Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How to Make Perfect Gravy

It's How To Tuesday, and today is full of smiles. It's how to make the perfect, lump-free gravy.

This classic all-purpose gravy is made by first cooking flour and butter together (that’s called a roux, pronounced roo) and then adding cold stock and cooking it until it's thickened and is smooth as silk.

This recipe makes four cups of gravy which is great for most meals.

Perfect Chicken Gravy*
Use your measuring spoons, measuring cup and prep bowls to prepare the following ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Making the Roux
Cut 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter into chunks and add it to a medium size heavy sauce pan.

(Unsalted butter allows you to control the salt in the gravy.)

On low (to medium-low) temperature melt the butter until it is foamy. Add 1/2 cup of all-purpose white flour to the pan. Start whisking the flour until well blended.

Keep whisking and cooking (over very low heat) until it smells like a pie is cooking in the oven! That means the flour is cooked and your gravy will not end up having a “pasty” flavor to it.

Brace yourself, as this could take anywhere from 6-to-12 minutes to get cooked!

Adding the Stock
Start by whisking in about 1 cup of chicken stock. (Four cups will eventually get added.)

Keep whisking vigorously until all the stock is absorbed. Now add a bit more stock whisking until the stock is again absorbed.

Pour in the remaining stock, keep whisking! All of the stock will get absorbed and it will be smooth as silk again! The stove should still be set at low as you continue to cook the gravy.

At about 12 minutes, add 1/3 cup cream. This adds such a rich flavor and texture to the final gravy. Within two minutes of adding the cream, the gravy is perfect!

Taste the gravy, and add some salt (if you think it needs it) and some white or red pepper It's ready to serve!

Tips: Homemade “flour-thickened” gravy should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and used within two days of making it. When reheating the gravy bring it to a boil, whisking constantly, and then keep at simmer until ready to serve.

(Note: Gravy thickened with corn starch does not freeze well at all, nor does it hold up for prolonged cooking.)

Box or homemade "stock" can be replaced or enhanced by "pan drippings."

Flour-thickened gravy can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze the gravy in manageable portions. I like using zip-lock freezer bags. Be sure to squeeze out all the air and flatten the gravy. It will take up much less space in the freezer this way.

* For brown gravy, use beef stock, pan drippings and/or a tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, home kitchen cook, foodie, WAHM, writer and all around YUM expert on what tastes good to me and what doesn't. Click here to get Being Grand posts in your inbox. Do you like this recipe's ingredients? Would you serve it to family and friends?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Meatless Monday: Potato Poblano Enchiladas

It's Meatless Monday. Celebrate with this quick and easy one-dish recipe from Knorr features the poblano chili pepper in an unusual marriage with the potato. Poblano, pronounced, poh blah noh, is a mild chili pepper originating in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Dried, it is called ancho or ancho chile. It's often used dried, coated in whipped egg (capeado) and fried, stuffed, or in mole sauces.

Poblano peppers are heart-shaped peppers that are large and have very thick walls, which make them sturdy for stuffing. One favorite recipe that features stuffed poblano peppers is the Chile relleno. Delicious. I love this pepper used any way in any recipe anytime. It's so good.

Poblanos are popular in the United States and can be found in grocery stores in the states bordering Mexico, as well as, many urban areas.

Serve these Chili Potato Poblano Enchiladas with refried beans and a cold whipped cream based salad to balance the food textures with cold and hot.

Think of it as a cheese enchilada with potatoes added which makes this dish hearty and mouth-melting. It'll knock your socks off. Mmm Mmm yummy.

Potato Poblano Enchiladas
Makes 12

1 jar (15 oz.) Alfredo sauce
3/4 cup salsa verde
2 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Tbsp. Knorr® Chicken flavor Bouillon
4 Tbsp. Country Crock® Spread, divided
12 corn tortillas
3 medium poblano peppers, roasted*, peeled and cut into strips

Combine sauce with salsa verde in medium bowl; set aside. Spread 1/2 of the alfredo mixture in 13 x 9-inch baking dish; set aside.

Combine potatoes, 1 cup cheese and Knorr® Chicken flavor Bouillon in another medium bowl; set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon Country Crock Spread in 12-inch nonstick skillet and cook 3 tortillas, turning once, 15 seconds or until softened. Remove to paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining Spread and tortillas.

Evenly divide mashed potato mixture onto tortillas, then top with poblano peppers; roll up. Arrange enchiladas in prepared baking dish, then top with remaining sauce mixture and cheese. Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and lightly golden.

* To roast peppers, grill peppers, or broil in a broiler pan lined with aluminum foil, about 10 minutes, until blackened on all sides, turning occasionally. Wrap in foil, cool; set aside.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 700; Carbohydrates 70g; Cholesterol 95mg; Fiber 10g; Sodium 2440mg; Fat 45g; Protein 25g

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, about half your calories should come from carbohydrates, typically about 250 grams (g). For example, a person who eats approximately 2,000 calories per day should take in about 250 grams of carbohydrates (2,000 divided by half equals 1,000 -- and 1,000 calories divided by 4 grams = 250 grams). A teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams.

Carbs and diabetes: People with diabetes must always focus on carbohydrates. Depending on individual health challenges, reliable sources indicate that most people with diabetes should not consume more than about 130 grams of carbohydrate each day.

Source: Knorr, Wikipedia Poblano

Knorr® believes that good food matters — it adds untold pleasure to our lives — and everyday meals can be just as magical as special occasions. The business was formed in 1838, when founder Carl Heinrich Knorr pioneered experiments in drying seasonings and vegetables to preserve their flavor and nutritional value. Since then, Knorr® has become an international brand offering a wide range of bouillons, soups, seasonings, sauces, soupy snacks, dressings and frozen and ready-made meals.

Good food, meatless and decadent recipes, and kitchen basics from top chefs around the web, all in one place, for busy home kitchen cooks, empty nesters, diabetics and lovers of Mexican cuisine from Alexandria, the Yum expert. ¡Olé!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sandwich Saturday: Parmesan Chicken Salad

It's Sandwich Saturday. This week, from Better Homes and Gardens, it's parmesan, basic, chicken, celery and green apple between toasted wheat bread.

Parmesan cheese is a hard cheese inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Italy.

Parmesan cheese is prized for its savory flavor. Its use in home kitchen cooking throughout is generally as a condiment with other prepared food dishes, rather than being eaten alone. Kraft Foods is a major North American producer of Parmesan and has been selling it since 1945.

Parmesan Chicken Salad Sandwich
Serves 6

1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons snipped fresh basil
2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
Salt and ground black pepper

For dressing:
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, lemon juice and basil. Set aside.

For salad:
In a medium bowl, combine chicken, Parmesan cheese, green onions and celery. Pour dressing over chicken mixture; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Serve immediately on toasted wheat bread.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 194; Carbohydrates 2g; Cholesterol 61mg; Sodium 366mg; Sugars 1g; Fat 4g; Protein 18g

* Source: Better Homes and Gardens (BHG)

BHG.com is focused on decorating, building and remodeling, crafts, entertaining, cooking, and gardening. It also has extensive information for women and families. In addition to providing useful tools and advice, BHG.com's trusted experts keep visitors up to the minute with information on the latest developments and trends around home and garden. BHG.com was designed with real people in mind. It has easy-to-use interactive tools, clear visuals, step-by-step instructions, and money-saving suggestions. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. Anyone can cook meals that get oohs and aahs from family and friends. Comment questions, requests and recipes. Share your ideas. Click here now to get the next recipe in your inbox. Forward to a friend.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Side Dish: Classic Macaroni Salad with Real Mayonnaise

Macaroni is a variety of dry pasta, originating from Italy, made with durum wheat. Macaroni usually does not contain eggs and is normally cut in short, hollow shapes. It may be straight or curved, in which case it is frequently called elbow macaroni.

Pasta comes in hundreds of different shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors, but the Italian, or Western, style prevails as the favorite in most countries.

According to Healthandbeautypages.com, pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates which provide a slow release of energy. Unlike simple sugars that offer a quick, yet fleeting boost of energy, pasta helps sustain energy.

Pasta is a useful source of protein, a 2 ounces of spaghetti or elbow macaroni, when cooked, become a 1-cup serving provides about 5 to 7g of protein. Pasta is very low in sodium and cholesterol-free. Whole wheat pasta can provide up to 25% of daily fiber requirements in every one cup portion. Pastas are a good source of iron (with about 2mg in a 1-cup serving), potassium, and many are also enriched with thiamine, niacin, and other B vitamins.

The website HomemadeMacraroniandcheese.net reports homemade macaroni and cheese is so easy to prepare and will allow moms to make more at a lesser budget as compared to buying the ready-made recipe. It has become a favorite in almost every home because macaroni and cheese really taste good together, and it is the food that picky kids never say no to.

Homemade macaroni and cheese contains carbohydrates, and help protect and enhance development of muscle tissues.

Proteins are broken down and distributed into the body as amino acids, which are essential for developing muscles and to aid our immune system to efficiently function. Fats in homemade macaroni and cheese are the good aid in the absorption of vitamins A, D and E, which are fat-soluble.

Sodium is good for the body because it is the mineral that plays an important role in stimulating our muscles to contract.

Homemade macaroni and cheese is a good type of food that will bring health benefits. Just be careful with what you add to the meal during preparation.

Classic Macaroni Salad with Real Mayonnaise
Serves 4

8 ounces elbow macaroni (about 1-3/4 cups)
1 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Dijonnaise™ Creamy Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water until completely cool. Combine Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise, vinegar, Creamy Dijon Mustard, sugar, salt and pepper in large bowl. Stir in macaroni, celery, green pepper and onion. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 470g; Carbohydrates 38g; Cholesterol 20mg; Fiber 2g; Sodium 810mg; Sugars 4g; Fat 8g; Protein 7g

Source: Best Foods

The body needs more than 40 nutrients: vitamins, minerals and water, as well as energy-providing protein, carbohydrates and fats. No one food supplies all the essential nutrients in the amounts needed. Therefore, it is important to eat a variety of foods each day.

Coming this month: It's the count-down month to Christmas and all the merriment of shopping and sharing good food and simple food like Macaroni. Learn how to make the perfect gravy. There's a quick and easy one-dish meal coming up, too, and a to-do list.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, food blogger, writer and all around food lover. Find recipes, kitchen tips and reviews, menus and meal planning, entertaining ideas, information about health and fitness, diabetics and Being Grand. Click here to get posts in your inbox.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunday Dinner Recipes: Dressed Chicken Breasts with Angel Hair Pasta

It's shop for Sunday Dinner recipes. This Sunday dinner recipe is the main event in a modest 3-course meal with Chicken stuffed with plums and brie cheese from Sunsweet, Butter salad with Pistachios, Bread Pudding and suggestions for wines. You can certainly add more courses.

A well planned menu starts with a nicely decorated table with centerpiece, beautiful placemats or ironed tablecloth, polished silverware and gorgeous glassware, doesn't it? The most important ingredient is you, a welcoming host.

Here's how to set the table. Whether or not, you are a person who cultivates good food and wine, these dinner recipes are a whole lot of elegant. Put candles on the table, put on some soft music and relax at home with food and family.

Plum and Brie Stuffed Chicken
Serves 4

2 Tbsp butter, divided
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Sunsweet® Amaz!n™ Diced Prunes
4 medium-size boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 oz brie cheese, cut into 4 equal slices
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup plum jam or preserves
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
Snipped fresh basil

Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet. Add shallots and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until very soft, stirring frequently. Add Amaz!ns™ and cook for 5 minutes more.

Make a horizontal slit in each chicken breast to form a large pocket. Place equal amounts of onion mixture and a piece of cheese inside each breast and secure with toothpicks; season with salt and pepper.

Brown chicken in remaining butter on both sides. Tent with foil and cook for 10 minutes over low heat, turning once or twice. Stir together preserves and vinegar and pour over chicken. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened. Remove toothpicks and top with snipped fresh basil.

Salad, Butter Pistachios Dessert, Bread pudding

Dinner Wine, White, Chardonnay, Blanc du Bois, Semillon
Dessert Wine, White, Orange Muscat

Dessert wines are typically chilled and served in a lovely wine glass. Keep the serving size at about half the usual pour, two to three ounces.

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is proud to play a role in the continuing success of the Texas wine industry. Find these Texas wines at Kroger, HEB, Randall’s, Fiesta, Whole Foods Market and Central Market.

In recent studies, the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) assigns a number of health benefits to regular, moderate wine consumption. The most widely reported benefit is The French Paradox, a theory that credits the drinking of red wine for the low incidence of heart disease in France – despite a famously high-fat, high-cholesterol diet.

Scientists note wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol, elements believed to be helpful in the prevention of certain diseases. Red wine consumption (and to a lesser degree, white wine) is linked to a number of health benefits, including: heart disease prevention; reduced risk of certain cancers; lowering bad cholesterol; weight loss; improved brain function; controlling glucose and insulin levels; and lowering blood pressure.

Most studies cited here recommend consumption of one or two glasses of wine a day with meals, noting the detrimental effects of over-consumption.

Shop for Sunday dinner today.

Recipes selected by Alexandria Marx, wife, mother, homemaker, home kitchen cook, diabetic, Super Food Critic and Yum Expert.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Eat Fruit Friday: Pomegranates

It's Eat Fruit Friday. Pomegranates are in season. The pomegranate originated in the region between the Himalayas and Egypt. Today, it's grown in California and Arizona. It's considered a fruit berry, between the size of a lemon and a grapefruit.

After the pomegranate is opened by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the seeds are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Separating the seeds is easier in a bowl of water because the seeds sink and the inedible pulp floats. It has sour notes and is typically found in juices, sauces and salad dressing.

In Mexico, they are commonly used as a garnish for traditional Mexican chiles en nogada, which consists of poblano chiles filled with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

Store fresh pomegranates on the countertop away from direct sunlight.

Pomegranates are a Superfood. You're gonna wanna make Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pomegranate and Hazelnuts courtesy of Food Network's Bobby Flay

Eating fruit provides health benefits. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol, and are a source of essential nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid).

People who eat fruits are likely to reduce risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, certain types of cancers, obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, bone loss to name a few of the health benefits.

Fruits provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.

Potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruit sources of potassium include bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.

Dietary fiber from fruits, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. Fiber helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-rich fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Whole or cut-up fruits are sources of dietary fiber. (Fruit juices contain little or no fiber.)

Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.

Food that's good and healthy for diabetics is good for healthy bodies, too. Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. It's Fruit Friday. Eat some pomegranate seeds today.

* Source: USDA. Food Network

Food Network (www.foodnetwork.com) is a unique lifestyle network, website and magazine that connects viewers to the power and joy of food. The network strives to be viewers’ best friend in food and is committed to leading by teaching, inspiring and empowering through its talent and expertise.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. Anyone can cook up a great meal that gets oohs and aahs from family and friends. Make noise about food. Contact me. Follow me. Share your ideas.. Click here now to get the next menu, meal plan and kitchen tips in your inbox. Forward to a friend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Produce: How to Choose and Buy Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

The first day of Fall (Autumn) is when night and day are of equal length. This year that happens on September 23, 2015. It's the day surrounding a whole new season of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Seasonal foods refer to the times of year when certain foods are at peak, either in terms of harvest or its flavor. This is usually the time when the item is the least costly at your local market. The food's peak time at harvest usually means that the flavor is at its best.

Other than year-round foods, imported and shipped-in foods, fresh produce you should find available include wild cabbage such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, endives and kale. Root vegetables, too, such as garlic, ginger, parsnips, turnips and yams. Winter squashes (corn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins) are also in season. Corn is in season, and Spring peas are also seasonal late in the Fall.

Fall fruits are: Apples, cranberries, grapes, figs, pears, and pomegranates.

How to Choose and Buy Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Have you ever purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, only to get it home and find it rotten or spoiled when you try to eat it? Here are a few guidelines:

1. Select fresh green beans that are a vibrant green (not a pale or brownish hue) and have a little give and a snap when bent. If a bean pod feels hard, it means it's dried out and not good for cooking.

2. Look for berries that are plump and have a bright color. Look for strawberries that still have their caps (if they are missing, the berry is too ripe) and look for raspberries and blackberries without a cap (those with a cap are under-ripe).

3. Choose lettuce and cabbage heads that are heavy. Feel them over for any soft spots that indicating rot.

4. Buy cantaloupe melons that have close netting on the rind. The stem scar should be smooth and the space between the netting should be yellow to yellow-green color.

5. Purchase citrus fruit that are heavy for their size. Don't be deterred by markings or scars on the flesh. That should not affect their taste or quality. Keep in mind that thinner, smoother-skinned citrus fruits (like limes) have more water content.

6. Feel the skins of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and turnips. They should feel smooth and firm. Be wary of overly large root vegetables, as they sometimes have a woody texture.

Benefits of Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients the instant they're picked, and how long after harvesting you eat it impacts its nutritional value.

Most frozen fruits and veggies are frozen shortly after they're harvested. That's why they're allowed to fully ripen, which means they're chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Freezing "locks in" many of their nutrients.

On the flip side, much of the fresh produce in your supermarket was brought in from over 1,500 miles away. As a result, it may have been harvested before it reached its nutritional peak, then artificially ripened during transportation.

Benefits of Store Bought Fresh and Frozen at Home

Scientists from Leatherhead Food Research and University of Chester, carried out 40 tests to measure nutrient levels in produce that had been sitting in a fridge for three days, compared to frozen equivalents. They found more beneficial nutrients overall in the frozen samples, in everything from broccoli to blueberries.

In fact, in two out of three cases, frozen fruits and veggies packed higher levels of antioxidants, including polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein, and beta-carotene.

This conclusion supports previous research, which found that freezing produce does not destroy its nutrients. In one report, the vitamin C content in fresh broccoli plummeted by more than 50% within a week, but dipped by just 10% over an entire year when frozen.

Because freezing preserves food, no unwanted additives are needed in bags of frozen goodies, like spinach and strawberries. For recipes, you can probably find several varieties in the freezer aisle with absolutely nothing added.

* Sources: ABC News, eHow, Wikipedia

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. I welcome comments and questions, requests. Make noise about food. Contact me. Follow me. Share with me. Click here to get the next menu, meal plan and useful kitchen tips in your inbox. Forward to a friend.