Monthly Archives: March 2011

10 Cooking Secrets from our Chefs

We’re often asked if we have any insider secrets from our chefs. Greg says, “Many of the recipes we have are from current recipes we have in our collections. Since both Michelle and I come from the food business we have many years of recipes in each of our collections.”

Here are 10 cooking secrets are chefs are willing to part with.

  1. Assemble all your ingredients and tools in one place before you start cooking. An organized kitchen is a good kitchen. This guy might be a little too organized:
  2. Want to remove fat from your gravy? Use a fat separator. They’re pretty inexpensive at a kitchen supply store. It’s basically a pitcher, but the spout starts at the bottom. So you let the liquid from your roast or turkey site in the separator until you see the layer of fat on the top. Pour slowly and carefully into your pan until you reach that line of fat, and discard the fat. Simple! That’s why we only have six grams of fat in our sliced turkey with gravy!
  3. Do you need to cut meat very thinly for a recipe? Firm it up in the freezer first. When it feels solid but not frozen, take it out and you’ll be able to shave it paper-thin with a sharp knife. Be careful!
  4. Rest your meat before cutting. If you cut into a steak or chop fresh off the stove or barbecue, you’ll see juices run out. If you let it rest in a warm place covered in foil, those juices will re-absorb into the meat, making for a juicier product.  Please remember to do this for our Filet Mignon!
  5. For flaky biscuits and pie crusts, you need cold ingredients. Our pastry chefs will go to the lengths of freezing the flour and chopped butter, and if the kitchen is very warm, they will pause while rolling the dough to chill it in the fridge. Keep your hands cold too, by pouring icy water over them then drying well. And of course handle the dough as little as possible. Our pies are legendary for a reason!
  6. Safety first! A good knife is essential in the kitchen, but take the precaution of placing a damp kitchen towel under your cutting board to keep it from sliding.
  7. Save your veggies. If your carrots and celery are looking limp and unattractive, drop them into ice water for a few minutes before chopping and cooking. They’ll freshen right up.
  8. Pat your meat dry before cooking. That will allow you to get a nice sear (and keep the meat  from steaming).
  9. Don’t crowd the pan. Even if you have to cook in batches, keep everything in one layer with a little room around each piece. You’ll get better flavor that way.
  10. When boiling eggs, add a small splash of white vinegar to the water. It will make shelling the eggs much easier. When cooked, run the eggs under cold water before shelling.

 

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger (with the help of our chefs)

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Let’s Turn up the Heat – Scoville Scale

Some  like it hot!  Our frozen meals are kept mild so that everyone is satisfied with the heat level, but if you know what the Scoville scale is, you’re probably a heat lover. The Scoville scale is a measure of the spicy heat of a pepper. Mexican Spanish differentiates between the heat of a pepper (picante) and the heat of the day (calor), as well as the heat of something you’re touching (caliente). Picante is what we’re looking for here.

Using the Scoville scale, the number of Scoville heat units indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is the substance that makes peppers hot. It’s used in topical creams and ointments as well, as a pain reliever.

Personally, I like a dish to have some spiciness, but I don’t like the heat to overwhelm my palate so that I can’t taste anything. There are some subtle but flavorful hot sauces available, and they are great for spicing up dishes like our Shrimp Burrito or Portabella/Shiitake Mushroom Ravioli. In fact, if you like heat, any of our tomato-based sauces won’t be hurt by the addition of a splash or two of hot sauce.

Shrimp Burrito
Shrimp Burrito

Here are some of my favorites, you can find any of them online if you can’t find them at your local grocery store:

Castillo Amor Picante Hot Sauce – hot on its own, but if you splash this over potatoes, some kind of magic happens and it just becomes a mouthful of flavor with a little heat. Try it over Potato Pancakes or splash it on Scalloped Potatoes.

Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped Potatoes – Great with Amor Sauce

Yucatan Sunshine Habanero Hot Sauce- OK, it sounds way too hot, and the word habeñero usually scares me away (100,000–350,000 on Scoville scale. To give some perspective, a jalapeno is 2,500-5,000 Scoville units). But check out the ingredients: Red Habanero peppers, carrots, onions, vinegar, garlic and salt. It’s cooked with other vegetables that give it a mellow, smooth flavor under the heat. This one is especially good on anything with a tomato Sauce.

Louisiana Hot Sauce – This old favorite has been mass-produced for years. Made from plain old cayenne peppers, it’s good splashed on anything from burgers to fries to hot dogs to our Stuffed Baked Potato.

Melinda’s Original Habenero Mango Sauce – Slightly sweet, slightly hot, this would be good on any of our dishes, including, are you ready? Our panna cotta! Oh, yes, sweet and creamy and cold and spicy..oh man that’s good!

Enjoy the food, spicy or not! Bon Appetit!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

 

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Senior Meal Plans

That is such a great video. This senior lady should be a comedienne, her timing is great. And it segues neatly into my topic for the day, senior meal plans. My neighbor was a senior who just didn’t want to make meals anymore. She didn’t like cooking, she hated doing the dishes, and she wasn’t all that interested in food at all. She was losing weight.  Her son started bringing her meals. and she picked up weight. She has since passed away, but it made me realize what a problem this is across the country.

There are a lot of meal delivery services, meals on wheels among the first people think of. But if you have a relative or friend who needs good meals, I can seriously recommend MagicKitchen.com’s senior meal plans. The staff does a pretty amazing job of personalizing each meal plan. They talk to the person who will be receiving the meals, and first they send out an order with a variety of meals to see if the person will like it.

Then, if the senior like the meals, the senior meal plan goes into effect. Our staff keeps a file on what the person likes, doesn’t like, and can’t eat. They enter a new order of food every week or two, based on the person’s preferences. We get lots of people who call and say,” I wasn’t crazy about that particular dish, don’t send that again”, or, “I could eat that chicken pot pie every day, send one with each order!”.

What happens, you might ask, if the senior goes on a holiday or maybe has been out to dinner a few times and needs the meals put on hold for a week or more? No problem. They call in and that’s it.

Another great part of this senior meal plan system is there’s no sign-up, no minimum orders, nothing like that. Greg says, “It is the most flexible meal delivery program available, and we just don’t believe in signing customers up with contracts.  Our food is good enough to keep you coming back without having you sign a long term contract!”

So that’s it, that’s the run-down on our meal plans. I wanted to blog about it because I think it’s unique in the meal delivery universe. And I’m proud of that. Way to go, us!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Diabetes Emergency Planning

All the natural disasters this past year have made us think – are we prepared? And many Americans have stocked up on drinking water, canned and dried food, first aid kits, and water purification tablets.

But do you have an emergency kit for your diabetes? Here are ten things you should have on hand for an emergency:

1.   All your medications- Keep a week’s worth of your medications in an emergency kit. Keep a calendar reminder to replace them before they expire.

2.   A Glucose testing kit– Everything you need to test your glucose for a week; testing meter, strips, a small log book, alcohol wipes, lancets and include a small plastic bottle to dispose of your lancets.

3.   Insulin– As insulin is sensitive to heat, the best idea is to keep it in a room-temperature area where you can quickly grab it and toss it into your emergency kit.

4.   Glucose tablets or gel– It’s always a good idea to have a quick and easy source of glucose in an emergency.

5.   Food– Read and make a copy of the DaVita.com article “Emergency preparedness for people with kidney disease.” This article includes a three-day emergency menu that may only need minor modifications depending on your blood sugars.

6.   Low sugar drinks– If your blood sugar is too high, avoid making it higher by drinking a sugar-free drink.

7.   Water–Important in any emergency kit, it is vital in this one. Remember to keep your water intake to 16 ounces a day. Chew sugar-free gum to help with thirst.

8.   Extra batteries– for flashlights and your glucometer.

9.   Hand Sanitizer– for cleaning up before testing

10.   Comfortable socks and shoes, and light gloves– Avoid injuries, and if you do get a wound, treat it at once and pad it well.

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Treat your Mother right on Mother’s Day

If you’re not able to visit your mother on this upcoming Mother’s Day,  the next best thing is a package of  HomeStyle meals. One thing you know is what your parents like to eat. I remember my father would order the same thing every time he went to a restaurant. My mother wasn’t much different, for her it was always a shrimp or prawn dish.

Mom would have loved the Shrimp Fettucini Alfredo, and Dad, a meat-eater, would have gone nuts for the Osso Buco with Magic Mashed Potatoes.

What do your parents like to eat best? Do you have any stories about visits to restaurants when you were kids? I remember our big night out for birthdays was a Hawaiian restaurant where the high ceiling was painted dark blue and hung with small lights to resemble stars. You crossed a small stream over a picturesque bridge to enter the restaurant. It was the height of luxury to my 15-year-old self!

Another favorite was an authentic Italian restaurant where the meals were served with real Parmigiano Reggiano, a first for us at the time. If your mother loves Italian food, but can’t get out to enjoy it, you can make her day by bringing over our Italian Lover’s package and making it for her. It can be a mother-and-children feast she will remember for years.

Enjoy your mothers this year, and send your stories if you have them!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger.

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Ten Typical Misconceptions About Diabetes

This week we have a guest blog from Dorothy Kato.

Below are 10 of the most popular beliefs and facts that you need to know.

Misconception 1: Overeating Sugar Causes Diabetes.

What makes diabetes happen? The reasons usually are not totally understood. What’s known is that simply overeating sugar is not likely to cause diabetes. Instead, diabetes begins when something disrupts your own body’s capacity to turn foods into energy.

To be aware of what goes on if you have diabetes, keep these things in your mind: The body stops working a lot of foods into glucose, a sort of sugar necessary to power your cells. A hormone called insulin is created inside pancreas. Insulin helps cells in your body use glucose for fuel.

Listed below are the commonest kinds of diabetes and what researchers know about:

* Type 1 diabetes happens when the pancreas cannot make insulin.
* Diabetes type 2 takes place when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, the insulin can not work properly, or both.
* Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnancy in certain women.

Misconception 2: You will find A lot of Rules inside a Diabetes Diet.

For those who have diabetes, you will have to plan meals. However the general principal is easy: Following a “diabetes diet” means choosing food that may work together with your activities and any medications to help keep your blood sugar as near to normalcy as you can.

Misconception 3: Carbohydrates Can be harmful for Diabetes

Actually, carbohydrates are great for diabetes. They make up the foundation of a proper diabetes diet.

Carbohydrates possess the greatest influence on blood sugar, which is the reason you are required to observe the number of carbohydrates you consume when following a diabetes diet.

Misconception 4: Protein is superior to Carbohydrates for Diabetes.

The major problem is many foods abundant in protein, for instance meat, can also be filled up with fats. Overeating those fats increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Inside a diabetes diet, protein should account for about 15% to 20% of the total calories you consume daily.

Misconception 5: You’ll be able to Adjust Your Diabetes Drugs to “Cover” Anything you Eat.

If you are using insulin for your diabetes, you could possibly learn to adjust the quantity and type you take to check the quantity of what you eat. But it doesn’t mean you can eat just as much as you would like, then just use more drugs to stabilize your blood glucose level.

Misconception 6: You will have to Stop trying Your preferred Foods.

There isn’t a reason to discontinue your selected foods on the diabetes diet.

Misconception 7: You must Quit Desserts when you have Diabetes.

Not the case! It is possible to develop many techniques for including desserts in the diabetes diet. For example:

* Use sugar substitutes in desserts.
* Minimize the quantity of dessert. As an example, as an alternative to two scoops of frozen treats, have one. Or share a dessert with a friend.

Misconception 8: Sugar substitutes Are Dangerous if you have Diabetes.

Low calorie sweeteners tend to be sweeter compared to the equivalent level of sugar, therefore it takes a reduced amount of them to obtain the same sweetness present in sugar. This will lead to eating fewer calories than when you use sugar.

Misconception 9: You should Eat Special Diabetic Meals.

The main difference from a diabetes diet along with your family’s “normal” weight loss program is this: When you have diabetes, you should monitor whatever you eat a little more closely. This consists of the quantity of calories you eat and the amounts and kinds of carbohydrates, fats, and protein you consume.

Misconception 10: Diet Foods Are the most useful Selections for Diabetes.

Just because a meal is called a “diet” food does not always mean it is just a better option for those who have diabetes. In reality, “diet” foods could be expensive and no healthier than foods found in the “regular” areas of the supermarket, or foods you prepare yourself.

And You? Still looking over this article? Move out and enjoy your diet plan!

The author: Dorothy Kato contributes articles for the menus for diabetics site, her personal hobby blog that shares ideas to help visitors to prevent/manage diabetes and help spread the comprehension on healthy eating.

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Meals for Singles

Some life situations point out how handy it is for people to have access to good, healthy meals for singles.

So many situations call for them:

  • One person of a couple is called away on an emergency, and the other isn’t handy in the kitchen
  • you live alone and get tired of cooking for one
  • you’re on a business trip by yourself and get tired of restaurants
  • you’re a senior living alone
  • you lead a hectic life and don’t want to eat fast food anymore
  • you’re a student!

Since we don’t have dabawallahs (see video) you’ll have to do the next best thing and order singles meals from MagicKitchen.com!

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