Pots & pans

Thought this was an interesting take on what kinds of pots and pans you should buy and which have the most even heating etc.

Pots & Pans: What’s Hot, What’s Not. From the NYT.

Bottom line.  Coated, uncoated, cheap, expensive.  Not really that much difference as long as you manage the fat (butter or oil) before you put the food in.  Interesting.

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Stir-fried beef with snap peas and water chestnuts

This is a great recipe from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen.  This one is super kid-friendly, even for my pickiest eater.  On the table in less than 20.  Tip: If you buy the pre-cut stir-fry meat from the store it will save you even more time, but I’m not sure what cuts they use for that.  Cutting the flank steak yourself will cost you 5 minutes but might be worth it.  Excellent flavor.

Ingredients

1/3 cup oyster sauce

1/3 cup low – sodium beef broth

2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)

1 flank steak (1 and 1/2 lbs) cut into thin slices

1 lb. sugar snap peas

2 (8oz) cans water chestnuts, drained

8 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp of wet garlic from jar)

2 TBS grated fresh ginger (or 2 TBS prepared garlic from jar)

1. Whisk oyster sauce, broth, vinegar and pepper flakes together.  Set aside.

2. heat 2 tsp oil in large skillet over high heat until smoking.  Cook half steak until browned (about 1 minute per side). Remove to bowl and repeat with 2 tsp oil and remaining steak. Remove.

3. Heat last 2 tsp oil until smoking and add peas and water chestnuts.  Stir occasionally until peas are bright green and tender — about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).  Return steak and juices to pan. Add oyster sauce mixture and cook until thickened.  About 1 minute.

Serve over rice. (Microwave rice takes just 3 minutes and is perfect every time).

Test Kitchen Note: Slice the flank steak with the grain into three long strips and then cut each strip against the grain into 1/8 inch thick slices.

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10 Ways to Fast Track Healthy Eating

You’ve heard the advice: Think flavor not fat.  Make veggies take up 2/3 of your plate. Yeah right.  Because I have time to make my own dressing, wash and peel veggies, squeeze fresh lemons (oh gee, I guess that means I had to remember to buy a lemon in the first place…)

I hear you.  But with a few staples in the fridge and pantry and a closer look at the pre-prepped produce section, here–in no particular order–are my top 10 tricks for eating healthy while still saving time. Thanks to my mom, Gail Zavelson — an amazing cook for collaborating.

1.  Pre-cut veggies. These go straight from fridge to salad bowl, roasting dish or pan.  I’ve seen celery, carrots, mushrooms, butternut squash, multiple kinds of onions, red/green peppers and various kinds of slaw. It really depends on where you shop as to how much of this kind of thing they offer.  Beware, they do charge a premium.  (If you don’t want to pay the mark-up, you can do the washing/chopping yourself on the weekends and store in an air tight container in the fridge for about a week.)

2. Pre-minced/crushed flavor enhancers. These come in a bottle, jar or tube – minced garlic, wet ginger, wasabi paste, bottled lemon or lime juice.  When you up the flavor you can often reduce the fat.

3.  Bagged salad greens. I like to buy the packages that come with everything — including toppings and dressings.  But make sure you watch the serving size/calorie count on the dressing or your salad might as well be a chocolate cake.

4. Ready-to-go pizza dough. Pizza gets a bad rap for being fattening but that’s often about the toppings.  If you make the pizza yourself you can put all sorts of healthy things on there — boneless, skinless chicken breast, spinach (pre-cut, pre-washed from the bag), artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, roasted red peppers or left over grilled veggies from a previous meal.  The more veggies the better.  For the dough: there’s the stuff in the Pillsbury tube, there’s Boboli, there’s organic in the refrigerator or freezer section.  Top with ready made pizza sauce or pesto (sold near the spaghetti sauce) and then start building your own personal recipe.  (Don’t forget a sprinkling of the pre-grated low-fat cheese of your choice.)

5. Bottled marinades. These are a great flavor enhancer when you’re grilling or broiling — two particularly low-fat ways to cook.  Usually sold near the ketchup and salad dressings, these come in a vast array of flavors – BBQ, honey/garlic, chipotle, thai peanut and on and on.  In the morning put your meat (even if its frozen – because I always forget to put it out the night before) in a gallon sized zip-lock bag and cover with the marinade.  Run out of marinade?  Keep a bottle of Italian salad dressing on hand. In a pinch it’s a great marinade shrimp, beef or chicken.

6. Frozen stir-fry mixes. I often add additional meat and veggies that I have on hand to bulk it up a bit.  Probably not one for every night tho’.  The sodium content can be really high.

7. Steam in-the-bag veggies.  I’m a fresh veggies kind of girl.  But on those nights when you haven’t been to the grocery in a week and your down to some wilted scallions and a sorry looking apple, these veggies from the freezer microwave super fast and will do just fine.  Jazz them up a bit by drizzeling with bottled lemon juice or orange juice.

8. Frozen dinner rolls. Just grab out as many as you need, heat and eat.  Also helps you keep from having seconds on bread.

9.Stuffed chicken breasts.  These come in several varieties — Chicken cordon bleu, stuffed with brocoli and cheese, or herbs etc.  They go straight from freezer to oven and cook in about 30 minutes.  Keep checking the label until you find one that is less than 400 calories per serving.  Serve this with a bagged green salad from above and you’ve just put together a low-calorie, no-prep meal that tastes great.

10. Microwaveable rice.  3 minutes to perfect rice every time.The Whole Foods brand comes in brown, white and TexMex varieties.

I’m sure there are plenty more great time savers.  I’d love to hear yours.

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shrimp and cabbage lo mein

This one is a kid-friendly crowd pleaser as is.  I’ve riffed off a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe to make it really a 20-minute wonder.  The secret is to buy the shrimp pre-peeled and deviened or do it yourself the night before. Bottom line is if you’re prepping a pound of shrimp at dinner time, you’re headed over the 20 minute mark.

Ingredients

8oz linguine

salt & pepper

1/4 c low sodium soy sauce

1/4 c rice wine vinegar

2 tsp fresh ginger (for speed and convenience, use the wet ginger in the jar)

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes

1 TBS vegetable oil

1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined

2 garlic cloves (for speed, use 1 tsp of the wet garlic from a jar)

1 head green cabbage, halved, cored and thinly sliced

1. Cook linguine per package directions.  Drain. Return to pot and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar and red pepper flakes.  Set aside.

3. While pasta cooks, slice cabbage.

4. Heat oil in large skillet over medium.  Add shrimp and garlic. Season with salt & pepper.  Cook, tossing frequently until shrimp are opaque.  About 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  Reserve skillet.

5. Put the cabbage and 1/2 cup water in the same skillet.  Cook stirring occasionally until cabbage is crisp-tender 6-7 minutes.  To pot with linguine add cabbage, soy sauce mixture and shrimp. Toss to combine.

TIP: If your kids don’t like shrimp, substitute chicken.  Just make sure to increase the cook time until it until it’s done.  FYI – the thin-sliced chicken breasts cook the fastest.

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Buttermilk and herb marinated chicken

This is a great semi-make-ahead that tastes great and will get you super-quick from fridge to table.  The night before throw the chicken into the buttermilk mixture.  That whole process takes between 5-7 minutes and can easily be done while you’re prepping tonight’s meal or just before you clean up.  Next evening, heat up the grill and you’re good to go.  Serve it with a pre-packaged saled from the grocery.

243 calories per serving.

This is from the July/August issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.

Ingredients

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 TBS choppped fresh rosemary

coarse salt & pepper to taste

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1. In a gallon size zip-lock bag, combine buttermilk, rosemary, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to overnight.

2. Heat grill to medium and lightly oil grates.  Shake off excess marinade and discard marinade.  Grill until instant read thermoneter reads 165 degrees.  About 8 minutes per side for 6 to 8 oz breasts.  Remove from grill.  Tent loosely with aluminum foil and rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Food & Wine’s fast and my fast are 2 different things

I generally like Food & Wine magazine.  In fact I used to subscribe.  But for awhile there it went from recipes you could actually make to some pretty esoteric stuff.  Interesting to read about but as a busy Mom I just didn’t have time to check it out.

So I was cruising headlines at Fresh Market yesterday [which by the way is a rocking grocery and I’m so excited that one finally opened here on the Hill] and I see the headline 30 Best Fast Recipes Ever.  So I get excited — I’m going to pick it up, make a few, share the good ones with you guys…

So I open it up to see the time.  30 minutes.  35 minutes.  40 mintues.  Is that what they consider fast?  Are they kddding?  When I have time to cook I’ll spend hours.  But on weeknights when homework, dinner prep, family dinner time,  reading time, bath, brushing, flossing, bed, make tomorrows lunches with the occasional after school activity thrown in for fun are all on the agenda at the same time, I don’t think 40 minutes is going to fly.

What about you?  Do you think 40 minutes is too much for a weeknigh?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Lobster Ravioli with a Light Tomato Vodka Sauce

This recipe is good enough for company and on the table with about 5 minutes prep and 15 minutes of cook time.  My mom found the original on recipezaar.com, she and I modified it to make it even faster.  The sauce is the key to the recipe and frankly you can use any kind of ravioli you like with it.  Pairs nicely with a chianti, merlot or zinfandel.  Serve with a pre-mix cesear salad from the store and breadsticks to round out the meal.

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

2 packages lobster ravioli (frozen or from the cold case in the supermarket; Monterey Pasta Co. makes a good one. )

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed (2.5 tsp if you use the wet garlic in the jar)

2 cans diced Italian tomatoes.  Get the flavored ones with garlic and basil.

Hot pepper flakes to taste

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 TBS chopped fresh basil

3/4 cup grated or flaked parmigiano-reggiano cheese for garnish

chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

1. Bring salted pasta water to boil in a large stock pot over high heat.  Add ravioli and cook according to package directions.

2. Heat olive oil in large skillet.

3.  Add chopped garlic and cook until lightly browned — about 3 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil and add salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.

5. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the pasta is finished cooking.

6. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and fresh basil.

7. Drain pasta and place in serving bowl with sauce.

8. Top with cheese and chopped parsley before serving.

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