An Air Fryer is the must have appliance of 2018

The air fryer is the hottest appliance today.  In theory, they let you enjoy all those fried foods without adding all the fat calories from oils.  

But an Air Fryer actually doesn’t “fry” your food like a deep fryer.  It is a countertop convection oven that produces crispy foods that mimic the original fried versions with a faster baking/roasting time than your conventional oven.  If you think about the air fryer as a counter-top convection oven you’ll find dozens of uses that will make your new air fryer indispensable in the kitchen!

Consumer reports just produced its countertop appliance review.  While they, and we, admit that the air fryer doesn’t exactly replicate deep frying methods, the air fryer does create nicely cooked food fast.  My favorite fryer — the Power AirFryer XL — makes the Consumer Report List of the Top Air Fryers.

From French Fries to Chicken Wings.

Air Fryer CapacityAny brand air fryer will cook frozen french fries or chicken strips.  When you start searching for the perfect air fryer determine what size you need.  This item is counter top friendly, but if kitchen space is at a premium, and whose isn’t these days, you want to buy enough capacity to accommodate your family.  Consider how many people you need to feed or if you’ll want to cook an entire roasting chicken in this unit.

Air Fryers range in size from a small 2-quart capacity all the way up to a large 6-quart size.   The average size for 2-4 people is 3.5-quarts, but if you’re feeding a larger family definitely go up in size so that your brood can all eat dinner together.

You won’t just use this unit for french fries, onion rings and chicken.  The countertop air fryer is a great mini oven for everything from meatloaf to cakes and pies.

Check out my Breakfast Burrito recipe for the air fryer.   Don’t stop there — this is good for roasting chicken, making crispy and healthy chicken strips, roasting steaks and burgers, baking pizza with a crispy crust and even making cakes and pies.

Baskets and Baking. 

Best Air Fryers of 2018The fryers we looked at all include the basic base — a closed-in container with a fry basket that either sits in the bottom or snaps into the unit with a handle.   The slotted fry basket is the key to crispy foods because it allows the air to circulate freely around the potatoes, onions, bread or chicken.  Fats from foods like chicken or hamburgers drip away through the openings in the basket.

Some units now come with a baking pan that will sit inside the basket.  You can buy accessories specifically for the air fryer — cake pans, muffin tins or roasting racks.  These specially-designed pans increase the flexibility of the appliance, so if you can find a unit that includes one or two of these you are already prepared to experience the air fryer as a baking companion.

 

Feature Rich.

Air Fryer Preset Temperatures and TimesOnce you’ve decided on the capacity of an air fryer, start thinking about the features you want.  The range is limitless.  Some appliances come with presets for everything from fish to eggs (yes you can hard-cook eggs in your fryer).   The presets automatically set to the right temperature and time for many foods, but you pay a little more for that feature.  If you’re fine setting up your own time and temperature you will save $10-$20.

The convenience of an Air Fryer with built-in presets make life easier.  On most units, you’ll find a preset for fries and chips, meat, shrimp, cake, chicken, steak, and fish.

If you want to convert your family recipes from conventional ovens to work in the air fryer start by reducing the temperature by 25 degrees and set your times for 75% of the original time.  For example, if Grandma’s pound cake baked at 350 degrees for an hour, set the air fryer for 325 degrees and check it at 45 minutes.

Colors. 

Normally I don’t even consider color when buying an appliance.  But many people use their air fryer every single day.  If you are going to leave this out on the counter all the time it is nice if you also like its appearance. Most fryers come in basic black. But you can get your air fryer in black, silver, red or white.

Which air fryer do I recommend?

My favorite appliance is the GoWISE 5.8-Quart Programmable 8-in1 air fryer.

  • For its size, it is priced well at about $100.00.
  • It is big enough to handle a 6-pound chicken or a whole bag of frozen french fries or onion rings.
  • You can cook two steaks or a meatloaf that feeds a family.
  • Any of the accessories fit into this unit easily.
  • It comes in 4 basic colors — black, red, white and plum.  (This is the one for you purple lovers!)

 

 

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Air Fryer Breakfast Burritos

Air Fryer Breakfast BurritosIf breakfast is your challenge when you’re trying to eat healthily, Air Fryer Breakfast Burritos are a flavor-packed alternative.  I fall into the trap of eating cakes and cookies instead of building a good breakfast. Air Fryer Breakfast Burritos are my “go to” recipe when I want something tasty with a big presentation factor.

 

Air Fryer Breakfast Burritos
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Spicy
Packed with nutrition and a lot of flavors, Breakfast Burritos are quick and most of the recipe can be prepared well in advance.
Ingredients
  • Black Bean Mash:
  • 2 15-ounce cans of black beans (rinsed)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile in adobo
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Spicy Filling
  • 1/2 pound spicy chorizo
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper chopped
  • Eggs – 1 per person
  • salt and pepper
  • Salad Topping
  • 1/2 head Romain lettuce finely shredded
  • 10-12 grape tomatoes halved
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 diced avocado
  • Sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded.
Instructions
  1. Make the beans in advance. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook about a minute until fragrant. Add the beans, 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock and the chipotle pepper. Cook until the liquid is reduced and the beans are heated through and soft (about 30 minutes). Mash with a potato masher leaving some texture. Stir in the cilantro. Set aside to cool.
  2. Put the tomatoes, avocado, green onions and salt in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper and fold together. Squeeze in the lime juice and oil cilantro and watercress. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet until it begins to shimmer. Add the chorizo after removing it from the casing and brown, stirring frequently, until crumbly. Remove the sausage and set aside. Add the onions and pepper to the drippings and cook to soft. Add this to the chorizo and set aside. Beat eggs in a bowl and add to skillet and scramble to soft curds. Remove from heat and add back the chorizo, peppers, and onions.
  4. Place a flour tortilla on a board and spread with beans on the lower half. leaving a 1-inch border at the bottom. Top with some chorizo and egg filling. Sprinkle grated Monterey Jack over this mixture. Fold in the sides of the tortilla and then roll from the bottom into a cylinder. Place seam-side down in the basket of an air fryer. Repeat until all the tortillas are assembled (1 or 2 per person). Brush the top of the tortillas with canola oil and “fry” at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.
  5. Transfer burritos to a platter or individual plates. Top with salad mixture, salsa remaining Monterey Jack and a dollop of sour cream.
  6. I like to serve this with citrus slices.

 

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The nourishing and warming aspects of oatmeal

oatmealOatmeal — that breakfast staple of our grandparents — reigns supreme in your breakfast recipe repertoire.  But it can also become one of your family’s favorite mealtime side dishes with just a little imagination.

This week the entire US is experiencing a blast of truly cold weather with many states not even getting above zero.  This is a very good week to warm up the kids and family with gourmet oatmeal breakfasts.

My family has battled the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s for over a year.   My Mom was diagnosed three years ago with the disease.  Surely by now, everyone knows the disease affects memory loss, but unless you’ve witnessed the decline of a loved one you probably don’t realize that the disease is accompanied by a loss of taste, anorexia and an inability to eat and digest a lot of food types.  However, oatmeal has remained one food that Mom would eat and we were able to add all kinds of supplements and flavors to keep her strong.

Oatmeal is a power food — high in fiber, calcium, and potassium — with a low glycemic index.  It is known to reduce blood pressure and help maintain heart health.   Oatmeal is rich in nutrients and phenols that provide antioxidants and it is naturally anti-inflammatory.

Best of all, oatmeal — rolled oats or steel-cut oats — are neutral in flavor and provide whole grain benefits while accepting a variety of flavor additives.  They are also budget-friendly and available in every American grocery store.

Here are just a few ideas to amp up your oatmeal and expand your whole grain culinary taste.

Breakfast Oats

Oatmeal and your favorite fruits!  Oatmeal pairs well with almost any fruit for a perfect breakfast cereal. After cooking your oats, mix in blueberries, honey, and cinnamon: Or mix apples and maple syrup, or pears and pecans with this great grain.  Add any dried fruit and your favorite seeds or nuts to change out the routine like apricots and toasted pumpkin seeds or cranberries and pistachios.

  • tropical_oatsPut a tropical twist on your oatmeal by adding yogurt and pineapple, mango and coconut to your bowl. Yummy!
  • Chocolate oatmeal — absolutely yes.  Add a drizzle of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 1/2 a banana to your morning oatmeal for a dessert-style breakfast that’s still pretty healthy. For a healthier version at 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa, 2 teaspoons of raw honey and a banana to 1/2 cup of uncooked oats and 1/2 cup of coconut milk.  Refrigerate overnight.
  • Oatmeal pancakes put a new healthy twist on a family favorite weekend breakfast.  Oatmeal pancakes keep the family from getting hungry all morning and they taste great with any traditional pancake toppings.
  • Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
  • Granola
  • Parfaits

Oatmeal Side Dishes.

  • Steel-cut Oat Risotto.  Replace the arborio rice with steel cut oats in the preparation and mix in mushrooms, asparagus and Parmesan cheese for healthy side dish option.
  • Roasted tomato and basil oatmeal is a fabulous side dish for any lean protein meal.
  • Roasted vegetable oatmeal creates a filling base for eggs for a lighter evening meal.

Refrigerator Oats are ready when you are.

Use simple canning jars that can be reused for this healthy breakfast treat.

Basic refrigerator oats are made by adding 1/2 cup of rolled oats (Use old-fashioned rolled oats for the texture.  If you use quick cooking oats you’ll end up with a pasty, gummy texture.) to 1 cup of milk (soy, almond, coconut, or even plain old 2% or whole milk) in a jar or container.  Top with fruits, nuts, spices, and sweeteners.  Refrigerate overnight, and in the morning it magically has become a hearty and flavorful breakfast porridge.

Here you are only limited by your own imagination.  My favorite recipes are:

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, 2 teaspoons Chia seeds, 1 cup milk, 1 diced apple, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of honey.  Cover, shake and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning top with a drizzle of homemade caramel or chocolate sauce.
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, 2 teaspoons Chia seeds, 1 cup coconut milk (remove the cream at the top of the can), 2 rings of pineapple cut in chunks, 1/4 cup of blueberries (frozen or fresh), 1 tablespoon blanched almonds, 1 tablespoon of honey.  Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and toasted coconut.
  • For picky eaters – mix 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 2 teaspoons of Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1/2 a small banana, 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, and 1 cup of milk.   It will taste like desert to them, but you’ll know it’s packed with good things.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sofritto: The key to great starts

Lesson 1: sofritto

sofrittoEvery great cuisine starts with a basic recipe of flavor — a sofritto, mirepoix, battuto, holy trilogy — are slight variations that create the base of many meals.

A French mirepoix is the best known classic. It combines 2 parts onion to 1 part each celery and carrot. These are sauteed together in butter without any browning to become the start to most French stews and soups.

An Italian battuto starts with a French mirepoix, but then adds fennel and/or garlic to add spice to sauces that need to spice up pasta.

Creole cooking combined the same 2 parts onion with 1 part celery and 1 part green pepper to form a Holy Trinity of flavors. These are cooked in butter or oil or even bacon fat to create the base of gumbos or jambalaya.

Latin and Caribbean cooking combines onion and peppers with garlic and cilantro for spicier combination. A sofritto is cooked in oil until the vegetables almost form a paste. It then can be used to create soups, but also can be added to ground meats, chicken and rice. This is a sofritto.

How to make a perfect sofritto.

Start with olive oil or rendered fat from pancetta or bacon. Add onions and peppers to hot oil and saute for several minutes until they soften and begin to darken (roast). The onions and peppers should be finely diced or even pureed in a food processor. As they saute, pay special attention to the color of the vegetables. The lighter the sofritto, the lighter the flavor. As the onion and vegetables darken, the flavor deepens. Be careful not to burn the vegetables as a roasted flavor brings out the sugars, but a burned flavor is bitter.

When you’ve achieved the color desired of your sofritto, add 1-2 cloves of garlic and remove from the heat. Let the heat of the vegetables and the remaining heat in the pan cook the garlic. Then add the fresh cilantro.

Sofritto is a great start!

 

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Braised Short Ribs

braised-short-ribsBraised short ribs is one of my comfort foods.  My Mother didn’t make this recipe for us, but in my family we had a Sunday roast every week and this slow-cooked meat with a velvet sauce reminds me of Sundays at home.

This is my choice for a recipe for dinner parties.  The texture and taste always pleases guests.  Braised Short Ribs is easy to plate and always looks impressive.  Finally, the prep that requires me to stay in the kitchen is minimal and I can do my table scape and get cleaned up while it braises in the oven.

Braised Short Ribs Recipe

Braised Short Ribs
Recipe Type: Main Course
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil (use an oil with a high smoke point)
  • 4-6 English Cut Beef Short Ribs (trimmed of excess fat — approximately 2 pounds)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme (you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon or dried thyme if you can’t find fresh)
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3-4 cups of beef stock
  • fresh parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Chop the vegetables into similar size pieces
  3. Roughly chop the garlic
  4. Preheat the oil on medium high heat until oil reaches shimmer stage.
  5. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper.
  6. Sear the ribs in the oil until brown — approximately 3-4 minutes per side.
  7. Remove the ribs to a plate while you cook the vegetables.
  8. Add onion, carrot and celery to the pan drippings. Stir occasionally until softened. This should take approximatel 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook only until fragrant — about a minute.
  9. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaf and stir gently.
  10. Melt butter into vegetables. When the butter has completely melted, sprinkle the mixture with flour and stir for about 3 minutes until the flour hydrates and the mixture appears dry.
  11. Add the wine and stock and stir. Return the ribs to the pot. The ribs should be immersed in the liquid about 1/2 way.
  12. Cover and place the pan in the oven for two hours.
  13. Remove the ribs from the pan and strain the vegetable mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Return just the liquid to the pot. Reduce the sauce until it is thickened and velvety smooth (this shouldn’t take too long).
  14. Serve ribs with the sauce and garnish with parsley.
  15. Serve over mashed potatoes or with any two vegetable sides.

 

When you braise foods you first sear or fry them to quickly develop flavors in the bottom of the pot, then gently stew those meats or vegetables until they are tender.  Because braising requires foods to be submerged in liquids for a long cook, it is best used with heartier meat cuts or with vegetables that are fibrous enough to withstand the long cooking time.

Suitable meat cuts are brisket, ribs, chops, chucks and cuts that have significant marbled fats and long fibrous muscle strands.  Vegetable choices are root vegetables, leeks, cabbage and greens.

For my Braised Ribs, I like to first remove any visual silver skin from the ribs and cut out any hard marbled fat blocks.  The silver skin protected the muscle in the meat cut from injury and unfortunately it will toughen during cooking and become chewy.  Likewise a heavy fat cap on the ribs or blocks or hard fat will not melt during cooking and should be removed with a sharp knife at this point.

Before starting the cooking process I like to cut up all the vegetables.  The stove top cooking goes very quickly so having everything chopped ensures the ribs don’t get overcooked or heat up and cool down too quickly before the braising liquid is added.

The Perfect Short Rib Braising Pan

Perfect braising pan - short ribs cook perfectlyA braising pot is a heavy skillet, everyday chef’s pan, or even a large soup pot.  Braising pots usually don’t have high sides — about 3-4 inches deep — and they have a well-fitting lid so you can keep all the liquids from evaporating during cooking.   I personally use a Lodge Braising Pan as pictured here.    It’s a 3-quart capacity which is capable of holding  10 good-sized ribs or a brisket for a family of four.  It’s available for about $60 and costs about 30% as much as the famous Le Creuset braiser.

Lodge is the leading manufacturer of cast iron pans and like Le Creuset, this braising pan might be too heavy for people with dexterity issues. Braising pans need to accommodate liquid and meats A good alternative is the All-Clad 18/10 4-quart week night pan.  A braising pan always has to have some heft to it to properly conduct heat evenly, but the design of this pan, with its balanced handle and easy helper handles make it easier for people with arthritis or dexterity issues. The All-Clad Week Night pan is $199 with a 5-ply bottom surface that is also safe for induction cooking.

The Short rib Cooking Process

Place a large heavy bottom pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil over medium-high heat and let it pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper.  Sear them in the pot until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Work in batches if necessary and don’t over crowd the pan — leave an inch or two  between each rib so that they sear and they don’t steam.   Remove the ribs to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onion, carrots and celery to the pot and cook.  Stir them occasionally until tender — about 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute until the fragrant.  Stir in the thyme and bay leaves and then melt the butter into the vegetables.  When the butter has melted, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and toss to coat.  Gently stir the vegetables and flour allowing the flower to cook and hydrate for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the wine and stock to the pot and bring the liquid up to a boil.  Nestle the ribs back into the mixture and cover with the lid.  (If your pot doesn’t have a lid, you can cover tightly with aluminum foil carefully sealing all the edges.)

Place the pot into the oven and cook for approximately 2 hours.

Remove the cooked ribs from the pot and cover them  to keep them warm.  Pour the remaining vegetables and liquids through a fine mesh strainer, pressing gently to remove all the liquid.  Discard the solids and return the liquid to the pot over medium heat.  Reduce the sauce until thickened and velvety as necessary.  Season as needed with salt and pepper.

(I hate wasting or discarding anything.  The vegetables strained from the sauce as soft but very flavorful.  If you save them, mix them with any left over rib meat–if you are lucky enough to have them–and beef stock for a quick next day soup.)

Serve the ribs with the sauce and garnish with chopped parsley.

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Give your friends a taste of the world with this Spice Kit Subscription

The most unique gift this season fspice-kit-400x398or your friends who enjoy cooking is a Monthly Flavor Kit from RawSpiceBar.com.

You can send a 6-month subscription right to the door for for just $37.  A 6-month Spice Kit subscription is $7 per month ($42) but you can save an additional $5 off your first subscription 6 month gift order by using code: RAKFLAVOR.

Each month your friends will receive 3 freshly ground, recipe-ready flavor kits.  Each kit is accompanied by 3 custom recipe cards that combine with the spices and their local, fresh ingredients to create three globally inspired meals for 3-4 people.

Customize gifts for your friends based on their own tastes.  Recipes are tailored to vegan, vegetarian, gluten free or paleo diets, or those simply eating for weight loss and health!

The spice packets arrive at their door freshly ground and at the peak of flavor.  What a great way to explore the world of flavors without having to commit to a large jar of a spice you might not use again for months.  You don’t have to purchase any additional spices — everything is included except local produce and kitchen pantry items.

No more “old spice” experiences.

We’ve all done it.  You go to the grocery store to buy a spice because you’re going to test a new recipe. You get to store #1 and they don’t have that spice in stock.  You drive to another store in hopes of finding it.   You end up buying a jar of Garam Marsala or ground fennel for a recipe that requires a 1/4-teaspoon.  You pay $4 for that jar and a year later you still have most of it in the cabinet taking up space. When you open the jar you smell the spices and they either don’t have any scent or the perfume is just a little off.   The Raw Spice Bar’s recipe/spice kit combination lets you test out flavors before committing to a complete jar.  You get enough of every necessary spice to complete your monthly recipes.  It’s so convenient because you don’t have to drive to get it, pay extra or store the leftovers spice.

Recipes

The sample Raw Spice Bar recipes are tasty and easy to prepare.

Why give your friends another sweater, bath set or wine bottle.  A Raw Spice Bar Spice Kit subscription comes every month and reminds them of you for about the same price.  Who knows, you might even get a free dinner invitation from this creative gift!

Baked zucchini appetizers with cheese and herbs

Baked zucchini appetizers with cheese and herbs

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Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas: a healthy snack featuring fall flavors

Pumpkin Spiced ChickpeasRoasted chickpeas got me through many a night of munchy-madness.  So when I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas I ran to my kitchen to fire up the oven.   This recipe is by Melissa King of My Whole Food Life.   It’s a little sweet, crunchy treat.  Be forewarned you won’t be able to eat just one!

Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas
Recipe Type: Snacks
Author: Melissa King
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Ingredients
  • 1 can or 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2-3 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the chickpeas in a bowl. (If your chickpeas are canned, rinse and drain.
  3. In a small bowl combined the pumpkin, maple syrup, spices and salt. Stir well.
  4. Poor the pumpkin spice mixture over the chickpeas and mix until the beans are well coated.
  5. Spread the chickpeas on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes stopping about every 15 minutes to shake the chickpeas to turn them for even cooking.
  7. Melissa’s tip if you don’t eat them all at once, store them in a sealed container with a little rice at the bottom to absorb any excess moisture and keep the chickpeas crunchy.

The whole pumpkin spice mania really struck me a couple of years ago.  I love a good flavored coffee still, but I got a little carried away by the warm spice notes of any good pumpkin recipe.  Pumpkin Spiced Chickpeas is really a way to honor those sweet nut recipes that surround the fall months without all the calories.

Nutritionally these are an amazing snack bargain.  The entire recipe probably feeds 6 people.  Each service of 2.5 ounces (approximately 40 chickpeas) has 16.5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and 272 calories.  For my Weight Watcher friends it totals only 4 points.

Just as a side note as we enter into those holiday season sales — Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas is incredibly budget friendly.  The recipe weighs in at just $1.89 and uses mostly items you already have in your pantry.

My favorite way to use any roasted chickpea — these included — is to combined them with a salad or use them to top off other vegetables.   Use your pumpkin spice chickpeas as a topping for a sweet potato to add protein and make it a complete meal.  Toss these toasted chickpeas with roasted butternut squash, spinach greens, and a mustard vinaigrette for a fall warm lunch salad.   Yummy!

 

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If it’s Pumpkin Lasagna, it must be Fall

Pumpkins in FloridaI confess, I love summertime. But all good things must change and yield to new experiences — in this case the colors and tastes of Fall — which for me include Savory Pumpkin Lasagna.

When I see pumpkin spice coffee being advertised, I know in a few weeks the cooler weather will be here and  summer will disappear. Even here in Florida.

Pumpkin season brings some other unique opportunities for the home cook! For one, if you’re watching your weight, most diets consider pumpkin (that’s the pure pumpkin puree or the actual flesh of that orange-colored squash, as a vegetable. You might not realize that it is actually a vegetable because we use it for so many desserts and sweet treats. Savory pumpkin can be a spectacular addition to party menus, and some recipes are so simple you just might want to curl up on the couch and treat yourself to this season’s creamy classic foods.

Pumpkin LasagnaA tribute to Savory Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin Lasagna
Recipe Type: Vegetarian
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This is a unique twist on the Italian classic. It’s a pretty presentation and works well as a supper club or a dinner party meal.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, drained and dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin (no sugar)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • dash of pepper
  • 9 no-cook lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (don’t use the pre-shredded kind because it usually includes cornstarch or flour to keep it separated)
  • 3/4 cups of Parmesan cheese, grated.
Instructions
  1. Saute the mushrooms, onion and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in oil until tender.
  2. Thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze the water from it.
  3. In a small bowl combined the pumpkin, cream, sage, pepper and remaining salt.
  4. Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce in the bottom of an 11×7 inch baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray. Top with 3 noodles. Spread 1/2 cup of pumpkin sauce to the edges of the noodles and top with 1/2 of the mushroom/onion mixture.
  5. Add about 1/2 the spinach in a flat, single layer.
  6. Top this with 1/2 cup of ricotta in dollups.
  7. Cover this layer with 1/2 the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheeses.
  8. Repeat layers and end with noodles and last of the sauce.
  9. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and uncover the lasagna. Sprinkle the last of the Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup) on top and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
  11. Let the lasagna stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hamilton Beach FlexBrew: 2016 best single serve coffee maker

Best Single Serve Coffee Makers 2016: Hamilton Beach FlexBrewThe Hamilton Beach FlexBrew gives coffee lovers the convenience of k-cup brewing, but also provides hot water on demand.  The FlexBrew answers that question, “What if you wanted tea?” 

You might overlook the Hamilton Beach FlexBrew system if all you want is a single serve coffee maker.  The FlexBrew systems don’t have the brand awareness of Keurig, Cuisinart, Nespresso or even DeLonghi brands when it comes to the single serve k-cup coffeemakers.  But they offer a unique feature — hot water on demand — that adds a new convenience to home coffee makers.

The Hamilton Beach FlexBrew® was designed to compete with the Keurig brand and actually utilizes the same k-cup technology and generally costs about 20% less.   The brewing option brings water to a 176° and holds it there for 30 minutes.   The LED programming screen lets you choose between a regular and bold settings, and an on-board clock is programmable for “wake-up” coffee.   Although each reservoir holds only 14 or 16 ounces, the time necessary for the next refill to come to temperature for a repeat brew is only about 90 seconds.

  • Hamilton Beach Flexbrew Programmable Single-serve Coffee Maker With Hot Water Dispenser Makes Fresh, Delicious Coffee Using Your Favorite Blend Or Using Single-serve Cups
  • Accepts Both Single-serve Pack Or Ground Coffee; Compatible With Any K-cup
  • Adjustable Cup Rest Fits Cup Or Travel Mug
  • Brews Up To 14 Oz. Into A Mug (coffee reservoir capacity)
  • Dispenses Up To 16 Oz. Of Hot Water For Tea, Hot Cocoa, And Cereal

Hamilton Beach FlexBrew: Unique featuresThe Hamilton Beach FlexBrew system (model 49988 shown left) has an adjustable shelf/tray to accommodate many cup sizes and even travel mugs up to 16 ounces.

This unit can brew up to a 14 ounce cup of coffee (although remember that the more water  you use the more diluted the strength of the coffee).  The coffee brewer is adjustable between regular and cold strengths and will dispense accurately the correct amount of water.

The hot water ready system will dispense up to 16 ounces of hot water for tea, hot cereal, hot chocolate or other drink mixes.  You can still use the k-cup hot chocolate, tea and cider products on the coffee brewing side of the unit, but you have to clean out the water stem after use.

The Hamilton Beach FlexBrew can be used with refillable k-cups when you want to choose your own coffee types.

 

Best Single Serve CoffeemakersLike it’s competitors, the Hamilton Beach FlexBrew puts the reservoir at the back of the unit.  If you use this on your counter top it might require that you pull it out for each fill up.  There are two separate reservoirs — the coffee side holds up to 14 ounces; the water side holds 16 ounces.

 

 

Review SummaryAmazon-Price-Button

Product: Hamilton Beach Single-Serve FlexBrew Coffee Maker

Price: About $80.00

Summary: This a completely programmable, single cup coffee system with a separate hot water dispenser for making soups, cereals and other drinks. It is easily k-cup compatible at a considerable price savings over competitors.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gluten Free Baked Chicken Wings

These baked chicken wings solve a huge game day menu problem for me — they are gluten free, easy preparation and they taste great!

Gluten Free Baked Chicken Wings

Gluten Free Baked Wings

These baked chicken wings solve a real dilemma for casual gatherings.  I am constantly looking for great gluten free snacks beyond the standard crudites of vegetable tray and deviled eggs. This recipe solves the problem.

I can do many dips, but it’s always a challenge to find the main delivery system for those dips if it isn’t a carrot stick, a corn tortilla or boiled shrimp. Don’t get me wrong, these all fabulous snacking foods. But I missed chicken wings.

This baked chicken wings recipe can be changed up with a little hot sauce (buffalo flavor), a spicy chili marmalade, blackened seasoning, fajita seasoning, or even ranch dressing mix. This snack doesn’t require you buy an unique or special equipment or have extraordinary culinary skills. Experiment with your favorite flavors because the only limit is your imagination.

Gluten Free Baked Chicken Wings
Recipe Type: Appetiser
Cuisine: American
Author: Mary Sage
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 5 pounds wings
Baked chicken wings are easy to prepare and deliver great flavor and flexibility to the gluten free party.
Ingredients
  • 5 pounds chicken wings
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup of Frank’s Buffalo Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (don’t use margarine)
  • 1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss chicken wings with oil, salt and pepper. Lay them on a sheet tray with a baking rack (elevate the wings from the fat drippings) in a single layer. NOTE: If you want easier clean up, line the tray with aluminum foil and spray the baking rack with a non-stick, non-flavored cooking spray.
  3. Bake wings for 50 minutes until slightly brown. Remove from the oven and toss wings with the remaining ingredients. Return to the baking sheet and the oven for 20 minutes until brown and crispy.

Variations:
* Substitute 1/4 cup of sweet chili sauce for 1/4 cup of buffalo hot sauce.
* Add 1 clove of garlic (micro-plane to a paste) in the baking phase.
* Replace 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce with 1 tablespoon of cumin.
* Toss wings with taco seasoning (any brand) and 1/4 cup butter.

 

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