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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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!

recipes

Best Healthy Pancake Recipe

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Since social media and recipe round-ups have been primarily geared towards mom’s sending kids back to school; and although I am neither a mom nor going back to school (did anyone else feel like they were the only ones with an actual year round job after seeing practically every female in their life stress about going back to work after the summer? Hi Mom!) So out of fear of not being relevant, I figured, if you can’t beat em, join em. Amiright.

One of my go-to back to basics is making a batch of healthy- filling Pancakes for the week. I will cook em up on Sunday and pack them up for quick on the go breakfast and snacks. On days that I want to get my carbs in early in the day, this is a perfect breakfast along with some fresh berries. They are also ideal for before or after working out, I like to add crunchy peanut butter, I find it to be very satisfying.

Pancakes have come a LONG way from Aunt Jemima mixes. A quick Pinterest search will leave you wanting breakfast for dinner every night. I guarantee you there is a recipe for every craving. From 3 ingredients to bacon covered to red velvet flavored. Although you might have a serious stomach ache and a potential sugar addiction after indulging in some of these. And if you are not in the mixing-it-yourself mood, you can still rely on the old school package or brands like Kodiak Cakes (which I keep on hand for emergencies only if I need a quick fix), but make sure to look at the nutritional information; most of these mixes have ingredients that are near impossible to pronounce, and if you’ve never heard of one, then its probably best not to put it into your body.

The same goes for syrup. And don’t be fooled, Pancake syrup is not the same as Maple syrup. Here’s a great article on the differences. In short, Pancake syrup is full of processed ingredients and everyone’s worst enemy…ta da, high-fructose corn syrup. While Maple syrup is sap boiled down, bringing out the concentrated sugar giving it the distinct color and maple flavor. And just because you use Maple syrup, doesn’t make it the healthier choice BTW. Although Maple syrup is made from a natural source, a single serving contains more sugar than a can of Coke (talk about a sweet tooth). But lets not kid ourselves, what is a stack of pancakes with syrup. But do yourself a favor, next time you’re in the market for syrup, try a Grade A (lighter maple flavor and color) or Grade B (deeper in color and maple flavor) maple syrup and see which one you like better. Hopefully you will instantly see the difference from Pancake syrup. Also, check out this in depth taste test of the grades of Maple syrup.

Now back to the recipe…growing up, my family would visit the Jersey Shore during the summer, and stay with my Great Aunt and Uncle. My Aunt is one of my cooking inspirations (along with my mother and grandmother), because she has a way of making even the pickiest of eaters go back for a second helping of Cauliflower (what kid honestly likes Cauliflower?). But one of her specialties was Pancakes all due to a special un-assuming ingredient…Orange Juice. You would drink a glass of OJ while eating Pancakes, so why not add it to the batter? So, don’t knock it until you try it because it adds a subtle light and sweet flavor that goes so well with the rich caramel maple syrup flavor. As I began my search of a go-to pancake recipe, I combined a take of an old family recipe with a healthier “clean” version.

1 1/2 cups of quick oats or oat flour
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional)
1 ripe mashed banana
1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup almond or skim milk
1/4 cup orange juice
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
dash of cinnamon
mixed berries
walnuts

In a blender, combine oats, protein powder, banana, yogurt, milk, OJ, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Blend until a smooth batter has formed (add a splash of OJ or Milk if looks dry). Cook on griddle until golden brown. Top with berries, walnuts or syrup as desired.

Check out some of my favorite Pancake recipes:

 

 

 


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recipes

Favorite Roasted Chicken

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When I tell you that the smell of this roasted chicken cooking is irresistible might be an understatement. And when I tell you it tastes just as amazing, you might not believe me, so you’ll just have to try it out and see for yourself.

Roasted Chicken. Is there any other dish as simple? or as comforting or as easy? In my opinion there is not. When we talked about back to basics THIS is what I am talking about. Roasted Chicken is one of those recipes that you can resort back to. A dish that requires 5 ingredients,  little effort and time and will leave you with for leftovers. I know, leftovers aren’t everyone’s favorite but the beauty of roasted chicken is how versatile it’s leftovers can be. Salad Topping, Quesadilla, Chicken Salad, tacos, pot pie, noodle soup, sandwiches and wraps…I think you get the point, the there are plenty of possibilities. Here’s how you do it…

What you need

1 Whole Roaster Chicken (2-4 lbs should be more than enough for dinner and few additional meals)
1 teaspoons Rosemary (optional)
1 teaspoons Thyme (optional)
1 teaspoons kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoons ground Pepper
2-3 cloves of Garlic 
(depending on your preference)
1 Lemon, cut in half
Olive Oil

Notes I prefer Bell & Evan’s organic Chicken, but choose whatever brand is available to you and affordable.
**The beauty of roasted Chicken is you can use whatever spices you prefer, my go-to’s are  Salt, Pepper, Rosemary & Thyme. You can use fresh or dried, or both, use whatever you have on hand.

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Remove the giblets (I know..but it only takes 2 seconds and really is not that bad)
  3. On a cutting board, rub chicken with Olive Oil, making sure to liberally cover the entire bird (don’t forget the drumsticks and wings). Doing this will ensure a crispy golden skin.
  4. Season with Salt, Pepper, Rosemary and Thyme. Don’t be afraid to be generous here, you want to make sure it is evenly distributed all over, this gives FLAVOR.
  5. Place Lemon and Garlic inside the Chicken cavity. By adding lemon, we are adding extra flavor but also making sure it doesn’t become dried.
  6. Transfer Chicken breast side down into a pan or casserole dish (something with a lip so you don’t lose juice.)
  7. Place into oven.
  8. Cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
  9. After 15 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees and set your time for 50 minutes. (You can relax and troll Insta during this time)
  10. To tell if your Chicken is done place a meat thermometer* in to the thickest part of the thigh, it should read 165 degrees. If the drumsticks and wings look loose and juices run clear, your good to go.
  11. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
  12. To carve: Using a sharp knife* remove the legs and drumsticks and place aside, followed by the breast and thighs. (Still sounds confusing? Use these directions to help. All it takes is a little practice)

*Knifes – Plain and simple, sharp knifes make cooking easier. A dull knife can slow you down and is also dangerous. Having a sharp knife will allow you to make clean cuts through meat without having to saw. Gives you concise motion as you chop fresh herb and vegetables keeping them fresher longer. It doesn’t take long to get like new quality of your knives with the help of a handheld knife sharper (which are easy to use and perfect size BTW).

*Meat Thermometer – Not too long ago, I would just estimate and use time as a measurement of meat done-ness. Until a friend of mine told me how much of  a lifesaver her meat thermometer was. It only took one use to be instantly hooked and never go looked back. This pencil sized tool is designed specifically to take the guess work out and reads the internal temperature of meat. The recipe you are following will usually tell you what the temperature should read. Otherwise, a simple google search should do the trick. There are plenty of handy charts out there.

Depending on your preference Steak                           temperatures will vary.

Just for QuocoNow customers – When you refer a friend, we’ll give them  $5 off their first box AND we will give you $5 your next box. Its a win-win for everyone! Share the kitchen love today. 

recipes

Back to Basics.

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Have you been into ANY store lately? If you haven’t let me fill you in, Back to School and Halloween…that is what you’re missing. It feels as if  bite sized jumbo packs of candy and school shopping sales come earlier and earlier each year basically putting a timer on the remaining days of summer. But after a season of outdoor eating and BBQ’s there is something refreshing about the idea of the fall, getting back into routine and schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer just as much as the next Basic Gal (does anyone else get a little depressed when you notice your tan fading?). Most use the new year as a clean slate and way to start fresh, but I like to use Labor day for that. It’s the perfect time to get back on track, refine and reset your goals to finish off the year strong.

Let’s get back to the basics.

To me a well thought out and planned meal prep is the perfect example of this concept. The summer is great because it’s filled with BBQ’s, outdoor activities, long days at the beach/lake etc, which sometimes leaves little time or desire to think about what next week’s meals will be. Which is totally fine by the way. Being spontaneous and a bit go-with-the flow is part of what we crave about the summer (It happens to the best of us – I am writing this as I get ready to head out to a afternoon party on the east end of Long Island). But to get back to normalcy and know that your food is already prepped and ready to eat just makes the summertime sadness a little bit easier. It can be overwhelming to think about but let’s break it down.

There are so many good resources to help you come up with your perfect back to basics prep. We live in a world where almost every social media platform throws recipes in our face. On any given day you will find thousands of Instagramers showing off their completed meal preps or on Facebook, Tasty & the Food Network constantly posting easy to recreate video recipes. So as you are scrolling through your newsfeed, save a recipe video that interests you or that looks amazing. It’s okay if you don’t try it right away, but saving it will keep ii in the back of your mind and easier to find later on. Let’s not forget the mother-load of a recipe resource Pinterest, even if you have no idea what you want to make a simple “Lunch Recipe” search will for sure get you started in the right direction. Create boards, whether its one board for all recipes you find or specific categories my meal type or ingredient, keeping yourself organized will get you a head in the meal prep game. 

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For me, I have 4-5 easy, uncomplicated, time saving, nutritious recipes that I like to refer as the ‘basics’. These are the backbone to my meal preps. When I have a really busy weekend and don’t have time to sit down and research creative meals, I will go back to basics (see what I did there?). It gives you the peace of mind of knowing that no matter what is going on in your life, you know you have these recipes to fall back on. You will quickly find that they will become staples in your rotation.

Check out the list of my Go-To basics. All of these recipes can be made at the beginning of the week for lunch and/or dinners.

FitmenCook
Worlds Tastiest Chicken Brown Rice  Broccoli
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Turkey Taco Lunch Bowls
ChickenThigh
Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

 

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Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

 


Just for QuocoNow customers – When you refer a friend, we’ll give them  $5 off their first box AND we will give you $5 your next box. Its a win-win for everyone! Share the kitchen love today.