Last night, as I was flipping through the channels, I landed on a bizzaro-world version of Iron Chef America. It was an all-star holiday battle pitting Cat Cora and Paula Deen against Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine. Everyone was in great spirits and the holiday vibe was really ringing true. Paula created a cheese fudge dipped in caramel and white chocolate, Tyler goofed his Bouche de Noel, sous chefs dressed as elves yelled "bite me," Robert had his finger bit by Paula, Cat proved she was an Iron Chef by keeping her cool, and Alton subtly mocked the entire thing. Did I mention that Tina Fey was one of the judges?
Did you guys watch it? If so what did you think? I thought it was a really hysterical episode, and if you missed out make sure you set your Tivo — it's on again tomorrow night.
- Buy Seasonal, Fresh Ingredients. Cat says using fresh ingredients is one of the best ways to ensure your meals will be healthy and taste great. She frequently visits her local farmers' markets to find foods to include in her recipes, especially fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season.
- Use Organic Products. Do organic products really make a difference? According to Cat, the answer is YES! She advises using sustainable organic products as often as possible.
- Add Flavor Without Adding Fat. According to Cat, another key to healthy cooking is to make sure you find ways to add flavor to your meals without increasing the fat content. She says there are plenty of flavorful seasonings that contain little or no fat, including citrus products, herbs, spices and vinegar.
- Grill, Braise or Roast Meats. You can grill, braise or roast meats instead of frying them to save calories. Cat says using recipes for braised meats can be particularly healthy, because these dishes usually require a very lean cut of meat.
- Substitute Healthier Ingredients. Cat reminds people not to be afraid to substitute healthier ingredients in their recipes. For instance, she says you can use yogurt instead of sour cream in sauces or olive oil instead of butter.
I was lucky enough to get sent an advanced, not-for-sale copy of Cat Cora's new cookbook, Cooking From The Hip. Cat Cora is the executive chef at Bon Appetit magazine and Food Network's only female Iron Chef. She believes in "cooking from the hip" (a phrase that I still don't fully understand, I keep picturing her in a kitchen doing Shakira style hip motions while she cooks...) which is her term for creating dishes from fresh ingredients and pantry staples. Cat advises stocking your kitchen with a variety of oils, vinegars, and canned goods so you can create simple, delicious, and healthy meals at all times. Her book isn't laid out like your normal cookbook, instead she organizes her recipes into five interesting categories: fast, easy, fun, phenomenal, and good to know. I especially enjoyed her praises for the importance of adult time which she celebrates with daily happy hours (a girl after my own heart!) and the cocktail recipes she includes: sake margaritas, mint juleps and mojitos to name a few.
I used a few of the recipes to pack a picnic lunch (perfect a blog party) for YumSugar and I to enjoy at work. The pasta salad was very light and fresh and the sandwich uncomplicated elegance. However the best recipe by far was Cat's lemonade cookies. These cake like cookies were a hit at the office and while many people believe I spent hours zesting lemon after lemon, all of the flavor comes from frozen lemonade concentrate...genious! Cat Cora's cookbook doesn't hit the book shelves until April 10, but you can enjoy a sneak peak of a few of her recipes, and pack yourself a perfect picnic, just read more