Archive for the ‘food tips’ Category

Happy National Cheese Lovers Day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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What, you didn’t know?

There’s a day, week or month to celebrate just about anything these days, and cheese gets it spotlight today. Personally, I feel like cheese deserves MUCH MORE than a mere 24 hours, but I’ll do my best to honor it in this short time we have today.

And in honor of the occasion, I’ll also share these tips from food app SideChef on how to style your own cheese board like a pro. A good cheese board, they say, should consist of three to five different styles of cheeses, plus an assortment of accompaniments that provide a variety of flavors and textures – so no two bites are the same.

When it comes to the cheese itself …

  • Cheese is made of three types of milk: goat, sheep and cow.
  • There are five different textures of cheese: hard, semi-hard, soft, semi-soft and blue.
  • There are two essential types of tastes: mellow that includes citrusy, fruity and herbal tastes; and intense that includes bitter, smoky and sharp ones.
  • For your display, choose cheeses with different textures and flavors (varying from mild to strong) and at least one cheese from each animal.

And about those accompaniments …

  • Cheese needs sidekicks that make it shine, so choose yours carefully.
  • Breads and crackers provide a base for the cheese, but stick to simple or complimentary flavors that don’t overpower your cheeses.
  • Fresh and dried fruits or fruit spreads compliment intense cheeses.
  • Brined vegetables such as olives or peppers provide a salty contrast.
  • Nuts offer a crunchy, nutty flavor.

And if National Cheese Lovers Day snuck up on you, consider this fair warning for the days ahead – Jan. 22 is National Hot Sauce Day and Jan. 25 is National Irish Coffee Day!

Oh, Deer! What To Do With All That Venison?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
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With another deer-hunting season wrapping up, many of you may find your freezers full of rich venison meat waiting to be put to good use.

Well look no further!

Today’s Charleston Daily Mail offers a variety of suggestions to inspire you, including ideas from some from the area’s finest restaurants. (You can check them out here: And here’s another idea from my own experience …

My mother-in-law has served venison for big family dinners twice in the past week – and the results have been phenomenal. Born and raised in Austria, Louise Wiseman knows her way around the kitchen, and is especially skilled at baking world-class desserts and preparing flavorful, fork-tender meat.

This week’s venison was no exception.

Although she’s hesitant to reveal her precise recipe, I can tell you she braised it in a flavorful broth seasoned with mushrooms and onions until a fork pierced it as if it were soft butter. (You can make your own braising liquid, or use any combination of prepared broths/soups to create the taste you want.)

Pair this awesome venison with some roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a hearty red wine for one heckuva meal!

Vote Now for the Best Fish Sandwich in Town!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
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Hey Charleston peeps …

Lent season is upon us and we’re looking for the best fish sandwiches in town!

Does your local hangout do it better than the rest? And if so, what makes it so — the fish itself, the bun, the sauce? Inquiring minds want to know.

Vote here for your favorite place for fish: Then follow the Charleston Daily Mail and this Food Guy blog for all of the tasty results.

The 3 S’s of Fall — Soups, Stews and Side Dishes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
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When temps start to fall, my taste buds turn to the three S’s of fall – soups, stews and sides.

A creamy potato soup. A chunky beef stew. A filling side dish. The heartier the better!

And soups, especially, are so easy to make at home.

“People are often intimidated when it comes to making tasty soups, but it’s not nearly as challenging as it may seem,” says Ryan Fichter, Executive Chef of Thunder Burger. “Great tasting soups are within reach for everyone to make.”

Here are his 5 tips for making it happen:

  1. STOCK UP. The soup base, or stock, is a big part of the equation. Good tasting stock makes good tasting soup. Homemade is best, but if that’s not an option choose a store-bought kind low in sodium.
  2. MIND THE MACARONI. If you are going to have pasta in your soup, be sure to cook it before adding it in. Many people skip this step, and it can throw off their whole recipe.
  3. FRESH IS BEST. When it comes to any of the ingredients going into your soup, fresh is the best option. If that’s not an option, go for frozen over canned.
  4. USE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT. Using the right kitchen tools is important. Some people prefer to use a slow cooker, which is fine. If you will be using a pot, choose one that is large and heavy. Also, an immersion blender makes easy work of creaming/pureeing soups.
  5. THE FINISHING TOUCH. Enhance the soup’s presentation by using a garnish. Also, most people prefer to have something with their soup, so choose the right addition, such as crackers, biscuits, muffins, bread or breadsticks.

“One of the great things about soup is that it is so versatile,” Fichter adds. “Soup can be a great appetizer, side dish or even a main course. Leftovers also heat up well for lunch the next day.”

Here here, I say.

And here here is his recipe for a simple Creamy Potato Soup. You can bulk it up with veggies or top it off with fresh herbs or crumbled bacon.


Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 ½ pounds of Idaho potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 ½ cups heavy cream

1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.

2. Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, allspice, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. With an immersion blender puree soup in blender until smooth.

4. Add cream and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead).

Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Ice, Ice, Baby! Chill Out with these Clever Cubes

Friday, August 24, 2012
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I was recently enjoying a couple glasses of wine one night and – in an EXTREMELY rare occurrence – had a few sips left that I didn’t feel like finishing. (Still can’t figure that one out!)

Not enough to save, too much to toss. So I poured it in a small plastic container and popped it in the freezer. A few days later I was making a pan sauce for a beef dish and needed a little something to punch up up.

The wine!

So I dropped my little red wine ice cube into that pan and whisked it in as the sauce reduced. Fantastic.

Then a few days later I see this article in Taste of Home magazine touting “Clever Cubes.”

“Don’t ditch those last dabs and dribbles,” it said. “They’re culinary gold after a spell in the deep freeze.”

Among items the magazine suggested freezing in an ice cube tray to work into recipes later …

  • Chopped onions frozen in water can be quickly thawed to stir into soups, sauces and more.
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
  • Yogurt, which can be added to smoothies to thicken and chill.
  • Lemon and lime juice.
  • Tomato paste for savory sauces.
  • Pesto or any other chopped fresh herbs.
  • Chicken broth for sauces, rice dishes and more.
  • Coffee, to add a kick to desserts and gravies.
  • Tomato juice – to chill your Bloody Mary!
  • And, wait for it, wine!

Everything Tastes Better with (Flavored) Butter

Saturday, April 21, 2012
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I was recently flipping through one of the countless food magazines that proliferate around the house when I came across a gorgeous recipe and photo for Tilapia with Garlic-Lime Butter.

I do like tilapia, but it was the glistening butter that caught my eye.

Everything tastes better with butter, even more so when you sauté, drizzle or whisk in a nice flavored butter.

They’re so easy to make, too. Just soften butter and mix in your chosen ingredients, then let it harden back up in the fridge or use as-is. You can also simmer butter with add-ins to create a nice sauce.

No doubt it was the garlic and lime that really made that recipe sing, so here are a few other combos for flavored-butter inspiration:

  • Parsley-Shallot Butter
  • Smoky Paprika Butter
  • Toasted Almond-Cardamom Butter
  • Bacon Bourbon Butter
  • Chipotle-Lime
  • Porcini-Red Wine
  • Tumeric-Mustard Seed
  • Nori-Sesame

On Braising Meats and “Sensory” Wine Tasting

Saturday, March 10, 2012
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After an expansive buffet of hearty breakfast options, fruit and pastries (yum!) and a “Make Your Own Bloody Mary” bar (ingenious!) I enjoyed two great demonstrations at the West Virginia Culinary Classic at Stonewall Resort.

Problem was, there were four sessions to choose from and I wanted to sit in on all!

I opted to bypass “Cooking with Fresh Ingredients,” which I already buy into, and “Sous Vide Home-Style Cooking,” pressurized cooking with liquids, which sounded fascinating. But I had two other callings …

“Braising Meats” and “Wine Sensory Tasting.”

Although I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on both topics, I still thought they were among the best all-around sessions I’ve seen on either subject in years. Both gave basic 101 tips for beginners (and good reminders for more experienced cooks) but also dove into more interesting tips, methods, insight and more.

Be sure to check out my column in Wednesday’s Charleston Daily Mail or on for the great tips I picked up from both sections – and for a complete roundup of another awesome Culinary Classic!

Live Online Chat: Eating Right in the New Year

Sunday, January 1, 2012
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Happy New Year, fellow foodies!

And now that 2012 is here, it’s time to get serious (and resolve yet again) to eat better food — not only to look and feel great, but to be healthier too.

Join me and local dietitian Amy Gannon for a live online chat this Monday, Jan. 2, on how to eat right in the new year. We’ll offer tips to help make the transition to a heathier diet easier, plus take your questions too.

We’ll kick things off at 3 p.m. Monday. Just click here to join the chat!

When it Comes to Nutrition, Every Little Step Counts

Saturday, December 3, 2011
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As the weather starts to turn colder, my thoughts (and cravings) definitely veer off the old healthy-eating path, trying to pull me to the Land of Comfort Food.

But as much as I love me some good chicken ‘n’ dumplins’ and velvety (not Velveeta) mac ‘n’ cheese, I don’t like care for the doughy deposits they leave around my mid-section.

So is there a way to indulge without all of the caloric consequences?

Sure there is. Just think of small changes you can make to some of your favorite comfort foods. Substitutions like …

  • Pizza: Instead of having 3-4 pieces of pizza, enjoy a slice (maybe 2) and a side salad instead. Or go veggie, substituting healthier toppings for grease-laden meats and multiple cheeses. Better still, make it on a whole wheat crust.
  • Spaghetti: Enjoy a reasonable portion (not the plate tipping mound you crave) but top it with plenty of tomato-based sauce. I also occasionally slip veggies in the sauce for extra nutrition. The response is usually favorable, if they even notice the veggies at all. Bonus!
  • Hamburgers: Lessen the nutritional ramifications of America’s favorite sandwich by using a higher-quality lean beef, or substituting lean chicken, turkey or even a veggie patty. Stack with veggies, too, and go easy on the bacon and cheese. Instead of fries, add a veggie side.
  • Macaroni & Cheese: Mix in vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, peas or carrots and try a lighter cheese sauce (made with milk, not cream) and don’t drown the noodles in so much of it. Also try to serve mac ‘n’ cheese as a side dish, not the main dish, to keep portion size under control.

I know I’ve said it before, but little things make a difference.

I used to make fun of someone for drinking diet soda as they inhaled a sugary dessert.

“Hey, it’s better than having dessert with a regular soda.”

True that.

Water instead of soda, skim instead of whole, baked instead of fried, whole grain instead of bleached white flour …

Every little thing helps.

Pumpkin-Palooza Underway – Get a New Recipe Every Day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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Today kicks off a “Pumpkin-Palooza” blogfest, during which I’ll share a new pumpkin recipe every day from now until Halloween.

I have lots of cool things in store for ya’ (pumpkin cannoli, pumpkin-chorizo pizza, even fresh pumpkin cocktails!) but today kicks off with a more traditional pumpkin soup. Spiked with ginger and cinnamon, this creamy soup is bursting with fall flavors — perfect for a crisp autumn evening.  

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans chicken broth
15 ozs. pumpkin
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream
dash of paprika 

  1. Boil pumpkin in water until tender.  Strain, cool and puree pumpkin with an immersion blender.
  2. Sauté onion in butter in a medium saucepan until tender. Add 1 can chicken broth, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for  15 minutes. Blend mixture until smooth with an immersion blender.
  3. Return mixture to saucepan. Add remaining can of broth, pumpkin, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger and ground pepper; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in whipping cream and heat through. Do not boil. Sprinkle paprika on top and serve

Recipe courtesy of Krups.