Tag Archives: cooking tips

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic | Paleo + Life

Food Lovers’ Fridays: I’m a big fan of bringing classical cooking methods and recipes into the home kitchen. Today’s post is part of a series meant to highlight those traditional techniques and recipes that can be used in or adapted to paleo cooking.

I’m just gonna come out and say it: You need this.

That’s a bold pronouncement, I know. But I’m not backing down from it. Roasted garlic can change your culinary life.

When you switch from the standard American diet to a whole foods/ancestral eating template, one of the things you lose is hyperpalatable food. Processed foods have scientifically engineered ratios of sugar, salt and fat to get you hooked. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a smart business decision. Big flavor makes you come back for more (and more and more).

So when you make the change to a new way of eating, getting used to natural tastes can be a challenge. But don’t despair. Real, whole food can have big, intense flavors, too — you just have to figure out how to make them happen.

Enter roasted garlic.

Roasted Garlic | Paleo + Life

Creamy, carmelized, and meltingly tender, roasted garlic will become your new go-to flavor booster. Less than an hour in a hot oven makes the sharp tang of raw garlic mellow into something so different, so luscious, it’s hard to believe it’s the same food. Spread it on crackers, mash it into soups, rub it on steaks or baked potatoes, mix it into guacamole, make salad dressing with it — once you’ve made a batch, you’ll want to use it all the time.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Roasted Garlic

Ingredients

  • 5 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon herbs (I like rosemary or marjoram)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the papery skin off of the garlic heads, but do not separate the cloves. Cut off the tips of each head of garlic (approximately 1/4").
  3. With aluminum foil, make a small packet to hold the garlic. Place a dollop of coconut oil on the cut side of each head. Sprinkle the herbs and salt over the garlic; close the foil packet tightly.
  4. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes, or until garlic cloves are softened and lightly colored.
  5. Remove from oven; set aside until ready to serve.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/roasted-garlic/

Ten Great Food Gifts

Toddler-Proof Holiday Tree | Paleo + Life

This is our 2014 Christmas tree, because the toddler is, well, a toddler.

 

At this point in my life, I am solidly in the camp of preferring experiences to “stuff.” Not that I don’t enjoy gifts when I receive them — Vera the Vitamix was my birthday pressie, after all — but what I want most is more time with and for the people I care about. A good dinner with my husband, or brunch with a friend, is far more tempting than any gift I could receive.

That said, my absolute favorite gifts to give and receive are food-related. I love it when someone takes the time to offer something tasty from their kitchen — it’s usually the sort of thing you wouldn’t think to make for yourself, and always delicious. Giving food gifts also makes me incredibly happy. I grow a good number of herbs in our garden, and because so much of our family is far away, I love being able to share a little bit of Oregon with them.

Here are my favorite Paleo + Life recipes for gift giving:

  1. Herb Infused Oils — I like to put these in beautiful bottles like these from Cost Plus World Market. Make multiple flavors, or do one jar of flavored oil and another of flavored vinegar.
  2. Blueberry Shiso Jam — because I don’t can, I like to make freezer jam instead. So in my kitchen, this is reserved for local gifts, which I package in plastic jam containers or mason jars.
    If you use Bonne Maman preserves, their jars are especially attractive and great to recycle as well.
    In any case, if you haven’t canned the jam, sure you let the recipient know that it should be used or frozen fairly quickly.
  3. Apple Sassy Applesauce — this can be packaged the same way as the jam above.
  4. Candied Pecans (part of my Figgy Pudding recipe) — this is a hard gift to part with, largely because I have to stop myself from eating them all(!). Again, Cost Plus has perfect containers.
  5. Peppery Spice Mix from my Spiced Summer Burger recipe — I just make up a big batch of the spice mix and put it in a jar; it works with a variety of meats, or with portobello mushrooms if you want to make it vegan. I like these fancy shaped jars.
  6. Cinnamon Spice Nut Butter — a trio of this, the blueberry jam, and the applesauce would make an absolutely killer present.
  7. Paleo No-Grain Granola — so easy to make (and eat,) big batches are a requirement. If you can stop yourself from eating it all, put together a few jars. Perhaps a trio with the original recipe and the suggested variations?
  8. Mango Citrus Salsa — Good citrus is available right now, and frozen mango can be found in most stores. This salsa goes really well with seafood or meat, and is full of healthy ingredients. With the New Year — and New Year’s resolutions — just around the corner, start them off right.
  9. Perfectly Paleo Peppers and Onions — Make this recipe as given, then put in a jar with a couple of extra garlic cloves, a  sprig or two of rosemary, and enough olive oil to cover it.
    It lasts a surprisingly long time in the fridge and is a great base for a meal.
  10. Apricot Cardamom Sauce (from my Apricot Crepe Cakes recipe) — This is a flowery, sour sauce that I love as is, but it might be too mouth-puckering for more sensitive palettes. To tamp down the  tartness, increase the honey to 1/4 cup.

If you’ve got a favorite food gift, please share it in the comments!

Food Lover’s Fridays: Bone Broth

Bone Broth | Paleo + Life

Food Lovers’ Fridays: I’m a big fan of bringing classical cooking methods and recipes into the home kitchen. Today’s post is part of a series meant to highlight those traditional techniques and recipes that can be used in or adapted to paleo cooking.

In my continuing quest to keep the creeping crud away, I decided to revisit one of my favorite foodstuffs. It seems weird to consider broth a food, because I have always used it as an ingredient, but lately I’ve gotten into just cups of bone broth on its own.  Apparently this makes me trendy: the chef of Hearth restaurant in New York has opened a to-go shop just for bone broth.

Trendy or not, homemade broth or stock– the difference is that broth is made with meat, instead of just bones — has been my go-to, never-fail solution to sick for years. My kids all know the drill: if you’re sick enough to stay home from school, you’re getting broth for your meals. (Incidentally, this has prevented more than one case of “too sick to go to school.”) It’s the perfect base for making soups or for braises. If you eat/can tolerate rice or beans, they are so much tastier when cooked in broth rather than water.

Things to note: I’ve taken a tip from several other paleo bloggers and started making my bone broth in two phases. First, I cook the bones until they are softened:

Cooked bone | Paleo + Life

The bones go from this…

shattered bone | Paleo + Life

…to this.

Then I add the vegetables, and cook the mixture even longer.

Cooked broth/veg | Paleo + Life

 

 

A few broth tips: Though I haven’t yet tried it, Simone Miller of Zenbelly recommends adding egg shells to your broth if you happen to have them for extra calcium. I always use cooked bones — some cooks prefer a  “white stock”, where they blanch the bones, but I like the deeper flavor of cooked ones — and let the mixture go for days on end. In my experience, it takes between 24-48 hours to get the bones crumbly.
The broth here was made with turkey, but two or three chicken carcasses would produce about the same volume of broth. I like to add a little bit of salt when I add the vegetables, but because my broth is usually incorporated into other dishes, I don’t use much. Finally, some people like garlic in their stock, while others say it has too domineering a flavor. I add a couple of small pieces, but I think it is just as good without — cook’s choice.

Food Lover’s Fridays: Bone Broth

Ingredients

  • Poultry carcass (I used one from a cooked 18-20 lb. turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • 4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, quartered, peels left on
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 small cloves garlic, peels left on (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Using a meat cleaver or other strong knife, breakdown the carcass so that it fits into a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour in two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and then add water to cover the bones. Program slow cooker to longest setting; cook until the drumstick bones become softened enough to easily break. [This takes at least 24 hours in my cooker - you may need to reset the cooking cycle more than once.]
  2. Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic (if using) to the slow cooker; cook for at least another 8 hours. Allow to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to handle, strain solids from the broth and refrigerate immediately. If desired, broth may be frozen for later use.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/food-lovers-fridays-bone-broth/

From The Caterer’s Kitchen: Understanding Food Terminology

dice

I’ve been wanting to get back to this series for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting off this particular post. Why? I suppose it is because the topic is immense — there is just so much to know when it comes to food terminology. There are so many terms to learn and techniques to master, especially if you are new to the world of food. I thought I might never be able to stop writing.

Because the vast possibilities in the topic, it’s just too much to tackle all at once — it has to be broken up over several days to really do it justice. So I am offering a very small part today, and will revisit the topic of cooking terminology with more tips next time.

While there is so much techniques to learn, in my opinion, how to chop is the most fundamental piece. Even if you never turn on your stove or oven, you can still make hundreds of dishes just by combining various chopped items. The cutting techniques I use most often are the chiffonade, dicing, and mincing.

Chiffonade

I’ve shown you a chiffonade before, but wanted to demonstrate it here because it is such a useful technique. Any leafy greens or herbs can be sliced in this way. You simply stack them leaves like so:

stacked leaves

Then roll them up:

rolled leaves

and slice into little ribbons.

Slicing leaves

Use wider slices for salad greens or side dishes, narrower ones for coleslaw or stir fries, and skinny ones for herbs or garnishes. If your leaves are especially large, cut them in half along the stem line after you’ve done your chiffonade.

Dice

Dicing is beautiful. It’s equally simple, too – just slice your produce vertically, and then horizontally:

dice cuke

Et voila — you are done. Dicing, obviously, has a multitude of uses: salsa, salads, garnishes, or anywhere you want your food to look good. Dice food into smaller or larger pieces, depending on the use — small pieces in something like bruschetta, or larger dice for use in soups. Diced food cooks faster, and also looks nicer than a rough chop. If the appearance of your dish is important, it is worth doing a good dice.

Mincing

Mincing is like a much smaller, finer dice, but with a little less care taken. Usually, this is for ingredients that you want to use to flavor the dish overall, but that you don’t want to be the star of the dish or taste in quantity. Think of using slivers of garlic or onion in Chinese food, where they are primary ingredients, versus the subtlety of minced garlic or onion in a soup or casserole.

mince

Minces are cut in the same way as dices, just smaller. As a reminder, here’s a photo of dice and mince together:

dice and mince

Mincing is also good for potent leafy herbs — if I’m making a salad with fresh parsley or oregano, but don’t want them to be the most evident flavors in it, mincing them works really well to make them more subtle accents rather than having them take over the dish.

So there you have it:  my top three cutting techniques. Because they are fundamental, knowing these will get you pretty far in the kitchen. But as I said, this is such a huge topic that it will require several more posts to even scratch the surface. Drop a line in the comments if there is something in particular that you want me to tackle first.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Herb Infused Oils

Infused Herb Oil | Paleo + Life

Food Lovers’ Fridays: I’m a big fan of bringing classical cooking methods and recipes into the home kitchen. Today’s post is part of a series meant to highlight those traditional techniques and recipes that can be used in or adapted to paleo cooking.

The Husband and I are pretty comfortable with our lack of hipster cred, despite living in the city “where young people go to retire.” We’re at a different stage now: somewhat shocked to be “the grown ups” in the family, still getting that urge to call our parents to come fix it when something goes wrong (though we usually don’t), but overall, we’ve settled more or less comfortably into a fairly traditional kids/house/dog lifestyle. Hubs has even gone to the dad joke, more than once.

However, today’s Food Lover’s Friday is about herb infused oils, which makes me want to learn all of the hot new slang, so that I can impress upon you the awesomeness of this technique.
For one, it’s dead easy. Two, it is incredibly quick. Three, this much flavor will seriously up your dinner game. Fr fr.

Now that I’ve embarrassed my children (Hey, kids! Get off the internet! KThxBai. <3, Yr Mom), let’s get down to business. Infused oils are simple, elegant, and bring a whole new world of flavor to your table. Use them as the base for your salad dressings, drizzle them into soup, splash some on roasted veggies, mix them with sour cream for dipping sauce  — basically, anywhere you need a shot of fresh herbal flavor. Thinking ahead to the holidays (I know, I know, but I’ve been seeing decorations in the stores since August), flavored oils are a great gift. It’s something people rarely think to make for themselves, but love to get.

Garden Herbs | Paleo + Life

Rosemary, oregano, purple sage, and salad burnet in the garden. No matter what we dish out, these tough plants can take it.

I grow a mix of perennial herbs all over our garden — these plants are gorgeous and can take all sorts of neglect. When I make infused oils, my homegrown herbs are mostly what I use, since they are there. I like putting in a bit of this and a pinch of that, but you can always buy mixes if you don’t feel confident making up your own. Mixed herbs are incredibly easy to find at your grocery store or spice shop (Savory Spice Shop is incredibly convenient for me, so that’s where I tend to go). Just make sure wherever you buy your spices does a brisk business: you don’t want to make your oil with spices that are too old (ha, see what I did there? Old spice? Ahem).

I almost always use olive oil as the base, simply because I always have it on hand, but do try other oils like sesame or macadamia nut; they will add another interesting flavor note to the mix. Keep these in the fridge for the best flavor, and use within a month.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Herb Infused Oils

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive or other oil
  • Fresh herbs (for this batch I used 2 sprigs of rosemary, approximately 5" long)

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the herbs; they must be absolutely bone dry.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the herbs and oil. Over medium-low heat, warm the herbs for approximately 5-10 minutes, or until their flavor has suffused the oil. Remove from heat. When cool, strain the solids from the oil. Pour the oil into the container of your choice and refrigerate immediately. Use within one month.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/herb-infused-oils/

From the Caterer’s Kitchen: How to Measure

Utensils | Paleo + Life

 

For those just tuning in, From the Caterer’s Kitchen is an occasional series of kitchen tips, tricks and advice from my mother, a professional caterer for over 30 years. Interested? Start here.

As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was a fabulous cook. Holidays weren’t holidays unless we left her place with big smiles, rounded bellies and plates piled high with leftovers.

I rarely recall seeing her measure anything. She always seemed to just know when the food was done. She’d add a pinch of this, a smidgen of that, until it tasted right. My mother cooks in the same bold way,  though her professional training allows her to flex back and forth between confident improvisation and precise recipes. As a novice cook, however, this kind of confidence was a mystery to me. I didn’t understand how you could just “know.”

But as I gathered more experience, and learned to ‘taste’ in my head, I’ve begun to cook by instinct, too. By playing around with different ingredients, and making more than a few spectacular mistakes (crunchy pasta casserole, I’m looking at you), I learned where I can improvise and where I need to follow the rules. Measuring is one of those areas where a few simple rules can make a big difference.

Use the right tools.
Measuring cups for liquids are different from those for solids — do not mix them up. Measuring spoons can be used for either liquid or dry ingredients.

When measuring liquids, hold the cup at eye level.
For the most accurate reading, make sure your eye and the measuring line are on a level. It is easy to end up with too much or too little liquid and a ruined dish if not.

Level your dry measures.
After scooping up your dry ingredients, use the flat side of a butter knife to scrape off the excess and leave a smooth, flat surface. This is a favorite job for little kitchen assistants, by the way.

The sifter is your friend. 
You know how your hair can seem shorter on a humid day, because your curls are tighter? Well, flours do a similar thing. When flour has been sitting around, just hanging out, it tends to clump up, forming little lumps and nuggets. This means the scoop of flour you thought was 1/4 cup may be closer to 1/3 of a cup. In gluten-free/paleo baking, it’s particularly important to get these right. Some flours are more absorbent than others, and all have different characteristics than wheat flour does.
Use the sifter to get rid of these annoying bumps in your flour. Then when you put it into the cup, rather than dipping the measuring cup into the flour, use a spoon to scoop the sifted flour into the measuring cup. Then level it off, as above.

If you need to be precise, measure by weight.

I confess: this is more of a “do as I say, not as I do.” I don’t tend to do much baking, so I rarely ever encounter this concern.  But among professional bakers, weight (pounds, grams, kilos, and the like) is considered much more accurate than volume (cups, tablespoons, etc.). Kitchen scales can be quite inexpensive, but I recommend you spend a wee bit more to get an accurate one. Don’t forget to zero out your scale with your measuring implement on it, so that you are only weighing the amount of ingredients, not the ingredients plus the container.

Well there you have it. Five simple tips to improve your measurement accuracy. Drop a line in the comments if there’s something you think I should add, or anything I’ve forgotten.

From the Caterer’s Kitchen: The Difference Between Baking and Cooking

For those just tuning in, From the Caterer’s Kitchen is an occasional series of kitchen tips, tricks and advice from my mother, a professional caterer for over 30 years. Interested? Start here.

Broadly speaking, this is an easy one. Cooking takes place atop the stove; baking is what happens in the oven beneath it. Assuming, of course, you have a combination range and oven, rather than my dream kitchen set up of separate double wall ovens and range (along with an apron-front sink and a pantry big enough to hold a Costco’s worth of shopping… but I digress).

However, there is more to consider than those two differences. The easiest-to-understand explanation I’ve found, again, comes from On Cooking (for real: if you are at all serious about cooking, get yourself a copy. This book is fabulous). I rely heavily on these authors’ genius.

Both cooking and baking involve transforming food with heat. That heat can be transferred to the food either by a wet method (water or steam), a dry method (air or fat), or a combination of the two.
While cooking can be accomplished by any of these three, baking relies on the dry method: food surrounded by hot air in a closed space. This dry heat dries out the food and caramelizes it, giving baked foods their characteristic brown color.

Note that baking and roasting are the exact same thing. (This puzzled me for years.) I always assumed the difference was because roasting sounds wild and macho, like you’re standing around in your caveman loincloth cooking a whole pig on a spit, whereas baking is rather more precise and delicate. At any rate, it’s just an oddity of language that we tend to say roasting when talking about meat, and baking when we talk about bread or other dishes. I have noticed this is changing — it’s common to see a reference to roasted vegetables on a menu these days — but this division is still fairly prevalent.

Baking also requires much more care, I have found. Improvising is easy when the food is right in front of you on the stove: you can salvage a dish really quickly if you just need to add pepper or a bit of butter. If you’re making a casserole or a loaf of bread, however, that’s simply not possible. You need to start with a good recipe to be successful, and not deviate from it very much, unless you have an exceptional sense of how much seasoning is appropriate, or the best ratio of wet ingredients to dry ones in a baked good.

This need for care makes baking a tougher nut to crack for the new cook. Many times I thought I could get away with a loose recipe for something baked and I discovered to my everlasting disappointment that it didn’t quite take off. If you like to experiment, by all means, do — it’s the best way to learn, after all — just be prepared for the fact that not everything turns out to be edible in the end.

From the Caterer’s Kitchen: How to Read a Recipe

For those just tuning in, From the Caterer’s Kitchen is an occasional series of kitchen tips, tricks and advice from my mother, a professional caterer for over 30 years. Interested? Start here.

How to read a recipe seems like a slightly unnecessary topic. If you’ve figured out how to read blogs, or get onto social media, of course you can read something as simple as a recipe, right? (Seriously: Instagram makes me feel ancient and not so bright. And Twitter? Sweet Lord, I have no clue.)
But take a moment to consider the job of the recipe. It has to get the idea of a particular combination of ingredients from the mind of the writer onto the plate of the reader — who may not be anywhere near that writer. It’s worth taking a moment to figure out how to set yourself up for success.

1) Read the recipe ALL THE WAY TO THE END. Several times.

I know what you’re thinking: Duh. Of course I’m reading the recipe. How else do I know I want to make it? Bear with me. Consider: it’s 4:30 in the afternoon, and you’ve got a hankering for jerk chicken. (This isn’t just me, yes? I thought not.)
You find a recipe that sounds good to you, and has a not-too-long list of ingredients. You check the spice drawer and the fridge, and you figure, “hey, I’ve got all of that — it’s go time.” So you put on your favorite cooking music, find an apron and get to work. But next thing you know, you are elbow-deep in a pile of chicken parts, allspice, nutmeg and scallions when you come across the phrase “marinate overnight.”
Screech goes the needle off of that record (oh, man, I am dating myself. Does anyone even know what a record player is anymore?). Next thing you know, you’re either cooking chicken without nearly as much flavor as you wanted or you’re sticking this batch in the fridge with one hand and ordering takeout with the other. Sigh.

So yes: Read the whole thing. Then read it again.

2) Figure out what all of the abbreviations and terms mean.
Because: chiffonade. What the heck *is* that? (I explain here.) Not to mention that there are just about as many ways to abbreviate as there are teenagers at the mall. I have chosen not to use abbreviations on this blog, but obviously, I am not the boss of the rest of the world. So make sure you know the definitions of any abbreviations or cooking terms in the recipe before you start to make it. Most good cookbooks, I find, have either an introductory section where all of terms are defined, or an appendix which gives abbreviations used, definitions and, if an international cookbook, conversions from US measurements to grams, kilos, etc.

3) Learn to taste recipes before you make them.
This probably sounds like some sort of weird Matrix-y mental gymnastic exercise, but it is my favorite tip on this list. Why? Because in order to do it, you need to eat. A lot. You’ve got to do it three times a day anyway, right? So why not learn something along the way?

There are two steps: first, pay attention when you eat. Don’t just gulp down every morsel on the plate and reach for seconds before you have time to digest. Chew your food slowly, which gives you enough time to notice what flavors pop out at you. Do you notice the flavor of individual spices, or do they all meld together in an intricate combination? Which one tastes best to you? What would you do differently if you were to cook it again?

Step two involves experimenting. Test out different flavoring combinations to see what appeals to your palate. Start with some familiar mixtures — cumin, coriander, garlic and oregano are distinctive markers of Mexican-American cuisine, while turmeric, coriander, ginger and cardamom are found in many Indian recipes — but don’t be afraid to branch out and try combinations that just sound good to you. You may end up with a few disasters — tarragon, for example, is so distinctive that it often does not play well with other flavors — but the lessons you will learn are invaluable.
If you want help getting started, On Cooking* has a fabulous chapter on herbs, spices, condiments and more. (The third edition is the one I own; the current edition* would be a worthwhile splurge.)

Well, these are our best tips on recipe reading. Anything we left out? Is there something you would add?

* = Affiliate links.

From the Caterer’s Kitchen: Top 10 Cooking Tips

Pearlie

I’d like to introduce y’all to my number one kitchen inspiration: my mom. It is a cliche to say it, but it’s true: most everything I know about cooking I learned from this lady. I am merely the padawan to her Jedi Master. My brother and I used to joke that Mom could go into the kitchen with only a bag of flour and a jug of milk, and come out with a ten-course meal. I still think that’s true.

While working as a nurse, my mom trained as a chef, opened her own catering business and has continued to operate it for nearly 30 years. She’s cooked for all sorts of people, including some celebs, and has forgotten more about food than I will ever know.

As a teenager, I was perhaps a bit too stubborn to accept her advice and preferred to learn the hard way experiment without the benefit of her wisdom. Despite this, I somehow managed to absorb lots of cooking tips and techniques. I was probably the only kid in my dorm who packed recipes for harissa and risotto along with my bedsheets and backpack.
Now that I’m an adult, I have much more appreciation for Mom’s professional experience. I know that I use things I learned from her every day. So I thought it would be interesting to share some tips and tricks here on the blog, for those of us who did not grow up with a chef in the kitchen.

For today’s installment, I asked Mom to give me the top 10 things she wished she’d known when learning to cook. She writes:

Hi,

Hope this helps. These are the things that I needed to know — would have saved a lot of food.

I’m rather impressed with her list — anyone who masters these things would be very well equipped to handle just about anything in the kitchen. In future posts, we will review each of these points in more detail, but just for today, the list is food for thought.
What about you? Is there anything you would add to this list?

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