About Kathryn Deschenes

That’s me. I live for food. Food represents tradition, memories, convenience, advancement, entertainment, and much more. That’s why I love it! I’m an enthusiast of edible items (within reason) who occasionally binges on baked goods, takes an extra helping at dinner, loves to travel, and enjoys a glass of thick red wine. Writing is my other passion. I hold a bachelor’s degree in food science, and am currently working on my master’s in the same field. I’m excited to bring you the latest about trending foods, recipes, diets, and other edible subjects.

Comfort Food: Homemade Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup

Homemade Tomato and Garlic SoupSomething about tomato soup reaches into your soul and says, “Go ahead. Stay in your sweats!”  The ultimate comfort food is tomato soup—it’s never be served with anything other than an ooey gooey grilled cheese.  If your tomato soup usually comes from a can, don’t be turned away.  This recipe takes time, but every minute is worth it. Your grilled cheese will thank you!

Homemade Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup

Makes 4 servings.

  • 3 pounds Roma Tomatoes, fresh, cores removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Roasting TomatosPreheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by putting foil down or lining with a silicone mat.  Place all of the tomatoes and the garlic on the baking sheet.  Roast for 45 to 55 minutes in the middle of the oven or until the tomatoes have shriveled skins.  It’s also ok to let them get some brown spots on the skins.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

Peel the tomatoes if you prefer.  (I just let the skins get pureed in the food processor.)  Put all of the tomatoes and garlic plus the onion into a food processor or blender, including the juices that were released during roasting.  Allow to mix for about a minute or until it is uniform.

tomato mixture Pour the tomato mixture from the food processor into a large saucepan.  Add the bay leaf, pepper, paprika, and the broth.   Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then put the heat on low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.  Garnish with basil and serve hot with grilled cheese.   If you would like to make cream of tomato soup, add ½ cup heavy cream.   This recipe also freezes well if you’d like to save it for the next rainy day.

To make a grilled cheese, butter two slices of bread and pack it with your favorite cheeses.  Good melting cheeses include cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, provolone, havarti, muenster, brie, and many others.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and place your sandwich down.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until the bread has browned.  Flip and allow the other side to brown.

Really, what is better than a grilled cheese and tomato soup on a chilly day?

What are your favorite fall foods?

The Art of a Perfect Salad

preparing salad tips

Salads get a bad rap for no good reason.   A well-prepared salad can be a suitable entrée for men and women alike.  I can eat steak with the biggest of men—but it’s the art of the perfect salad that really gets me going.  Salad’s are great because they are easy to prepare, and take very minimal time to toss together. Here are a few of my tips for creating a salads that you’ll love to eat:

Fresh Greens

Try to stay away from wilted greens.  When buying lettuces, try and find the ones that have no signs of browning spoilage or slime.  If you’re buying pre-packaged lettuce, try some with variety.  If you are buying straight produce, grab some varying leaves off the salad bar.


Dressing is the finishing touch on a salad.  It’s simple to make your own dressing at home—just use oil, a acid (such as balsamic or wine vinegars), and an element of sweet such as maple syrup, honey, or jam.  Add a little bit of mustard if you like.  Use a 1 to 1 mixture of oil and acid, then add the other elements to taste.  Use a little salt, pepper, and herbs/spices to make it your own!

Texture & Flavor Variation

The textures of salads are what really make it great.  Vary the textures in your salads by adding nuts for crunch or goat cheese for a smooth texture.  Fruit adds a sweet element and another contrast of mouthfeels.  Add boiled egg or crisped Parmesan cheese for yet another texture and flavor kick.

Don’t just stick to the basics of a garden salad.  Get creative with your ingredients. Here are a few winning combinations:

  • Pickled beets (chai pickled are my favorite), garlic goat cheese, and walnuts on arugula
  • Apple slices, steak, asiago, and chopped pistachios on mixed greens
  • Pear, chicken, Parmesan cheese crisped in the oven, hard boiled egg and almonds on romaine
  • Strawberry, candied pecans, gorgonzola cheese on spinach

With the infinite amount of salad combinations, there are bound to be a few that become favorites.  Be creative with your ingredients.  Use a salad entrée dinner as a unique opportunity to clean out your cabinets.

For best results when making any salad, toss all the ingredients (other than the dressing) together in a large bowl.  Add the dressing around the edges of the bowl, then toss again.

What are your favorite salad combinations?

3 Easy Ways to Cook Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoe recipe ideas

Image Courtesy of stockfreeimages.com

Fall brings sweet potatoes to my mind.  Sweet potatoes are very healthy—an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of fiber, and a good source of potassium.  The orange-fleshed root tuber only contains a little more than 100 calories per quarter pound serving.  Here are some ideas of how to cook this fall favorite (and none of them contain marshmallows).

Baked Whole Sweet Potatoes

Baking sweet potatoes is an easy hands-off method. Prepare them while you’re getting the main dish ready or doing your hair.
4 medium sweet potatoes, washed and unpeeled
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of foil lining the bottom.  With a fork, poke each potato several times.  Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft.  To serve, slice the tops of the potatoes and add butter (about 1 tbsp for each potato is good).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Other topping additions that make sweet potatoes delicious are cinnamon and brown sugar, or try a move savory take with garlic powder and smoked paprika.

(Source: Real Simple)

Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Ginger Soup

Whether you’re a vegetarian or just wanting a nice thick soup for an autumn day, this is a soup that won’t let you down.   The ginger adds pizzazz to this vegetable goodness!  I recommend eating it while snuggled up next to a fire (or in your cubicle at work—whatever works best for you, really!)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
5 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp ginger from jar, or minced fresh ginger

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent—about 2 minutes.  In the same saucepan, add the stock and water.  Immediately add the sweet potato, carrot, and ginger.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Strain the vegetables from the broth, reserving some of the broth.  Puree the vegetables in a food processor or blender.  (In some cases, it is best if you allow it to cool first.  We don’t want any kitchen battle wounds!)  If your blender will not fit all of the vegetables, puree the mixture in batches.  Add broth back to the blender to the desired thickness ¼ cup at a time.

Pour the puree back into the saucepan and stir until it is well-blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with chives and a dollop of sour cream.
(Source: Women’s Health)

Sweet Potato Gratin

4 pieces bacon, diced
½ cup onion, diced
1 clove minced garlic (or 1 tsp)
2 cups sweet potatoes (2 medium sweet potatoes), thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp sour cream
½ tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly grease ramekins or individual baking dishes.

In a sauté pan, cook the bacon until crisp, then add the onion. Toss the chopped onion with the bacon for about a minute and remove from heat.  Add the garlic and toss again.

In a small pot, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and cook until the mixture is well combined.  Do not allow the mixture to brown—it will be pale.  Stir in the milk and sour cream.  Reduce the heat to low and bring to a simmer.  Add the nutmeg, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.

Layer 5 slices of potato at the base of each greased baking dish, then top with 1 tablespoon of the sauce, and a spoonful of the bacon. Repeat, adding a layer of potatoes, then sauce, then bacon mixture.  At the top of the baking dish, finish with a layer of potatoes and a spoonful of sauce.  Top with cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbling around the edges of the dish.  Serve hot.

(Source: www.Food52.com)

Whether you’re a sweet potato fanatic or just testing the orange fleshed waters, enjoy the bounty of sweet potatoes while fall is still in session.

5 Tips for Becoming a Better Cook

be a better cook in the kitchenCooking is a hobby for some, and a chore for others.  For me, it was one thing to help my parents to cook a meal, and a whole different ballgame to plan ALL of my meals.  I progressed quickly, trying many new recipes and buying exotic ingredients at the grocery store.  I would say I fall on the hobby side of things.

If you stand on the other side of the fence (cooking is a chore),  then here are 5 tips that may lead you to enjoy cooking a little more.

Take a knife skills class.

Knife skills are hard to get the hang of without someone guiding you, and they can make your cooking so much easier.  There are some good knife skills videos on YouTube, Vimeo, and free podcasts in the iTunes store.  Many kitchen stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma offer basic knife skills courses.

Start with easy.

Don’t start your cooking career with Julia Child’s famed boeuf bourgignon recipe in preparation for a dinner party of 6.  Instead, make something simple like grilled chicken, soup, or a pasta sauce. It’s easy to get gung-ho and want to make every recipe that ever graced the earth, but brace yourself, be patient, and gradually work your way up to the tough recipes.  Another good rule is to never make a new recipe with guests.

Don’t substitute ingredients.

You forgot something at the store so you decide, “What the heck! I’ll add ____ instead.”  Substituting is an easy way to make a mediocre or disaster meal.  It’s probably ok to add a few of your favorite vegetables to a stew, BUT don’t substitute when you’re baking unless you have ample experience.  Baking involves chemical reactions, so treat it like that chemistry lab you had so long ago.  Be precise in all baking!  Even then, there are a few exceptions:  I give you permission to add extra chocolate chips!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

You’re not going to be the next Iron Chef overnight.  If you’re not the best cook, you can only get better by practicing.  After you master simple recipes, move up to something a little more difficult.  When a recipe is a big hit, add it to your meal rotation and practice until you’ve mastered it.

Plan your meals ahead of time.

Planning meals for the week can save you time, money, and the pain of trying to thaw meat last minute (the meat always wins).  Strategizing your meals can also mean less trips to the grocery store.

Cooking is fun when you learn to create masterpieces.  But in order to create a masterpiece, time and patience are needed.  When those meal blunders happen, don’t be afraid to order take-out and try again a few weeks later.  (My worst cooking incident had to do with a glass dish shattering in the oven when my boeuf bourgignon was almost ready.  The recipe takes HOURS!  Needless to say, my date took me out to eat. I cleaned glass out of the oven for WEEKS.)

Easy Chicken Stir Fry

delicious chicken stir fryDon’t feel like cooking?  Make this easy, delicious chicken stir fry.  It’s an easy meal to make.  Here are a few tips for making quick stir fry:

Don’t make your own teriyaki sauce

Buy teriyaki sauce from the store.  I prefer a lower sodium version.  This cuts down on a lot of cooking time, and the risk of messing up the sauce. (Not that any General Gazette gal would do that…)

Buy pre-cut or frozen mixed vegetables

You don’t have to trim and prepare your own fresh vegetables.  If it works out better for your schedule, pick up some pre-cut, pre-mixed vegetables in the fresh or frozen section.  Frozen vegetables are an excellent staple to keep in the freezer for those nights you just don’t feel like cooking or you’re out of fresh veggies and had no time to make it to the store.  Don’t worry if it’s not the same variety as I recommend in this recipe—it will be just as good.

Easy Chicken Stir Fry

  • 2 large chicken breasts (trimmed and sliced into long thin pieces)
  • 1 lime
  • ½ tsp Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce (purchased from store)
  • 2 cloves garlic


(use these or substitute for 1 bag of prepackaged vegetables-fresh or frozen)

  • 4 carrots (peeled and diced)
  • ½ pound green beans (fresh, trimmed)
  • 1 large red pepper (sliced)

Marinate the chicken breast in ½ cup teriyaki sauce (or more—just enough to cover the chicken) and the juice of 1 lime for at least 1 hour. (The chicken can marinate up to 4 hours).

stir fry recipesHeat a sauté pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp of olive oil, or enough to barely cover the bottom of your pan.  Add minced garlic in the pan. Place the chicken in the warm pan with the garlic, shaking off excess marinade as you place it into the pan. Cook the chicken until golden brown and thoroughly cooked, about 5 minutes.  Place on a plate and reserve.

Clean the pan if needed (sometimes pans get a lot of black build-up—you’ll want to at least rinse your pan.)  Thoroughly dry the pan, then heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the carrots, green beans, and red pepper.  Add the other clove of garlic into the pan and cook the vegetables until they are a little less tender than you would like them to be. (Pour off any excess liquid if you’re using frozen vegetables.)  Add the remaining ½ cup of teriyaki sauce, along with the reserved chicken.  Let cook for 3 minutes on medium heat or until chicken is hot.   Serve over brown or jasmine rice.

Don’t let making dinner break your busy social agenda.  Eat fast and healthy!  Make stir fry!

Arsenic in Food: Weighing in on the Safety of Rice

Arsenic in food products

image courtesy of consumerreports.org

Less than a year after arsenic was found in apple juice,  the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Reports recently released shocking results of a study linking rice and inorganic arsenic after testing 200 rice products. Arsenic is a chemical that is naturally present in the earth, but is more well-known for its use as a pesticide.  Consumption of elevated levels of arsenic has been linked to long-term health effects.
It can be alarming to hear that a “poisonous” material is being linked to our food supply, but here are a few facts that you should know about arsenic in food:

Arsenic is naturally found in the environment

Arsenic is found naturally in the environment—the air, water, and soil.  In addition, arsenic was a commonly used pesticide until the 1970s when alternative solutions were found.  Arsenic is also used in wood products to prevent insects.  Due to its use in the agricultural setting, arsenic is still present in some ground waters and lands used for growing food.  Inorganic arsenic has long been named a carcinogen.

Arsenic is also found in drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the stance that no exposure to arsenic is safe.  With that being said, they also acknowledge that exposure may be inevitable.  The EPA has set up a 10 part per billion (ppb) limit on arsenic in drinking water, but many foods have no limits on the amounts that can be present.

Consumers may want to start cutting down on rice consumption

Rice is still deemed safe by the FDA.  They have not made any suggestions that consumers limit their rice consumption.  The FDA did state that consumers should eat a diet with “a wide variety of grains.”   After their final study of 1,200 rice products, the FDA will make suggestions about the consumption of rice to the public.

On the contrary, Consumer Reports released their study (based on a 5 ppb arsenic “limit”) suggesting that consumers could be taking in 1.5 times more arsenic in their rice products than a whole day’s worth of drinking water.  Arsenic levels in some infant rice cereals were found to be 5 times higher than other cereal alternatives.

With this information, Consumer Reports has suggested limiting rice consumption to 2 times per week for adults and limiting infant cereal to once per day.  (To see other recommendations view the full Consumer Reports recommendations here: www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/11/arsenic-in-your-food/)

The Consumer Reports study is enough for me to being cutting down my rice consumption.  Rice is still a very healthy part of a balanced diet, but it may be best not to eat it every day.  Rice alternatives that you could add to your meals include: quinoa, millet, or couscous.

Will this news change your rice consumption?

Salmon Filet with Pumpkin Glaze: Perfect Meal to Kick Off Autumn

Salmon Filet with Pumpkin GlazeIt’s officially autumn, and starting to feel like it around here.  Nothing represents fall better than pumpkin—pumpkins for Halloween, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin means fall!  So, here’s a festive fall salmon with a simple glaze made from pumpkin butter that can be purchased at the store.  You’ll have all of your friends begging for some seasonal seconds!

Salmon Filet with Pumpkin Glaze:

Serves 6
1 side of sockeye salmon (2 ½ or 3 pounds) de-scaled and pin bones removed
OR 6 salmon fillets
1/2 cup pumpkin butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove fresh garlic.
1/2 tsp Salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
Olive oil

Prepare a broiler safe baking sheet by coating with olive oil.   Rinse the salmon under color running water and pat it dry using paper towels.

sockeye salmon Place the salmon on the prepared baking sheet skin side down.  Sprinkle the salmon with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then spread the pumpkin butter over the salmon using a rubber spatula so that it is evenly coated.

Turn broiler on high and allow to heat up for 2 minutes before placing the salmon into the oven a few inches away from the broiler (set the rack on the highest it will go).  Cook for 6 to 8 minutes under the broiler or until the fish flakes when pierced with a fork or the internal temperature of the thickest part of the fish reads 131 degrees on an instant thermometer.  Remove the fish from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Serve immediately with broccoli and yellow squash.

pumpkin butter recipesThis recipe is perfect for serving the whole family, or a large crowd for a autumnal dinner party.  The pumpkin butter can be purchased at most grocery stores in the jam and jelly section.  If you don’t use up all of the pumpkin butter, it also adds a fall flavor to English muffins, toast, and even on pancakes!  I’ve used apple butter in place of pumpkin butter in this recipe from time to time, and it turns out just as delicious.

Salmon with a pumpkin glaze is great for enjoying in an outside dining area (weather permitting) by a fire with a few fine friends.  My wine suggestion—an Oregon pinot noir.

School Lunch Meals Get a Facelift

new school lunch changesHow have your children liked the facelift of their school cafeteria’s food?   Beginning this school year, new standards were set for the National School Lunch Program that should go unmissed by its 32 million young participants.  What have your kids been eating at school this year?  Schools may still serve that rubbery mystery meat, but along with some more healthy sides.  (We had Salisbury steak at our school that was like rubber.  I’m not even sure what Salisbury steak is…) [Read more...]

How the Skinny Girls Stay Skinny

Do you ever wonder how that ever-skinny girl stays thin? ( I’m not referring to those who can eat whatever they want and never gain a pound…  The ladies I’m talking about have to work hard to keep a rocking body.)  Here’s a few tips that will get you closer to being that girl.

Keeping your skinny figure

Eat healthy snacks

Leave a bowl of fruit on your counter for easy access.  Plan to eat fruit, vegetables, or nuts for your snacks throughout the week.    Buy nuts in handy snack packs or in bulk and divvy out into individual bags.   Get a variety of items that you like–don’t just buy apples!  Grab a nectarine and an orange while you’re at it.  If you are just eating out of boredom, buy some gum and chew that instead of resorting to eating. [Read more...]

A Classic Tomato Sauce to Impress Any Guest

tomato sauce recipe

If there was a queen of pasta sauces, it would be Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.

This pasta sauce is so rich that it tastes like red silk carefully draped over pasta.   The best part of the recipe is it is so simple–put tomatoes in a pot, add butter and onion, wait 45 minutes and voila!

Maybe you’ve never heard of Marcella Hazan—the genius cookbook writer making the authentic Italian food capable for the U.S.  If you haven’t checked out her cookbook, The Essentials of Italian Cooking, it comes highly recommended.   I gave it to my husband as a gift a few years back, and it has since been our go-to book for entertaining.  It is filled with almost 500 recipes that will make your taste buds feel like you just arrived in Italy.  This cookbook is the masterpiece of authentic Italian cooking, on par with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (for French food).

Back to the tomato sauce…

pasta sauce ingredientsThere are still plenty of tomatoes in my area, so pick up some fresh tomatoes at the area farmer’s market or other places where local produce is available to make this masterpiece of a sauce. If you are using fresh tomatoes to make a sauce, you can take the skin off more easily by putting your tomatoes in the freezer.  This makes the water in the tomatoes expand and makes the de-skinning process easier, but is not recommended for any other tomato application.  The recipe also doesn’t call for any pureeing, but if you have picky eaters who despise chunks—go ahead and use that food processor!  If fresh tomatoes are not in the cards, this recipe also works with canned whole tomatoes.  I suggest those imported from Italy, no salt, with their juice.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Adapted from The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Serves 6.

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes or 1 28 oz can of Italian imported tomatoes, whole
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 cloves garlic (optional)
Salt to taste
1 to 1 1/2 pound pasta
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table

tomato sauce preperationPut fresh prepared tomatoes (or canned) tomatoes into a saucepan.  Add butter, onion, garlic cloves, salt, and cook with cover on at a simmer for 45 minutes or “until the fat floats free from the tomato” while stirring occasionally. Add salt as needed.  Discard the onion and garlic before tossing with pasta in the pan. Serve with spaghetti, penne, or rigatoni with parmigiano-reggiono.

Want to impress your significant other with a delicious, authentic Italian meal?  This sauce is sure to impress and it’s an simple recipe.  Your guests will ask where you got the pasta sauce!