Tag Archives: food

Back to School Refresher

Hi all,

Sorry to have gone on hiatus again. Summer has been crazy around here. Lots of travel, lots of home repairs, lots of cleaning from said home repairs…. My oldest started school this year, and I’ve honestly been looking forward to an enforced schedule to regulate our days.

Many people feel like this time of year is almost like a New Year’s, a time for resetting and making goals. Hopefully, you are trying to get into a groove with menu planning, eating healthy, etc. Here are a few tips that have been helping me lately.

1. Find something you WANT to cook. We all need lots of quick meals in our arsenal. But, I think it is a good idea to find something that you really want to cook/make that maybe takes more time. For example, I recently grew my own sourdough starter. I’ve used it to make bread, waffles, pancakes, and pizza crust. Does it take time? A little, but actually not that much active time. The key was I WANTED to make it. So I didn’t mind the time. Think outside the box: homemade nut butters, jam, curing/smoking meat, bread, sauerkraut. Maybe it is taking time to stock your freezer with items. But think of something you’d be willing to spend time cooking. I bet you’ll find the time.

Sourdough Bread

2. Think through all the food you need when making your grocery shopping lists. Most kids need to take a snack to school. Maybe you’d have a better day if you took a snack with you to work. Make sure you have accounted for these in your shopping. If you don’t buy healthy snacks, they won’t magically make it into bags. It seems like a no brainer, but it’s important to think about it. One box of crackers and one package of string cheese isn’t going to keep you all going for a week.

3. Try to eliminate decision making. Planning a menu can be a lot of work. Try to streamline or simplify where you can. We always eat breakfast for dinner on Wednesdays. Tuesday is leftover night. Maybe every Tuesday can be taco tuesday. Pizza Fridays. Meatless Monday. These systems either remove or simplify the decisions when planning your menu. Help yourself out!

4. Pick one day for a fancy dinner. Our family recently started having a more formal dinner on Sundays. We sit at our nicer table, use a tablecloth, kids get real dishes, use cloth napkins, etc. We are hoping to break out candlesticks. I try to make sure food makes it into serving dishes rather than putting pans on the table. I often try to have a special drink. Taking this time to enjoy food as a family has been great for our relationships. My kids love it and are SLOWLY improving in table manners. And even if the dinner isn’t super complicated, it feels fancy because of our surroundings. Try it!

Hope these three tips help you as you go back to school. I’ve got some fun recipes coming soon!

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Cooking Terms, part 1

I’ve wanted to do a series of posts for a while highlighting more technical cooking and food terms.  Some of these you may never see in an actual recipe.  But understanding the concept will make you a better cook.  Others you will see in a recipe, so it is always good to have an idea what these terms really mean (although recipe authors may have their own meanings).  Some may make you a more savvy shopper at the grocery store.

-al dente – Italian for “to the tooth”.  This is the term usually used to refer to the correct way to cook pasta.  Pasta should be tender, but not soggy.  There should be a little resistance when you bite into it.

-beurre – French word for butter.  You see this word in sauce names, such as beurre blanc.  You know that it is a butter based sauce.

-binder – an ingredient used to thicken.  Eggs, roux, flour, and cornstarch are common binders.

-bouquet garni – a bundle of herbs tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth.  You place it in a soup or stew to flavor while cooking.  By bundling, it is easy to remove your stems/large leaves when ready to serve.

-chop – This is a generic term for cutting food into bite size pieces.  It generally means a coarser or larger cut than say mince or dice.

-cobbler – a baked fruit dessert with a biscuit like crust

-crisp – a baked fruit dessert with a pastry like crust

-cocoa powder – usually sold as unsweetened cocoa powder, this is the product from the grinding of cocoa liquor.  Dutch process cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali.  Cocoa powder is naturally acidic.  You have to be careful substituting Dutch cocoa for regular cocoa if the recipe needs acidity of cocoa.

-convection oven – An oven equipped with a fan to circulate the air.  Products will cook more evenly and up to 25% faster.  It is generally recommended that you can decrease the temperature by 25 degrees when using a convection oven.

-dash – Refers to a small amount of seasoning, generally considered somewhere between 1/16 and ⅛ teaspoon.

-deglaze – Removing the brown bits from a pan after browning another ingredient (usually meat).  You add a small amount of liquid to the hot pan, then scrape the pan to remove the bits.  This is useful for adding flavor to a dish.  However, you could also use this same technique with water to help clean a pan that has a lot of burnt bits on the bottom.

-dice – to cut food into small cubes.  I often use dice as something between chop and mince.

That’s all for now.  Hope you find these helpful!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

 

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