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Monday, August 26 2013

Life for every family is hectic and busy. These days almost every parent has to work, which means less time to spend with the family and less time to prepare healthy well balanced meals. Many families find it far easier to reach for the telephone and order a pizza than to cook something nutritious. However, with planning, you can make home cooked delicious meals in less time than it takes to wait for the pizza deliveryman.

Listed below are a few of the things that you can do to lessen your time spent in the kitchen.

Start serving raw vegetables at dinnertime. When you are shopping, buy a variety of fresh vegetables including things like carrots, broccoli and celery. When you get home, take the time to cut them into small pieces. Vegetables like celery will last much longer if you cut them and then place them into water. Fresh vegetables make an excellent side dish. Raw vegetables served with dip are not only delicious, they are nutritious as well.

Cut up vegetables can also be used for lunches and snacks. It only takes a few moments to grab a few pieces and place them into a sandwich bag or onto a plate. If you really want to save time and effort, it is also possible to buy precut vegetables. You can get these in mixed vegetable bags or singles. They are a bit more expensive, but still cost less than a pizza.

Make certain that you have a good supply of yogurt on hand. When buying yogurt, consider getting Greek yogurt. This type of yogurt is much higher in protein and calcium. It is also low in calories.

Plain yogurt mixed with different spices or seasonings makes a tasty, low calorie dip that can be mixed in a matter of seconds.

Yogurt can also be used to make all kinds of simple quick desserts. You can easily cut up fruit pieces and serve them over either plain or honey yogurt topped with rolled oats or nuts.

A real time saver is to cook unseasoned hamburger meat in large quantities. Cooked hamburger will last longer in the fridge and can be used in all kinds of dishes from spaghetti sauces to tacos. Pre-cooked meat can be tossed into a pan, heated and seasoned in minutes. This procedure is also ideal for other kinds of meats including beef cubes or chicken. If you prefer, you can portion the meat into meal size containers and freeze them.

Pasta can also be prepared in advance. A well-known trick of restaurants is to cook enormous batches of pasta, and leave it in a water-filled container in the fridge. You can use this trick at home too.

Once you have a store of noodles in the fridge, you can make quick pasta salads by adding some of your chopped vegetables and a bit of dressing. Alternatively, you can produce all kinds of various hot pasta dishes in a matter of minutes in the microwave.

Precooking various items saves a lot of time and money in the long run. Furthermore, you can do the cooking when you are not rushed. You can prepare your pasta or meats in the evening when you are watching TV or relaxing.

Preparing foods in advance gives you the opportunity to provide healthy meals for your family, even when you don't have a lot of time.

For more information and tips about food and healthy eating, visit us at

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 01:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, August 21 2013

Preparing a buffet dinner for a large number of people can be stressful. There are so many things that can go wrong if you do not either hire the right catering services or fail to put the right contingences into place. Below we look at a few important things to consider.

How many people are you expecting?

The first thing you need to consider is the number of people who will be at the dinner. Factors like the total number of guests who have been invited as well as how many people the venue can easily accommodate need to be considered. If you are also in charge of arranging all the seats you need to ensure that the seating is spacious so that people are not crammed into each other.

Decide on your budget

Before you can do anything it is very important to decide on what your budget is. Of course you cannot always set your budget in stone but having a figure in mind helps a great deal. Buffet dinners are all about simplicity despite the fact that you're catering to a large number of people. The secret you need to keep in mind is the fact that not everyone eats and those that do eat may not eat a lot. So, if you're budgeting for 80 people, it means that the food will be enough to feed 100 people.

Professional or DIY catering

Your choice to undertake all the catering tasks which include cooking food for several people or hiring a professional service is one you need to consider very carefully. There are a number of advantages of doing your own catering, the biggest one being that you'll save money. However, there are also disadvantages i.e. you're cooking lots of food in an often badly equipped and small kitchen yourself. The work can be exhausting and take forever to complete. If you're going to cook your own food make sure to purchase everything in bulk from a food warehouse as opposed to a regular specialty store.

If you decide to hire catering services then you need to firmly establish the menu, and also be very clear on the total number of guests the catering is meant for. This will enable the company to assign tasks to managers and staff. However, make sure to first clarify the amount per head for your event so that you're not faced with a huge bill unexpectedly.

Serving time

Consider exactly what time the dinner or meals need to be served. Knowing the time will allow you to plan everything ahead of time so that it is executed in a way so that the food remains fresh and smells great when the lids are lifted. While, getting the timing right can take some practice generally speaking most foods can be heated up if they become cold.

Catering services can help you save lots of time and money but you need to be wise when it comes to hiring them. Not all services are great or the same, and sometimes hiring them just on the basis of price is not a good idea.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 02:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, August 14 2013

With the Summer tourist season now in full flow, that means more culinary tours, which means that I am walking through Amsterdam pretty regularly, taking my clients to tastings in my favourite shops and markets. With all this strolling around, I can't help but notice the in store, in restaurant trends. Actually, it's my job to notice these, and tell my clients about them. Some trends I am more keen on than others, it has to be said. Without mentioning any names one of my least favourite was an eaterie which specialized in sushi, coffee and cake. There is something about that combination which is hard to stomach, even for me. And of course, there is a trend, sadly not exclusive to any city or even many countries at this time, which is the trend of so many stores and restaurants closing.

On a cheerier note, I have compiled some of my favourite current Amsterdam foodie trends.

Coffee with Everything

If you know Amsterdam, even a little, you will know that the Amsterdammer loves their coffee. No business or social meeting, no discussion, no task can begin without a "bakkie" (cup of coffee). They can be quite particular about it, which was surprising to me, as I had always associated the coffee culture with more southern European countries.

Now though, "en bakkie doen" (having a cup of coffee) has been taken to a whole new level. Coffee in book stores has been around for while, nowadays you can scarcely shop for clothes, shoes, antiques or furniture without being tempted by the fizzing and frothing of the stores latest installation, the almost ubiquitous Italian style, full force, industrial coffee and cappuccino maker. There is something I like about it though. Often these stores are in really nice locations and have beautiful interiors, so why not offer coffee for your customers? There must be a commercial benefit to the business. Other than the few Euros it costs for a coffee, they must have seen the benefits to their turnover. I say this, for two reasons. The Dutch in general seem to be born with a bit of a commercial gene. They are brought up to believe that they are a country of Entrepreneurs. You can argue the truth of this, but talk to any Dutch person about what it means to be Dutch and you will hear these words. My second reason is that here in Amsterdam, space is at a premium, so no self respecting business person would give over those precious square meters to anything unless is was making money for them. That being said, as a customer, I enjoy it. My most favourite being Concerto. Here the combination is coffee and music. Concerto is an institution and if you like music, it is the ideal place to while away a rainy afternoon, actually, it's the perfect place to while away any kind of afternoon. Now they have a new reason to hang out there - their coffee bar.

The Italian Style Café

I suppose, when I say "Italian Style Café", I mean my memory of this which is cafés run by Italians who settled in the UK, and more specifically in the west coast of Scotland. The ultimate treat as a child was to be taken for an ice cream float at your local café - the ultimate in sophistication for my 6 year old self.

These cafés offered a range of ice-creams, toasted sandwiches, fresh sandwiches, cakes, coffees and teas. Some may even go as far as to offer a 70's style spag Bol or fish and chips. It may be a stretch of the imagination to say that this style of café is having a revival in Amsterdam, but think about the menu I have just listed - ringing any bells?

OK, the ice-creams are now hand-made, organic and artisanal, the toasted sandwiches are Panini, the ice-cream floats and milkshakes are juices and smoothies, but essentially the format is the same. I have to say, I really enjoy these kind of cafés, for an informal lunch or an afternoon treat. One of my haunts at the moment is Pasticceria on the Van Wou straat, their ice-cream alone is worth a taste.

The Flip Flop Shop

No, they don't sell flip flops! What these stores do is that they change their product mix to suit the season. "Ijscuypje" Was the first of these stores that I noticed, in the summer time they sell ice cream and in winter they swap this for stampot style dishes and the store name also changes to "stampotje". In case you are not familiar with stampot, it is a very traditional Dutch meal. A couple of the most popular are "hutspot" made with mix of potatoes, carrots and sometimes other root vegetables made into a mash with stock and served with a smoked sausage. The other popular dish which follows this style of cooking is "Boerenkool". This time the mash is made from the familiar potato base but with kale mixed through. Although these dishes are not the most sophisticated (Dutch readers please forgive), they are very comforting and satisfying on a cold winter's day.

As a complete contrast to this kind of "flip flop", there is also a frozen yogurt store that flips into a noodle bar in the winter!

Mint Tea

No self respecting bar, café or restaurant can get away without offering Mint Tea these days. This trend started about 3 or 4 years ago, I have no idea what sparked it off, I kind of assume that it came from the large amount of Turkish and Moroccan people and shops selling lots of great fresh mint. A really simple and refreshing drink - hot water and fresh mint leaves. As much as I do like the mint tea, I have a little gripe about it. That is, where is the tea people? It is always served with hot water, mint leaves, and you get some honey on the side, but, haven't we forgotten something? Yes, the tea!

Cup Cakes

Walking through town, I sometimes feel like I'm tripping over cup cake stores. Always fancy frilly and fun. There is something about a cup cake that brings a smile to your face. A simple sponge cake decorated with (hopefully) butter icing - and loads of it please, creative flavour combinations and colourful decorations, love it. There are a couple of other reasons why I love the cup cake trend. One is, I am always in flavour of anything that gets people to cook or bake for themselves. There are so many food trends, do's and don'ts, so many chefs and experts telling us what techniques, equipment or skills we should have before we even dare to step into our own kitchen. Let alone be allowed to turn on the oven! This has resulted in so many people feeling intimidated by a basic human activity which can give so much pleasure. The cup cake, for me symbolizes the ultimate in simplicity and has provided a non-threatening jumping off point for people to get into their kitchens and bake.

The other reason is purely selfish. I realized, quite soon after arriving in the Netherlands, that nobody seemed to bake at home. Every time I was invited to a Dutch friend's home, and offered a sweet treat, it had always been bought. Not that I expected everyone to get baking just because I was coming to visit, but it was everyone, every age every walk of life. It seemed that it just wasn't part of the food culture. The rise in popularity of making your own little cup cake has meant that stores are now selling baking goods! Gone are the days of ordering fondant icing over the internet, I can get all I need at practically any food store.

High Tea

High brow, low brow, quirky or classic. There seems to be a High Tea for every taste. Before I go any further though, I just have to correct something that's a bit of a pet peeve. I should really be talking about Afternoon Tea, not High Tea. Afternoon tea is the scones, finger sandwiches and patisserie, eaten around 4pm, that has become so popular. High Tea, is a full meal that is eaten earlier than dinner. It was traditionally a more working class meal which would be eaten around 5/5.30pm. The reason I have called this food trend High Tea, is that (as with so many English phrases and words) the Dutch have got hold of, slightly, the wrong end of the stick, but like any terrier, they are not letting go! That aside, Afternoon tea is a favourite trend of mine because it is one of my missions in life to find the perfect scone. So, with all this choice around, I have every excuse, woops, I mean reason, in fact it is an obligation to keep eating them till I find the perfect one, and of course an afternoon tea is not an afternoon tea without THE perfect scone.

For more articles and great recipes visit or download my book "Love Food, Live Healthy" from Amazon.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 01:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 05 2013

Maine live Lobster

Hot Lobster Rolls prepared with Maine live Lobster is something I will plan a motorcycle road trip around. Bentley's Saloon camp ground in Arundel, Maine is the perfect destination. Last summer, Tertia and I went up for a motorcycle camping trip, located just west of Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bentley's camp ground caters to the motorcycle enthusiast. Everyone is so friendly. It had started to rain as we were starting to set up camp. I have a tow along camper I pull with the bike. It doesn't take long to set up but we needed some extra shelter. Campers across the street helped us put up the canopy to keep us out of the rain.

After helping set up, our neighbors invited us over for dinner. What a meal, grilled steak tips, shrimp kabobs, Teriyaki chicken, grilled corn on the cob, hot lobster rolls, Maine live lobster of course, and plenty of beer. They wanted to use up everything before packing up and heading home. They even gave us a six-pack to end our stay. What a great way to start our trip.

After breakfast at Bentley's Saloon the next morning, Tertia and I decided to take a ride along the coast past President Bush's summer home. On our ride we decided to stop by Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine for hot lobster rolls. Maine live lobster is the featured food on the pier. Steamed lobster, served on a grilled hot dog bun with drawn butter. It doesn't get any easier or better than that. Of course we had to sample some lobster bisque off the pier too. Maine live lobster is at our figure tips.

Ending up back at Bentley's after a nice day of riding we were treated to a lobster feast for only 12 dollars and met a lot of great people to enjoy our evening with. If your ever heading up route 1 in Maine, check out Bentley's Saloon in Arundel, Maine.

Unfortunately, as with any trip, it must come to an end. We had one stop to make on our way home. To pick up Maine live lobster to make hot lobster rolls at home. After unpacking it was time to make dinner and relive our motorcycle adventure. It's so simple; I just boiled the lobster, cut it up and served in a grilled hot dog bun with clarified butter. With the shells, I make a lobster stock to use in my lobster bisque and lobster ravioli recipes. Just a few of our other favorite recipes.

Since a road trip to Maine only happens once a year, I was able to find a company that I can order Maine live lobster delivered to my door. I've also used them to send seafood to my mother in Florida. She enjoys the lobster and New England clam chowder.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 01:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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