On the Grill

After a particularly long and ferocious Minnesota winter — with a full-blown snowstorm in the beginning of May – yes you read that correctly, MAY — I cautiously assert warm weather and summer fun are finally here! During the summer months, the art of cooking changes shape. No longer confined to our kitchen stoves, we cook on the grill for an added smoky flavor, throw outdoor family barbeques and begin to boil/deep-fry everything in beer (beer brats, beer-battered fish, beer-can chicken— ‘MERICA!). In preparation for Memorial Day this weekend, here is a quick and easy recipe you can make straight on the grill that feeds tons and tastes amazing. I have my family to thank for this recipe; we made it last weekend up north at our cabin and it was a huge success.

First, fashion 2 tin-foil boats that you can stuff full of food. One boat will have the catch of the day fish you caught or bought and the other will have the vegetables. Our fish boat had Perch, Bluegill, Bass and Northern. Add butter, season salt, garlic and pepper. Our vegetable boat had cut up potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, minced garlic, chives, parsley and of course – more butter. We sprinkled salt, pepper, and chipotle pepper seasoning to give it a kick. Place the boats on the grill and cover them with an additional piece of tin foil to speed up the process.  This recipe is simple and the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store. The reason why this recipe is such a crowd-pleaser is because all the ingredients are so fresh!

And don’t forget to make some delicious s’mores for dessert!

Superfoods to the Rescue

We’ve all read about extraordinary ‘superfoods’ that are bombarding the food industry and are vital to nutrition-based diet. Advertisements claim certain foods can boost your metabolism, strengthen your immune system and can help protect you from cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol – all achieved with natural foods, no drugs whatsoever. Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around Greek yogurt because it has twice the amount of protein and low-fat content. The same has been done with cranberries and kale in the past. But what are the real benefits of superfoods and what are just exaggerations made by ad agencies? After consulting Web MD, I found a few superfoods that are proven to improve your health. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/superfoods-everyone-needs

Tea

Whether it is black tea or green tea, tea is a superfood (superdrink?) that lowers cholesterol and said to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. ECGC is a powerful antioxidant found in tea. Tea is also a healthy alternative from sugary sodas. Tea can be ordered in almost every restaurant and is associated with relaxation and pleasure.

Dark Chocolate

Looking for an excuse to eat chocolate? Research has shown dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and can lower blood pressure. Experts recommend that you should look for chocolate with 60% or higher cocoa content (the darker, the better). In addition, the darker the chocolate, the lower the fat and sugar content.

 

 

Omega 3 Rich Fish

The omega-3s found in fish lower heart disease, help arthritis, and some experts believe help with memory loss. Omega-3s are found most often in fatty, cold-water fish. Try eating salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Omega-3s can also be found in fortified eggs, flax seed and walnuts.

 

Blueberries

The delicious fruit is a superfood powerhouse. Berries are loaded with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids (compounds that protect our bodies from stress), potassium and vitamin C. Blueberries are said to decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer and are also anti-inflammatory. Fresh berries can also help with weight management – as they are high in water content and low in calories.

Sweet & Salty Cheesecake

Over the weekend, I had a sweet tooth craving. So I scoured the internet for a dessert that was easy enough for me to bake. I came across salted caramel cheesecake bars and my mouth began to water. I love the texture of cheese cake and the richness of salted caramel – but I also am completely against making a dessert with no chocolate in it. It’s just not dessert. After I completed the recipe, I kept my apron on for an extra minute or two and mixed together chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream to add 1 more  top layer of chocolate-goodness. This dessert is indulgent and so decadent, I recommend making this to take to a family event or work. Otherwise, you will eat the whole thing yourself! As I write this, I think I may go grab another piece…

What you need:
Crust
2 1/4 cups graham cracker – I used Nilla wafers instead because I already had them
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons butter
Filling
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dulce de leche
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Glaze
2/3 cup dulce de leche
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
10 caramel chews
Sea salt
Directions:
Crust— Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13x9x2 pan with nonstick spray. Combine crushed Nilla wafers, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Slowly add in melted butter and coat the mixture. Move crumb mixture to the pan and spread evenly and flat across the bottom. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Let it cool completely before you move to the next step.
Filling— Blend cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs 1 at a time. Add in the dulce de lech and vanilla until just mixed. Spread filling evenly over cooled crust. Bake until the cheesecake mixture is set in the center and the edges are puffed and slightly cracked – or about 38 minutes. Let it cool completely before you move to the next step.
Glaze— Pour 2/3 cup dulce de leche and 3 tablespoons of whipping cream in a glass bowl. Microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring between each. Next take about 10 caramel candies and heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Quickly dump melted caramels in the glaze mixture and stir. The consistency should be pourable, but not too liquid.
Glaze 2 (Optional)— Combine a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of heaving whipping cream in a bowl. Microwave for 15 second intervals (chocolate easily burns!). Stir. Spread over cheesecake bars. Sprinkle bars with sea salt. Cover and chill bars until ready to serve.

 

How many folds are on your chef hat?

Legend has it, the number of folds on a chef’s hat is directly related to the number of ways he or she can cook an egg. This means, if you see a chef sporting an outlandish, vaulted, 3-tiered hat, they are probably a culinary genius!

Sadly, my chef hat only had two folds on it – because I can only cook eggs two ways: fried and scrambled. Embarrassed by my droopy, stunted chef hat, I made it my mission to expand my knowledge in the cooking-eggs-realm. Well, at least a little bit.

SHIRRED EGGS:

Bake eggs in the oven in a ramekin of cream. Top with breadcrumbs and cheese (optional). This one sounds delicious!

BASTED EGGS:

Heat butter. Fry an egg sunny-side up in the butter. Spoon extra runny butter on top of eggs until the white part is firm but the yolk is still runny. Basted eggs are supposedly the most flavorful kind of eggs.

POACHED EGGS:

Simmer water (NOT boil). Create whirlpool. Drop in egg. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove and serve. Easy right? While the process seems simple, the tricky part is making sure the egg doesn’t get all over when you drop it in the water. That’s what the whirlpool part is for – to keep the egg together.

TELL US! How tall is your chef hat?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^(my try at a poached egg!)

Chocolate Rabbits & Pastels

What thoughts and images come to your mind when you think of Easter? For me, it’s gotta be chocolate, rabbits, and pastel colors. Everything is colorful, fresh, and detailed. I love the lightheartedness and new-beginnings atmosphere that follows the start of spring. Easter-time holds many memories for me.

It was a tradition in my family for my parents to hide the baskets somewhere in the house on Easter morning. Since I was one of the youngest in the group and accustomed to being endlessly yet lovingly teased, my basket was always hid in “extreme” and hard-to-find locations. I remember finding it one year behind the basketball hoop on the roof and another year underneath the garbage bag in the kitchen trash can. Both excellent hiding places. I give you props Mom and Dad.

This year, I was feeling very much in the Easter spirit. I set out to make cutesy Easter treats and found several ideas online. Both were extremely easy to make and taste A-MAZE-ZA-ZING. Even though Easter was yesterday, you should still try one of these delicious treats!

Bird’s Nest Macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • dash of salt
  • 1 c. + 2 tbsp. shredded coconut
  • Jordan Almonds
  • 1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a mini muffin pan.
  2. Combine egg white, honey, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Stir thoroughly. Slowly add in coconut until easily moistened.
  3. Separate coconut mixture into the mini muffin pan, about a tbsp = 1 nest.
  4. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the coconut mixture (so the middle is hollow and resembles a nest).
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  6. Let pan cool and then remove nests from oven using a knife (if nest breaks it’s okay; it will make them look more realistic).
  7. Melt chocolate chips. Then add just enough chocolate to the center of macaroons. This will work as a glue to hold the Jordan Almonds in place.
  8. Place 3 eggs per nest. Transfer nests to freezer for about 5 minutes to secure the position.
This recipe was delicious, easy-to-make and kid-friendly. I ended up snacking on too many of the Jordan Almonds and completely spoiled my dinner!
BLT Deviled Eggs
Ingredients:
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Hard-boil and peel the eggs.
  2. Halve the eggs lengthwise.
  3. Remove yolks and transfer them to separate bowl.
  4. Mash yolks and stir in mayo, crumbled bacon bits, diced tomatoes and parsley.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Dye eggs (optional).
  7. Fill the egg white evenly with yolk mixture and garnish with extra bacon.

The final product was so fun to see because of the neon colors I dyed the egg whites. I have always loved deviled eggs but the bacon, tomatoes, and parsley really take it to a whole new level!

TELL US! What comes to mind when you think of Easter? What’s on the menu for your Easter meals?

 

 

 

 

Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

The other day, I found a recipe in my SELF magazine that looked delicious and easy-to-make. Now I rarely cook, but I thought a recipe with only a few ingredients was something I could manage. I couldn’t find kalamata olives at the store so I used regular black olives and it still tasted fantastic. It took me about a half hour to make the tasty dish and it left me wanting more. I highly recommend that you pick up these ingredients the next time you are at the grocery store and try it out for yourself!

What you’ll need:

  1. 8 oz rigatoni
  2. 1 container (11oz) cherry tomatoes
  3. 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil divided
  4. 1/3 lb Italian style pork sausage. Casing removed, torn into 1 inch pieces (For more spice, try finding extra hot Italian sausage and add red pepper flakes)
  5. 4 garlic cloves chopped
  6. ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
  7. ¼ cup loosely packed parsley, chopped (optional)

 

The how to:

  •  Heat oven to 400
  • Cook pasta as directed on package until al dente, about 8 minutes
  • Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking water
  • Place tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tsp oil, season with salt and black pepper.
  • Toss tomatoes with our hands to coat. Roast tomatoes until skins begin to wrinkle and split (about 8-10 minutes).
  • Heat a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over high heat, 1 minute. Add remaining 1 tbsp oil. Cook sausage, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and tomatoes; stir to combine. Cook until garlic turns brown, about 1 minute.
  • Add reserved cooking water; stir.
  • Reduce heat to low. Add olives and pasta. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute.
  • Add parsley, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

The recipe makes about 4 but my boyfriend and I ate the whole thing because it was so yummy. There are 463 calories per serving, 21 g fat (6 g saturated), 53 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 16 g protein. The sausage makes the dish rich and spicy and the olives add a perfect amount of saltiness. There’s a balanced taste in every bite!

All Fads Fall Short

As a food junkie, I sometimes have let my healthy eating habits slip and gained a few pounds. From there, I look for the newest diet trend to give me inspiration to get back on track. However, many of the diet fads out there are simply not giving you all the vital nutrients you need. These diet crazes make false promises like “lose 10 pounds in a week”, “no exercise necessary” or “get a lightening-speed metabolism”. While it’s tough to admit at times, the best and most reliable method to losing weight is simply: exercise more, eat less.

Here is a deeper look into the facts and realities behind the most popular diet trends to hit America.

  1. Atkins Diet

Also known as the low-carb diet, the Atkins Diet was first introduced by Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1970s. It has been estimated that at any given period of time, about 25 million Americans are on some kind of low-carb diet. Dieters are not allowed to eat any milk, fruits, grains, cereals, breads, or “high glycemic index” vegetables like potatoes, peas, corn and carrots. While the Atkins Diet is one of the better diet choices, there still are risks associated with the fad including: acidic urine, calcium deficiency, loss of important vitamins found in fruits and heart problems.

2. Master Cleanse

Made popular by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce Knowles, the Master Cleanse Diet is a 10 day regiment for extreme weight loss. It is reported that Beyonce dropped 15 pounds in one week with the Master Cleanse Diet to prepare for her role in DreamGirls. Dieters drink an 8 oz. water mixture of lemonade, maple syrup and cayenne pepper 6-12 times a day. They are not allowed to eat any solid foods for the full 10 days. Every night before bed and every morning after waking up, dieters are instructed to take laxatives. The idea is to give your digestive system a rest and flush out all the unwanted build-up. After the 10 days, dieters must slowly work solid and processed foods back into their body for an additional 3 days. This diet tries to make starving yourself seem glamorous. And of course you will lose the weight when you consume only 600 calories a day. It is recommended not to exercise while on the diet for this reason. Dieters receive high amounts of sugar but fail to meet every other recommend servings of proteins, vegetables, etc.

3. Tapeworm Diet

If a diet tells you to eat a live worm so it can split the food you consume with the tapeworm and your body, be skeptical! This should be common sense, but thousands of people have ingested a tapeworm and infected their bodies with a foreign living organism. Dieters have claimed to have felt the tapeworm moving inside their bodies and when it makes its way out. (ew!) It is possible for the tapeworm to deviate to other parts of your body through the blood system. This means your brain and yes you can die.

4. Paleo Diet

If a caveman didn’t eat it, then you can’t either. The diet demands dieters to go back to the eating habits of the Paleolithic Era nearly 10,000 years ago. Back then, hunters and gatherers didn’t have to worry about highly processed and carb-loaded foods. Say goodbye to refined sugars, dairy, legumes, and grains and hello to meat, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables! The only way to satisfy a sweet tooth is by eating raw honey or coconut palm sugar. And there is absolutely no salt! This diet sounds smart and intriguing except for the fact you are missing out on nutrients found in dairy and grains. If this diet sounds like something you would want to try, make sure you take daily supplements of vitamin D and calcium.

TELL US! What diet fads have you tried in the past? What was the result?

Sexy Eating

Happy belated Valentine’s Day everyone! As I was brainstorming what angle I should take when writing this blog for the week, it hit me:  Valentine’s Day + food = aphrodisiacs. So turn the lights down low, and get friendly with some of these flirtatious foods- the top 10 food aphrodisiacs.

WHAT IS IT? An aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sexual desire. Food aphrodisiacs can affect your body’s hormones, brain chemistry, and energy and stress levels.

10. ASPARAGUS

This vegetable is loaded with nutrients that are essential for healthy hormone production, including vitamin E and folate. Folate is a mood and libido boosting nutrient that plays a key role in fertility, while vitamin E is great for your skin.

 

9. ALMONDS

Almonds are said to arouse passion in women. Often seen as a symbol of fertility, these nuts have long been associated with love.   Author of The Count of the Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, would eat almond soup every night before clandestine, midnight meetings with his mistress.  And even in the Bible, it is said Samson romanced Delilah with these delicious nuts. And you thought history was only about memorizing dates…

8. AVOCADO

Avocados are linked to sexuality by their unique growth patterns. Hanging side-by-side in pairs, the Aztecs humorously-and bluntly- nicknamed the avocado ahuacuatl, or “testicle tree.” At one time, Catholic priests in Spain found avocados so obscenely sexual that they forbade the consumption of the fruit!

 

 

7. BANANAS

Anyone remember high school sex ed?

 

6. CHILE PEPPERS

Turn up the heat with this exciting ingredient. Chile peppers boost mood and energy levels while warming the body from the inside out. It is said that capsaicin, the compound that causes the Chile pepper to burn, makes the tongue tingle, causes a desire to be kissed, and cause lips to swell with an attractive and desirable plumpness.

 

5. CHOCOLATE

No wonder lovers exchange this sinfully delicious treat at Valentine’s Day. This dessert produces serotonin in the brain, the “feel good” hormone, and phenylethylamine, the “love chemical.” Phenylethylamine is reported to induce feelings of excitement, attraction and euphoria.

 

 

4. FIGS

Figs have long been associated with lust and some historians have suggested that the fig’s first home was the Garden of Eden, and that the fig was the true forbidden fruit.

3. GARLIC

Don’t let garlic breath stand in the way of using this aphrodisiac when cooking at home for a steamy night in. Garlic contains high amounts of allicin, an ingredient that increases blood flow and warms the body.

2. OYSTERS

Serve this slippery dish with a glass of chilled Champagne to ensure a lustful night. High in zinc content, this appetizer is said to increase libido. Oysters are probably the first food that comes to mind when one thinks of aphrodisiacs. Yet still, it only ranked #2 on our list.

1. HONEY

Sweet and sticky, honey is a great source for boron. Boron is a mineral that helps the body use and metabolize estrogen. Studies have also revealed this mineral may also enhance testosterone levels in the blood. The sugars available in honey also provide high energy and endurance. The Kama Sutra mentions that honey spiced with nutmeg is sure to hit high notes in your sex life.

TELL US! Where you surprised by any of the foods that made that list? Would you add any?

 

 

Sunday Funday

Last Sunday, an all-American tradition took place. Families gathered together to watch the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers for one final game. Whether it was Beyonce’s killer halftime show, the 27 minute power outage, or the suspenseful second half of the game, the 47th annual Super Bowl was a game to remember.

Every year, this culture-driven holiday unites sports fans, gamblers and advertisement junkies around a big-screen television. Together, Americans watched, laughed–and let’s not forget—ATE. Despite the athletic nature of the Super Bowl, Americans have managed to take this sporting event and make it all about the food. With Super Bowl parties across the nation teaming with chips and dip, hot dogs, and an array of desserts, Americans earn a trophy for biggest eaters.

So how much exactly did we all eating on Sunday? Check out these monster numbers.

  • An estimated 1.25 BILLION chicken wings were consumed. Believe it or not, that’s actually less than last year.
  • 11.2 MILLION POUNDS of potato chips
  • 79 MILLION avocados. Thank you guacamole.
  • 49. 2 MILLION cases of beer.
  • 4.4 MILLION pizzas were ordered from Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s

Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day for food consumption in America—second only to Thanksgiving. So now that we all took a day off from our New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to get back to reality, like talking about which was the best Super Bowl advertisement. But seriously, who didn’t enjoy that Taco Bell commercial?

TELL US! What kinds of foods were you eating on Sunday?

How far are Your Tastebuds Willing to Go?

By Chefadoo’s Courtney Wolf
As a food junkie, I am constantly searching for new foods to try. But even I might hesitate to take a bite of some of these…
1. Escargot

SLURP! An appetizer founded in Europe, escargot is a dish of cooked snails. Gooey, slimey, delicious snails! Doused in garlic, butter, chicken stock and wine, this tasty treat is quite literally *slurped* out from the shell. The delicacy is also high in protein and low in fat content. With nutrition like that, why wouldn’t           you try this treat?

 2. Veal

Simply put, veal is the meat from baby cow. While veal is a valued ingredient used in Italian and French cooking, this delicacy stirs up controversy around the world. Straight from the lips of Wikipedia, “While calves are young and most vulnerable to disease, they are kept in hutches, which keep them isolated and restrict movement so as to prevent connective tissue from developing, as the taste of veal raised in this manner is considered quite desirable.” Whether you sympathize animal lovers or not, veal is widely accepted as tender, flavorful and one of the leanest meats you can buy.

 3. Kopi Luwak

The world’s most extravagant and expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, is a must try! Production for these desirable coffee beans is a bit messy and the Kopi Luwak coffee producers have a rather unique experience creating the caffeinated delight. To gain the coveted Kopi Luwak flavor, the coffee berries are eaten by an Asian Palm Civet, a furry, cat-like mammal, and then excreted by the animal. Yes, excreted means exactly what you think it does…and thus the nickname Cat-Poop-Coffee was born! The civet’s enzymes seep into beans, fermenting the beans and, apparently turning them into gold. Coming in at over $400 a pound, this eccentric drink makes a great (and generous) gift for coffee enthusiasts everywhere!

 4. Rocky Mountain Oysters

While the name sounds tame, Rock Mountain Oysters are in fact, well, bull testicles. Originating in Western Canada, this delicacy is often breaded and deep-fried. If thinking of eating this dish makes you feel a bit queasy, I would avoid any menu items called “swinging beef,” “bull fries,” “dusted nuts,” “Montana tendergroins,” or “cowboy caviar”—which are other descriptive names for the popular dish. With a dash of salt and pepper, castration never tasted so good.

While I personally haven’t tried all the items on this list, I am proud to say I will never be adventurous as Tom Cruise. (Spoiler: he ate a placenta, A PLACENTA) But in all seriousness, next time you are reaching for your regular peanut butter sandwich, switch it up and try something new. If it’s a delicacy somewhere, it has to be good, right?……Right?