Cooking basics

Aviva's Blog

Tips for Reeeeallly Slow Cooking

A few years ago, I finally purchased a slow cooker.  I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but it’s been an incredibly convenient addition to my kitchen.  Because I work from home I can often start my slow cooker at lunchtime or before carpools so the food is ready at dinnertime. However, many full-time working Scramblers have told me that they are out of the house for 10 hours or more, and many slow cooking recipes don’t have cooking ranges that long.  They’ve wondered how the meal would turn out if left in the slow cooker longer than our recipes suggest.  So, I turned to my ever-faithful Scramble Facebook community for advice and posted this question:  “What do you do if the recipe says to cook on low for 5 - 7 hours but you will be out of the house for 8 - 10 hours? Do you use a timer to start it or stop it or is there another solution?” This is just a small sampling of the slow cooking tips solutions they shared: Shari Brooks: I still go ahead with the...

New Kitchen Tool Crush: The Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer

Ever since I started making low-carb, low-calorie, healthier spaghetti strands out of raw zucchini this summer, I’ve been looking for a tool to shred the zucchini more easily than my box grater.  I found one I love and it’s probably the least expensive one on the market.  With Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer , you just twist the zucchini in the opening and out come long strands of zucchini-spaghetti that are perfect for tossing with sauce, as in this Raw Zucchini Pasta with Pesto recipe. It costs less than $15, needs no batteries or electricity and is compact enough to store in a kitchen drawer. You can, of course, use your food processor to shred the zucchini but I find the long strands come out drier and have a more spaghetti-like texture with a spiral vegetable slicer like the Veggetti.

You can see me briefly demonstrate how to use the Veggetti on my recent appearance on the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.

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3 Family Dinners in 3 Minutes! Aviva on the Today Show x 3

I’m finding it hard to believe, but I had the privilege of making my third appearance on the Today Show last week! I demonstrated some meals with that hilarious duo, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb (no, we didn’t drink wine or cocktails…). In about 3 minutes, through the magic of television and a bevy of prep cooks, I showed Kathie Lee and Hoda how to make 3 of my favorite no-cook back-to-school family dinners for this hot and hectic time of year: Mediterranean 7-Layer Dinner DipRaw Zucchini Pasta with Pesto, and Avocados Stuffed with Tuna Salad.  If you missed the show (or want to relive the adventure!), you can catch it here. I was also delighted to have an article I wrote featured on the Today Show home page all weekend! Read How to Get Dinner on the Table in 15 Minutes (or Less)!  For more ideas for quick and healthy family dinners with less time, money and stress, sign up for a free...

Timesaving Cooking Tricks to Get Family Dinner on the Table

As a Scrambler, you know how important it is to find any and every way to cut down on the time it takes to get a family dinner on the table. Here are a few of my favorite timesaving cooking tips and tricks. 1. Halve cherry tomatoes or grapes: Put all the tomatoes on a dinner plate with a rim, top them gently with another rimmed dinner plate to hold them still.  Slide a long serrated knife between the two plates to halve all the tomatoes or grapes in one slice. 2. Shuck corn: Steam corn in the microwave with the husk on for 2 - 4 minutes until it is hot. Let it cool a bit, slice through the cob near the bottom, and the husk and silk slide right off. 3. Dice or slice an avocado:  Halve the avocado the long way, separate the halves, remove the pit with a spoon or serrated knife, and using a dull knife, cut each half into long slices then across the short way to create cubes. Remove the cubes with a large spoon. Alternatively, scoop out the flesh with the spoon first, put...

How to Have Home Cooked Family Meals on Vacation, Too!

Dear Aviva:  I love your website and book.  Have you put together a menu for family meals on vacation?  Something for when you rent a house and want healthy, easy meals that don't have so many novel ingredients that you have to buy a bunch of stuff you won't use up? I don’t want to buy paprika just for 1 recipe for vacation, for example. Thanks for your help! Kate Hall, Cheshire, CT I was thrilled to learn that many Scramblers don’t completely abandon making family dinners while on vacation.  While it’s a treat to splurge and go out for a few meals while vacationing, if you have access to a kitchen it can also be quieter and more relaxing sometimes to stay in and prepare dinner for the family—that is, if you have a plan (and a kitchen, of course). Eating in a few nights also saves a lot of cash so that when your 10-year-old asks to go on that roller coaster again (and again!), you feel like you have a few extra dollars with which to indulge her. Over the...

Do Yourself a Flavor This Summer: Eat More Science!

I hope you enjoy this week’s guest column and science recipe from my wonderful, talented friend Ann McCallum, who is a public school teacher and author of delightfully engaging children’s books that make cooking both fun and educational, including Eat Your Math Homework and the upcoming Eat Your Science Homework. Ann’s books can help us keep our children’s brains from turning to mush over the summer while getting them interested in cooking and its natural connections to math and science. If you live in the DC area (or want to take a field trip), you and your children can see Ann discuss and do projects from her upcoming book on August 9th at 1:00 p.m. at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, on August 10th at 1:00 p.m. at the National Children's Museum, and August 12th at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Park Library in Kensington, Maryland. Guest column by teacher and children’s author Ann McCallum Ah, summer—a time for fresh fruit and vegetables, hot lazy...

Cooking with Fresh Herbs: 10 Great Uses for Extra Fresh Herbs

If your back yard in summer is anything like ours, your fresh potted herbs are starting to look a little like the multiplying pods from that old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with tentacles (or in this case, fragrant offshoots) threatening to invade the house while you sleep! Since they taste so wonderful, have proven health benefits and are abundant here for only about half the year, I try to find loads of uses for these flavorful leaves.  Here are some of my favorite ideas, including a few creative suggestions from Scramble members—these ideas also work well for using up leftover herbs from the supermarket: 1. Mix a handful of fresh oregano, mint, dill, or basil leaves into green salads, potato salad, tuna salad, or make a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad 2. Make pesto out of basil, parsley or mint, and use it as a topping for pasta, pizza, fish, chicken, sandwiches, or crackers.  Pesto also freezes well, so you can enjoy some now and some later. 3. Top...

Easy Dinners for One (Beyond Cereal and Microwavable Meals!)

While here at The Scramble we focus a lot on feeding families, we know that we have many members that are flying solo when it comes to eating dinner.  Possibly you are a 20 (or 30, 40 or 50) something living on your own, a single parent whose kids have left the nest, or part of a family where everyone does their own thing for dinner.  Or perhaps you’re wondering how to nourish an aging parent who lives alone. Eating for one does not have to mean you alternate between microwave dinners, takeout and cereal for your evening meal.  There are lots of recipes that make delicious and easy dinners for one. Here are some helpful tips if you're cooking for one: Be Conservative When you Shop:  While family-sized products may be a better deal than smaller or individual portions, be cognizant of the volume of food you’re buying in order to minimize any uneaten or spoiled food.  If you buy a larger volume of something, think ahead about other ways you can use the product so it...

Friday dinner ideas | Suggestions for Great Meals to End your Week

While the dinner routine on Monday through Thursday at our house is pretty consistent (I make dinner and we sit down as a family to enjoy it), Fridays and Saturdays are often wild cards.  With two teenagers going in different directions for activities and social plans, it’s sometimes a little harder to plan for Friday night dinners (on Saturdays I usually refuse to make dinner and Andrew and I often go out, and on Sundays he often makes his famous pizza.) Do your Friday dinners stray from your typical weeknight routine?  If so, how?  For me, it often means pulling together a meal from leftovers or odds and ends so I can use up food before I do my healthy meal planning and shopping for the next week. For my colleague Jeanne, it means heading to a local Italian restaurant with her family.  My colleague Betsy often picks up a fresh pizza from the grocery store and makes a big salad to go with it.  For some of our friends and Scramble members Friday night dinners are extra...

Having a Weekly Healthy Meal Planner Can Make Family Dinners a Reality!

Regardless of the age of your kids, getting healthy, well-rounded dinners on the table can present a challenge for families.  If you’ve got small children, you’re probably dealing with the juggling act that comes along with little people wanting or needing your constant attention.  If your kids are older, it’s likely that you’re shuttling them around to various activities and commitments in the hours preceding dinner or racing home from work.  Knowing that as your kids grow older, and the challenges involved in getting everyone around the table may not go away, but rather just change, it’s important (and sanity-saving!) to have strategies to help get nutritious, family-friendly dinners on the table most nights a week. That’s where a weekly healthy meal planner comes in handy. What I’ve learned from my years as a dinner planning expert, is that the key to making family dinners a reality is to plan a few meals in advance (I usually plan 5) and try to grocery shop...