All Posts In How-to

An Intro to Canning and Blueberry Jam

by in How-to, Recipes, August 26th, 2011

blueberry jam
When it comes to canning, blueberries were my gateway fruit. During my childhood, I helped my mom make jam with the berries from our annual picking trip. Later, blueberry jam was the first thing I ever canned on my own (though I did call my parents for guidance at least seven times during the making of that initial batch). Spiced with a little bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest, it tastes like home.

The beauty of blueberry jam is that it sets you up for success. Blueberries contain a lot of natural pectin, so even if you mash and measure imperfectly, nine times out of 10, you’ll still wind up with something spreadable and quite delicious.

What’s more, preparing blueberries for jamming is shockingly easy. All they need is a quick rinse, a careful once-over to remove any stems (don’t throw away the mushy berries, they work just fine in jam) and a thorough smashing. I find it quite satisfying to just plunge my hands in and start squashing. A potato masher is an acceptable substitute if you don’t like to get your hands covered in blueberry goo.

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Honeycomb — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, August 25th, 2011

honeycomb brie english muffin
It’s time to think beyond the bear bottle. Because honey comes in way more forms than just plastic squirt bottles. My favorite? Honey in the comb, pure and simple.

And yes, the comb is totally safe to eat. People have been keeping bees — and eating the honeycomb — for several thousand years. But first, some honey 101. No, honey is not bee spit. But bee saliva does play a role.

When bees gather nectar from flowers, it is stored in a honey sac inside their bodies. During storage, the bee’s saliva mixes with the nectar, which (shocker!) is made mostly from sugar. Enzymes in the saliva convert those sugars into honey.

The honeycomb comes into play when the bee gets back to the hive. The comb itself — a network of hexagonal cylinders — is made from waxy secretions of worker bees. As these cylinders are filled with honey, they are capped with yet another layer of wax.

The bees do all this to create food for themselves. In fact, for every pound of honey gathered by people, the bees make and consume another eight.

Six delicious ways to use honeycomb »

Pantry Preparedness: Keep Your Pantry Stocked for an Emergency

by in How-to, August 24th, 2011

ingredient pantry
For East Coasters that are bracing for what looks to be monster Hurricane Sandy, we thought this would be a swell time to remind you of what your pals on the left coast already know: Create a well-stocked emergency pantry for yourself.

What does that mean exactly? We looked to the American Red Cross for their best tips on how to make sure your family has enough to eat should a catastrophic event hit close to home. Their mantra: “Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be Informed.” keeps it simple. The Red Cross’ advice for kitchen preparedness comes in two categories: a three-day supply for evacuation needs, and a two-week supply for your home.

“While stocking your emergency kit and pantry, it’s important to think about what you need from shelf-to-mouth to consume each item. Make sure you have the appropriate utensils and kitchen equipment to open cans, and think about whether or not items can be consumed raw or will need to be heated,” says Red Cross spokesperson Attie Poirier.

Find out how to keep a well-stocked emergency pantry »

Alex Advises: Pots and Pans in the Kitchen

by in Food Network Chef, How-to, August 23rd, 2011

pots and pans
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.

I cook at home a lot of the time. Now, as a professional chef, I’d be lying to you if I said I always did. Sure, I grew up in a house where almost everything was made from scratch, but after a 15-hour shift at the restaurant, my first instinct wasn’t always to run home and bake a lattice-topped apple pie from scratch. In the past couple of years, that has definitely changed.

For me, cooking at home has been a great way to build better eating habits.  When I shop at the green market for the restaurant, I now pick up a handful of vegetables for myself. I don’t always have the time to cook the way I’d like to, and I also don’t have a lot of room in my Manhattan kitchen. That makes my choices all the more important — I don’t want to deal with kitchen clutter.

Alex shares her ideal collection »

How to Use Berbere — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, August 19th, 2011

chicken burgers with berbere
Imagine the best Southern barbecue — cooked up in northern Africa.

That’s what this week’s ingredient — the Ethiopian seasoning blend known as berbere — tastes like. And it’s as good as it sounds.

Berbere is the flavor backbone of Ethiopian cooking, a cuisine built around heavily seasoned meats and stews served with a spongy flatbread called injera.

Berbere ties all of that together, doing duty as a dry rub for meats, a seasoning for stews, lentils and grains — even as a tableside condiment.

As with so many traditional seasoning blends, what goes into berbere can vary by region, town and by house.

But most versions begin with a base of ground chiles, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, cloves, coriander, cardamom, black pepper and salt.

Incorporate berbere into chicken burgers »

Easing Into Back-to-School Dinners — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, How-to, August 16th, 2011

back to school
When I first wrote up my outline for this blog, back to school dinners seemed a sensible choice given school starts this week for many families around the country. Nowadays, we all seem to be running short on time. People rely on meals out of boxes and bags, thinking there’s not enough time to cook. I wanted to offer you tips and ideas for making weeknight cooking easier.

Then something happened to change my perspective and outlook.

My husband died suddenly.

When I say suddenly, I mean just that. He was helping our daughter ride her bike, told her he needed to sit for a moment, then keeled over from a massive heart attack. Some of you, perhaps many, probably know about this already given the amazing show of support and love that has filled the food community.

So, why am I here talking to you all about back-to-school dinner ideas?

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Alex Eats: Salad

by in Food Network Chef, How-to, August 16th, 2011

lettuce
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.

Choose lettuces that are bright green and firm — saggy, browning leaves are the hallmark of vegetables on their way to the compost pile. If the outer leaves of a head of lettuce are ragged, peel away a layer or two to see if the heart is worth saving. To make lettuce last longer, keep it dry and cool in a dark place. It’s important not to wash or mix lettuce with anything acidic (lemon or vinegar) until right before eating.

Iceberg: I really love iceberg lettuce. I love a good wedge with blue cheese; it makes me feel American. I also love chopping iceberg and mixing it with scallions, fresh chiles or a really vibrant dressing. It has a great, juicy texture and, on its own, is pretty bland. To me, it’s nice to have a lettuce that can meld with bold flavors.

Watercress, mustard greens and frisee »

How To Eat on the Road

by in How-to, Recipes, August 12th, 2011

Can you make it off your block before a little voice in the backseat proclaims “I’m starvingggg” or begs “Are we there yet?” If not, it’s a good idea to be prepared for hours-long road trips with plenty of snacks, drinks and eats to avoid stopping at every questionable road-side convenience store along interstate. While royal-blue gas station slushies and their pre-packaged, deep-fried side dishes are sweet and unquestionably delicious, homemade snacks are worlds healthier and cheaper. As you squeeze in that last summer trip and prepare for the Labor Day weekend, use our recipes below to make go-to snacks everyone in the car will enjoy.

There’s no denying that potato chips are a classic road-trip pick; they’re easy to eat, pleasing to everyone’s taste buds and available at every rest stop. However, they’re often laden with fat and covered in sodium. Our Curry Potato Chips (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine are baked, not fried, and dusted with warm curry powder. Pack these in plastic baggies to easily dole them out to the back seat crew.

More fun to-go snack recipes »

Off the Beaten Aisle: Anchovies

by in How-to, Recipes, August 11th, 2011

flatbread pizza with anchovies
If anchovies gross you out, know this: Compared to what people ate before there were anchovies, they’re practically cake and ice cream.

Because until about the 16th century there were no anchovies as we know them today. That is, small silvery fish that are boned, salt-cured and packed in oil.

Instead, there was garum — the juice of salted and fermented fish guts. Garum lost favor about 500 years ago when people learned how to make anchovies.

Can’t imagine why.

Anchovies, however, are not a singular fish. Most cuisines around the world have their own “anchovy,” most of which tend to be variants of one variety of fish, a relative of the herring.

Anchovies demystified »

Menu Planning vs. Cooking on the Fly — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, How-to, August 9th, 2011

cooking on the fly
Procrastination has been my strong suit ever since I can remember. Term papers were finished just before dawn on the day they were due. Studying for tests took place until the moment the bell rang, in an effort to cram in all I should’ve been paying attention to during the semester.

It’s quite funny, now that I’ve immersed myself in a world looming with deadlines. I’m not talking about my day job as a food writer. I’m talking about motherhood. Those in the trenches with me understand the feeling of a never-ending to-do list — laundry, homework help, cleaning, etc.

You’re wondering what any of this has to do with getting dinner on the table, right? Well, it certainly explains why I’m not a menu planner. I often give the excuse that I don’t want my “creativity” to be crowded. I say meal planning isn’t for me because I love the flexibility it offers to enjoy what I’m craving at the moment. The real reason I don’t plan our weekly meals, though, is to keep my love for cooking alive. If I planned our meals, I mean really sat down with a pen and paper, dinnertime would feel like a chore — and I already have plenty of those.

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