Random Cooking Tips

I post daily on One Dish’s Facebook page about dishes and little tips from my teaching and cooking activities. Here are some recent ones.


Teens mix a simple salad dressing into cabbage & apple slaw. (photo Nicky Patnaude)

1) At my class at Boys & Girls Club (early Nov), we made a quick salad dressing of mayo + bottled Italian vinaigrette. I decided that my usual straight vinaigrette might be too different for these teens, and besides, those two condiments were in the Boys & Girls Club refrigerator. It was fine and, at least it wasn’t sweet like typical coleslaw dressing. One could scaffold  down the fat / dairy by reducing the ratio of mayo gradually so they don’t notice so much. One could blend vinaigrette with buttermilk which has less fat than mayo (and no egg). I usually skip dairy altogether and blend vinaigrette with silken tofu for a lovely creamy VEGAN dressing or dip. People don’t even notice it has no dairy. See recipe page and scroll to the bottom for Vegan Dill /Cilantro Dressing.

Chicken Mafe Stew with sweet potatoes and spinach (photo Nicky Patnaude).

2) Two great ways to make stews thick & creamy is to add nut butter and/or a little mashed potato or squash. This is especially nice with vegan gluten-free stews, in place of dairy and flour, since the nut butters add a rich creaminess. That’s what the teens and I did with the Chicken Mafë Stew and Lentil Mafë Stew. Mafë is a simple West African sauce of tomato sauce mixed with peanut butter. We added boiled cubed sweet potatoes and frozen chopped greens (spinach or collards) to both versions.

Lentil Sweet Potato Mafe Soup (my photo).

The next day, I added water to the Lentil stew and enjoyed it as comforting hearty soup along with a big bowl of slaw, for a filling, low-carb meal. This soup will inevitably appear on Delivered Dish of the Week menus quite soon.

If you’re sensitive to peanuts, you could use almond, cashew or soy nut butter. I was given samples of soy nut butter at the Food Allergy Resource Fair last Sat, which I’m eager to try.

3) When you make a long-simmered soup, throw in frozen corn cobs to enhance and sweeten the broth. Works great for both meat and vegetarian soups. My grandma used to make a very simple consomme of pork & corn cobs (all Chinese savory soups are consommes). All she did was simmer a cheap lean cut of pork shoulder with 2 frozen corn cobs. I don’t even remember any onions in it. Hours later, we enjoyed a clear low-fat broth with wonderful flavor. Per Chinese custom, we took out the pork and corn and served that separately from the broth. White rice and a green vegetable or two rounded out this meal. We dipped small pieces of tender pork in soy sauce and ate with rice. She liked to eat the niblets off the cob, but I disdained because I found the niblets had no flavor. All the corn essence and most of the pork flavor was in the broth.

This simple soup is perfect for a crockpot. If making a vegetarian soup, use veggie broth/bouillon and add onions, carrots etc. Ten minutes before you’re ready to eat, remove the cobs and throw in frozen corn niblets and frozen or fresh spinach.

I particularly like to use sweet corn broth as stock for thick White Bean Soup with Dill.


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