10/28/13

World’s Greatest 3-Berry Cobbler

DinnerandDanceWe had a great time cooking for the Tualatin Grange’s Centennial Dinner and Dance this weekend.

Helped raised money for a great cause, doing what we love to do!

Got lots of great comments on this super-simple dessert, so here’s the recipe…

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans.com

PS – I’m having a little fun with that subject line…a bit of an inside joke with some fellow food-bloggers. Seriously though, this is the best (and easiest)  cobbler I’ve ever had! – P

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Chef Perry’s Super Easy 3-Berry Cobbler
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups A/P Flour
2 cups. sugar, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk
16 oz. mixed berries (marion, raspberry, blueberries)
1/4 cup raw sugar (the coarse stuff)

IMG_0320 - CopyPreheat oven to 350F.

Melt butter in a 2 qt. baking dish. Mix the flour, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, baking soda, vanilla, and salt. Add milk and stir until smooth.

Pour batter over the melted butter, don’t stir.

In a separate bowl, combine berries and remaining sugar, and spoon over the batter.

Bake 45 minutes, or until the batter has raised and turned golden brown. Then sprinkle with raw sugar, cover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Serve with vanilla bean ice-cream, or homemade whipped cream.

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06/17/13

Sweet Cranberry Brie Puff Pastries

Cranberry Brie Puff Pastry Recipe

This is one of those “happy accident” dishes. I’d intended to make my traditional baked brie, which is wrapped in puff pastry sheets before baking, then slices and eaten with crackers.

When I got to that step in the recipe, I discovered that I had grabbed “Puff Pastry Shells” by mistake.

Opening the box, I found a half dozen little frozen “discs”  of dough, instead of the sheets I was expected.

(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!)

I thought, “What the heck…”

(Okay, more precisely I ranted and raved for a couple of minutes, cooled down a little, and then thought, “What the heck…”)

Now, as is often the case, what turned out was much better than I expected, and I’m glad I grabbed the wrong box. This is how I’ll be making this recipe from now on!

Sweet Brie Puff Pastries

1 (7 to 8-inch) wheel brie cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs yellow mustard
6 puff pastry shells (1 box) baked.
Butter

Bake pastry shells according to box instructions.

Blend mustard and brown sugar into a thick paste.

Using a warmed sharp knife, or unflavored dental floss, cut the wheel of brie in half horizontally and separate the top half of the wheel from the bottom half.

Set each half “skin” down in a buttered baking dish. Spread each half with sugar/mustard paste. Sprinkle with cranberries and walnuts

Cover dish with foil and add to oven for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

Remove the pastry “lids” and spoon in the softened brie mixture until full, replace lid.

Allow to cool slightly, and serve.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

06/11/13

Kale Bacon Slaw

kale bacon slaw

This is one of my favorite coleslaw recipes. I love cabbage slaw, but it has to be super fresh…the instant the cabbage starts to get soggy (which is pretty quickly) I lose interest.

One of the great things about kale is that it will hold up to the dressing and stay crunchy for hours and even days. Plus it’s got a great peppery bite!

This recipe was a big hit at our first cooking and meal planning demo at the Wilsonville Farmer’s Market last week.

Here’s our step-by-step video, and the full written recipe below that.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry


Kale Bacon Slaw

Yield: 4 servings           Active Time: 15 min.    Total Time: 15 min.


  • 1/2 head curly kale
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 6 slices of smoked bacon, divided
  • 2 tbsp. (rounded) mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crasins (dried cranberries, optional)

Cook the bacon till crisp, drain & cool on paper towel and then chop. Remove the stem from the kale and slice into thin ribbons. Grate the carrot. Juice the orange and lemon. Skin and slice the onion thinly.

Place the kale into a salad bowl. Toss with the onions, carrot, orange juice, lemon juice, salt, and 1/2 of the bacon.

 Add the mayonnaise/juice dressing and mix the slaw well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

The slaw can be made several hours in advance. If making the night before, add the onions just before serving.

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06/3/13

Shrimp & Bacon Soft Tacos

Bacon Shrimp Soft Tacos

This was our #1 most popular 2012 recipe and photo according to our hautemealz.com meal planning subscribers vote, and one of the favorite recipes  around my house (it’s shrimp and bacon, c’mon!) as well.

This dish also makes a fantastic appetizer when made as rolls, and sliced into 2-inch rounds (see photo, below).

Shrimp & Bacon Soft Tacos
1lb raw shrimp (26-30ct) shelled
½ white onion, julienne cut
2 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
1/2 lb thick sliced bacon, chopped
1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
8 flour gorditas, warmed
8 Tbs Crema (Mexican sour cream)
2 limes, quartered
Fresh Pepper Pico de Gallo – opt

Make the pico de gallo (link to recipe, above), and chill 1-2 hours while preparing the rest of the meal.

Sweat the onions, with bacon and garlic in a medium-low pan 10-15 minutes, until onions start to clear.

(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!)

Add shrimp, cover and cook until shrimp are just pink through.

Assemble contents of pan, along with a schmear of crema, evenly on gorditas, top with cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

As appetizers (with some avocado added):

Shrimp Bacon Wraps

Enjoy!

– Chef Perry

03/18/13

Shopping the Salad Bar

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Here’s one of my favorite “shopping” tips:

Often when a recipe is calling for a small amount of a fresh ingredient, like a 1/4 cup of diced onions or celery, some sliced mushrooms, a couple of tablespoons of chickpeas, etc., and that’s all you’re going to need of that ingredient for the week…you can save some trouble, money, and wasted food, by buying just the exact amount you need from the salad bar!

(If your favorite store doesn’t have one, your local hospital cafeteria probably will. Don’t cringe, it’s likely to be cleaner and more sanitary than that salad bar at your favorite restaurant, lol.)

The higher “cost per pound” is mitigated by the small amounts you’re actually buying for your recipes, and the fact that you’re not paying for any waste or trim.

Plus, someone else has prepped it for you!

Tip two: most salad bars stay stocked with the same ingredients all the time. Sneak a quick picture of yours, with your phone or tablet, and save it as a reference when planning your shopping.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans

(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 Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

01/16/13

The Problem with Farm to Table

farm to tableOkay, I know that this title is going to bring some folks here lookin’ for a fight, so before you start sharpening your pitchforks and hurling your organic, fair-trade rotten tomatoes…let’s be clear: I love the farm-to-table concept.

I love my local farmer’s markets, and I take every opportunity to support my local artisan food purveyors; in part because I believe it’s the healthy and more socially responsible choice, but also because the food just tastes better!

However, my love and support for the ideal of farm-to-table does not negate that, in practice, the system is flawed.

Maybe a more fitting title would be “Farm to Table…the missing ingredient“, because the farm-to-table model leaves out a critical step…creating a gap that is not just important, but imperative to fill, for the system to work.

Functionally, the equation is actually “farm-to-KITCHEN-to-table” The kitchen is the bridge (or, unfortunately more often the gap) between the farm and the table.

Farmers-Market-foodsWhat good is fresh, organic, sustainable, fair-trade food, if the end-user (the home cook) doesn’t know what it is, or what to do with it, and so won’t buy it?

Side note: my definition of “cooking” is turning raw, unprocessed ingredients into a finished meal with a minimum of pre-made additions.

Part of the issue, I believe, is that foodies, farmers, and people who cook are often amazed at the extent to which other people don’t cook. When my wife, who did not grow up cooking, says to me, “I’m afraid to cook meat”, my eyes tend to glaze over…but she’s not alone. In fact, she’s not even in the minority!

farm to tableDon’t believe me? Test it.

Take a friend with you (and no cherry-pickin’ one of your foodie friends!) to large grocery store or farmer’s market, and see how many vegetables they can name without looking at the label. Then, if you need further convincing, ask they how’d they prepare the ones they did recognize.

This isn’t just about foodies loving good food, or hippies wanting to save the planet…this gap effects our country’s health, ecology, finances…the list goes on.

HEALTH

Fresh, unprocessed, (what we at hautemealz.com like to call “real”) food is better for us, and better for the environment. Everyone knows this.

(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!)

The number one most effective method of battling the proliferation of processed foods, obesity, diabetes, celiac disease, GMOs, corporate farming, yadda yadda yadda…is to shop, cook, and eat with as few steps as possible between the dirt and the plate. True healthcare begins in the kitchen, not the gym. Most of us know this.

It takes 10 minutes to grill a pork chop and some fresh veggies. Some of us know this.

grilled-pork-chops

However, just knowing the truth is only the first step in slowing our society’s descent into further slavery to the boxed, processed, artificially preserved, instant, easy-to-prepare corporate food masters.

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We must increase that knowledge and spread it around. Knowledge is power, and we’ve turned much of the power over to the fast-food corporations. If we don’t know how to cook, believe me, they’ll be more than happy to continue to make our lives “easier” by doing the “hard part”.

Why am I picturing Morlocks and Eloi?

These companies, btw, buy from the agri-conglomerates (or own them outright) many of them in other countries, and NOT from your local, small, organic, fair trade farms…perpetuating the spiral.

Which leads us to…

money_burningFINANCES

Where does a pervasive lack of basic cooking skills lead, from an economic standpoint?

Well, at the residential level, it leads to a reliance on instant, processed, or packaged foods or  eating in restaurants, which isn’t financially sustainable for the average family, unless it spirals down to, as it often does, the local drive though dollar menu.

Even then, we’re spending more than we think. The average cost of a “cheap” drive-thru meal here in Oregon, runs between $3-$4 per person. For a family of four “lite-eaters”, we’re looking at $12-$16 dollars. This is 20-30% more then we spend at our house, cooking quick, simple, healthy meals, often with enough left-overs for lunch the next day.

“Value Menu”…really?

fast food garbageOh, and we don’t toss a big bag full of cardboard, paper and plastic in the trash afterwards, either.

On a “broader” scale (pun intended) the nation’s health care tab stood at $2.7 trillion in 2011, the latest year available.

I don’t think I need to say anything more about that.

EDUCATION

This is the crux of this article. Laws, labeling, testing, etc., can all be good things, but they will never,  ever, replace the ability of the educated consumer to “vote with their checkbooks” by knowing what to buy, and how to prepare it for their families.

il_570xN.332591766We’re moving into a third and fourth generation of people raised without a grasp of basic cooking skills or confidence in the kitchen.

In her article, “Bring Back Home Economics in Schools!(Cooking Light, 2012) Hillary Dowdle refers to herself and her generation as “the ‘lost girls and boys’, saying, “Public health experts , nutritionists, and educators are beginning to realize that the lack of basic life skills, like cooking, presents a serious problem: Americans are growing up ignorant about the whats, whys, and hows of eating healthy.”

Basically, if no one cooked at home, today’s young people’s options are to (a) get a job in a “real food” restaurant kitchen (plan 2-3 years, minimum, before you actually cook anything), or spend thousands (or tens of thousands) on culinary school…which is a pretty deep commitment for someone who just wants to feed their kids a healthy dinner.

Where do most folks end up? Right back on the processed foods aisle, or in the drive-thru.

“(Food) is devalued generally in our education system . . . it’s more than just learning how to cook. It’s about food literacy, which means teaching children what foods to eat and why, how to understand food labeling information and how and why we need to prepare and cook food safely.” says Griffith University School of Education and Professional Studies Dean, Donna Pendergast.

This leads me to a personal soap box…

100years-HomeEc1949

In an article titled, “Compulsory home economics essential to fight childhood obesity“, the home economics advocate blog, HomeEcConnect, states: “We are losing basic survival skills.  Home Economics is essential for learning about the basics of growing, transporting, purchasing, preparing, nutritional values, cooking, presenting, enjoying, cleaning up and storage of food.  ‘Food literacy” is about learning food skills as a holistic concept.”

aubergines-etc-european-cooking-school-princeton-nj

Dr. Arya Sharma (Director of the Canadian Obesity Network) says “time to bring back home economics” because “the art of basic food preparation and meal planning may be a very real part of the obesity solution”.

Our kid’s need to learn to cook good food. Period.

Budget’s are tight, and school days are long, we know. Frankly, I don’t mind a computer doing my math, or my science, but I don’t want one cooking my food. If we’re going to cut something from the curriculum, let’s not make it the one thing that is at the core of our survival and well-being as a species, shall we?

If my daughter’s lack of proficiency in trigonometry means she might live longer than her parents…I’m okay with that.

Speaking of which daughter started learning to cook at three, now, at five, she is an adept omelet, salad, and sandwich maker, a savvy produce shopper, and could give Chef Gordon Ramsey a run for “kitchen tyrant.” She loves to cook, and is more adventurous and open in her eating than most adults I know.

But, not every child has the (sometimes) good fortune of having a father who’s a chef, who’s father was a chef, who’s father was a chef.

What do we do? We fill the gap!

While, in this author’s opinion, mandatory home economics classes, for both genders, are vital…what do we do to help those who are already out of school; folks who have jobs, and families, and bills, and budgets?

We started hautemealz.com, in part, to help fill this gap. We believe that to help people make responsible changes in planning, shopping and cooking, that those changes, to be effective and lasting, must SIMPLIFY their already too-busy lives, instead of further complicating them.

As our subscribers cook their way through their weekly menus, they learn basic cooking and nutrition techniques and skills, sometimes directly from short video clips, blogs posts, and Q & A, but mostly passively, though the hands-on process of actually preparing easy, non-threatening, nutritious recipes. They are introduced to new vegetables, healthier cuts of meat, etc, and soon have a grasp of what’s available, and what to do with it.

We believe that folks who are already spinning a lot of plates need to love it before they learn it, in other words, they need to prepare themselves a simple, delicious meal, before they need to learn why it’s good for them, and we hear this happening time after time from our subscribers.

We prepare a weekly shopping list of ingredients, organized by aisle, which saves them hours of planning and organizing, and we provide a color photo of each dish, so they know what they’re shooting for.

Mother and Daughter Making a Salad

We also encourage our readers to cook with their families, offering simple steps in the recipes that children of various ages can help with, and, hopefully, educating the next generation.

Lastly, we’re here for them. Professional and home cooks ready to answer their questions, provide options, and give tips and advice for exactly what they’re cooking.

That’s what we’re doing at SimplySmartDinnerPlans.com

Here are four things you can do to bridge the gap:

  • Learn to cook, and to cook healthier
  • Teach you kids, grandkids, or any kids to do the same
  • Become a regular customer of your local farmer’s market and independent food purveyor
  • Fight for mandatory food science classes in our public schools, and volunteer at an after-school program. (Those are your tax-dollars, you should have a say in how they’re spent!)

Bottom line: if we can help home-cooks prepare simple, affordable, healthy meals, in the time they have…we capture their attention, and can lead them towards a healthier, more responsible food lifestyle, one they will be explore with a sense of excitement, not guilt or frustration.

Become an advocate for people knowing their way around the kitchen, and you help bridge the gap between farm and table.

Let’s cook!

– Chef Perry

10/10/12

A Delicious Companion To Good Health: Olive Oil

Olive oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. It is commonly used in cooking throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean countries.

The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin; wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC. The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor in ancient Greece. Many ancient presses still exist in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and some dating to the Roman period are still in use today.

The first recorded oil extraction is known from the Hebrew Bible and took place during the Exodus from Egypt, during the 13th century BC.

During this time, the oil was derived through hand-squeezing the berries and stored in special containers under guard of the priests.

So what’s the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil?

Extra-virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries; the percentage is far higher in the Mediterranean countries (Greece: 80%, Italy: 45%, Spain 30%). It is used on salads, added at the table to soups and stews and for dipping.

Virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, has an acidity less than 1.5%, and is judged to have a good taste.

Pure olive oil. Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil.

Olive oil is a blend of virgin and refined production oil, of no more than 2% acidity. It commonly lacks a strong flavor.

Olive pomace oil is refined pomace olive oil often blended with some virgin oil. It is fit for consumption, but may not be described simply as olive oil. It has a more neutral flavor than pure or virgin olive oil, making it unfashionable among connoisseurs; however, it has the same fat composition as regular olive oil, giving it the same health benefits. It also has a high smoke point, and thus is widely used in restaurants as well as home cooking in some countries.

Good & good for you!

Highly favored as a cooking oil, and for use in a variety of classic dressings, olive oil is also touted in many quarters as a delicious companion to good health. Research on the health benefits of olive oil is impressive, as are the affects of a more Mediterranean-style diet.

Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol

The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published findings that indicate the introduction of olive oil into regular diet has demonstrated a reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This is significant because once LDL cholesterol has oxidized it often results in artery rigidity and accompanying heart disease.

Olive Oil in Cancer Prevention

In a comparison study at the University Hospital Germans Trias Pujol in Barcelona there seems to be an indication that the health benefits of olive oil may also be useful in the prevention or slowing of cancer cells.

The study provides evidence that a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil prevents colonic carcinogenesis reducing precancerous tissue which resulted in fewer tumors when compared to a controlled sample of rats ingesting foods containing other types of cooking oils.

Researchers at Oxford University in England have seen indications that olive oil may actually be as good for our digestive system as fresh fruit and vegetables in preventing or reducing the incidence of colon cancer.

The reasons behind this phenomena are still being considered, but it is believed that the olive oil may help regulate the bile acid in the stomach while increasing useful enzymes within the stomach that contribute to optimal colon health.

Olive Oil and Heart Health

The American Heart Association has also noted that consumption of olive oil has “clear health benefits”.

Olive Oil and Lower Blood Pressure

By substituting virgin olive oil for other fats within your diet, the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates a substantial reduction in drug dosage requirements for the management of high blood pressure. Initial findings indicate dosage reductions could be as high as 50%.

Additional Findings

Additional health benefits of olive oil may be found in a diet which explores the varied uses of olive oil in both food preparation as well as additional balanced meal choices. Combined, olive oil and appropriate food choice seem to enhance the overall health of those subscribing.

Final Word

While studies remain ongoing, it is encouraging to note that something that has long been noted for good taste may also be a link to positive health benefits and longevity of life. Using more olive oil as a replacement for less healthy fats and oils may be a healthy, and palatable change well worth considering.

BTW…here are a few of our favorite hautemealz.com recipes that incorporate this healthy, delicious, oil… Soba Noodles with Mushrooms & Kale, Grilled Ratatouille, Caprese Tomato Bites, and Easy Goat Cheese Naan.

07/24/12

Introducing our new “haute & healthy” diabetic-friendly menu plan!

Diabetes is not the end of your life…nor is it the end of enjoying good food!

As a borderline-diabetic, with a long family history of the disease, I personally develop,  test, and follow the recipes for the haute & healthy menu.

Each recipe is designed to help maintain acceptable blood-sugar levels, encourage weight-loss (two key elements in diabetes management), and provide a delicious, nutritious, and sustainable eating lifestyle.

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06/6/12

Beef eater? Steak junkie? Cow aficionado?

Are you a beef eater? Steak junkie? Cow aficionado? If you’re drooling right now, then, brothers and sisters, next week’s hautemealz.com menu plan is for you!

Check it out…

Soy-Honey Flank Steak and Grilled Potato Slices with Salt & Vinegar
Salt & Pepper Flank Steak with Roasted Vegetables
Flank Steak, Asparagus & Red Pepper Stir-fry

Plus 4 more delicious, nutritious recipes including:

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04/8/12

Volume 1: Issue 9

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

Week of April 8, 2012

“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” –  Harriet Van Horne

Happy Easter everyone!

How many of you are doing our “Elegant (and easier) Easter Dinner” recipe tomorrow? I’ve already got the Garlic and Rosemary Leg o’ Lamb rubbed with spices, and my Potato, Leek, and Asparagus Gratin is tucked safely in the fridge. Can’t wait to dig in tomorrow! If you’re doing one of these recipe, let us know how it goes, and post some pictures on the Facebook page or the hautemealz.com blog!

The hand’s down big hit on this week’s menu, for me, has to be the Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs with Simple Snow Peas. Savory, sweet, sticky beef candy…need I say more?

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