(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
I saw my whisks a lot more than I used them. That's because long ago, in an act of rare arts-and-crafts around the house, I made a sculpture of sorts of my collection of my unused whisks that ranged in size from about two inches high to a foot, and from flat, to thin, to fat. I repurposed a slatted silverware holder from one of those chic wooden dish racks that are still all I use even though they fall apart after a few years and placed all of the whisks inside. It is almost like a wire and wood flower arrangement and sits atop my kitchen breakfast nook bar as decoration.
That is, except for one standard whisk. I kept that out in a bin with our other kitchen utensils and my husband and I use it each time we make scrambled eggs or omelets. I now see that in a horribly wrong move, for other dishes, I lazily mixed or beat any other by-hand ingredients with a tablespoon or large wooden spoon. The results were fine, but now I can see they could have been much better had I used a whisk as directed.
I found out this accidentally by preparing two recipes in one day that called for whisking in the instructions and actually whisking rather than just stirring furiously with a spoon. I could have asked Valerie Bertinelli, though. The actress and longtime avid chef has a new series on Food Network called "Valerie's Home Cooking" filled with comfort food. After my day of whisking when I saw Bertinelli making her "Secret Homemade Chocolate Sauce" in which honey is a special touch, I could relate to her other acknowledged special touch: whisking the ingredients until "thick but smooth." I also knowingly nodded as I saw a promo for the new TV series "Rachael Ray's Kids Cook-Off" and one of the winning tots held up a whisk and declared it was her favorite cooking tool.
I'd been pooh-poohing whisks for decades. Just before the Internet became part of everyday life, I remember receiving a slim hardcover cookbook titled "Whisk." I thought, "That's silly. Maybe that's hype. Why would recipes be distinguished just because you use a whisk? No wonder that book is so skinny!" I wish now I could find it.
My day of enlightenment began with craving fettuccine Alfredo and wanting to have a first-time try at making a smooth and creamy rendition at home with the unsweetened soymilk I use for everything. While slightly adapting a recipe from AllRecipes.com, after adding cream cheese, garlic powder and black pepper, I did as advised: "Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add milk a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps." After my years of laziness, I was amazed at how beautifully the whisk quickly smoothed out the lumps. My sauce ended up perfect.
Later that day, cravings were continuing to be met. I desired rich chocolate sorbet, but wanted something virtually sugar-free. I found a recipe adapted from ice cream pro David Lebovitz on "Cook in Five Square Meters Blog" that, like Bertinelli's chocolate sauce recipe below, utilized a small amount of honey (instead of Lebovitz's granulated sugar) to great effect. For me, this was a mother lode when it came to whisking. First, I "whisked together" water, honey, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt and brought to a boil, "whisking frequently," and then let it boil, "continuing to whisk" before stirring in chopped dark chocolate. Again, for the second time that day, I was amazed at how smooth and thick the concoction was, which resulted in a tantalizing final product.
Like the wire whisk sculpture I made for my kitchen, also for cute effect, for years I have had a tiny two-inch wire whisk someone gave me in the pen- and pencil-filled mug on the desk in my home office. Lately I've been tempted to dismantle those artworks for more delicious usage.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
QUICK AND EASY ALFREDO SAUCE
1/4 cup butter (or 1 tablespoon butter and the rest vegan butter spread)
4 ounces whipped cream cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup unsweetened soymilk
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces combination of finely grated white cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese or just Parmesan cheese
3 servings cooked fettuccine or spaghetti, kept hot
Yields 3 servings.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth. Add soymilk, a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps. Stir in pepper and cheese.
Remove from heat when sauce reaches desired consistency. Sauce will thicken rapidly. Thin with more soymilk if cooked too long or otherwise necessary. Toss with hot pasta. Serve immediately.
-Adapted from AllRecipes.com
VALERIE BERTINELLI'S CREME DE MENTHE SUNDAES WITH SECRET HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE SAUCE
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch (preferably kosher) salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 scoops vanilla ice cream
Creme de menthe syrup (or other syrup), for drizzling
1/2 cup raspberries
Yields 4 servings.
To prepare chocolate sauce: Put 3/4 cup water and the honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring so that the honey dissolves; with an oven mitt if needed carefully remove from the heat.
Add cocoa powder and salt to a heatproof bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the honey-water mixture to the cocoa powder. Whisk to create a thick but smooth liquid. Add the cocoa mixture back to the remaining honey-water mixture in the pan. Bring the whole mixture up to a simmer and let cook until slightly thickened, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Let cool completely, then refrigerate. (The sauce thickens as it cools and chills.)
To prepare sundaes: Add 2 scoops of ice cream to 4 bowls. Drizzle each with some of the chocolate sauce and creme de menthe syrup. Top with a few of the raspberries. Serve immediately.
-"Valerie's Home Cooking"/FoodNetwork.comQUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
In Candice Kumai's new Clean Green Eats
, the chef prepares a mix for chickpea burgers that also includes oats, chopped nuts, diced vegetables and spices (all of which could be your choice based on taste). When pulsing in a food processor, Kumai advises: "Be sure to pulse just until a fine meal appears; if you blend too much, you'll make hummus!"Lisa Messinger
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.