All Posts In How-to

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.

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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 »

How to Send Wine Back — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, How-to, September 7th, 2011

how to send wine back
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

Contrary to common conception, it isn’t easy being the “wine guy” in restaurants — your tablemates assume you always have a divining rod to the best bottle. But what happens when you don’t get a good bottle? Or when you get a spoiled one? How do you politely send it back without being a jerk?

It was with extreme caution last week that I was in this exact situation: I sent back a bottle of wine at a New York restaurant. Although the server didn’t know of my connection to wine, she had already generously offered me tastes of two other wines they had by the glass. I turned them down gently and instead went with another, a red that she swore by.

Find out how to send a bottle of wine back politely »

Laborless Dishes — Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

by in How-to, Recipes, September 2nd, 2011

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, and after a long three-month vacation, kids will be heading back to school in just days. Savor these last homework and activity-free days with friends and family, and prepare quick and easy, in-season recipes that can be made in minutes.

Leave it to 30-minute mogul Rachael Ray to concoct an impressive and flavorful burger in just a half hour. Her BBQ Chicken Burgers With Slaw (pictured above) from Food Network are packed with tangy barbecue flavors, including Worcestershire and hot sauces, garlic and grill seasoning. Topped with a mayo-free cabbage slaw, these burgers are not only filling, but healthful as well.

More quick and easy Labor Day recipes »

Jicama — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, September 1st, 2011

shrimp and jicama rolls
Imagine crossing a monster potato with a water chestnut.

That’s jicama for you. And while not much to look at on the outside, the crisp, crunchy texture and clean, sweet flavor inside make this veggie worth seeking out.

First, the basics. Jicama (pronounced HICK-a-MA) is a tuber — a big brown round root. A relative of the bean family, it is native to Mexico and South America.

Though most often eaten raw, such as chopped into salads, jicama can be steamed, boiled, sautéed or fried. And so long as you don’t overcook it, jicama retains its pleasantly crisp texture (think fresh apple) when cooked.

The flavor is on the neutral side, with a hint of starchy sweetness. It really is quite similar to water chestnuts, and can be substituted for them.

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How to Make the Perfect Milkshake at Home

by in How-to, August 30th, 2011

cookies and cream milkshake
There’s still a couple weeks of warm weather left and what better way to soak up the sun than with a frosty milkshake, at home. But what makes a good milkshake and how can someone at home re-create something as thick and delicious as they’d get at a restaurant?

At the recent Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, I had what I thought was the best milkshake from Bill’s Bar & Burger — a simple cookies and cream concoction. I had to find out their secret to a successful milkshake. I caught up with the creator, Brett Reichler, Corporate Executive Chef for BR Guest Hospitality, several weeks later for the answer.

According to Chef Reichler, there’s no such thing as a bad milkshake. “It’s a pretty personal thing — a person may like a thicker shake over a thinner, or vice versa,” he said. “I prefer a cookies and cream milkshake on the thicker side.” While his first choice is simple, he’s created everything from classic chocolate and vanilla milkshakes to popular flavors like the Apple Pie, Cheesecake, Strawberry and a Campfire Milkshake with toasted marshmallow on top.

5 Tips for the Perfect Milkshake at Home »

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 »

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