Category Archives: Food

Valentine's Day Recipes_featured

Not Made in the South? Red Velvet Cake Recipes Outnumber the Myths Behind Its Origins

Valentine's Day RecipeFor Valentine’s Day, you may be searching for the perfect red velvet something to whip up for your sweetie. But how many of these myths about this colorful treat have you heard?

Love will soon be in the air, and that means you’re sure to find recipes for some variation of red velvet in this season’s food magazines—not to mention any holiday cookbook you have on hand.

The fascination with the moist, decadent, seasonally appropriate-colored cake (for Valentine’s Day or Christmas) topped with cream cheese has spun off into cupcakes, cookies, waffles, even fried chicken.

But who or what do we have to thank for the iconic dessert that started it all? Perhaps the free-wheeling flappers of the 1920s? Canadians? Turns out, no one can really say for sure, though there is proof that red velvet was around long before it made its dubious appearance as an armadillo-shaped groom’s cake on the movie Steel Magnolias.

Several food columnists point to one can-you-believe-it story about the cake’s origins that sounds a lot like what’s behind a famous cookie recipe that’s been circulating in cyberspace.

The story goes that in the 1920s a patron who dined at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York was so smitten with the red velvet cake she ate there that she requested the recipe from the chef. Her request was granted to the tune of $350, which she paid. But to even the score, so to speak, she passed out copies of the recipe to as many others as she could.

This led to red velvet cake also being known as Waldorf-Astoria cake, $100 or $200 cake—none of which I’d ever heard before. Like others, I assumed it was among the many regional delicacies the South holds dear.

Other theories about the origin of the name come from what is believed to be a chemical reaction between the baking soda and chocolate. But that one doesn’t hold up either.

Because the large amounts of red food coloring are what give the cake its color, red velvet cake can be nearly any hue you choose. Blogger and Southern Living editor Christy Jordan includes a recipe for green velvet cake in her Southern Plate cookbook. And I’ve even seen an orange velvet cake on television (and later put that idea to use for a groom’s cake).

But if you’d rather stick to the traditional and seasonally-appropriate color, there’s more than enough ideas for cakes—and otherwise—to keep you in the red.

 

Healthy New Year Resolution_featured

5 Healthy Eating Resolutions for the New Year

Healthy New Year's ResolutionsEating better and getting fit are among the most popular of the new year’s resolutions. Pretty daunting on their own, but break it down into smaller, doable steps for success.

If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, you more than likely are planning to eat better. The new year is a great opportunity to make such promises to ourselves. Eating better is on my list too. But it’s a big resolution.

So, what if we make it a little more specific? What if we break that one big resolution into several smaller, more doable goals for 2013? Like:

  1. Drink more water. Sometimes, simple thirst and slight dehydration can feel like hunger. Keep hydrated for overall health and to feel satisfied throughout the day. If you’re working out during the day, add another serving of water for every 20 minutes of activity.
  2. Avoid emotional eating. Here’s a simple trick: Make a list of 10 things to do other than eat when things get stressful and post it on the fridge or pantry door. Call a friend, walk around the block, work on a puzzle, the possibilities are endless. Then when you go to the pantry during stressful moments, you have more positive options for relieving that stress.
  3. Add more fruits and vegetables to your day. Do you get your full nine servings in each day? I don’t, so I’m going to try to slowly add more in. If this is one of your resolutions for healthy eating in 2013, consider local produce.
  4. Remember to indulge. No one wants to feel deprived, so go ahead, make Friday nights the nights you have dessert after dinner. Pick one Saturday each month where you won’t count calories or carbs. Allow yourself an indulgence every once in a while to keep from getting bored with your new healthy eating routine.
  5. Arm yourself with information and great recipes. You can do that with subscriptions to great magazines like Eating Well, Prevention and Cooking Light. There are a wide array of Cooking & Food and Health & Fitness titles to learn from on your way to a healthier 2011!

What do you think? Will eating better be on your list of resolutions for the new year?

 

Whole Living magazine February 2012

3 Great Ways to Keep That Healthy New Year’s Resolution

Whole Living February 2012We’ve all made and broken them, but several magazines are offering great tips to help us keep our healthy New Year’s resolutions.

The most popularly made—and perhaps broken—of New Year’s resolutions got a lot of support from the first magazine issues each New Year. Cover after cover promised “light recipes” with “big flavor, no guilt” to result in a “new you!”

But simply resolving to lose weight and eat better may be the source of the problem. For the first year ever, I tried to be very specific with my list of resolutions—or more specifically, the things I wanted to accomplish over the next 12 months.

While they fall into some of those typical generic resolutions like “lose weight” and “eat better,” I have a step-by-step action plan that seems much more attainable than the usual all-encompassing, wide-ranging and rarely accomplished wish list.

With the power of these specifics in mind, I waded through all the low-fat this and cleansing diet that in the new year issues of magazines, and I found three very concrete and useful tools that may help you or a friend if losing weight or changing your eating habits is a goal this year.

If committing yourself to a weight loss plan for an entire year seems overwhelming, try Whole Living magazine’s 21-day cleanse. It’s got an action plan with small steps to take each day, a list of things to avoid, secrets for success and three weeks of recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But this is more than a diet. This addresses preparing your mind and your body to maximize the effect of the cleanse. Even if it’s not something you stick to regularly, Whole Living suggests revisiting the plan occasionally, even if just for a few days, to give your body a “tune-up.”

One of the lesser emphasized points of Whole Living’s plan was the impact of having a support group, while EatingWell magazine focused solely on the “social network diet.” Involving friends, family, co-workers, your spouse and, yes, even your contacts on the modern social network, can create accountability and provide much needed encouragement.

The magazine shared the story of a woman named Deanne Hobba who reached out to her various support groups—and even built some new ones—to back her up as she lost 123 pounds. But there’s more than inspiration here.

EatingWell followed Hobba’s story with “The Ultimate Get-Slim Guide,” packed with tips, social support sites, calorie-counting apps and a five-day meal plan to get you started.

Motivation for healthy eating could even be found in the most unlikely of sources. Cooking with Paula Deen offered a healthy homemade gift to give in support of a friend’s New Year’s resolutions—or to keep for yourself.

Her Greek vinaigrette combines olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard and Greek seasoning that can be prepared, bottled and presented with a note of encouragement attached. The magazine also included a recipe for big Greek salad packed with fresh veggies and feta cheese.

Here’s another tip: Don’t skimp on the olive oil by going light. While all olive oils are high in fats (the heart-healthy ones), light versions have less flavor.

Champagne Drinks_featured

Breaking Out the Bubbly for National Champagne Day (Plus the Perfect Pour)

Champagne DrinksWhether you want to welcome 2013 with Champagne or toast with a more jazzed up version of the classic, food and cooking magazines have drink ideas to suit your taste.

There’s always been something promising about the start of a new year, that annual do-over where we get another crack at finally accomplishing those many resolutions we make (OK, at least one of them).

That second chance we get to begin (again) deserves a celebratory toast. No wonder New Year’s Eve is also National Champagne Day.

For some appropriate ways to raise a glass, here are five ways to break out the bubbly when ringing in 2013—plus one tip on the perfect pour.

1. Cranberry Champagne Cocktail: Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine’s November/December 2010 issue says simply mix cranberry juice and Champagne for a quick (5-minute prep) and colorful drink.

2. Blood Orange-Pomegranate Mimosas: Eating Well magazine‘s recipe may be better suited for the New Year’s brunch with its festive twist on the popular morning beverage. The combination of blood orange juice, pomegranate juice and sparkling wine is topped with pomegranate seeds for more antioxidant power. Even better? It contains 63 percent of one’s daily recommended dose of Vitamin C.

3. Campari Mimosa: Cooking Light magazine‘s version isn’t as sweet. Toned down with the use of the bitter Italian apéritif, it still makes for a seasonally appropriate red-orange hue from the Campari and orange juice. Bonus points for being low in fat, carbs and calories.

4. Champagne Cocktail: Food & Wine magazine‘s find comes from the Music City. How fitting for Nashville’s Merchants restaurant, housed in a 118-year-old building, to be serving 19th century classics like this one. Take a sugar cube sprinkled with bitters, then top with sparkling wine.

5. Yale College Punch: Food Network Magazine‘s December issue revives an old school drink too (though one you may also want to forget). Called a “19th-century version” of “jungle juice” or “hunch punch,” this one combines Cognac-soaked pineapple chunks with seltzer, club soda, sugar and Champagne.

6. Pouring: Turns out research has been done on the best way to pour Champagne. Only in France, right? Both Food Network Magazine and Vegetarian Times magazine cited this advice from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Slightly angle the glass and pour down the side to preserve the bubbles, and therefore the taste.

Christmas Tree Recycling_featured

Pine Syrup: A Festive By-Product From Your Christmas Tree

Recycling Christmas TreesJust what can you do with your Christmas tree once it’s served its festive purpose? Sure, you can recycle it, but you can repurpose it into something else you can use.

When Better Homes and Gardens magazine readers ‘fessed up about when they dismantled their Christmas décor, some of them (at least hopefully) weren’t admitting to leaving their spruces and firs up well into January.

According to the Facebook poll, 57 percent of respondents will have their trees and holly put away until next year by January 2. But the rest, well, it’s going to be “later in January” until those stockings hung by the chimney with care–and all the rest of it–are returned to storage.

Even before the big day arrived, news outlets in my hometown (and probably lots of other cities) were advertising local recycling programs to give new (or reinvented) life to the sweet-smelling needle-droppers.

But if you don’t want to cart your tree to the recycling site or you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, then Food Network Magazine‘s December issue has just the tip, courtesy of a new cookbook titled “The Wild Table” ($40, Viking Studio).

Simply rinse the needles from the tree–preferably a spruce or Douglas fir–then chop finely in a food processor. The book also cautions to use needles from trees that have only been watered, no chemicals added.

To make the syrup, bring a mixture of water, corn syrup and salt to a boil. Once that is removed from the heat, the needles are added to steep for several hours. After the syrup is cooled, the needles should be strained from the syrup.

The pine-flavored syrup will keep refrigerated for up to a month. According to the magazine, the festive additive tastes great in cocktails, but no word on what kinds those might be.

Christmas Homemade Gifts_featured

5 Quick and Easy Homemade Holiday Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers

Homemade Christmas Gifts‘Tis the season for last-minute shopping, but you can avoid the crowds with these easy homemade gifts. Best of all, they require little to no cooking.

Uh-oh. Crunch time has passed for holiday shopping, but there are still a few people on your “nice” list. You’re afraid you’re out of time and money. But, no need to worry, you’re not quite out of options just yet.

When all else fails–or you want to give something especially heartfelt–you only have to go as far as your kitchen to cross off the rest of your shopping list.

While nearly every food and cooking magazine offers ideas for homemade gifts, these five are some of easiest to make and wrap–especially since you’re running out of time.

1. Quick-and-Easy Dip Mix. Taste of the South magazine’s quick recipe relies heavily on your spice rack, but you should have most of these ingredients on hand. There’s no cooking involved–just mixing–giving you time to work on the presentation. (Note: Don’t forget to include the directions for preparing the dip, which are printed in the magazine.)

2. BBQ Rub. This sweet and spicy rub from Cooking With Paula Deen combines Montreal steak seasoning, brown sugar, paprika and kosher salt–and that’s it. Simply mix, store in an airtight container and present to your favorite grill master. Be sure to let him or her know that this has a shelf life of about two months.

3. Infused Vodkas. No need to turn on the oven for this idea from Martha Stewart Living either. But it will take a few days for your chosen flavor (tangerine, vanilla-cardamom, or pine and juniper) to stand in the liquor before it is strained to remove the solids and gifted.

4. Cider Sachets: OK, so there is some “cooking” involved here, but this suggestion from Food Network Magazine only requires the microwave. These sachets with their blend of orange zest, cardamom, peppercorns, allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks soaked in apple cider will brighten closets and drawers with their seasonal aroma.

5. Chocolate-Almond Bark With Sea Salt: No homemade gift list would be complete without something sweet on it. And while this DIY treat from Bon Appétit requires cooking, it doesn’t take long. You’ll have to caramelize the almonds and melt the chocolate before playing the waiting game until the mixture sets in the fridge.