Saturday, December 29, 2012

Butternut Squash Basics

By Madeleine Dee

Butternut squash is a wonderful treat this time of year, 
but to many people, a whole one looks like a difficult math problem. 

Here's the solution: 

1. Get out your peeler. 
(I prefer a serrated one because it leaves pretty grooves 
in the squash that pick up lots of flavor!)

Hold the squash firmly in one hand and peel the skin off in 
long strips from the bulbous end to the stem end. 
Be careful to keep your cute little fingers out of the way! :)

2. Firmly hold your squash by its center, then peel the skin off of both ends.

3. Trim both ends off (the stem and the very bottom) with a big, sharp knife, then carefully cut through the squash where it begins to curve into the rounded base.

4. Stand the rounded portion up and cut it in half.

5. Look at all the seeds inside! Coooool. :)

6. With a metal spoon, scoop the seeds out of both halves.

7. Make sure to scrape out all of the seeds and pulp until smooth.

8. Admire your work so far. You're doing very well. :)

9. With that big knife you had earlier, cut the long portion into thick, even rings.

10. Cube the entire squash into equal pieces.

You can do whatever you wish with the squash now, but from here on is a simple way to roast it and add some serious flavor! 

11. Lay your squash out in an even layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.

12. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of ground cumin, 
the zest of 2 limes, and salt. Toss well to evenly coat each piece.

13. Roast at 375*F until softened and golden brown. Once cooked through, 
I like to sprinkle the squash with a bit of Parmesan cheese and return it to the oven until melted (pictured below).

14. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then enjoy! 

You can season your squash with whatever you like, but if you use this combination, it goes great with Mexican flavors, like spice-rubbed grilled chicken, guacamole, etc.

Don't be scared of a whole butternut squash ever again! ;)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When life hands you lemons...

By Madeleine Dee

Lemons are one of my favorite ingredients, but they can be difficult to squeeze, and seeds are a pain. Below are some tips for easier, quicker, and more successful juicing!

You want to pick out lemons that have a deep, shiny yellow color and a bit of give when squeezed. Do not choose especially hard lemons that are pale yellow or ones that have any cracks, bruises, or mold.

To help loosen all the juice inside and give your lemons more give when squeezed, there are two options:

Firmly roll your lemons back and forth between the counter and the palm of your hand until softened.


Firmly squeeze your lemons with your hands. Rotate and roll them around while you squeeze until they feel loosened. Feel free to use both hands.

The best tip of all:

Cut your lemons on an angle instead of cutting them through their centers!

Once you've cut them this way, you'll have better access to the seeds. All you have to do is pick them out.

Now, for the fun part...


You should be able to squeeze all the juice out of your lemons now!

A tip for catching seeds:

Squeeze your lemon halves over your gently cupped hand! Your fingers will stop the seeds, and the small cracks between will allow the juice to pour through.

When life hands you lemons, 
squeeze them dry and make delicious food!

This works very well for limes, too! Unfortunately, there are no clich├ęd phrases I can think of that involve limes. Except maybe putting the lime in the coconut... but that's another post for another day. ;)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions
By Madeleine Dee

Brussels sprouts. 
Hey, come back here! 
Yes, YOU. 
Sit back down. 
Now, hear me out. 

Brussels sprouts are great! 

However, I didn't always think so. Where I'm from, they're one of those things that people are raised to think are awful without ever actually giving them a chance. Much like the very misunderstood beet. For most of my life, I "hated" them, but I've learned a couple helpful tricks in the past few years that have changed my perspective completely. I hope you'll be saying the same thing very soon! :)

The top reason why Brussels sprouts are so widely loathed is that they are bitter. 
Here's my solution:

Boil, shock, and then roast them.

"THREE things?!", you say? "I have to do three whole things?!?"

Yes. Calm down. It's really quite a simple process. 
Here's what to do:

Step 1 - Boil your sprouts for 2-3 minutes in salted water. They will soften, turn a pretty green/yellow, and soak up some of the salt for extra flavor. Most importantly, the boiling process will remove a lot of the bitterness.

Step 2 - "Shock" your sprouts by removing them with a slotted spoon and plunking them directly into a large bowl of ice water. This will preserve that pretty green color. If you don't care (I frankly don't unless I'm trying to impress somebody), 
skip this part.

Step 3 - Toss your sprouts with a little olive oil, salt, and black pepper, 
then roast until soft and tender. 

(I know it's strange, but I actually like to "roast" them at 350*F, which technically isn't roasting at all - this lower temperature takes longer, but gives the sprouts enough time to soften throughout and caramelize beautifully.)

The end result will be tender, sweet, and lovely with little to no bitterness.

For an extra nice touch, saute a sliced yellow onion while the sprouts roast with a little butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper until soft and beginning to caramelize. Mix in a tablespoon or 2 of your favorite BBQ sauce (preferably something smoky), then allow the onions to caramelize and soak up all the flavor. Serve on top of your roasted Brussels sprouts and garnish with fresh parsley!

Give Brussels sprouts a chance. 
They're healthy AND they're a refreshing new side dish to shake up your typical dinner.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Perfect Parfait

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

By Madeleine Dee

The word 'parfait' literally means 'perfect' in French, and with the sheer number of combinations that are possible, I quite agree that a parfait is a perfect culinary idea. One can be healthy, unhealthy, sweet, savory... By all means, the word 'perfect' is subjective, so I thought I'd share my ideal creation in the hopes of inspiring you to discover your own. :)

Madeleine Dee's Healthy Granola Breakfast Parfait

Here's what you'll need:
Granola bars, crushed 
(I like to use particular ones with honey in them. They come in a green box and are of a naturally-low area of land, if you get my drift. I'd rather not get sued.)
Greek yogurt
Fresh berries
Toasted pecans
Dried cranberries
Caramel sauce
Clear cups
A spoon
At least one hand
A mouth

Step 1: Pour your crushed granola evenly into the bottom of your cups.

Step 2: Add heaping spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, then top with your berries, pecans, and dried cranberries.

 Step 3: Drizzle with honey. This balances out the tang of the yogurt.

Step 4: Take a shaky video with one hand while you drizzle caramel sauce over your fruit and pecans.

Step 5: Wipe the drool off of your keyboard, then repeat the process until your cups are full. Top with berries, a sprinkle of granola, and a final drizzle of caramel. Cover well and store in the fridge. If they make it that far.

These are fast and easy to make. If you've got 15-20 minutes on a Sunday, you'll have a well-balanced and quick breakfast for the entire week. And your family (or the guy you're, ahem... enjoying the company of) will think you're the bee's knees. 

Everyone loves a beautiful parfait that looks like it took hours to make. These are luxurious treats that are also nourishing, balanced, and downright healthy if done right. And the best part is that you can add whatever you like!

Do YOU have a perfect parfait? Tell me about it. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Arugula Pesto!

By Madeleine Dee

This pesto is delicious as a marinade for fish, shellfish, and chicken, or as a light and healthy sauce tossed with warm pasta. Try thinning it out and using it as salad dressing. 
Don’t worry too much about the measurements – they’re simply a guide from which to start creating your perfect pesto!

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, but I love the fresh, peppery punch that arugula brings to the party. It also normally contains pine nuts instead of walnuts and no lemon, so I’m being naughty. But give it a try – you may never go back to classic basil pesto again!

Madeleine Dee's Arugula Pesto
4-5 cups fresh arugula, NOT packed down (3-4 man handfuls or 4-5 dainty lady handfuls)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup walnuts (as fresh as possible)
5 cloves roasted garlic (or raw if you want a spicy bite!)

1. Dip your fresh arugula in slowly-boiling water for about 10-15 seconds, then immediately remove it and dunk it into a bowl of ice water. (This process ensures that the green in the arugula will both create a vivid color for the final pesto product AND keep the pesto from turning brown during the next few days!)                                                                                                                                     

2. Drain the arugula and add it to your blender or food processor with the Parmesan, lemon, salt, pepper, walnuts, and garlic. Start to puree while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. When finished, the pesto will be smooth and a beautiful shade of green. Adjust the seasoning as you please. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for later!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quick Garlic Tip!

Fresh Garlic Cloves. Mmm... :)
By Madeleine Dee

As a personal chef, I have worked in A LOT of different home kitchens, but I've seen certain trends across the board as far as what people do and don't typically keep on hand.

I've recently noticed that garlic powder is a very common pantry staple. 
There are two reasons for this:

1 - Garlic powder is easy to use.

2 - Garlic powder is inexpensive and doesn't expire.

Fresh garlic, however, is cheap (especially if bought in bulk) and can actually stay in good shape for several weeks, but once you learn this trick, yours won't last that long!

Here's my simple secret for using fresh garlic...
Get yourself a Microplane. 
It will be your new best friend in the kitchen.
(I use a Premium Classic Zester/Grater. It was about $12, and definitely one of the smartest purchases I've ever made. Been using it for 3 years, and it's not even remotely dull yet.)

Professional chefs actually spend a great deal of time chopping garlic, then rubbing it into a paste with salt to get a similar effect. You will be ahead of the curve with delicious, smooth garlic paste in mere seconds. Plus, grating the garlic is fun. :)

The garlic will be in such tiny pieces that it will literally melt into your sauces, soups, stews, and stir-fries, bringing an incredible depth of flavor to your dishes!

Here's what you do:
(It's total rocket science.)

1. Rest the Microplane over your pot, hold the garlic cloves by the brown stem ends, and grate them back and forth until all you have left is what's between your fingers.

Saute the garlic with a little salt and some onions, or whatever vegetables you please. Because it is so fine, it will burn more quickly than normal garlic, but that just means that you have to keep an eye on it and keep it moving! For this reason, I don't recommend sauteeing it without onions or something similar (carrots, celery...). Your garlic needs vegetables to hug. Peace and love, man. :)

The flavor difference is outstanding.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saving your taters!

I topped these mashed potatoes with corn and onions sauteed in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. 
Simple and perfectly delicious. :)
By Madeleine Dee

Mashed potatoes are simple to make, but sometimes I get distracted and let my taters 
roll around in the water for a bit too long. The result is often almost as much spud left 
in the pot as what goes into my finished product, which means a lot of waste. 
So, I came up with a simple way to salvage all that starchy goodness:

 1. Boil your potatoes in a large pot with plenty of salted water. 

If you accidentally boil the potatoes for too long and end up with small, rounded pieces and very cloudy water, DON'T POUR THE LIQUID OUT! 

Instead, get out a slotted spoon and remove the potatoes to a large bowl with your butter, then take the pot to the sink and slowly tilt it just enough that the majority of the water pours out (the heavy potato starch will mostly stay at the bottom).

2. Pour the thick potato-ey goop into a lightly-greased baking dish and 
bake uncovered at 400*F until the liquid evaporates.

You'll know when to remove the dish because there will be no more bubbling water and you'll magically have potatoes again! :)

3. Simply scoop your spuds out of the baking dish and mix into 
your mashed potatoes and butter. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.

Mashed potatoes are a lovely blank canvas for all sorts of flavor combinations. 

Enjoy. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Roasted Radishes

By Madeleine Dee

I roast vegetables every day. Potatoes, fennel, carrots, turnips, beets... 
If it can be roasted, I've roasted it. But, my favorite has to be radishes. They are superb, not to mention easy, inexpensive, and a fresh new side dish idea to shake up your routine!

Raw radishes have a harsh flavor that I personally love, but many people do not. When they are roasted, they are tender and sweet with a subtle flavor, and are therefore much more eater-friendly. Plus, they turn a beautiful shade of pink! :)

Next time you need a creative new side dish, simply follow these easy steps:

1. Preheat your oven to 375*F. 

Wash your radishes and trim both ends of each one, then slice them into equal pieces and lay them out on a foil-lined baking sheet.

2. Sprinkle evenly and liberally with orange zest, salt, and black pepper.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss well to coat each radish piece.

3. Spread the radishes out in an even layer and roast at 375*F for 40-45 minutes, or until tender and light pink.

4. When the radishes are done, they should look like this.

You can eat them now, but for an extra punch of flavor, I like to saute them with a little butter and the juice of the orange I zested for Step 2, then sprinkle them with a little parsley and serve over wild rice. (Pictured below!)

Adjust the seasoning (more salt or pepper) as needed while the radishes are warm and enjoy!

Roasted radishes are sweet and have a beautiful color, so picky eaters are much more likely to try and love them!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Easy cranberry sauce, just in time for Thanksgiving!

Fresh Cranberries
By Madeleine Dee

My grandmother is a modest cook - with every compliment she receives, she always replies, "Oh, it was so simple." 

I never understood why she would say this until I attended culinary school and realized that cooking is really quite easy with the right knowledge and a little practice. But, I'm a chef, so I have to act cool and pretend like everything I do is extremely difficult and impressive. 
"Oh, roasting a chicken? Rocket science. Have you noticed how awesome and skillful I am?" My ego would just wilt if I ever admitted that anything I do is... *shudder*... easy.

But I digress. :)

My grandmother is a fantastic cook. I love her dearly, she loves me, and so she let me in on her extremely complicated (*wink*) method for preparing cranberry sauce. So, I thought I might pass her recipe along to you. After all, today is Thanksgiving.

1. Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and the juice and zest of 1 navel orange.

I like to add a teaspoon or two of lemon zest. It really brightens up the flavor!

2. Bring to a boil.

3. Add in your cranberries. (They generally come in packages of 2-3 cups.)

Bring to a boil until they crack and burst. It's the greatest noise! :)

Once they've popped, lower the heat and let the cranberries simmer and thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

When it's done, your cranberry sauce should look like this:

Go ahead and tell everyone that you did, indeed, go to SO much trouble over these cranberries. I'm not here to judge you.

I'm totally gonna do it, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About Me

My photo

Executive Chef and Owner of No Place Like Home in Louisville, KY. Writer, actress, chef, professional cook and professional eater.