by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, January 24th, 2014
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Recipes, January 9th, 2014
It’s officially birthday season in the d’Arabian household: Two of my daughters, my husband, my brother-in-law and two nephews (who live a few houses away) all have birthdays within a three-week period. (Come to think of it, maybe we just have a big family?)
Birthdays are a celebration of another year — a year filled with loving one another, laughing, good times, tough times and being connected. The candles on the cake remind us that life is in session and we are participating. And the number of candles isn’t the only reminder (“Mom, your cake has so many candles it’s going to catch fire!”). How we celebrate also speaks to the passage of time. It seems like just yesterday we were lighting a “1” candle on a cupcake that my daughter couldn’t have cared less about and giving her gifts that she lacked the dexterity to open. The princess party years breezed by, although if you had asked me as I stood in line, yet again, at Disney Store for the latest sparkly costume, I was sure they wouldn’t. Last week, a new milestone: our first “real” boy/girl party. Valentine turned 9 and wanted an evening party, including dinner and a dance area on our patio.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Holidays, December 27th, 2013
I’d like to commit to having a salad a day this year. Who is with me?
Perhaps I should back up and start with a confession: I’m not a naturally disciplined person. Left to my devices, I will sleep until 10am, lounge about in sweats all day, never work out and order in spicy Thai food until my palate finally forces me to switch to a day of pizza(!). Yes, natural me is an ugly scene. That’s the bad news. The good news is I know this about me. And I also know how to create a life I really want, despite my human imperfections. What is the secret? It all comes down to one thing: creating habits that support the life I truly want to live that will circumvent my natural (read: lazier) tendencies. And what better time to start a new habit than now, amidst all the belly-gazing the new year inspires?
Why a salad a day? Why not an apple, as the saying goes? I’ve already done an apple a day for a year. It was brilliant and I still have an apple most days — proof that habits, even good ones, die hard, which is why it is doubly wise to choose our habits purposefully. Back to our salad, I feel better when I eat raw vegetables. I have more energy, my skin is clearer, my body feels leaner and I feel generally healthier. Committing simply to “eat more raw veggies” in the new year would be to trust my whims to lead me to a crudite plate night after night. As I mentioned before, I know myself. The first week, I would be making a gorgeous platter with elegant zucchini spears, cutely bulbous tiny heirloom tomatoes and mini sweet peppers perfect for scooping up a low-fat yogurt dip. But by the end of the month, I’d be pulling a baby carrot from the leftover dregs of my daughter’s lunchbox, mentally checking off the veggie resolution box. Not good.
Keep reading for recipes
by Maria Russo in Food Network Chef, December 12th, 2013
I adore everything that New Year’s Eve represents: fresh starts, resolutions and Harry running through the streets of New York City to kiss crinkly-faced Sally at midnight. My one gripe is that the critical moment happens too late for my circadian rhythm. Still, I love the holiday too much to ignore it, blithely heading to bed at 10pm and casually waking up the next morning, as if the whole year didn’t just change. That feels wrong. Instead, I’ve developed my own system for celebrating the New Year with gusto, within the confines of a reasonable bedtime. I’d like to say that I have developed my New Year celebration strategies for the benefit of my four young daughters. But, the unapologetic truth is, I’m just tired. I need my sleep. Having little ones at home is just a bonus excuse for not making it to the midnight toast. Anyone else relate? Whatever your reasons for hitting the hay early this year, I am pleased to share my three secrets to celebrating the new year’s arrival without having to actually witness it.
1. Pick a different time zone
I learned this one nine years ago when my (French) husband Philippe and I moved to the United States. On December 31, we still called all of our friends and family over in France at midnight (their time) to toast the New Year. We listened to their noisemakers and laughed along with their parties in full swing. We celebrated with them via phone, felt the joy of the upcoming year and hung up. I felt partied out a good half day before the ball would drop in Times Square. So, what started out as a phone call has turned into a yearly tradition with our daughters: We celebrate New Year’s as the French do, meaning in their time zone. We do a sit-down dinner complete with fancy-looking food for our whole family, toast each other with sparkling cider and call the family back in France at midnight, which is 3pm for us. And even I can stay up for that. For ideas on a few festive holiday dishes that will excite both kids and adults, try my recipes for Bacon Ranch Cream Cheese Wellington, a Carrot Hummus Platter and Chocolate Chip Biscookies.
Get more of Melissa’s ideas
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Holidays, December 5th, 2013
It’s Thursday, and while that means everyone is just one day away from the weekend, it also means it’s time to throw back — to an earlier period in Food Network’s history. Check back on FN Dish every Thursday to find the latest #tbt of your favorite chefs and get a retro look at their earliest days on TV.
Long before Melissa d’Arabian provided parents with a one-stop guide to combatting picky eating in kids or started writing for this very blog, she was a devoted Food Network fan looking to take her love of cooking to the next level. She ultimately earned the chance to do just that when she proved her commitment to the kitchen once and for all by getting cast on Food Network Star, Season 5 — and winning. This mom of four impressed the Selection Committee with her personable charm and family-friendly recipes so much so that she went on to star in her first-ever Food Network series, Ten Dollar Dinners.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Holidays, November 21st, 2013
I love the excitement of the holiday season, and I even crave a bit of the chaos that comes with being pulled in a million directions. Still, I like to keep (most of) my sanity, especially in the kitchen, which I like to consider my own little haven. Here are some of the biggest mistakes people make in the holiday kitchen, along with a quick fix for each one.
1. Edible gifts: There’s nothing like getting a tasty homemade gift!
The big mistake: making them at the last minute. One year I decided to make all my neighbors Homemade Apple Tarts (pictured above). Everyone loved them, but they needed to be made and delivered fresh, which meant I was up all night making pie after pie.
The fix: Take a tip from those high-end croissant dough delivery places and give frozen (un)baked goods. My Scones can be whipped up in a flash, flavored according to your preferences, cut into triangles and frozen unbaked. Give them frozen so the recipients can bake them according to their schedule.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, November 7th, 2013
I don’t want to scare you, but Thanksgiving is one week from today. Until now, I have purposely ignored all the too-early holiday decorations put out by overeager stores. I don’t mean to be a Scrooge. I just don’t want to get sick of the holidays because I love them so dearly. So I systematically turn my cart down another aisle anytime I catch even the tiniest glimpse of a twinkling light or bit of tinsel when I’m shopping. (Am I alone in shielding my fall from winter so vociferously?) My point is: If you do the same, this is your official alert to wake up and smell the pumpkin pie. It’s officially the holiday season.
Some readers have already been asking me about family traditions: Who does the cooking? How do I include my kids? Since my head is out of the sand and I’m fully embracing the season, I thought today would be a great time to answer those questions with some tips and ideas on how to include the kiddos in the holiday cooking (and eating!). And given that I have a couple of pickier eaters in my brood, I’m throwing in some extra pointers on that front too.
Get my top five ways to include the kids in holiday meals
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, October 24th, 2013
Some of you know that I live in San Diego, which I love. You may also know (if you read my post on pumpkin puree) that I feel a little left out of the fall rituals that I cherished during my years living back East — pulling out the cardigans, folding up and putting away all my “summer clothes,” switching to roasted dinners, eating winter squash (I just had perfect watermelon, and it’s November!). But I had a glimmer of a cold front arriving the other day. I hopped out of the shower, grabbed my jar of coconut oil, and it was solid. You see, coconut oil melts at 76 degrees F, so it has been probably 10 months since I’ve seen solid coconut oil in my home. I can officially join the rest of the country celebrating autumn. Solid coconut oil is my personal version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte — it lets me know it’s OK to start my holiday shopping.
Coconut oil is perhaps the most purchased and used oil in my house, because I use it in the kitchen and as a beauty product; I have one jar in the pantry and one in my bathroom. This versatile oil is solid at comfortable room temperature, but its low melting point means it is usually on the brink of melting. This is actually a huge plus, because it can act like solid fats (butter, shortening) in a cool room, but just adding a few more degrees of heat will enable you to treat it like almost any other oil (with an amazing subtle taste). So if you want to cook with it as a solid (try replacing some of the shortening or butter in crust), then you would likely want to chill it a little in the refrigerator (or just keep your kitchen cold). If you want to cook with coconut oil as a flavorful substitute for other oils (try sauteing carrots in coconut oil with some shallots and chipotle powder), then you can just spoon out the oil and let it melt in a pan — or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. To use coconut oil as a beauty product, I just scoop out a little and place it in my palm, where it melts from my skin’s heat within seconds.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, October 10th, 2013
I’ve always had the dream of being that mom on the block who just always happens to have a big kettle of brothy soup simmering on the stove, on the off-chance that the neighborhood kids playing kickball in the street want to come in out of the cold and warm up to a steamy mug of goodness. Word would spread, and perhaps some neighbors would drop by, lured by the savory smells wafting out of our always-opening front door. I’d smile warmly (I’m certain I wouldn’t be on a work deadline of any sort), and I’d hand them a bowlful of liquid heaven, along with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.
Turns out, though, my four girls don’t play kickball, and I don’t allow them in the street anyway. Plus, as I type, just days from November, I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Soup is a year-round affair, if you ask me, but even here in San Diego, fall and winter seem to call for it all the more. Everyone loves soup this time of year, right? It makes us feel comforted and cozy. But in case you needed them, here are six more reasons to love soup:
1. Soup’s a no-brainer way to lose weight.
Yes! Did you know there are studies showing that simply starting meals with a healthy soup promotes weight loss? I love habits that do the work for me. All you have to do is adopt the habit. Why not start with my White Gazpacho or the Roasted Tomato Winter Gazpacho in my cookbook?
5 more reasons to love soup
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, In Season, September 26th, 2013
I have a sweet tooth, so my favorite part of a meal is dessert. In addition to being sweet and fabulous, though, dessert can be a great strategic player in helping picky eaters becoming more adventurous. And I don’t mean in the old-school “clean your plate so you can eat dessert” sort of way.
Here are five dessert strategies that I use in our household to combat picky eating:
1. Encourage an adventurous palate.
Most kids love dessert. So if you serve a child who loves cookies a new kind of cookie (say, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie instead of her normal favorite gingersnap), she will probably dig it. And then you can have a conversation about how fun it was to try something new. (If she doesn’t go for the swap, no big deal, because dessert is an optional course; there’s no risk of you caving in and becoming a short-order cook.)
It’s officially fall. I know this not because I went shopping and saw Christmas decorations this weekend (although I did), but because I’ve seen the numerous Facebook photos of people posing with their first pumpkin lattes of the season. Meanwhile, I barely managed to get the requisite first day of school photo posted of my actual children, let alone of a cup of coffee. So if I am to believe Facebook and Twitter (I do), then autumn has arrived somewhere in the United States. I take that on faith, however, because I’m living in a heat wave without the benefit of air conditioning in either my home or office. People are raving about the joys of wearing a cardigan, while we are taking cold showers and standing under the ceiling fan to cool down before we crawl into blanket-less beds at night. We are not seeking out and photographing steamy drinks.
But I have a love affair with all things pumpkin, and it lasts all year long. I’ll open a big can, freeze half and stick the rest in the fridge to fortify muffins, thicken a soup or make a smoothie. It’s full of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a few grams of protein — a veritable nutritional bargain at 50 calories a serving. (I remind us all that this is squash. We drink squash with our coffee. I love America.)
Get my Iced Pumpkin Soy Vanilla Latte recipe