by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, April 4th, 2015
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, March 21st, 2015
It’s Easter week, so we are loading up the minivan with the kids and heading out to spend the holiday with family. One of the great pleasures of my life is turning around from the front passenger seat of our minivan and seeing all four of my kids sitting in their seats, all buckled and excited for whatever adventure awaits the d’Arabians. Something about that view, even if they are just watching the DVD player that I swore I would never use when I bought the car, reminds me that at my core, the identity in life that brings me the most joy is that of being the mom of this family.
One of my favorite episodes of Ten Dollar Dinners is the one where my kids cooked with me. We made brunch: baked eggs with chorizo, a healthy smoothie and chocolate veggie pancakes. Valentine and Charlotte helped me cook (wow, they look young to me now in that episode!), while Margaux, Oceane and Philippe joined us to eat at the end of the episode. (It was the only time that gorgeous dining room table that our prop stylist had found at vintage shop was ever featured in an episode!) That was a real glimpse into what our family is like around the table, which is how I probably picture my family the most. The only unnatural part of that brunch (other than the cameras!) was the fact that we had to ask Philippe to speak in English to the girls for the purposes of TV. In real life, he speaks to them only in French. (In fact, for years the girls thought he didn’t know how to speak English! But that’s a story for another day.) If you listen closely, you can actually hear Oceane slip up and reply to Philippe in French in the last few seconds of the show.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, March 7th, 2015
We moved into a new house last weekend. While it was only a few blocks away from our old house, the logistics were deceptively still monumental. The upside of moving, however, is that you purge, if only to save yourself from having to tape up, carry and unpack yet another box. So, in the spirit of celebrating spring (and because this is all so very fresh in my mind with our move), I’m sharing with you exactly how I do my favorite kind of spring cleaning: Clear the Pantry Week.
First, I should admit up front that I don’t love to clean in general. When friends say they find it soothing or relaxing, it only makes me wonder if they’ve never been to a spa. So let that shed a little bit of light onto my loose use of the term “favorite” when I’m describing any cleaning task. But stay with me here, because Clear the Pantry is a fun game, and I don’t mean that in the same way I try to talk my daughters into making their beds every morning by singing our way through the steps. I actually like Clear the Pantry (CTP) Week. And, unlike lots of spring cleaning tasks, CTP will actually save you cash immediately, which is the same thing as making money, except better because the saving is after-tax.
CTP, at its simplest, is a commitment to shop from our own pantries instead of the store, which reduces clutter and improves inventory rotation and cash flow. We’ll have fun, your pantry and fridge and freezer will be clean, and you’ll have some extra cash in your pocket. Ready?
How to CTP in 6 Easy Steps:
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, February 7th, 2015
My daughters had been begging me to buy a particular box of cereal for the month of March. In our house, cereal is either healthy enough to be considered a breakfast item (by virtue of low sugar and high protein and fiber), or it is a dessert treat that we buy once a month. This box of cereal was the “dessert” cereal for the month of March. I brought the cereal home today, and the girls cheered with excitement, knowing that dessert tonight would be a bowl of crispy chocolate cereal in cold creamy milk.
I returned to work back in my office. Suddenly I heard a soft knock and saw the eyes of my 7-year-old Margaux peeking through the cracked door. I knew it was important. I stopped my typing and invited Margaux in, with her earnest, somber face. In her little hands, she held the box of chocolate cereal. “Mom, I just checked, and this cereal has 13 grams of sugar. I don’t think it’s very healthy at all.” She was conflicted — a gift of being a reader and being incapable of unseeing what she had read on the label. What followed was a conversation about our health, making balanced choices and reading labels. We brainstormed some options that would enable her to enjoy the cereal sometimes, but without feeling bad about it. (Simply not eating this cereal again, however, was not on the table for Margaux.) We talked about maybe buying a treat cereal less often — perhaps every six weeks — and making the servings a little smaller in order to reduce the sugar. She suggested maybe skipping the piece of candy she is allowed at the movies next time to balance out the sugar. (I don’t hold high hopes for her making good on that one, if I’m honest.)
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, January 24th, 2015
There are questions that I am asked over and over — by journalists, fans, and TV and radio hosts. One of them: What is my favorite thing to cook? The answer: my Potato-Bacon Torte (which, interestingly, seems to be my fans’ favorite too!). But the reason may surprise you. It actually surprised me, once I took the time to give real thought to the follow-up question, “Why?” — which no one ever seemed to ask, until recently.
The Potato-Bacon Torte (pictured above) is certainly tasty comfort food: rich with cream, slightly smoky from bacon and deliciously encrusted with the unmistakable aroma of buttery crust that flakes under the pressure of teeth sinking in for a bite. The entire house smells like a fluffy, warm croissant when I bake it. A small sliver served with a simple green salad with a tangy Dijon vinaigrette is the perfect winter supper, if you ask me. And the recipe costs pennies per serving to make, so it aligns with the frugal me.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, January 10th, 2015
They say breakfast is the most-important meal of the day because it kick-starts the day with energy-giving nutrients. I agree, and there is another reason why I think we should all give our breakfasts a second look: The choices I make early in the day impact the choices I make later in the day. And that means that eating a healthy breakfast means that eating healthier throughout the day will just plain be easier. (And I’m all for anything that makes healthy living easy living!)
I make no secret about how much I love a morning smoothie! I can toss just about anything in my blender and within seconds I have a portable breakfast that I can sip as I take the dog for her morning walk, or read my morning devotional. Both of my cookbooks feature smoothie recipes that range from the trusty Green Morning Smoothie in Ten Dollar Dinners to the caffeinated Coffee-Oat Smoothie in Supermarket Healthy. Ask me what my favorite kitchen appliance is and you’ll probably find me waxing poetic about my trusty blender and how I use it multiple times a day, making everything from protein drinks to fruity smoothies for the kids’ snacks to raw veggie soups.
But what about those days when I don’t have access to my blender? How does a smoothie lover go about making a blenderless smoothie?
by Maria Russo in Books, Contests, Food Network Chef, December 29th, 2014
I’m thrilled that my new cookbook, Supermarket Healthy, was released this week! In it, I share recipes and strategies for healthy, accessible and affordable cooking. One of my favorite parts of the book is where I share ideas for stocking your pantry, because sometimes half the battle is having the right stuff on hand to make 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night a little less daunting. So, in that spirit, I thought I would share what my favorite kitchen tools are.
I’ll begin by saying that cooking healthy is actually quite easy! While you don’t need special equipment, these five kitchen tools are among the most-used in my Supermarket Healthy kitchen.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Recipes, December 27th, 2014
With the new year just days away, the focus has already started to shift from hearty, indulgent holiday buffets to lighter meals ideal for 2015 resolutions. This year, when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, skip the fad diets and embrace wholesome, naturally leaner cooking. All you need are a few go-to strategies and recipes you can count on, and for those, look no further than Melissa d’Arabian‘s all-new cookbook, Supermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot.
In her brand-new publication, the host of Ten Dollar Dinners and the Picky Eaters Project shares how simple it can be to not only feed your family better-for-you dishes, but do that on a budget as well. She’s introducing 130 recipes for savory and sweet picks alike, including Deconstructed Lasagna and Cinnamon Popovers with Cream Cheese Glaze. Perhaps best of all, you don’t need to seek out specialty shops to find recipe ingredients; your everyday market is A-OK. Just stick to Melissa’s good-to-know tricks for navigating the grocery store and check out her recipe Blueprints — customizable templates for creating such favorites as meatballs and trail mix — and you can indeed start the new year on a healthier note.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Holidays, December 13th, 2014
I write you from the comfort of my bathrobe, snuggled up under a thick comforter. Next to me is my daughter Valentine, whose throaty cough shakes the bed and my laptop about twice a minute. Yes, it’s cold and flu season. The other girls are off ice-skating with their cousins, but Valentine and I are homebound, sucking on homeopathic little pastilles every 15 minutes, trying to head off the virus that seems to have hit us overnight.
What I’m craving, appropriately, is a broth-y chicken soup, and so is Valentine. I read in a journal somewhere (or was it my grandmother who told me this? Details are fuzzy when I’m under the weather) that there is actual evidence to support broth-based soups as a treatment for the common cold. Good enough for me.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Holidays, November 29th, 2014
Our annual Mother-Daughter Holiday Tea is a treasured tradition that marks the start of the holiday season for me and my four young daughters. Every year, we invite the women we treasure into our home to eat, drink, laugh and connect on the first Saturday in December. My girls set their holiday calendars to the Mother-Daughter Tea, and so do I.
This year was shaping up to be a perfect start to the holiday season. For the first time in years, I wasn’t traveling the week leading up to the tea, so I baked at my leisure, planned my menu and relaxed. Philippe and I made Potato-Bacon Tortes like crazy one night. Margaux and I made hundreds of Buttermilk Scones (rosemary and chocolate chip scones, as well as lemon zest-vanilla bean-cardamom scones) in advance and froze them uncooked, ready to be baked up fresh on Saturday morning. Valentine and I made another round of scones another day, but gluten-free. (Get my bake-ahead tips and more baking recipe ideas here.) I bought special chocolate to melt for the kids’ favorite chocolate fondue fountain. I planned out the party logistics with the confidence of someone who had done this all dozens of times. I even had the creative space to brainstorm a genius addition to the d’Arabian tradition: a fully stocked hot chocolate station. It’s a veritable buffet of goodies like marshmallows, whipped cream, caramel sauce and mini chocolate chips to pile on top of steamy hot cocoa. I knew I was headed for the Best. Tea. Ever.
For the d’Arabian family, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season. We put up holidays lights, shop for a Christmas tree, light up the fireplace (even though it’s 70 degrees) and decorate the house. The girls celebrate with a teapot full of homemade hot cocoa (tip: stir in a spoonful of pumpkin puree for a little extra fiber and vitamins), and we start our holiday baking. Our annual Mother-Daughter Holiday Tea is usually the first week of December, which means we typically have one or two weeks to bake up the treats. And because the holidays are our favorite time to share homemade gifts with friends, neighbors and teachers, we have plenty of baking to do!
My girls, of course, want to be part of it all, and that’s the fun of it — it’s a family activity! One of the best pieces of advice I can give parents who are looking to cook more with their kids is: Plan it for when you have plenty of time. Make it a Friday night activity after an early dinner, or spend Sunday afternoon with music on and the oven humming, keeping you cozy and warm while you bake away lazily. To get the baking done in time, then, we have to start early and freeze just about everything. So whether we are cooking for neighbors’ gifts or getting a jump-start on party food, I embrace make-ahead options that can be frozen (which in baking, is just about everything).
And that leads me to my No. 1 holiday baking secret weapon: my Simple Buttermilk Scones (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine. They are quick to make, they are scalable, and they are a versatile canvas for almost any flavor profile you can imagine — add tiny chocolate chips and fresh rosemary, or orange zest and dried basil, or dried edible lavender and chopped white chocolate.