Monday, April 28, 2008

Baking in Foil

Baking in foil is a method of cooking that locks in natural flavors and keeps food moist. Foil packets are also great ways to combine an entrée with vegetables and sauce all in one neat packet.

Foil packets can be substituted with parchment packets if you prefer. When using parchment be sure to butter it well and reduce the cooking time.

Foil packets create a wonderful steamy aroma when opened at the table. They are the perfect way to tantalize an appetite! Packets can be cut in different and fun shapes like clam shells, footballs, rectangles, squares or circles.

A great time saver, packets can be prepared ahead of cooking time and popped in the oven for 30 minutes or less prior to serving.

For a quick and simple anytime dinner, try these baked in foil recipes,

Sole w/Crème Fraiche in Foil
Chicken & Pepperoni in Foil
Shrimp, Procuitto & Lemon in Foil
Chicken, Pineapple & Cherry Tomatoes in Foil

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring is in the Air

April brings the beginning of the spring season — a welcome change to many. As the weather warms up, look for some wonderful spring vegetables to liven up your meals. Here are a few delicious vegetables to look for this spring with some general tips on preparation:

  • Morel mushrooms — a flavorful mushroom great for sauces

  • Garden Peas — steam, stew or purée and use in a delicious spring soup

  • Snow Peas — steam or stir fry

  • Sugar Snap Peas — steam or stir fry

  • Asparagus — tender thin shoots are now available! Steam, blanch, sauté or stir fry.

  • Artichokes — roast, steam, boil or pressure cook

Try some of our wonderful recipes using these fresh and delicious vegetables:

Start your dinner off with an appetizer of Roasted Artichokes served with a flavorful Mustard Mayonnaise. Enjoy a colorful Rice Salad with Asparagus & Prosciutto, combining spring asparagus with basil, sweet peppers and salty proscuitto. Spring Vegetable Spaghetti, a wonderful fresh pasta, easy to make and absolutely delicious! Or try the Spring Roasted Salmon Salad, a delicious and hearty salad perfect for lunch or a light dinner.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oil Makes It Lighter

If you’ve been disappointed with your results in baking quick breads, muffins and cakes, the answer may be vegetable oil. Often gluten-free flours when used in unadjusted recipes tend to produce dry, gritty breads or cakes that fall apart.

Substituting vegetable oil for butter or margarine will not make gluten-free breads heavy, instead, it will make them lighter, moist and help to hold them together.

In regular (with gluten) dense cakes and breads, oil more rapidly coats the protein molecules in wheat flour which prevents the formation of gluten, resulting in a moister and more tender product. With gluten-free flours, oil helps to bind ingredients and helps to keep the baked product moist for days after it has been baked.

So next time you try an unadjusted quick bread or muffin recipe, try adding vegetable oil, for a standard quick bread recipe we use 1/2 cup, your bread will turn out much closer to the gluten variety and stay moist much longer.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Cooks Best Friend

One of the most important and easiest ways to improve the results of your cooking is to use fresh herbs. Fresh herbs will add an aromatic quality to any dish that dried herbs can only mimic. Fresh herbs added to a salad will transform an ordinary salad into a fresh burst of spring. If you purchase fresh herbs from the grocery store, you know they are expensive and usually won’t last very long in the refrigerator. If you do a lot of cooking, you probably find yourself running to the store every time a recipe calls for an herb you don’t have. So spring brings an exciting time for people who love to cook. The time to plant your herb garden.

Planting your own herb garden will supply you with the freshest herbs at your fingertips throughout the year. Herb gardens require little space, you can plant a full array of herbs in pots around your deck or in a window box outside your kitchen. Whether you have actual garden space or are planting in pots, start with herbs you use frequently; rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, chives, cilantro and parsley. Herbs are very easy to plant and can be mixed together in the same pot. Simply follow planting instructions on the temporary planter boxes. Select your herbs relative to the herbs you use most. I usually plant rosemary, basil and cilantro in separate pots where they will grow larger, as I use these herbs constantly.

As with all plants, some herbs are hardier than others. Thyme, oregano, rosemary and parsley grow without much intervention. Mint will grow like a weed and can take over your garden if allowed to. I’ve found that cilantro and basil are more finicky and require more attention. Other herbs that are wonderful to grow and have on hand are marjoram, sage, dill, fennel, chives, and lavender. Once you’ve grown your own herbs there’s really no substitution. It’s one of those rare and wonderful experiences that requires little effort and gives back satisfying and delicious rewards throughout the year.