Archive for May, 2012
Have you tried freeze-dried fruit? Or more to the point, have your kids? Freeze-dried fruit has a consistency akin to…well, Pringles almost. They’re light and airy. My kids like to press the fruit between their tongue and the roof of their mouth until it gets squishy. They make for great snacks too since they won’t weigh down your bag and they’re fun to eat.
Freeze-dried fruit has a completely different consistency than dried fruit. If only I could freeze-dry at home! But the way the process works is that the fruit is flash frozen, then put into a vacuum chamber to remove the frozen water by converting it directly into a gas. The leftover fruit is drained of 75-90% of its water content but loses few of its nutrients. Also, freeze-dried fruit doesn’t have any added preservatives or sugars and it’s low in calories too. My serving of strawberries, which is a decent 2/3 cup, has only 45 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. Not bad.
I’ve been noticing freeze-dried fruit popping up in store aisles from Costco to Target, Trader Joe’s to Walmart. But the small packets you find at the grocers can get pricey (it’s true that freeze-dried fruit tends to be more expensive in general but it lasts forever). I order my freeze-dried fruit in bulk online from
Emergency Essentials. You can try the freeze-dried fruit combo, which includes bananas, pineapple, peach, mango, strawberry, and raspberry, all 2-ounce cans for $39.95. My favorite is the mango, which come as little squares that taste kind of like good-for-you versions of Lucky Charms marshmallows. I’ve noticed the strawberries and raspberries tend to break into little pieces. I don’t let the fruit powder go to waste, I use it in smoothies or fruit sauces.
Your turn: Have you tried freeze dried fruit? What did you think of the flavor and texture?
Sriracha sauce: noun, verb (ex. we need to srirachasize this meal) An Asian born chili sauce that melds into other ingredients and gives food a spicy tickle that fades quickly, depending on how many hits of sriracha used. Not to be confused with Tabasco sauce, Cholula, Valentina, or other chili sauces.
I thought I’d offer my own definition of sriracha sauce since dictionary.com lists “no results” and this newly trendy chili sauce is worth adding to your kitchen spice arsenal. Regular readers understand I like a kick of heat in my food. But even if you’re a chili sauce novice, which believe me, I once was–I couldn’t even take mild Pace Picante Sauce–sriracha can be your entry into the world of hot sauce. Here’s the real secret behind sriracha’s success–when you mix it with other ingredients it doesn’t dominate the flavor. Use a dousing of Tabasco sauce in something and you can taste the vinegary heat. Mix in sriracha and you’ll feel the heat but won’t “taste” it.
So break out the sriracha sauce! Here are 25 ways to get you started:
- Stir some into your next cheese dip.
- Add a few dollops into the ground meat for meatloaf.
- Spoon a little into your next marinade.
- Enliven DIY vinaigrette with a few drops.
- Don’t let ketchup go it alone, swirl in some sriracha.
- Make your marinara or spaghetti sauce zesty with a bit of sriracha.
- Boost the zing of homemade salsa.
- Sprinkle nachos with sriracha goodness.
- Add to Asian stir fries.
- Forget the Tabasco and use sriracha on your next BLT or shrimp po’ boy.
- Help creamy alfredo have a slight kick by mixing in just a drop or two.
- Mix sriracha and mayo as a sauce on your next burger.
- Stir in a little sriracha into your next chocolate fondue. Just trust me on this one–chocolate loves sriracha, so do sweet fruits like pineapple and strawberries.
- Hello veggie dip! Stir sriracha into ranch dressing.
- Potato salad gets a spicy makeover when you add a little sriracha.
- Bull Dog sauce + sriracha for a yummy tonkatsu dip.
- Mix it into your soup. Please.
- Easy Asian dipping sauce for dumplings: soy sauce + sriracha + fresh squeezed lime juice
- Omelets are improved with sriracha. Oh yes!
- Easy weeknight dinner: sauteed shrimp with fresh lime, sriracha and chile salsa. Serve in toasted corn tortillas.
- Add on breakfast burritos.
- Boxed brownie mix + sriracha = a memorable dessert. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Pico de Gallo begs for sriracha.
- Stir sriracha into any chip dip. Your family will thank you.
- Sriracha + barbecue sauce = bliss.
Even though we use sriracha. A lot. A little goes a long way so our 17-oz. bottle will last a good three months.
Your turn: How do you use sriracha at your house?
Can I just say, I love pork tenderloin. It’s fast, easy enough for busy weeknights. And, if I keep my kiddos from seconds I have enough meat leftover to make them burritos for their lunches the next day.
So if you’re looking for a fun alternative to burgers for Memorial day weekend, don’t let the rice and broccoli in the picture fool you–pork tenderloin makes for a great barbecue.
Here’s the recipe tweaked from the May/June issue of Cuisine at Home:
Prep time: 30 minutes + marinating
2 pork tenderloins*
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. sriracha sauce or other hot sauce
- Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients and pour into a resealable bag along with the tenderloins. Chill for at least an hour or overnight.
- Grill over indirect heat or broil the tenderloins in the oven, turning at least once until the internal temperature reads 145 on a digital thermometer. I placed the oven rack about 4 inches from the heat and turned the tenderloins once after they’d been broiling about 12 minutes. The tenderloins cooked for 12 minutes on each side.
- Let the tenderloins rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
*Pork tenderloins often come in packs of 2. Make sure to choose tenderloins NOT loins.
There were very few comments during dinner. I always take that as a good sign: my kiddos were busy eating instead of talking. This one is a keeper.
Breakfast burritos are a dinnertime staple around my house. I forage in the fridge for whatever leftovers I have, throw it in with scrambled eggs and wrap it in a heated flour tortilla and you have dinner. Sauteed veggies? Throw ‘em in for veggie burritos. Leftover pork? Chop it up, throw it in then top the scrambled eggs with salsa for Mexican breakfast burritos. Mozzarella + diced tomatoes + fresh basil (if you have it) and you’ve got Italian breakfast burritos. Yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said we have this a lot. Easy peasy.
On Friday night I even packed our breakfast burritos to go since we were running late to see The Avengers. Yes, I carted our burritos into the theater with us so we could eat while we watched the previews. I had thought of just giving in and buying fast food on the way but I took 5 minutes and made Mexican burritos instead. So I had burritos on the brain while watching the Hulk smash through Cleveland. Yes, it’s Cleveland, not New York, getting pummeled during the movie. I’m so proud. After defeating Loki and his minions (yeah, no spoilers there we all figured the Avengers would prevail, right?), Iron Man mutters that he wants shawarma. I love that shawarma got a big screen mention. The Middle Eastern shish kabob deserves the A-list star treatment.
The next day my husband and I did a little what we like to call culinary spelunking in Cleveland and stumbled upon the Assad Bakery, which had shawarma and fresh pitas for sale. Fresh pitas are nothing like the cardboard kind you find at a regular grocery store. They’re soft and pliable and come in different sizes. They’re meant to be rolled. I was inspired: what about a Middle Eastern breakfast burrito complete with a slathering of hummus? I went for Trader Joe’s smoky red pepper chipotle hummus and paired with scrambled eggs for this Middle Eastern breakfast burrito.
Recipe rundown: Prepare scrambled eggs. Spread about 2 tablespoons hummus over the pita. Place about 1/3-1/2 cup cooked eggs in a center line on the pita then roll up starting with one end. If you can’t find decent pitas around, go ahead and buy the pocket variety and just place the hummus and eggs into the pocket (don’t try to roll ‘em). Or, you could use flour tortillas for even more cross-cultural food fusion.
Kids’ reaction: Rave reviews all around. My two youngest requested their burritos sans hummus but then when I couldn’t finish mine they both offered to eat it.
My oldest did a guest post this week just in time for Mother’s Day.
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved food. From corn dogs to duck confit, I’ve always been excited to try it. Mostly because of my awesome parents, who encourage me to try new things. It’s sort of become the norm. Like it or not, you can’t say anything until you’ve at least tried a bite.
Getting my friends to understand this little philosophy isn’t always the easiest but the lunch table has become my place to share. First I started with simple stuff, like homemade tortillas or Japanese candy and soon it became the thing at my table to see what I’ll bring.
And when I do bring something, I can never expect to eat it all, because an open package of food in front of hungry teenagers is doomed.
The best part, by far, about getting my friends out of their food comfort zone, is when they find something they genuinely like. Like when I discovered that my two best friends are appalled by the thought of coconut. That just wouldn’t do. So, I did what any good food-savvy friend would do, and brought in the chocolate banana coconut muffins my mom made. But, they didn’t know what was in it. Like usual, they helped me finish it of within a couple of seconds.
A couple days later, I couldn’t help but laugh when they both requested that I bring those muffins on a road trip we are going on. When I told them about the coconut in it, they both were amazed.
And getting to make cool food with my friends is so much fun! At their house, it’s not uncommon for me to be foraging through their fridges for any leftovers, and making dinner for us. I still remember when I used the pulled pork they had leftover and made spicy pulled pork nachos, with every cheese they had! And at my house, we got another spicy punch as we all made salsa with my mom.
Now, instead of “Let’s go to a restaurant,” I get to hear “Let’s go to Kayla’s house!”
And I love it, because food with a friend is always better.
So I’m not a perfect mom, that’s no news flash. But I must admit I sometimes fall prey to that idea of being close—you know, the mom that volunteers every week in her child’s classroom, works part-time, mows the lawn, reads to her kids every night, plans amazing meals. Sometimes when I forget a permission slip, or miss a deadline for a class sign-up, I have to remind myself, we all make mistakes. Some mothering mistakes are worth making, keep reading for a few you really should try!
Letting your kids eat junk food.
Now I’m not saying you should let your kids eat Cheetos and brownies for every meal. But the occasional bowl of rocky road ice cream and King-size Hershey bars doesn’t guarantee your child will have heart disease when he’s 50. Food creates memories at our house, so bring on the brownies.
Forgetting deadlines to register your child for activities.
Often at the beginning of the school year I get so excited about all of the classes and activities offered after school that I make plans to sign up my kids for too much. Luckily, I often miss the enrollment deadlines. Children need free time (so do moms!) so every once in a while don’t turn in the soccer/pottery class/Spanish camp form.
Bribing your kids to be good.
We’ve all heard you’re not supposed to bribe kids to get them to do something, right? But I dare you to find a 3-year-old that doesn’t respond to doing whatever you say—like cleaning up her room–for a Dum-dum (I guess that’s a mistake double-whammy, bribery and candy).
Giving kids too much TV time.
We have a designated movie night every Friday. We eat dinner in front of the TV and watch movies. I’ve given up feeling bad about our TV habit. Instead, I look forward to sharing some of my favorite flicks with my kids. We’ve watched some classics, like every episode of Scooby-Doo, and some clunkers (see The Last Airbender, The Last Mimzy…). But watching them together has given us a common language to talk about things.
Leaving your house a mess.
I like to have my house clean—who doesn’t? Yet when it comes to kids some messes are worth leaving alone or else you’re going to drive yourself crazy cleaning all day.
Moving in on your kid’s space.
There are plenty of terms out there for moms who are deemed overly involved in their kids’ lives—helicopter parent, hovering parent. But I’ve found the more I know what’s going on in my children’s lives, the better I can help guide them through the tough times and celebrate with them the good times.
The mistake list could go on—and on. The truth is sometimes as moms we’re too hard on ourselves. And often what might be considered a mothering blunder can turn into a real blessing.
*I wrote this piece a few years ago for MetroParent and I thought with Mother’s Day coming up Sunday, I just had to share.
Awhile back I posted about making Thai Coconut Soup from the Sriracha Cookbook. The recipe called for minced ginger, but feeling lazy I just put in a whole piece, peeled, on a skewer. I figured the ginger flavor would seep into the boiling broth and I could get out of mincing.
Making pasta the other day I thought I might try the same idea: put a large garlic clove into the boiling water and let the flavor give some zest to my plain-old penne.
Well I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good clove of softened garlic, so then I smushed it with a fork after the pasta was done and added it to my sauce. Often when I use raw garlic I tend to add it too soon or too late to sauces and sautes–either burning it (and trust me, burnt garlic is not tasty) or inadvertently leaving little, pungent uncooked chunks of garlic that surprise and repulse my kiddos.
Now as far as giving the pasta a garlic kick, well, didn’t happen. Or at least I didn’t notice any change in the pasta flavor. Ditto for my family. But I did like using the cooked garlic in whatever else I was making to go with the pasta like sauteed veggies, creamy sauces, or even smushed then mixed with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese and stirred into the pasta. One last idea: you can easily blend it with butter to spread on Italian bread.
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to share some pictures from our family’s visit to Mexico City and the surrounding area. We took our trip a couple years ago but my kids still talk about their experiences there–from watching the famed voladores dancers fly through the air outside the National Anthropology & History Museum in Mexico City to eating a milenesa tortas in Chapultepec Park to stumbling into a street fair in a town on the side of a mountain and so much more.
To capture a little bit of Mexican culture at your dinner table, here are a few of my favorite authentic dishes you might want to try this weekend:
For some of you toasting corn tortillas might seem fairly basic, but for others you might still be clipping coupons for the hard shells. Put the scissors down.
Here’s what to do instead:
Look for white corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood store, or try to find a more local brand at a Mexican grocers. The brands at the store don’t tend to be as fresh or pliable, but they’re still an improvement over the hard shells.
If you have a gas grill you can go ahead and light the burner–or burners to medium heat (I use all four at once). Then place the white corn tortillas right on the grate. For those with electric ranges, it’s a bit harder to get the tortillas toasted; use a heavy-bottomed skillet that’s heated to medium-high heat.
The tortillas will begin to puff slightly as they bake, flip after about 1 minute then toast on the other side.
Last step, and this is important for flexible tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or a kitchen towel.
Often, when I’m serving tacos I’ll place the warmer in the middle of the table and then put a variety of fixings on each person’s plate.
More ideas for Cinco de Mayo:
Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?
Yesterday I explained how to make your own corn tortillas at home, well today I wanted to give you an idea for a tasty, fast filling: lime-spiked shrimp.
The shrimp filling takes all of 15 minutes to make (an extra 15 if I need to thaw the raw shrimp and remove the tails). Here’s how I do it:
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil in wok or heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat.
- Add 20-30 medium-sized raw shrimp to the hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and garlic powder; you can even add 1/4 cayenne if you want more of a kick.
- Cook until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink (about 2 minutes) and squeeze all of the juice of a fresh lime during the final minute of cooking. Add salt to taste.
- Serve in toasted, corn tortillas with fresh salsa or as a topping for tostadas.