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Low-Carb Cauliflower – A healthy food substitute- Tuesday, August 15, 2017

This week, we wanted to place the produce spotlight firmly over one of our favorite vegetables, cauliflower. This may seem like an odd choice, but if you are a foodie or simply keen on cooking, you've probably already come across a number of articles and other media featuring this under-appreciated vegetable. It's become popular as a low-carbohydrate substitute in many recipes, replacing common ingredients such as flour in certain dough recipes (ex., gluten-free pizza crusts), or as an alternative to starch- and carb-laden dishes like mashed potatoes.

A little about cauliflower

While there are many different cultivars of white cauliflower, they are all marketed under the same name. In addition to the white varieties we're all well aquainted with, cauliflower also comes in other shades, including orange, green, and purple. Such varieties include the "broccoflower", a genetic cross which combines the physical features of cauliflower with the chlorophyll of broccoli, while mostly maintaining the cauliflower's unique flavor. With heads ranging from yellow-green to lime-green, broccoflower has a slightly sweeter taste than conventional cauliflower.

Selecting and storing a head of cauliflower

When choosing a cauliflower, look for a clean, white head with tight bud clusters – you'll want to avoid cauliflower whose florets are starting to separate or sag. The head of the cauliflower should be surrounded by thick green leaves, leaving the florets better protected and ensuring freshness over a longer period. Spotted or dull-colored cauliflower, of course, should be avoided if possible.

Cauliflower will keep forup to five daysif stored in a perforated plastic bag or in an open dry container in the refrigerator, but is best eaten as soon as possible. Never seal your cauliflower in a plastic bag or other closed container and always keep the head stem-side up to prevent moisture form collecting on it during storage, which can accelerate rot.

Cauliflower recipes

So, how to prepare your cauliflower? As mentioned previously, you have plenty off options when it comes to cooking this incredible vegetable. There are a number of substitution options for more complex recipes, and cauliflower can serve as a standalone ingredient for simple sidedishes in place of other, more conventional veggies. Consider the following examples...

Cauliflower Rice

Instead of the usual white rice, substitute cauliflower in your favorite recipes. Just pulse the florets in a food processor or grate them on a box grater (via medium-sized holes) until you have small, rice-sized pellets. Once you have your "rice", just saute in a skillet over medium heat in olive oil; cover and allow the heat to steam the cauliflower until desired tenderness. You can then season your "rice" as you see fit. - Cauliflower rice can be used in any dish that calls for white rice, including sushi.

Cauliflower in place of potatoes

This applies to both mashed varieties and chopped. Instead of diced potatoes in your corned beef or breakfast-style hash, try cauliflower. It cooks up roughly the same without any additional fuss, and really provides the texture you'd expect from a good hash. The cauliflower does an excellent job of soaking up the other flavors, whether you are cooking with bacon or meat or simply spices, and is an excellent base for highly seasoned dishes.

Cauliflower also makes for a fantastic mashed potato substitute. If you are trying to shave off calories and carbs, serve up mashed cauliflower at your next meal. It's easy to prepare: Just steam the cauliflower for about 14 minutes then place in a food processor. Add some cream or buttermilk, some butter, salt and pepper, and garlic if desired. Pulse until desired consistency and serve.

Basically, the sky's the limit when it comes to subbing cauliflower for potatoes. Shredded or diced cauliflower works splendidly in other potato-heavy dishes...Cauliflower Tots and Cauliflower Pancakes (fritters) are also fantastic. Just use your imagination!

Cauliflower pizza crusts

One of the most talked about uses for cauliflower these days is as an ingredient in low-carb and gluten-free pizza crust. Preparation is a bit more involved than making mashed cauliflower, but you're using many of the same utensils. Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor until you have a powder – this is your flour alternative. For the specifics on preparing your cauliflower crust, see below.

Recipe courtesy of foodnetwork.com:

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

2 cups freshly grated mozzarella

1/4 cup Pizza Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor to a fine snowy powder (you should have about 2 1/2 cups). Transfer the processed cauliflower to a microwave-safe bowl and cover. Microwave until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a clean, dry kitchen towel and allow to cool.

When cool enough to handle, wrap the cauliflower in the towel and wring out as much moisture as possible, transferring to a second towel if necessary. In a large bowl, stir together the cauliflower, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, egg and 1 cup of the mozzarella until well combined. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and press into a 10-inch round. Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and top with the pizza sauce and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 10 minutes more.

Cauliflower in place of pasta in some dishes

Everyone loves macaroni and cheese, right? Well, even if you don't personally, surely you know someone who does. Cauliflower makes it possible for folks who love their mac to continue enjoying it, albeit modified. Just substitute small, bite-sized cauliflower pieces for the macaroni: Cook the cauliflower in boiling water for about five minutes; you're going for a more al dente texture, crisp-tender. Drain well and pat dry, then transfer to a baking dish. Pour your preferred cheese sauce over your "mac" and cook until browned on top and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve.

Cauliflower in cookies

This may not seem very appetizing, but it turns out that powdered/processed cauliflower can make a pretty good substitute for regular flour in cookies. For a tasty treat, try this recipe courtesy of thesmartcookieblog.com:

Flourless Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup frozen cauliflower, thawed

1/2 cup cottage cheese (I used 1%)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp honey

2 prunes, soaked in water for a couple minutes (the longer they soak, the better)

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine cauliflower, cottage cheese, cinnamon, ginger, milk, maple syrup, honey, and prunes in food processor. Process until smooth. In a large bowl, mix together oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Pour the mixture from the food processor into the bowl with oats. Mix to combine. Fold in cranberries and raisins. Form dough into cookies and place on greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. Let cool before removing from baking sheet and serving.

 

Meal Prep Made Easy- Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Everyone knows that the best way to control your weight and keep a healthy lifestyle comes down to what you eat and incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine. In a perfect world, you'd cook all your own meals. You'd never pick up jelly doughnuts on the way to work, eat fast food for lunch, or order pizza because you're too stressed to even think about dinner.

Sadly, it’s just not that easy to eat the way we know we should. However, with some preplanning and a little work you can make the challenge of eating healthier a whole lot easier. The secret? Meal prep. Essentially, it's the practice of spending a few hours each week making huge batches of whole grains, proteins, veggies, and snacks, ensuring that you're prepared to fight fast-food temptation with tasty, clean, home-cooked meals all week long.

For starters, why not use one of the most versatile and easy to prepare meal bases -- pasta. That’s right, toss your favorite noodles, a bunch of raw ingredients and some water into a pot, and in just a matter of minutes you can have a tasty dinner for you and your family.

Here are some recipe suggestions for pasta meals to get you started.

Pasta Primavera

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Easy Carbonara

Tagliatelle and Italian Sausage

Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce

 

 

The truth about some common turkey myths- Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thanksgiving is next week, and up until now we've covered some basics on decorating for the pending holiday, as well as offered some suggestions on meal planning and recipes. Now it's time for a bit of fun fact checking: There is a lot of misinformation out there on how best to prepare your turkey; everyone has their own experiences, and subjective "facts" abound. It's time to debunk a few of these notions.

Here is a list of myths you probably believe about the centerpiece of nearly everyone's Thanksgiving fare:

[info courtesy of Reader's Digest – rd.com]

Myth: You don’t have to thaw a turkey completely before cooking.

Actually: A properly thawed turkey is key to making sure the bird is fully cooked. A partially frozen will cook on outside, but the insides will remain raw.

Myth: Always wash the turkey thoroughly.

Actually: Scrubbing down your bird is not only unnecessary, it could actually be harmful. In an effort to clean the bird, you are likely splashing disease-causing germs around your sink and countertop; even nearby utensils and other food could be exposed. The USDA says it's "virtually impossible" to wash bacteria off a raw turkey, so why risk it?

Myth: A stuffed turkey won’t cook through.

Actually: You can reduce risk by heating the dressing up to at least 130 degrees before placing it in the turkey. Also, check the temperature of both the stuffing and turkey before serving. Note: Stuffing should be heated to about 165 degrees regardless of whether it is cooked inside the bird or separately.

Myth: Basting helps keeps meat flavorful and moist.

Actually: Contrary to popular belief, experts say basting doesn’t flavor or moisten the meat much because most of the liquid runs right off the skin again. Plus, opening and shutting the oven frequently can cool an oven quickly, adding to overall roasting time.

Myth: You can tell the bird is done by its thigh temperature.

Actually: Food experts recommended using the four-spot test to check for doneness: Use your meat thermometer to check the temp of both thighs, the thickest part of the breast on each side, and each wing. The bird isn't cooked enough until all areas register around 170 degrees.

Myth: The skin isn't good for you and should be avoided.

Actually: While turkey skin may be high in fat, it's the monounsaturated variety. Monounsaturated fats help balance cholesterol levels, which could lower your risk of heart disease, and it may improve insulin and blood sugar levels... So feel free to enjoy a small portion.

 

10 Ways to Keep Your Thanksgiving Stress-Free- Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hosting a big turkey dinner can be a challenge but, if you do it with love and ask for some help, it need not become a stress-filled event. The following tips -- put together by Editor Debra Steilen of Better Homes & Gardens -- will prove to be a big help in making Thanksgiving a pleasant family occasion for all your guests -- and for you, the host or hostess, as well.

1. Create a plan. Sit down and make a guest list. From the number of guests you invite you can plan a meal. The secret to a simple meal is planning ahead so everything doesn't demand your attention all at once.

2. Plan a potluck. A potluck can be a great way to share the load, and with just a little planning you can avoid 15 green bean casseroles at your dinner table. Ensure menu variety and head off an all-deviled-egg buffet by assigning food categories to your guests.

3. Shop early. Brookhaven stores will get busier closer to Turkey Day. Plan your main shopping trip a week in advance and follow up with a second trip a day or two before Thanksgiving to pick up things like produce and bakery goods. Ask your spouse or partner to help with the shopping; it’s always easier if you have help finding things, and an extra pair of hands makes putting the groceries away much less stressful.

4. Prepare as much as possible in advance. There are plenty of side dishes, desserts, and breads that can be made ahead of time. For instance, measure seasonings and store them in labeled bags or containers; cut and store vegetables; and roast garlic a week in advance, then store the cloves in olive oil in the refrigerator.

One thing that you should not do, however, is pre-stuff your turkey.  Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning even when the stuffed bird is refrigerated. The cavity of the bird actually insulates the stuffing from the cold temperatures of the refrigerator and acts as an incubator for the harmful bacteria. 

The ingredients for the stuffing can be prepared in advance and refrigerated separately. To save time, chop vegetables such as onions and celery the night before. The safest method is to mix the ingredients and lightly stuff the turkey just prior to popping it into a preheated oven.

5. Remember: practice makes perfect. If you're braving a new recipe or using ingredients that you aren't quite familiar with, try them out beforehand so you'll be primed for success on Thanksgiving Day.

6. Let your family help. Have the whole family help clean house and put up decorations. Children will jump at the chance to make place cards, fold napkins, and dress up your holiday table. This will also keep them out of the kitchen while you attend to the food.

7. Use your microwave oven. Take advantage of this appliance to reheat food before serving when all the burners on the stove-top are occupied.

8. Let the turkey rest before slicing. To avoid a last-minute crunch and assure tender turkey, let the bird rest out of the oven, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing.

9. Serve buffet-style. Serving dinner buffet-style saves on both space and cleanup time. Also, with pretty serving bowls and silver utensils, guests can help themselves to seconds whenever they want.

10. Relax. Remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day full of family, relaxation, and reflection. Thanksgiving is a great time for families to gather and spend the day together sharing traditions, so don’t let the task of being the host or hostess overwhelm you and rob you of that joyous family experience.

 

All About Brie - One of the world’s greatest cheeses- Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brie is one of the best known French cheeses and has seen a surge in popularity in the United States over the past couple decades, with peoples’ perception of it transitioning from “this is a luxury food” to “this would probably be great on my grilled cheese” mainly in the past ten-fifteen years or so. This is largely due to the tremendous increase in availability and variety of Brie cheeses, which has brought prices down and enabled more people to experience Brie, as well as experiment with it.

While it may have only taken off here in recent times, throughout its history Brie’s popularity in Europe has been immense. In fact, it was dubbed the “King of Cheeses” (or “Queen”, depending on whom you ask) not long after its creation in the Middle Ages, and was often given as tribute to the Kings of France… And if you have ever encountered a perfectly ripened, quality Brie, it’s easy to understand why it was so strongly favored.

Types of Brie

[info courtesy of Wikipedia.org]

Brie de Meaux - Brie de Meaux is an unpasteurized Brie. It is manufactured in the town of Meaux in the Brie region of northern France. It was originally known as the "King's Cheese", or, after the French Revolution, the "King of Cheeses," and was enjoyed by the peasantry and nobility alike. It was granted the protection of Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) status in 1980, and it is produced primarily in the eastern part of the Parisian basin.

Brie de Melun - This Brie is considered to have a stronger flavor and more pungent smell than Brie de Meaux. It is made with unpasteurized milk. Brie de Melun is also available in the form of "Old Brie" or black Brie. This Brie also has AOC status.

International Bries – Bries are now produced all over the world using a variety of methods and ingredients, including herbs, but what always remains the same regardless of country of origin is Brie’s development and texture...

Brie is classi?ed as a "bloomy rind, soft-ripened cheese," which indicates that it ripens from the rind inward, forming a thin white skin with that velvety "bloom." When perfectly ripe, it should be creamy and ?avorful, not runny or pungent. It should bulge slightly when cut but not collapse or pull away from the rind.

Serving Brie

A wheel of Brie is a quintessential party food due to its unmatched ?avor and elegant reputation. However, in order to maximize its flavor and texture, be sure to remove the cheese from the refrigerator approximately 30–45 minutes before serving.

Once brought to room temperature,

1)     Slice the Brie into bite sized pieces.

2)     Serve the Brie with a crusty bread or a plain crackers, or with light-colored fruits, such as pears or grapes.

3)     For the full experience, pair your Brie with wine. Acidic, herbaceous, dry whites like Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) or Sauvignon Blanc work well, as do champagnes and sparkling wines.

Though Brie is pure heaven on its own, as part of a cheese course, or with cool, fresh fruit, it takes on an equally delightful character when heated. Try baked Brie (see below) for a more traditional take on the cheese, or experiment a bit by incorporating it into a grilled sandwich or homemade macaroni and cheese. Brie in puff pastry is also delicious, and it lends itself perfectly to fondue as well.

Baked Brie

1)     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2)     Place the Brie on a glass pie plate or some other decorative oven-proof plate.

3)     Bake the Brie for 10 to 12 minutes, until the center is soft.

4)     Serve sliced with fruit, crusty bread, or crackers.

Recommended toppings for Baked Brie

  • Slivered almonds
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Apricot preserves
  • Raspberry preserves
  • Caramelized pears or apples

Other Brie recipes

Baked Brie with Spicy Kiwifruit Compote

Lemon Pepper Chicken & Brie Flatbread Pizza

Tuna, Broccoli and Brie Casserole

Ripe Olive and Walnut Brie Torte

Baked Brie in Pastry

 

Cod – A Good Choice in Seafood- Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cod Fish has been a staple of the human diet all throughout history and the cod has had an immeasurable influence on modern western civilization. Approximately 10% of the world’s fish catch is cod.

In the United States, two similar but different cod species are harvested commercially: the Atlantic cod native to the northern Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific cod, which can be found throughout the northern Pacific Ocean. Both of these cod species are part of a group of fish species often referred to as “groundfish” because they usually live on or near the ocean floor. Some other species in this group include pollock, haddock, hake, ocean perch, and flatfish.

The majority of cod currently landed in the United States is Pacific Cod. This fishery takes place off of the west coast of the U.S. and Alaska with the majority of landings from the Alaskan fishery. Pacific cod are harvested with trawl nets, long lines, and traps. Atlantic cod ranges from the Mid-Atlantic U.S. states through New England and the northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Canada, Greenland and Europe. Atlantic cod populations are currently believed to be low and strict management measures have been implemented to rebuild the population.

A cod surviving to a year old has virtually no predators from then onwards, other than man. It takes about three years for the cod to reach a weight of five pounds. Some codfish have been known to grow to the enormous size of 150 to 200 pounds. These days, however, a cod of over 10 pounds is considered a large cod.

Cod is a low fat, flaky white meat fish that is a good source of protein, phosphorus, niacin, and Vitamin B-12. A 3 ounce cooked portion of cod has less than 90 calories and one gram of fat, and 15 to 20 grams of protein. Its mild flavor puts it on the list of the top 10 fish favorites compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Preparation

Cod is flavorful on its own and doesn’t need a lot of added ingredients to make a tasty dish. Brush the fillets with olive oil, broil, then spritz the fillets with lemon juice for a quick and easy meal. Try baking fillets topped with tomatoes and low-fat cheese or mixing flaked cod with mashed potatoes, an egg white and seasonings for a cod cake. Cod also works well as a base for other flavors, so try giving it an Asian twist by topping it with a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, scallions and a touch of orange juice.

 

 

Healthy Recipe Substitutions- Tuesday, January 19, 2016

There are plenty of options out there for improving the nutritional content of your meals without severely altering the flavor or appearance, or adding significantly to your preparation time. Here are a few suggestions that you can use when baking courtesy of www.greatist.com. With these changes we can turn an ordinary batch of brownies into a vegan, gluten-free treat that is lower in fat and calories.

Flax meal for eggs

This one’s an old vegan trick. Mix 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (aka flax meal) with 3 tablespoons of warm water and whisk with a fork to combine. Now let it sit in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before subbing for 1 egg in any baked recipe.

Mashed bananas for fats

The creamy, thickening-power of mashed (ripe!) banana acts the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baking recipes. The consistency is ideal, and the bananas add nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. One cup (appx. 3 bananas) of mashed banana works perfectly in place of 1 cup of butter or oil!

Vanilla or Unsweetened Applesauce for sugar

Cutting sugar in half and adding a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement can give just as much flavor with significantly fewer calories. Assuming the recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s already almost 400 calories cut out! Of course, you can’t sub this one in equal ratios, but next time you’re whipping up some cookies, try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Alternatively, using applesauce in place of sugar can give the necessary sweetness as well, without the extra calories. While one cup of unsweetened applesauce contains only about 100 calories, a cup of sugar can pack in more than 770 calories. You can sub sugar for applesauce in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

Black beans for flour

Swapping out flour for a can of black beans (drained and rinsed, of course) in brownies is a great way to cut out the gluten and fit in an extra dose of protein. When baking, swap out 1 cup flour for 1 cup black bean puree (about a 15 oz. can).

We start with our recipe for Brown Brownies, a popular dessert recipe, and made the following substitutions:

  • Replace 1/4 cup unsalted butter with 3 mashed bananas

  • Replaced 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 6 Tbsp. sugar

  • Replaced 1/4 cup flour with 1/4 cup pureed cooked black beans

  • Replaced 2 eggs with  2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (mixed with water)

 

Look at the nutritional difference per serving between the two recipes:

 

                                                            Original           Revised                Difference           Improvement

Calories

350 cal

240 cal

-110 cal

31%

Carbohydrates

33 g

29 g

- 4g

12%

Fat, total

25 g

15g

- 10gg

40%

Fat, Saturated

10 g

4.2 g

-5.8

58%

Fat, Mono

9.1 g

6.3 g

-2.8 g

31%

Fat Poly

3.7 g

3.7 g

 _

_

Protein           

3.9 g

3.3 g

- .6

Loss of 15%

Fiber

2.8g

4.9 g

+2.1 g

75%

Sugar

27 g

20 g

-7 g

26%

Cholesterol

67 mg

1   Mg

-  67 mg

 

 

(The above analysis only covers the major nutritional elements of the two desserts, but bear in mind that the recipe containing the substitutions also provides more in the way of some essential vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium and potassium, and vitamin B6.)

As you can see, just a few alterations to a recipe can have a fairly dramatic effect on the nutritional outcome. You don't even need to employ all of these substitutions in a given recipe; just making one or two changes can help.  Try experimenting to see what works best for you and your family, and know that whatever you do the end result will be healthier food.

 

Tips to avoid Holiday weight gain- Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Courtesy of www.webMD.com

So what's the harm in a little holiday weight gain, especially if it's just a pound? According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays. The pounds add up year after year, making holiday weight gain an important factor in adult obesity. It is possible, however, to enjoy holiday goodies without putting on a single pound. "Portion control is the key."

Here are some tips to avoid that unwanted weight gain this Holiday Season.

1. Never Arrive Hungry

New York psychologist Carol Goldberg, PhD, says planning ahead can help you maintain discipline in the face of temptation. "Don't go to a party when you're starving," she warns. Try to have a nutritious snack beforehand. If you do arrive hungry, drink some water to fill up before filling your plate.

2. Divert Your Attention

People often forget that there's more to a holiday party than food, Goldberg tells WebMD. "Don't look at the party as just a food event," she says. "Enjoy your friends' company or dancing. Focus on something other than food." Chatting is a great diversion, whether you're at a small family dinner or a large party. "Take your mind off of food and focus on the conversation."

3. Pace Yourself

Have you ever tried telling yourself you'll only eat during the first half hour of a party? Goldberg says this strategy is a mistake. If you cram in as much as you can in half an hour, you chew faster. Chewing more slowly will fill you up with less food. Munch at a leisurely pace by putting your fork down between every bite. This puts you in control.

4. Count Your Canapés

When there are Canapés, it's easy to lose count of how many you eat. Keep track by stashing a toothpick in your pocket for each one. Set a limit and stick to it.

5. Outsmart the Buffet

When dinner is served buffet-style, use the smallest plate available and don't stack your food; limit your helpings to a single story. Go for the simplest foods on the buffet, fresh fruits and vegetables and shrimp cocktail are good choices. Watch out for sauces and dips."

6. Limit Alcohol

Avoid drinking too much alcohol at holiday parties. It's not just about calories but about control. If you drink a lot you, won't have as much control over what you eat.

If you feel out of place without a drink, Goldberg suggests sipping water or club soda with a lemon twist , "so you have something to carry like everyone else."

7. Be Choosy About Sweets

When it comes to dessert, be very selective. "Limit your indulgences to small portions and only what is very sensual to you," Goldberg says. Her personal rule on sweets: "If it's going to have calories, it has to be chocolate."

8. Bring Your Own Treats

Whether you're going to a friend's party or an office potluck, consider bringing a low-calorie treat that you know you'll enjoy. Bringing your own dessert will make the more fattening alternatives less tempting.

9. Limit 'Tastes' While Cooking

If you do a lot of cooking during the holidays, crack down on all those "tastes”. People lose their appetites when they've been cooking because they've been eating the whole time, For tried-and-true recipes, dare yourself not to taste the dish at all until it is served.

10. Walk It Off

Make a new holiday tradition: the family walk. Besides burning some extra calories, this will get everyone away from the food for a while.

 

Preparing and cooking with fresh herbs- Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everyone likes at least a little seasoning in their food, beyond the usual salt and pepper. Seasonings, and herbs in particular, can dramatically affect the way something smells and tastes, thus offering more variety in our meals and more ways to please our palates.

Fresh herbs versus dried

While it is often easier or more expedient to cook with dry herbs -- they come in convenient bottles and are more or less stable for months -- they're not always appropriate, and they don't always provide exactly the right flavor or texture. So how do you know which to use, fresh herbs or dried? According to delishmegish.com, you first need to determine how much of the herb you need:

If you’re making a dish that spotlights a particular herb, you’ll want to use a fresh one. Take pesto, for instance. You’d never pour 2 cups of dried basil into a food processor and hope for a luscious green pesto sauce — you’d use fresh basil leaves, no doubt. For something robust and savory like pesto, it’s important to use fresh herbs or that earthy bite. But, if you’re making chicken ratatouille, a dish that requires several ingredients, it’s safe to use dried herbs. After all, you’d only use a few tablespoons of dried marjoram.

And you should also look at the quantity of other herbs and seasonings in the recipe:

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is, the fewer ingredients a recipe calls for, the fresher and finer they should be. When you’re whipping up something like frico, a crunchy treat that needs only parmesan cheese, lemon zest and basil, fresh leaves are an absolute must. This way, you taste the sharp saltiness of the cheese, the fragrant lemon and of course, the basil, that initial peppery flavor that ultimately dissolves into minty sweetness.

How to prepare fresh herbs

Note: Before utilizing any of the following methods, thoroughly rinse your herbs under cool water. Gently blot them dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner to remove the excess moisture.

The best knife for chopping herbs is sharp with a wide blade, such as a chef’s knife or a Chinese cleaver, that lets you chop without hitting your fingers on the cutting board. Don’t use serrated-edge knives, because they won’t cut cleanly!

Stripping - You can remove tiny leaves from herbs such as thyme by holding onto the stem with one hand and stripping the leaves into a bowl using the other hand.

Snipping - To cut larger clean and dry fresh herbs, place leaves in a measuring cup or bowl and snip them with kitchen scissors, using short, quick strokes. For herbs with tough stems, such as rosemary, strip the leaves from the stem first.

Chiffonade - A chiffonade is a bunch of thin strips or shreds. To create a chiffonade of herbs, roll up larger leaves, such as basil, and cut across the roll

To store unprepared herbs, cut a 1/2 inch from the stems. Stand stem ends in a small jar with some water. Loosely cover leaves with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Don't refrigerate basil -- it may blacken. Discard wilted leaves as they appear.

Ratio of fresh herbs to dried (substitutions)

When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you won't require as much. Roughly speaking, you need about three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry. So, for example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, you would need 1 tablespoon of fresh if you wanted to do a substitution.

Herbs that are commonly used fresh [courtesy of cookinglight.com]

Basil - One of the most important culinary herbs. Sweet basil, the most common type, is redolent of licorice and cloves. Basil is used in the south of France to make pistou; its Italian cousin, pesto, is made just over the border. Used in sauces, sandwiches, soups, and salads, basil is in top form when married to tomatoes, as in the famous salad from the island of Capri—Insalata Caprese, made with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fruity olive oil.

Mint - Mint isn't just a little sprig that garnishes your dessert plate. It is extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. In the Mediterranean, mint is treasured as a companion to lamb, and is often used in fruit and vegetable salads. Though there are many varieties, spearmint is preferred for cooking. You can add it to a bevy of dishes and drinks—lamb, peas, carrots, ice cream, tea, mint juleps, and mojitos. Spearmint's bright green leaves are fuzzy, very different from the darker stemmed, rounded leaves of peppermint.

Rosemary - In Latin, rosemary means "dew of the sea"—appropriate since it is indigenous to the Mediterranean. Rosemary is one of the most aromatic and pungent of all the herbs. Its needlelike leaves have pronounced lemon-pine flavor that pairs well with roasted lamb, garlic, and olive oil. Rosemary is also a nice addition to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, and pork, but because its flavor is strong, use a light hand.

Oregano - Oregano grows wild in the mountains of Italy and Greece; its Greek name means "joy of the mountain." The Greeks love oregano sprinkled on salads, while the Italians shower it on pizza and slip it into tomato sauces. Add chopped oregano to vinaigrette, or use it in poultry, game, or seafood dishes when you want to take them in a Greek or Italian direction. Oregano and marjoram are so similar in looks and flavor that they are often confused. Oregano, however, has a more potent taste and aroma; marjoram is sweeter and more delicate.

Thyme -Thyme comes in dozens of varieties; however, most cooks use French thyme. Undoubtedly thyme is one of the most important herbs of the European kitchen. What would a bouquet garni be without it? This congenial herb pairs well with many other herbs—especially rosemary, parsley, sage, savory, and oregano. Its earthiness is welcome with pork, lamb, duck, or goose, and it's much beloved in Cajun and Creole cooking. It's also the primary component of Caribbean jerk seasonings. Because the leaves are so small, they often don't require chopping.

Cilantro - Some call it cilantro; others call it coriander, or even Chinese parsley. Whatever you call it, chances are you either love it or hate it. This native of southern Europe and the Middle East has a pungent flavor, with a faint undertone of anise. The leaves are often mistaken for flat-leaf parsley, so read the tag. One of the most versatile herbs, cilantro adds distinctive flavor to salsas, soups, stews, curries, salads, vegetables, fish, and chicken dishes.

Parsley - No refrigerator should be without parsley. It's the workhorse of the herb world and can go in just about every dish you cook. Parsley's mild, grassy flavor allows the flavors of other ingredients to come through. Curly parsley is less assertive than its brother, flat-leaf parsley (often called Italian parsley). Flat-leaf parsley is preferred for cooking, as it stands up better to heat and has more flavor, while the more decorative curly parsley is used mostly for garnishing.

Chives - Toss chives into a dish at the last minute, because heat destroys their delicate onion flavor. Thinly slice them to maximize their taste, or use finely snipped chives as a garnish. Chives are great in dips and quesadillas, and on baked potatoes.

How to save time, money, & work being a great cook!- Tuesday, September 15, 2015

If you own a crock pot or slow cooker you have one of the best kitchen helpers there is after the dishwasher.  If you don't own one, we recommend giving the purchase of a slow cooker or crock pot serious consideration.  They save time and cut down on mess, and in general make preparing dinner a simpler endeavor, and something that you can do from the tennis court, your office, or while watching your kids at a swim meet.  All you have to do is fill it with the ingredients found in a recipe, turn it on and leave.  Hours later you come home to a house filled with wonderful smells and dinner ready for the table. 

To help you take full advantage of this mighty kitchen genie, we did some Googling and found an article on about.com written by Linda Larsen -- an author, journalist and Home Economist who has worked for Pillsbury and Malt-O-Meal.  The following tips from Linda will make using your slow cooker or crock pot even more enjoyable.

Crock pot Cooking Tips

  • You will want to fill the crock pot one half to two thirds full.  When overfilled, foods will not cook properly.  Likewise, if the food/liquid level is too low your food cooks too quickly.
  • Be mindful of how you load the crock pot.  Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed in the bottom of the appliance.  Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid.
  • Fats on meat and poultry will melt and leave an unpleasant texture.  Unlike with dry cooking methods, the fat is not necessary to tenderize tougher cuts of meat, so be certain to remove the skin from poultry and trim excess fat from meats.
  • You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.
  • Slow cooking not only saves time but money as well.  This is where you can best use your cheaper cuts like pork butts, bottom round roasts, pot roasts, stewing chickens, etc.  These economy meat cuts have less fat, which makes them more suited to crock pot cooking.  Moisture and long cooking times result in very tender meats.
  • Avoid the temptation to lift the lid to smell or stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting.  Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour.  Here is a clever trick:  You can check progress by spinning the cover until the condensation falls off.  Then it's easy to see inside.
  • For best results, ground meats must be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crock pot.  Large pieces of meat can also be browned in a skillet before cooking in the crock pot.  Browning, while optional, adds color and helps in flavor development.
  • Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
  • Be careful when adding spiced heat.  Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time.  Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
  • Although you can turn on the crock pot and walk away until dinner time for many dishes, some recipes require more attention toward the end of the cooking process.  Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking.  They will lose flavor if left to cook with the rest of the ingredients for a longer period.  Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking  time so they don't overcook.  With dairy products, wait to add until the last 30 minutes of cooking time (unless the recipes states otherwise).
  • Liquids do not boil away in the crock pot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crock pot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.