I'm a former teacher and current stay at home mom with an insane passion for food. I love cooking (and eating) good, satisfying food, prepared simply with fresh ingredients. I've been known to talk to my food as I cook it, and I despise those little stickers they put on produce.
As a baby gourmand, I grew up around people who cooked. So I never questioned my ablity to cook, I just did it. With a 1973 set of Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks as my guide, I began experimenting and creating.
I eventually found myself enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in NYC in a program geared towards "serious amateurs". I spent 10 hours a week in my chef's uniform, chopping, mixing, sautéing, and braising. My experience at the institute armed me with a repertoire of skills that impacts the way I approach everything in the kitchen.
Now with a husband, a big dog, and three kids later, I'm sharing my culinary skills with the world.
Originally posted on Jully 16, 2010
During college, I spent some time waitressing, bartending, and short-order cooking at a local bar and restaurant. Hands down, the most popular item on the menu was the Buffalo Chicken Wings. By my hundredth order, I was quite the expert. I don’t make wings at home very often, because I can’t stand the clean-up. But, on occasion, I’ll make Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches, as I’m doing tonight. Great taste, without the chicken wing bones or the mess!
At the restaurant, which was located just a short distance from Buffalo, we used Frank’s Red Hot, which is purportedly the hot sauce used in the original Buffalo wings. Like your wings hot? Use straight hot sauce. Like them medium-spicy? Use half Frank’s and half melted butter. For mild wings, increase the butter. Good, good stuff!
Since I had all of the ingredients on hand, I made my own bleu cheese dressing for tonight’s sandwich. Sans mayonnaise, of course. A prepared dressing would work great too. (FYI, my preferred bleu cheese dressing is Marie’s. You can usually find it refrigerated in the produce section.) Adjust the butter and hot sauce ratio according to your tastes. Following my recipe as written will give you a medium-hot sauce.
It’s been pointed out to me, that my own enthusiasm for holiday celebrations, may explain the intense energy my 5-year-old, Liam, puts into planning how we’ll honor each special day. We are two peas in a pod when it comes to festive occasions. Heck, we’re already co-planning the Temple Run themed birthday party we’ll throw in May, complete with a costumed gorilla to chase the party guests through the obstacle course we will assemble in the backyard. My husband is skeptical about the logistics involved in carrying out this event, but Liam and I have got it covered.
As Valentine’s Day approached, Liam easily slipped into holiday planning mode. For weeks, I heard about the special Valentine’s Day he was planning for me. It was to be a spa day, as imagined by a 5-year-old, pieced together with ideas he’d gleaned from watching episodes of Phineas and Ferb or Spongebob. I was given a list of the supplies to acquire for this special day; bubblegum scented bubble bath, ‘some kind of soap’ for my face (a face mask), cucumber slices, candy, and bubbly water. Then I eagerly waited for Valentine’s Day and the one hundred arm massages I’d been promised as part of this luxurious spa package.
But then I received the phone call from the school nurse. My sweet, little valentine was running a fever and needed to be picked up from school. After a bit of rest at home, I decided to turn his little spa idea around on him. It just seemed like he needed the extra attention more than I did. The boys enjoyed the funny face masks and cool cucumber eyes and they laughed their bubble-bearded faces to near tears in the over-filled bathtub. I poured cool glasses of cucumber water for the boys to sip while they enjoyed the soothing effects of the face masks, but none of the boys would drink what they perceived to be ‘pickle water’.
After soothing face masks, ‘pickle water’, and bubble baths, we enjoyed some delicious tropical green smoothies. Inspiration for these smoothies came to me while watching a food documentary I ran across on Netflix, Hungry for Change. For the most part, the film spoke to what most of us already know; whole foods are good for you, processed foods are not. Eat lots of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables and you’ll feel better, look younger, and have glowing skin. (They talked a lot about skin.) At one point, the filmed focused so heavily on juicing that I started to suspect I’d been tricked into watching an 89-minute long informercial for a juicing machine. But all-in-all, it was a decent film which drove home some important points about healthy eating.
Above all, to me, the most interesting segment had to do with foods that have the ability to reset and detoxify our bodies, so that they function more efficiently and effectively. Leafy green vegetables and gelatinous plant foods, such as chia seeds, were given the biggest focus. After doing a bit of research into chia seeds and discovering their many potential health benefits, I made the decision to incorporate them into my diet, starting with these delicious and nutrient dense smoothies. These vibrant smoothies start with fresh tropical fruit and a big handful of baby spinach. Protein-rich greek yogurt, omega-3 and fiber-rich chia seeds, and natural, sweet honey complete the mix to form a nutritional powerhouse smoothie you can feel great about enjoying.
Today’s Focus on Technique – Making Smoothies with Frozen Fruit
Keeping a stash of fresh fruit pieces in your freezer makes smoothie-making a breeze. Most fruit contains enough water content to give your smoothies that icy texture, without actually adding any ice. (Banana smoothies usually require some ice.) Clean, peel, and chop your favorite fruits, then freeze them in large ziploc bags or airtight containers. For extra convenience, consider buying the bags of pre-cut, no-sugar-added frozen fruit, which can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store.
Originally posted on October 21, 2010
My husband can’t sit down at an Italian restaurant without ordering Spaghetti and Meatballs. It could be the finest Italian restaurant with a menu dripping in tempting options and all he wants is Spaghetti and Meatballs, preferably with garlic bread. It’s truly one of his favorite meals and he craves it the way that I crave a good piece of dark chocolate or wedge of brie with baguette. So, when I decided to make this simple, classic dish for dinner yesterday, I knew he’d be thrilled.
My timing was impeccable. By the time my husband walked through the door, the sauce had been simmering away on the stove for three hours. The meatballs had been baked and added to the sauce. The garlic bread had been prepared. Our house was bursting with the warm, delicious aromas of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Upon stepping into the house, out of the chilly autumn air, my husband took one breath before his eyes lit with joy. What are you cooking? I told him to take a guess.Spaghetti and Meatballs??? His reply was dripping with eager anticipation. I nodded. And garlic bread?? Yes, of course. And I could see him physically buzzing with excitement. Such joy from such a simple meal.
And in that moment, as he stood there, still removing his jacket and shoes, with a child-like grin on his face, it occurred to me that I could profit from this glee. Maybe I should ask for something. Perhaps those fuzzy winter boots I’ve had my eye on. Or a Mercedes E320! No, no! A pony! I’ve always wanted a pony. Yes, that’s what I would ask for.
Then, as fast as it arrived, the moment was gone. The kids began climbing his legs while the dog anxiously communicated his desire for a walk in his typical brutish manner. So, no pony for me. Though, my husband’s evident joy was sufficient reward.
During the hot summer months, when tomatoes have reached their glorious peak of flavor perfection, it would be a pity to use canned tomatoes in your sauce. (Click here for my Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce recipe.) But, right about now, when tomatoes have become mealy and bland, you’d be silly to use anything other than canned tomatoes. Most canned veggies have a justifiably bad rep for being loaded with salt and drained of their nutrition. But, tomatoes may be one of the rare exceptions. I actually read an article once, which claimed that tomatoes may actually benefit in both flavor and nutrition (lycopene content) from the canning process. Just look for tomatoes which don’t contain extra sodium.
Both my sauce and meatball recipes are simple, classic preparations. No fancy ingredients or interesting twists. Just basic, delicious spaghetti and meatballs, cooked the way I remember from my childhood. The sauce is slow cooked for about 3 hours to allow a rich tomato flavor to develop. Onions, garlic, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper provide just the right amount of seasoning. The meatballs are basic beef meatballs, blended with a bit of cheese and a few seasonings, then bound together with an egg and a touch of bread crumbs. You can use any type of ground beef or other ground meats in your meatballs, but as with hamburgers, the higher the fat content of the meat, the juicier and moister the resulting meatball will be.
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes, photos, and writing on this blog
are the sole property of Amy Deline, The Gourmand Mom.
Originally posted on January 15, 2011
I was suffering from a major case of the lazies yesterday. I could try to blame it on being pregnant, in the same way that I gave myself full permission to wear sweatpants every single day since the day I got that positive test. But, the truth is that sometimes a case of the lazies just strikes out of nowhere and you can either fight it all day or just submit. Thankfully, this particular strain of lazies seems to have been contagious. The boys were equally content to snuggle on the couch with me for a good part of the day, watching an endless marathon of Nick Jr. and Disney programming, which would have been more tolerable if Nick Jr. weren’t airing the video of Big Time Rush’s, Big Night, during every single commercial break. I’ve heard the song so many times now, that it’s become the ongoing soundtrack in my mind and I’m almost convinced I actually like it. DJ, take me away… At one point, I muttered aloud about the song being stuck in my head, to which my three-year-old attempted to manually remove it from my mouth. Kids are so hysterically literal.
But, the family needs to eat, even on lazy days; perhaps, especially, on lazy days. Gathering the motivation to prepare a meal was a challenge, but I had the perfect, sleepy winter-day meal in mind. I’d picked up a tray of stew beef earlier in the week, with only a framework of a plan in mind; some sort of slow cooked beef over hot buttered noodles. Perhaps a stew of sorts? Only, I’m not really a big fan of stews. I love the tender chunks of meat, but can totally skip the thickened broth or the mushy carrots and potatoes which are typically found in a beef stews. Now, braised beef, on the other hand, with its equally tender chunks of meats and rich, comforting sauce, is an idea I can wrap my mouth around.
The actual preparation time for this recipe is minimal. The ingredient list is pleasantly restrained. The technique is simple. Once it’s in the oven, just sit back and let your house fill with the scent of warm, beefy goodness. We’ll start with some chunks of beef. Many grocery stores will sell packages of pre-cut meat labeled simply as Stew Beef. I used a package of lean, no external fat, stew beef. You can use just about any cut of beef, but tougher cuts, such as beef chuck or round work particularly well for braising. The beef is quickly browned on the stovetop, then combined with braising liquids, covered, and slow-cooked in the oven. Towards the end of the cooking time, we’ll throw in a bit of vegetables. I stuck with pearl onions and mushrooms, but you can adapt the recipe to your tastes by adding any variety of vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, green beans, or peas would all work nicely.
The end result is a comforting mix of tender chunks of beef coated in a thick, flavorful sauce served over hot buttered noodles. Perfect, lazy-day comfort food.
Treat your valentine to a day’s worth of mouth-watering meals. Here are three ideas for each meal, from super simple to more elaborate. Click on the links to see the recipes!
You can also check out the Recipes section for more ideas to delight your sweetie.
Super Simple: Strawberry and Nutella Stuffed French Toast
A Bit More Complex: Cinnamon Raisin Donut Bread Pudding
Manageably Elaborate: Eggs Benedict
Super Simple: Sausage, Bean, and Rapini Soup
A Bit More Complex: Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad
Manageably Elaborate: Quiche Lorraine
Super Simple: Penne a la Vodka
A Bit More Complex: Pork Chops with Fontina and Marsala
Manageably Elaborate: Slow-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Figs over Creamy Brie Potatoes
Super Simple: World’s Simplest Fudgey Brownies with Raspberry Coulis
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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes, photos, and writing on this blog
are the sole property of Amy Deline, The Gourmand Mom.