argue with that.
Gladware Family Pack- Head to your BJs or Costco and pick up the Family Variety Pack….they are the best and don’t throw away the box it is so nice to grab the whole thing from the cabinet when it is cleanup time after a big meal.
Courtesy of Carmella….aka “All Things Chocolate”
I got buttermilk for a bundt cake I made last week and needed to do something with it so after receiving 2 great cook books from a friend, I found a way to satisfy my sweet tooth and use the buttermilk. This is sooo Yummy, I made it in a smaller pan (8 x 12) so I had to cook it a little longer in the over, but it came out DENSE and so THICK. The best part is the icing that cools over top of the brownie. I let mine cool overnight and then dug in the next morning. I have received rave reviews on this dish from co-workers, husbands and family. A Keeper.
2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
4 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup cold water
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
Wisk sugar, flour, and cocoa powder in large bowl. In saucepan, bring water, oil and butter to a boil and pour over dry ingredients. Mix with a hand mixer until creamy. Add buttermilk, baking soda and eggs. Beat again for another 3 mintues. Bake 18 minutes at 400 degrees. Frost while warm.
Frosting: In a sauce pan, bring 1/3 cup unsalted butter, ¼ cup cocoa and 1/3 cup buttermilk to a boil. Add ½ tsp vanilla extract and confectioners’ sugar, as needed, until ideal consistency is reached. Spread over warm brownies.
Turkey Meatloaf- Serves 4-6
I brought back from Istanbul, Turkey a tomato paste that is out of this world. It is the prefect mixture of sun dried tomato, red pepper flakes and tomato paste. Since I still have some left, I think I will try to re-create it for our future benefit, but in the mean time play with these three ingredients plus maybe a little olive oil to make your own version. I know the recipe only calls for 2 tbs, but they are the most important 2 tbs.
I also love this recipe because it uses day old rice; so when you order take out or have leftovers this is the prefect follow up recipe.
Pre-Heat Oven to 400 degrees.
9 x 5 x 2.5 loaf pan
1 - 1½ cups day old brown rice
1 tsp of poultry seasoning
1 lb ground lean turkey
6 green onions- coarsely chopped whites only
1 whole egg beaten
2 tbs tomato paste
3 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 large egg white
In a mixing bowl, mix the brown rice and poultry seasoning and then add the ground turkey. Add the onion, whole egg and 1 tbs of the tomato paste, mustard, 1 tbs Worcestershire salt and pepper. Using your hands mix the ingredients, but be sure not to over mix ground meat and break it down. Place in the loaf pan.
In a small bowl whisk the egg white, 1 tsp tomato paste and 1 tsp of Worcestershire until smooth. Spread evenly over the meatloaf.
Cook uncovered approximately 1 hr. Take out and let it sit for 10 minutes, covered with foil.
Hate having too much rind on your orange or in your finger nails after peeling?
I will never forget when a 4th grade student of mine showed me how he peels an orange. It was genius.
I guess I never showed this trick to my husband because last week, when a television character was peeling it the same way I said, ‘that is my secret’! He went to work with an orange the next day and reports he loves the orange peeling process.
How do you peel an orange?
This Saturday I went on a skiing day trip to the Poconos, Camelback Mountain. To take advantage of any day trip it is crucial to get a solid jump on the day and hit the road early. We planned for an 8 am departure from NYC.
I thought it would be fun to bring treats for the car ride. So I baked this easy biscotti recipe before we headed out. It took 1 hr from start to finish and I was able to get myself ready and the biscotti were warm when I brought them to the car!
2 Sticks softened butter (1 Cup)
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Splenda
3 Large Eggs
2 tsp Almond Extract
3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup almond slivers
¼ cup dried cranberries
Pre-Heat 325 Degrees
Cream the butter, sugar, eggs and extract in a large bowl
Wisk together the flour & baking powder in a small bowl and then add to the wet ingredients. Fold in the almond and cranberries, be careful not to over mix.
On a silpat or floured surface, take 1/3 of the mixture and shape into a ½” thick rectangle patty. Approx 3”x 10”. Repeat with the remaining 2 portions and bake 25 - 30 minutes on baking sheets. Remove and cool 20 minutes. Cut the patty on the diagonal into 1/2 ” thick slices and bake 5 minutes on each side until dry and lightly toasted.
Hazelnuts & walnuts
Fennel or peppercorns
Thyme and lemon
Candied Orange, Ginger or lemon zest
Dried cherries, currants, raisins
Anise/ Vanilla extract
I made this recipe after watching Tuesday’s Martha Stewart Show and encourage everyone to use this as an alternative to your iced sugar cookie, the dough is delicious. The reason I call them Labor of Love Cookies is because the process is time consuming. I had a few hick-ups along the way so I will share them with you so next time we all will have great success.
- Chill the batter minimum of 4 hours to overnight, the colder the better.
- Don’t over mix the batter
- Have 2 Silpats
- Optional: Have Rolling Pin Spacers
I used heart and kisses (lips) cut-outs b/c that is what I had, but the dough spread pretty wide while baking and the shape didn’t hold very true. I ended up using my cookie cutters again on each cookie as it cooled and they turned out great. They were the perfect heart shape, but I think that is kind of cheating and I have left-over crumbs. Any ideas of what to do with the crumbs? I guess they would be a great ice cream topping.
Once you have rolled out your chilled dough, try to cut as many cookies out of that original roll. You can remove any dough boarders that will be used for the next roll, but it is ok to leave it on the silpat during the freeze time b/c the shapes are easy to separate when cold. The left over dough after eat cut out should be chilled again before you roll out for round two. I made about 20 Small, Medium and Large Hearts from this batch.
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen .
Zucchini (Courgette) patties with herbs and cheese
2 big firm zucchini/courgettes (kabak), seeds removed and grated with their skins
1/2 large onion (soğan), chopped or (preferred) 1/2 bunch of spring onions (taze soğan)
4-6 eggs (yumurta), depending on size and the batter’s consistency
3-5 tablespoons plain flour (un)
8oz/200g white feta-type cheese (beyaz peynir), soaked in water if very salty, and crumbled
Large bunches of dill (deroto), flat parsley (maydanoz) and mint (mint), chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (kırmızı biber)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sunflower oil (ayçiçek yağı) or corn oil (mısır yağı) for frying
Yogurt, mixed with garlic, crushed with salt in a mortar en pestle.
Squeeze the excess water out of the grated zucchinis, if necessary.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the flour to a smooth batter. Add the cheese, herbs, red pepper, courgettes and the finely chopped spring onions. Season with a little salt and pepper. Let de mixture rest for minimal 10 minutes, preferrably in a lukewarm place (middle of stove e.g.)
Heat a little sunflower oil, just enough to cover the base of a frying pan. Drop a small ladle full of the courgette mixture into the oil, repeat until the pan is filled, and fry the blini-size pancakes until golden-brown on both sides. Make sure the oil is not too hot, because the sides will burn and the insides won’t cook.
Drain on kitchen paper, if necessary, and serve hot (preferred) or cold, with the garlic-yogurt on the side.
I spent the New Year in Istanbul, Turkey and took a cooking class at Cooking Alaturka in Sultanahmet. The wildest coincidence was 3 people were from my hometown Richmond, VA. Who would have thought Richmond had gone global. I will share the rest of the menu over the weeks ahead, but here is the main dish and it was amazing.
A friend, honeymooned in St. Lucia and brought back herbs she has enjoyed cooking with since the dream vacation came to an end. I was jealous when I saw all her little herb jars labels St. Lucia Oregano etc. I made it a priority and came home with Cumin, Hot Pepper Flakes, Tomato Paste, Hazelnuts, Roasted Pistacios, Cinnamon, Olive Oil, lentils and whole pepercorns. This cooking class gave me an idea of what spices and ingredients to buy at the Spice Market. I have since bought my own air-tight Crate & Barrel glass jars to store all my goodies.
Hünkar beğendili kuzu
Lamb stew in tomato sauce on smoky eggplant puree
A classic Ottomman dish, “Hünkar beğendi” is the eggplant part of the dish, and translates into “Sultan’s Delight”. It’s an interesting combination of Middle Eastern and European flavors: smoky eggplant puree mixed with a little bechamel sauce and grated cheese. The lamb stew can be prepared in advance, but the eggplant puree is best served fresh. Also great with meatballs, chicken, or, for vegetarians a mushroom ragout.
For the meat:
1 kg / 2 lbs cubed leg of lamb (kuzu butu)
2 tbsp (corn) oil (mısır yağı)
2 bay leaves (defne yaprağı)
2 onions (soğan), chopped medium-size
1 carrots (havuç), cut diagonally in slices
1 red bellpepper (dolma biber), cut in diagonal slices
1 green bellpepper (or charleston), cut in diagonal slices
2 cloves garlic (sarımsak)
1 tbsp tomato paste (domates salçası)
½ tbsp bellpepper paste (biber salçası)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (pul biber)
1 tsp whole peppercorns (tane kara biber), cracked coarsely, salt to taste
3 tomatoes, skinned and cut in medium-size pieces with seeds and all
For the puree:
1 ½ kilos/ 4 lbs / 6 aubergines/eggplants (patlıcan)
1 tbsp butter (tereyağı) and a little oil for the butter not to burn
1 tbsp plain flour (un)
250-300 ml / ½ pint milk (süt)
50g / ½ cup “kaşar” cheese (replacable by a mild Cheddar, Gouda or Gruyere), grated
To prepare the meat: Heat the oil in a pan with a thick bottom till very hot. Add the meat and brown all around. If any liquid comes out, let this evaporate before adding the vegetables. Add bay leaves. Once all liquid is gone, add the onions, then the garlic, carrots and bellpeppers, and cook the vegetables a little before adding the tomato and bellpepper paste, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook the pastes a little, till they start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Push meat and vegetables to the side and add tomatoes to the middle. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes or so (cooking time depends on the type of meat you are using). Add salt towards the end.
To prepare the puree: Remove the biggest parts of the leaves and pierce eggplants if wanted. Cook them over a gas flame or charcoal until completely soft inside and charred outside. Remove the skin with a little knife, holding the egpplant vertically by its stem, scraping the skin off in a downwarts motion. Once cooled off a little, chop the flesh into 1 inch cubes. Melt the butter with a little oil in a saucepan, and stir in the flour to make a roux. Then pour in the milk, stirring all the time and, once thickened, add the cheese, allow to melt, then add the eggplants. Season with salt to taste. Divide the eggplant puree over the plates, make a hollow in the center and arrange the meat in it with a little of its own liquid. If desired the plate can be decorated with a grilled tomato and a grilled hot green pepper to add some color.
Cooking for groups or making that special WOW meal for your hubby means pulling recipes, making a shopping list and heading to the grocery store. The butcher can be a bit intimidating when you see the recipe call for a top round and can’t find those exact words on a package of beef. What should I substitute top sirloin or maybe chuck? Well here are some notes that have helped me learn the way approach the man in the white coat.
Before you head to the store:
1. Know which meals you’re shopping for and how many people.
2. Standard restaurant portion is 8 ounces, but that is why we are all obese so cut back to 4-5 ounces if that will be enough for your guests.
3. Nothing gray or discolored should appear in your butcher’s case. But it’s hard to assess quality from behind glass. Beef should be bright red, though slightly darker if vacuum-packed.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask a butcher for the freshest steaks, but if your in a specialty shop the butcher might look at you strange because they might specialize in aged beef. Aging beef allows beef to soften as the tissue breaks down. Wet aging and dry again are available, but you’ll pay for it.
5. USDA grades: grades primarily deal with the amount of intramuscular fat in meat — the more marbling, the higher the grade. Higher grades often have more fat and more calories than leaner meat. The three grades to look for are prime, choice or select, in that order.
6. Posh Terminology: “Natural” simply means that no colorings, and generally no other additives, are used in meat. It says nothing about animal health or feeding. “Organic” indicates rigorous standards, but has more to do with the quality of animal feed than what that feed consists of. “Grass-fed” doesn’t indicate whether an animal was fed grass all the way to slaughter; many are finished on grain or corn. (”Grass finished” is more useful.) “Vegetarian-fed” simply indicates a farmer didn’t use feed containing animal protein or byproducts.
7. Lean cuts include top loin, top sirloin, chuck shoulder, arm roasts, round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), and at least 90% lean ground beef.
*The Cooking Explanation:
The chuck, brisket, round and shank are the most exercised muscles and hence, the toughest. A pot roast can be made from chuck via braising, (cooking the meat in a small amount of liquid for an extended period of time). Chuck is also useful for stew meat, making stock, and ground beef. Your average hamburger is mostly ground chuck.
The brisket is home to corned and barbequed beef. The classic corned beef and cabbage is made from boiling the meat. Pot roast can also be done with brisket, again by braising.
The round includes the top round, bottom round, heel round, eye round, and rump roast. Sometimes ground beef is made from the round as well. Although all round cuts are tough, the top round is the tenderest, relatively speaking. Because of this, it can be roasted. London broil comes from the top round and can also be grilled. All of the others however, do best made into roasts with moist heat methods. Notice that making a “roast” does not necessarily mean that the meat will be roasted. At the risk of belaboring the point for clarification, roasts such as pot roasts from tough cuts, require braising. Roasts made from more tender meat are made by actually roasting.
The shank is definitely best when braised as in the classic dish osso buco. It can also be used for stews and stocks.
The short plate and flank contain meat of medium toughness. The muscle fibers are relatively coarse but contain sufficient intramuscular fat to maintain tenderness. The short plate gives us short ribs which are braised or boiled as in New England boiled beef. Skirt steak, (from the short plate) and flank and hanger steaks, (from the flank), are delicious when grilled. However, they must not be overcooked, benefit from being marinated, and should be cut against the grain for a softer texture. Mexican fajitas are often made from marinated strips of flank steak.
The rib, short loin, and sirloin render the most delicate cuts of beef. Broiling, grilling, sautéing and roasting reign supreme here. Rib steaks, (also known as delmonico or prime rib), rib eye steaks, (without the bone), and rib roasts, naturally come from the rib. The sirloin provides a variety of sirloin steaks differing on where in the sirloin they are cut from. Sirloin can also be ground and mixed with ground chuck for primo hamburgers.
Finally, the crème de la crème of beef: the short loin. Picture a porterhouse or T-bone steak. The larger side is referred to by all the names at the top of the article: top loin, strip, New York strip, shell steak, etc. The smaller side is the tenderloin or filet mignon. The porterhouse and the T-bone are the same except that the porterhouse is cut from the larger end of the short loin and thus provides more of the filet mignon. Both the top loin and the tenderloin can be cut into individual steaks, or larger roasts. In the case of the top loin, the steaks may or may not be attached to the bone. The tenderloin is always boneless except when part of a porterhouse or T-bone steak.
2 cloves garlic
3 roasted red peppers
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 tsp Worcestershire
2 Lb Lump Crab Meat
2 tbs Shredded Onion
¼ cup shredded prosciutto
1 tbs old bay
1 cup gluten free crackers (Glutino or substitute Ritz/ Saltines)
Using a food processor blend the garlic, peppers, lemon juice & Worcestershire until smooth and set aside.
Evenly mix the crab meat, onion, prosciutto in a large bowl. Add the beaten egg and old bay and mix well. Finally fold the crackers into the crab meat mixture.
Next, heat 2 tbs butter & 2 tbs oil in a deep frying pan. Using your hands or a spoon make 1 inch round and ½ inch tall crab cakes. Add to the frying pan and cook on medium- high heat until golden brown on each side, approx 3 minutes.