All Posts In How-to

10 Tips for Dining (or Not) With Picky Eaters

by in How-to, September 23rd, 2011

picky eaters
As a veteran mother of a picky eater who’s now five and a half, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to navigate the dinner table without either giving in to his demands or failing to nourish him properly. At certain points over the years I’ve left the table in order to take a deep breath in the other room, left the table to lie down on my bed for a moment in a quiet place where no one is saying “Yuck!” over and over and again while waving his napkin in the air, and left the table to work on the book I ended up writing about, yes, my picky eater and my own love of food and cooking. In fact, sometimes excusing yourself is the best way to deal with it. When it’s not, here’s a list of tips that I’ve discovered — through a lot of trial and error, needless to say — that make mealtime as painless as possible.

Get Melanie’s ten tips for picky eaters »

How to Select a Potluck Dish — A Great Big Meal

by in Entertaining, How-to, September 22nd, 2011

lazy lasagna potluck dish
At least once a month, my mom calls strictly to talk potlucks (we talk every couple of days, but these potluck calls are different from our regular, rambling conversations). We discuss what she has in her refrigerator, the produce that’s currently coming out of the garden and if there’s any theme for the potluck that she and my dad are scheduled to attend.

Over the years, we’ve created massive couscous salads, wintertime braises that can be made for cheap and salads constructed from shaved zucchini and mint. Though I can’t offer my potluck consulting services to everyone out there, here’s what I have in mind when dreaming up dishes with my mom.

Five must-have tips »

Mirin — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, September 22nd, 2011

mirin short ribs
Mirin is all about getting sauced.

Because that’s where Japanese cooking wine really shines — in sauces.

But first, a misconception. The wretched American product known as “cooking wine” probably has you reluctant to try anything similar.

Relax and prepare for a delicious discovery. They are nothing alike.

Though once sipped similar to sake, today mirin is exclusively a cooking wine. The clear, viscous liquid has a clean yet intensely sweet-salty flavor.

Mirin-Marinated Short Ribs With Shiitakes and Egg Noodles »

Alex Eats: Peppers of All Kinds

by in Food Network Chef, How-to, September 20th, 2011

pepper variety
alex guarnaschelliEvery week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

Sometimes I like to enjoy the full blast of a chile pepper and sometimes I want a mellower version. Hot peppers can be tamed by removing the seeds and slicing the ribs off the interior flesh. Try not to learn this lesson the hard way if you can help it: Wear gloves to protect your hands when cleaning chiles of their ribs and seeds. If you’ve ever touched the chile and then touched your eyes, you know what I’m talking about.

On one end of the heat spectrum, habaneros and scotch bonnet peppers are two of the hottest varieties. They are small and appear in various hues of green, yellow or red. Because they are so spicy, I use them sparingly in their raw form. I also love to slice and cover them with olive oil — it’s like a bottle of spice that naps in my fridge until I need it. Cooking them can also offer that tamed flavor. Sometimes I marvel at how floral spicy peppers can be underneath all that heat. A few paper-thin slices can brighten (and spice up) a light butter sauce for grilled fish or a hot marinade for other vegetables, such as eggplant, or meat.

Jalapeno, serrano, bell and wax peppers »

How to Be a Good Potluck Attendee — A Great Big Meal

by in How-to, September 15th, 2011

potluck bowl
In my early twenties, I moved from my hometown of Portland, Ore. to Philadelphia. It was a big move, made even more challenging by the fact that I only knew one person my own age in the entire city (as lovely as it was to be near my 86-year-old grandmother, eating dinner with her at 5 p.m. did not constitute a social life). I knew that my success in Philly was going to hinge in large part on finding friends as quickly as possible. So I got involved.

I hooked up with a cycling club (though my skills on two wheels were shaky at best), joined the Unitarian church down the street and started attending a book club. The reason I was most drawn to these particular gathering points? They all included regular potlucks.

Six ways to be a good potluck attendee »

Halloumi — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, September 15th, 2011

grilled cheese salad
You’ll probably feel pretty stupid calling it “squeaky cheese,” but as soon as you take a bite you’ll understand why it makes sense.

Sometimes called Greek grilling cheese, halloumi is just that — a dense cheese that holds its shape and won’t drip through the grates when grilled.

And when you chew it? It makes a squeaky sound against your teeth.

Luckily, mouth noises aren’t the real selling point of this cheese. Taste and versatility are what will drive you to find this relative of feta cheese.

Traditionally made from sheep’s milk on the island of Cyprus, halloumi today often is made from a blend of milk from of sheep, goats and cows.

Read more

Alex Eats: Tangy Creams

by in Food Network Chef, How-to, September 13th, 2011

tangy dairy creams
alex guarnaschelliEvery week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

As a lover of all things dairy, I especially like sour cream, yogurt, crème fraiche and buttermilk because they add “tang” to my cooking. They get their base flavor from friendly bacterial cultures that actively convert the natural sugars in milk lactic acid through fermentation. So if each of these four tangy dairy variants gets its signature acid zip the same way, what makes them different?

Sour Cream: Take cream, add those miraculous cultures, allow fermentation to partially run its course, and voila. It’s has such a thick texture, it can stand on its own. A dollop of sour cream on a baked Idaho or sweet potato is just delicious. I love adding sour cream to blue cheese dressing instead of mayonnaise. Hot blueberry pancakes topped with cold sour cream? It’s so creamy against the fruit.

Yogurt, crème fraiche and buttermilk »

Beat the Boring Lunchbox

by in How-to, Recipes, September 9th, 2011

bow tie pasta salad
The first day of school has come and gone, and now it’s time to go grocery shopping with school lunches in mind. Just as adults do, kids crave variety, options and creativity in their everyday meals and especially in their lunchboxes. This year, avoid untouched lunches and hungry, unfocused kids by replacing tired selections with new and fun choices sure to please even the pickiest eaters.

Switch up the predictable rotation of turkey-cheese and peanut butter-jelly sandwiches with Ellie Krieger’s kid-approved Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine. Made with whole-grain pasta and loaded with veggies and calcium-rich cheese, this colorful salad will be a welcomed surprise in a lunchbox that’s usually filled with soggy sandwiches.

Read more

How to Host a Potluck — A Great Big Meal

by in How-to, September 8th, 2011

how to host a potluck
When my parents got married in 1970, they did so on a grassy hilltop, overlooking San Francisco. The reception afterward was held in a rented church hall and the meal was potluck. My wedding, which was held in my cousin’s backyard 39 years and one month later, was similarly catered.

I’ve been to hundreds of potlucks, large and small, in my 32 years here on Earth. From the weekly Monday night potlucks at my childhood church to the decidedly basic college potlucks of cheese, chips and bean dip, I find that there is always something joyful in the act of gathering to share food.

This time of year, as we head into the busyness of the school year and the rush of the holiday season, it can be easy to lose touch with friends and family. Put a few get-together dates on the calendar and plan to potluck the meal. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re the one who’s hosting.

5 must-have tips for hosting a potluck »

Pomegranate Molasses — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, September 8th, 2011

roasted pomegranate chickpea salad
Are you about over the pomegranate trend yet?

If so, you might want to revisit it one more time. But this time we aren’t talking about chugging the juice or turning it into fancy cocktails.

This time it’s pomegranate molasses, a thick, syrupy concentrate that is sweet and tart and as delicious as it sounds.

To explain pomegranate molasses, we ought to start with the fruit itself.

Pomegranates originated in Western Asia and the Mediterranean, with the best supposedly coming from Iran. The trees produce large, usually red orb-like fruits filled with edible seeds, each of which is covered by a juice-filled membrane.

Seven delicious ways to use pomegranate molasses »

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