In the Test Kitchen
Hi all, it’s Sheena, editor with BHG.com joining today. On day three of the Sochi Winter Olympics, I attended day one of the 3rd annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked food and wine fest on the white sand beach of Clearwater, FL. Unlike Sochi there were no extreme downhill slopes or frozen ice rinks, but temperatures in the mere 50s and 60s had weather-spoiled Floridians shaking in their boots (they were literally wearing boots in the sand!). I admit it did look strangely like snow with palm trees jutting out.
The chilly temps and wind didn’t stop hundreds of people from lining up to get into this much-anticipated food and wine fest. In the spirit of the Olympics, I broke down Uncorked into three events and scored myself against the crowd.
Event 1: The line.
My score: Gold!
Just look at all these hungry mouths salivating with thoughts of cheese, seafood, and wine. I blissfully wore my VIP badge like a gold medal and walked right in. Note to future Uncorked attendees: This is a major perk of the VIP ticket.
Event 2: Getting through the crowd.
My score: Nowhere near the podium.
As you can tell, Uncorked is a hot ticket for foodies. When the crowd became too much for my figure skater-like height (I come in below the 5’3” female figure skater average) I escaped to the VIP area where I enjoyed lobster mac and cheese from The Lobster Pot and sipped on Mount Gay Rum and Four Roses Bourbon. I learned a bit about the extensive histories of these two liquor brands. Mount Gay dates back all the way to 1703 and wow, their Extra Old rum was amazing! Four Roses was able to keep operating through prohibition because bourbon was considered medicinal. Doctors would actually prescribe a pint of bourbon every 12 days for various “illnesses,” such as having the vapors, a hurt back, etc.
Event 3: Eating!
My score: Bronze. (Much like Bode Miller in the super-G, I put forth an impressive effort that only a few could beat.)
Those who know me well know my ultimate favorite food is cheese. Thanks to Tillamook, Cabot, and Kerrygold, I indulged in some of the most delicious cheeses I’ve tasted. My personal gold-medal cheese sample was Tillamook’s Vintage Extra Sharp White Cheddar. YUM! The folks from Tillamook told me this product is trickier than some of their others to find, but I will definitely be on the hunt. Every few steps through the tents of the festival brought another scrumptious nibble. Crab dip with hot sauce, scallops on a creamy risotto, pasta tosses, gelato, bruschetta, smoothies, and on and on the list could go.
It was a truly delicious day sampling food products and chef creations in a setting that can’t be matched. As a parting gift for all of Uncorked’s attendees we were treated to a breathtaking sunset. Anyone who’s interested should start planning for next year’s 4th annual Uncorked event.
It’s here, it’s here, Fresh cookbook is here! Hello again, it’s Sheena, digital food editor for bhg.com, joining in. I have not-so-patiently been waiting for this book, and warm summer-like weather to get here so I could start cooking from it. This weekend I dove in with the Orecchiette in Creamed Corn with Wilted Tomatoes and Arugula recipe. I’m here in Iowa, where, in case you haven’t heard, we have stellar sweet corn! So I grabbed my fresh-from-the-market sweet corn and got shucking. With the husks removed, I made easy work of cutting the corn off the cob with my handy Oxo Corn Peeler.
I do my best to cook healthy. This summer recipe is loaded with fresh produce, hence, lots of good-for-me vitamins, but it’s also got quite a bit of cream and cheese. I made an easy swap of fat-free half and half which saved me 49 calories and 9 g fat per serving. I didn’t touch the cheese amount. For me, the cheesier the better – and not just as it pertains to food. It might not be quite as rich, but it was darn good. If I had been willing to share this meal with anyone else, they would agree it was deliciously indulgent.
Hi, this is Carlos Acevedo, one of the food editors at Better Homes and Gardens, and I need to get something off my chest. I recently flew to Ohio and fell in love. The subject of my affections: the glorious flat-iron steak.
This affordable cut was historically ground up to make hamburger but is surging in popularity as a grilling steak as chefs and consumers alike get hip to its deep flavor and tender texture. It’s similar to flank steak, but some people say it tastes as good as a New York strip.
So what’s Ohio got to do with this, you ask? Well, I went there for an education in steaks at the Certified Angus Beef Brand headquarters in Wooster. You’re probably familiar with them—they’re the ones with the black steer and red sash logo.
Certified Angus Beef represents angus cattle ranchers but only certifies the highest quality angus beef—most cows don’t make the cut.
Now, I know my way around a steakhouse menu. But the good people at Certified Angus Beef demonstrated a bunch of up-and-coming sizzlers, most unfamiliar to me, that are now being sold at many meat counters. Ever heard of the Sierra, Denver, or Ranch?
These affordable steaks come from the chuck, or shoulder of the cow, which generally yields tough beef best suited for stews and chilis. But clever researchers have been working hard over the last decade to find several hidden tender cuts.
My new favorite, as I said, is the toothsome flat iron (also called a boneless beef top blade chuck or top blade steak), which is flavorful and juicy thanks to excellent marbling. Look for it next to you go shopping and cook as you would any steak. It’s best pan seared, broiled, stir fried, or grilled. Just be careful not to overcook—no more than medium doneness or the meat can become chewy.
For a South American twist, try this tasty flat-iron steak recipe from Better Homes and Garden’s latest grilling magazine, “Grill It!”, available on newsstands now.
Greetings! Jessica Christensen, editor with BHG special food publications, here. I’ve had two big events in my life this month that I want to share. First, my little baby boy had his first big birthday! Second, my newest magazine, Cakes!, just hit the newsstands (for a special sneak peek, check out this exclusive slideshow with my absolute favorite recipes from the magazine). Now, I wouldn’t be a true food editor if I couldn’t figure out a way to capitalize on both of these events and wrap them into a blog.
So last Friday, after work, I set out to create two super cute cakes from our magazine for my son’s birthday party. Now folks, this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. After baking my own wedding cake (not the best plan I’ve ever had) four years ago, I know that baking and freezing the actual cakes ahead of time is important. I had completed that step the week before and almost wept with relief that I didn’t have to start baking at 6:00 the night before the birthday party. With all the decorating ahead of me, even cake mix would be too much to ask at that time of night. I’d let the cakes thaw out during the day, so now all I had to do was cut, frost, and decorate. Easy, right? Here are the two recipes I was trying to create—Race Car Cakes and Tropical Fish Cake:
I started with the Race Car Cakes. This recipe makes two cars, each of which is made from a round cake layer (like you would use for a two-layer cake), cut in half crosswise and sandwiched together with frosting. The car is “shaped” by cutting out a windshield section free hand. I decided to make one green one for the boys at the party and one purple one for the girls. Then I decorated one like the Race Car in the photo above and the other like the Flower Car Cake variation at the bottom of the Race Car Cakes recipe. The decorations included Rips licorice pieces (I think these are available at hobby and crafts stores) for the windows, Fruit by the Foot for the stripes, Tic Tacs for the numbers on the side of the car, Oreos for the tires, and Skittles for the flowers.
Next I worked on my son’s “smash cake,” which was a miniature version of the larger Race Car Cakes above. I’m new to this parenting thing, but apparently it’s traditional for kids to smash into a small cake on their first birthday and feed it to themselves. (After feeding my son nothing but organic food for 12 months, it took all my strength to allow him to shovel loads of sugar into his mouth in this manner.) This round cake was baked in a 6-inch round cake pan, instead of a 9-inch pan like the larger ones. I then cut it down slightly to make it even smaller. But it was essentially shaped and decorated in the same way as the ones above. Before serving it to him, I took all the candy decorations off. Toddlers and small pieces of candy do not mix.
Finally, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I made the Tropical Fish Cake. This is not a difficult cake, but by the time I finished the other three cakes, it was nearing 9:30 p.m. I was tired. The kitchen was a disaster and looked like a can of frosting had exploded in it. I had a feeling the whole fish cake decorating experience wasn’t going to end well. Sure enough, despite the fact that I successfully cut the corners from this 13×9-inch cake as directed and got the top and bottom fins placed correctly on the unfrosted version (as seen in picture 2 below), I could not figure out how to place them back on the fish cake once they were frosted (geometry is not my forte). As you’ll see from picture 3, below, my fish almost went to the party looking like he was deformed or swimming backwards. At that point I didn’t even care.
But, for my son’s sake, I summoned my last ounce of strength and spun the fins around (at least a dozen times) until I found the right position. My lack of understanding on how those fins were supposed to go bordered on ridiculous! I even had the photo from the magazine right in front of me. But the end results of the Tropical Fish Cake were worth my profound confusion and the extra hassle.
By the time I finished these four cakes around 10:30, I was exhausted. Luckily I remembered to put them downstairs where the cat wouldn’t get them (she has an unfortunate habit of licking baked goods while we’re all sleeping) before I crashed in bed still covered in frosting. I have a few final thoughts on these cakes. First—and I knew this before I even started—try to do your decorating when you’re fresh and full of energy in the morning. Second, all of the candies and decorations are just suggestions. It’s not always practical to buy 10 to 15 varieties to decorate one cake. Although you can bag up the leftover candy and hand it out as favors when the party is over. Third, the cute decorations and candies can make cutting and serving the cakes more difficult. If it becomes troublesome, do like I did, and remove the extra candies before serving up the cake. In the end, everybody loved the cakes and ate every last crumb. Including my main man…
Hi, I’m Grace Young, cookbook author and stir-fry guru. The wok is one of the most incredible cooking instruments, yet it’s sadly overlooked. I was delighted to create modern recipes that demonstrate the versatility of the wok for the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens.
With a wok you can pan-fry, braise, steam, boil, poach, deep-fry and even smoke foods. But the easiest way to fall in love with this iconic pan is to stir-fry. Seasonal ingredients are the key to a great stir-fry. The high heat and fast cooking accentuates the natural flavor and texture of ingredients, especially vegetables.
My favorite place to shop for produce is the farmer’s market. This spring as I wandered around the Union Square farmer’s market in New York City I couldn’t resist the young garlic, baby lettuce, and picture-perfect radishes. On the way home I stopped to buy shrimp, and by the time I was in my kitchen, I had the inspiration to create the Seared Shrimp Salad with Wok Dressing. I wanted a simple dressing, fragrant with sesame oil, but with a little kick from sriracha sauce, garlic, and a hint of honey.
I wrapped the just-cleaned shrimp with plenty of paper towels until they were dry to the touch. Excess moisture causes spattering and takes down the temperature of the pan, preventing the shrimp from searing. After a quick stir-fry the garlic, ginger, and coconut-infused shrimp is intensely flavored and laced with wok aroma. Served with young lettuce, radishes, avocado, and the warm dressing, this dish captures the fresh taste of springtime.
The beauty of a stir-fry is once you understand the basics you can improvise and vary the vegetables as the seasons evolve. From now until the end of autumn, stir-fries are at their best, when farmer’s markets are abundant with just harvested vegetables that come alive in your wok. I encourage you to explore your local farmer’s markets and buy what’s in season. If you’ve never cooked with a wok now’s the time to start your culinary love affair. Get the recipe here!
Hi all, it’s Sheena, digital editor for bhg.com, joining today. As a registered dietitian it’s my job to let the world know that March is national nutrition month! (No, that exclamation point is not a mistake, it really is that exciting!) I figured there’s no better time than during nutrition month to get refreshed on the MyPlate guidelines, so I cooked up this Garden Vegetables Lasagna meal that knocks out all five food groups.
As you can see, you can stick to “the plate” while still allowing your foods to touch. Think about this the next time you make a casserole, main-dish salad, or stir-fry. You can add every food group to recipes that mix ingredients. Want proof that all the food groups are accounted for in this recipe?
It may look skimpy in the protein group, but because there is so much dairy, which also contributes protein, this veggie-loaded meal still provides 29 grams of protein with only 421 calories! One other delicious thing about this recipe I must point out is the Essential Everyday Vinaigrette used for the salad. The name says it all. I would happily enjoy this dressing every single day. It’s so easy to make – especially using a screw-top jar for mixing ingredients – and tastes better than anything out of a bottle without strange ingredients I can’t pronounce. I bet you have each ingredient in your pantry right now.
It all comes together as an all-in-one meal the whole family will enjoy. Or one delicious dinner and a week’s worth of leftovers, if you eat like me.