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About Heather Jones

My CookBookKarma ChatterHeather Jones, a self described Foodie Princess, is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City (formerly Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School).  She has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla.  Heather resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters where in addition to holding down a full-time job and hanging out with us at Project Foodie she also works as a private cooking instructor.

Contact Heather Jones: foodieheather@projectfoodie.com

Heather's Articles

The Sweet Life

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Written by Heather Jones   
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
List of viewable recipes from "The Sweet Life: Diabetes without Boundaries" by Sam Talbot

ImageAccording to the American Diabetes Association, in January 2011 8.3% of the United  States  population--or approximately 25.8 million children and adults--was diabetic.That is a pretty scary statistic.

One of the most discouraging things for many newly diagnosed diabetics is the feeling that they won't be able to enjoy food as they once did. I know about this firsthand, as my father and both maternal grandparents suffer from the disease. In recent years I have made it my personal mission to see to it that these family members still enjoy flavorful and satisfying meals without compromising their health.There have been a number of cookbooks written for diabetes sufferers, offering insight on eating choices along with a few lackluster recipes, but nothing that catered to the more sophisticated palate. Until now.

Back in the summer of 2010 I had the great fortune of meeting and interviewing Top Chef finalist and restaurateur Chef Sam Talbot. Not only is Chef Talbot incredibly handsome and clearly a star in his chosen profession, but he is also a type I diabetic who was diagnosed at the age of 12. One question I asked him was whether he planned to write a cookbook, to which he responded, "Of course!" Today we have that book, "The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries." It must be said that when it comes to cookbooks I can be a little jaded; it takes something really special to catch my eye. The Sweet Life has that something special, and is one of my favorite titles from 2011.

The Sweet Life begins with a seal of approval by famed New York City Chef Eric Ripert, then immediately opens up with Chef Talbot describing his very personal journey with diabetes. He writes candidly about the parameters involved with the disease, while also encouraging readers not to be afraid to try new things and "play with your food." Next, he dives in and gets to the recipes, covering all the bases from snacks to dessert. The snack chapter, in particular, delves deeper into the area of diabetes education, discussing glucose levels and the glycemic index. Chef Talbot has a very friendly and easy way of delivering the information; nothing so technical as to confuse or go over your head.

The recipes' style is heavily influenced by Chef Talbot's restaurant, Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York, which makes many dishes reminiscent of something you might make at a beach house. Chef Talbot advocates eating seasonally and using local ingredients and sustainable seafood, so many of the recipes focus on fresh produce, and can be adapted to ingredients found in other seasons throughout the year. His "Simple Black Bass with Kale and Kalamata Olives" is a delicious example of pairing winter ingredients with sustainable seafood.  My personal favorite is "Marinated Seared Scallops with Pecans and Okra Gumbo," and my dad can't get enough of the "Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies" made with Truvia-brand sweetener (stevia extract) instead of sugar.

One perfect weeknight crowd-pleaser is the Shirataki Noodles with Cashews and Chiles (see recipe below.) Shirataki noodles, a low-carb alternative to traditional udon noodles, are made from tofu and yam flour. Simply toss the rinsed noodles with some zesty Asian ingredients, and in 10 minutes or less you've got yourself a seriously good diabetic-friendly meal.  

What I loved most about the recipes in the Sweet Life is that they will appeal to everyone in the family, not just those with diabetes. And for diabetics, The Sweet Life will change the way they look at diabetic-friendly eating and cooking. 

Shirataki Noodles with Cashews and Chiles

Reprinted from "The Sweet Life" by Sam Talbot. Copyright (c) 2011 by Sam Talbot. By permission of Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.

I have an appreciation of udon noodles that borders on obsession, but when I want to go lighter on the carbs, shirataki noodles are a nice, low-carb alternative. Because they are made from tofu and yam f lour, they have minimal carbs. You can make this dish on the fly too, when you're in a rush. It's clean, light, and well balanced. I stock up on shirataki in Japanese markets around New York, and they are widely available in health food stores and some large supermarkets.

  • 2 packages (16 ounces total) tofu shirataki noodles
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 fresh jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped cashews
  • 1/3 cup hand-torn fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

Rinse the noodles under cold running water and drain well, then transfer them to a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, and sesame seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, agave nectar, and chili paste, stirring well to combine. Mix in the broth, cashews, cilantro, and soy sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to marry the flavors.

Pour the sauce over the noodles. Let the noodles rest in the sauce for a couple of minutes before serving.

PER SERVING: 227 calories, 4 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 16 g total fat (2 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 448 mg sodium 

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 20 January 2012 )
 

Cook This Now

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Written by Heather Jones   
Sunday, 20 November 2011
List of viewable recipes from "Cook This Now" by Melissa Clark

Image
Photo by Andrew Scrivani.
Every Wednesday morning like clockwork, after the email has been checked and the first cup of tea has grown cold, I pull up the New York Times online and search the famed Dining Out section for "A Good Appetite," written by Melissa Clark.

Melissa has one of those careers that other food writers dream of. Thirty-two cookbooks written, some in collaboration with the country's top chefs, and a regular gig with the New York Times. Her column is one of my favorites, and her latest book, Cook This Now, may well become a favorite of yours. There are 120 recipes in all, each with a focus on great flavors, proper usage of pantry items, and seasonal ingredients.  

Melissa Clark is a working mother, and understands that daily meals need to accommodate a wide range of appetites. The recipes aren't too meat-heavy, which makes this book ideal for those who are trying to transition into a "less meat" diet, as well as those who live in a multi-diet household. Some dishes take a mere thirty minutes to prepare, while some substantially longer; but all are suitable for everything from a Monday night family meal to a dinner party for eight.

My current family favorite is definitely the homemade Mallobars (recipe below). My girls won't miss summer s'mores too much as long as I keep these around. Others recipes that shout out to me are the Curried Coconut Tomato Soup (made with canned plum tomatoes when fresh ones are still months away) and the winter salad of Fennel, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Manchego cheese.

As the book cover states, there are "120 easy and delectable dishes that you can't wait to make." So what are you waiting for?    

Mallobars

From COOK THIS NOW by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

This is my version of homemade Mallomars. But instead of painstakingly forming individual cookies, I use the bar cookie method, spreading everything in one large pan. I end up with a crisp, homemade graham cracker crust topped by honey marshmallow and a thick layer of chocolate. Though they are easier than the original recipe, I wouldn’t call them a super-quick dessert. You still need to devote a good part of an afternoon to their confection. Or try to make the components over several days if it’s easier to carve that out of your schedule.

However you manage it, the payoff is big: They are truly scrumptious, and I guarantee that if you bring them to a potluck or party, no one else will have brought anything remotely like them. They are unusual, crowd pleasing, fancy looking, and even slightly good for you (okay, just slightly) from the whole wheat flour.

Makes about 18 (2-inch) squares

for the graham cracker base

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

for the honey marshmallow

  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the chocolate glaze

  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. First, make the graham cracker base. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and honey until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat until the dough just comes together.

2.Wrap the dough in plastic and pat into a disc. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9  13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, or in between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a rectangle that just fits the prepared pan. Carefully transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Squish it to fit if it starts to tear (the dough is soft). Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake the graham cracker base until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely before topping with the marshmallow. (The graham cracker base can be made a few days ahead; store, covered in foil, at room temperature.)

4. While the graham cracker base cools, prepare the honey marshmallow. Place the gelatin in the cold water to bloom. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, honey, and 1/2 cup water, stirring until the sugar dissolves, until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer.

5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. When the sugar mixture has come up to temperature, carefully pour it into the egg whites while whisking. Continue whisking until the mixture has cooled slightly, about 1 minute, and add the gelatin and water mixture and the vanilla. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and quadruples in volume, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the marshmallow onto the graham cracker base and smooth the top with a spatula. Allow the marshmallow to set for 4 hours or overnight at room temperature.

6. To prepare the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate pieces in a bowl. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted and the glaze is smooth and shiny. Pour the glaze onto the set marshmallow and smooth with a spatula. Allow the glaze to set, about 30 minutes, before cutting into squares.

What Else?

• What else can I tell you? If these seem like too much trouble, you can always just go out and buy some Mallomars. And, being a seasonal product themselves (they are only available in the colder months), they arguably fit into a seasonal kitchen if you don’t think about it all too deeply.

• The graham cracker dough also makes fantastic cookies all by itself. Just bake as directed above, but as soon as you take the pan out of the oven, while still hot, score the dough into 2-inch squares. Cool and break up into cookies.
 

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 11 November 2011 )
 

A Year in My Kitchen

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Written by Heather Jones   
Sunday, 01 May 2011
List of viewable recipes from "A Year in My Kitchen" by Skye Gyngell

Image
Photo by Jason Lowe © 2011
The UK has produced many great icons of pop culture--everyone from food writer Elizabeth David to future monarchs Prince William and Kate Middleton. A new addition to this splendid tradition is British chef and cookbook author Skye Gyngell.  I was first introduced to Skye's work with her precious cookbook "My Favorite Ingredients," and now a much anticipated follow-up, "A Year in my Kitchen".  In this latest book, she takes all of those great ingredients she shared the first time around and creates a lovely assortment of seasonal recipes.  These aren't your standard scaled-down versions of restaurant favorites, but in fact the type of meals that Skye loves to make at home for her family and friends.  

Ms. Gyngell reminds you how to appreciate the simplicity of fresh ingredients, and the confidence to never be intimidated by them. Seasonal cooking can be a challenge for some, but learning from this pro will easily put any fears aside. In addition to basic recipes and techniques, the author walks you through the process of things like making infused oils, slow-roasting tomatoes, and even tea-smoking.

Spring is fast becoming my favorite season; and now that the warmer temperatures and sunny skies seem like they're going to stay for a bit, I am fueled with the inspiration I need to transform some of those early spring vegetables into a flavorful meal. Asparagus is usually the first true spring vegetable I find in New Jersey, and I'm always looking for a new way to serve it.  This Spinach, Fennel, and Asparagus salad (see recipe below) with its bright green flavors simply screams spring.  

Spinach, fennel, and asparagus salad

Reprinted with permission from A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Serves 4

  • 5 ounces young, tender spinach leaves
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 6 asparagus spears
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • scant 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash the spinach thoroughly in several charges of cold water. Place in a large pan with just the water clinging to the leaves after washing and cook over high heat until just wilted. This takes very little time-no longer than a minute-don't overcook it. Drain the spinach and set aside to cool.

To prepare the fennel, slice off the base and remove the fibrous outer leaves, then cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Place each half, cut side down, on a cutting board and cut lengthwise into fine shards, using a sharp knife-the slices should be almost paper-thin.

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and, using the same sharp knife, slice the spears finely lengthwise. (Shaved raw asparagus has an interesting texture and excellent taste.)

Squeeze out as much moisture from the cooled spinach as possible (but don't be so brutal that you bruise the leaves). Put the spinach into a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and toss through with your hands-the spinach will absorb the oil and take on a luxurious, glossy quality.

Add the fennel shards, asparagus, lemon zest, Parmesan, and lemon juice. Toss very gently with your fingertips-you want to create a feeling of space and air. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed. Pile the salad onto plates and serve.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 25 April 2011 )
 

From Seed to Skillet

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Written by Heather Jones   
Monday, 11 April 2011
List of viewable recipes from "From Seed to Skillet" by "Jimmy Williams, Susan Heeger"

ImageAre you planning a kitchen garden this year? Looking for a few tricks of the trade, or maybe some stylish green-thumb inspiration? Look no further than From Seed to Skillet, written by clothing designer-turned-nursery-owner Jimmy Williams.  Part memoir, part gardening primer, and part cookbook--Mr. Williams draws from his childhood memories of his Grandmother Eloise's garden, and shares his journey from working runway fashion shows to selling organically-grown produce at farmers' markets. 

Enlisting the help of friend and writer Susan Heeger, he describes valuable techniques and illustrates "how-to" instructions on everything from container gardening and composting to the merits of companion gardening.  Mr. Williams even offers up an edible "A" list of over 40 must-have vegetables, herbs, and fruits for you to grow, including artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, carrots, chives, potatoes, a multitude of greens, and much, much more.

Lastly, he shows how to enjoy the fruits of your labor with a selection of seasonal dishes inspired by his grandmother's Carolina kitchen.  This book is chock-full of great advice for the novice as well as more experienced gardeners.  

Flipping through Seed to Skillet, it didn't take me long to figure out which recipe to try first.  The sweet potato is my absolute favorite vegetable, and this recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits--straight from Grandmom Eloise's kitchen--can't be beat.  

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Recipe from From Seed to Skillet by "Jimmy Williams, Susan Heeger" (Chronicle Books, 2011)

The addition of sweet potato gave my Nana's biscuits a distinctive color and sweetness that set them apart from the others we ate-often-in my house. We had hers mainly in the winter, when it was time to use the root crops and squash we had picked in fall and stored in our root cellar. For variety, she sometimes swapped in butternut or acorn squash for the sweet potato.

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 envelope (3/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it's just about to boil, then stir in the sweet potato, butter, sugar, and salt. Remove from heat.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a big bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes to activate.

Stir the flour and sweet potato mixture into the dissolved yeast, cover, and let rise in a warm place overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the dough on a floured board to 3/4 inch thick. Cut the biscuits with a 2- to 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter (rerolling the scraps), and put them on a buttered baking sheet to rise again, until almost doubled, 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

Bake until slightly brown on top, 15 to 18 minutes.

Makes 12 to 18 biscuits

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 11 April 2011 )
 

Are you a Crabby Cook?

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Written by Heather Jones   
Monday, 07 March 2011

What self-described foodie would ever admit to being a crabby cook from time-to-time?

Do you see me raising my hand?

Even as a working food professional there are times when the thought of having to deal with the peculiar eaters in my family can send me over the edge.

I'm glad to know that I'm not alone.

Actress and author Jessica Harper knows all about being a crabby cook. In The Crabby Cook Cookbook, she shares her experiences and provides solutions in the form of good solid recipes that should win over the pickiest eater.

The best part of this book is the way she infuses humor throughout. You'll be too busy laughing at Jessica's own trials in the kitchen and her personal cast of characters to freak out that your three year old is only eating "white foods" at the moment. 

How do you know if you're a crabby cook? Jessica offers a simple test with six statements. If you answer yes to any of them you ARE NOT a crabby cook. On the other hand, if you find yourself snorting at the mere thought of them then you indeed rank among the Secret Society of Crabby Cooks.  Here's an example: 

"If a family member doesn't care for what I've prepared for dinner, I thank them for their feedback and offer them an alternative entree"

I nearly fell out of my chair on that one. Thank them for their feedback!? I'm usually the one giving feedback and it generally falls somewhere in the eat-it-or-starve category...

Eleven chapters of snarky delights include recipes like Dog-proof Caprese Salad and No Patience Coconut Cookies.  

With this book you are now free to relish your crabbiness. Indeed, celebrate it! You will no longer be ashamed, especially when you see the smiles on your loved ones' faces after tasting one of these tried-and-true recipes. And that's something that is bound to make mealtime a little less crabby for everyone. 

Dreamy Veggie Pasta

Recipe from The Crabby Cook Cookbook: Recipes and Rants by Jessica Harper (Workman, 2010)

During their white food years, I researched and finally discovered how to present vegetables to my picky children in a way they found appealing. It turns out, if you shape 'em like pasta, flavor 'em like pasta, and mix 'em with pasta, the kids will eat their vegetables.

ImageFor this recipe revelation, I gave myself major points. I was suddenly able to feed the children previously forbidden foods like cabbage, onions, and zucchini, with their complete compliance. I got to gloat because of my nutritional triumph, and they got to gloat because their firm resistance to other vegetable recipes had paid off.  Now, some of you may be thinking, Excuse me, but would Ms. Genius like to explain why there are so many damn ingredients in this recipe? I hear you. But this is another Miracle Food: more than six ingredients, yes, and a fair amount of choppage, but it's worth it because the payoff is so big. It's a one-dish meal, everybody likes it, and it's nutrient-loaded.  So try it, and then call me. We'll get together for a group gloat. 

Serves 4

  • 2 medium-size zucchini
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, preferably Savoy
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine, broken in half
  • 1 cup pine nuts, toasted (see Note)

1. Trim the ends off the zucchini, cut the zucchini into 2-inch chunks, and then grate them in a food processor fitted with the shredding blade. Sprinkle the grated zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, place it in a colander, and set it aside. 

2. Peel the carrots, cut them into chunks, and shred them in the food processor. Set the carrots aside. 

3. Cut the cabbage into chunks, and then into strips, using the slicing blade in the food processor. Set the cabbage aside. 

4. Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion and cook until it is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. 

5. While the onion is cooking, set a large pot of salted water over high heat (for the pasta).

6. Add the garlic to the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 5 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini to extract any liquid, add it to the skillet, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. 

7. Add the broth, cover the skillet, and let the veggies cook for 5 minutes. Then add the cream and cook, stirring, until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/3 cup of the cheese, cover the skillet, and remove it from the heat. 

8. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until it is al dente (just tender), about 10 minutes.

9. Drain the pasta and return it to the pasta pot. Add the vegetable mixture, combine well, and serve with the remaining grated cheese and the pine nuts on the side. 

Note: To toast pine nuts, place them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven and toast them, stirring them once or twice, until they are golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, though. I literally always have to throw out the first batch because I've gotten distracted and forgot about them until I heard the smoke alarm.

Variations: You can go a little wild with this, especially if your family is not veggiphobic. You can add green peas or shelled edamame, fresh corn kernels or chickpeas or sliced red peppers or mushrooms or . . . whatever vegetables your family tolerates. You can also add cooked chicken or shrimp, or a little chopped ham. I'm usually way too crabby to add more ingredients than are already listed, but if you're feeling exceptionally calm, or have had a martini, go for it.
 

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 07 March 2011 )
 
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