Saturday, April 19, 2008

Comments of the Week

This week: stellar suggestions for maximizing kitchen equipment, a few great ideas for healthier mac and cheese, and the start of the Great Ranch Dressing Wars. Bring your courage ... and a salad.

As always, some comments have been edited for length.

On Mission: Light Mac and Cheese

Erica: I've also found a great way to make mac and cheese low fat is to sub in some cottage cheese. If you use 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 low-fat or 2% cottage cheese it tastes almost as cheesy. And the cottage cheese actually becomes very creamy.

Kevin: I have tried a few lower fat versions of mac and cheese. … My favourite of the ones that I tried is from a show called Eat, Shrink and be Merry.

Kristen: Whenever I made mac and cheese, I depend heavily on a roux to make it taste richer than it is. It helps a great deal with any weird clumps of cheese, and you can just toss it with hot pasta and the cheese, then stick it under the broiler for a browned top. An uber-simple roux is this: melt 2 T butter in a microwave-safe dish, then stir in 2 T flour with a fork. When it is lump-free, add 1 c milk (1% works just fine, or you can use something less skim), and heat until just bubbling around the edges. Whisk thoroughly to dissolve the flour mixture in the milk, and you'll see it start to thicken. Alternatively, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and whisk constantly until you can smell the nuttiness of the flour. Add the milk, which you've heated to just under boiling in the microwave or on a separate burner, and whisk until the mixture thickens. Season with freshly ground black pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Toss with the hot pasta and sprinkle with cheese, or add the cheese to the roux, stir to combine, and toss with pasta.

On Tuesday Megalinks

Paid Twice: Sandra Lee still sucks. She could be blind and have one leg and still suck. Maybe she's missing taste buds... maybe that's why.

On Cheap Healthy Salad Dressing: 102 Light Recipes

Hops: Ranch dressing is everything that's wrong with this country.

J. Sassydo: Agreed, hops--ranch should never have ventured forth from the hidden valley. Also, when I want to keep it light, I dress my salad with a few squeezes of lemon juice or a drizzle of good vinegar. (Berry vinegars are especially great on summer greens.) Toss in some salt and freshly ground pepper, and you're in fat-free business.

Mamacita
: Don't be hatin' -- ranch dressing has its place.

On Of Cheese and Rock: Low-Fat Cheddar Broccoli Soup

Julia: I've been meaning to make my ricotta-spinach soup from True Tuscan by Cesare Casella, a fabulous cookbook, and you've inspired me to do it this weekend. It's an absolutely luscious use of part-skim ricotta cheese...does that fall under healthy? I hope so. But honestly, it's so good I don't care.

On Free Cooking Lessons Part II – A Beginner’s Guide to TV Chefs

Anonymous #1: I learned to cook from one of the early TV chefs - Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet - who passed away a few years ago and disappeared from the air severals years before that because of a bit of a scandal. He was incredibly informative and took pains to be sure to show all techniques and methods. I'm sure you must be able to get all his different series on DVD, and, as I have them, can recommend the companion books wholeheartedly. (Good call, Anonymous. Can't believe I forgot this guy. - Kris)

Anonymous #2: I'd just like to add that Ina can't go a half hour without saying "That's fabulous.” (This is TOTALLY true. It’s like her favorite word next to “Jeffrey.” - Kris)

On Finding Quality Kitchen Equipment on the Cheap

Anonymous: One thing to keep in mind is that certain pieces are WAAAY more versatile than others. Steel, NON-TEFLON cookie sheets get such a workout at our house that I have half a dozen and am always looking for two more, just to avoid having to stop cooking in the middle to wash and dry them! The other thing to remember are non-standard uses for less "necessary" items. Ramekins- the 7oz ones, or the new, 16oz "soup mugs" which are microwave and oven safe and come with a plastic lid. Why buy a jumbo-muffin pan if you have four or six 7oz ramekins? Set them on a cookie sheet for easy carrying/handling, and dont fill completely--there's no support for really big muffin tops. … 7oz ramekins are *wonderful* for making individual meatloaves or meatless quiches, and actually cook faster and more evenly in the smaller containers.

(Photo courtesy of Jupiter Images.)

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