Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ask the Yenta: Convection Confection Confusion

It's the Yenta! She's back and answering our food related questions. Leave any questions for her here and she may answer yours next time. Oh and I pulled this picture off her website because I thought you needed to see this. 

Why? Because that's your Yenta right there being embraced by Tyson Beckford. Congratulations, hookers. There's now one degree of separation between  you and Tyson Beckford. 

Mazel Tav, bitches. That's the way to start a day!

And now, cooking advice from your very own Yenta, Laura Lyons:
1. Oh how I love the post from Stephi Anderson: 
I am so tired of reading healthy organic-y food blogs by beautiful skinny moms who also sew and run marathons. The recipes are great--I would cook like that all the time and eat like that all the time and look like that all the time...maybe. The trouble is that about 4% of the cooking I do is for me. The rest is for three not-even-very picky kids and a meat-and-potatoes (and Whataburger) husband. I want to know what YOUR hubby and kids eat that are Yenta-approved, and if they won't eat it I don't even wanna know because it's just one more thing I'll want to waste my me-time on. Oh yeah, and we have a relatively small grocery budget, too. No Whole Foods shopping trips.”

Oh, yes...  we all know one of the beautiful skinny moms, the one who doesn’t break a sweat during a spin class while in full make-up and jewelry.   She is no friend of mine. I love the expression “yenta-approved” and I’m thinking I may need to put it on a t-shirt or apron…

Now, I should tell you up front that I do have a bit of an unfair advantage in the husband department, being that he is also a chef.   We don’t have any children yet – but we’re “working” on it.  Was that an overshare?  Eh, who cares.  This is RFML… you can handle it.

Don’t fret Stephi! First off, let’s not try to turn the family inside out and upside down overnight.  You can start incorporating healthier options into your meals little by little without spending any more money or time than you already are.  One of the biggest mistakes we make is telling ourselves and our families that we are “substituting” this for that…   turkey for beef in chili, whole grain pasta for white, etc…

Turkey & chicken don’t want to compete with beef, they are totally different animals, have different tastes, textures, etc.  Turkey & chicken proudly stand on their own and make no apology to beef!  So why are we behaving like “we’re so sorry family, but we’re going to get healthy, so I am using turkey/chicken instead of beef.”  Instead, how about “hey family, I found this great recipe for a Chicken Chili Verde with fresh corn and lime and I can’t wait to make it for all of us!”

So the first step is to behave in a way that gets everyone on board with some new dishes.  Leave the words healthy, change and substitution out of it.

Last night Todd (the husband) and I made Asian Chicken Burgers.  Ground chicken has amazing flavor and with the addition of 1 egg, splash of soy sauce, fresh minced ginger, fresh minced garlic, minced scallion, dash of Sriracha, dash of lime juice…  Mix all together, form into patties and pan fry in a non-stick pan.  To garnish the burgers, put some sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage and sliced red onion in a bowl with a dash of red vinegar, minced cilantro, garlic and ginger, spoonful of honey, salt and pepper… Adds great crunch to the burgers!  Serve on regular burger buns! Super healthy and wouldn’t be half as tasty if made with beef burgers, so they won’t be thinking they are missing anything!

 Sriracha (Lydia's daughter used to call it "Cock Sauce")
And listen… if you are the one doing the cooking, YOU ARE IN CHARGE.  Don’t get hung up on following recipes either… use them as inspiration and as a guide.  If you are grocery shopping on a budget, look for the great deals on fresh product and then think about the meals you can make with it.  Don’t shop accordingly to recipes – it will ALWAYS end up costing you more.  Depending on where you live, check out local farmers markets.  The produce is always going to cost less because it hasn’t been shipped from some other part of the country. 

Keep me posted Stephi and let me know how it goes with the fam.  I’m here for you.

2.  Sarah Davis Wilkinson wrote:  
What's the best way to store herbs? Mine go bad fast in the fridge?
 I heart this question! There are a few things you can do…
  • Wash the herbs thoroughly and then wrap in a damp paper towel.  Re-dampen the paper towel every few days.
  • This is a REALLY cool trick!  When the herbs are starting to get to a place where you know they will only last another day or so, take the leaves only and put them in a food processor or blender with kosher salt.  
  • After the mixture is blended, pop into a freezer-safe bag and store in the freezer for a year! 
Next time you want to season chicken, pork, beef, fish, pasta, breadcrumbs, etc… add a spoonful of your herbed salt!  You can mix your herbs together or keep each flavor separate – your choice!

3. Nicole asked:  
Any great recipes for things that reheat well? My hubby works a weird shift and therefore his dinners are always leftovers… Help!
Prepare dishes that are better when they have time to let the flavors develop like Chili, Soup and Stew. Anything you make will re-heat well, if you give it a little love.  If you roast a chicken and want to re-heat it without drying it out, have a little of the au-jus or gravy with it on the plate or in the Tupperware so when he pops it in the microwave or oven/pan that it will cook with the juices.  (If you don’t have stock or gravy, a little bit of water is better than nothing…) 

Pasta is almost always better the next day or re-heated, so have a little cheese grated in a side container that he can sprinkle on top.  Add a bit more sauce to the pasta and he’ll love you more than he already does.  What about meatloaf? Who doesn’t love meatloaf? Any dish that is better when it has time to let the flavors develop will be perfect for re-heating.

4. Lydia from RFML writes: 
My house has a convection oven. It's supposed to be good. Why? What does it even do? When would I need to use it? Is it only there to confuse me? 
 The short answer is that I use the convection setting to bake and the conventional setting to roast.  The convection setting activates a fan which circulates air/heat which results in non-direct heat cooking and the conventional setting (no fan) results in direct heat cooking.  When the convection setting is activated the temperature of the oven will be lower than that with a conventional setting.

The bottom line is that I only use the convection setting for baking.  Items will cook more evenly, because for the most part your oven will not have “hot spots” with convection. I use the conventional setting if I am trying to roast something at a semi-high to high temperature.  Some would argue that you can cook everything with the convection setting, but that is really a matter of preference.

Also check out this week’s post on The Oy of Cooking:  Quinoa saves lives. What did you do today?

Let’s Dish!
Laura P. Lyons

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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