how-​to

  • Kids of all ages have per­fected the art and tra­di­tion of egg dying for Easter.

    From waxy pen­cils to small tablets of color, not much has changed in the dec­o­ra­tion process. Or has it?

    The kitchen pantry is a stu­dio of nat­ural ingre­di­ents and inter­est­ing col­ors wait­ing to be used. Com­mon food items, and food waste in some cases, will trans­form an ordi­nary hard boiled egg into a beau­ti­ful show­piece.

    Nat­ural dying ele­ments have long been used in fab­rics and paper. Porous eggshells invite color no mat­ter the source.

    Red cab­bage and beets, brown, red or yel­low onion skins con­tribute to an array of egg color pos­si­bil­i­ties. So will cof­fee, tea, and dried spices.
  • Thanks­giv­ing left­overs are a bet for at least one good sand­wich or warm plate of com­fort post hol­i­day feast.

    If soups, sal­ads and sides don’t lend a cer­tain kitchen inspi­ra­tion to the day after foods, rethink the approach.

    A few sim­ple fresh ingre­di­ents will ignite a spark to the dol­drums of those glass dishes stacked in the fridge.

    Intro­duce gin­ger root, cilantro, edamame and shi­take mush­rooms for a boost of fla­vor to any bowl of Asian noo­dles or rice dish. Spice it up with chili pep­per paste (kochu­jang) or chili pep­per flakes (kochukaru).

    Fresh herbs like basil, mint and Ital­ian pars­ley boost taste buds with a dif­fer­ent take to cold sal­ads. Tar­ragon or baby dill move things in an alto­gether new direc­tion.

    Peas, arti­choke hearts and fen­nel bulbs and fronds add more than just bright green­ery. Allow the dis­tinc­tive tex­tures and extra­or­di­nary fla­vors to sur­prise the palette. It’s not grandma’s turkey salad if wal­nuts, apple chunks and curry pow­der get folded in to the mix.

  • Car­ni­val sea­son always cul­mi­nates on Fat Tues­day, the day before Ash Wednes­day, the first day of Lent.

    Peo­ple lucky enough to visit New Orleans the week lead­ing up to Mardi Gras will enjoy a feast of foods and sig­na­ture bev­er­ages.

    Influ­ence comes largely from Cre­ole and Cajun cuisines. Clas­sic crowd pleasers include gumbo, jam­bal­aya and étouf­fée.

    Loca­tion aside, plan a cel­e­bra­tion dur­ing the days of Car­ni­val. High­light slow cooked, fla­vor rich meals that can feed a large table.

    Build­ing depth in dishes is easy when it comes to mas­ter­ing the all pow­er­ful Miropoix. Three veg­etable basics — car­rots, cel­ery and onions com­prise this start to many fine dishes.
  • Decem­ber hol­i­days beg for some décor that is fresh and nat­u­rally fra­grant to com­bat the assault of plas­tic, glit­ter all things arti­fi­cial.

    Yule­tide cheer has evolved from past tra­di­tions into mod­ern day dec­o­ra­tions using ever­greens, berries, fruits and lights.

    Gar­lands, wreaths and can­dles were once the only sure thing when it comes to door­ways and man­tels.

    The sig­nif­i­cance of a wreath, sym­bol­iz­ing ever­last­ing life, goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times.

    A renewed approach to fresh arrange­ments main­tains mean­ing to the com­po­nents. Con­tem­po­rary designs appeal to a much broader con­sumer base.
  • Every­one loves pie, right? No argu­ment there. The only thing that might come close to sur­pass­ing pie is to have an indi­vid­ual hand pie all to one’s self.

    We’re not talk­ing about those gar­den vari­ety, store bought, waxed paper wrapped, card­board crust, sug­ary coated, fake fill­ing small pies. Nope.

    Instead, the bar is set high for ten­der, flaky pie crusts, ready for portable, lovely cre­ations burst­ing with local ingre­di­ents.

    Crisp, cool evenings war­rant get­ting back into the kitchen with the folks we love to hang out with. Hand pies are the stuff that mem­o­ries are made of when we include friends, fam­ily mem­bers and even cowork­ers if one is so inclined.

    It really doesn’t mat­ter if scratch bak­ing skills are not per­fected. There are plenty of “secret recipes and tips” avail­able to make the process less daunting.
  • Far too often, lack of care or inex­pe­ri­ence col­lide with pos­i­tive con­sumer encoun­ters. That clash adversely affects fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles.

    Prod­uct qual­ity and prod­uct con­di­tion are two sep­a­rate issues. How we han­dle fresh pro­duce can def­i­nitely impact the lat­ter.

    Care­ful han­dling will max­i­mize fresh­ness, and add to shelf life or serv­ing appear­ance. It makes sense then that mis­han­dling is counter pro­tect­ing the inven­tory and in-​stock items.

    The influx of new employ­ees through­out the food indus­try requires train­ing and coach­ing on the sub­ject of han­dling. Proper receiv­ing is the first step in main­tain­ing good qual­ity stan­dards.

    Observ­ing clean­li­ness of truck trail­ers, inte­rior vehi­cle tem­per­a­tures and neat and straight pal­let stacks are a few signs that a deliv­ery is accept­able. Look for car­tons or cases that have not been split open or torn.

    Cold chain pro­to­cols are impor­tant year round. As we approach cooler sea­sons, chances are that pro­duce is trav­el­ling to us from far­ther away places. Keep­ing prod­uct in best tem­per­a­ture ranges is crit­i­cal to longevity. This goes for every­thing from berries to zucchini.

  • Zuc­chini and other sum­mer squash vari­eties seem to be every­where. What are we wait­ing for such a squash sur­plus at our fin­ger­tips?

    If pasta noo­dles are on the table at least once a week, this is the best sea­son to go for a light­ened up ver­sion with noo­dles cen­ter­plate.

    Alfredo, mari­nara and pesto clas­sics make for irre­sistible sauces on top of squash noo­dles.

    Grain free squash cut in either wide rib­bons or curly or flat thin noo­dles beckon to kitchen enthu­si­asts to explore all options. A sim­ple dressed up top­per of mint, basil, gar­lic and lemon juice keeps life sim­ple.

    Asian noo­dle bowls are a world apart from Italy. Pad Thai, lo mein, stir fries and broth­ier dishes meant to be slurped give way to robust flavors.
  • Sure, there are more ways than one to accom­plish any given task. Or cut a melon, pineap­ple or mango.

    When ama­teur knife skills clash with more expert tech­niques, there is a lot to be learned.

    Any­one can wield a knife blade. Exact­ing just the right cuts to extract every bit of fruit with­out waste can be tricky. Doing so safely is yet another feat.

    Round-​shaped fruits are espe­cially unruly. Pic­ture a large can­taloupe or hon­ey­dew melon rolling around the coun­ter­top. There is a ten­dency to judo chop it dead cen­ter to stop that action.

    Deft hands will exer­cise patience and exe­cute a plan.

    One clever move is to first cut both ends of the melon off. This cre­ates a flat base on which to stand the melon on end.
  • Food his­to­ri­ans credit Por­tugese cooks for the tasty spread we’ve come to know as mar­malade.

    Orig­i­nally made of quince (marmelo is the fruit’s Por­tugese name), the sweet/​tart gel like paste is used in desserts, breads and cakes.

    Quince are a rel­a­tively unusual fruit in that they are rarely, if ever, eaten raw. Mak­ing them into a jelly/​preserve/​compote allows them to be savored well past their sea­son.

    In Brazil, most marme­los are boiled, sweet­ened and then reduced to a thick jelly-​like paste called marme­lada.

    Quince are very tart and tan­nic, mak­ing them almost impos­si­ble to eat in their nat­ural state. Dur­ing cook­ing, their tan­nins mel­low and change color, giv­ing cooked quince a lovely pink-​to-​reddish hue.
  • As the eight days of Hanukkah fin­ish, we are gen­tly reminded of those lovely fried gems that are cus­tom­ar­ily eaten dur­ing the course of the Fes­ti­val of Lights.

    Tra­di­tion serves up golden brown latkes. One does not have to be Jew­ish to appre­ci­ate this espe­cially del­i­cate good bite. Nor do we need to con­fine our latke indul­gence to the few short days of the hol­i­day sea­son.

    Latkes (potato pan­cakes) are tra­di­tion­ally topped with apple­sauce or sour cream. There are many new cre­ative vari­a­tions to these cakes and top­pings.

    The crisp, golden clas­sic is made of shred­ded rus­set pota­toes and grated fresh onions. Yukon gold or sweet pota­toes put a softer spin on the clas­sic.

    Other root veg­eta­bles like car­rots, turnips and parsnips sur­prise the pal­let in a new cake direc­tion. Include zuc­chini, cau­li­flower, apples, green onions and fresh herbs to amp up flavors.
  • Gin­ger­bread and hol­i­day spices are warm­ing from the inside out. Take com­fort and joy to the next level by includ­ing pears in those fes­tive prepa­ra­tions.

    Maybe the best part of pears this time of year is their acci­den­tal orna­men­tal nature. The sen­su­ous shapes and var­i­ous sizes and skin col­ors sug­gest end­less culi­nary pos­si­bil­i­ties. They pro­vide a fresh fruit com­po­nent in baked goods, sal­ads and entrees, while all at once insert high drama and art on the plate.

    Pears are very ver­sa­tile. In addi­tion to being served raw in almost any­thing, pears bake, poach, sauté, roast and grill very nicely. They can be made into pre­serves, jams and chut­neys which can be a sea­sonal boost to pan­cakes, waf­fles and toast.

    Whole, sliced, chopped or chun­ked, pears offer great fla­vor in addi­tion to tex­ture and visual inter­est to many recipes.

    Firmer vari­eties like Bosc, Anjou, or Con­corde are best for heated appli­ca­tions— poach­ing, bak­ing and grilling. Because their flesh is denser, they hold their shape bet­ter. Their inher­ent fla­vor is not over­pow­ered by other cook­ing ingredients.
  • With Spring just a cou­ple of weeks away, the taste for spring veg­eta­bles gets ampli­fied. Work­ing those veg­gies on to the plate is easy when we put them on pizza.

    Aspara­gus, arugula, leeks, arti­choke hearts and mush­rooms are very strong top­ping con­tenders for spring piz­zas pies.

    Other choices may take some finess­ing and more care­ful han­dling. Fen­nel comes to mind. This spring bulb with fronds has the power to intim­i­date.

    Even so, with just the right cheese part­ner and some grilling with onions, this one becomes a win­ner for any Fri­day night.

    Roasted egg­plant is another fan­tas­tic spring pizza top­per. Lay­er­ing the egg­plant slices with loads of roasted gar­lic, feta cheese and pine nuts keeps it true to its Mediter­ranean roots.
  • A sym­bol of pros­per­ity and abun­dance, exquis­ite pome­gran­ates have long been cher­ished for their beauty, ben­e­fits and unique taste.

    The ruby red bulbs are dif­fi­cult to resist as they begin to appear in our fall mar­ket­place.

    In North Amer­ica, pome­gran­ates have tra­di­tion­ally only been avail­able from around Octo­ber through Jan­u­ary.

    Con­sumer demand has called on sup­pli­ers to import fruit from the south­ern hemi­sphere dur­ing the off-​season. This means, pom arils (the edi­ble inter­nal seed) has become a year-​round jewel for sal­ads, dips, baked goods and out of hand eat­ing.

    The delight­ful, sweet-​tart crunchy seeds perk up nearly any plate with their sassy color and burst of tangy juice. This is real party food for adults, turn­ing the ordi­nary in to a fes­tive occasion.

  • Music venues and out­door con­certs get a lot of traf­fic all sum­mer long. Indi­vid­ual tastes run the spec­trum from rock, blues and coun­try to reg­gae, pop and rap.

    Clas­si­cal sum­mer choices fea­ture Mozart and Bach. If sym­phonies and operas don’t res­onate, try a dif­fer­ent type of sum­mer jam.

    Peak of sea­son fruits beg for pre­serv­ing in some fash­ion. We can’t eat it all no mat­ter how hard we try. Jams, jel­lies, com­potes and mar­malades allow the essence of sum­mer to be cel­e­brated in a jar.

    Sin­gle small batched jams can be achieved in a short period of time, mak­ing the process rel­a­tively pain­less. In just an hour of invest­ment, fruit can be trans­formed in to a mag­nif­i­cent jarred treat.

    Like most other food endeav­ors, we get out of it what we put in to it. Qual­ity going in means qual­ity in the jar. Pick or pur­chase high-​quality fruit at its peak for fla­vor, tex­ture, and color. Skip mushy, over­ripe, and dis­eased fruit.

  • Sat­is­fac­tion meets fuel when power bowls are intro­duced to the week­day or evening menu lineup.

    These protein-​packed, veggie-​rich solu­tions to com­plete nour­ish­ment are as ver­sa­tile as deli­cious.

    One bowl won­der trends do not seem to be los­ing any momen­tum. Given the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties, its easy to say they are here to stay for awhile.

    Week­end war­riors, stu­dents, ath­letes, soc­cer moms and pro­fes­sion­als all look to max­i­mize calo­ries and deliver on good taste.

    Pro­tein power bowls are a com­bi­na­tion of grains, col­or­ful fruits and/​or veg­eta­bles, a pro­tein and a dress­ing or topping.
  • Smart cook­ers like Instant Pots are enjoy­ing a moment. This cel­e­brated multi-​cooker is touted as capa­ble of replac­ing seven dif­fer­ent appli­ances.

    It brags of doing the work of a slow cooker, an elec­tric pres­sure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/​browning pan, and food-​warming pot.

    Cook­ing speed may be the sin­gle most advan­tage of going for the Instant Pot. This is par­tic­u­larly true if cook­ing some meats is high on the menu. Shav­ing time off of ribs, roasts and whole chicken mat­ters.

    Risotto and dried beans seem to cook in record time. Soups and stews from scratch develop depth of fla­vor with­out turn­ing on the stove or oven.

    Not every­one wants or needs sev­eral (or even one more) kitchen gad­get tak­ing up shelf space. Com­pe­ti­tion among food proces­sors, stand mix­ers, blenders, juicers and var­i­ous cof­fee mak­ers is fierce within most households.
  • Gin­ger, lemon, honey and mint. Four fairly com­mon kitchen ingre­di­ents, they part­ner well as a win­ter home rem­edy for what might be ail­ing us.

    The chang­ing win­ter weather con­di­tions and con­stant fluc­tu­a­tion in tem­per­a­tures taxes our resis­tance to catch­ing a cold or the flu.

    Immu­nity lev­els tend to dip in colder months. Con­fined to indoor envi­ron­ments, expo­sure to other human’s cough­ing, sneez­ing and wheez­ing puts us at higher risk for those nasty germs and viruses.

    Calm jan­gled nerves and sup­press early symp­toms by get­ting into the kitchen. OTC in the pantry means some­thing alto­gether dif­fer­ent from the vast over the counter drug­store nasal, throat and body ache solu­tions.

    Stay­ing hydrated and flush­ing out the sys­tem with avail­able fresh herbs, fruits and veg­eta­bles puts the home phar­macy at our fingertips.
  • The Spring Fes­ti­val known as Lunar or Chi­nese New Year offi­cially begins on Feb­ru­ary 16th and cul­mi­nate on March sec­ond with the Lantern Fes­ti­val.

    Cel­e­brated in a vari­ety of cul­tures and coun­tries — includ­ing China, Japan, Korea, and Viet­nam — fam­i­lies will gather around a reunion table to honor mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions.

    Lucky foods are served dur­ing the 16-​day fes­ti­val sea­son, espe­cially New Year’s Eve. This most impor­tant meal is believed to bring good luck for the com­ing year. The sym­bol­ism of these foods is based on their pro­nun­ci­a­tions or appear­ance.

    Sym­bolic foods such as fish (pros­per­ity and sur­plus), dumplings and spring rolls (wealth) and cit­rus (health and full­ness) are read­ily shared along with other fine del­i­ca­cies.

    Not only do the dishes them­selves mat­ter, but so does the man­ner of the prepa­ra­tion, the ways of serv­ing and the eat­ing of them. Spring onion pan­cakes, noo­dle dishes and Jai (veg­e­tar­ian stew) are easy to get behind.