I grew up eating meals from a cast iron skillet. I’m pretty sure my mom got her skillet from her mom, and so on and so on. The reason those meals were so memorable was because the more you use cast iron, the more flavor it retains and thus infuses into food. It can be a cheesy egg frittata, Grandma’s scalloped potatoes or an aunt’s Sheppard’s pie — the older the pan, the better the flavor. Cornbread is a great example. Traditional cornbread just doesn’t taste or look the same when you bake it in a baking dish (yes, I’ve done it, and probably even on this blog).
With a cast iron pan, you can preheat and “grease” the pan first, which gives the finished bread that incredible crisp-around-the-edges-moist-in-the-middle texture. But those recipes use heaps of butter which, as I discovered during recipe testing, isn’t needed. To replace traditional fat (sometimes more than a stick of butter), I used low-fat buttermilk and 2% Greek yogurt. I still greased the pan with some melted butter for the same incredible flavor and color. Whether your cast iron pan is old or new, try this recipe and let me know what you think!
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Cost-conscious cooking is on everyone’s to-do list these days. Selecting healthy and affordable food might seem like a challenge, but nutritious and inexpensive are not mutually exclusive concepts. Follow these tips so you can enjoy delicious fare at a great price.
• Use weekly grocery store ads to plan your weekly menu (do it on the weekend and make it a family affair)
• While reading the circulars, check for foods you buy regularly
• Get a coupon app for your smart phone and use that too (like coupons.com)
• Generate a shopping list for the week that you can stick to
• If your favorite store isn’t offering competitive prices, ask them to price match
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Most people love coconut-crusted chicken, fish and shellfish. Problem is, most coconut-crusted dishes contain lots of fat from heavy egg-based batters and pan-frying or deep-frying in lots of oil. That’s a shame because coconut “meat” is high in fiber and has a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar. It’s also rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA’s), which, unlike long-chain fatty acids (LCFA’s), have no negative effect on cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. The good news is, you can create a crunchy coconut exterior without tons of fat and calories. In this recipe, I coated chicken with three simple layers: flour, egg whites and coconut. The crust is light and delicious and also works well with fish and shrimp. The tangy and slightly spicy pineapple salsa takes the dish over the top. Let me know what you think! Read more »
Corn and flour tortillas have made a big splash on supermarket shelves recently. From whole grain to flavored to low-carb, you can find a tortilla variety to please everyone in the family. Check out some great uses for tortillas beyond the traditional wrap or fajita.
• Create quick, thin pizzas: top flour tortillas with pizza sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and fresh veggies; bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes.
• Start your day with egg tacos: fill flour tortillas with scrambled eggs, pepper jack or cheddar cheese and your favorite salsa. Read more »
I adore cooking food on a cedar plank. Why? Let me count the ways…
1. Baking on a cedar plank imparts a subtle wood flavor to meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, and vegetables, adding warmth and complexity to any dish.
2. The baking planks are designed for baking in the oven and they last for years (even if they crack, you can place them on a baking sheet to catch any juices).
3. Wooden planks belong in a healthy cook’s arsenal because, once seasoned the first time, they retain their moisture and require very little, if any, fat to prevent sticking.
4. Because wooden planks retain moisture, they help maintain the natural juices in meats and vegetables, keeping the food moist as well as flavorful.
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The great thing about bacon is that everyone loves it and a little goes a long way to enhance a dish. You don’t need to pile it on to get huge flavor. I mean, look at the calories and fat in this feast — it proves that you can enjoy bacon without loads of extra fat or calories.
I love the way the bacon spruces up mild-flavored chicken and keeps the lean meat moist as it roasts. I wanted to create a fantastic presentation so I cut the bacon into little squares and arranged it on top of the chicken, like rooftop shingles. I used applewood-smoked bacon because I like the way the smoky apple flavor (from various apple trees) partners with the chicken and honey mustard. You can use any smoked bacon you want, including hickory or brown sugar. Read more »
Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? But do you also love the 500-600 calories and 15-25 grams of fat per cup that comes with it (and who has just one cup)? Truth is, you don’t need heaps of fat to create a creamy and sensuous macaroni and cheese. A little butter goes a long way, as does good quality cheese. When it comes to toppings, I like the contrast of tender, cheesy noodles with crunchy toasted bread crumbs, but when you bake macaroni and cheese with a crust, the noodles dry out. So, for this dish, I created the topping in a skillet and then sprinkled it on at the end, creating golden brown, parmesan-spiked bliss. Also, lots of mac and cheese recipes call for a dash of hot sauce – the heat ramps up the cheese flavor and rounds out the dish. Instead of hot sauce, I decided to add a roasted jalapeno. The freshly roasted pepper adds the perfect amount of smoky heat and a splash of color. I think you’ll adore this! Read more »
The chimichanga, or chimi as it’s affectionately termed in the Southwest, is a deep-fried burrito stuffed with meat, vegetables and spices. Once fried to perfection, chimichangas are often topped with cheese and served with a variety of condiments, such as green onions, diced tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and black olives. Sounds delicious, right? It is delicious, but consider that one restaurant-style chimi has around 760 calories, 34 grams of fat and 1,930 mg of sodium. With that much sodium, you’re done for the day — you’ll have reached your daily max in sodium in only one meal. Store-bought frozen chimichangas fare slightly better, with around 300-500 calories, 25 grams of fat and 1,200 mg of sodium per serving. Filling aside, it’s the deep-frying that does most of the damage. Regular burritos have about 200-300 calories and 10-20 grams of fat each, but drop them into the deep-fryer and you can add 225 calories and 21 grams of fat to each burrito. Yes, the deep-fried, crunchy exterior is great, but not worth the health consequences, especially when a healthier version is so easy to make.
You can stuff flour tortillas with delicious ingredients and then bake the chimichangas in the oven for the same, amazing result. Try this recipe and let me know if you agree. Read more »
In France they call it “en papillote”. In Italy, it’s “al cartoccio”. In America, we call it parchment cooking. What does it mean? Very simply, it’s a cooking technique that involves wrapping food, typically fish, chicken and/or vegetables in parchment paper. Once wrapped like an envelope, the “packet” is baked in the oven until the entire meal is moist, tender and cooked to perfection.
The technique may sound fancy in other languages, but it’s actually quite simple. Even better? It’s probably the least messy cooking method because it doesn’t involve any pots or pans. Nutritionally speaking, because all ingredients are assembled in a packet, very little (if any) fat is needed, making it a fantastic cooking technique for the Healthy Eats crowd. Read more »
Traditional pesto is a vibrant blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese and olive oil. The term “pesto” comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or crush (you might be familiar with the mortar and pestle, the tools often used in the preparation of pesto). Pesto has countless applications in cooking – it can be tossed with warm pasta or gnocchi, swirled into mashed potatoes, added to steamed vegetables, and spooned onto toasted bread (bruschetta). You’ll never run out of ideas and it’s a quick cook’s best friend. Keep basil pesto in your refrigerator-arsenal for last minute meal solutions. Read more »