Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Yenta Answers Your Questions

Dearest fabulous RFML readers, 

What a warm welcome! I’m thrilled to be part of the Mommyland family- and promise to live up to all of the expectations you have of a good Yenta... Big hair, big boobs, big mouth.  Since you can’t see me, you’ll have to take my word that I do indeed possess all three qualifications.  Like Lydia mentioned we go way back to high school cheerleading, and I’m pretty sure that the three aforementioned attributes are what got us onto the squad in the first place since I don’t remember being able to complete one cartwheel between the two of us.

[Editor's Note: I could do a round off. Does that count? xo, Lydia]

Let’s get down to business, shall we?

First, the issue of the garlic press. I certainly got a rise out of a lot of you with this one…

Let me just put my cards on the table- I’m against all unnecessary gadgets that take up valuable drawer space.  I’m equally against tools that perform a task that can be done just as easily with a knife or your hands.  And the last reason… have you ever see Julia Child, Morimoto or Bobby Flay whip out a garlic press? No, because they are the real deal.  Say it with me now…  “I Am The Real Deal.”  With a little help from the Yenta, you will soon be much more confident in the kitchen and won’t be needing any cute gadgets!

Ok, let’s put that one behind us.  I know you are still going to use your garlic press, but I also know the next time you do, you will feel a little Yenta guilt…

I have chosen five fabulous questions to answer this week- and hopefully in doing so will address some of the other issues out there.

1. The Koenig Family wrote that they are afraid of fish! Trust me; the fish is MUCH more scared of you than you are of it.  Does that rule apply to fish or just spiders? In any event, nothing to be scared of when it comes to preparing fish. I find that if you know how to cook a chicken breast, you are halfway there.  You could take shrimp, cod, haddock, tilapia or swordfish and sauté gently in some olive oil, a bit of butter (just a bit is okay), some onions, peppers and tomatoes.  Throw in a few chopped olives and some capers…    Easy Breezy! Dinner is served.

2.  Q:  Kate wrote:  “I want to learn to eat greens. I mean, like collards and turnip greens and all those things you generally walk right by in the grocery store. There's a whole SECTION of greens. It's between the celery and the bell peppers."

Swiss Chard is even sort of pretty.
Kate- this was perhaps my favorite question! The grocery store is my mother ship.  I realize I may be in alone in this next statement, but grocery shopping is a relaxing and exciting experience for me.  I fully understand that this is NOT the case for most people.  It’s no coincidence that the wheels on the shopping carts are cockeyed and broken…   I see people taking intense aggravation and frustration out on those poor carts.  Hey Lady- it’s not the cart’s fault that you are overwhelmed by the 17 different varieties of lettuce.  But…  I digress.

The best way to try out some new leafy greens is to dive right in! I recommend starting with Swiss Chard- similar to spinach but with a little more sex appeal.  As with ALL greens, wash thoroughly.  The quickest way to ruin a bite of greens is a mouthful of dirt and grit.  Wash, wash, wash… use a salad spinner if you have one! (Yes, I approve the Salad Spinner!) Remove the leaves from the stalk and rip or cut into large bite-sized pieces.   (Don’t discard the stalks- add to the onions and garlic in recipe below and sauté before you add the leaves.  Why waste?)

A good all-purpose recipe for greens is to sauté a bit of minced garlic and minced onion in olive oil-(not Extra Virgin), put the greens in the pan, let wilt, toss, sprinkle with salt and pepper – done.  The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. 

Other greens worth trying:
Broccolini: The Angelina Jolie of Broccoli.  A little skinner and much more elegant than short and stubby Broccoli.
Kale: Is like Diane Keaton’s style...  we’re not sure what to make of it.  Is it just for decoration or can you eat it? Yes, you can! Can be eaten cooked OR raw.  Check out the recipe for
Whole Meal Salad.
Mustard Greens:  Kind of like the hot chic on Modern Family- a little nutty and a little spicy.
Arugula: Meryl Streep. A winner. So versatile.  Raw in a salad, cooked with pasta, on and on…
Beet Greens:  Julia Roberts.  Classic, timeless and will always make you smile.  These greens are best sautéed in a bit of butter, salt, pepper and if you are feeling fun, add a bit of orange zest.  Beets love orange.

That should get you inspired next time you wander past the Leafy Greens section in the produce department.  Also, keep in mind that all of the above are busting with vitamins and fiber! SO good for you! Go get em’ girl!

3.  I loved the questions about Quinoa from Abigail and MK. On my blog The Oy of Cooking, I've said that there is NO way to enjoy Quinoa.  Well…  I take it back.  I have found a way. Not unlike how many of you said you have to “hide” veggies in your children’s food, hiding the Quinoa is how I have learned to enjoy it.  

I’ve discovered that  if you create a salad using Quinoa with Brown Rice and Wheat berries*, you will actually build a dish with many textures and flavors – add some chopped nuts, some minced dried fruit and an orange/honey dressing.  It will almost be as decedent as granola, but without all the fat.  You can go savory as well – use the same three grains and add diced red onion, some black beans, some shucked corn kernels, cilantro and a red wine vinaigrette.  Serve warm or cold…

The mystery of Quinoa… solved.

These are cooked wheatberries.
[Editor's note - I had to ask The Yenta what the hell wheatberries were. Also? I happen to love quinoa but the rest of the family hates it. - xo, Lyd] 

Lydia, wheatberries are darling little grains that have a nutty taste and popcorn like texture.  You can add that description and these cooking instructions: In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the wheatberries for 1 hour, or until they are tender, and drain them.  Run under cold water to stop cooking and bring temp down.

4. Wow, a LOT of questions about how to get your kids to eat vegetables… 

A few summers ago my sister-in-law was having this exact issue with her two little ones.  She did something genius that had her kids do a complete 180 in the veggies department… They planted a garden.  The kids had to take care of growing cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, string beans, peppers and so on and so forth…

Because they had planted the seeds, watered them, watched them grow, picked them, helped to cook them… they were naturally curious to taste them!  Hasn’t been a problem since.  In fact, the kids have become much more adventurous in their eating… a few months ago we went to an Italian restaurant and MJ’s (5) eyes lit up when I ordered grilled Octopus.  He tasted it, and LOVED it.  Every time I see him now he asks if I brought an Octopus with me.  Yes, I did… its right here in my purse.

But another idea that doesn't take quite so long is to have the kids pick out the veggies in the store…  Let them choose a couple of new things to try each time they go. Have them put together a little pre-dinner crudité with the veggies they picked out and some ranch dressing or some hummus. Dip is good.

5. Anonymous wrote that her rice is Globby… 

Cooking rice: NEVER STIR and you will never get globby rice again.  The basic recipe for rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water or stock.  Also, rice goes in the pot with cold water- not boiling.  Follow these directions: a bit of fat (oil or butter) in the pot, add rice, stir until rice is coated in fat.  Add water.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for approx. 20 minutes.  DO NOT STIR.  Taste rice to test for doneness.  If the texture is where you want it, remove from heat and fluff with a fork- never a spoon.

That’s a basic recipe- now go ahead and add all the flavors and ingredients you desire.

I hope you have found the info useful and I look forward to many more questions next month! Leave your questions in the comments section. Lydia has already asked me why convection ovens are supposed to be good. In the meantime, you can follow my weekly blog The Oy of Cooking and join the Dish with the Yenta… Facebook page for updates! 

Laura P. Lyons
Dish with the Yenta…
Because everybody loves some good dish…

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. I never thought swiss chard could be sexy - but I've already put it on my shopping list and think I'll get lucky with it.

  2. Salad spinner? No need ... just take a good-sized, clean cotton towel and place your rinsed greens into the center portion; arrange them to look as if they were sitting on a hammock. Kind of roll up the towel longitudinally, keeping the greens centered, and then firmly grasp the towel ends together in one hand. You can now spin the towel energetically, and the water adhering to the salad greens will be thrown off onto the towel/centrifuge. If you wish, you can even spin the towel as if it were a lasso and smack your butt with your free hand while shouting "Yeeee Hawww." The latter is certain to capture the attention of your spouse and kids, combining as it does the specter of bull-dogging and food preparation. Open the towel and remove the now water free greens. Oh, and you can rinse and repeat until your salad volume is attained. For really crispy greens - once all the lettuce, etc. has been spun, roll it all back up into the now damp towel and put it into the freezer for a couple of minutes; take it out promptly and enjoy the crunchiest salad imaginable.

  3. Great advice! Thought I'd add another way to eat kale - in scrambled eggs. I saute some kale in a little butter until wilted, then add 1 egg + 2 egg whites + a little milk (wisked together), cook until almost done, then add some feta cheese. Adjust amounts to taste. It is delicious, feels very virtuous first thing in the morning, and frees up the rest of your day for guilt-free junk food - well, in my world anyway :)

  4. Sigh.
    "I think I love you!"
    (name that group)

    No, really. I am gonna RAWK the greens section of the grocery store this week. I shall report back. And I think I'm going to start with beet greens, since I like Julia Roberts.
    [Also -- I'm glad I'm not the only one with the whole "WTH is up with Diane Keaton?" reaction.]

    --kate in MI

  5. Dear Yenta,
    What if the fish fear is less about cooking and more about picking out fish from the store. Is it possible to get fresh fish in the middle of the country, in a town that doesn't boast any shopping options other than the Ol' Grocery Store? And how can I tell if that thing that still has eyeballs staring at me is really fresh?

    1. If the eyes are still on the fish, they should look clear, not milky or hazy. Also, if the fish really smells - fishy - then it's older. You can also ask when they got it in the store. Almost everywhere gets fish frozen, even in the coastal states but you still don't want it thawed for days before you eat it.

    2. Do a little online research. Look at your grocery store's flyer online and see what they have on sale, it may give you a description of the fish (farmed, wild caught and the country it came from) Also Ask the person at the seafood counter....They will tell you anything you want to know (within the best of their ability) OH and BTW...there is no such thing as USDA Organic fish...just as a heads up.

  6. I'm totally trying the quinoa recipe...and I snotted coffee out my nose at the whole "broccolini is the Angelina Jolie of Broccoli..." Hilarious...

  7. I've given up on cooking rice unless it is Minute Rice. I've tried and tried and tried and STILL can not cook that pot of rice. My Momma, Grandma, Sister and Aunt have tried to no avail. It always comes out under cooked (crunchy).

    My darling daughter has ADHD. Her meds she is on is acting like an appetite suppressant. It sucks big time. (she lost 6 lbs in 1 month! eek!) I'm giving her the Pediasure drinks to help but, (yes there is a but) her Dr. told me in FRONT of her that it didn't matter what she wanted to eat or when she wanted to eat it, to give it to her. So now she has this idea that she can have all the cake, candy and that other crap she wants when she wants.

    What are some yummy goodies (snacks and dinners, cause I'm tellin ya chicken fingers and fish sticks with Mac & Cheese are getting REALLY old) that I can give her that will help her gain weight at the same time?

    1. My son has ADHD, too. Same deal with the medication acting like an appetite suppressant, and he was so skinny to begin with that a strong wind would knock him down. I try to load him up on protein. I make sure he has some protein with breakfast, along with some yogurt. He doesn't eat much during the day, so I make sure what he does eat is loaded with calories. He likes Cliff Z bars (especially the chocolate brownie flavor.) And also, more yogurt (I freeze the kind that comes in a tube, then it's like ice cream. Sort of.) And if he takes his lunch to school, I make sure there is lots of protein (hard boiled egg, couple of slices of deli meat - no bread 'cause that will just fill him up and then he won't eat the protein.) Also, my son has never met a fruit he doesn't like. And I'm not sure how we did it, but he would rather have fruit than candy or cookies. (We failed to achieve the same results with our daughter, sadly.) Hope that helps!

    2. What about a parfait with full fat yogurt, granola (not low fat), fruit and whipped cream? And maybe mix some mini chocolate chips with the yogurt to make it more "treaty". Not a very helpful doctor - does he even have kids? Scrambled eggs with meat and cheese (and veggies if she will eat them) or a quiche (same ingredients in pie crust, which adds calories). Does she like lasagna? You could pack a lot of protein and fat into that. Or to make it easier, try a penne baked dish with similar ingredients. My daughter loves chicken pot pie - chicken and veggies (good for you) bathed in creamy sauce and pie crust (not good for you unless you need to gain weight). Peanut butter (or even Nutella) is a great high calorie/protein healthy ingredient - spread on apples, bananas, crackers, bread, etc. You could even create a shake with chocolate milk, peanut butter, vanilla yogurt, bananas, whatever.

    3. My son was diagnosed with failure to thrive as a toddler... I had to undo EVERYTHING I knew about "healthy" eating and then do the opposite. Add mayo to her sandwiches, butter to everything, put whipped cream on fruit and basically add empty calories where ever you can. The biggest help was letting him poptarts at breakfast (he misses that!)I noticed that if my son drank carnation instant breakfast in the morning he would not eat the rest of the day... so we did it instead right before bed. It filled him up for the night and didn't interfere with his "normal" eating habbits. Good luck, I know that it can be scary.

    4. My 9 yr old is also on ADHD meds - he's on the fast acting ones now, so that he takes them at breakfast, lunch, after school. The one-a-days did NOT work, as he was losing weight due to not being hungry. Plus the huge fights with trying to get him to eat when he wasn't hungry... wasn't worth it.
      I have him take them with the meal, as they're out of his system (mostly) by the time lunch rolls around at school. He is a very slim kid (4'1, 54 lbs) but he eats everything we put in front of him. We started a dose of Pediasure before bed with his bedtime snack in place of milk just to pump up the protein and calories. He's gained a pound in the last little while, so hopefully it keeps working!

  8. to the anon. after kate, fresh fish has clear eyes & smells of the sea, not that smell that we associate with "fish smell" thats the fish going bad. Yenta, thanks for the laughs, you are the representation of a stereotype in the best possible way :) ( my only knowledge coming from american t.v & in my australian opinion & if its misguided i do sincerely apologise) kate & lydia thanks for all the laughs ALL the time & to you all thanks for making me feel that no matter what a crazy day i'm having i don't feel alone even if we're on opposite sides of the planet :)

  9. I totally agree about kitchen gadgets. We lived in Asia and had a housekeeper/cook/nanny (totally awesome)- she made delicious meals using only a knife and chopsticks and a single pan. You can do almost anything with those three things alone. And a rice cooker. A rice cooker is a really great invention, doesn't cost that much, and you will always have perfect rice. with ZERO stirring or monitoring!

    1. you beat me to it. a rice cooker is the only way to fly.

  10. Why not extra virgin olive oil??

    1. Extra virgin has a much lower smoke point than regular. So it's not good to use for sauteing. Also the oil breaks down under high heat.

  11. and non globby rice, as mentioned 2cups water : 1cup rice, but if you cook it with the lid on for 10 mins no oil/fat needed, unless you really <3 it :) brown rice extra 10 min & 1/2 cup water

  12. Cinnamon - I used to hate the taste of rice and couldn't cook it (not even minute rice.) Then I found Rice Select's Texmati rice. It's super easy and has so much flavor. My kids (1yr and 5yr) LOVE it. Follow directions exactly and you'll have fluffy yumminess in a jiff.

  13. My family, including my super picky never eating toddler loves quinoa. I make it with chicken broth and use some extra liquid so it is sticky and easier for my son to pick up. We eat it with chili or some other type of beans. Always with cheese. Partially because YUM cheese and partially because it makes the quinoa even easier for my son to eat.

  14. I hate gadgets, partly because they are a waste of space but MOSTLY because I hate dishes.

  15. Roast your greens with a little oil and salt-- YUMMY kale (or whatever) chips!

  16. As for the globby rice, the KIND of rice matters too! Short grain rice is meant to be globby (like in sushi) medium grain isn't as sticky, and long grain fluffs the best and has very little stickiness to it. I usually nuke mine with the same water to rice ratio of 2 to 1, putting the rice in a microwave safe bowl and heating it full power for 5 mins (for one cup of dry rice, 2 cups water) or 9 mins. (for two cups of dry rice and 4 cups water), then 15 mins at half power. White rice comes out perfect every time! :) Don't ask about brown though- I have yet to perfect that in the microwave. ;)

  17. I've found that putting wheatberries in my chili gives it a great texture and it makes the chili a little healthier too!

  18. White rice: fill a large pot with water, season WELL (ie: lots of salt, bouillon cubes, Jane's Crazy....something. Rice needs a lot! ). Measure out 2 cups rice (makes leftovers for lunch or dinner in a few nights...done once, covers 2-3 times). Once the water is boiling, put the rice in, let it boil again. Cover, lower heat to med low and cook for 22 minutes. Drain it and butter it and you are done. So easy....

  19. What if you hate, hate, hate cooked spinach? The texture, the look AND the taste? Aren't all these greens just variations on the theme?

  20. With rice, I've had a rice steamer for years and it is one of the best purchases I've made. Even a simple one for $15 from Target works better than cooking it in a pot on the stove. We LOVE jasmine rice in our house and buy it from an Asian grocery store so it's much, much cheaper too. As such, we haven't ordered takeout for many years.

  21. An Indonesian friend (their family eats 5 cups (dry) of rice A DAY) said that there are only two important things to remember about rice:

    USE a RICE COOKER. Every time.
    BUY GOOD RICE. The expensive kind, she said. The kind you get at an Asian market, where there's lots of turnover (meaning the rice is not stale and nasty).

    She fed me white rice, and it was just plain rice, but DEELISH. (Of course, then we topped it with insanely good Indonesian chicken w/spices and coconut milk, but ... before that, the rice was still awesome.)

    Basically, that girl knows her rice.

    --kate in MI

  22. For Cinnamon- my son has the same ADHD med problem with his appetite, as well as allergies (dairy, wheat, & soy.) Peanut butter and bacon are his go-to foods! Plus, his doctor put him on a fast-acting pill instead of the time-release capsules, so it runs out of his system in four hours and depending on the schedule he can actually be hungry for one meal a day. If you are getting unhealthy weight loss (six pounds!!) ask about switching. Sorry, I don't know why the browser isn't letting me click "Reply."

  23. Oy! We have all needed you, Yenta! Salad Spinner, yes! Got my plastic one many years ago for 50 cents at a yard sale. We have been together ever since. This is an especially useful tool if you do garden because it does handle washing the grit off greens so well. I am with you on the garlic press. I have one somewhere but I love the release of tension, aggravation, etc, that you get from giving the garlic cloves a good smack with the flat of the knife. Keeping the bread machine however!

  24. quinoa: cook as you would rice. In a separate pot saute onion, garlic, kale (chopped in to small pieces) salt and pepper (I also like a little hot pepper). Add cooked quinoa to kale mixture=yummy!

  25. I tried a quinoa patty recipe, and ate it as a burger--delicious!!

  26. Dear Yenta:

    How does one cook salmon so that it gets that crunchy outer shell but the perfectly cooked insides? Is it cooked in an oven on high heat? In a pan on the stove (I guess what would be called searing)?

    I ate the most tasty salmon out but can't figure out how to do it at home.


    1. Here you go... step by step instructions:
      Pre-heat your oven to 375°. 1. Put your vents on. 2. Place saute pan (non-stick or not- either will do) on HIGH heat. Let the pan get smoking hot. 3. Pour about 1 TBSP of Canola Oil (No other oil will do.) into the pan. Remember this rule: Hot pan, cold oil and food will not stick. 4. Let oil heat. 5. Place seasoned Salmon into pan and DO NOT TOUCH. People are always trying to move meat/chicken/fish around in the pan before it's ready. When it moves easily, then it's ready to be flipped. It should have a nice browned color- not burned. Sear the other side as well. You can eat just like that if you like a rare piece- otherwise pop in the oven for 5 min. 6. Let stand on a cutting board for about 5 minutes before eating. There you go. Serve with whatever sauce you like, or none at all. Good luck!

  27. I enjoyed this post and all the comments as well.

    I also enjoy my rice cookerS-- I have two sizes. We are living in the Philippines presently, so we can buy some kind o' fabulous rice around here. Cooking it in an electric rice-cooker's a no-brainer. And for cooking brown, it's the first thing I do when including it with our meal that night. After I push the COOK button down, then I start the rest of the meal. Brown rice is perfectly done when we're ready to eat!




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