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Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

A "Must Read" for every home cook!

A blend of memoir, cookbook and reality show, Kathleen Flinn’s The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” reminded me how satisfying it can be to cook with nutritious and flavorful ingredients using easy techniques.

She modeled her book after a reality TV show. Flinn had been wondering how to best use her culinary degree. She wanted to motivate, teach and inspire people to cook. Then one evening she tuned into “What Not to Wear.” On the show, participants opened their closets to a fashion expert, who tutored them on how to dress, and transformed them from dowdy to dashing. Using this show as a starting point, Flinn’s idea was to recruit self-identified culinary novices, examine their pantries, refrigerators and freezers, teach them basic cooking techniques, and transform them into “fearless home cooks.”

At first I didn’t see the connection between the two topics. What does dressing have to do with cooking?  However as I thought about it, I realized they share many attributes. We must dress and eat day in and day out. Each requires a budget. And no one wants to waste money on buying the wrong thing. Who among us hasn’t found some garment in the back of a closet or some vegetable in the back of the refrigerator that we’ve forgotten?  I can’t count the times that with good intentions I bought cauliflower or cabbage, only to let it rot in my refrigerator.

Having the basics in your closet helps you put together a stylish look. And the same goes for the kitchen; a pantry and refrigerator stocked with basic ingredients is the first step to creating a flavorful and nutritious meal. 

Dressing attractively causes us to feel good about ourselves. Eating wholesome food does the same. So I see the connection between “What not to wear” and “What not to eat.”

Most of us don’t rely on recipes when it comes to clothes. Personal taste leads us to a particular color, certain accessories and a hip or classic style. We use an intuitive approach to matching colors and combining patterns. However In the kitchen, we seem to have less confidence in our ability. This is what I love about Flinn’s book. She shows us how to put a meal together without a recipe which encourages creativity and makes cooking fun.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your consumption of processed food, eat more nutritiously, cook more creatively and cut your food budget, this book is for you.

Five Take-Aways from “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.”

  1. Maximize flavor with Flinn’s “flavor splashes,” a blend of a few ingredients from a particular cuisine. For example to make her “Asian Ginger Splash,” blend 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, I teaspoon fresh grated ginger or a couple of pinches of dried ginger, a few squeezes of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Heat through for 3 minutes. Serve on steamed vegetables.
  2. Save money by making your own bread, soup, sauces and vinaigrette. Buy a whole chicken rather than a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts. One chicken can provide several meals. Use the bones to make chicken stock.
  3. Stop waste by planning meals. Use older foods first. Instead of throwing away that cauliflower that’s looking ‘tired’, add it to home-made soup.
  4. Use leftovers and you will save money and contribute to a better world. According to Flinn, people In the United States throw away about 40% of the food produced for consumption. When that food goes into landfills to rot, it emits methane gas, more toxic than carbon monoxide.
  5. Avoid processed food. Boxed food products, such as Hamburger Helper or Rice-a-Roni, are created “primarily to stimulate consumption.” Maximizing nutrition is an afterthought. Eating simpler foods that are more flavorful, with more fiber and nutrients, means we are satisfied with fewer calories and eat a healthier diet.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for strategies for creating healthy, flavorful, home-cooked meals while saving time and money.

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This is a recipe I created using Kathleen Flinn’s “Fish en Papillote, or Baked in Paper.” Rather than offering exact recipes, Flinn’s approach invites creativity by offering general instructions. Hope you enjoy.

Sole & Asparagus in Parchment

Serves 1

6 ounce Petrale sole fillet

2 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into ¼ inch pieces

1 carrot, julienned (cut in thin sticks)

1/8 cup onion, diced

¼ cup sugar snap peas

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice from half a lemon

 

Preheat oven to 400F

On a 10 by 12 inch sheet of parchment paper, place sole fillet. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place asparagus, carrots, onion and pea pods on top of fish. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.

Fold parchment paper vertically and make 2 folds, and then twist ends.

Put on baking sheet and place in oven for 20 minutes at 400 F.

Serve with ½ cup quinoa

Serves 1

 

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When someone invites us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, I like to bring something special. This year I’ve made tasty packages of  Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs. I’m excited to share my special treats.

The recipe is a variation on one from 101 Cookbooks. I love this recipe because it is easy, flavorful and nutritious. Yes, it does have a whole cup of brown sugar, however the nutrients provided by the walnuts more than make up for the sugar.

Walnuts

Walnuts : They're all they're cracked up to be and more!

Whenever I read a recipe calling for rosemary or mint, I  think about using lavender instead. Most times, it works beautifully and adds an exotic taste.  So when I read Heidi’s “Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts Recipe,” I wanted to try it with lavender. I also thought about substituting dried plums or apricots for dried figs, however I love figs so that is what I used.

 

For packaging, I dropped by Seattle’s PS-Store to pick up plastic containers, ribbon, labels and stickers. I love the square labels with the colored borders. In the past, when I’ve made gift packets, I’ve struggled with labels. Frequently, labels can be difficult to line up on my printer, and I get frustrated. These worked like a dream. I went to this link to get a template compatible with MS Word. I typed in the text and hit the print button. It all worked the first time. I used a 2” x 2” label. The container was 3” x 3” x 3”. I used a clear round sticker to seal the container, I tied a ribbon around it, tying a bow on top. PS-Stores sell an artificial lavender sprig that looks nice. The lavender sprig looks great on the package.

See the Lavender Sprigs: Perfect for Gifts!

Walnuts - All Sugared and Spiced

Sugared and Spiced: Walnuts are Ready for Someone NIce!

I cooked up one batch of this recipe yesterday afternoon in about 5 minutes. They baked in the oven for another 25 minutes, and I turned the oven off and just let the nuts dry out a bit more. When they were cool, I created my gifts. I created 5 gift packages.

 

Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon ground culinary lavender buds*
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 large egg whites
1 lb cups shelled walnut halves
1/3 cup chopped dried figs, stems trimmed

Sugar and Spice - All Things Nice

*What variety works best? I like Royal Velvet; however any English Lavender will be fine.

*How to grind? Use spice grinder, mortar and pestle or a clean coffee bean grinder will work too!

Preheat oven with racks in the center to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine brown sugar, salt, lavender and sesame seeds in a small bowl.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites a bit, just to loosen them up. Add walnuts and figs to whites and toss until they are evenly coated – it’ll take a minute or so. Sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the nuts and toss (really well) again.

Split the nuts between the two prepared baking sheets in a single layer, separating the wa;nuts from one another.

Bake for ~25 minutes or until the walnuts turn golden brown  and the coating is no longer wet. Turn off your oven and let them dry for 10 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes, and then slide the parchment/nuts off the hot baking sheets onto a cool surface to cool completely. These will keep for a week or so in an airtight container.

Makes 1 pound of nuts

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 25 min

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Farmer’s Market Vegetable Tray

Eating enough vegetables can be a challenge. Somehow it is easier to reach for a cracker or chips rather than take time to wash and peel a carrot or cut up a red pepper. The best thing about this recipe is the peeling, cutting and seasoning can be done ahead of time. The vegetables are in your refrigerator ready for that moment when you need a quick and satisfying snack.

By the way, the French call this technique Vegetables a la Grecque meaning vegetables prepared in the Greek style. Prepare a court bullion, a poaching broth and steam your favorite vet ables making sure they are not overcooked. The steaming helps the vegetables absorb flavor and brings out the vibrant colors while maintaining a crisp and crunchy texture. Select high quality organic vegetables for the best result. You can use carrots, celery, mushrooms, tiny onions, red or green peppers, cauliflower, string beans, asparagus and broccoli florets. Your eyes will feast on the splash of color, your body will love the nutritional content and you will relish the flavor.

Poaching Broth
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup red vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups vegetables, cut in 1 inch pieces

1. Add the first eight ingredients into a medium saucepan. Simmer for five minutes.
2. Poach vegetables in the season broth for 2 minutes.
3. Remove vegetables with slotted spoon and place on tray to cool.

When vegetables are cool, place them into a jar or bowl. Pour the poaching broth over the vegetables and cover. Store in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Serve with gren or black olives on a decorative platter.

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