Category: Cooking

Get the Most Out of Restaurant Leftovers

Local restaurants have taken an especially hard financial hit during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. A recent appeal for economic relief from the National Restaurant Association on behalf of struggling restaurants estimated that the industry could suffer hundreds of billions of dollars in losses due to the outbreak. In recognition of the vital roles restaurants play in fostering strong communities, many local governments have urged residents to order takeout or delivery if they can afford to do so. Millions of consumers have heeded that call, helping restaurants stay afloat in a time marked by economic uncertainty while appreciating a night or two off from preparing meals at home.

It’s easy for home cooks to practice portion control when making meals at home. But restaurants tend to offer hearty portions, leaving consumers with leftovers at a time when more and more refrigerators are full of containers with previous nights’ meals. So what to do with restaurant leftovers? A little creativity might be in order.

Reimagine restaurant leftovers. The Mayo Clinic advises against keeping restaurant leftovers for more than four days, noting that the risk of food poisoning increases after that. If you don’t want to eat the same meal twice in four days, try to turn leftovers into something new. Add fresh vegetables to leftover rice to create a rice bowl that makes a great midday meal. Then use leftover meat and potatoes to create a stew or soup for dinner. Add some sautéed seafood to leftover pasta to give the meal a whole new taste. Reimagining restaurant leftovers into wholly new dishes is a great way to get even more out of meals that might be too big to polish off in one sitting.

“Trade” leftovers. When ordering meals for the whole family, make a game of trading restaurant leftovers for the next day’s lunch. If Dad orders chicken parmigiana he can trade it for Mom’s beef bolognese. Families can have even more fun by offering side dishes for desserts or sweeten offers with homemade treats or promises to do the dishes. This is a fun way to ensure no one has to eat the same meal on consecutive days.

Turn leftovers into appetizers or snacks. If leftovers aren’t abundant enough to provide for two full meals, or if you simply want to make something new out of what you didn’t eat last night, turn leftovers into appetizers or snacks to enjoy while watching a movie. Open a bag of tortilla chips and turn last night’s entrée into a tasty dip, or place leftovers out shortly before your home-cooked meal is ready to be served. Extra flavor at the dinner table is always welcome, and this approach gives everyone a chance to try each dish. Restaurant portions can be large, and in this time of takeout that can make it hard to determine what to do with leftovers.

Thankfully, there are many creative ways to approach restaurant leftovers so no one has to eat the same meal two days in a row.

Clever Ways to Use Leftovers

The spread of COVID-19 has upended many people’s lives. As with other virulent health crises, the practice of social distancing has been recommended to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. One way to socially distance oneself is to avoid unnecessary trips to places where the public may congregate, such as grocery stores. Some people visit supermarkets and other food stores every day, especially if they don’t meal plan or shop for the week. According to the Time Use Institute, the average shopping trip takes 41 minutes and people go food shopping an average of 1.5 times per week. Any additional time spent at the grocery store increase the likelihood of contact with others, potentially increasing shoppers’ risk of contracting coronavirus as well. Therefore, people taking steps to stay at home may have to rethink the way they purchase and use food.

Being more mindful of food waste and putting leftovers and ingredients to use in new ways can help stretch food further and reduce the need to make frequent trips to the grocery store. Consider these ideas to make use of leftovers:

• Save those vegetables. It’s easy to scrape a half-portion of uneaten vegetables into the trash thinking it can’t be used. Instead, combine it with other vegetables accumulated throughout the week. Many play well together and can be mixed into casseroles, omelets, soups, and stir-fry recipes.

• Create new meals. Using leftovers does not mean eating the same exact meal a second time. Ingredients can be utilized in new ways. For example, a roast chicken can be broken down and the meat can be used for fajitas on another night. Leftover tomato sauce and meatballs from a Sunday dinner can be turned into an impromptu chili with the addition of beans and peppers.

• Think beyond dinner. Leftovers can be collected at any time of day and used later on. Cold cuts can be chopped and used to make a stromboli with some refrigerated pizza dough. Save Belgian waffles from breakfast and top with breaded chicken fingers for a delicious chicken-and-waffles meal for lunch or dinner. Leftover roasted potatoes and scraps of ham can be used in a breakfast hash.

• Stuck on starches. Turn extra rice from dinner into arancini (rice balls) for a snack on another day. A leftover sweet potato or two can be mixed with butternut squash to make a sweet and healthy mashed side dish. Mashed potatoes can be transformed into potato croquettes or potato pancakes.

Finding new ways to use leftovers means minimal waste and fewer trips to the supermarket.

3 Tips to Planning Efficient Home-Cooked Meals

A few generations ago, dining out was an experience reserved for special occasions. However, until recently, when restaurants were shuttered in the wake of the public health crisis prompted by the spread of COVID-19, many people were dining out multiple times a week.

Hospitality solutions provider Fourth surveyed 1,000 American adults in 2019 and 56 percent reported dining out at least two to three times per week. Ten percent said they ate out four to six times each week, while 6 percent said they dined out everyday. People accustomed to relying on restaurant for meals multiple times per week may be unaccustomed to cooking many meals at home, which has become the norm thanks to restrictions placed on restaurants and other food-related businesses as part of COVID-19 social distancing precautions. Learning how to shop for food and prepare items by maximizing available ingredients can reduce trips to the store and help people reduce food waste at a time when food is not as readily available as it once was.

1. Plan meals/browse circulars

Meal planning and shopping lists are vital tools for people preparing meals at home. Without doing so, individuals can be left floundering in the supermarket, spending more money than necessary and making impulse purchases (all the while forgetting items they truly need). Use sales circulars to browse weekly discounted items at stores. Build a week’s worth of meals off of these sale items — going so far as to write out a cursory menu — then fill in any extra ingredients or staples needed on a shopping list. Leave a day or two for leftovers. Try organizing the list to follow the natural layout where items are arranged in the store.

2. Shop smart

With paper and pen in hand or a digital list compiled on your phone, go aisle by aisle and check off items as they are added to the cart. If you are shopping for food you hope will last a week or more, consider substituting canned and frozen foods and other nonperishables for fresh items because they can be stored for longer periods of time. “Club size” or “family size” packages of foods may cost less per volume and can be sub-divided and stored for later use.

3. Minimize waste

Cook only as much as is needed for the household. Generally speaking, a meat or poultry serving of three to four ounces per person is adequate. That means a roast or steak of 11⁄2 to two pounds is fine for a family of four. Use up older frozen or perishable foods first. Store foods properly and use them before the use-by date. Wrap up leftovers and turn them into new meals.

With proper planning and smart thinking, homecooking can be more efficient and less wasteful.

5 Delicious Low-Carb Recipes Perfect for a Cookout

Food on the grill, carb-loaded side dishes and high-sugar desserts are at the center of most seasonal cookouts. But this doesn’t mean you need to avoid those countless neighborhood barbecues to ensure you stay on track with your healthy lifestyle.

Courtney McCormick, manager of Clinical Research & Nutrition for South Beach Diet, recommends these five lower-carb recipes that are great to bring along to any cookout.

Shredded Chicken Chili: Just toss some chicken, beans, tomatoes and a combination of chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano in your slow cooker and let that magic machine do all the work. Six hours later, you’ll have perfectly cooked chicken and plenty of flavorful fixings for fewer calories than a chicken prepared in a sugary or cheesy sauce.

Avocado Tuna Sandwiches: Mix lemon juice, avocado, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and add canned tuna fish. Scoop onto a slice of whole grain bread with arugula, sliced cucumbers and red onions and you’ve got yourself a delicious sandwich to eat in place of that hamburger.

Skinny Shrimp Fajitas: You won’t miss the tortilla with this recipe! Combine shrimp, onion, bell pepper, olive oil and dry fajita spices such as chili powder, garlic, onion, cumin and paprika in a large bowl. Pour into a veggie basket or place on skewers and let the grill do the work for you.

Pesto Cilantro Dip: Bake walnuts at 275 degrees until golden brown, then chop cilantro, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor for about 25 seconds. With the machine running, pour olive oil in a steady stream. Add sour cream, lemon juice and salt. Pulse a few times to combine and you’re done! Serve with fresh veggies.

“This recipe is quick and simple,” says McCormick. “It contains minimal ingredients and it is packed with healthy fats. Plus, it keeps five days in the refrigerator and freezes for up to a month.”

South Beach Coleslaw: Coleslaw is a BBQ staple and this recipe for a lighter version of it is easy as 1-2-3! Whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, celery seed and a sugar substitute. Add cabbage and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For more details on these recipes and other great tips and tricks to lose weight and live healthier, visit South Beach Diet’s website The Palm at palm.southbeachdiet.com/cookout-low-carb-recipes.

Remember, cookouts don’t need to wreak havoc on your healthy diet. By making some simple swaps and choosing healthier options, you’ll stay on track while still enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

How to Make Your Favorite Foods Healthier

After the whirlwind of the holiday season, the season of resolutions takes over. Many people to resolve to live healthier, and they may not have to give up their favorite foods to do so. Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests American adults between the ages of 18 and 49 gain an average of one to two pounds every year. Grazing and overeating tends to increase when the weather cools down. A 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, in the fall, people tend to consume more calories, total fat and saturated fat. In the spring, people seem to prefer more carbohydrates. In addition, less powerful sunshine in winter coupled with people bundling up translates into less vitamin D being absorbed by the body. Some researchers believe there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and weight gain as well. To ensure that certain foods do not sabotage healthy eating plans, people can employ some easy modifications and make healthier versions of the foods they like to eat.

• Choose crunchy foods. Those who are prone to snacking can reach for noisy foods. These include crunchy items like apples, carrots and pretzels. Scientists say that when people listen to what they are chewing — called the “crunch effect” — they eat less of that item.

• Tone down the cream. Delicious dishes like fettuccine alfredo typically are made with lots of butter and cream. Replace cream sauces with a healthier base made of low-fat milk thickened with flour. Increase the flavor with favorite spices.

• Fry with care. Use healthy oils like olive or coconut sparingly. Many foods that are traditionally fried also can be lightly coated with cooking spray and baked for a crunchy texture.

• Choose sodium-free seasonings. The USCA recommends limiting sodium to less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Try options like fresh herbs or lemon juice to add some sodium-free flavor.

• Increase fiber content. Fiber helps one feel fuller longer and can also be helpful for digestion and heart health. Choose the “brown” varieties of rice, pasta and breads.

• Replace meat with leaner forms of protein. Lean chicken, turkey and pork can replace red meats in many recipes. Some traditional meat dishes, such as burgers, also can be modified using vegetables or seafood. Lean meats dry out quickly, so keep foods moist by watching cooking times.

• Stock up on yogurt. Greek and other varieties of yogurt can replace sour cream and mayonnaise in many dishes.

Resolving to eat healthier can be easy by making some simple swaps when preparing your favorite foods.

The Benefits of Shopping Farmers Markets

Farmers markets have grown in popularity in recent years. Nowadays, consumers interested in farmers markets can likely find one near their homes whether those homes are in rural communities, the suburbs or bustling cities.

People who have never before shopped farmers markets may be curious as to why many people find them so appealing. The following are a handful of benefits of shopping farmers markets that might turn market novices into full-fledged devotees.

• Freshness:

Many people visit farmers markets because the fruits and vegetables sold at such markets seem to taste more fresh than those sold at chain grocery stores. People are not mistaken, as the produce available at farmers markets often comes from local farms, meaning there’s no long-distance shipping necessary. Locally sourced foods need not be frozen en route to the market, meaning foods purchased there tend to taste especially fresh.

• In-season foods:

Some grocery stores may sell fruits and vegetables even when those foods are out of season. Farmers markets only sell in-season fruits and vegetables. To grow fruits and vegetables out-of-season, farmers may need to rely on chemicals or other unnatural methods. No such means are necessary when farmers stick to growing foods in-season.

Environmental benefits:

According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to consumers’ plates. Such journeys burn natural resources, pollute the air and produce sizable amounts of trash that ultimately ends up in landfills and/or the world’s oceans. Because food sold at farmers markets is locally sourced, considerably fewer natural resources are necessary to transport the food from farm to table, and the relatively short distances the food travels translates to less air pollution.

• Biodiversity:

Many farmers market shoppers find unique foods not readily available at their local grocery stores. This is not only a great way to discover new and delicious foods, but also a way to promote biodiversity.

• Hormone-free animal products:

Farmers markets do not exclusively sell fruits and vegetables. Many farmers markets also are great places to find meats, cheeses and eggs. Animal products sold at farmers markets are typically antibiotic- and hormone-free, which is both more humane to the animals and healthier than animal products produced with hormones or antibiotics.

Farmers markets are more accessible than ever, and the benefits to shopping such markets are endless.

Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Staying fit during the holiday season can be quite challenging, even for the most ardent fitness enthusiasts and disciplined calorie-counters.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, many people are offered a wide assortment of foods, beverages and other indulgences — typically in mass quantities. According to researchers at Stanford University, although the average person only gains around one pound during the holiday season, quite frequently that pound sticks around, and those extra pounds add up year after year. As a result, it doesn’t take too many years of holiday bundt cakes to gain a considerable amount of weight.

Holiday season weight gain is not unique to the United States and Canada. Investigators at Tampere University of Technology in Finland tracked weight gained in the United States, Germany and Japan during those countries’ festive times and found that each country’s participants gained weight, particularly during the holiday season. Annual holiday weight gain can contribute to weight-based problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The holiday season might not be the best time to start a diet, but holiday eating does not have to derail healthy lifestyles. The following are ways to avoid holiday weight gain and still enjoy all of the parties, adventures and time spent with friends and family.

Focus on festivity instead of food. When hosting holiday festivities, make the bulk of the celebration about an activity rather than food. If guests are focused on fun, such as a sing-a-long, dancing or tree-trimming, they may be less likely to overeat.

Don’t show up starving. Eat a light, healthy snack before participating in any holiday revelry. Hunger pangs may drive one straight to the buffet table.

Survey your options prior to eating. Guests should scope out the food choices and then make the smartest selections possible. Avoid creamy sauces, greasy foods and those that are heavy on cheese. Fill up on vegetables and then you won’t feel bad about splurging on a dessert.

Go sparingly on alcohol. People seldom realize how quickly calories from beverages can add up. A 12-ounce glass of beer has about 150 calories, a five ounce glass of red wine has about 125 calories and a 1.5-ounce shot of gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or tequila has about 100 calories, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Furthermore, alcohol lowers inhibitions, so you may be more likely to overindulge in more spirits or extra food when intoxicated.

You can’t buy back calories with exercise. Putting in a marathon exercise session the next day probably will not undo the damage done from overeating the night before. Maintain a consistent workout schedule all through the holidays.

Holiday weight gain is not inevitable for those who take control and exercise discipline.

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A Quick and Delicious Holiday Dessert

The holiday season is synonymous with many things, including delicious foods. While Thanksgiving turkeys or Christmas geese will be found on many a table this holiday season, baked goods and desserts are what many people look forward to this time of year.

Holiday hosts with a lot on their plates might not have the time to prepare homemade baked goods for their guests. Thankfully, the following recipe for “Chocolate-Strawberry Pie” from Addie Gundry’s “No-Bake Desserts” (St. Martin’s Press) can be prepared in just 15 minutes, all without turning on the oven.

Chocolate-Strawberry Pie

Yields 1 pie

1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved
1 store-bought (or homemade) chocolate cookie pie crust
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon minced crystallized ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
6 large egg yolks
21/2 cups half-and-half
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tablespoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional strawberries for garnish (optional)

1. Place the strawberry halves in a single layer in the bottom of the pie crust.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, ginger, nutmeg, and salt over medium heat.
3. Whisk in the egg yolks to create a thick paste. Gradually whisk in the half-and-half until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
4. Add the chocolate and whisk until combined. Add the rum and vanilla extracts. Cool the mixture for 4 minutes.
5. Pour the filling over the strawberries and up to the top of the crust. Chill the pie for 2 hours or until set.
6. Garnish with additional strawberries, if desired.

Simple Tricks to Satisfy Picky Eaters

Family mealtime can be challenging for a variety of reasons, including the varying taste buds of moms, dads and their kids.

Although there is no consistent definition of picky eating, according to a report published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, the term is generally used to characterize children who eat a limited amount of food, have strong food preferences, have restricted intake of certain foods, or who are unwilling to try new foods. It’s difficult to account statistically for picky eating, but this relatively common behavioral problem tends to peak around age 3.

Picky eating tends to be genetic. A study led by Dr. Lucy Cooke of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London found genes are largely to blame for picky eaters. According to her research, 78 percent of pickiness is genetic and the other 22 percent is environmental. Pickiness usually is a temporary part of normal development, and many of the behaviors associated with picky eating can be alleviated by open-minded, patient parents who are willing to try new things themselves.

Experiment with different textures

Sometimes it isn’t the food itself but the texture of the food that is the problem. Therefore, parents shouldn’t rule out certain foods just yet. For example, a child might not like the texture of a baked potato, but mashed potatoes are fine. Try presenting the food in a different way. Cauliflower is one food that can be transformed into many different styles, from being grated like rice, to baked into a pizza crust. Don’t give up on foods on the first try.

Make meals more hands-on

Many ingredients touching one another can be an overwhelming experience for children getting ready to eat. For example, young kids may not understand that melted yellow stuff on a hamburger is the same type of cheese they eat cubed with crackers for lunch. Rather than create separate meals, make the dinner table look like a fixings bar at a restaurant. Let kids pick and choose what they want to put on their plates. This may compel them to be more adventurous with their selections.

Find ways to mask nutrition

Choose foods that children regularly eat and enjoy and experiment with ways to dress them up and make them more nutritious. Regular mac-and-cheese can be improved with the use of whole-grain pasta and fresh cheese instead of boxed mixes. Try making chicken nuggets from scratch rather than buying frozen nuggets. Smoothies can be enhanced with fresh fruit and other mix-ins. Even desserts can include pureed vegetables and fruits to increase their amount of vitamins and minerals.

Picky eating is a phase many children will experience. Parents can ride through the mealtime woes by experimenting more in the kitchen.

Baking Shortcuts for Time-Pressed Entertainers

‘Tis the season for baking cookies, cakes and other treats. However, during the holiday rush, it’s easy to get side-tracked or tired, and perhaps even a little bit overwhelmed by all the things to do in such a short period of time. Holiday baking doesn’t have to add to seasonal stress. With these tips and shortcuts, there will be plenty of sweet treats for the family.

Stick with tested recipes

Although holiday bakers may want to branch out a bit with their culinary creativity, recipes that have previously been prepared with great success can take some of the work out of holiday baking. Preparing recipes you recall preparing in the past is much easier than trying something new. If you’d like, add sparkle to old standards, such as decorating oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies with colored sprinkles.

Cookies are fast-baking

Did you know that cookies were originally made to test oven temperatures? Culinary historians say that cookies were first made to test if an oven was hot enough to bake other goods. Today, cookies can be whipped up in mere minutes. Make a batch of dough and then freeze or refrigerate it, thawing it when the time comes to bake. Also, think about baking one day and decorating the next if pressed for time.

Embrace colored candy melts

Icing can be tricky to master. Simply heating colored candy melts and pouring over cakes or painting onto cookies can add festive appeal to desserts. Candy melts even come in many different colors and can be combined to achieve the tint desired.

Keep ingredients in top form

Don’t let poorly performing ingredients or a lack of supplies be your undoing. Butter can be softened quickly in the microwave when needed for recipes. Eggs can be brought to room temperature by allowing them to sit in a bowl of warm water. Ensure that brown sugar stays soft by putting a piece of sliced bread in the container. Don’t forget to stock up on other baking staples, such as vanilla and almond extracts, baking powder/soda, molasses, and confectioner’s sugar.

Don’t bake from scratch

Not all recipes need to be made from scratch. Boxed cake mixes can be embellished and turned into delicious desserts without much fuss. Substitute melted butter for oil, buttermilk for water, and add an extra egg for a rich cake. Mix in chocolate chips or nuts or experiment with garnishes for a festive look.

Parchment paper is key

Line cookie sheets or cake pans with parchment paper for easy dessert release and quick cleanup. Parchment paper and even foil can help lift cakes or cookie bars out of pans so they look neat and do not stick.

Holiday baking can be made much easier by employing a few tricks of the trade.

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