Tag Archives: cooking
May, of course, is full of events. Mother’s Day is sneaking up on us, and the round of graduation parties is edging toward us. It’s also a great time of year for someone who loves to eat. The asparagus is out in quantity, there are strawberries that smell like strawberries, and you can eat your fill of spinach and peas.
I’ll be hosting two events tomorrow, May 10:
Healthy Cooking with Whole Grains, 10:00 am, Roane County Public Library (Spencer branch)
– learn what exactly a whole grain is and how to identify one in the grocery store
– taste new whole grains
– make a simple one-pot dish featuring whole grains
Enjoying and Cooking Fresh Herbs, noon, Roane County Public Library (Spencer branch)
– sample different herbs
– learn to make herb vinegar
– taste an herb salad
– learn how to make a wonderful easy herb vinaigrette
Thanks to the Master Gardener Leader, we’ll have plenty of herbs to sample and play with. Oregano plants will be available for those interested in starting their own. Hope to see you there!
Recent events have been going well, despite a lack of publicity by me! I had a lovely tasting at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV last weekend with an enthusiastic audience, and several nutrition talks have been well-attended. A future event at Taylor Books may happen later this summer… let us know if you have any thoughts.
My series with the Roane County Libraries continues. Check out the next event, “Cooking with Spring Vegetables,” at the Spencer Public Library on Tuesday, April 17 (12:00 to 1:00 pm). We’ll be demo’ing a few good uses of sugar snap peas, spinach, and pea shoots.
Cooking demos and tasting will also be presented through the Master Gardeners monthly talks in May, June, and potentially July. Presented by the Extension Service, Master Gardener events are open to the public as well as those who have completed the course or are interested in taking the course. Keep in touch (Twitter: StephanieBostic) for updates!
Herbs and spices can seem somewhat mysterious– what complements which foods and which seasonings highlight each other? When and how do you add them? One Bowl helps demystify them via a handy chart listing some common uses. Beyond matching the foods, though, the timing of seasoning can dramatically impact the flavor of the dish.
Here are a few rough guidelines:
1) Heat dried herbs and spices, in oil or fat, if possible. Many of the compounds that create the wonderful taste and scent of seasonings are soluble in oil, so it distributes the flavor evenly. Toasting them without fat also helps– it removes the “raw” flavor that many herbs and spices can have and intensifies different flavors.
2) Add dried herbs and spices toward the beginning of the cooking time to maximize the amount of the flavor released into the dish.
3) Add fresh herbs toward the end of the cooking time to maximize their fresh flavor.
4) Crush dried and fresh herbs before adding them to a dish to release the flavorful oils.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. When in doubt, start with these.
A rice cooker is (surprise!) an excellent tool for cooking rice. It’s also easily used to cook other whole grains, steam vegetables and/or proteins, and assemble a one pot meal. While I find it difficult to cook just one or two servings of rice in a full-sized saucepan, a small rice cooker makes it a relaxing process. Ask yourself a few questions to determine whether you might find it useful.
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Can you walk into the kitchen, pull out a few items, and pull together a meal? A number of friends have commented at various points about how easily I cook without recipes. Partly, I can do so because I always stock some basic pantry items. Beyond simply having the carrots and rice in the pantry, you need the confidence to pull it together into a meal. Cooking without a recipe is a valuable skill to develop, as your pantry may not always match your recipes.
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Fresh ginger can add a serious shot of flavor to peanut sauces, stir-fries, curries, marinades, or dressings. However, it’s one of those seasonings that can be a bit of a pain to store since it can become moldy quite quickly. Or just dried out and hard to deal with.
Solution: Grate the ginger, pack in a jar, and cover with rice vinegar. Refrigerate, and use within about 4 weeks.
Rice vinegar acts as a preservative and most savory recipes calling for ginger can tolerate a few extra drops of it. White wine or cider vinegar could also be used, but I do prefer the rice vinegar for its mild flavor.
More than most daily activities, eating has been traditionally constructed as a Norman Rockwell-style social occasion. Whether it’s Mom, Dad, two kids, and a dog under the table or girlfriends out a trendy new restaurant, the images we see most often are of groups of people gathered around food together. Cooking utensils, cookbooks, and even food packaging are designed for families. Sadly, the exceptions focused on solo eaters tend to be the less healthy options, like frozen dinners. What can make stepping away from the frozen dinner easy?
One simple key is to find your eating style. You may already know it, since single people have the luxury of indulging their preferences as often as they like. Whether you do or not, acknowledging it in your meal planning is vital to your success in making yourself satisfying meals. Typical elements to think about:
- Do you like monotony?
- Will you eat leftovers?
- What type of meals do you like: hearty, light, mixed dishes, separate sides, etc?
- What do you feel deprived without? (Glass of wine, smoothie, steak, potatoes, etc?)
- What are your favorites and what do you abhor?
- Are you a grazer, do you prefer three square meals a day, or do you only have time to down a shake or energy bar for breakfast or lunch?
Once you’ve found your style, think about how to use it for inspiration and take pleasure in it. What can you do to create meals that meet your eating style? Share your ideas below.