Best of the best: picking out your produce

banner-programs-farmersmarketIt’s summer, and our Farmer’s markets are bursting at the seams with ripe, beautiful, delicious veggies!

12654364-largeOne thing I’m constantly reminding our subscribers of is this: when shopping for fresh produce, keep in mind your end goal…you’re wanting to prepare a delicious, nutritious dish…not shoot a magazine ad.

In other words, the best produce isn’t always the sexiest.

Imperfections can be attractive, hinting at surprising sweetness and depth of character. Unfortunately, most supermarkets today sell produce bred as much to withstand shipping, as for flavor, and while it might be pretty…it may not be particularly flavorful.

Use Your Senses

woman-smelling-fruit-400x400The best tasting produce is often irregularly shaped and blemished (because the more ripe the plant, the easier it is to bruise).

The freshest produce should feel solid and sturdy with taut skin. Leaf veggies should feel crisp and firm.

A lot of veggies and fruits can be sniffed for ripeness, and should smell strongly of what they are, without being cloying or overripe.

How to shop for vegetables

Okay, so here are some tips on how to pick good produce while shopping for a few of my favorite veggies…

Artichokes: Compact, plump, heavy, with thick, green, tightly closed leaves. Avoid if leaves are dry, spreading, or hard-tipped.

Asparagus: Straight stalks with closed, compact tips and full green color, except for white ends. Avoid if shriveled or have spreading tips. Thicker stalks should be peeled before cooking.

Avocados: Shiny green or mottled purplish-black (depending upon variety); yield to gentle pressure. Ripen in a paper bag at room temperature.

Beans: Firm, crisp, bright color.

Broccoli: Dark green, firmly clustered buds on firm, but not thick, stalks.

Cabbage: Firm, heavy, with brightly colored (green or red) outer leaves and no black blemishes.

Carrots: Firm, straight, with bright orange color, preferably with fresh green leaves attached. Avoid if limp or cracked.

Cauliflower: Firm heads with tightly packed creamy white clusters and fresh-looking green leaves. Avoid those with black spots.

Cucumbers: Medium to small, with bright green color. Avoid any with soft ends, or wax coatings.

Garlic: Firm heads with tight, compact cloves. Papery skin should be soft, not brittle.

Leeks: Firm, white base with fresh-looking green leaves.

Mushrooms: Firm, plump with tightly closed caps and fresh-looking stems. Select carefully, avoiding mold.

Onions: Clean, dry, firm with papery husks, and no sprouts or soft spots.

Peas: Firm, bright or light green, with well-filled pods. Avoid swollen, wrinkled, or immature dark green pods.

Peppers: Firm, shiny, with bright color, green, red, orange, or yellow. Avoid soft spots, or darkened stem ends.

Potatoes: Firm, smooth skinned, well shaped, with no sprouts.

Spinach: Bright green, fresh, tender leaves with no yellowing or wilted ends.

Squash: (zucchini, yellow, straight neck, patty pan) Smooth, bright skin, bright color, green or yellow, heavy and firm.

Sweet potatoes: Firm, uniform shape with even color. Avoid very large ones (it’s a sign of age).

Tomatoes: Firm, plump with unbroken skin; color and size depends on variety.

Turnips: Firm, unblemished, heavy for their size with fresh-looking tops.

Turnips: Firm, unblemished, heavy for their size with fresh-looking tops.


Cooking Veggies

Now that you’ve picked out some great veggies…what do you do with them?

We (should) be getting the majority of our daily vitamin content from vegetables, so we need to be sure that how we cook them does not drain away all the vitamins and benefits of eating them in the first place.

Cooking vegetables can be tricky. Over cooking can make vegetables bland and soggy.

Personally, I think that veggies seldom benefit from being boiled. Boiling leeches out vitamin content, and is the main culprit in turning vegetables to a lifeless, tasteless glop.

So, how do we proceed?

SCeB8Depending on the veggies, I prefer steaming, roasting, or sauteing.

All three of these cooking methods leave vegetables full of life. They will be crisp and colorful. It will also not deplete the vegetables of their vitamin content.

By rule of thumb, vegetables will only need a few minutes of heat…ie: take them off BEFORE they look done. If you wait until the looked cooked through, they’re gonna be soft and soggy when you serve them.

So, get out there and pick up some fresh, beautiful (or even not so beautiful) veggies at your local farmer’s or produce market, and enjoy them at their seasonal best!

Chef Perry


Dicing, blanching, and peeling tomatoes

tomatoes-638x638Heyya hauties!

It’s summer, and that means tomato season!

Now’s the time to hit your Farmer’s Markets and get your ‘maters at the peak of juicy, delicious ripeness.

Next week’s meal plans have tomatoes in several recipes, and a couple of them require some special preparation. So, I popped into the hautemealz.com test kitchen, and whipped up a couple of quick and simple “how to” videos to show you how easy it really is to dice, blanch, and peel tomatoes.

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow our YouTube channel, so you don’t miss a single video…we have some great ones coming up!


-Chef Perry

How to Dice a Tomato

A very simple, safe method of dicing a tomato for the home cook.

Peeling a Tomato

Simple instructions of blanching and peeling tomatoes


How we give back: The Amy Roloff Charity Foundation

Little People Big WorldYou probably know Amy Roloff, and her family, from their hit reality-television show, Little People, Big World, on TLC.

Our friend Amy is proof that amazing things can come is small packages…as well as being the leading lady of her own television series, she’s a business professional, wife, mother, speaker, and author.

BTW – “Little People, Big World” just finished it’s eighth season and is currently working on specials, making the show the longest running family reality TV show in history.

But, that’s not ALL Amy does…


“The Amy Roloff Charity Foundation (ARCF) will advocate, inspire and add value to the lives of youth who face personal life challenges.” – ARFC’s Mission Statement

Amy founded the non-profit Amy Roloff Charity Foundation (ARCF) in 2009 and has developed a successful grassroots organization that advocates, supports, inspires and changes the lives of kids facing life challenges.

HT_2010-06_Roloffs1In the first four years, ARCF has raised over $750,000 in donations. Her goals for ARCF’s is to surpass the one-million in giving and donations above and beyond and to be one of the leading non-profits that advocate and impact kids lives in the years to come. Amy and the ARCF team believe and know they are making a difference in the lives of kids one at a time.

A little help for a BIG World leads to little steps for a BIG Change in lives.

The ARFC supports some fantastic organizations, including Bridge Meadows, Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland, the Children’s Cancer Association, Generosity Water, Friends of the Orphans, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Special Olympics Oregon, and many many more.

“You do so much for many. Thank you, Chefs…you are an inspiration!” – Amy J. Roloff

We met Amy when she M.C.’d at the first charity auction for Sparks of Hope, another child-advocacy program that is near and dear to our hearts, and we were fortunate enough to strike up a conversation with her.

pulled_pork_sliderWhen we all realized the similarities of our missions and outreaches, Amy invited us to participate in several upcoming charity events, including the 2012 Portland Street of Dreams, and the 2012 ARFC “Starry Night” Dinner and Auction Gala, where we donated all of the ingredients to cook and serve our pulled-pork sliders to guests .

Hautemealz was included in the auction as well, raising $2,800 to cater dinner parties  for two winners.

photoaLater in the year, we had the honor of joining Amy, once again, at Portland’s Metro Holiday Toy Drive, feeding the families who were coming in to pick up gift boxes.

Join Us!

“We are continuing to be a little help for a BIG world,” says Amy, “in taking little steps for a BIG Change in impacting kids lives.”


This year’s event, the 5th Annual ARCF Dinner and Auction Gala will be held on September 14th,  at Portland’s Leftbank Annex, and we will once again be on the auction block!

If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to see you there! Be sure to reserve a seat (or host a table) at the online reservation page, and help make a BIG change!

“Your support will help us raise awareness for the communities and organizations we support. Help us make this event a success for kids again for the 5th year in a row!” – Amy

Last but not least, we want to extend a BIG “thank you” to all of our meal-plan subscribers…

photo4 (800x592) - CopyEvery month that you’re subscribed to one of our meal plans, you help support, through the Hautemealz Outreach Program,  life-giving organizations like the Amy Roloff Charity Foundation, The Father’s Heart Street Ministry, and the No Kid Hungry project…thank you!

We have BIG outreach plans for the coming year, and we couldn’t do it without you…you rock!

Chef Perry


Crazy easy light and fluffy omelet! (video)

OmeletHere’s a classic French-style omelet, ala Julie Child, that’s super fast, super simple, and super delicious!

You can make it with just eggs, as I do here, or incorporate some of your favorite ingredients (ham or bacon, fresh chopped veggies, sauteed onions or mushrooms, cheese, etc), just before you start flippin’!

Have a great breakfast!

Chef Perry


Stocking your Kitchen “Toolbox”

Julia Child and her famous pegboard

Julia Child and her famous pegboard


There’s no doubt that having the right tools for the job makes any task easier, and there’s no better place to illustrate this than in the kitchen, where having the right cooking utensils can be the difference between creating good meals and great meals.

Many cooks think about major appliances such as the stove and refrigerator when planning to equip their kitchens, but to be a success in the kitchen, you need to have a good selection of cooking utensils in addition to the bigger items. And don’t forget…cooking utensils means more than just spoons; there’s a host of small cooking utensils ranging from cutting devices, juicers, graters and more, that belong in your culinary “toolbox”.

Note: the links provided below are examples of the brands/models that we’ve tested, like, and use ourselves. There are many options for each, and most should be available at your local kitchen supply store.

Making a List

When thinking about outfitting (or re-outfitting) your cook space, think about what you do in a kitchen and about how different cooking utensils come into play for each task:


• Washing and drying fresh produce – always easy to accomplish with a strainer and salad spinner. The salad-spinner has gotten a bad rap from comedians over the years, but I can tell you from personal experience…if you don’t like a soggy salad, they’re a hard-to-beat tool to have around! A good vegetable peeler, with an ergonomic handle (this is the one I use) is also an important addition to your cooking utensils closet.


• Slicing, chopping and dicing all kinds of food and garnishes – a food processor is nice to have (I have one), and makes short work of vegetables, but mandolins, knives and graters are more versatile, and don’t require electricity. Very helpful cooking utensils to have on hand.

2641813047740p• Measuring – cooking doesn’t always have to be precise, but likewise, I’ve found it can be extremely hard to replicate a great dish that I’ve just flung random amounts of ingredients into.

Baking, on the other hand, is as much science as art, and recipes should be followed as precisely as possible so measuring dishes, cups (both wet and dry measures) and measuring spoons are invaluable cooking utensils.

eatsmartscale• Weighing – depending on what you like to cook, you may want to add a food scale to your shopping list of cooking utensils. Such a tool can be excellent for portioning meat and other products that have cooking times affected by weight.

Small digital scales are easy to use, don’t take much space, and can be found fairly inexpensively at just about any grocery store these days.

51YPJZYXEDL• Temperature – as important as measures are temperatures, which can affect the success of your kitchen endeavors. An oven or meat thermometer is key to having properly cooked meat that is safe to eat, and should be included in your pantry of cooking utensils.

• Mixing – no kitchen would be complete without a cadre of mixing bowls in its cooking utensils cupboard. Having a selection of bowls in assorted sizes is essential to fast, efficient cooking.

• Manipulating, poking, prodding, lifting and stirring – perhaps what most often comes to mind when you think of cooking utensils are implements used to move food: spoons, forks, knives, spatulas, wire whisks, pastry blenders, tongs, salad lifters, slotted spoons, wooden spoons, serving spoons and more.

kitchen drawer

So, do you really need ALL of this stuff?

Probably not, few do. But by visualizing the tasks you do every day in the kitchen, you’ll get a better idea of the cooking utensils you should consider keeping on hand.

Think about every stage of the food preparation process, from storage and cleaning, to prep, cooking and presenting.

Other cooking utensils you may or may not need: pastry brush, kitchen shears, rolling pin, salt shaker, pepper mill, cutting board, ramekins, flour sifter, rotary beater, ladles, juicer and a can opener.

Anything I missed that you can’t live without in your kitchen?

-Chef Perry

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.


Diabetic-friendly BBQ Sauce

I originally created this recipe for my dad, who was diabetic but loved his barbecue.

The key ingredients are the low-carb ketchup, and the brown-sugar substitute.

Most of the rest can be tweaked to your liking.

I’ve passed this recipe along to dozens of friends and family members who were trying to eat healthier, or were diabetic as well, and it always gets rave reviews.

diabetic friendly bbq sauce

CHEF PERRY’S Diabetic-Friendly BBQ Sauce

12oz low carb ketchup
1/2c apple cider vinegar
1tsp onion powder
1Tbs garlic powder
½ tsp dry mustard
1Tbs ground ginger
1Tbs smoked paprika
1tsp lemon juice
1/4c sweet cream butter
1/4 c equivalent brown sugar substitute* (to taste)
1Tbs salt
1Tbs coarse black pepper
2 Tbs Franks Red Hot Sauce (opt)

Combine all ingredients and simmer 1 hour.

Baste onto meat during last ½ hour of cooking and/or serve warm at table.

*If you’re having trouble finding a brown-sugar substitute, use your favorite sugar-sub, and add 2 tsp. of molasses.

Makes 56 1-tablespoon servings.

Per Tbs – Calories: 16, Fat: 1, Sodium: 8, Carbs: 1.3, Protein: .5


-Chef Perry

PS – If I’m cooking brisket, shoulders, whole pig, or anything with “drippin’s” I’ll usually mix in a half cup of that broth to every cup of the above sauce.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.



How to BBQ a Pig in La Caja China (Video)

How to roast a whole pig in La Caja China (Video)

I know this is a little off topic from our meal planning stuff, but one of the OTHER things that Chefs Chris, Terry, and myself do, is work as private chefs for parties, often cooking up summer BBQs.

For those, we often roast or BBQ whole pigs in an ingenious device known as a La Caja China. This is a video we made this week, for our fellow La Caja China users.

Enjoy, and if you’re inspired to roast your own pigs (or lambs, briskets, turkeys, ribs…you name it), let us know and we can give you lots more tips and tricks!

-Chef Perry

Want to help me feed hungry families, teach at-risk & special-needs kids to cook for themselves and their families, and change lives?

Become a patron!


MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter!

We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kid

BBQ the Pig
1 – 45 lb pig
2 cups coarse sea salt
1 cup coarse ground pepper
1 cup smoked paprika
40 lbs Kingsford charcoal

Remove the pig from the cooler and let it warm up for several hours to room temperature. This is important for even cooking. Rinse the pig, inside and out, pat dry.

Split the pelvic bone and spine (if necessary) to allow the pig to lay flat, skin down. Place pig on the bottom half of the rack.

Inject the pig every few inches (see recipe, below) in the hams, shoulders, belly, and tenderloins. (Do this the night before, if possible)

Sprinkle generously with salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika.

Place the top rack over the pig, and tie using the 4 S-Hooks. Place to lg. disposable pans in the bottom of the box (to catch drippings), and place the pig, in the rack, into the box.

Cover box with the ash pan and charcoal grid. Add 10 lbs. of charcoal for Model #1 Box or 12-14lbs. for Model #2, or Semi Pro Box, and light up.  Once lit (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grid.

If your La Caja China includes the off-set smoke box, move 5-6 of the lit coals to the rack in the smoker, and add 1 cup of oak chips or pellets. Add fresh coals and wood about every 30 minutes to maintain a constant smoke.

Cooking time starts right now.

After 1 hour, add 8 lbs. of charcoal. Continue to add 8 lbs. of charcoal every hour until you reach 195 on the meat thermometer. (Figure 1 hour of roasting time for every 10lbs of pig, for Southern Style BBQ Pig)

After 2 hours, shake the coals and remove excess ash from the lid, before adding charcoal. Repeat this step every two hours.

IMPORTANT: Do not open the box until you reach the desired temperature!

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Once you reach 195, (5-5 ½ hours) lift the charcoal grid shake it well to remove the ashes, now place it on top of the long handles.

Remove the ash pan from the box and dispose of the ashes.

Flip the pig over to crisp the skin.

Score the skin using a knife, this helps to remove the fat and crisp the skin. I just cut a shallow X in each of square of the rack. You want to cut through the skin, but not into the meat.

Cover the box again with the ash pan and the charcoal grid; do not add more charcoal at this time.

After 30 minutes, take a peek, if Ms. Piggy isn’t quite as gold and crispy as you wanted, close the lid another ten.  You will continue doing this every 10 minutes until the skin is crispy to your liking.

Once the pig is to your liking, set the lid back on at an angle, so the pig stays warm but isn’t cooking,  and let it rest for 30-60 minutes…it will still be too hot to touch bare-handed.

For easier carving, break the whole pig down into hams, shoulders, and belly meat. Then move to your cutting area and chop the meat coarsely, sprinkling generously with pan drippings, and additional salt (to taste).

Allow to rest 10-20 minutes, then serve with beans and Southern-style Mac Salad (recipes below).


Chef Perry

PS – If you love bbq (and you know you do) be sure to check out our OTHER page: Burnin’ Love BBQ!


Whole Pig Injection Marinade
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

Combine all ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer, mixing until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool before injecting.

To use this with a pork shoulder, reduce all ingredients to 1/4 of the listed amounts.

Post 9b

SimplySmartDinnerPlans Baked Beans (Serves 8)
1 – 15oz  can baked beans
1 – 15oz can black beans
1 – 15oz can pork & beans
1 – 15oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 lb bacon ends
1/2 stick sweet butter
1 lg sweet onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow/orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 Anaheim pepper (green), seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
Salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Coarsely chop bacon ends and cook until done, remove to paper towels to drain.

Brown 1/2 of the butter and saute onions until translucent (about 5 minutes), lower heat, add garlic, and cook 2 more minutes, but don’t let the garlic brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Brown remaining butter and saute peppers 5 minutes, sprinkling with salt & pepper, to taste.

Drain beans completely and combine in a large pan. Add cooked onions, bacon, and peppers.

Bake, covered at 350 for 1 hour, remove cover and bake an addition 20 minutes.

Post 9

SimplySmartDinnerPlans Macaroni Salad (serves 8-10)
8 ounces Dry macaroni
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 – 3/4 C Mayo (If you like more dressing, add the full amount)
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped onion
2-4 ounce jar of pimentos
1/3 C sweet pickle relish
2 tsp. celery seed
salt and pepper to taste (I start with 1/2 tsp of each)
Paprika (to top)

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain in a colander and run cold water over it to cool.

Mix all other ingredients together in medium mixing bowl. Add macaroni and mix well. Add more mayo if needed.


Stir before serving.


Q & A: How much do I cook for a party?

hautemealz.com subscriber Donna asks:

“I’d love to host some dinner parties this summer in our new house, but I never know how much to cook, especially for a large group. Any tips on serving in big numbers?”

One of the most frustrating aspects of cooking for a crowd is the fear of running out of food.

I HATE seeing an empty pan on my serving table! So, how much should you buy? Too little, and you risk running out, too much and you’ve spent more than you need to.

photo25 - Copy

Portion Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines to help you calculate how many people you can serve with that raw chunk of meat on the butcher’s shelf…

When planning a meal, it is always better to purchase too much meat than not enough. Always be prepared for people with larger appetites.

The “Mystery Guest”

Mystery-GuestOne trick I use is to add a “mystery” guest for every 4 confirmed.

In other words, I plan 5 portions for 4 people, 10 portions for 8, 15 for 12, etc. If there are leftovers, the cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the unused portions may be frozen for long term storage.

Party on!

– Chef Perry


New “Kid Friendly” Recipe Steps

Heyya hauties…keep an eye on your upcoming hautemealz.com meal plans for our new “Kid Friendly” icon:

Kid Friendly recipe

These are steps in the recipe that are easy and safe enough (no sharp knives, or hot pans) for your youngest and least experienced “sous chefs” to handle!

The Kid Friendly icon will be followed by specific instructions, as well as tips and ideas for making the job easier (and less messy) for your prep-monkeys.

Get a little help in the kitchen, have some fun family time, and who knows… maybe even start training your future personal chef!

-Chef Perry


4th of July BBQ Tips

We have a great guest post today from our friend’s at JES Restaurant Equipment! Check out the infographic, below, on some very common mistakes that grillers make, and the corresponding tips to help make your 4th of July cooking the best it can be!


Now that the weather’s warmed up, millions of people are firing up the grill and cooking up delicious meals. But how many of you are making these common grilling mistakes?

  • Pressing your burgers flat with the spatula (smooshes the juices right out)
  • Cooking too fast (or too slow – don’t forget the sear!)
  • Burning your sauce (put sugary sauces on when you’re almost done cooking)
  • Cutting into meats without letting them rest (resting the meat for about 5 minutes seals in the juices – thicker cuts need even longer)

We focused on tips for a gas grill (like the popular Holland Grills), but these tips will work equally well on charcoal grills.

Easy tips for grilling like a pro! (Infographic)! (Infographic)

 Add This Graphic To Your Website for Free

Source by JES Restaurant Equipment