cooking tips

The Scramblog

The Power of Condiments

The Power of CondimentsYears ago, when I was completing my health coach training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of the instructors suggested serving every meal with lots of condiments. The idea was that if you put lots of options out on the table, everyone could make the meal their own, tailoring it to fit their tastes. The concept appealed to me as I have always been a sucker for flavor boosters, but then I sort of forgot about it until a few years later when I was in the weeds trying to figure out how to support my picky eater. As I read books and articles and listened to webinars about feeding picky eaters, the message that I heard over and over again was to find ways to let the child have a sense of ownership and control over his or her food. I liked that idea so I decided to try putting condiments out at dinner as a way to help my picky eater take some control over his meal and make it his own. The change was miraculous! From the very first meal, my...

Kitchen Organization for Efficient Cooking

One of the secrets to truly efficient, pleasurable cooking is a well-organized kitchen. A kitchen that is set up for success will help you not only to get meals prepared faster and with less stress, but it will also make cleaning up afterwards easier—and who doesn’t want that?!Kitchen Organization for Efficient CookingHere are some simple ways to make your kitchen work better for you:General Suggestions:
  • When possible, having your prep area and your cooking area side-by-side can be very helpful. This is because you will often be going back and forth between the two spots as you prepare a meal and many of the tools will overlap.
  • Keep lots of dishcloths on hand. These workhorses are great for cleaning up messes, using as pot holders, and stabilizing slippery cutting boards (dampen a dishcloth, fold it in half, and put it underneath your cutting board to stabilize your cutting surface).
  • Start out tidy. Each and every time you set out to cook a meal, start by...

5 Easy Ways to Save on Groceries

As a general rule, I spend on the lower end of what is normal for a family of four when it comes to food (although this is rapidly changing as my boys get older!), but recently, I have been trying to cut costs down even more since my husband is currently furloughed from his job during this government shut down. Since I know many people are in a similar situation and/or are trying to get their spending under control in the new year, I thought I would share some of my tricks for saving money on food.5 Easy Ways to Save on Groceries1. Cook MoreThe more food you prepare at home, the more you save. Period. Eating out and depending on pre-prepared foods is always going to be more expensive, so try to commit to eating home cooked food at least two more times a week. That could mean bringing leftovers to work for lunch, getting take out less often, or even skipping the coffee shop and having breakfast at home.2. Eat Less MeatMeat is an important protein source for many...

The Night the Meat Went Bad

The other night I had a plan for dinner. It was a good plan and I knew all the guys in my house would be excited about it since it involved red meat, which we don’t eat very often. And then I unwrapped the meat. I had bought just it a few days before and it was still within its “sell by” date, but it was bad. Really bad. The color was off, the smell was terrible, and my dinner plan was ruined. What made the situation worse: the plan had been a stir fry, which meant I had allotted just 20 minutes to get dinner on the table. What to do?The Night the Meat Went BadA normal, sane person probably would have opted for takeout, but I have a stubborn (and cheap) streak and the plan had been for me to make dinner, so I was determined to make that happen. So it became improvisation time. I quickly looked through what I had in the fridge that was not already set aside for a different dinner and came up with: 2 packages of ravioli (not quite enough anymore with the two growing boys...

8 Tricks to Make the Cleaning After Cooking Easier

One of the complaints I hear most often from people is that while the cooking is ok, the cleaning afterward makes them crazy. I get it, I really do. You’ve made a meal for everyone, they’ve eaten (or not), and then you either have to kick back into high gear for cleaning OR have to do bedtime duty. You finally get the kids to sleep and then you face a messy kitchen when all you want to do is collapse. It stinks… But it doesn’t have to! While I don’t have a fairy godmother who can come in and do the cleaning for you (if you figure out how to get one of those, please let me know!), I do have some tricks that can help to make the cleaning less of a chore.8 Tricks to Make the Cleaning After Cooking EasierMake a DealFor most families, I know the deal is this: whoever doesn’t do the cooking does the cleaning. But this doesn’t have to be the deal. Other options include whoever is not on bedtime duty does the dishes or one person loads the dishwasher and the...

How to Involve Your Kids in Holiday Cooking

Thanksgiving is just the beginning. Between now and New Year’s Day, there are so many celebrations. Parties, family gatherings, and special traditions are all included in this busy time of year. For a lot of us, this means tons of cooking, which can be wonderful, but also exhausting. So why not enlist some help? Big cooking projects that are tied to special occasions are fantastic opportunities to get even reluctant cooks into the kitchen. Here are some ways to include kids of all ages:How to Involve Your Kids in Holiday CookingPreschoolers:Not only do they want to help, but they love to have ownership over a task. Here are some activities that you can give them to do that will actually save you time because they don’t require close supervision.
  • Pulling fresh herbs off their stems
  • Tearing greens for a salad
  • Combining dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  • Washing produce
Younger School Aged Kids:These kiddos are more coordinated than they used to be...

2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Every Kind of Cook

 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Every Kind of CookI will never forget the Christmas my mother only gave me cooking tools. I was 22-years-old, living on my own for the first time, and had been scraping by with two pots that had been bought in a bodega on the first floor of my building, a couple of cheap knives I think I had gotten at IKEA, and a set of measuring cups and spoons purchased at Target. That Christmas, when I opened my gifts, I was a little dismayed and secretly wished I had gotten maybe one fewer pot in exchange for a sweater or two, but looking back, those were some of the best gifts I ever received. They made it possible for me to explore cooking and expanded the types of meals that I could cook for myself. While I am not advocating for giving a loved one only cooking tools (unless, of course, that is what they ask for), I do think a solid cooking-related gift or two is always welcome. So, to help you find the best gift for each person on your list, I have...

Polenta with Mushroom Bolognese

This amazing recipe comes from a new cookbook called The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook written by my friends Serena Ball and Deanna Segrave-Daly of Teaspoon of Spice. It is so simple and quick to make, but has that comforting depth of flavor that will make everyone thing you slaved for hours. Watch Jessica make it on Facebook Live.Polenta with Mushroom BolognesePrep Time: 5 Minutes, Cook Time: 25 Minutes, Makes 4 Servings 2 (8 oz.) packages white button mushrooms 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 3/4 medium onion) 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot (about 1 medium carrot) 4 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2 tsp.) 1 (18 oz) tube plain polenta, cut into 8 slices 1/4 cup tomato paste 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, crushed between your fingers 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup dry red wine 1/2 cup whole milk 1/2 tsp. sugar Put half the...

Breakfast-Ready Apple Crisp

 This month’s challenge from The Recipe Redux (a recipe development community I recently joined) was to think back to when you were a kid and share a recipe you cooked early on or one that you cook now with the kids in your life. This apple crisp recipe checks off both of those boxes! As a kid, I wasn’t much for cooking (read more about that here). In fact, the only type of food I was interested in learning how to make (like many kids) was dessert. One of my favorites to make with my mom was apple crisp. This was for two reasons: 1) it was a beloved dessert and 2) I’ve always found peeling apples to be incredibly satisfying (weird, I know). Over the years, my mom and I have tinkered with the crisp’s topping and this version is truly my favorite because it has a satisfying crunch and lots of flavor, thanks to the use of nuts and nut flour in the place of all-purpose flour. The nuts and nut flour also add protein making this not only a fantastic dessert but...

Getting Kids to Cook (and Classes to Get Them Started)!

As I have written about before, food and family dinners were essential parts of my childhood. Ironically, however, despite my mom’s best attempts, cooking was not. The poor woman tried everything to entice me to cook and I did dabble a bit, but mostly I just wasn’t interested. And yet she persisted. If I wanted cookies, I had to make them myself (the first attempt was incredibly memorable, but that’s a story for another post). If I wanted boxed macaroni and cheese when my parents went out for dinner (since they definitely weren’t going to eat it), I had to make it myself. And then, when my brother and I were in high school, we were each responsible for one dinner a week. I dragged my heels but she stuck with it, making sure I had the basic skills necessary to cook for myself when the time came. Years later, when I first started my career as a health coach, I quickly noticed a pattern: clients who came to me reluctant to cook often spoke of never having anyone...