Category: Cooking

Irish Soda Bread

Irish cuisine may not be as widely recognizable or familiar across North America as Chinese, Italian or Mexican fare. But that doesn’t mean Irish food lacks fans and flavor. As the world prepares to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on or around March 17, individuals who want to include some popular Irish fare in their festivities won’t want to exclude this recipe for “Irish Soda Bread” from AllRecipes.com.

Irish Soda Bread

Yields 1 1/2 loaf (20 servings)

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup margarine, softened

4 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

2. Mix flour, softened margarine, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on the prepared baking sheet.

3. Combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk in a small bowl; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

4. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Check to see if it is done after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Essential Gear For First-Time Thanksgiving Hosts

Hosting Thanksgiving is a large undertaking that can put some hosts under pressure. Unlike some other holidays that are less food-focused, Thanksgiving is largely about the meal. Turkey is the centerpiece of the celebration, and any guests who come over are going to expect turkey and a number of side dishes. Leaving hungry is never an option on Thanksgiving.

Individuals who are new to Thanksgiving hosting may be at a loss as to where to start with their preparation. There are certain must-haves hosts should familiarize themselves with. Many of these essentials revolve around tools for cooking in the kitchen and serving guests.

· Large Roasting Pan: You’ll need somewhere to oven-roast the turkey. While it’s perfectly acceptable to purchase a disposable aluminum pan for this purpose, if you plan to host Thanksgiving year after year, investing in a quality roasting pan will help deliver even cooking temperatures to the food and also can be used for roasting other meats.

· Wire Rack: The turkey is placed upon a rack inside of the roasting pan so that it will not swim in the juices and cause a soggy bottom during cooking. Many roasting pans and racks are sold as sets, but others can be purchased separately. The rack can be used for other purposes as well, including cooling baked cookies or even drying out fresh herbs.

· Food Thermometer: Ensuring the turkey and other foods are cooked to the correct internal temperature is essential. You do not want to send guests home with foodborne illnesses. Food thermometers run the gamut from very basic to those that can be programmed to alert cooks through an app on a smartphone. Turkey is done when the temperature reads 170 F in the breast and 180 F in the thigh. If stuffed, the stuffing should register 165 F, according to Butterball.

· Coordinated Casserole Dishes: Casserole dishes can hold all of the sides served with the turkey, including stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and more. A set of matching dishes will help the tablescape look more coordinated.

· Service For Eight or More: Thanksgiving draws a crowd, so take inventory of silverware, dishes, wine glasses, and any other table needs to ensure that you can accommodate all of the guests. Purchase new items if you cannot set the table completely with what you have, as mixed and matched may be okay for informal events but may not set the tone hosts are aiming for on Thanksgiving.

· Table and Chairs: Determine if you have enough table space to seat all of your guests. Some dining tables come with an extension leaf, but you still may need to supplement with a folding table. You may need more seating. Chairs can be rented or you can utilize some folding chairs.

· Turkey Serving Platter: When the turkey is ready, it can be placed on an attractive serving platter for your photos, after which you slice and then return the sliced poultry to the serving platter for dining.

Thanksgiving requires a number of essentials that hosts will need to have on hand to make the holiday complete.

Dish Up A Classic Comfort Food This St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone has “corned beef and cabbage” on the brain come St. Patrick’s Day. But another flavorful dish might appeal to a greater number of people with Irish roots.

Shepherd’s Pie is a savory dish made of minced lamb that originated in England but also made the jump to Ireland, where it became a popular comfort food. While Shepherd’s Pie can be made with freshly cooked ground meat, it also is a fine way to use leftovers from a previous meal. Shepherd’s Pie is commonly mistaken for Cottage Pie, which is very similar, yet tends to use beef as the meat of choice.

Many families have their own ancestral recipes for Shepherd’s Pie, but for those looking to cook the dish for the first time, try “Shepherd’s Pie,” courtesy of Alton Brown, which appeared in Season 12 of his hit show “Good Eats.”

Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: 8 servings

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup half-and-half

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup English peas, fresh or frozen

1. Heat oven to 400 F.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Put them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set said pan over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, drop the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in an 11-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the meat, salt and pepper, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the meat with the flour, toss to coat, and continue to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly until the sauce is thickened slightly, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, combine the half-and-half and butter in a microwave-safe container and nuke until warmed through, about 35 seconds.

6. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes (a masher is an excellent tool for this, though a hand mixer will do), then add the hot half-and-half mixture, as well as the salt and pepper. Mash to smoothness, then stir in the egg yolk.

7. Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly in a 7-by-11-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling over, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooking rack and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

A Perfect Dish For A New Year’s Day Brunch

The late-night revelry of New Year’s Eve has made New Year’s Day brunch a go-to tradition for millions of people. Staying up until the calendar officially turns from one year to the next at the stroke of midnight can make it harder to get out of bed on the morning of January 1, so there may be no better day to plan a brunch than the first day of the calendar year.

Many restaurants offer brunch specials on New Year’s Day, but people need not leave home to ensure their first meal of the new year is delicious. This recipe for “Pan-Fried Eggs and Mixed Mushroom Sauté on Toasted Sourdough Slices” from “Sunday Brunch” (Chronicle Books) by Betty Rosbottom can be just the dish to begin a new year.

Pan-Fried Eggs and Mixed Mushroom Sauté on Toasted Sourdough Slices

Serves 4

Mushroom Sauté

11/4 ounces mixed dried mushrooms

11/2 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces sliced brown mushrooms

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary (see tip)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Toast and Eggs

4 1/2-inch thick sourdough slices

Olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 eggs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Rosemary sprigs for garnish (optional)

1. For the Mushroom Sauté: Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let stand until softened, 20 minutes. Strain in a sieve lined with a double thickness of paper towels and reserve the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy frying pan set over medium heat. When hot, add the brown mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, for 6 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir for 1 minute. Add the mushroom liquid and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated, 4 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and several grinds of pepper. Remove the frying pan from the heat and cover with foil to keep warm. (The mushrooms can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat.)

3. For the toast and eggs: Brush both sides of the bread slices generously with olive oil. Set a 10- to 11-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, and, when hot, add the bread and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the toast and cover loosely with foil. When pan is cool enough to handle, wipe it out with clean paper towels.

4. Add the butter to the frying pan and set it over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, break an egg into a saucer, being careful to remove any shell fragments., and gently slide it into the frying pan. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook, basting the eggs with some of the butter in the pan frequently, until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft and runny, 3 minutes.

5. While the eggs are cooking, arrange a toasted bread slice on each of four plates. Mound the mushrooms evenly over the toast.

6. Remove each egg with a spatula and arrange on top of the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and, if desired, garnish each serving with a rosemary sprig. Serve immediately.

How to Get Kids Interested in Cooking

Parents introduce their children to all types of new hobbies and skills. There are plenty of opportunities to open kids’ eyes to the world around them. One of the more useful lessons parents can teach their children is how to cook.

Knowing how to cook is a vital skill that can help children become more independent and ensure they know how to survive later in life on their own. So many young adults go off to college without the ability to do more than power up a microwave or boil noodles. Ordering takeout all the time is expensive, and frozen dinners often lack the nutrition of homemade dishes. Learning how to cook a variety of foods at an early age can lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating and fun in the kitchen.

Parents can encourage children who show early inclinations in the kitchen, but also help reluctant learners to develop some basic cooking skills. Here are some ways to make cooking something kids can look forward to.

• Involve children in meal planning. Get input from your children about what they might like to see on the menu. While there may be some items that are expected, including comfort foods like mac-and-cheese, parents may be surprised at how mature their children’s palates can be. Maybe they’ve heard about a dish on television or learned about a specific ethnic cuisine at school and want to give it a try.

• Watch cooking shows together. How-to cooking shows and competitions appear on both cable and network television. Kids may enjoy watching Gordon Ramsay mentor young chefs; Robert Irvine help to renovate a failing restaurant; or Ann Burrell assist self-proclaimed “worst chefs” shed those monikers. Cooking shows can introduce kids to food-related terminology and get them heated up about cooking their own meals.

• Ask for help in the kitchen. Tailor cooking activities to youngsters’ ages. Little ones can begin by adding and stirring ingredients. As they get older, children can segue into chopping or even mixing foods on the stove. Many kids like being taste testers and offering advice on whether a food needs more spices. By middle school, many kids have the wherewithal to plan meals themselves and cook them from start to finish.

• Be adventurous. Introduce kids to various flavors by not only cooking various dishes at home, but by dining out at different restaurants. This can encourage kids to appreciate different cultures and cuisines.

Learning to cook is a vital skill. Lessons can begin early in childhood and become more extensive as children age.

No Super Bowl Sunday is Complete Without Chicken Wings

Few events generate as much enthusiasm among sports fans and non-sports fans as the Super Bowl. For sports fans who can’t wait to see the National Football League crown a new champion, the game itself is a must-watch event. For those who aren’t fans of the game, Super Bowl Sunday is still a chance to chow down and socialize with friends and family. There’s no right or wrong way to watch the Super Bowl, but some might consider a Super Bowl soiree without chicken wings a major faux pas.

For those who want to avoid such a misstep, this recipe for “Virgil’s Smoked Chicken Wings With Blue Cheese Dip” from Neal Corman’s “Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook” (St. Martin’s Press) is sure to please.

 

Virgil’s Smoked Chicken Wings With Blue Cheese Dip

Serves 4

Blue Cheese Dip

2 cups blue cheese crumbles, divided

1 cup mayonnaise

1⁄2 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 cup finely chopped scallions

1⁄4 cup finely chopped celery

Marinade

1⁄2 cup vegetable oil

1⁄2 cup hot sauce

4 tablespoons Virgil’s Dry Rub (see below)

4 tablespoons granulated garlic

4 tablespoons granulated onion

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Wings

8 large chicken wings

1⁄2 cup Virgil’s Dry Rub (see below)

Sauce

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cornstarch

4 tablespoons white vinegar

3⁄4 cup hot sauce

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. To make the dip, combine 1 cup of the blue cheese, mayonnaise, buttermilk, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend on low until smooth.

2. Remove to a medium mixing bowl and fold in the rest of the blue cheese, scallions and celery, being sure to break up the larger blue cheese crumbles. Place in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.

3. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Place the wings in a large container with a lid and pour the mixture over the wings. Toss until the wings are thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days.

4. Preheat the grill or smoker to 245 F.

5. Spread out the wings on a sheet pan and wipe away any excess marinade. Sprinkle liberally with the dry rub, coating the wings all over.

6. Position the wings on the grill away from the direct heat of the coals or burners, and add hickory to the smoker or hickory chips on the coals or gas burners.

7. Cook the wings for about 3 hours, flipping every 30 minutes (their internal temperature should be about 165 F when cooked).

8. While the wings are cooking, cut the butter for the sauce into 1-inch cubes and refrigerate. Whisk the cornstarch into the white vinegar, in a small bowl.

9. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, bring the hot sauce to a simmer and whisk in the thickened vinegar. Return to a simmer, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the heat.

10. Add the cayenne and slowly whisk in the cold butter. Keep warm until serving.

11. Remove the wings from the smoker or grill and put half of them into a bowl, cover with the sauce, and toss. Repeat with the remaining wings and serve on a platter, with the blue cheese dip on the side.

Virgil’s Dry Rub

Makes 5 to 51⁄2 cups

21⁄2 cups sweet paprika

1 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 cup Texas-style chili powder

1⁄2 cup minced onion

1⁄2 cup granulated garlic

1⁄4 cup dried parsley flakes

6 tablespoons kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until completely incorporated. Transfer to a covered bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Store in a cool, dry place.

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.