Wednesday, March 27, 2013


20 tips for fruit and vegetable prep:


Sunday, February 3, 2013


A friend recently posted on FB this photo of the bounty of veggies she bought at the Farmer's Market. Problem is, what the heck do you do with all of this for a family of 3? 

From what I can decipher, here is a list of the veggies in photo (not including citrus fruits): 

Yellow cherry tomatoes
Red grape tomatoes
Roma (or plum) tomatoes
Round tomatoes 
Yellow, orange, red bell peppers
Serrano chilies
Red & yellow Trinidad chili pepper (I think!) 
Yellow zucchini
Butternut squash 
English cucumber

I suggested that she should freeze whatever she's not going to use immediately. For those who think freezing veggies is a no-no....let me show you how! 

What you'll need: 

High-quality freezer bags
Olive oil
Baking sheet 

Let's start with the cherry/grape tomatoes:

Wash and dry your cherry tomatoes, lay them out on a cookie sheet, and pop in the freezer for a few hours until they are firmly frozen. By doing so, your tomatoes won’t freeze together into one big clump. Once the tomatoes have hardened, transfer them into freezer-safe containers or zip freezer bags, and return to the freezer. You can then thaw out as many tomatoes as you need to use in soups, sautes or sauces.

Round/Roma/Plum tomatoes

You may also freeze these. But my personal preference would be to roast then freeze. 

Cut tomatoes in half. Toss with a bit of olive oil, pinch of salt. You may also toss in some herbs (i.e. thyme, rosemary) or balsamic vinegar depending on desired flavor. Place flat (seed side up) on baking dish. Roast at 400 degrees until soft. 

If not using immediately, freeze! These may be easily used later in soups, sauces, meatloaf or salsa. 

Bell and Chili Peppers:

Wash, remove stem and core. Coarsely chop and freeze like the cherry tomatoes. Once frozen, place in freezer bags. Sauté straight from freezer and use them in any cooked recipe calling for bell peppers/chilies (i.e. omelets, chili). You may also fire roast the chilies and freeze. This adds a wonderful flavor to your recipe.  

Yellow Squash & Zucchini:

Corn (roasted):

English cucumbers:  I don't recommend freezing since they are best when eaten fresh/raw.

Cucumber/Tomato Salad Recipe (courtesy Rachel Ray):


  • 5 medium plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • A generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • 2 splashes red wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and black pepper


Dress the tomatoes, onions, and cucumber with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Let stand while you prepare dinner, about 20 minutes. Re-toss and serve salad with crusty bread for mopping up juices and oil.

While butternut squash may be peeled, cut into chucks and frozen, I prefer this wonderful veggie fresh. 

For the Pièce de résistance. I'm sharing my Butternut Squash & Bosc Pear Bisque (I can't believe I'm sharing this)! This soup is ALWAYS a huge hit...especially in the Fall/Winter. 


  • 3 - 4medium size Bosc Pears (peeled, cored & cut into 1" chunks)
  • Butternut Squash (about 2 lbs.), cut in half & seeded
  • 1 Tbs fresh Ginger, peeled & minced
  • 1 medium Yellow Onion, diced 1/4"
  • 3 oz. Butter, cubed
  • 2 qt. Chicken Stock (low sodium if canned/carton)
  • 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
  • 3 Tbs Chives
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh White Pepper
  • 1/8 Tsp Fresh Grated Nutmeg 
  • Olive Oil
  • crème fraîche (optional) 


Rub the Butternut Squash with olive oil and place cut side down on baking dish. Roast in a 325º oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the thickest part can be easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes then scoop the meat of the squash from the skin, you should have approximately 3 cups. 

Melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onions until translucent. Add the pears and ginger then cook for approximately 10-15 minutes until the pears are tender. 

Add the squash and chicken stock, mix well, and simmer over a low-medium heat for approximately 20-30 minutes or until the pears start breaking down.

Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. 

Puree the soup (in a blender or food processor) in small batches and strain through a mesh strainer (optional). Discard the pulp. 

Return soup to pot to re-warm. Add the white pepper, salt & nutmeg. Check and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Garnish with fresh chives just before serving. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


One afternoon I was sitting at the bar of a neighborhood restaurant having lunch and the bartender was wiping the wine glasses with a large coffee filter. 

I had to observe for a few moments because I didn't understand why he was doing this. Thoughts crossed my mind like, "did he run out of drying towels"? I gave up guessing and just politely asked, "why are you using coffee filters to dry the glasses"? 

He said they use coffee filters to remove water spots and to achieve a lint-free shine. Wow! Makes sense right? Paper coffee filters are essentially a lint-free crepe. They're usually bleached, so there's no color or residue left behind either. 

I don't know about you, but I've tried everything in the book to get that spotless, restaurant shine to my glasses. I've achieved close but nothing exact. So I had to try it when I got home. I washed a wine glass, shook off the excess water and dried with a couple filters. Voila!! Perfectly clear and lint-free shine. 

Nowadays, I use filters to dry ALL my hand washed glasses. I even use them to touch up spots left from dishwasher. Tip: dampen glass before touch up because it's almost impossible to remove "baked" on water spots left from heat cycle. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Ok, ok, I mean dressing your salad. 

Vinaigrette dressings are my favorite. From balsamic, Sherry wine to Dijon. You name it, I probably like it. Once I learned how to make vinaigrettes myself I got creative and there was no turning back! Especially because I'm a label reader. I couldn't understand why something as simple as salad dressing needed ingredients like: potassium sorbate, oleoresin or modified corn starch. Eww! 

Mastering the art of the vinaigrette is as easy as it looks! Just remember 1-2-3.


  1. Oil - 3 parts
  2. Vinegar - 1 part
  3. Salt & Pepper - to taste
Oil: I prefer to use high-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), but grapeseed or walnut oils can work also. This is not the application for the cheap olive oil you got because it was on clearance. You're really going to taste the quality of the oil, so make it a good one. 

Vinegar types: Sherry, balsamic, cider, rice are all great to use.  

Salt & Pepper: Add a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Get creative: Add thyme,rosemary garlic, Dijon mustard or crushed red pepper flakes. Try different types of citrus like lemon, lime or tangerine.

  1. Whisk
  2. Shake
  3. Emulsify (or blend)
Whisk: In bowl, whisk the vinegar with spices. Whisk. Add the oil slowly while also whisking again. 

Shake: Add all ingredients in a glass container with an air-tight lid. Mason jars work well here. Shake all ingredients together.

Emulsify/blend: Emulsify means to combine two liquids that don't usually mix well. Add spices and (Dijon) mustard to the vinegar. Whisk. Add oil slowly. If you add oil too fast you'll cause the mustard to break. Not good because the mustard is the glue which makes the oil and vinegar stick together. 

Whichever method you choose, don't forget to taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Useful for dressing, marinades or grilling.

Final thought: I cannot tell a lie (said in George Washington's voice)...out of convenience, I do purchase salad dressing. 

I've tried almost every "natural" brand in the refrigerated section (some of them have NO business being called "natural"...but that's another conversation for another blog). 

My personal favorite brand is Cindy's Kitchen (have 3 in the fridge now). From the balanced flavors, gourmet variety and selections for special dietary needs (sugar free, oil free, etc), Cindy's got it right!! 

I buy Cindy's Kitchen in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods (check Cindy's store locator for availability near you). Heads-up, it's about $7 per bottle, but absolutely worth it! 


Monday, September 24, 2012


"My child doesn't like vegetables! What can I do about it?" 

Ask a child if they like sweets and the answer is almost universally a resounding "Yes!" It's no surprise to most parents that kids love candy, cookies and sweetened drinks. Some kids have even been known to add sugar to already sweetened cereal. But don't blame the kids or even drive yourself insane with frustration. Some researchers say it's biology. 

According to Dr. Julie Mennella of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, children not only have a stronger preference for sugar than adults - but also the "sweet tooth" is hardwired from day one. She explains, "We know that the newborn can detect sweet and will actually prefer sweeter solutions to less sweet ones. The basic biology of the child is that they don't have to learn to like sweet or salt. It's there from birth". 

Do your own follow up on her studies and findings. What you really wanna know is....WHAT can I do about it? 

First remember, veggies are low in calories. Growing children need and crave calories. Raw veggies are also bitter, can be fibrous or even mushy. Depending on the vegetable, adding fat, steaming, sautéing or baking them can often disguise these characteristics. 


  • Celery sticks with cream cheese or peanut butter. 
  • Baked sweet potato fries with honey or maple syrup. Do not feed honey to children under 1 year old. 
  • Steamed broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus with Cheez Whiz. Children often dislike these veggies because they're bitter raw. Steaming mellows the bitterness. 
  • Baked tomatoes with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. 
  • Maple baked carrots.
  • Roasted red or yellow peppers. Red and yellow peppers are naturally more sweet than green. Roasted and caramelized, they taste like veggie candy. Kid recommendation: peel off the "burned" skin which can add a layer of bitterness (remember, kids don't like bitter). 
  • Soup is also an easy way to disguise vegetables: broccoli cheddar, sweet corn chowder, tomato bisque
  • Pasta Primavera is full of a medley of veggies "hidden" in marinara. 

Finally, remember that children's (even adult's) palate's evolve. Heck, I didn't like bleu cheese or beer until about 10 years ago. Now I love them both! 

Introduce new things to your little tyke often and consistently. You'll be surprised at the result. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


It's berry season!! So I like to save money on pre-packaged, frozen fruit by buying what's in season  and freezing my own. 

But if you're like me, and over purchase berries because they're on sale or looked SO delish at the store, no worries. To store Summer berries for the Winter, follow these simple steps: 

1) Wash the berries in a colander. Discard any that are smashed, over/under ripe or otherwise unsuitable. 

2) Line a baking sheet with clean paper or dish towels. Spread berries on baking sheet and allow to air dry. 

3) Place air-dried berries in freezer.

4) Once berries are frozen, place them in Ziploc (or other high quality) freezer bag(s). Squeeze out any additional air and place back in freezer. 

Quick tip: Lay washed/air-dried berries in Ziploc. Arrange in bag as flatly as possible and place flat in freezer. 

Great for smoothies, milkshakes, ice cream topping, parfaits, cocktails...the list goes on! 


....I'm not speaking of the skin on your body. In light of the recent salmonella outbreak with cantaloupe, I thought it would be a good time to reiterate how important it is to wash the skin of melon & citrus before cutting. Many often assume that since we don't consume the skin of melons and citrus, that there's no need to wash before cutting. On the contrary....

Portion of article courtesy of Huffington Post: 

Aug 17 (Reuters) - "A salmonella outbreak blamed on cantaloupe grown in Indiana has killed two people in Kentucky and sickened some 150 people in the past month, health officials said on Friday, urging consumers to throw away melons bought recently from the region.
The outbreak traced to the cantaloupe began in early July and has struck consumers in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. Indiana officials said there were about 150 cantaloupe-linked cases nationwide....
The illness caused by the food-borne organism usually causes a week-long bout of diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain, but can be fatal for the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems. Thousands of Americans contract salmonella illness each year, often from uncooked chicken."

The bacteria on the outside can...and does...easily transfer to the flesh upon cutting. To prevent the transfer of bacteria, wash skin with a gentle detergent (i.e. vegetable wash or diluted vinegar) before cutting.

Think about where that melon or lemon has been before you got it home. Think about how many times YOU have dropped a lime on the grocery store floor, then put it back into the it never even happened. You wash grapes before eating, right? The same needs to go for fruit with inedible skins. 

Enjoy your fruit this Summer, just don't get sick while doing so!