De Ma Cuisine

Cooking Tips Archive



December 2015



Cooking Apples

Written by , Posted in How To


There are so many awesome fruits to choose from and love. And really, you can’t go wrong with fruit. But, there’s something about the humble apple that I just love. Maybe because the taste signifies fall and reminds me of home (especially a Macintosh). Yum, healthy, comforting. They mean that cold weather is a comin’ (cough, it’s 84 degrees as I type this, cough, frown). They’re the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. If I’m starving while I cook dinner, an apple won’t spoil my appetite, but it will tide me over. I like ’em a little bit cold, sweet but not too, and the crunchier the better. And, if possible, picked right off the tree. (Someday, I want to have an apple tree.)

But, apples aren’t just great for eating out of hand. They’re amazing when they’re cooked too. Even though I eat them raw most of the time, let’s talk about how to prepare them.

Super Simple


One of my all-time favorite snacks is apples and cheese. Sometimes I’ll add some nuts and crackers and call it a meal. So it makes sense to use apples and cheese to top bread, like I did for this Apple Rosemary Flatbread. It’s super simple to prepare, and a great way to incorporate fruit into a meal in a non-traditional way.

An easy weeknight dessert is Baked Apples with Raisins and Cinnamon. Use a paring knife to carefully cut out the core. Place apples on a baking sheet and stuff where the core was with raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Bake at 350F until they’re hot and as tender as you’d like.

Apples with Meat

Apples go well with pork, so you could cook some down on the stove top, or slice them and roast them alongside a pork roast (along with some onions and carrots). If you have time, you might make them into apple sauce and serve it, slightly warm, on top or on the side. I also love to have apples and bacon together, like on a BBQ Apple Bacon Pizza.

Apples for Dessert


Apples, depending on their type, can hold their shape when cooked, so they lend well to desserts where you want some texture. Take a fruit crisp for example. While it’d be great with apple sauce at the bottom, that’s not really the point of the dish (you may as well just have apple sauce and granola). You want some good, soft chunks of fruit underneath that sweet oaty topping.


Or in the case of an apple galette or apple pie, you want the apple to hold its shape. Just enough so you have to cut through, but not so much that you need to use a knife for anything other than serving.

Apples in Bread

There’s not a whole lot that smells better than bread baking in the oven. Except if there’s cinnamon and apples in the bread. That’d be enough to put me into a comfort coma (what?!) for days. Or, you know, just feel nice and happy and like I’ve just been to visit family. My mom makes the. best. cinnamon buns. They’re best the day of, still a bit warm from the oven. I’d like to suggest that apples might make for a nice addition to these already awesome buns.

I’ve recently started baking a lot more. Some of it is out of necessity – food is expensive. It’s cheaper if I make bread rather than buy it (plus it tastes way better). So, sandwich bread is now homemade. Baguettes, well, they’ve been homemade ever since we visited Paris. And biscuits, they’re almost too easy to make at home (which makes it easier to add apples and cheese). I’ve been baking a recipe from Aimée from Simple Bites’ cookbook Brown Eggs & Jam Jars every other week or so for a while now. Sometimes when I make it, after it’s risen once, I flatten one loaf out, and sprinkle it with cinnamon and brown sugar, then roll it up. Apples would be a great addition to the cinnamon swirl loaf.


I’ve also worked on a Persimmon Apple bread that will be live on here in a couple of weeks. It’s like an apple snack cake, or a muffin loaf. Or, generally, fitting with the trend of apples+cinnamon+bread equalling awesome.

Apples for Breakfast


It’s always a good idea to cook down some apples and have them on hand. You could just hit them with a touch of heat, so they’re barely warmed through and still a bit crunchy. Or, you could cook them until just before they become sauce. Then serve them cooled atop pancakes, peanut butter smeared toast, or with cinnamon in oatmeal.

Apple Prep


Apples are simple to prepare.

  1. If they’re organic, all they’ll need is a quick scrub.
  2. You can peel them. But, did you know that there are many nutrients found in the skin of the apple, along with beneficial fiber? It tastes good and is good for you.
  3. Remove the core (seeds and seed pods – they’re not fun to bite down on, although not the end of the world if you miss a tiny bit of the core – not like leaving an egg shell in the batter). I have an apple corer and slicer. It’s great and usually does the trick. But, a knife works just as well, sometimes better.
  4. Chop as directed for your recipe.

Happy Eating!



June 2015



How To Use Fennel – From Bulb to Fronds

Written by , Posted in Fennel Pollen, How To, Thoughts, Vegetables


I’ve done a lot with fennel recently. It’s one of those veggies that I’ve had a difficult time with in the past. I’m not a huge fan of licorice, so it was tough to find a way to use it that I enjoyed.

It’s been a good challenge. I think I’m winning. Fennel is no longer on my dislike list.

The Fennel Fronds


They’re great on most any fennel dish, but also in places where you’d like just a hint of fennel flavor. Add them to salad dressings (especially ones with lemon), top parmesan crostini with a few fronds, or serve a bean soup topped with a squeeze of lemon and some fennel fronds.


I used them the other week on Fennel Pizza (along with the bulb). To me, they taste like mild fennel and the heat from the pizza subdued them even more.

The Fennel Stalk


The stalk is a bit more like celery – kinda tough and fibrous. So I like it best in things like soups and stews where it will cook for a while.


It was a fabulous addition to a Chicken Noodle Soup that I made a few months ago. I’ve also added it to things like Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa and it would be great in stir fry, where things like celery would normally be added and the veggies are kept kinda crunchy.


It also worked well in a Veggie and Garbonzo Bean Shakshuka that I made recently. Everyone simmers and stews for a while, so they’re not so tough. The bulb could be used in place of the stalks, if you’re in a bit of a rush and don’t have time to wait for them to soften.

If none of these options work for you, just save the stalks to add to your homemade vegetable stock.

The Fennel Bulb


I’m not sure which is more favorite, the bulb, or the fronds. Both are versatile and taste great with so many things. I think the bulb might win because it can be roasted… but then the fronds can be chopped and used in a salad dressing… They both win.


I was looking through The Vegetarian Flavor Bible the other week and noticed that fennel pairs well with stone fruit. Who would have thought?! Not me. So I used it in a dish that I call Roasted Stone Fruit with Bulgur and Fennel. And let me tell you, the sweet, subtle flavor of the fennel worked really well with the stone fruit.


Since we’ve established that it goes well with bulgur wheat, I’ll also mention that I used it a few months ago with asparagus and mâche over some bulgur with a bright lemony dressing. It made for a fabulous spring lunch.


A few years ago I roasted it and added it to a pear topped Mac and Cheese. What a hit! And again, fennel and fruit, who knew?! I did that one for my cooking show. Another fennel episode came from experimenting with not just the fennel bulb, but fennel pollen. I came up with Crispy Veggies with Fennel Pollen Dipping Sauce.

Fennel Pollen


If you haven’t tried fennel pollen, it’s worth giving it a chance. It adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to a dish. I’ve added it to Fennel Pollen Burgers (which, incidentally, would be great topped with some roasted fennel!), Salmon with a Garlic and Pistachio Cream Sauce, and Fennel Pollen Potatoes (the leftovers of which are perfect in Mahi Mahi, Fennel, and Potato Chowder).


And last but not least, fennel pollen with eggs… for breakfast in a Savory Baked French Toast or a Bacon and Feta Frittata. Because why not really?

Or maybe you want to get creative and make up your own dish to suit your tastes. According to The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, some things that fennel pairs well with are: peaches, dill, summer and winter squash, risottos, almonds, beans, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, ricotta, chickpeas, garlic, citrus, mushrooms, salads, arugula, onions, tomatoes, walnuts, apples, and vinegar… just to get you started. Feel free to leave a comment and share what you come up with!

Happy Eating!



June 2015



How to Multitask in the Kitchen

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

You’re working on dinner. You’ve got two pots on the stove and something in the oven. Never mind that someone probably needs your attention, the dog needs to be walked, and there are dishes in the sink. Sound familiar? All of those things might not apply to you, but maybe at least one does…

I have some tips.

First of all, those precious individuals that need your attention – send them out to walk the dog. All of them. Together. You’re welcome.

Second, your dinner. Let’s figure this out.

I’m a big fan of one dish dinners. But, they’re not always possible. So here’s what I like to do (or should do – ahem, see point #1 below) to avoid burned or mushy rice, stuck on polenta, and too crispy asparagus.

1. Read the Recipe from Start to Finish Before You Chop a Single Thing 


This is essential no matter how many things you’re cooking. How many times have I found myself partway through a recipe wishing that I’d known then what I do now, so that I could re-create the recipe the way it was intended. Learn from my mistakes. Read the recipe. Since you’ve read it through, you’ll know if there are any ingredients that need to come to room temperature. Get those out.

2. Make a List

Since you’ve read the recipe, you know what needs to happen. I really love to make lists. They help me to not only feel like I’ve accomplished something, but to get things done in an orderly fashion. Take what you learned in each recipe and combine them into one list. Just bullet points, leave the descriptions in the recipe. Add the amount of time each will take, so you know how much time you will have if you’re planning to, for example, sauté some onions while the pasta cooks.

3. Do Your Mis En Place (a fancy way to say prep your ingredients)


You’ve read the recipe. You have a list of what you’re doing and when. Now it’s time to get out your ingredients and prep them. That way you will have them at your fingertips and the times on your list will be accurate. For things like Stir Fry this is essential. It cooks so quickly that if everything isn’t chopped ahead of time you’ll end up with burned carrots and raw squash. And that rice that you were going to serve with it will be raw if you didn’t start it with plenty of time. Yuck. No good. Let’s avoid that.

4. Pay Attention/Go with the Flow

You’re cooking. Everything smells great. The garlic just hit the hot skillet and the aroma is tantalizing. But then you panic as you realize that the pasta is done. If you leave it, it will over cook. If you neglect the garlic it will burn.

Take a breath.

Working quickly (but not in a panic), turn off the heat to the garlic pan, move it to a cold burner, and scoop out the garlic (and whatever else is in the pot) and put it into a bowl. Leave it there and drain the pasta. Rinse the pasta with cold water and toss with a bit of oil. Lay it out on a baking sheet. Return the garlic ingredients to the pot and finish cooking. In this case, slightly undercook the pasta so that when you reheat it in the sauce it will finish cooking.

5. Ask for Help


At any point along the way, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help, if there’s someone there to lend a hand. It can be as simple as having someone stir the polenta or keep an eye on the roasted veggies. But, if you know that someone’s got it covered, you can give the bolognese sauce your full attention.

6. Make Things Ahead of Time


If you’re on your own for meal prep, try making some elements of your dish ahead of time. Things like beans, rice/quinoa/bulgur wheat, mashed potatoes, and polenta reheat well. Soups often taste better the next day (if it’s a creamy soup, don’t add the milk until the day you serve it so it doesn’t break). As long as things are cooled properly then reheated to a safe temperature, it could be a great time (and sanity) saving option.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, much by trial and error, and I have so much left to know. Do you have any tips/suggestions/tricks to successfully cooking multiple things at once? Do share!

Happy Eating!



January 2015



How to Use it Best – Winter Edition

Written by , Posted in How To, Storage/Prep


It’s no secret that I love to roast veggies. I’ve been known to roast anything from beets, to peas, to cabbage. But, not all veggies are alike. And not all veggies act the same when they’re thrown into a pot of boiling water, sautéed in a skillet, or roasted in the oven.

Here’s some of what I’ve found to work (and sometimes not work), in my experience as a home cook.

In Soups


I use potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, and rutabagas interchangeably in soups. They respond similarly, and, unless I know that one or the other might not pair well with another of the soup’s components, if I have one, but not the other, I’m going to use what I have. Same thing with broccoli and cauliflower – I find them similar enough. And when it comes to soups, I’ll usually add as many veggies as I can. Starting with the harder veggies (think roots like carrots and beets), then adding slightly softer guys (hello broccoli and cauliflower, maybe even cabbage, and herbs like rosemary and thyme), and adding more delicate greens and herbs at the end (kale, chard, dill, parsley).

Cooking 101 – One of the keys to adding things at the same time is to make sure they’re chopped/diced/cubed the same size as all the other components. This will ensure that someone doesn’t burn, while someone else is still raw. This goes for any method of cooking.

In Salads


I love lots of different textures in a salad. I will often combine a nice butter lettuce with tuna, a hard boiled egg, some chopped nuts, croutons, dried fruit, and grated or chopped veggies.

I prefer to grate hard root veggies like carrots and radishes. If you’re ok with raw beets, grate them too. But, you can also roast for salads. Roasted beet chips and crispy potatoes are some of my favorite salad toppers.

Cooking 101 – If you want to tame a spicy radish a bit, grate it. You won’t bite into a big chunk of burning, if that’s not what you were hoping to get from your salad.

In the Oven


As Fries

I love to cut potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and winter squash into sticks to make fries. Mostly, because I want to dip them in yummy sauce.

In Smaller Pieces

A head of broccoli or cauliflower cut into bite sized chunks, some cubes of potato, winter squash, or sweet potato; wheels of carrot, one inch pieces of beet all make a great side when roasted. Just toss them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper before they head into the oven, and you’re good to go.

Cooking 101 – The stem of the broccoli doesn’t need to be discarded. Simply peel the tough outer layer, then slice the inner portion and use as you would the florets.

Roasting Whole

Beets are my favorite to roast whole. Recently, I’ve discovered that it’s best to put them in a pan, with about a cup of water, then tightly cover with foil. They will take about an hour (for small-ish beets) at around 425F, and maybe 10 to 20 minutes more if they’re larger.

Obviously, potatoes are kinda famous for being roasted whole. Sweet potatoes are the same story. You can leave them as they are, or wrap them in foil if you want. If you’re gonna do the foil method, before you wrap them up, drizzle them with some olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, so the skin is extra tasty. I like things extra tasty, so I’m all over the oliveoilsaltextrayummyskin.

And there’s the winter squash, which technically I don’t roast whole, I cut them in half, but they’re so huge that I think they count. Sometimes, when I have a whole bunch on the counter I will roast them all, then scrape the roasted flesh out of the skin and freeze it. It makes soup prep incredibly easy. (And, save this tip for summer: I do the same thing when I have loads and loads of eggplant.)

Cooking 101 – You don’t have to peel beets before you roast them. Once they’re soft, leave them to cool slightly (covered or uncovered, I haven’t noticed much of a difference either way), then using gloves, a paper towel, a paring knife, or your fingers, peel the skin off – it should be pretty easy (and oddly satisfying).

On the Stove Top



I find that most veggies respond pretty well to steam. By this, of course, I mean veggies that are meant to be eaten cooked. I probably wouldn’t steam lettuce… although at the moment, that’s the only one coming to mind that I wouldn’t… But, you know, use your judgement on this one.

Some of my favorites to steam are: carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans.

I prefer steaming over boiling, because I think the veggies retain more of their nutrients.

Cooking 101 – Save leftover steaming or boiling water to cook pasta, or to make veggie stock with the scraps that would have gone in the compost.


My Oma always boiled the potatoes for special dinners. They tasted great. I know that boiling is the way people often cook potatoes when they’re going to be mashed. When I took that cooking class in Paris, that’s how we boiled the potatoes. It’s a tried and true method. And you can really pop quite a few veggies in a bunch of really hot water and get good results. Just beware that if you leave them too long, they can become water-logged and mushy, and may just fall apart in the pot (and then you adapt and pretend that you’d always planned to make soup).

Cooking 101 – So that you can save the boiling water for pasta cooking or stock, use a slotted spoon to pull out the veggies, rather than just dumping the water out. Or, if you don’t have anything else to cook, let the water cool completely, then take it outside to water your plants.


Aren’t veggies just so versatile?! I mean, we’ve gone from roasting, to steaming, and now sautéeing, and there are some veggie-friends that are good with any option. So, I’d say, that things like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, are an easy yes. If you want to do potatoes, carrots, parsnips… you know, the harder roots, that’s awesome too, just smaller pieces, and plenty of time. And then, if you want to go with the more delicate greens, like kale, chard, mizuna, mustard greens, and spinach, you’ll start with what feels like way too much, and end up with the perfect amount. If you’re starting with some harder veggies, once they’re a few minutes from being done, add the greens. They won’t take long and add a lot to a dish.

Cooking 101 – Don’t throw away those beet greens! They’re delicious sautéed, in salads, and in soups.

However you prepare them, have fun with your veggies!



September 2014



How To Prep an Eggplant

Written by , Posted in How To, Menu Planning


I’m a big fan of eggplant. I might not have thought that I’d be saying that a few years ago. I didn’t know how to cook them, so they’d hinder not help dishes. Well now I’m learning. And I like what I’m coming up with.

They can be a bit intimidating at first, but with some practice, trial and error (we have had a few not so yummy Eggplant Parmesans before I knew the salting secret), and a good recipe to try, success can be yours!


I usually start out an eggplant dish by peeling them. You totally don’t have to. It’s just what I like to do. This is one of the only fruits or veggies where I choose not to eat the peel (aside from things like bananas, butternut squash, and watermelon… but I probably didn’t have to say that…).


Don’t worry, you aren’t going to be eating all the salt that you see in the photo. Yikes! I like salty foods, but that would be too much for even me. It’s going to get washed off after the eggplant sits for a while – at least 30 minutes, longer if you have time (even overnight, if you’re prepping way ahead of time). The salt will draw some of the moisture out of the eggplant, reducing the bitterness.

This step is the secret to great eggplant dishes, in my opinion.



After the allotted time has passed, rinse the eggplant off and pat it dry. Then use it to make something delicious!


Eggplant is great with bell peppers, summer squash (or sinqua), and tomatoes, which is why Ratatouille is so yummy. A summer or two ago I deconstructed Ratatouille by battering and frying the eggplant and then making it into a tower. It was fabulous.

Either way, I think you win though.

This summer, instead of frying, I tried thinly slicing and then baking the eggplant into chips, to be dipped into a creamy feta dip.

That was a good idea.

Ooh, or if you wanted to try something sweet, how about adding eggplant to bread?!


I’ve used eggplant instead of noodles in lasagne (you could also use thinly sliced summer squash). You could add them (thinly sliced and par-cooked) to this lasagne in place of the noodles for a gluten-free dish. Or you could try this yummy sounding lasagna where Carol suggests roasting the eggplant first.

Roasted veggies are always a win for me.


And then, there’s my all-time favorite: Melanzane with Pasta (Eggplant with Pasta). It’s such a simple dish. It’s basically just eggplant, garlic, olive oil, and pasta. It was inspired by an Italian friend who told me that his mom makes something like this. Since we haven’t been able to make it to Italy, I tried to bring a little bit of Italy to our home.

Happy Eating!