02/29/12

Tony vs Paula…on second thought…I ain’t buyin’ it.

So, returning to our previous conversation, “Paula Deen is Not Your Personal Savior”…I was reading today that Anthony Bourdain (of No Reservations fame) continued his verbal onslaught of Paula Deen at last week’s South Beach Food and Wine Festival.

Apparently, someone made a comment, during a Q & A, inferring that it might be hypocritical of Tony to lambast Paula’s “health choices” when he, himself, smoked on camera for years.

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02/29/12

Easy Goat Cheese Naan

Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. It’s typical of and popular in West, Central and South Asia.

Influenced by the large influx of South Asian immigrants, naan has also become popular in other parts of the world, especially in Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Europe and North America.

The earliest appearance of “naan” in English literature dates back to 1780, in a travelogue of William Tooke. Originally, naan was a generic term for various flatbreads from different parts of the world.

The name stems from the Persian generic word for bread.

Here’s a great naan recipe that you can make yourself, to replace the store-bought naan listed with this weeks SimplySmartDinnerPlans recipe for Chicken Korma (Chicken in Rich Yogurt Curry).

Goat Cheese Naan

Yield: 4 Naans
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 1/2 hours (incl resting time for dough)

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup yogurt
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese
Olive oil

Instructions

Sift first 3 ingredients into bowl. Mix in yogurt and half of the goat cheese.

Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into ball. Return to bowl; cover with plastic. Let rest 2 hours (dough will not rise).

Turn dough out onto floured surface. Divide into 4 pieces. Form each into ball. Roll out each to 8-inch round.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Brush heavy medium skillet with olive oil; heat over medium-high heat. Add 1 dough round and cook until brown spots appear all over bottom, about 5 minutes.

Turn bread over and cook until brown spots appear all over second side and bread is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough rounds. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover bread; let stand at room temperature. Rewarm bread uncovered in 350F oven about 5 minutes.)

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle with remaining goat cheese. Broil breads just until cheese begins to melt, watching closely to avoid burning, about 2 minutes.

02/28/12

Balsamic-Honey Goat Cheese Dip

Okay, so this was awesome! I’ve had this recipes kicking around on a scrap of paper for a long time, and just never got around to making it. Finally made it tonight for some of the hautemealz.com crew…and now I’m grieving for the years I’ll never get back!

Sweet, tangy, rich, and creamy…it brings out the best qualities of each ingredient, while becoming more than the sum of its parts.

Serious, it’s pretty freakin’ amazing!

Balsamic Honey Goat Cheese DipBalsamic-Honey Goat Cheese Dip

1 cup goat cheese, cubed or crumbled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 medium apple or pear, sliced
8-12 baguette slices (1/4 inch thick), warmed

In a small bowl, beat the goat cheese, mayonnaise, honey and vinegar with a fork until smooth.

Serve with apple or pear, and bread slices.

Yield: 8 servings (1 ½ cups dip).

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

 

02/26/12

Volume 1: Issue 4

The “Amazing Meals Made Easy” system for the busy food lover!

Week of February 26, 2012

For all of our new folks, welcome to the hautemealz.com eNewsletter! For the rest of you…how about that Polpette Di Carne last week, eh? We received some very nice email comments on that one…glad you liked it! (It was my favorite too!)

This week was another tough call as to which dinner was my favorite. The Stromboli was awesome, but so was the Chicken BLT Salad (I loved that avocado dressing!) Guess it’s a good thing I got to have them both!

Couple of things to keep an eye out for, this week

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02/24/12

Dani’s Hakuna Frittata

One thing I love about working and hangin’ out with chefs and foodies is, not only is the menu always amazing…but invariably someone in the group rummages through the fridge and just “throws a little something together” on the spot

…and it usually turns out awesome!

Last night was no exception. While I was finishing up the apple gravy for the roast pork from a recent SimplySmartDinnerPlans recipe, and Terry was putting the final touches on the smashed potatoes…Dani, our sous chef, food artist, and staff photographer, did a little “rummaging” for an appetizer…this is what she came up with and, oh my, it was good…

The philo strips on the bottom create a crispy crust, allowing you to eat your frittata like a pizza slice, and giving it a great crunch. The salty savory cheeses are a great counterpoint to the fresh veggies, as is the sweetness in the peppers to the tang of the spinach. The egg white holds it all together with a rich creaminess, while packing in some healthy protein.

The fresh ground black pepper is optional, but it really ties the room together…


Dani’s (amazing) Hakuna Frittata

1/2 pkg philo dough, cut into 1/4 inch strips
8 egg whites
2 Tbs water
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh baby spinach, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, shaved
1/2 cup mizithra cheese (or asiago)
1 tsp of salt, divided
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (opt)

Preheat oven to 375f

Combine cheeses, 1/2 tsp of salt, and garlic is a bowl and toss to combine.

Oil a pie-plate (Pyrex, if you got it) and cover the bottom with philo dough strips.

Whisk eggs whites with water and remaining salt; pour them into the plate, over the philo strips. Sprinkle evenly with cheese mix, reserving about a Tbs, then top with spinach, then peppers. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Bake, uncovered 8-10 minutes, or until eggs are firm. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Sprinkle with pepper (optional), cut into eighths, for appetizers, or quarters, for an entree. Serve hot and enjoy!

Dani’s tip: The 2 Tbs of water gives your eggs a smoother consistency. When making a frittata, an omelet, scrambled eggs, etc, use a water to egg ratio of 1Tbs water to every 4 eggs.

02/21/12

Tips for Storing Fresh Herbs

SimplySmartDinnerPlans  subscriber Stephanie asks:

“I love your free meal plans! Can you give some instruction on what to do with fresh herbs? I found myself looking up cooking with tarragon or cilantro. That’s probably so basic to you, that you wouldn’t give it a second thought, but some of us are just making our baby steps.”

Great question! Let’s look at two videos that cover basic steps for using fresh herbs, but first off, why should we use fresh herbs when the dried, bottled stuff is so convenient?

My personal opinion, based on my own experience and taste-buds, is that fresh anything is always better. The flavor is brighter in fresh ingredients and the aroma really pops. You can use both, but with fresh herbs you would want to add them right before you’re done cooking, sometime during the last five minutes. The are generally better if chopped, as cutting them makes more surface area and releases the water they contain.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

My rule for all food is that fresh is best, there are, however, always exceptions. While you can’t make pesto with dried basil, likewise if you’re making a spice rub for meat you need to use dried ingredients like spices and dried herbs, because the fresh versions will tend to burn and create an off-putting flavor.

Fresh herbs, typically, will be more expensive, unless you grow your own.

So, if you have a recipe that calls for dried herbs, and want to use fresh, the usual substitution ratio is three parts fresh herbs to one part dried. (If the recipes calls for 1 Tbs of dried, you’ll want 3 Tbs fresh and chopped.)

Okay, I’ll put my soapbox away and assume that everyone had been converted! Let’s take a quick look at how to store those delicious and delicate fresh herbs you just picked up…

The “flower vase” is a method I began using recently, and I’ve seen a remarkable improvement in the freshness and longevity of my herbs. (To be honest, my “flower vase” is a mason jar…which is fitting.) I can personally recommend this method for basil, parsley, and cilantro, and would be confident that it would work just as well on any other fresh herb.

Here’s a slightly longer video that gives some more in-depth how-to’s on how to prep your fresh herbs for cooking, as well as some suggested dishes. Keep an eye on some of the great techniques that Jamie uses…

Any tips or questions?

02/20/12

FYI, Paula Deen is not your personal savior…and she probably doesn’t want to be.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out my follow up post, as well!

So, apparently as a Food Blogger, I have a “responsibility” to comment on the whole Paula Deen/Diabetes Debacle, which I have religiously avoided up to this point.

In a nutshell: Paula “came out” about having Type 2 diabetes, which she’s had for several years, and much of the country has apparently been outraged enough to rouse from their Kardashian-enduced stupor and grunt (do lemmings grunt?) their dissatisfaction over the fact that she has “betrayed us all” by not pushing wheat-germ and tofu on her “southern cooking” show.

‘Cause…you know…we all thought her food was healthy, till we found out she had diabetes!

(Is my slant on this becoming too obvious?)

One comment I read actually stated, “Paula Deen’s failure to expose her diabetes and teach her audience that her recipes should make up at most a miniscule portion of an overall diet is a cynical moral failure of the first water, whether it was the doing of Deen, the Food Network, or both.”

Seriously.

Ooookay, my response…

GOOD…LORD…PEOPLE.

How ’bout just a little bit of personal responsibility?

What Paula Deen cooks or eats cannot effect anyone but PAULA DEEN…unless someone makes a CHOICE to cook and eat it themselves. There are no invisible diabetes-rays coming out of your television and raising your blood sugar, just by watching.

Trust me on this…if there were, I’d be dead by now.

She’s diabetic? I’m sorry to hear that, but those are the consequences of her choices, or maybe an unavoidable hereditary gene…do we know? Is it any of our business? When did she come out and say on her show, “I’m diabetic, and this is how all diabetics should eat!” ??? Why would anyone assume that she’s qualified to give that kind of nutritional advice, anyway? Who would be stupid enough to believe it?

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our free weekly meal plans and shopping lists!

Neither Paula, nor McDonalds, nor RJ Reynolds is holding a gun to anyone’s head. We need to stop whining , and pointing fingers, and trying to find someone else to blame (and, likely, sue) for our bad decisions! As my jr. high gym coach would say, “Suck it up, boys!”

OUR eating habits make us fat, OUR smoking gives us lung cancer, OUR overspending and sense of entitlement put us in debt.

Stop expecting someone else to role model your life for you.

YOU be your role model!

Okay, taking my pedestal and going back to my bunker, now…

-Perry

PS – If you haven’t yet, go read up on Paula Deen’s rise from nowhere to stardom. You’ll find it shelved under “Courage” in the library. Just my .02

Don’t forget to check out our latest culinary adventures at www.hautemealz.c

02/18/12

How to Roast and Peel a Pepper

How to roast a bell pepper

For the red pepper pizza recipe in next week’s meal plan, we listed 1/2 cup of jarred roasted sweet (bell) peppers as one of the ingredients.

If, however, you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can roast your own bell peppers. The flavor and texture will be a heck’uva lot better than the bottled variety!

This invaluable bite-size video tutorial explains precisely how it’s done, and how easy it is.

Oh, and if you do decide to roast your own pepper, be sure to delete the jarred peppers from the itemized grocery list that came with your meal plan (it’s under “CANNED/BOTTLED/OTHER”), and add 1 fresh red bell pepper to the PRODUCE list.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

02/18/12

Making a Basic Roux for Chowders and Gravies

Roux (“roo“) is a cooking mixture of flour and fat (usually butter), used as a thickener for soups and sauces, with roots dating back more than 300 years in French cuisine.

Made by combining and cooking a flour and oil paste until the raw flavor of the flour cooks out and the roux has achieved the desired color, a properly cooked roux imparts silky-smooth body and a nutty flavor while thickening soups and sauces.

Cornstarch mixed with water (slurry), arrowroot, and other ingredients can be used in place of roux, but they don’t add any flavor to the dish, and are only used for their thickening properties.

Making gravies, sauces, and roux-based stews can be intimidating at first, but building a roux is actually a remarkably simple process that leads to many wonderful dishes.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

This week, in your SimplySmartDinnerPlans, you’ll see a recipe for Mushroom and Potato Chowder (which is awesome, btw), that starts out with a roux, but the first few steps could be used for basically any thickened sauce or gravy.

1. In a large kettle, saute onions over medium heat, in butter until tender.

2. Add flour, salt, pepper (and any other spices); stir to make a crumbled paste. By the way, if you’re not working off a recipe, a good rule of thumb is to start with equal parts fat (butter, drippings, etc) to flour.

3. Cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes until roux begins to turn golden and gives off a nutty aroma (this step is KEY to cooking off the “flour-y” taste, and creating a deep, rich flavor.)


4. Gradually add water, broth, meat drippings, or milk/cream (I recommend one of the latter), starting very slowly (1/4 cup at a time) stirring constantly to keep smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute.

One trick my Dad taught me, while working with him at one of the restaurants, was to warm whatever liquid you’re using to just steaming. This keeps the roux from cooling (stopping the cooking process) each time you add liquid to it.

Depending on the broth/drippings, you now have an awesome gravy. Flavor check for salt, herbs, and/or spices, and it’s ready to serve.

For stews, or chowders, this is where you’d start adding all the goodies, and a bit more liquid (usually stock) to thin. (FYI…use bottled clam juice for the liquid, and you have the base of an amazing clam chowder.)

From here, we’ll stick with the Mushroom and Potato Chowder (just be thinking of all of the substitution you could be making along the way.)

4. Add the mushrooms, celery, potatoes and carrots.


5. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

6. Add cream and Parmesan cheese; heat through, and serve.

Congratulations, you can now make stew, chowder, and gravy!

If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll now spend the rest of your life perfecting them…

02/12/12

Newsletter Volume 1: Issue 3

 

 The “Amazing Meals Made Easy” system for the busy food lover!

Week of February 12, 2012

For all of our new folks, welcome to the hautemealz.com eNewsletter! For the rest of you…a month of menus already! Can you believe it?!?

This week’s menu is dedicated to our good friends Dan and Jeni…and their two favorite proteins. It’s gonna to be a fun one! How many completely unique, amazingly easy, and supremely sumptuous meals can you make from just two main ingredients like chicken breasts and ground beef?

Well…you’re about to find out!

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