How to do a family meal makeover

More and more families are choosing to cook at home due to health and cost factors. It is no surprise that home cooked food is comparatively healthier because you know exactly what you put in it (hopefully not preserved and canned items.) Also, it’s much cheaper than ordering in, especially for 2+ people households. The challenge families’ face is how to keep the same homemade recipes interesting and appealing to the entire family, young and old.

Here are some simple recommendations to make a typical family meal makeover –Duck and sour cherries pizza

1. Make it healthier by using substitutes like olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, wheat flour instead of white, low fat cheeses, etc. Always use fresh herbs, garlic and spices to make the dish more flavorful. Avoid recipes that are deep fried. You know what’s not food for you!

2. Create the interest by blending flavors across cuisines. Grab a starch from one country and add a sauce from another. Try a thai red curry with penne pasta, then add shrimp or chicken depending on what your family prefers. Top chicken tikka masala on a flat bread or pizza. Serve a gazpacho with shells or macaroni pasta for a delicious & healthy meal. Read more on fusion cooking.

3. Presentation is key. We tend to judge a book by its cover and perceive the flavor of the food by its looks. Try to plate the food like you would see in an expensive restaurant. It doesn’t take much, just a garnish of cheese or parsley for most dishes would do. You can also control the portions your family is eating by pre plating them.

The way you go about doing this each night is by being conscious and creative. Try to diversity with what you know rather than trying new complicated recipes. For example, you need not serve the same old spaghetti with marinara. Add some fresh tomatoes, green onions, olives, feta and make your own instant sauce. Have the kids pitch in while cooking and make something using some of the ingredients they prefer to eat. These are simple makeovers to do and the whole family can enjoy the process.

Sushi with Suchi

Making Sushi is actually not as complicated as one might think. I learned to make Sushi in the Dominical Republic, out of all places! One afternoon I signed up for the class along with a few global trotters who were vacationing at the beach and wanted to invigorate their desires for learning a new skill.

The chef at an Asian restaurant gave us a brief demonstration, then let us make our own Sushi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the essentials…

You need the right tools – A rolling mat, wooden bowl, stainless steel Sushi knife,

Stock your cabinet – Sushi rice, Wasabi, Black Sesame, Soy Sauce, Ponzu Sauce, Vinegar

Get the cut right – Fresh sushi grade fish, Avocado, Cucumbers – all should be cut finely

Roll it up – Nori sheets, A bowl of water

Prep Work…

Cook the sushi rice (always short grain) with water, rice vinegar, salt and sugar

Slice the fish finely

Chop the vegetables according to the recipe

Step by Step instructions…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to make Sushi in the Caribbean

1.    Lay the Nori on the rolling mat with the rough side facing upwards.

2.   Wet your hands and make about a handful of rice into a ball. It’s important to keep your hands wet while working with sushi rice because it is sticky. When you work with the nori though, you should keep them as dry as you can.

3.   Gently put the rice ball in the middle of the nori sheet, and start spreading it equally on the nori, creating a layer of rice covering almost the entire sheet except the upper margin of about 2 cm that should be kept uncovered. Be careful not to compress the rice, but merely spread it over the nori.

4.   Place a slice of fish on the edge of the nori, along with 1-3 pre-cut slices of vegetable.

5.   Using the closer edge of the rolling mat, close on the filling with the nori making a rectangular shaped hill and tighten it from above.

6.   Continue rolling in the rectangular hill steps, keeping it tight with every move until you reach the end of the nori. Put pressure on the roll from all three sides at all time, especially on stops to allow it to roll tightly.

7.   Use a wet, sharp knife to cut the roll in to little sushi 6-8 units per roll.

These are the basics of Sushi-making. Once you know the concept you can mix-and-match the fish with the vegetables to make any recipe.

Making Gelato at home

Making Gelato at home takes time and commitment. It is not difficult, but needs some advance planning. Here is a basic recipe to make your own Dulce De Leche Gelato.

The first step is to make a base. This can be plain (which will be used in most flavors) or chocolate.

1. Combine 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan, with a cooking thermometer attached. Place over medium-high heat and cook stirring occasionally, until it reaches 170F.

2. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whisk 4 egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Temper the eggs by adding the milk mixture one soup spoonful at a time, while whisking constantly.

3. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 185F. At no point the custard should bowl or form skin on the top.

4. Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight. At this point, your freezer bowl (if using one) should be kept in the freezer overnight.

5.The following day, blend half of the custard mixture with ½ cup of Dulce le Leche (I use Nestle) but you can make your own with condensed milk. Blend until smooth, then whisk in the remaining custard. Pour into the ice cream machine and let it churn for 30 minutes (or as directed by your particular machine).

6. Warm ½ cup of Dulce le Leche in a microwave safe bowl. Drizzle it over the churned Gelato and let it churn for another 5 minutes. Transfer to an air tight, freezer safe bowl. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

7. Enjoy with a cookie, over a dessert or by itself!

Cooks across borders

I was talking to a friend last night who is a jazz singer. She works long hours and wants to have a light snack that is quick to prepare, when she come home late in the night. She said her favorite treat was homemade popcorn sprinkled with chaat masala. That got me thinking I should write about this!

Have you ever tried blending flavors from two different countries to create one stunning dish? The art has come to be known as “Fusion” and has gained significant popularity over the recent years.  I believe there has always been some degree of fusion taking place but it’s been geographically limited to neighboring countries. For example, the Mediterranean countries borrow cuisines from each other.  In the Far East, Singapore adopts spices from India, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Restaurants and chefs have gone a step further by combining distinct cuisines into one meal. Vermillion in Chicago, Mesa Grill in New York City and Lukshon in Los Angeles are a few top rated ones. Even on the show, Top Chef, the contestants were asked to create something by picking flags randomly. The Mexican-Chinese pairing was quite challenging!

If you want to experiment with international flavors at home, you need not be a Master Chef.  Even if you know a few basics, proceed confidently.

Trick #1: You family already enjoys pasta. Why not grab a sauce from another country and add it to your favorite pasta. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Thai+Italian=Make a thai red curry with penne pasta, then add shrimp or chicken depending on what your family prefers.

Indian+Italian=Top chicken tikka masala on a flat bread or pizza.

Mexican+Italian=Serve a gazpacho with shells or macaroni pasta.

More tricks coming each week.

Have any tips of your own? Please share in the Comments section.


More international flights than any other website!

My Eats featured on Tiny Green Mom

Tiny Green Mom has featured my recipe for Caponate Pasta Bake in her month long series of healthy recipes for the entire family. The blog is very informative for parents who are interested in a green lifestyle and latest organic products, amongst other things. Make sure to bookmark it.

I made the pasta last night for a Ciancia (Italian conversation club) get-together. It’s very healthy, flavorful and easy to make. Ciancia members meet once a month and each of us brings an Italian dish or wine to share, while we try to practise our language skills, network and meet friends. The next meeting will be at my place where I plan to make an assortment of Gelatos! If you have a favorite flavor, let me know and I would make sure to post the recipe for you…

Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives

Ingredients

 

  • 1 whole large chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 large bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup green olives
  • 1/2 half preserved lemon

Directions

First rub the salt into the chicken pieces and then wash the chicken in the white wine vinegar and water. Leave for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry and place onto a clean plate.

For cooking, use a Tagine (traditional Moroccan dish) or a deep, heavy bottom casserole dish. Heat the dish on high and add oil to the hot dish heat for 3 minutes until the oil bubbles. Then add salt and chicken. Flip it over after 2 or 3 minutes. Then add saffron,  more salt, 1 onion, garlic, cumin and ginger. Mix all these ingredients into the chicken. Mix everything and try to place the onion under the chicken. Add the rest of the onion on the top then lemon, Two cups of water. Cook in medium heat for 45 minutes. Finally add olives 5 minutes before it is done.

Serve with fresh bread or couscous.