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Nutrition

Pro tips for perfecting pasta

With a nearly endless variety of pasta types, sauce pairings and recipe ideas, the options are aplenty, and cooking is often a breeze.

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Next time hunger calls in your home, turn to a filling family favorite: pasta. With a nearly endless variety of pasta types, sauce pairings and recipe ideas, the options are aplenty, and cooking is often a breeze.

Consider these pasta cooking tips from Rouxbe, an online culinary school training people of all abilities to become better, more confident cooks.

  • Use a large, straight-sided pot with 6 quarts of water for every 1 pound of pasta. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt for each quart of water and stir to dissolve.
  • Wait for rapidly boiling water before adding pre-made pasta then cook according to package instructions for al dente, which means the pasta offers a slight resistance. For stuffed or fresh pasta, aim for a gentle boil and cook 1-5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water for use in sauces then drain (never rinse) your pasta. 
  • Add pasta to your sauce; never the other way around. Pair thin pastas like angel hair with lighter sauces, seafoods, basil and light oils. Fettucine, penne and rigatoni complement spicy sausage, heavy creams and chunky ragu. When in doubt, spaghetti offers a versatile option.

Pasta is a natural fit for fresh veggies, and you can put your skills to the test with Pappardelle with Garden Vegetables or create Homemade Potato Gnocchi to freeze and enjoy later.

For more information, visit rouxbe.com.

Pappardelle with Garden Vegetables
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 3-4

            Salted water
3          tablespoons olive oil
3          tablespoons shallots or white onion, minced
2          cloves garlic, minced
1/4       teaspoon chili flakes
1          cup white wine
2          cups pappardelle noodles
3/4       cup vegetable stock
3          tablespoons capers (optional)
2          vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced in wedges
1          handful baby kale
1          fresh lemon, juice only
2          tablespoons butter (optional)
            sea salt, to taste
            freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1          handful fresh basil, torn

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.

In fry pan on medium-high heat, add olive oil and onions; saute 2 minutes. Lower heat slightly and add garlic and chile flakes. Saute on medium heat 2-3 minutes. Add white wine and deglaze pan. Cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to add freshly cooked pasta.

In pot of boiling water, add pappardelle. Cook according to package instructions then drain.

Place fry pan back on medium heat. Add drained pasta; vegetable stock; capers, if desired; tomatoes; baby kale; and lemon juice. Add butter, if desired, and toss well. Cook 2-3 minutes, tossing occasionally, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, and fresh basil.

Toss again, remove from heat and serve.

Homemade Potato Gnocchi
Total time: 2 hours
Servings: 2-4

2          medium Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
3/4       teaspoon sea salt, divided
2          teaspoons water
1          cup all-purpose flour, divided, plus additional, for surface
1/4       teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8       teaspoon white pepper
2          large egg yolks

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place potatoes on sheet of foil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and water; wrap. Bake 40 minutes, or until cooked through.

Peel potatoes while hot. Cut and rice potatoes. Let potatoes cool completely.

To make dough, sprinkle potatoes with flour. Aerate with bench scraper then add remaining salt, nutmeg and white pepper.

Break up egg yolks and pour over potatoes. Cover surface with flour. Continue cutting and gently lifting dough.

Test dough by squeezing gently; it shouldn’t stick. Add flour, if needed.

Shape dough into rectangle and fold several times, using fingertips to bring together. Flatten dough out until it reaches finger thickness. Sprinkle with flour and let rest 5-10 minutes.

Cut finger-width strips of dough and sprinkle strips with flour. Roll out each strip and cut ropes into 3/4-inch pieces. Separate slightly and flour well.

Fresh gnocchi can sit at room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.

To freeze: Place gnocchi on tray, making sure they aren’t touching. Once frozen, transfer to plastic freezer bag and freeze up to 2 months. Cook gnocchi from frozen and serve with desired sauce.

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Nutrition

Salad or cheeseburger? Your co-workers shape your food choices

Co-workers may implicitly or explicitly give each other license to choose unhealthy foods or exert pressure to make a healthier choice.

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Photo by Alice Pasqual from Unsplash.com

The foods people buy at a workplace cafeteria may not always be chosen to satisfy an individual craving or taste for a particular food. When co-workers are eating together, individuals are more likely to select foods that are as healthy–or unhealthy–as the food selections on their fellow employees’ trays.

“We found that individuals tend to mirror the food choices of others in their social circles, which may explain one way obesity spreads through social networks,” says Douglas Levy, PhD, an investigator at the Mongan Institute Health Policy Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and first author of new research published in Nature Human Behaviour.

Levy and his co-investigators discovered that individuals’ eating patterns can be shaped even by casual acquaintances, evidence that corroborates several multi-decade observational studies showing the influence of people’s social ties on weight gain, alcohol consumption and eating behavior.

Previous research on social influence upon food choice had been primarily limited to highly controlled settings like studies of college students eating a single meal together, making it difficult to generalize findings to other age groups and to real-world environments. The study by Levy and his co-authors examined the cumulative social influence of food choices among approximately 6,000 MGH employees of diverse ages and socioeconomic status as they ate at the hospital system’s seven cafeterias over two years. The healthfulness of employees’ food purchases was determined using the hospital cafeterias’ “traffic light” labeling system designating all food and beverages as green (healthy), yellow (less healthy) or red (unhealthy).

MGH employees may use their ID cards to pay at the hospitals’ cafeterias, which allowed the researchers to collect data on individuals’ specific food purchases, and when and where they purchased the food. The researchers inferred the participants’ social networks by examining how many minutes apart two people made food purchases, how often those two people ate at the same time over many weeks, and whether two people visited a different cafeteria at the same time.

“Two people who make purchases within two minutes of each other, for example, are more likely to know each other than those who make purchases 30 minutes apart,” says Levy.

And to validate the social network model, the researchers surveyed more than 1,000 employees, asking them to confirm the names of the people the investigators had identified as their dining partners.

Based on cross-sectional and longitudinal assessments of three million encounters between pairs of employees making cafeteria purchases together, the researchers found that food purchases by people who were connected to each other were consistently more alike than they were different. “The effect size was a bit stronger for healthy foods than for unhealthy foods,” says Levy.

A key component of the research was to determine whether social networks truly influence eating behavior, or whether people with similar lifestyles and food preferences are more likely to become friends and eat together, a phenomenon known as homophily. “We controlled for characteristics that people had in common and analyzed the data from numerous perspectives, consistently finding results that supported social influence rather than homophily explanations,” says Levy.

Why do people who are socially connected choose similar foods? Peer pressure is one explanation. “People may change their behavior to cement the relationship with someone in their social circle,” says Levy. Co-workers may also implicitly or explicitly give each other license to choose unhealthy foods or exert pressure to make a healthier choice.

The study’s findings have several broader implications for public health interventions to prevent obesity. One option may be to target pairs of people making food choices and offer two-for-one sales on salads and other healthful foods but no discounts on cheeseburgers. Another approach might be to have an influential person in a particular social circle model more healthful food choices, which will affect others in the network. The research also demonstrates to policymakers that an intervention that improves healthy eating in a particular group will also be of value to individuals socially connected to that group.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and transition back to in-person work, we have an opportunity to eat together in a more healthful way than we did before,” says co-author Mark Pachucki, PhD, associate professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “If your eating habits shape how your co-workers eat–even just a little–then changing your food choices for the better might benefit your co-workers as well.”

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Nutrition

Boosting your Zesty Grilled Steak Salad with flavors

A bold blend of garlic, brown sugar, soy, citrus and Creole seasoning give this Zesty Grilled Steak Salad a boost of flavor.

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Fire up the grill and grab the salad dressing!

A bold blend of garlic, brown sugar, soy, citrus and Creole seasoning give this Zesty Grilled Steak Salad a boost of flavor. The Beach House Kitchen doesn’t mess around when it comes to salads, and thanks to Tony Chachere’s Steakhouse Marinade and Creole-Style Italian Salad Dressing, this sweet and savory salad is guaranteed to please everyone at the table.

INGREDIENTS
2 Strip Steaks (10-12 Ounces Each)
¾ Cup Tony Chachere’s Creole-Style Steakhouse Marinade
3 Ears of Corn, Shucked
8 Cups Spring Mix
6 Campari Tomatoes, Quartered
½ Pound Strawberries, Hulled and Sliced
4 Ounces Blue Cheese Crumbles
¾ Cup Canned Crispy Fried Onions
¾ Cup Tony Chachere’s Creole-Style Italian Salad Dressing

PREPARATION
Prep Time:       20 Minutes
Cook Time:      17 Minutes
Serves:            2-4

  1. Add steaks to a shallow bowl. Cover with Tony Chachere’s Creole-Style Steakhouse Marinade. Flip steaks. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. While the steaks are marinating, preheat grill to high for 10 minutes. Add corn and cook, making sure to turn often until evenly charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and let cool. Once cool, using a sharp knife, slice the corn off the cob onto a plate. Set aside.
  3. Once the steaks are finished marinating, place the steaks on the grill on high heat (400°-450°F). Cook until slightly charred, about 4 minutes. Turn steaks over and continue to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until grilled to your liking. Remove from the grill and slice thin, against the grain.
  4. Add the spring mix to a large bowl or platter. Toss with the corn, tomatoes, strawberries and about half of the dressing. Stir in the blue cheese crumbles and crispy onions. Add the steak and drizzle with remaining dressing, if desired.
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Nutrition

Flavorful spring meal prepped in 20 minutes or Less

Make spending time with family and friends even more special by sharing a quick, delicious, spring-inspired meal together.

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Adding delicious, new flavors to your homecooked meals this spring may be easier than you think. A secret ingredient like cooking wine is a simple way to add a boost of flavor to all kinds of recipes.

During the spring months, few people would prefer cooking in the kitchen for hours rather than enjoying the outdoors. Make spending time with family and friends even more special by sharing a quick, delicious, spring-inspired meal together. Time-saving dishes at home begin with an option like Holland House® Cooking Wines that add an extra boost of flavor to recipes like Chicken Gyro Bowls. Perfect for a weeknight meal, the recipe combines pantry staples and enticing seasonings for an easy-to-make dish using a slow cooker.

Featuring savory chicken gyro meat atop a scoopful of rice, crisp and vibrant veggies, and garnished with crumbly feta and tangy tzatziki sauce, the bowls are bursting with flavor and perfect for the season.

Cooking wines are flavor-enhancing ingredients that can quickly transform an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. Available in four flavors – Marsala, Sherry, White and Red – Holland House Cooking Wines are made with fine grapes and perfectly blended seasonings, aged to perfection, to offer bold flavor to your springtime cooking. Consider these uses for each variety:

Sherry cooking wine works equally well in dessert recipes, main dishes, sides, soups and sauces. One example is these delicious Chicken Gyro Bowls, which you can leave cooking in the Crockpot throughout the day. The remaining preparation is fast for a weeknight meal that’s ready in next to no time.

Best known for its use in chicken marsala, marsala cooking wine lends flavor to other preparations, too. Marinate sliced meat in marsala cooking wine before grilling, roasting or sauteing, or swirl it into gravies and soups to add delicious, savory flavor.

Stir red cooking wine into gravies and red sauces, or try marinating less-tender cuts of beef, lamb or pork in the refrigerator (for up to 24 hours) to boost flavor and tenderness.

White cooking wine pairs well with fish and lighter fare like chicken and turkey, as well as rice dishes.

Find more recipes to bring mouthwatering flavor to your springtime table at HollandHouseFlavors.com and crock-pot.com/slow-cookers.

Chicken Gyro Bowls
Recipe courtesy of Jillian of Food, Folks and Fun
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 4-6 hours
Servings: 6

Chicken Gyro Meat:
1/4       cup Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine
3/4       cup chicken broth 
2          tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2    tablespoons dried oregano
1          teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon pepper
1          medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2          pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
4          large garlic cloves, minced

Gyro Bowls:
2          cups long-grain rice
1          medium cucumber, seeded and sliced
1          large tomato, chopped
1          cup shredded iceberg lettuce 
1/2       cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2    cups tzatziki sauce 
            black pepper, to taste
4          pitas, warmed and cut into wedges

To make chicken gyro meat: In small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk cooking wine, chicken broth and lemon juice; set aside. 

In separate small bowl, combine dried oregano, salt and pepper; set aside. 

Add chopped onion to bottom of slow cooker and lay chicken breasts on top of onions. 

Pour cooking wine mixture over onions and chicken. 

Sprinkle half of oregano mixture over top of chicken. Flip chicken over and sprinkle remaining oregano mixture over chicken. 

Evenly distribute minced garlic over chicken. 

Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on high 4-6 hours or low 6-8 hours. 

Shred cooked chicken then use wooden spoon to mix shredded chicken, onions and remaining liquid together. Turn off slow cooker and let mixture sit, with lid on, while preparing rice. 

To make gyro bowls: Cook rice according to package instructions. 

Place rice in bowls and top with chicken gyro mixture, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, feta, tzatziki sauce and black pepper, to taste. Serve with pita wedges.

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