Now that the holidays are officially over and most of us are in cookie detox mode, it’s time to bring on the lighter appetizers for fun get-togethers you might be throwing. I’m a huge fan of Spinach Artichoke Dip. It’s one of those classic comforting appetizers and it’s perfect for these midwinter gatherings I’ve been throwing. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean that fun and simple soirees have to go away. I’ve been having friends over for casual midweek dinners and introducing them to new lightened-up recipes.
This Spinach Artichoke Dip from Ellie Krieger is the perfect example. You’ll never guess that this recipe is lightened up because it’s still super flavorful and just as addicting as its full-fat cousin. Plus, it would be an excellent addition to your upcoming Super Bowl menu. I made a few changes to spice things up a bit more and make it extra delicious. My favorite mix-in wound up being the addition of pepper jack cheese — it gave the dip an extra kick.
Get Gaby’s lightened-up version »
Mmmm … Nothing says good eats like soy residue.
Except that in Chinese cooking, it really can. And you very likely have enjoyed that soy residue. Many times and in many ways.
We’re talking about hoisin sauce, a classic ingredient for sauces — both for dipping at the table and basting during cooking — in China.
Hoisin is a thick, dark red-to-brown sauce that blends sweet-spicy-savory flavors, a profile not all that different from ketchup. It is made from the leftover mash of fermented soy beans produced when making traditional soy sauces. That mash is combined with sugar, chiles, garlic, vinegar, salt, sometimes five-spice powder and either flour or cornstarch (to thicken).
Though hoisin is widely used on grilled meats (as a barbecue sauce) and in dipping sauces, it’s best known for a starring role in Peking duck and moo shu pork.
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This week, Small Kitchen College and The Naptime Chef are teaming up to host a Slow Cooker Challenge and Giveaway. So what do college cooks and moms have in common? They’re both extremely busy. We couldn’t agree more.
Winter is the perfect time to get cozy in the kitchen with a slow cooker. The ultimate time-saver, throw everything in one pot before heading off to work or class, and dinner’s ready by the time you get home.
Skip the canned stuff and try Robin Miller’s Minestrone Soup With Pasta, Beans and Vegetables (pictured above). It’s a well-rounded meal full of zucchini, spinach, carrots and cannellini beans. Garnish with fresh basil for even more flavor.
Make this Slow Cooker Chicken Chili for a crowd. Chipotle chiles add a smoky heat, while a pinch of ground cloves and a splash of beer keep things interesting.
More slow-cooker recipes »
If your New Year’s resolution is to eat smarter in 2012, it’s no secret that fresh fruits, vegetables, substantial proteins and healthful whole grains will become your best food friends this year. For a light meal that is easy to make and incorporates those hearty grains and good-for-you veggies, try serving a few simple yet satisfying salads in place of a traditional, heavy meal. Ditch those basic leafy green salads and opt for ones that boast interesting ingredients and textures.
Food Network Magazine’s Warm Beet-Orange Salad (pictured above) is packed with such in-season eats as tender roasted beets and bright citrus. Toasted walnuts add a welcome crunch to this colorful plate.
More recipes for Meatless Monday »
Though I’m known as something of a baker in my circle of friends, it wasn’t until very recently that I tried my hand at homemade coffee cake. You see, for most of my life, I didn’t really think it was something one could make at home. My experience had taught me that coffee cake was something you bought, packaged in a square white box that was emblazoned with the word “Entenmann’s.”
Part of the reason for this is that I didn’t grow up in a coffee cake household. On those rare occasions that we had a sweet morning baked good, it would be hearty, whole-wheat banana bread or a dense, barely sugared scone. My mother did not approve of cake for breakfast.
The only time I experienced this thing called coffee cake was when we’d visit my grandparents. They bought them regularly and kept them tucked into the space on top of the toaster oven. My grandfather’s habit was to have a small square around 10am, with a second cup of coffee and whatever scientific journal he was reading at the moment. As a perpetual dieter, my grandmother rarely sat down to a full slice, instead picking at the edges and crumbs each time she passed through the kitchen.
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Though there’s no question it’s been an unseasonably warm winter, the temperatures are finally starting to dip toward average January numbers and we’re once again craving rich, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that fill you up and keep you cozy. Nothing delivers that warmth quite like hearty soups, stews and chilis do. This weekend, cook up some steaming bowls of our favorite comfort foods and share the decadence with your family.
This thick, cheesy Chicken-Corn Chili (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine is loaded with protein-rich white beans, tender corn kernels and fragrant herbs. Ground cumin and a jalapeno pepper add flavor and subtle spice to the chili, while a dollop of sour cream offers tang. To save time in the kitchen, use store-bought rotisserie chicken and have the dish ready in just 40 minutes.
Danny Boome’s indulgent Braised Lamb Stew boasts cubes of cardamom-marinated lamb shoulder that are simmered until tender in a tomato-based sauce featuring chickpeas, chewy apricots and refreshing lemon zest.
More comfort food recipes »
Not sure what crème fraiche is or why you should care?
Consider it a relative of sour cream. Except that while both are white, thick and creamy, crème fraiche is the richer, sexier and more talented relative.
Here’s the deal. Like yogurt, sour cream and crème fraiche are dairy products produced thanks to the miracle of beneficial bacteria.
But while yogurt is made by adding those bacteria to milk, sour cream and crème fraiche are made from cream.
So what’s the difference? Sour cream is made from cream that is 20 percent fat; crème fraiche sports an even more succulent 30 percent. That may not sound like a big difference, but it matters in both taste and versatility. That extra fat turns crème fraiche into a kitchen workhorse.
But first, taste. While sour cream tastes, well, sour, crème fraiche is rich and tart. And as a byproduct of the bacteria added to produce it, crème fraiche tends to make other foods taste buttery. But unlike yogurt, crème fraiche isn’t particularly acidic (so it’s not great for marinades).
Get the recipe for Croque Monsieur »
The ultimate bowl of piping-hot comfort food, chicken soup is family-friendly fare at its best. Instead of resorting to the red and white soup can for a quick meal, try Food Network’s top five chicken soup recipes that are both easy to prepare and classically flavored. Serve up a bowl of our best today and bring a little warmth to these chilly winter nights.
5. Hearty Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup — Simmer the broth with a Parmesan cheese rind to add a subtle salty, nutty flavor to this veggie-packed soup (pictured above).
4. Thai Chicken Soup — Made with coconut milk and green curry paste, this Asian-inspired dish boasts a burst of color, thanks to sliced red bell peppers.
Get the top three recipes »
It’s a new year and headlines tell us it’s time for a “new you,” too. That’s easier said than done, as any mom will tell you. The responsibilities of parenthood don’t magically disappear with the change of the calendar year.
After a month of eating on the run, lots of baking, and perhaps lots of snacking, it’s hard to find the motivation to break up with those bad habits. Throw in a few major personal curve balls and well I found myself really down on my ability to find my way out, so to speak. What I realized while making a simple recipe for muesli the other day is that I need to be as kind and gentle with myself as I am with others.
How does any of this apply to getting the three meals plus snacks ready we need for our families each day? For starters, don’t try to change everything at once in terms of how you cook. Just because you know whole-grain flours are better for you, doesn’t mean you have to start using it in every recipe immediately. Give yourself time to learn how it works in your favorite dishes, and time to find new recipes you like using it in. Take a cue from your kids here, and learn how to walk before you leap right in.
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Nearly 1,400 Food Network Facebook fans responded when we asked the simple question: “Sweet or savory?” Many of you said savory, but even more of you said both. Find inspiration for your next meal in these highly rated recipes from your Food Network favorites.
Keep your New Year’s resolution on track by cooking up Giada’s Roman-Style Chicken (pictured above). Hearty diced tomatoes, prosciutto and bell peppers give this dish tons of flavor without a ton of calories. (One serving is only 266 calories!)
Try Ellie’s Three Bean and Beef Chili to warm up on a cold January day. Quick and easy, don’t be surprised if this becomes your go-to chili recipe.
Get more savory and sweet recipes »