Cooking with Marco Canora – Now That’s a Tupperware Party!

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This is a guest post by the fabulous Shari Brooks of MyJudytheFoodie.com.  Be sure to check out her site for recipes, musings and wonderful reflections on following in her mother’s culinary  footsteps. (And it’s a good thing she went in my place because I couldn’t have stayed and watched rabbit being prepped and cooked.  But, I do love Tupperware!)

Last week Tupperware and renowned chef Marco Canora hosted a private Tupperware product and cooking demonstration in the newly renovated Tasting Table Test Kitchen in Soho. I not only got a sneak peek at the latest sleek line of Tupperware products but, had the rare opportunity to get up-close-and-personal to watch Chef Marco recreate some of his celebrated soulful dishes.

The unique event, very appropriately titled, Cooking with Confidence, echoed so many of the approaches and attitudes that I have just begun to embrace in my kitchen.  Primarily, that cooking food at home every day doesn’t have to be laden with stress. And, that fancy equipment and utensils aren’t what’s required to cook great meals.  It’s about having the right essential tools and the courage to experiment that eventually allows us to gain cooking confidence and to feel comfortable and excel in our own kitchens!

As I walked into the chic room, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Gorgeous, yet practical, Tupperware items were displayed on the shelves.  Glasses and pitchers with sleek vibrant colors lined the tables alongside a new line of easy-to-use cooking products. It’s a complete departure from those tried and true milky white plastic containers synonymous with the iconic Tupperware brand!  Even this past weekend, when I was home for the holidays, my mom’s kitchen cabinets are still bursting with myriad Tupperware relics from the 1970’s and 80’s – it’s as if they’ve been frozen in time since the house was full of young kids and home-cooked meals (30 years ago.)

Chef Marco admitted he was a little skittish doing a “Tupperware Party.”  He was worried the products weren’t going to work, like a lot of those “gimmicks” we see on late night TV.   But, after putting the new Tupperware line of pots and knives and appliances to the test, he not only uses them in his own kitchen, but also in his restaurants.   And, selfishly, these products are practical.  They’re small enough to store in any cupboard, drawer, or pantry of any New York City apartment.

With Chef Marco as our guide, we got the opportunity to experiment with the products too. The easy pull chord of the Tupperware Chop n ‘Prep Chef made it fun to do some seriously quick chopping to make Gremolata (which I now know is a chopped herb condiment typically made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley). The Quick Chef  helped us mince the veggies so small without pureeing them.  With all of my past kitchen blender blunders, it was refreshing to use an appliance where I felt totally in control.  The veggies didn’t turn to mush or get watery.

In the test kitchen we watched the chef skillfully work with rabbit using the new Tupperware Boning Knife.  Besides being very thin, it’s the extra 2” on the blade Chef Marco believes “makes all the difference in the world.”  The knife is more pliable and bendable when working with tough meats.

He placed the beautifully sculpted rabbit pieces in the new Tupperware pots which are very large and provide a nice amount of surface area to contain all the heat.  Chef Marco believes many people stuff lots of food into small pans which significantly offsets the cooking balance.  I had no idea that foods need to have ample room to extract their liquids quickly in order to achieve the desired flavor.

We sampled amazing pieces of sautéed chicken cooked to peak perfection on the Tupperware Griddle Pan.  As the chef says, “griddle pans aren’t just for pancakes anymore.”  There’s no risk of burning yourself with this pan since the handles stay cool over the stove and they’re positioned very high.   In addition, the wide surface area of the pan makes it ideal for sautéing.

However, we had the most fun using the Tupperware Whip n Prep.  We were challenged to make fresh whipped cream for the awesome arrangement of freshly sliced fruit before us.  We effortlessly spun the handle around the top and two whisks moved in unison, easily converting the cream to the most perfectly, frothy whipped cream in a record time, without electricity.  I could just imagine my kids fighting over who could use the Whip n Prep first.  It wasn’t a chore, it was actually fun.  While whipping we began rattling off all the other possible uses for the Whip n Prep (which are endless):  pancake batter, egg whites, homemade mayonnaise, sauces, emulsified vinaigrette (to name a few).

The afternoon was so inspiring on many fronts.  From the valuable culinary insights and afternoon of cooking confidence delivered directly from Chef Marco Canora, to the earth-friendly, fun, and easy-to-use Tupperware products, everyone seemed energized to roll up their sleeves and get cooking.

In fact, later at home, my kids used the Chop ‘N Prep to cut up apples and pears, proclaiming it’s “way better than Spin Art.”

Now, that’s cooking with confidence….

Promoting a Healthy Relationship to Food for Your Tween

Have you ever used the word “diet” with your kid?  Do you reward or punish with food in your home?  Do you cook – and if you do, do you involve your kids?  We are going to tackle the big topic of kids and food this week at our KidzVuz twitter party.  We’ve all heard the scary statistics about kids and obesity, diabetes and other illnesses caused purely by poor diets in this country.  And then we are bombarded by the other images – the anorexic and bulimic girls – on the other end of the eating disorder spectrum.  So, how can we find a really good, healthy way to approach food and teach that to our kids?

On Wednesday, October 19th at 10pm we will be talking about food and tweens with a teacher and mom of a tween daughter, Cristie Ritz King and nutritionist and founder of Foodtrainers, Lauren Slayton.  We’ll be dishing about picky eaters, creating healthy eating habits, having fun cooking together and more.  Plus, it wouldn’t be a twitter party without prizes, so we’ll be giving away 2 $25 gift cards to GrubHub (because it’s also fun to order in as a family!) and a $25 gift card to Panera Bread so you can get some freshly baked bread to go with your homemade meals.  (or course you could also get some yummy desserts, that’s up to you!)

So click over here and join us on Wednesday night!

What’s for Dinner? Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge

This is a guest post written by Shari Brooks of My Judy the Foodie.  Since I’m a vegetarian (or pescetarian really), and swamped with preparations for the KidzVuz redesign launch in two weeks,  I sent my fellow blogger and fab writer Shari Brooks to cover the Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge for Beccarama.  And I love Hellmann’s – no other mayo tastes right to me – so I was thrilled that she agreed to go and write about it here and on her own blog.  YUM!

Yesterday morning I took part in the Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge.  I was right at home as My Judy the Foodie uses mayonnaise in many of Judy’s celebrated recipes, most importantly the critically acclaimed Chicken Salad with Mango Chutney which boasts some nice heaping spoonfuls of the mayo-ey goodness!

So, what happens at a Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge you rightfully ask?  Well, Hellmann’s Parmesan-Crusted Chicken is one of the most downloaded recipes from the Hellmann’s website.  Our friends at Hellmann’s are on a mission to see if any other mayonnaise-based chicken dishes can compete with the long-time chick champ. The Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge gives everyone a chance to vote. Each week, two other Hellmann’s® chicken recipes will challenge Parmesan Crusted Chicken for your vote.  You can even vote as many times as you’d like for a chance to win prizes.

At the first-ever event, which streamed live on Hellmann’s Facebook page, three well-known hosts took to the kitchen to cook their favorite chicken recipes, taste test the audience with samples of each, and have the audience vote for our fave.   I have to say that each recipe, while different from one another, is very simple to make.  The prep time is minimal and the flavor is bountiful.  That’s one of the many benefits of cooking with mayonnaise, it helps preserve the rich chicken flavor without the use of salt and pepper or keeping on the skin.

Ok.  Enter Mark Conseulos, celebrated actor, producer, dad-of-three.  While an avid griller, he admitted he’s never cooked chicken indoors!  He also mentioned one of the many challenges parents face at mealtime: picky eaters!  It’s important to change up our children’s meals to give them variety.  Naturally, he prepared and cooked the reigning recipe: Parmesan-Crusted Chicken.   There is no degree of difficulty in the meal prep.  It’s too easy to pass up! There are only four (4) ingredients to the recipe and chances are, you have all of them in your pantry and fridge right now:  Parmesan cheese, Italian-flavored bread crumbs, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and chicken (breasts or cutlets).  For someone who’s never cooked inside, Mark seemed at ease and quite honestly, surprised by the recipe’s simplicity, let alone, taste.  Not to mention the entire audience seemed to ooh and ah when we were served our bite-sized samples.  We guesstimated that we could eat at least 5-6 of the sample pieces without feeling guilty.

Next up in the kitchen, Tim Love, celebrated Fort Worth, Texas chef, author and lover of all foods-foods-with-a-kick.  Tim challenged the Parmesan Chicken with a Chipotle Lime Chicken.  He enjoys this recipe and is a proponent of involving family in meal prep citing there are always teachable moments and it keeps kids vested in their meals (I’ve recently learned this too). Since this recipe calls for chipotles (smoked jalepenos) and Tim grows them his backyard garden, the kids get to witness farm-to-table in action.   As samples were being passed,  there’s no doubt in my mind that the crowd still longed for the juicy parmesan version (can you tell where I cast my vote)?

Last up, Sissy Biggers, the nationally-recognized television host and lifestyle expert, full of inspiring advice on a variety of topics. Sissy’s also a momma to two grown girls so she feels like she’s been on the front line in the kitchen and knows how challenging it can be for busy moms to break find the time and patience to break meal monotony.  However, when a recipe calls for only four (4) ingredients and one is Hellmann’s, it’s guaranteed to be bursting with taste. She defends that the BBQ Cheddar Crusted Chicken appeals to the kids because of the clever combination of the sweet BBQ flavor and the sharp cheddar flavor.  And of course the mayonnaise helps seal in that great taste.

Besides getting an awesome swag bag (MyJudytheFoodie loves any free/practical cooking-related baubles), and a signed cookbook from Tim, the event certainly accomplished its mission. I walked back into my apartment no longer a frustrated meal-challenged mom but rather, a mom-on-a–chicken-mission. I whipped up some Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts in under 20 minutes flat. No joke.  The kids gave the new tasty meal a very rare two thumbs up approval rating.

We were all happy to have a new dish added to our dinner rotation!

One Post, A New Friend and A Look Back on Jewish Italy

"Little Jerusalem", the Jewish Ghett...

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Two years ago today I was in Pitigliano Italy, site of one of the oldest Jewish towns in Italy – though of course not anymore.  I blogged every day of our month-long stay in Italy and Pitigliano was particularly hard to write about.  I thought about this post recently because when I wrote it I was still not very involved in twitter, my Facebook friends were all old high school friends or new real life friends, and believe it or not I had no idea if or why people read my blog.  I wrote, I published and I didn’t care about what happened after that.

But, when I came back from Italy where I had been posting every single day – and still not looking at my stats! – I was shocked to see that my blog readership had exploded.  I thought I was writing about our trip purely for my family and good friends, but it had been passed around and shared and so on.  It was my first real lesson in how far my writing could go on the web if I kept consistently putting it out there.  That’s when I discovered twitter too.  It was Amy Oztan, selfishmom.com, who shoved me in to the twittersphere, but it was meeting Jennifer Perillo that made me stay.

Jennifer’s blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen is some of the best food and good old-fashioned writing you will find anywhere.  An Italian girl from Brooklyn married to a nice Jewish boy (ok – man), Jennifer was looking for and writing about Italian Jewish food.  I told her about the cookbook I wrote about in my Pitigliano post, which was the very one she was reading at the time  – and then that spurred a full-out conversation about the Jews of Italy, my visit to Pitigliano and so much more.  Jennifer linked to this post from her recipe on egg-free gnocchi.  And so a friendship was born – of twitter, but thankfully into real life.

So, in a Travel Tuesday reprise – here’s my post about Pitigliano and the testimony to how our food culture endures and social media can keep the conversation going.

Pitigliano – It’s So Not (Jewish) Ghetto

Pushing My Friend into the Blogging Deep End

I’ve been blogging for over 3 years.  My blog is not exactly a third child but it is an integral part of my life.  I feel responsible to it and I feel grateful to it.  It has taken my life in directions I never could have imagined (The White House!) and introduced me to people who have become cornerstones of my professional and personal life (The Blogging Angels!).  But, most of all, it has made me a social media evangelist.  I am constantly thinking about the blogs everyone I know should be writing.  I can’t help it.  I am convinced that everyone has a great story, interesting insight or just something “expert” enough to share.  So I was thrilled when one of my closest friends, Shari, sheepishly revealed to me that she wanted to start a blog.  Well, I think first she wanted a big ol’ website but I convinced her that she had an amazing story behind her idea.  A story that needed to unfold slowly, organically and with her voice at the center – a blog.

Her gorgeous blog, My Judy the Foodie, debuted last week.  This is not your normal food blog and not your normal mom blog.  This is a blog about a daughter (Shari) finding, honoring and remembering her mom (Judy) by cooking the recipes her mom collected all her life.  This is a blog about a non-cook (and trust me when I tell you she REALLY never cooked) learning to love the craft and the process and slowly gaining confidence with every dish.  And this is a blog by a woman who is still figuring out who she is by reinventing and revisiting the recipes and memories that brought her to this point.

Sounds good right?  Click on over and check out My Judy the Foodie out for yourself!

Falling Off the Vegetarian Wagon

Last week I ate a steak.  I haven’t eaten meat in almost 3 years.  No beef, pork or chicken or other poultry – though I never gave up fish.  I never intended to become a pescetarian, it just sort of happened.  There was a confluence of events that made me stop eating meat.  First a New York Times Sunday Magazine issue called The Green Issue came out in April and in one article spelled out the environmental cost of beef production very simply.  Since I was already carrying my reusable bags and Sigg water bottles trying to be greener it seemed only right to cut down on something that was one of the worst pollution and climate change offenders.  This coupled with the disgusting stories coming out about factory farming, hormones, antibiotics and all the rest made it not too difficult to cut down on meat.

Then we had a Memorial Day weekend away that involved a 3 day meat fest.  Between the barbeques, bacon breakfasts and chili bonanza I was so grossed out with the nonstop meat eating that I decided to go meat free for the next month.  That became two months, then three and then a year and then two years and so on until this past Saturday night.  What happened?  Well, honestly I’ve been craving red meat for about a month.  Really craving – like thinking about it every time I planned a meal, went to the market or went out to eat.  I found myself thinking about steak all the time – it was ridiculous.  And I tried every substitute I could think of.  Quorn meatballs, sesame tofu, Boca Burgers.  You name the “meatless” meat and I was eating it.  But nothing sated that desire.

Still, I thought it would pass.  Then I went out to eat with some friends and found myself staring at a small and lovely menu, but I could not bear to eat another mixed seafood entree or pasta or salad.  I just couldn’t.  And there it was: Steak Frites.  Grass fed, locally butchered steak.  Simple.  So simple.  A bottle of red wine was ordered and that sort of sealed the deal.  My husband was genuinely worried when I ordered, convinced I’d get physically ill the moment I took a bite.  But I didn’t.  And it was delicious.  I ate about half of it and was fine.   More than fine.  I felt right.  And that was that.

I don’t know if or when I’ll ever eat meat again.  I’m not focusing on it or ruminating.  Like anything in life being too rigid or dogmatic with food puts it on a pedestal that’s not healthy either.  I’m happily back to fish, veggies, fruit and way too much pasta because that’s what feels right mentally, physically and philosophically but I’m relieved that I can fall off that wagon and get right back on.

Puerto Rico – Beach, Rainforest and An Earthquake Too (plus a Snapfish Giveaway!)

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Every year we go on a huge family vacation with my husband’s entire family.  At this point there are 16 of us, in 3 different states on opposite ends of the country all trying to coordinate and agree on a common meeting point.  The only non-negotiable sticking point for my sun worshipping in-laws is that it must be warm and sunny.  This year the destination of choice was San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Intercontinental Hotel.

None of us had been to Puerto Rico before and we didn’t know what to expect.  I think it’s safe to say we loved it.  For New Yorkers there couldn’t be an easier trip – direct and under 4 hours.  For everyone the lack of customs and immigration was a huge bonus after a couple of years of going to Mexico.  The lack of people soliciting you the minute you get off the plane is incredibly refreshing. And, most importantly for this family – the food in Old San Juan was fantastic.

Here are my San Juan Stand Outs:

Intercontinental Hotel – Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that we had a snafu when checking in – our room wasn’t ready for a very, very long time and my daughter had a massive meltdown because of it.  How did they rectify this?  They gave us an enormous room upgrade – I mean HUGE.  So, that made us feel better.  But, what really won us over was the incredibly kind, attentive and accommodating staff.  Professional and friendly without being unctuous.  They made our stay exceptionally lovely.  And the pool and beach are great too.

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