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


  1. Those chicken burgers sound AMAZING! But does anybody know what Siracha is??


      In short, it's amazing chinese chili sauce... it makes everything taste great!

    2. Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilies which are ground into a smooth paste along with garlic and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle i googled lol

    3. Sriracha is the hot red pepper sauce served in Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants in a BIG clear bottle with a red squeezy top. I have seen it in the Asian section of regular grocery stores.
      ...Turns out even Amazon sells it (and there's a picture):

  2. aaflood, Siracha is a most delicious and spicy chili sauce from Thailand... in my grocery store it's next to the ketchup and bbq sauce, but I've been it in the ethnic section too!

  3. Siracha is really Sriracha. It's an Asian hot pepper sauce that use can use in lots of ways. It has a picture of a big rooster on the bottle, so a lot of people call it Rooster Sauce. Or, as a friend of mine says, "Cock Sauce".

  4. Siracha is a hot sauce, usually used for Thai or Asian style cooking. I see it in the local grocery store and also the Asian markets. If you have gone to a Mongolian BBQ or a hibachi restaurant, it is the the little clear plastic bottle with a red sauce in it. It is very inexpensive and a little bit goes a long way.

    Hey ladies, can I be the "almost" Yenta?

  5. Siracha is god's spit; as candy corn is Satan's poop.
    It's delightfully hot hot sauce.
    It's red, has a rooster on it and is found in the Asian section of most groceries.

  6. Here you go! It's a hot chili sauce with intense flavor! A little goes a long way! Available at most grocery stores!

  7. Dear Yenta, I love your ideas and advice (none of it is going to salvage the diet of my sensory-guy, unfortunately...). But which farmer's market are you shopping at? I love the farmer's markets, but I find their prices are about the same as at Whole Foods. Much more expensive than your average supermarket fare.

    When I can, I buy there- its fresh, its good and it supports local farms. But cheap it's not.

    And Lydia, dear, it's "Mazal Tov". Oy! :)

    1. I agree - the farmers' markets aren't always cheap. A local grower in my town (who also sells at the farmers' market) offers a subscription service for weekly boxes of veggies. Your box is filled with generous portions of whatever is in season, and everything is same-day picked. It's a lot more reasonably priced than the farmers' markets, and I imagine growers in other communities are doing this, too. It's so popular here that the grower started doing winter boxes every two weeks that include fall/winter goodies like apples, potatoes, and squash.

  8. I think it' a type of asian hot sauce :)

  9. Yeah, I want to know what Siracha is too. I will probably never make the chicken burgers as most of the other ingredients, I either do not have or have to buy too much of and why bother when the rest of it will go bad. For example: Fresh Ginger, Fresh Scallions, eggs (we use egg beaters and I don't know if I can substitute one for the other) and of course Siracha (whatever that is). Can we have some recipes without spices, herbs and ingredients I don't use in any other dish? The rest of it will go bad and be a waste of money for us. I cannot tell you how many spice bottles I have in my cabinet that I do not use, or only use for one recipe. They are mostly 3 or 4 years old by now and still almost full (and probably almost tasteless) but I refuse to throw them out. LOL

    Jrseygirl in VA

    1. From one relocated Jersey Girl to another... don't stress! The Asian Chicken Burgers were an example of something my husband and I made with ingredients we love.. if you don't, don't sweat it! Prepare yours with things you and your family do like - how about a packet of onion soup mix in the chicken burgers and add a slice of cheese on top? How about mixing in a bit of your fav BBQ sauce? And, yes, absolutely, you can "substitute" egg beaters for real eggs - or leave out completely! Sometimes the chicken needs a bit of extra binding... And, honey... throw those spices out. They no longer have any spicing power. You can do it. I'm here for you.

    2. Another thought is to look into herbs in a pot. Many not just the basics, not everything oragnic grocery stores (upkrop's, Giant, Martin's etc) sell live herbs in a small planter. Use what you need, and teh rest stays on the plant, not going bad. Keep it watered, in the sun, and nip the flowers as they pop up. Very portable, and not expensive. When my wife and I lived in an apartment, we kept a few in the kitchen window as we had no gardening room. Worked great!

      -Mr. Mom.

  10. Siracha is heaven in liquid form.

    Actually, it's an asian hot sauce thing. There is a rooster on the bottle.

  11. @ Anonoymous Jrseygirl in VA I had that problem of herbs going bad too and Yenta will probably KILL me for suggesting but in my grocery store in the freezer section I found herbs that are in little cube trays. (ginger, garlic, basil, and loads of others). It tells you on the package how many cubes = what amount and you pop it out of the little cub and add it to the dish then pop the herb tray back in the freezer. Its fresh only frozen (so is it really fresh??) Its a great way to get your "fresh" herbs without them going bad.

    1. The Yenta would never kill anyone, unless perhaps they were trying to take cake away from me. But let me build on the ice cube tray idea...
      Instead of buying the pre-made herby ice cubes (that contain preservatives) just make them yourself. Next time your herbs are turning, mince them up, sprinkle into ice cub trays and cover with water or even chicken stock!

    2. You can also dice your herbs up with some garlic and mix into butter! Toss in a Gladware container and it freezes great. Use the herbed butter when sauteing, or as a spread on bread.

      If I have any basil laying around, I'll mix it (and other leftover herbs) with olive oil and Parmesan cheese in the food processor - instant pesto! The pesto can be frozen as a batch in Gladware, or as single-servings in ice-cube trays - just depends on what is easiest for you.

  12. @aaflood

    You're welcome. ;)

  13. Have any of you guys ever participated in Bountiful Baskets?? Its an AMAZING way to get fruits and veggies way cheaper...i get the honors of shopping at a commissary and still find much of the produce through them to be a better quality and price. Its a co-op, you purchase a basket for $15 and all the money from baskets is used to purchase as much fruit and veggies as possible straight from farms (they try to use small family operations as much as possible), then on saturday of that week the produce is split between all the baskets purchased. Its kinda like being on Chopped too since you never know what you are going to get. The stuff is so fresh too, ive made plum jam 5 weeks later because we just werent eating them on there own. The process is all volunteer based and alot of fun to help out with. is the website

  14. You can buy already minced ginger in a bottle with some olive oil, usually in the ethnic section or sitting next to the minced garlic in a bottle in the fresh fruit and veggie section of your larger grocery store. Both stay good a really long time. The garlic can be used instead of scallions, and your egg beaters should be fine. If you don't have that hot sauce, use what you have, or some pepper and ketchup.

  15. Jrseygirl in VA, I blog at about relatively quick recipes that a working mom can put on the table without too much effort or ingredients. We don't really like things with lots of spices or oddball ingredients in our house either! If I do a try a recipe that calls for something out of the ordinary, I'll usually substitute and let you know how it goes. I hope you'll give it a try!

  16. When I read "And listen… if you are the one doing the cooking, YOU ARE IN CHARGE" I laughed. But then remembered you said, "We don’t have any children yet." And thought, "Oh, she'll take that back someday."

  17. I made the chicken chili last night (called it stew bc I knew hubby would take issue with something green being called chili). It was freaking DELISH. I didnt use parsley, all cilantro. And used frozen roasted corn stead of fresh. And took a wilted bunch of leftover cilantro from the bottom of the crisper and let that simmer with it, the added a bunc of fresh cilantro at the end. AWESOME! Easy. Hubby C couldn't stop saying he liked it, and he is a p.i.t.a to cook for.

    THANKS for an awesome recipe that will be part of my rotation!

    1. Fabulous Catie! Try using some Yellow Hominy (can be found in the bean section) next time too - adds fabulous texture and color! If you want to be a little naughty, crunch up some salty tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl next time... amazing!

  18. I'm totally making the chicken burgers next week. I used to call Sriracha, "Rooster sauce..."

    Can I share my turkey burger recipe? Oh well, I'm going to do it anyway. Ground turkey, 1 egg, a little minced garlic, finely chopped mint and 3 ancho chilies from a can finely diced (I actually through it into the food processor and almost make a paste. Make into patties and cook in a non-stick skillet. For the topping, thinly sliced cucumbers and red onion, a little white wine vinegar, salt and pepper and some plain greek yogurt. Delish!




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