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How to Keep Your Hummus Humming

By Lari Robling - September 23rd, 2011

Obviously, we’re not making 5 gallons of hummus at a time as Chef Solomonov does at Zahav. So, you’ll have to come up with your own quantities that work for you. Also, the quality of the chickpeas and tahini can vary so keep that in mind as well. Here’s a guideline, though!

To Cook the Beans
Soak the chickpeas (a pound is about 2 cups) overnight covered in water with about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Drain, rinse and cover with water and a fresh pinch of baking soda. Simmer gently for two to three hours or until the beans are tender. Drain.

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Oh, Can It!

By Lari Robling - September 12th, 2011

There’s still a little time to catch the last of our local produce and preserve it for winter use—and don’t think you have to process bushels and bushels of produce!

The new trend is for small batch canning, which can be processing as little as one jar or as many as four or five. It can be a particularly good strategy this late in the growing season when you might stumble across that last pint of heirloom plum tomatoes.

I’m drawn to this scaled down approach as it’s do-able in an evening and I don’t have to commit to a weekend of peeling, pickling and boiling.

The basics are the same: new lids, clean jars with no nicks or scratches, and screw caps that are in good condition. You’ll need a rack or basket to keep your jars up off the floor of the pot with proper water circulation and no chance for them to bang into each other. Ball offers a small batch canning kit with a nifty silicon basket that is a lot easier to store than the metal ones.

Canning Alternatively, a round cake rack works, too. Your pot should be three inches taller than jars and the pot should have good fitting lid.

You’ll also want a pair of canning tongs—you are going to be lifting glass out of boiling water so spend the few bucks on a the rubberized grips that do the job safely and don’t even think about using those barbecue tongs you already have.

For prep make sure you have everything together and clean. And I do mean clean from your fingernails to the towels you are going to rest your hot jars on. Experts caution to be careful not to boil the lids when sterilizing them as it will damage the rubber seal.

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City Harvest’s Tips for Making the Most of Your Vegetables

By Lari Robling - May 2nd, 2011

The summer season is a great time to clean up that old grill and start roasting and grilling fresh vegetables. You can even roast veggies in the wintertime too with a conventional oven, but the grill works best and gives off the best flavor.

How to roast sliced zucchini, other summer squash, eggplant or sliced onions:
Slice the veggies to about 1½-inch thick. Toss in a bowl with a bit of vegetable oil.

  • If roasting: Pre-heat oven to 400°. Lay vegetables on a baking sheet. Roast for about 25 minutes, checking half-way through.
  • If grilling: A grilling sheet or basket helps keep the vegetables from falling through the grill. Otherwise, makes sure your veggies are a little thicker and cut lengthwise. Grill over medium heat, staying with it to ensure it doesn’t burn.

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You Crack Me Up

By Fit Staff - March 24th, 2011

There are lots of ways to cook eggs so you’ll never get bored. My personal favorite is shirred, or baked eggs. I’ve got the timing down so and by the time I shower and dress I have a hot breakfast waiting for me. I spray a small ramekin or oven proof custard cup and break the egg into it and add whatever seasonings I feel like. A little smoked paprika, if I need a little extra spice to get started that morning, or some pesto from last night’s pasta, a little barbecue sauce… you get the drift, whatever moves you. Traditionally you add a splash of cream but I skip that. Then it’s into a 325° oven while I go about my routine and in about 15 minutes — depending on how much you like your yolk cooked, or how difficult it is to find a clean blouse — you have a delicious egg.

I thought I knew everything about eggs until I talked with Lisa Waddle, an editor of “The Best Fine Cooking Magazine Breakfast.” They’ve developed a very easy way to poach an egg:

Line four 4 ounce cups or ramekins with plastic wrap, leaving 3 inches of plastic hanging over the edges on all sides. Spray a thin coating of cooking spray on the plastic wrap. Cut a large piece of plastic wrap into 4 strips.

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What’s the Skinny on Bison?

By Lari Robling - March 10th, 2011

While bison may conjure up images of the Great Plains, they have recently become of interest on our dinner plates. Phillies team dietician Katie Cavuto Boyle often substitutes bison meat in what she calls the players’ “dude food” — chilies, stews, burgers and even steaks. She says this is an easy, healthy upgrade because it doesn’t change the flavor profile or expectation of the dish.

Bison is lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The animals are grass fed so the meat is naturally higher in omega three fatty acids which are good anti-inflammatory agents. It is also higher in iron and vitamin B12.

You can swap out bison meat for beef in any recipe. Katie Cavuto Boyle says it works particularly well in stir-fries. One thing to remember is that it is leaner, so it will take less time to cook and over-cooking will make the meat tough. It’s best to cook bison at a lower temperature than you would beef.

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QUIZ: What is my child drinking?

By Fit Staff - March 3rd, 2011

With hundreds of drink choices available, it is important to talk to your child about healthy drinking from a young age. You can get started by figuring out what your child drinks. Take our quiz to find out where your child stands.

Adapted from Food Fit Philly, a Get Healthy Philly website.

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The Tipping Point

By Lari Robling - February 24th, 2011

Taking a page from Chef Kevin Levett at the Sofitel lounge and restaurant, Liberte, here are two ingredients worth getting to know. Agar agar is a thickening agent that can be used to make desserts, or it can be used in place of butter, cream, and flour to thicken sauces. Chef also uses a low-fat fromage blanc (white cheese) to keep dishes light and fresh.

Fromage blanc can be found at most cheese stores or specialty shops. It’s delicious all on its own with a little fresh fruit but it is making its way into kitchens as a substitute for higher fat cream products.

You could substitute Greek yogurt for fromage blanc, or even make your own if you are so inclined.

The first time I used agar agar was when I was test kitchen director for a health food magazine. The selling point at that time was that it could be used as a gelatin by vegetarians since gelatin is an animal by-product. It is sold in health food stores as a flake or powder.

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Remembering Jack LaLanne

By Lari Robling - January 28th, 2011

When exercise guru, Jack LaLanne, passed away last week due to complications of pneumonia, it brought back a flood of my childhood memories.

My grandfather, a professional boxer as a young man, would take time everyday to do what he called his “la lannie” — a series of exercises with dumbbells and a resistance rope tied around a post. Like LaLanne, my grandfather lived well into his nineties with pep and energy.

My mother would take over the living room when The Jack LaLanne Show aired. We would do “trimnastics” along with Jack smiling into the camera and work on our core muscles — or as Jack called them “the front porch, back porch and side porch.” All you needed to participate was a chair. No Wii program today can rival his interactive chat and organ accompaniment to each move.

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Top Seven Pantry Items You Should Have to Avoid Store Storm Madness

By Lari Robling - January 13th, 2011

    1. Canned Beans Keep an assortment of chick peas for hummus; pinto beans for refried and dips; kidney beans to toss in soups and stews; and pink or Romans are great tossed with whole grain pastas. Remember to rinse and drain well.
    2. Milk Those packages of shelf-stable milk have a long life outside the refrigerator and taste much better than powdered milk. Also stock up on both 5 ounce and 12 ounce cans of evaporated skim milk. It works well in baking and undiluted it is a good substitute in both fare and foul weather for cream in soups.
    3. Tomatoes Recent studies suggest avoiding canned tomatoes as the acid leeches out unhealthy chemicals. Look for glass packaging or the aseptic boxes and low sodium is the best choice.
    4. Broth These are also better in the aseptic shelf-stable packages. Include an assortment of vegetable, chicken, beef and fish. The smaller sizes are good for making sauces or adding some flavor to steamed vegetables. Again, low sodium.

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Know Your Browned Onions

By Lari Robling - January 6th, 2011

A quick search on browning onions turns up contradictory advice: cook covered, don’t cook covered; add liquid, don’t add liquid; use butter only, use oil only. Well, you get the dilemma. Here’s what works for me, so I stick with it even if the kitchen science gurus Alton Brown and Harold McGee might not agree.

To slice my onions thinly, I cut them in half lengthwise and place the halves on the flat side. Cut parallel to the root end to get nice, even half moon pieces.

I like an iron skillet, but you can use a sauté pan. Whatever you use, it should be large enough to make a single layer of onions. Heat on high and add some olive oil and butter, enough to liberally cover the bottom of your pan—then add your onions. It should sizzle.

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Photo by Flicker user Yolise / CC BY-NC 2.0

About Lari Robling
Lari Robling's food career had its early beginnings as a home ec teacher for the visually impaired. Later, she decided to become a food professional and worked for caterers and restaurants. Lari landed her first job in a test kitchen for a small health food publication, Delicious! magazine. From there, she began a freelance career as a food stylist and food consultant. She is also the author of Endangered Recipes: Too Good to Be Forgotten.

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Philly Food Bucks!
Philly Food Bucks are coupons that help ACCESS/food stamp customers save money on fruits and vegetables. Philly Food Bucks can be redeemed for $2 worth of fruits and vegetables for every $5 spent in ACCESS/food stamps at a participating farmers' market. Learn more about Philly Food Bucks at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's recently expanded web site Food Fit Now also accepted at the West Oak Lane Weaver's Way Food Coop.

Get Healthy Philly is part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Initiative, a federal effort to: prevent and delay chronic disease, reduce risk factors, promote wellness in children and adults, and provide positive sustainable health change in our communities.

Food Fit Philly is part of Get Healthy Philly, a program that works to reduce and prevent obesity and related chronic diseases (like heart disease and diabetes) by increasing access to healthy foods that people can afford.

Your body needs help when it's time to quit. SmokeFree Philly is a program of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health that offers support and tools to help smokers quit. The goal of SmokeFree Philly is to: help people to quit smoking, stop people from starting to use tobacco, and reduce heart disease, cancer and other illnesses caused by smoking.

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