Basics, Cooking, Essentials, Food, Tools

Tools 101: Mezzaluna

You have new kitchen toys, hooray! Now, what the heck do you do with them?

This series features some ideas to get you cooking – and eating – asap!

Now: to the chopping block!

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Meet your mezzaluna

Italian for “half-moon,” this tool gives new meaning to chopped salads. Using a smooth rocking motion, effortlessly chop large amounts of lettuce, veggies & herbs all in one bowl for an easy and even chopped salad.

What’s it for?

  • Makes mincing piles of herbs a breeze
  • Can be used for chopping nuts or chocolate for baking
  • Allows for even chopping
  • Works well as a pizza cutter

How to clean

Use a soft sponge with warm soap and water. Dry with a clean dish towel or air dry. Do not put in the dishwasher.

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Tips

Make one or two big salads for this week’s lunches & dinners! It’s an easy way to make sure you have veggies this week.

IMG_0853Happy eating!

Get cooking! Use offer code “BACK2COOKING” for 10% off your first month!

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Cooking, Essentials, Food, Kitchen

Ingredients 101: Easy, Affordable Cooking

Keep these staple ingredients on hand for cooking, and always have an easy, affordable meal at your fingertips!

Proteins

danielle-macinnes-676245-unsplashEggs: Cheap, satisfying staple for hearty breakfasts, lunches and easy dinners. Plus top any pasta with an egg for rich deliciousness! More egg tips here.

Lentils: Hearty, energy-boosting and protein-packed for easy salads, stews and more.

Ground beef: Easy to prepare and versatile. Cook a bunch at once, using half for tacos and the rest for a hearty meat sauce the following night.

Chicken thighs: A great affordable and flavorful option. Buy in bulk on sale and freeze for up to 6 months.

Grains

andrea-tummons-448848-unsplashOatmeal: Cook a bunch of steel-cut oats at the beginning of the week, along with some easy stewed cinnamon apples. You can also add sliced banana during the last few minutes of the oatmeal cooking for a yummy treat. Adults and kids love oatmeal! Try easy overnight oatmeal too to simplify your mornings.

Brown rice: Versatile for simple grain salads, soups, sides and healthy rice pudding. Always have a batch ready to eat in your fridge.

Quinoa: Great for breakfast bowls, easy side for grilled meat or tossed with leftover veggies for a simple lunch.

Pasta: Easy, no-fuss meals with tomato sauce, simple butter sauce, pesto and seasonal veggies. Also pasta for breakfast makes waking up easier.

Fruit & Veg

jessica-lewis-512219-unsplashFruits: Always have apples, grapes, bananas, and berries for yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal and more. Keep an apple or pear sliced and ready to eat so you’re more likely to grab that when you mindlessly poke around for a snack.

img_2572.jpgStaple Veggies: Always have carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower, and/or butternut squash. All of these will last a while, so you don’t need to stress out about using them right away. Just keep the carrots, broccoli & cauliflower clean and ready to use in your crisper. The potatoes and squash can stay out at room temperature until they’re cut.

chiara-conti-505587-unsplashGreens: Always have fresh greens on hand! Spinach is the best for versatility, but arugula, kale and others are nice to switch things up, especially if you like things a bit more flavorful!

Pro tip:

Don’t forget the freezer! Keep it stocked with frozen veggies, which are flash frozen at their peak for healthy deliciousness year-round!

Happy cooking!

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Guide to Expiration Dates

Essentials, Food

How to Make the Best Sandwiches

ola-mishchenko-600012-unsplashWe all know that sad lunch feeling: another turkey sandwich, another salad. But sandwiches and salads don’t have to be sad — you just need the right ingredients to liven them up.

Build a Better Sandwich

florencia-viadana-723345-unsplashBread

Get your bread fresh from a bakery or grocery store each week if you can. It will make your sandwiches much tastier and more hearty, keeping you full and satisfied.

Meat

If you’re a meat eater, always go to the deli counter of your local store for freshly sliced meat. This will usually be tastier than packaged options, and you can choose the amount you want depending how many sandwiches you’re making.

Cheese

You can also pick up cheese at the deli counter. Grab at least two different varieties at once so you can switch things up during the week.

Greens

Wash your greens when you bring them home, or buy pre-washed greens, but note those are generally more expensive than bulk greens. Spinach, arugula and romaine lettuce are good go-tos, but we like to buy whatever is on sale so we’re constantly trying new greens!

thomas-martinsen-105809-unsplashTomato

Go for the freshest seasonal tomatoes when possible. Use your sharpest knife to slice them thin so they don’t slip out of the sandwich. Season with a little salt & pepper. Hint: keep the knife out to make a tomato relish while tomatoes are still in season to savor that sweet taste all year long.

Condiments

Mayo, Mustard & More

We know some kids (and adults) prefer ketchup on everything, but for sandwiches mayo and mustard are best.

Having a good mayo on hand is key; you can spruce it up with some fresh herbs, lemon juice or hot sauce. That way, you’re constantly getting slightly different flavors on your sandwiches.

For mustard, always have a Dijon and a spicy brown on hand. Those will pack the most punch for your sandwiches.

lauren-mancke-63448-unsplashAcid

A good rule of thumb for any kitchen is to always have some citrus on hand. Lemons are the most common, and you can use a bit of juice to brighten up the veggies for your sandwiches and salads. A squeeze of citrus also helps keep avocado from browning!

Red wine vinegar is what makes sandwiches at old-school Italian delis so delicious (along with the best quality meats, cheeses and bread, of course!) A little oil and vinegar provide tons of flavor, and the oil gives you a good dose of healthy fat. Use your olive oil bottle so you don’t drench the sandwich.

jonathan-pielmayer-89798-unsplashPickles, Peppers & More

Pickled EVERYTHING will make your sandwich pop. A little sour zing is always a good thing, especially when it’s pickled hot peppers. Always have at least two pickled vegetables on hand.

Assembly

Assemble any wet ingredients (aka veggies and pickles) last, or as close to eating as possible. If taking to school or work, wrap tightly and bring plenty of napkins.

You don’t need much more for excellent sandwiches! Tag us @quoconow with your best pics.

Get chopping!

Basics, Cooking, Essentials, Food, recipes

5 Easy Summer Salad Recipes

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Who doesn’t love a delicious salad? Easy, healthy and heat-free, make these salads ahead and refrigerate for cool relief all week.

Plus it’s a great excuse to try your tools: tongs, olive oil bottle, garlic skin remover, garlic mincer.

Heirloom Tomato and Cornbread Panzanella
Literally translated to “bread salad,” this is the easiest, and perhaps tastiest, summer salad and a fun one for kids to help with too.
Tip: You can use any dry crusty bread or toasted cornbread, as mentioned here! Skip the oven and use leftover stale bread (the traditional way!)

Grain Salad with Olives and Whole-Lemon Vinaigrette
Easy, hearty, flavorful – and great as leftovers! This actually gets better as it sits, which is true for all these salads.
Tip: Once you’re comfy making grain salads, you can add in whatever leftover ingredients (cooked meat, tofu, any veggies and even fruit!) you have to create your own recipe. You can also sub in any grain you have on hand or already cooked!

Kale, Apple and Walnut Tabbouleh
There’s probably no better go-to for salads than Philadelphia-based chef Michael Solomonov, since salads are a specialty and major part of Israeli cuisine. This is a great dish for breakfast or any time of day!
Tip: No sumac? No problem! Just omit it for a still-delicious recipe.

Cucumber Salad
This couldn’t be easier: a perfectly refreshing, 5-ingredient salad that’s a summer all-star!
Tip: The thinner you slice the cucumbers, either on a mandoline or carefully by hand, the more they’ll absorb the flavors.

Campanelle Pasta Salad
We love this version of pasta salad with pretty campanelle noodles and hearty tuna in olive oil. You can omit the tuna if you’re veg!
Tip: The secret to a great pasta salad? Don’t overcook the pasta.

Basics, Cooking, Essentials, Food, Grilling, recipes, Tools

You Can Grill That!

Let your grill do wonders beyond burgers and dogs.

These are easy grilled foods for a party – or just for you! Not only does the grill work its magic in these recipes, but cleanup is super easy too so you can relax and enjoy.

Tip: Keep all your essential grilling tools (tongs, squeeze bottles, pastry brush, etc.) clean and handy for when the grill calls your name!

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  1. Pizza
    Perfect for al fresco summer dining, especially for groups, warm grilled pizza can be equally good and often better than a sad, soggy delivery pizza. That char really works wonders, and it’s super simple! Consider making a veggie one with no cheese for vegan/dairy-free friends and as a nice lighter option for everyone. Pair with a light red (chill it if you want!) or Lambrusco. The pizza can sit out for a bit, as long as it’s not boiling hot outside, so those who arrive late can still enjoy a piece (if there’s any left!) Use your sharpened knife or kitchen shears to slice it!
    Get the recipe.
  2. Grilled Lettuce
    This is an insanely easy way to impress friends and a great side dish for pizza! Channel your inner Giada with a colorful salad of grilled lettuces. All you need is your colander, cutting board, knife, tongs and olive oil bottle. You’ll just want to make sure this hits the grill before any meats, so your veg friends can enjoy without worry!
    Get the recipe.
  3. Avocado
    A quick few minutes on the grill, a little lime juice, salt & pepper creates individual guac bowls you can eat right out of the skin! Spice it up if you want with cayenne, paprika or hot sauce. No need for a huge bowl of guac to sit outside and brown in the heat when you can have a fresh, simple solution. (Also, yahoo for portion control!) Serve with tortilla chips and veggies of your choice.
    Get the recipe.
  4. Stone Fruit
    Warm dessert with no oven action? We’re in! There’s nothing like winding down a summer night with seasonal fruit, a scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream (or whatever flavor you like!) and a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy the glory of peaches, plums and nectarines while they’re here!
    Get the recipe.
  5. Grilled Pound Cake
    If you have a cake-loving crowd (the best kind of crowd!) why not throw an already made cake onto the grill? This is basically impossible to mess up because most of the work is done! If you don’t have peaches, try another stone fruit or serve with any fresh berries you have on hand!
    Get the recipe.

 

Basics, Box 1, Cooking, Essentials, Food, Kitchen, recipes, Uncategorized

It’s Time! Tomato Recipes for Summer

They’re here! It’s July and we’re talking tomatoes. If you can resist eating all your ripe tomatoes with just a little salt & pepper, here are our favorite summer tomato recipes.

Grab your serrated knife and cutting board for the easiest tomato action!

  1. Tomato Peach Salad with Basil
    With all seasonal ingredients, this tasty summer treat is a show-stopping salad.
    Tip: Add burrata or mozzarella for a more substantial dish.
  2. Easy Vegan Bruschetta
    A simple go-to snack or appetizer. Kids like it too!
    Tip: Don’t have basil? Use up any fresh herbs you have on hand! Set aside a few plain ones for the kids.

  3. Tomato Margarita with Fennel Salt (or just regular salt!)
    Try this summer sipper in the backyard or on the porch. You’re welcome.
    Tip: Not feeling the fennel? Plain salt will do! Still feeling a bit fancy? Try a mix of Old Bay and salt on the rim!
  4. Easy Gazpacho
    Tip: Use your garlic tools & oil pourer from Box 1 to make this recipe even easier. This is a fun, customizable recipe, so don’t stress!
  5. Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce
    Tip: You can make this in advance and leave it either chilled or at room temp for later! It actually tastes better the longer it sits.

Continue reading “It’s Time! Tomato Recipes for Summer”

Essentials

What Kind of Oil Should I Cook With?

Since you have hopefully gotten acquainted with your new Garlic and Onion tools, I hope you didn’t think I would leave you hanging with the last item two items in your first months box. 

Let me introduce you to your Olive Oil bottle and Pourer Top. Whether you are cooking everyday or on occasion I can guarantee you will reach for this bottle EVERY time. The bottle is the perfect size; it’s large enough to hold a substantial amount of oil (whichever kind you prefer, and if you’re confused about which type to use – we’ll talk it out later) yet not super tall that it can easily fit on most counters or in most cabinets. And then there is the top…the top may be my favorite part. Have you ever tried to pour oil from a large container you buy from the store? You end up either spilling it all over the counter or end up with a pool of oil that not even a loaf of bread could sop up. But when you add the top to your bottle, you will get an even, controlled flow of golden oil.

There are some other factors that come into keeping this liquid gold as protected as possible. You always want to keep oil away from heat, light and air. Make sure your oil is not sitting close to a major heat source, such as your stove and oven (which is something that I recently learned..oops, we all have to start somewhere right?). Always store Olive Oil in a bottle with a cap or seal (TA DA), air exposure can affect the taste. The hinge pourer makes it easy to quickly pour your oil while cooking, but doesn’t affect the oxidation while storing. OK, now it’s time to cook.

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to oils and at a top level can be really overwhelming. I know when I first started cooking, I would stand in front of the shelves in the store and have no idea which type to buy. Most times I ended up buying whatever bottle looked nicest but wasn’t super expensive or what I recognized my mom had used. To be fair, there is nothing wrong with this technique, going with what you know is a safe choice. But as I started cooking more and did more research, I learned that the type of oil you choose makes a difference.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, anyone?) – EVOO is probably the most widely-used cooking oil and has the highest quality. It is an unrefined oil (meaning not processed) and noticed by its greenish gold hue with a peppery taste. It is a bit more expense than other oils since it is made from the first cold press of olives. EVOO is ideal for dipping, drizzling, salad dressings or really any dish that won’t be heated as it will compromise the flavor.

Virgin Olive Oil – Just like EVOO, Virgin Oil is also made by first press, but has a slightly higher acidity level with the same good taste as EVOO. A lighter golden color with a slightly less “Olive” flavor, making it less in quality. Virgin Oil can can be used the same way as EVOO but because it has a lower smoking point it can be your go too with cooking with heat. Think sautéd veggies, searing meats, even in baking. 

Canola Oil – with a high smoking point of 400 degrees (meaning it can withstand a higher heat), Canola Oil is ideal for frying. But Contrary to popular belief, Canola Oil isn’t as bad as it seems.  It is low in saturated fats and due to its neutral flavor, Canola oil will leave you with a golden brown, crispy coating to your fried Mozzerella Stick Onion Rings (Thank you Tasty!)  

Coconut Oil – What can’t you do with it? By now we know that the  uses and benefits of Coconut oil are extensive, if you don’t I recommend you check it out. With a lower smoking point, Coconut Oil can be used in place of butter in any recipe. We recommend keeping it use to sautéd Veggies or when baking (plus it adds a great flavor).

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Rule of thumb – as long as your recipe is not calling for a ridiculous high heat (400 or higher) – in most cases you will be fine cooking with EVOO or Virgin Oil, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep vegetable or canola oil on hand (especially if you like to bake). You would be surprised how many other oils are out there. If you are interested in cooking with another healthy oil option check out this article.

On that note, go to the grocery store, pick out a new kind of oil, pair it with a nice crusty loaf of bread (maybe even a glass of wine?) and do a taste test for yourself. The more you taste and cook with oils, the more you will be able to gauge the differences and get a feel for which type will work for your recipe. It’s good for us…tastes delicious…makes other food taste better. Honestly, could it get any better than that?

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