Category Archives: Food Network

How Hot/Cold Bags Brought Silence to My Food Journeys

Hot/Cold Bag

Have you seen these Hot/Cold bags before at the store?  I had noticed them hanging off of freezer door handles for over a year before I broke down and bought one.  I was shopping an hour south of home and located a flavor of sherbet my father had been desperately seeking for months; I knew I had to bring some home.  I didn’t have high hopes for the bag but I hoped it would at least keep the product somewhat cool so that dad could have some cold soup by the time I reached home.


To my amazement when I arrived home it was as rock solid as frozen delights are usually found at the store.  Still I was not immediately converted.  My mother had taught me that if I knew I was shopping a distance from home that I should always bring a cooler with me.  While this may seem silly to some up in New Hampshire where I live the closest grocery store is a fifteen minute drive and it’s not even the “good” one.

The problem with this is I hate having to get the cooler and clean it, never mind the clanging it makes as it sways drunkenly around the back of the car.  So for a very long time I shopped at the sub-par establishment and cooked a simple routine of dishes. 

On a whim I broke from tradition and decided to give the Hot/Cold bag a shot.  I made a week’s list of foods and off I went thirty minutes south to have a shot at fresh produce and people who actually know what cuts of beef I’m talking about. 

I have to admit that I shopped a little shyly planning on purchasing milk and other generic cold items closer to home, but I shopped unabashedly at the meat counter picking up pancetta, and some chicken.  When I reached the produce section I was near tears at the beauty and quality of the vegetables.  I greedily grabbled large bunches of greens, asparagus, herbs, and lettuces not having any plan as how to incorporate them into my menu for the week.  I was like a woman marooned on an island only able to eat fish for years and finally able to sink her teeth into a prime cut of beef.

At the checkout my checkbook was unhappy but I refused to let it upset the delirious high I was on.  Out at my car I placed all of my cold items carefully into my special bag and made sure each of the snaps clicked.  I placed the bag in a foot well to prevent unnecessary bouncing and ran episodes of the Food Network through my mind trying to think of what to do with my bounty.

It’s been over two years since that escapade into the Hot/Cold bag territory and I’ve never looked back.  I mention it to all of my friends and relatives as a great piece of equipment.  Just stick it next to the front door and take it back to the car next time and you’re ready to shop at a moments notice – you don’t need ice – you don’t need heat packs, it simply works with the heat or cold from the items in the bag.  For the ware and tare you get out of each bag I say its well worth the small investment and in the end when they need to be turned out to pasture they don’t owe you a cent.

Best of all – they don’t clang in the back of my car.


What Amanda Is Eating This Weekend

Amanda's Meal This Weekend

Amanda loves pork.

Amanda really loves potatoes.

Amanda isn’t really a fan of vegetables.

So I have to walk a fine line all the time with her, but it’s worth it for me because it’s a chance to learn for me. 

The stars were aligned for this meal this weekend.  Not only had it been a few weeks in between pork dishes but pork chops were only sale at the market I like to frequent.  To top that I received a supply of four new cookbooks in the mail this week, one of them being Giada De Laurentiis – Giada’s Family Dinners (which I had been hoping would be under the tree for Christmas). 

While I was reading the book I came across page 96, and Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops. 

Had I mentioned that Amanda loves cheese?

Well Amanda loves cheese.

So I saw it as fortuitous and decided to plan a meal around the sale product and the flavor in Giada’s recipe.  My first thought was rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes spears.  I was banking on this thought while I was at the grocery store, but I came across some lovely yellow and orange peppers that I decided if I pan fried with a bit of olive oil and finished with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar in the pan for the last minute of cooking would provide a tang as well as a great color to the plate.   Picking up the peppers I knew that would have to change my idea for potatoes because as my mother had always taught me I shouldn’t have multiple items of the same size and shape on a plate.  Creamy mashed potatoes dressed with nothing more than real butter, milk, salt, and pepper is a delicious canvas for the pork and the peppers to rest on and texturally it shakes up and lands along nothing else I’ve set aside for her dish. 

I like to try and get two vegetables on any plate I make.  This way I can give two different flavors and my hope is to never bore people with my side dishes.  So to go with the parmesan pork I thought onions caramelized in butter tossed with green peas would make a wonderful addition.

With almost all dishes that I make I’m asked for some sauce, but I also know that Amanda is conscious of her weight.  So I decided to go for something high in flavor and low in gravy laden fat.

Mushroom No-Gravy  Ingredients

1 – 8 ounce package Cremini Mushrooms

1 – 8 ounce package Shitake Mushrooms

2 tsps butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste


Clean off and dice all of the mushrooms

Heat a medium skillet over med-low heat.  Add the butter and olive oil.  Once the pan is heated add cleaned and diced mushrooms.  Do not add salt and pepper yet as it will stop the mushrooms from obtaining the rich brown color of pan gravy we are looking for.  Sautee the mushrooms for several minutes (everyone’s cook tops are different mine took about six minutes) till they have reached the deep brown then salt and pepper to taste.  Cook another minute.

Serve warm over whatever you wish.

Add it all together and you get Saturday and Sunday’s suppers for my friend Amanda.