Category Archives: Food

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Everyday Food Magazine’s Minted Chocolate Cookies Thinly Resemble a Girl Scout Favorite

mint_choc_cookies.jpgIf I said, “Girl Scouts,” you’d probably think “cookies.” Or “Thin Mints” or “Samoas” or “[insert favorite flavor here].” For most, their relationship with the Girl Scouts organization is defined by or cultivated during that one delicious season: the cookie sale!

As a former employee of what is now Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama for four years, I had nearly year-round access to these worthy community-building confections. Being out of that loop for a while, I felt like Everyday Food magazine had thrown me some sort of life preserver when I saw the July/August 2010 issue’s simple recipe for Minted Chocolate Cookies.

To be clear, I’m not advocating an end to supporting the Girl Scouts through the purchase their addicting cookies. I’m merely saying there are alternatives to help get you through the dark days and empty months before you can get the real thing.

With cookie season almost half a year away for me, these Minted Chocolate Cookies were just the ticket–and just one more example of the easy-to-pull-off recipes that make Everyday Food a reader favorite.

Each issue contains an “At Your Convenience” section that shares recommendations and time-saving shortcuts to create a dish or treat using store-bought ingredients rather than building from scratch.

everydayfood_july-august2010.jpgThough I couldn’t find the chocolate wafer cookies Everyday Food suggested as my Minted Chocolate Cookie base, I called on some of my nonprofit know-how that I honed while working at the Girl Scouts. Essentially this means solving problems creatively–in other words, at little to no cost!

So necessity being the mother of invention and all, I turned to chocolate sandwich cookies, which meant I had to twist them apart and peel off their vanilla cream insides. By the way, I do not recommend consuming–at least not on its own–the vanilla cream, unless of course you want to feel sick. Not that I’d know anything about that firsthand….

Content with my makeshift wafers, I turned to melting the chocolate. Everyday Food suggested the microwave, but fancying it better for optimal consistency, I went the double boiler route. This helped keep the chocolate smooth and pliable, though it was a little touch-and-go with the addition of the mint.

Using an oil extract does affect the consistency of the chocolate, but the key is to keep stirring until it’s fully combined. Making sure the wafers are sufficiently covered can be tricky too, until you get the hang of it. For authenticity’s sake, I’d recommend using the flat or smooth side of the cookie as the “top” and a swipe of a small icing spatula to make the coating as even as possible.

As for the end result? Little Brownie Bakers, one of the two bakeries licensed to make Girl Scout cookies, shouldn’t feel threatened. I’d be the first to admit these Minted Chocolate Cookies are pretty close, but ultimately nothing like the real thing.

betterhomes_july2010_and_pauladeen_july-august2010

Why Better Homes and Gardens Magazine’s Canning Instructions Might Be Worth a Try

betterhomes_july2010_and_pauladeen_july-august2010.jpgGenerations in my family–immediate and extended–have canned tomatoes, pickled okra, and sterilized and sealed jars, all to capture the fresh-from-the-garden taste of vegetables or fruits in jams and preserves.

All the cooking, soaking, sealing and storing seemed like a lot of work, particularly when you could simply buy a jar of tomato sauce at the grocery store. But such is the know-it-all perspective of youth, I suppose.

Now, after seeing Better Homes and Gardens and Cooking With Paula Deen magazines’ recent articles on canning and preserving, I’m wondering if prolonging the unbeatable freshness of fruits and veggies wouldn’t be worth the effort after all.

After comparing the two spreads, I’d have to give the thumbs up to Better Homes and Gardens magazine‘s July 2010 feature titled “Saving Summer” over Cooking With Paula Deen’s July/August entry, “Preserving Summer.” Here are three reasons why:

  • It tells you how to get started. It’s no wonder that a trusted domestic friend like Better Homes and Gardens would prep you on where to begin with a page dedicated to addressing equipment, safety and boiling water how-tos. By comparison, Paula Deen’s tips were helpful but barely lukewarm.

  • It gives you plenty of recipe variety. At first glance, Better Homes and Gardens contains only five recipes, but closer inspection reveals three variations for each of these: tomatoes (sauce and salsa), corn, pickles and jam. If it’s simply jams and preserves you want, turn to Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, which counts only a few relishes and veggies among its recipe mix.
  • It helps you solve common problems. Any canning newbie will appreciate the “5 Common Problems” list in Better Homes and Gardens, which addresses how to prevent mold, discolored foods and jars unsealing during storage. Unfortunately, less isn’t more for the Southern hostess with the most-ess, as no such tips are included.
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Weight Watchers Magazine Can Carry a Lot of Weight with Non-Dieters

weightwatchers_july-august2010.jpgWithout following a hard and fast diet or holding a membership in its popular weight loss program, I wondered whether I’d find anything I could identify with in Weight Watchers magazine. But as I flipped through the pages of its July/August 2010 issue, I found its content to be very similar to any healthy cooking or lifestyle magazine, with plenty of articles applicable to me and other non-dieters.

Here are just a few of the gems listed by title and description that I found in Weight Watchers’ latest issue:

  • “Fresh Start!” This quick list of tips in the magazine’s monthly “Lose It Now” section offers suggestions on picking the best in-season produce.

  • “Stand When You Can” Another quality tidbit in the “Lose It Now” section recommends standing instead of sitting to burn more calories, or taking a quick walk around the office to boost creativity.
  • “Yes, You Can Cook!” These simple motivational steps for the culinarily challenged are good advice even for those who know their way around the kitchen.
  • “Think Before You Drink” This eye-opening feature encourages getting those liquid calories under control–even if your addiction (like mine) is of the diet variety–and even offers a step-by-step plan to do it.
  • “At Goal for Good!” Inspirational “how-to” weight loss stories like this one may just give you the spark to chase whatever goal is ahead of you that requires a little discipline and will power, like paying off a credit card or scaling back an Imelda Marcos-like shoe collection–which I know firsthand (on both accounts) is difficult!
  • “Faux Glow” For me, getting that healthy, sun-kissed look can sometimes be a painful, freckled ordeal unless I put my fair complexion in the hands of a self-tanner. Following the advice outlined here will help ensure it’s not an orange mess.
  • “Oh, Honey!” Satisfy your sweet tooth naturally with recipes like Honey-Plum Muffins or a Summer Trifle that feature reduced sugar content complemented by honey.
  • “Take Back Your Summer!” Make a little time for yourself with 20 strategies to get relaxed and get healthy, such as scheduling “do-nothing” time, watching the sun set or downsizing your cleaning routine.
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Fresh and Flavorful: Vegetarian Times’ Grilled Sweet Corn With Chipotle-Lime Butter

grilled_corn_chipotle_lime_butter.jpgOne of summer’s tasty produce by-products is Silver Queen corn, a popular sweet variety of white corn. Usually planted to be ready for harvest in early summer, Silver Queen corn is hard to beat even when simply boiled and seasoned with butter.

A longtime traditionalist when it comes to food, I’ve made some strides when it comes to taking culinary adventures. So when I came into a few ears of straight-from-the-garden Silver Queen, I thought I’d try something a little different. And I’m glad I did.

Vegetarian Times magazine‘s July/August 2010 cover features Grilled Corn With Chipotle-Lime Butter, which sounded both appetizing and adventurous, with the added bonus of being quick and easy–thanks to a few shortcuts.

If prepared according to the magazine’s directions, I would have had to roast some chipotle chiles, then, once dried, grind them. Or, suggested the recipe, I could use chipotle chile powder. I had a Southwest Chipotle seasoning blend on hand that I had purchased in the spice aisle at the grocery store, and it seemed a reasonable substitute.

vegetariantimes_july-august2010.jpgHaving only four ears of corn–the recipe called for eight–I cut the
ingredients in half, and I could have reduced those for the Chipotle-Lime Butter even further and still had plenty. Not that I’m complaining
about having extra. It alone is pretty good–and according to the
magazine, tasty on bread and baked sweet potatoes as well.

I prepared the butter first using the chipotle powder, salt, butter and
lime zest. Grating the limes was the most time-consuming step, but the
bonus of the fresh taste in the end result is well worth it. Once mixed,
I put it in the refrigerator to chill, but not before I sampled it. I
couldn’t wait to get the corn on the grill!

But since I can’t have a gas- or charcoal-based grill at my apartment complex, my trusty George
Foreman electric grill would have to step up to the plate, and it did an admirable
job. After just 12 minutes, the corn was ready.

The sweetness of the lime complemented the sweetness of the corn, but
its tartness was also a flavorful segue into the spiciness of the
chipotle seasoning. All around, it was a fresh, light side, but I’m
wondering whether the taste would have been significantly different had I
used roasted chipotles instead of the store-bought powder.

Maybe next time, since I’ll definitely make this recipe again, even if
it’s just to make more of that butter.

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Cooking for You and Your Furry Friend Too

everydayrachaelray_june2010.jpgYou could say I’m a dog lover. I’ve helped take care of several family pets over the years. I’ve fallen in love with them, treasured their companionship and deeply mourned their passing. I’ve had many a pet that would prefer my food over its Purina, but I’ve never cooked a meal for two, meaning me and my dog.

Should I want to further spoil my canine, Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine gives me just the recipes I need to satisfy us both.

Most food and cooking magazines overlook our four-legged companions, and Martha Stewart Living is the only other publication that includes a section just for them. But unlike Every Day With Rachael Ray, the focus is not on food (and the section applies to both dogs and cats). Instead, common topics are bonding with your pet, making sure they get enough exercise and protecting them from pests, particularly in warmer months. (I have to say I expected some instruction from Martha on knitting a precious holiday scarf for the pooch, but maybe in the fall or winter issues?)

Every Day With Rachael Ray shares little tidbits like these, but the Pet Friendly section concentrates on how to prepare one fresh, healthy dish for your furry friend. Recipes in recent issues are heavy on wrap-style meals packed with meats and veggies.

The June/July 2010 feature was a Grilled Red, White and Blue Cheese Doggie-Dilla filled with red peppers, mozzarella and blue cheeses. (Sorry, pups, the salsa and sour cream are for the people portions only.)

May’s recipe, It’s Spring… Roll Time, combined lots of veggies with chicken and rice for a healthy wrap (minus the wrap itself) for the canine. In somewhat similar fashion, April’s April Showers Bring May… Flautas recipe called for chicken, cheese and bell peppers, zucchini and spinach.

I’d say any of those would be a step up from ALPO and may even elicit a thankful bark from your beloved pet.

tasteofhome_july

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for More Ice Cream Coverage

tasteofhome_july.jpgJuly is National Ice Cream Month, but most food and cooking magazines didn’t even acknowledge President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 designation. July 2010 issues of magazines ranging from Bon Appétit to Wine Spectator included cool treat ideas ranging from gelatos and sorbets to sundaes and yogurts, though only a disappointing few properly celebrated ice cream.

Taste of Home magazine‘s July issue seemed promising as the only magazine to give ice cream the cover treatment and note both National Ice Cream Month and National Ice Cream Day (July 18) in its spread. Ironically, only one true ice cream recipe (for strawberry rhubarb) was included and the centerpiece of the issue’s cover photo was its Lemon-Basil Frozen Yogurt.

Vegetarian Times magazine‘s July/August issue seemed to capture more of the spirit of National Ice Cream Month. Recipes for Smooth and Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream and Malted Banana Ice Cream (that were also low calorie and gluten-free)–along with a stray sorbet–were billed as the makings for an ice cream social to beat the summer heat. Another for a Homemade Caramel Sauce would otherwise be a nice complement, but I’m trying to be a purist here.

No magazine had more fun with the kid-friendly treats–or gave them more of an updated twist–than the July issue of Southern Living magazine. Flavors like Mocha Latte, Peach-and-Toasted Pecan, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate-Raspberry, Coconut Cream Pie and Grown-Up Banana Pudding (so-called with the addition of banana liqueur) would make it difficult not to celebrate ice cream all month long.

Even Cookbook Digest magazine weighed in on the observance in its July/August issue by reviewing “The Perfect Scoop,” a collection of recipes for everyone from the novice to the expert ice cream maker. Closely related (though not about ice cream!) cookbooks covering gelatos, sorbets and sundaes made their way into the article too.

If you’re wondering why ice cream seems to be melting in the spotlight during its commemorative month, then the August 2010 issue of Woman’s Day magazine may hold some of the answers. According to its article titled “Chill Out,” the perception that yogurts, sorbets and sherbets may be healthier than ice cream is a myth that could be left out in the cold.