Cooking · Gourmet · Health · Nutrition · Uncategorized

Superfood Swaps

I love the idea of a superfood. We’re all trying to be healthier and being able to do it by eating this one thing sounds like a really good deal. The problem is these “superfoods” tend to be tropical, expensive and super hard to get out of season. If you’re in a place where they’re native or you can grow them yourself then enjoy your geographic luck! For the rest of us, here’s a couple of swaps.

Avocado

To be fair, I have a bee in my bonnet about avocado because my body does not like it. I can have a very tiny bit but anything more and my digestive system goes to war. Avocados are also expensive, and our modern lust for them has taken a bit of a toll on the environment. Olive oil is a great substitute when you’re looking to add monounsaturated fat to salads or soups. If you’re looking for a hit of potassium, as well as a toast aesthetic think mashed banana. Nut butter also works for a sweet toast or pesto for savoury. You can make pesto yourself with any “cookable” green- I like the classic basil, spinach, or arugula, nuts- which tend to be monounsaturated fat powerhouses, and oil. You can add in garlic, lemon, or parmesan cheese. Just whiz it all in a food processor, or my preferred method of a mortar and pestle and some demons that need smashing out and you’re in budget business.

Goji Berries

I used to work at a tourist attraction that wanted to try to health themselves up so they brought in packs of dried goji berries for staff to try. Sadly they didn’t find them financially viable, but for one blissful summer, they almost completely replaced my candy habit. They’re sadly hard to find and a bit expensive in Ireland, so it’s tough to consider these more than an occasional treat. The best substitution? Literally any berry. Dried cranberries are closest in texture and flavour to a dried goji. As for fresh, I don’t think freezer berries get the credit they deserve. They’re picked at peak freshness so they’ve still got a tonne of nutrients in them. They’re great for baking or cook them into a jam substitute with a splash of water and honey or sugar if you’re feeling cheeky. If you get a deal in the summer freezing them yourself is a great option- just spread the berries out on a cookie sheet and once they’re frozen pop them in a more permanent freezer container.

What other superfoods would you love a swap for?

 

 

Cooking · Gourmet · Online Courses · Uncategorized

Homestyle Pan Sauces On Bluprint

One of the easiest ways to live your best broke fancy life is to learn to cook.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore eating out in moderation. Seriously though, calculate how much you spend on takeout or eating out every week and you’ll probably cover a grocery bill three times over.

Besides being much cheaper it’s also so much healthier to cook for yourself- you control your ingredients and your portion sizes. Also, no one judges you for being a picky eater and making ten thousand substitutions.

So, in that spirit, I figured why not take the opportunity to actually learn to cook? To be fair, I’ve never been a bad cook. I will tackle even the most Julia Child’s-y of Julia Childs and come out with a pretty amazing result, if-I-do-say-so-myself. However, there’s always been this nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe I could do better. Be better. Almost, almost make restaurant quality dishes. So, I decided to sign up for Bluprint (PS: This link and any other link to Bluprint in this post are my refer a friend link, so you get a free month- it extends your free trial- and I get a free month.), a.k.a New Craftsy

This isn’t the first cooking class I’ve taken on Bluprint– it’s not even the first with Martha Holmberg. So, let’s get on with this examination of Homestyle Pan Sauces.

The Instructor

I’m a firm believer that an instructor makes a course. Not just online, but literally anywhere. Martha feels like a more approachable version of another Martha we’ve heard of. She starts the course by listing off her credentials which include cooking in freaking PARIS, but she does it in such a low-key approachable way that doesn’t sound one bit braggy. I also love how her focus is on being a “lazy cook”. She teaches how to think for yourself, make substitutions and eyeball things in a way that makes you confident going off on your own. Honestly, a big part of the reason I chose this class is because of Martha. By the way, Martha if you’re reading this then first off, oh. my. god. and secondly, I hope it’s cool that I feel like we’re on a first name basis.

The Dishes

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

I don’t know if I was actually supposed to make this one, or if it was just her demonstrating a point, but I made it. I had never in my life thought to reduce balsamic as more than a drizzle and it was mind-blowing. I served it up with sauteed chicken breast and mashed rutabaga. The super sweet rutabaga was amazing with the reduced vinegar.

Aromatic Sauce

Again, I think this one was just demonstration purposes but I made this bells and whistles extravaganza with pork chops and served it with roasted rutabaga, caramelized onion, and apple. It was amazing. I had never thought to sub creme fraiche for cream and now I’m just like, why have I never done this? The thing that really comes through in the first two lessons is how Martha explains things in such an easy, casual way. She instructs us not to cook like her husband and to err on the side of more is more for fresh herbs. It’s a bit like having your Mom’s best friend teach you. She made this million step recipe seem really effortless and intuitive.

IMG_20190312_172247567
We’re Italian and eat salad as a last course so please don’t worry about our vegetable intake.

Lemon and Caper Sauce

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Meyer lemon in a small town in Ireland in the middle of winter- weird, right? So I made this one with normal lemon. It reminded me a lot of a piccata, but the dill added a good twist. I subbed in dried dill because that’s what I had, but I’m definitely making this again in the summer with some fresh stuff and hopefully a Meyer lemon. All up though, this was a quality sauce.

Pomegranate-Thyme Sauce

I was sceptical about this one. I don’t like lamb so I subbed out turkey steaks- I figured they’d be a bit more flavourful than chicken. I served it up with a tomato, arugula and parsley salad and made a za’atar swirl bread. Now, keep in mind here, I’ve been known to say I don’t like pomegranate. However, I will have it in cocktails or on salads. So maybe I do, who knows, but I approached this with so much caution. I had never reduced juice to make a sauce, I was worried about the turkey… there was just a lot of things that I was really unsure about. I’m happy to report that this sauce too was amazing. I’d like to try it on beef or chicken thighs one day.

Light Lemony Cream Sauce

I had some eggs I needed to use up so I decided to make homemade farfalle for this. I don’t have a pasta roller so this took a tonne of manpower but I don’t think anything is ever more worth it than homemade pasta. After spending about six hours rolling and shaping dough I needed this sauce to be worth it and it was. I even loved the vegetables in it. It was creamy and delicious without making you feel gross after. It was Ash Wednesday so I made this one with vegetable stock and it still turned out amazing.

Gravy

I love turkey, so it hurt my heart being realistic and deciding that the financial and leftover realities of a turkey are only realistic at Thanksgiving. I used the exact same method with a chicken. Now, keep in mind I’m known for my gravy making skills. My parents visited for Thanksgiving last October and I’m 99% sure that nine-hour flight was mostly motivated by my Father’s desire for my amazing gravy and homemade pumpkin pie. I’m a bit of a gravy savant. This classes gravy was good. I loved the emphasis on a homemade stock. Like, it tasted great. But… I think mine is just a tad better. Though, this class has inspired me to try a new method of reduction when I make it next.

Jus

I’ve always been curious about the stuff on the side of a beef deep. What is it, really? I ended up doing the full pork roast experience- I loved the recipe for the roast; I’m not an expert at pork roasts so the guidance was nice. The jus turned out so good. Super savoury, and not too much. I can’t wait to try it with beef to do a full-on beef dip.

Salted Caramel Sauce

I love caramel, and I was definitely one of those people who thought I couldn’t make it at home. I seriously can’t believe how easy this one was. My mom called in the middle of my making it so I think I over caramelized it a bit- it’s very toffee tasting. It was awesome over ice cream. I was worried about it firming up too much in the fridge, but the photo is it four days later- less runny, but definitely not hard. I’m sure I could warm it up a bit and get that runniness again.

Is this class worth it?

The Good

  • Martha is an awesome instructor who focuses on troubleshooting and you being independent in the kitchen.
  • The recipes are delicious.

The Bad

  • I would have liked more guidance on pairing sides with the sauces.
  • Basic Bluprint issues- the search function is truly tragic and it’s subscription only so after your free trial you have to decide to make the financial commitment or watch like a hawk for free weekends.

If you have a subscription to Bluprint, have the free one month trial, or happen to get a free weekend this is one that’s really good to watch. The fact is I’m probably going to go back and make these recipes again. Furthermore, I learned why the recipes work the way they do and I feel like I’m a better cook for it.

And I got caramel sauce.