All Posts By Melissa d'Arabian

Besides Winter, 6 Reasons to Love Soup

by in Family, Food Network Chef, October 24th, 2013

6 Reasons to Love SoupI’ve always had the dream of being that mom on the block who just always happens to have a big kettle of brothy soup simmering on the stove, on the off-chance that the neighborhood kids playing kickball in the street want to come in out of the cold and warm up to a steamy mug of goodness. Word would spread, and perhaps some neighbors would drop by, lured by the savory smells wafting out of our always-opening front door. I’d smile warmly (I’m certain I wouldn’t be on a work deadline of any sort), and I’d hand them a bowlful of liquid heaven, along with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

Turns out, though, my four girls don’t play kickball, and I don’t allow them in the street anyway. Plus, as I type, just days from November, I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Soup is a year-round affair, if you ask me, but even here in San Diego, fall and winter seem to call for it all the more. Everyone loves soup this time of year, right? It makes us feel comforted and cozy. But in case you needed them, here are six more reasons to love soup:

1. Soup’s a no-brainer way to lose weight.
Yes! Did you know there are studies showing that simply starting meals with a healthy soup promotes weight loss? I love habits that do the work for me. All you have to do is adopt the habit. Why not start with my White Gazpacho or the Roasted Tomato Winter Gazpacho in my cookbook?

5 more reasons to love soup

Five (More) Reasons to Love Dessert

by in Family, Food Network Chef, October 10th, 2013

Melissa d'Arabian: Five (More) Reasons to Love DessertI have a sweet tooth, so my favorite part of a meal is dessert. In addition to being sweet and fabulous, though, dessert can be a great strategic player in helping picky eaters becoming more adventurous. And I don’t mean in the old-school “clean your plate so you can eat dessert” sort of way.

Here are five dessert strategies that I use in our household to combat picky eating:

1. Encourage an adventurous palate.
Most kids love dessert. So if you serve a child who loves cookies a new kind of cookie (say, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie instead of her normal favorite gingersnap), she will probably dig it. And then you can have a conversation about how fun it was to try something new. (If she doesn’t go for the swap, no big deal, because dessert is an optional course; there’s no risk of you caving in and becoming a short-order cook.)

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My Love Affair with Pumpkin

by in Food Network Chef, In Season, September 26th, 2013

My Love Affair with Pumpkin + RecipesIt’s officially fall. I know this not because I went shopping and saw Christmas decorations this weekend (although I did), but because I’ve seen the numerous Facebook photos of people posing with their first pumpkin lattes of the season. Meanwhile, I barely managed to get the requisite first day of school photo posted of my actual children, let alone of a cup of coffee. So if I am to believe Facebook and Twitter (I do), then autumn has arrived somewhere in the United States. I take that on faith, however, because I’m living in a heat wave without the benefit of air conditioning in either my home or office. People are raving about the joys of wearing a cardigan, while we are taking cold showers and standing under the ceiling fan to cool down before we crawl into blanket-less beds at night. We are not seeking out and photographing steamy drinks.

But I have a love affair with all things pumpkin, and it lasts all year long. I’ll open a big can, freeze half and stick the rest in the fridge to fortify muffins, thicken a soup or make a smoothie. It’s full of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a few grams of protein — a veritable nutritional bargain at 50 calories a serving. (I remind us all that this is squash. We drink squash with our coffee. I love America.)

Get my Iced Pumpkin Soy Vanilla Latte recipe

How Ground Meat Can Save the Day

by in Family, Food Network Chef, September 12th, 2013

How Ground Meat Can Save the Day - Melissa d'ArabianLife seems to get busy for everyone in the fall. I’ve been asked by a number of fans for ways to get dinner on the table quickly. One of the best tools in a busy life is your freezer. Making double of any labor-intensive dish (such as lasagna) and freezing half is a great way to cut down time in the kitchen. Another huge timesaver is partially prepping your meat before it goes into the freezer, making cooking day a much easier affair. A few minutes spent strategically upfront can turn ingredients you buy at the grocery store into menus-waiting-to-happen. Stare at a frozen hunk of ground beef and no ideas jump out at you, but imagine some barbecue meatballs that can be on the table in about a half hour (of passive cooking), and suddenly your mind can fill in the blanks: I’ll put them on a whole-wheat bun and add something crunchy like coleslaw.

My challenge today is to take on the monster ground beef package. I’ll share exactly how I partially prep a value pack of ground beef into six menu ideas in less than 30 minutes (not including shopping). These 30 minutes will save you a few hours up the road. Ready?

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Back-to-School Breakfasts

by in Family, Food Network Chef, August 29th, 2013

Back-to-School Breakfasts with Melissa d'ArabianFall is right around the corner and it’s perhaps my favorite season. As a child, I always loved how the air cooled just the tiniest bit when I would open the front door and head out to my first day of school, almost as if nature recognized the rhythms spelled out in my school district’s calendar. (Looking back, I wonder if it was simply chillier at 7am than at 10am?) I knew the tiniest wisp of cooler air meant the holiday season would soon follow, and I have always been someone who enjoys the anticipation of an event as much as the event itself. (I love sleep so much that I actually enjoy being tired, and I have been known to stay up an extra hour just to relish the thought of sleep to come.) I loved entering a new grade, finding out who my new teacher would be and scoping out the classroom on the first day for familiar faces. I welcomed routine and structure — beyond just goofing around with my sister at the local Woolworth’s, playing on the carts and enjoying free pong, much to the chagrin of Jan, the store manager in a mustard-colored smock.

My daughters started school this week: third grade, second grade and two girls in first grade. All four girls are at the same school now, which means we can ride our bikes together. School supplies and fresh fall outfits are bought and tucked away in their closets. I’ve stocked up on lunch-packing supplies (LunchBots for four girls can set you back a bit!). Back to School Night is in two days, and there will be signups, forms to fill out and probably a few more checks to write. But it’s all just part of the routine — the seasonal cycles of growing up.

Keep reading for back-to-school breakfast recipes

The College Crusade: 3 Recipes to Pack Along with Your Laptop

by in Family, Food Network Chef, August 15th, 2013

Green Morning SmoothiesI took my girls shopping for boogie boards the other day. I walked into the store and discovered that summer was over. Too bad I wasn’t shopping for dorm supplies: twin bed sheets, color-coordinated towel sets and bright plastic baskets for lugging toiletries down the hall were everywhere. I was immediately taken back to my own freshman year of college. I remember exactly what I was wearing (a blue sweater and flowy skirt that projected confidence in my 17-year-old mind) when we pulled up to my assigned dorm, Hamilton Hall. Mom took pictures of me making up my bed with my new twin sheets (extra long), and I placed unused pens, pencils and erasers neatly along the top of my desk. I set up a gift from my mom: a manual typewriter (the kind where the “k” and “b” keys would get stuck and I’d have to pop them back into ready position), a few spare ink ribbons and a tiny box of white out sheets. (No, this wasn’t a vintage objet d’art; this was the actual typewriter I would use all freshman year. I am that old.)

What followed was four years of studying, but also friendships made, laughter shared, milestones achieved (and others, missed) and lots of cooking. I cooked from the minute I landed in Hamilton Hall and made my first stroganoff in a hotpot. Later, in my sorority house, I hung out in the kitchen with Linda, the cook, and even signed up for KP duty once a week, my first pro gig in the kitchen I suppose. When I lived in an apartment junior year, I cooked so much that my roommates and I couldn’t eat all the food, so I would deliver random care packages to friends all around campus.

Get three college-friendly recipes

Bending the Rules on Summer Vacation

by in Food Network Chef, August 1st, 2013

Bending the Rules on Summer Vacation - Melissa d'ArabianBack-to-school ads are already airing and we’ve only just started our family vacation (anyone else?). I’m writing this blog from the balcony of a rental on Balboa Island.

Since we’re on vacation, we are bending the rules. The other day the girls and I all ordered lemonades with our lunch, instead of our normal tap water. (I am not the Ten Dollar Dinners lady for nothing.) Another rule I’m bending: Instead of planning our regular reasonable snack every day about 3pm, the whole family is venturing around the corner to Dad’s Original Frozen Banana shop and indulging in a chocolate-dipped, sprinkle-nut-brickle-laden frozen banana. (I say “bending” the rule and not “breaking” because I often use frozen bananas and cocoa in my smoothies.)

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Summertime and the Sipping Is Easy

by in Food Network Chef, July 18th, 2013

Spa Tea by Melissa d'ArabianI grew up in Tucson, Ariz., and summertime meant one thing: drinking sun tea. My mom constantly had a huge jar of water with teabags sitting on the hot concrete in our backyard, blinding sun beating down on the teabags. She was a purist: She brewed it so strong the tannic acid was mouth-puckering and she drank it unsweetened, without even a slice of lemon. I would drink the tea with only a few ice cubes to cut the taste, sitting alongside my mom, just treasuring our time alone together, two ladies sipping tea on a hot summer day.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve developed my own palate for unsweetened flavored waters (which is what tea is really, right?). I love water with a hint of flavor because it refreshes without being boring. Plus as a bonus, flavored waters make me feel like I’m at a spa — for a lot less.

Try it yourself: Throw a few pieces of fruit and maybe some fresh herbs into a pitcher and add water. (By the way, if you make a lot of spa water, buy a handy pitcher with a steeping basket attached. Just load the basket with fruit and herbs, and fill the pitcher with water.)

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Food, Family and the Fourth

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, July 4th, 2013

Melissa d'Arabian's 4th of JulyIt’s the 4th of July! My community goes all out: huge hometown parade of marching bands, meticulously made floats carrying with local kids and war veterans, fun runs, open-air concerts, barbecues and picnics, and of course, fireworks. It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year, so this suits me perfectly. Quite frankly though, I haven’t always been such a 4th-o-phile (I just made that up). For years, I enjoyed Independence Day as much as any other barbecue with friends — with the added bonus of a wink to my status as an American — a relatively small blip on my special-event radar.

Then I moved out of the country. The first 4th of July I spent living away from the United States, I was in Greece (did you think I would say France?). I was 21 and was working on a Greek cruise ship for my first job out of college. Afloat in the Mediterranean, I was the only American member of the cruise staff (ask me some day about my gig dancing the Sirtaki to the bouzouki in the Greek folkloric show and then posing in full costume with passengers while cruise photographers snapped souvenir photos; if you took a Mediterranean cruise in the early ’90s, check your photo albums for a blonde wearing a festive outfit made primarily of gold coins).

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Picnic Perfection

by in Food Network Chef, June 20th, 2013

Melissa d'Arabian's Picnic PerfectionIt’s summertime and we are blessed with days filled with trips to the beach or museums to meet up with friends, and we’re usually grabbing something to-go on our way to the destination. Every Sunday evening, everyone in our community in Coronado, Calif., loads their kids and a picnic into their red Radio Flyer wagon and heads to Concert in the Park. So when many of you lamented the challenges of packing a summer picnic, I heard you. The ant’s time as the biggest picnic woe is long gone — now we worry about packing healthy, delicious food that our kids will actually eat, while keeping the food in a temperature-safe zone, without spending too much time. Is that too much to ask? No. So here are four tips to help get you there:

1. Start with the protein
The protein is the trickiest part of the meal because it often involves meat, which can be a challenge to keep in a safe temperature zone. My secret picnic weapon: non-meat protein. And by this, 99 percent of the time, I mean quinoa. Make a quinoa salad, subbing quinoa for rice, pasta or other grains. It is full of protein, fiber and complex carbs, and it will probably work in your favorite recipe (for inspiration, try my Quinoa Tabouli). Quinoa can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it my perfect picnic protein. My second non-meat protein insider secret: Use white beans and whole-grain pasta to make any pasta salad you like. Try a salad made with roasted veggies, feta and vinaigrette.

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