Monday, December 20, 2010

Time Saving Tips for Holiday Entertaining

Entertaining for the holidays? Wondering how you will put it all together?

Whether you are having an open house holiday party or extended family for a sit down dinner,
I have a few tips that can make serving easier.

Choose appetizers you make in advance and served cold.
Baked Brie With Raspberry Preserves Topping
Crudites of Raw Vegetables with Dip
Cheese Ball and Crackers 
 A Variety of Cheeses, Garnished with Whole Strawberries, Little Bunches of Grapes, and Crackers
Fruit Platters with Vanilla Yogurt Dip
Apple Slices Dipped in Chocolate and Sprinkled with Cinnamon


1. Crock Pot- Serving Soup at a dinner party? Use a crock pot to keep the soup, chili, or even potatoes warm. Pour cold soup into a cold crock pot and turn temperature to low or high depending on how much time until it will be served. Soup can be placed in crock pot up to 4 hours before serving. This allows you to wash the cooking pot in advance and not have to allow time to reheat the soup. Soup is ready for serving whenever you are.

2. Coffee Carafe -

Serving tea or coffee after a dinner party? Prepare coffee and tea in advance and keep piping hot for up to 8 hours in a simple thermos carafe. Here's how: Purchase two 1.8 liter thermos carafes from a store like Marshalls, TJMaxx or Kohls, The carafes keep water or coffee hot for at least 8 hours. Before the dinner party boil water or use your coffee maker to make hot water and pour it into the carafe. Make coffee and pour it into your other carafe. Clean up and store coffee or hot water in the carafe.After dinner there is no need to start making coffee or tea, both are piping hot and ready to serve and you don't even have to leave the table. 

3. Hot Plate Warmers
Sometimes you just run out of oven space. Cook food in advance, clean pots and pans in advance. Place food in an aluminum through away pan and place on hot plate about an hour before serving. A hotplate keeps food warm and delicious. Again guests can serve themselves.

Here are some additional Tidbits:

Need a really quick soup ? This one is almost ridiculous, but it tastes great! Take a jar of Vegetable juice ( like V-8 juice) and heat it up. It tastes like tomato soup!! Really!! ( and it is very low calorie too) If you want to be more impressive, add a pat of butter, cooked brown rice, chopped hard boiled egg, or chopped cilantro just before heating.

Peeling Hard Boiled eggs? They will be easier to peel if you add a pinch of salt to the water , bring to a boil and then shut off the heat, cover the pot and allow eggs to steam for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water and peel.

Like to cook with wine? When you have leftover wine, freeze it in ice cube trays. This makes it easy to use for future cooking.

Want to keep your trash can smelling fresh? Place a laundry sheet ( like bounce) at the bottom of the wastebasket

Want to save time at your next party? Place an extra unopened garbage bag under the open garbage bag in your wastebaskets. When you empty your wastebasket, there is another one already there for you to open right up. Great time saver at parties!

Want to peel garlic quickly. Method one- place in microwave for 15 seconds, skin peels right off .
Method 2- crush the garlic with wide knife, skin peels right off.

Need to clean the blender quickly? Fill the blender with 3/4 water and 1 drop liquid detergent and blend. It cleans itself. Rinse well

Want an easy to clean spoon from the honey jar? Coat the spoon with cooking spray first!

Burn food in a pot or pan? Cover burned area with baking soda and water. Soak overnight.

Need to clean a narrow vase or thermos quickly? Fill with water, drop in 2 Alka seltzer tablets; allow to sit for 10 minutes, swoosh and rinse

Need to clean the toilets before company? drop un 2 Alka seltzer tablets and allow to sit 25 minutes and flush

Need to open a clogged drain? drop 3 alka seltzer tablets down the drain and then a cup of vinegar. Wait a few minutes and run the hot water.

Does tomato sauce stain your plastic storage containers? Spray the containers with cooking spray first to prevent the containers from discoloring.

Want to know if your raw eggs are still fresh? Make a bowl of cold salty water. Place the egg in the water. It should sink. If it floats to the top, its not fresh!

Does your jelly jar get messy? Put the jelly into a squeeze bottle and it will save you a lot of mess.

Want to lower the fat content when baking? Substitute applesauce for the oil. Works great!

Want to keep your potatoes from growing buds? Place an apple in the bag with them.

If you have any time saving tips to share, please click comments in the green box that follows the posting and share your ideas..

This has been  posted on the following fabulous blogs: Tuesday Twister, Simple Lives Thursday, It's a blog party, Vegetarian Foody Fridays, Gluten Free Wednesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays, My Meatless Mondays, Family Food Fridays, Seasonal Saturday, Katies Cucina , Simply Gluten-Free,, Food on Fridays, Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday, Foodie Friday, Dr. Laura's Tasty Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Baked Samosas and Raita Dip; Quick, Easy and Delicious

Baked Samosas make a great warm appetizer for a holiday party or a side dish to spice up a meal.

These delightful slightly spicy turnovers are stuffed with your choice of either sweet potatoes or white potatoes, peas, and other vegetables in an aromatic blend of tasty Indian spices.

 If you have never made samosas , now is your opportunity. My recipe, adapted from Cooking with Trader Joe's Cookbook,( which I received as a gift from my daughter-in-law Wendy,) is easy to make, healthy, and flavorful. After about 25 minutes of prep time and about 20 minutes of baking time, these delectable samosas are ready to be served.

Pin It know, make it later..

You can eat samosas as a side dish with soup and salad, or serve them as an interesting warm appetizer to delight your guests at your next party. They can be made in advance as well.

You will love this recipe because unlike traditional samosas, this recipe is baked, not fried. The crust is adapted from a buttermilk crust recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook. It is a little delicate to work with it, but it tastes so good. I am still looking for an alternative crust, so if you have a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.To make the crust recipe dairy free, substitute low fat coconut milk for the buttermilk and add a teaspoon of lemon juice to it.

Fillings; I make two types of fillings for my samosas:
  •  potato vegetable or
  • sweet potato vegetable.
  • For parties, I make a variety of both. Both versions are hearty and healthful, full of fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. However,
  • I am partial to the extraordinary beauty of the rich orange color of the sweet potato samosa and personally, I prefer the flavor as well.
Top each samosa with a cooling raita yogurt dip or Tamarind sauce,and you are in for a treat.

Recipes for both versions of fillings for the samosas are listed below as well as the raita yogurt dip ..

Eggless Buttermilk Crust:
2 1/2 cups of gluten free all purpose flour ( or if you are not gluten free regular flour)
1 cup of either buttermilk, plain yogurt , coconut or rice milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice added)
1/2 tsp salt

Mix flour, buttermilk, and salt and work with a fork until dough can form into a ball. Dough will be soft. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes if too soft to work with. Divide dough into 8 balls. Roll each into a 6 inch circle on a floured board.

Samosa Filling #1 ( Sweet Potato or Yam)

2 large sweet potatoes, steamed and cubed 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup onion , chopped small
3/4 cup tomatoes, chopped small ( or chopped tomatoes with some juice from a can)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp cumin
cayenne pepper ( optional)
1 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons raisins, soaked for about 20 minutes
2 tsp olive oil and olive oil spray

Steam sweet potatoes whole with skin until soft. Peel, mash and mix with thawed peas.
Mix chopped onion, garlic, fresh ginger, cilantro, tomatoes, curry powder and turmeric and 2 tsp of olive oil together . Saute cumin seeds or mustard seeds in olive oil spray in a frying pan for about 1 minute. Pour chopped vegetable mixture over cumin seeds and cook on low heat until onion and garlic are soft.
Remove from heat and mix in mashed sweet potato and pea mixture.

Spoon 1/4 cup of mixture into each crust. Fold dough around filling and seal edges with fingers. Press edges together with fork for decoration.

Bake samosas on a greased baking sheet.

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Bake for about 20-25 minutes until browned.
Dip into raita ( purchase prepared from Trader Joe's or make your own with recipe that follows )

Raita Ingredients
1 small Kirby cucumber, grated
1/2 small carrot, grated
1 cup plain yogurt or yogurt cheese
1 tsp dried mint, crushed
salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Grate your vegetables; add to yogurt or yogurt cheese and mix well by hand

For white potato stuffing:  Follow directions for sweet potato filling and substitute steamed white potatoes

You can make the filling one day and the dough and samosa the next!
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I love Your comments.
To leave a comment, go down to the green box below this recipe and click comments.

Monday, December 6, 2010

French Potato Salad

Want to try something a little different?  I learned this stunning recipe from my husband's family based on his grandmother's recipe who was originally from Livorno, Italy, and then lived in France. 

We really love this potato salad.
It is made with red potatoes, olive oil, and freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of mayonnaise. How does it taste? Amazing!!

The original family recipe
Although our original family recipe calls for chopped hard-boiled eggs, I found I when I omit the eggs to make this recipe vegan, and it is still absolutely delicious.

You can also add raw vegetables to the basic recipe to make individual variations. Add chopped red onion, scallions, or black olives. If you like more veggies in your potato salad, you may want to try my hearty healthy Red Cabbage Potato Salad that is also vegan.

Whether you decide to make the basic recipe or add extras, for the best flavor, this potato salad tastes best served at room temperature.

Be sure that you have a good sharp vegetable peeler, which can make all the difference. A sharp peeler will zip the skin right off a potato, butternut squash, or even eggplant. A good peeler is worth the investment. 
I use this vegetable peeler:  OXO Good Grips Y Peeler (affiliate link)

It is a simple recipe, but extremely flavorful and easy to make.
In addition, you won't have to worry about the mayo spoiling if you serve it at a picnic or BBQ. It is a great crowd-pleaser. For those who celebrate Passover and obtain from eating bread for 8 days, this potato salad is a great recipe to pin!!

What is Resistant Starch and Why Should You Care?? 
As we know, potatoes contain starch and carbohydrates. There is a theory that when potatoes are cooked, refrigerated, and then consumed, the starch is digested differently and not as starchy- perhaps reducing the impact on insulin resistance. I'm not an expert so
 I found a detailed explanation on the Internet ( I have no affiliation and am just sharing what I found for educational purposes. ) Resistant starch explained. The gist is that when you boil a potato and then cool it in the refrigerator, the starch in the potato changes and forms a type of starch that is helpful in insulin resistance, digestion, etc.

I usually make this potato salad in advance, I refrigerate, and then take it out to serve it at room temperature.

My husband is one of five children. This family recipe had to feed a family of seven. If you are a smaller family, reduce the number of potatoes and eggs that you use. Perhaps 2 pounds of potatoes and 2 eggs. Or if you are vegan, remember that this recipe is great when you omit the eggs too!

4-5 pounds of red potatoes, peeled, boiled and cubed.
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (optional-omit if vegan)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of  three fresh lemons or limes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup red onion or scallion chopped fine (optional)

First make a dressing by mixing together the olive oil, fresh lemon, chopped parsley, salt,
and pepper- then set aside.
Boil potatoes, peel, and cube ( I like to peel mine after boiling)
Boil eggs, peel, and chop (omit if vegan)
Place potatoes and eggs in a large bowl while they are still hot.
Pour dressing over hot potatoes and eggs and mix well.
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed ( a little more oil, lemon, salt?)
Add chopped red onion, chopped scallion, or chopped black olives if desired.

Pictured Steps

Assemble Ingredients and Boil Potatoes and Eggs

Mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper to make a dressing and set aside
1. After I purchased an Instant Pot (which I now use to cook EVERYTHING), I converted this recipe. Here is the link if you would like to make this recipe using your IP.
Instant Pot Potato Salad

2. This is a great recipe for Passover -especially for those who are observant and abstain from eating bread and leavened products for 8 days! We make a batch on Day 1 and eat it for lunch for days! It will keep in the refrigerator for about a good 5 days!

Vegan Potato Salad Made In the Instant Pot

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Low Calorie Latkes

Hanuukah latkes

Whether you say Chanukah or Hanukkah everyone is eating latkes. I have been trying to be good about eating lighter, but the holidays are tough. It hasn't even been a week since we were gathered round the Thanksgiving table overindulging in a spectacular fall buffet. Now, six days later, it is time to start up again. We have eight days of  getting together with family and friends to celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday that requests that we eat food that has been fried in oil- traditionally, potato latkes.

When I was a kid, we ate homemade potato latkes every night of the eight nights of Chanukah. It was tradition, and we really looked forward to it. No one seemed concerned about the excessive calories or that we were eating fried food consecutively for eight nights. Not to mention that we smothered each bite of delicious potato latke in heavy full fat sour cream. My father could down 8-10 in one sitting.

Eventhough I don't usually fry food, I usually make latkes for at least one night of Hanukkah. I feel obligated . After all it is Hanukkah~ But this year, I am going to make a low calorie version. I am going to use grated broccoli instead of grated potatoes for my latkes and use a little olive oil spray to saute( not fry ) them.

This is not a recipe for die hards. This is certainly a compromise, and this low calorie version can't be compared with the taste of the real thing. Never the less, these latkes are tasty with about a quarter of the calories.

 This is a recipe similar to a recipe I got from a Weight Watchers magazine for a low calorie latke. Instead of using potatoes, it called for grated vegetables. Actually, it called for "broccoli slaw" which is sold in a bag in the produce section of most supermarkets.  It is a mixture of grated broccoli stalks and carrots. Low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, yet high in antioxidants and fiber. It makes a low calorie substitute for traditional potato latkes. In addition, the batter is lightly sauteed in vegetable oil spray instead of being fried.

Eventhough it is not fried, I think it still counts as latkes..
Broccoli Slaw Latkes
1 bag broccoli slaw ( available in supermarket)
1 medium onion , grated
3/4 cup egg whites or egg beaters
3 Tablespoons rice flour or corn starch
1/4 cup ground almond meal ( optional)
salt, pepper, and any seasoning to taste
olive oil spray

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Allow to sit for about 20-30  minutes. 
Spray a frying pan with olive oil spray. Drop ( 4 or 5 ) 1/4 cup clusters of mixture into skillet and saute until browned and then flip and cook other side until browned. Then place on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
Serve with applesauce or zero fat Greek yogurt.

Pictures Step by Step

Gather Ingredients

Mix bag of broccoli slaw, egg whites, grated onion, corn starch , and seasoning in large bowl

Spray a skillet with olive oil spray and drop clusters of grated broccoli slaw into the pan
Saute until brown on both sides and then bake in oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes

Serve topped with Greek Yogurt or Applesauce
Happy Hanukkah