Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Biggest Mistake

One of the biggest mistake that all cooks (not just beginning cooks) make is not reading the recipe. This is one of the most important things that you can do. Have an idea of exactly what the recipe is telling you to do. If you have a question about a term that the recipe uses, before you start is a good time to find out what it means.

The next step is called 'mise en place'. This French term means everything in place. On all the cooking shows you will see all the ingredients ready to go in small individual dishes. You don't have to get that fancy, but make sure that you do have all the ingredients.

You will be surprised how much easier your cooking will be.



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Sunday, September 9, 2007

We Welcome All-About-Cooking.com to our site

I am always searching for good content for our site, and I found a really good site for you. Chef Talk has the inside edge to good food.

All About Cooking.Com
How to cook chicken,salmon, lobster and more. Recipes from all around the world including Mediterranean and Asian dishes.

When you are first learning to cook, the task seems insurmountable. But there are a lot of ways to be a good cook and enjoy yourself at the same time. Cooking is a very long experiment. When you first start, you follow the recipe to the exact letter. But the more that you cook, the more you find yourself adding a dash of this and a pinch of that. Cooking a meal can be the most rewarding thing that you do all day.



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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Totally Awesome Cookies!


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I got this recipe from All Recipes (Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies). The cookies turned out really well. But by making a few changes, it turns into an awesome cookie. It’s very rich.

When I first started to bake, I made a lot of cookie recipes on the cheap. This is not a cheap cookie to make. If the recipe called for butter, my theory was butter and margarine are about the same and margarine is cheaper. I have since learned that if a recipe calls for butter, use butter. There is a difference.

You are going to notice that the dough is very heavy, with a pound of butter in it, you’re going to get heavy too. I read somewhere that you can also gain weight, not just from eating, but also from smelling food. I’m in big trouble, I just made 22 dozen of these. My son and daughter-in-law are having a party to celebrate the finalization of Alex’s adoption. It’s a very weird feeling for six months that at any time, someone can come and take your baby away. But everything is final now and we’re celebrating!

The original recipe says that this makes 6 dozen cookies. I used a soup spoon to measure mine and I got 3 ½ dozen.


Awesome Chip Cookies

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 (3.4 ounce packages) INSTANT cheesecake pudding mix
4 eggs
4 Tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups DARK CHOCOLATE/RASPBERRY baking chips
2 cups chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, add the salt, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Stir in the baking chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto a ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookie edges will be golden brown.

Experiments:

1. If you use vanilla pudding mix, the flavor is not as intense.
2. If you use chocolate pudding mix, the cookie seems drier. (I ran out of vanilla flavoring, so I used rum flavoring – this may be why they were drier) I really didn’t like these, so I had some fun size Snickers. I cut the Snickers in thirds and put them on top of the cookie before and after baking. They are much better before baking.
3. If you use, chocolate/caramel chips, they turn out pretty good. But there is something about the dark chocolate/raspberry chips that makes them even better.

I’m going to put this recipe on all my sites, I think it’s that good. So, you may stumble onto it again.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kalyn's Kitchen: Cooking Tips from Kalyn and Some Favorite Herb and Spice Blends


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Kalyn's Kitchen: Cooking Tips from Kalyn and Some Favorite Herb and Spice Blends

One thing that I don't go into, in much detail, is Diet Food. Kalyn likes the South Beach diet and has developed good recipes for you. I will bow to her expertise in this department. Enjoy her recipes and tips!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Buying Good Cookware


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Stainless steel cookware sets and individual pots and pans purchased at the Bargain-Marts may or may not actually be bargains. Sure you will know the price you paid for the product, and how that price compares to the other Marts in town, but did you get a deal? The only way to know the value of your stainless steel cookware set purchase is to know the basics of cookware language. After you get the very basics of cookware terms, you can then make better purchasing choices. In this article we will discuss material thickness and how this improves quality. The information we will cover in this article includes stainless steel cookware, aluminum cookware and cast aluminum cookware whether purchased in sets or individual pots.

Sometimes the Marts due in fact have very good deals on quality cookware products. This may not always follow the brand name rules that at first come to mind. Most brand name products have different product lines, and these lines usually are of different level of quality. The good news is if you buy brand name products, even the low cost lines, you will be getting a product that is normally much better quality that the better or the best of the non-brand name cookware. The brand name producers do not want you to associate their name with low-quality products. If this association happens you will not be a repeat buyer of that brand. If you go into a store or even a web site and the manufacturer’s name is not readily seen or advertised, the buyer should be cautious. Manufacturers of quality products want the consumer to know their name.

Now let get started on some cookware terms and the very basic knowledge you will need to know. As I mentioned above, we will begin with thickness of a pot or pan and the terms used. Metal thickness can be stated in inches (thousandths), millimeters, or gauge. Since many manufactures are now in Europe, they sell to Europe as well to the USA; those brands will be rated in MM or millimeters. Do not let metric measurements scare you; 1.0 MM is 0.0394 inches thick, a 0.5 MM is one half that thick or 0.0197 inches thick and 2.0 MM is twice that thickness or 0.0787 inches thick. The higher the MM rating the thicker the utensil will be. The next term for thickness is called gauge. Gauge can be hard to understand. The measurement in gauge works the reverse of normal thinking. The larger the number of gauge the resulting material will be thinner. A 16 gauge material is 1.3 MM thick, an 8 gauge material is 3.25 MM thick and a 4 gauge material is 5.18 MM thick.

We have now talked about all three measurement systems, inches thick in thousandths, millimeters and in gauge we will see where these units are used. If you are buying aluminum cookware or cast aluminum cookware the thickness will be in gauge. Most stamped aluminum cookware in the mass market is 10 gauge on fry pans and a thinner 12 gauge on saucepans. Better quality aluminum cookware would use a heavier 8 gauge on fry pans and 10 gauge on other pieces. Cast aluminum cookware is equivalent to 6 gauge. Consumers are moving up to more durable fry pans in recent years - either 6 gauge or a very heavy 4 gauge. Bargain basement lightweight fry pans with "generic" non-stick coatings are usually 12 gauge or 14 gauge. This is too thin to provide any length of time in service. The first time the heat is high under these fry pans the bottoms could warp, the contents burn or both. If you are buying stainless steel cookware the measurement of thickness will be in millimeters, (if the manufacturer is in the USA it may be listed in thousandths of an inch). The standard for top of range stainless steel cookware is 0.6 MM. Premium department store brands will have stainless steel cookware in the range of 0.7 MM to 1.0 MM thick. Low end stainless steel cookware is generally 0.5 MM thick. If you have the choice between two pots one is 2.59 MM thick (0.102 inches or 10 gauge) and the second is 5.18 MM thick (0.204 inches or 4 gauge) the best pot for even heat distribution is the 5.18 MM pot.

If you look at the bottom of your stainless steel cookware or your aluminum cookware and you see discolored, almost black shaded areas on the surface. If the pot does not set flat due to being warped, the likely cause is the utensil has had too much heat applied for its’ thickness. Once the utensil is warped it will never be able to transfer heat uniformly.

Dale Crouse is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt; he has been dealing with facts and data for the past 6 years in his work. Linda, his wife started a website selling quality cookware and she wanted to know how the products she sold compared to other “quality cookware”. Dale will be writing additional articles showing how to make the best choices in purchasing cookware from his research. Visit Linda’s website for quality cookware and accessories at http://www.mypothandle.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dale_Crouse

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cooking Has Changed A Lot!

I have a cookbook from my Grandmother dated 1940. If you think cooking is difficult now, just wait for these recipes. These recipes assume a lot. For example:

Buns

4 cups water
16 cups flour
1 cake yeast
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
1 rounded tablespoon salt

That’s it. No mixing instructions. No baking instructions.


How about Fried Carrots?

Boil until tender, and peel the carrots cut lengthwise in thin slices, dip in egg and roll in cracker crumbs, and fry until crisp.

Last one:

Noodles

2 eggs
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon lard (I guess that they didn’t have a problem with cholesterol back then)
Flour to stiffen.

Again no cooking instructions.


In 1938, this is how they made Hollandaise sauce.

This is called Never-Fail Hollandaise Sauce

½ cup water
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
little onion

Cook water and cornstarch together until clear. Add butter and eggs and stir. Finally add lemon juice and season with salt, pepper and onion.

Here is a look at today’s recipe.

1 cup butter, unsalted
3 egg yolks, large
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1-2 dashes cayenne or hot pepper sauce

Notice how even the ingredients have changed. There is no water in today’s recipe, but the butter has increased from 4 tablespoons to 16 tablespoons. Cornstarch is not used as the thickener, and the egg yolks increase form 2 to 3. Vinegar and lime are added in the more modern recipe. The first recipe is a little more bland.

But look at the difference is instructions. Today’s recipe:

1. Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan until hot and foamy, but not browned.
2. Ladle off the clear butter and place in a container.
3. In a small stainless steel bowl, whisk or beat the egg yolks with the vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, salt and cayenne until foamy.
4. Place the bowl over a pan of low-simmering water and whisk quickly to thicken the egg yolks. Do not let the mixture get too hot, as the eggs will scramble.
5. When the yolks start to thicken, remove the bowl from the heat and slowly whisk in the clear butter.
6. Return the bowl to the saucepan and heat over very low heat until the mixture is slightly thickened. Adjust the seasoning with salt and hot sauce if desired. Serve immediately or let stand over warm heat.

Why the difference? This is just my opinion. In the 30’s and 40’s, women played a different role in society. You went to school, got married and raised a family. You learned how to cook as a matter of course, while you were growing up. Families lived in close proximity to each other. Mom and Grandma were close enough to run over to their house for information.

Today, you may live across the country or the world. You are expected to, as the commercial used to say, “Bring home the bacon and cook it up in a pan”. A lot of women don’t learn to cook in their childhood. Women are expected to work outside the home, raise a family, feed the family, wash the clothes and in her spare time to volunteer for a worthy cause. More and more frequently, you will see more prepared food in the market, frozen entrees, quick and easy this and that.

But, cooking is truly a skill. After working eight hours outside the home, it’s hard to come home and create a masterpiece. But on the weekends, the wonderful weekends, cooking is your time to relax, be creative, be in control of what your family digests. The sense of satisfaction when you put that dish on the table and everyone starts to ooh and ah, and then to say mmmm and yum that feeling is hard to beat.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cooking Substitutes

Cooking Substitutes


· 1 cup sifted all purpose flour = 1 cup unsifted all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons or = 1 1/4 cups sifted cake and pastry flour.

· 1 cup cake and pastry flour = 1 cup minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour.

· 1 cup sifted self-rising flour = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour plus 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.

· 1 tbsp cornstarch (for thickening) = 2 tbsp flour or = 2 tsp quick cooking tapioca.

· 1 tsp baking powder = 1/4 tsp baking soda plus 3/4 tsp cream of tartar.

· 1 tsp double-acting baking powder = 1 1/2 tsp phosphate baking powder or = 2 tsp tartrate baking powder.

· 1 cup butter = 1 cup margarine (hard/brick type) or = 1 cup shortening.

· 1 cup liquid honey = 1 1/4 cups sugar plus 1/4 cup liquid.

· 1 cup corn syrup = 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup liquid.

· 1 cup granulated sugar = 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed or = 1 1/3 cups brown sugar.

· 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk = 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar in a 1 cup measure plus add milk to make the 1 cup. Let stand 5 minutes.

· 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup plain yogurt.

· 1 cup sour cream = 1 cup plain yogurt.

· 1 cup milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water.

· 1 cup skim milk = 3 tbsp skim milk powder plus 1 cup water.

· 1 cup cream = 3/4 cup milk plus 1/4 cup butter.

· 1/2 cup oil = 1/2 cup melted butter or = 1/2 cup solid shortening, melted.

· 1 ounce chocolate (1 square) = 3 tbsp cocoa plus 1 tbsp butter or shortening.

· 1 package active dry yeast = 1 tbsp active dry yeast or = 1 cake of compressed yeast.

· 1 whole egg (approximately 1/4 cup) = 2 egg yolks plus 1 tbsp water. Omit the water for custards and similarly textured food.

· 1 cup meat stock (eg. beef broth) = 1 cup consomme or canned meat broth.

· 1 cup meat stock = 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup hot water or = 1 tsp instant bouillon.

· 4 cups chicken stock = 1 4 to 5 pound chicken, boiled for stock or = 4 cups canned broth or = 4 tsp instant chicken bouillon. Another cooking substitution would be 4 instant bouillon cubes plus 4 cups of water.

· 1 cup tomato juice = 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water.

· 1 cup tomato sauce = 1/2 cup tomato paste plus 1/2 cup water.

· 1 cup ketchup = 1 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp vinegar.

· 1 clove garlic = 1/8 tsp garlic powder or 1/2 tsp garlic salt.

· 2 tbsp fresh chopped green or red pepper = 1 tbsp dried pepper flakes.

· 1 tsp dry mustard = 1 tbsp prepared mustard.

· 1 small onion = 1/4 cup chopped or = 1 tbsp dehydrated minced onion or = 1 tbsp onion salt.

· 1 tbsp fresh herbs (eg. parsley or basil) = 1 tsp dried.

· Juice of 1 lemon = 3 to 4 tbsp bottled lemon juice.

· 1/3 cup rum = 1 tbsp rum flavoring.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The 10 Worst Days to go Grocery Shopping

Supermarket managers across the country developed this list of the worst days to go grocery shopping. Here are the days when your store may not be as well-stocked and well-staffed as it should be:

#1 Labor Day weekend

#2 Sundays

#3 Saturdays

#4 Memorial Day weekend

#5 Afternoons between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

#6 Thanksgiving Eve

#7 The day after a major disaster Such as an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or snowstorm.

#8 Christmas Eve

#9 Fourth of July Especially if it falls on a weekend.

#10 The day after Thanksgiving

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Easy Summertime Recipes


Spinach Salad

1 bag fresh spinach
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons grated onion1/2 teaspoon dry mustard1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup finely chopped apple
crumbled cooked bacon, for garnish, optional


Fiesta Salad Dressing over Salad greens

8 ounces plain yogurt
3 Tablespoons minced onion
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Combine ingredients in small bowl; mix well


Apple Dumplings

These are great and they are very easy.

1 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
2 (10 ounce) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 cup butter
1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12 fluid ounce) can Mountain Dew (tm)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

3. Cut each apple into 8 pieces.

4. Separate the crescent rolls into triangles.

5. Place each apple slice at the smallest end of the dough triangle and roll up.

6. Pinch the edges to seal the rolls and put into a baking dish.

7. Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Pour over the dumplings.

8. Pour the can of Mountain Dew (tm.) Over the dumplings.

9. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with either ice cream or shipped cream


Garlic and Cheddar Chicken

1/2 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
11/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded thin (place chicken between 2 sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and pound thin with a meat tenderizer or any heavy object)

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, and cook the garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.

3 In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, pepper, and salt.

4. Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter to coat, then press into thebread crumb mixture.

5. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in a 9x13 inchbaking dish.

6. Drizzle with any remaining butter and top with anyremaining bread crumb mixture.

7. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longerpink and juices run clear.



Salmon Filet (you need at least 2 hours to marinade)

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Season salmon fillets with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.

2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and vegetable oil
until sugar is dissolved.

3. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal,and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

4. Spray a broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Cook salmon for 6-8 minutes. Or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.



STIR FRY SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
sesame seeds (optional)
1 green bell, diced into large pieces
1 clove of garlic - chopped
1 ½ Tablespoons of coconut oil
1 jar of sweet and sour sauce


1. Cube chicken into chunks, set aside

2. Heat oil over low heat

3. Add sesame seeds and chopped garlic, stir to mix together

4. Turn up heat to medium heat and add chicken

5. Stir fry until chicken is thoroughly cooked

6. Add green pepper and sweet and sour sauce

7. Stir and turn down heat to low

8. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the green pepper is tender.



Creamy Asian-Style Salad Dressing served over salad greens

3 cups mayonnaise
½ cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon sesame seed oil

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

2. If too thick, add a few drops of water

3. Cover and refrigerate.


Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie (very long prep time)

1-1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons finely chopped salted peanuts, divided
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 pint chocolate ice cream, softened slightly
2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened slightly
1/3 cup peanut butter
Chocolate syrup

1. In a small bowl, prepare pie crust by mixing together cracker crumbs, sugar, 2 tablespoons of the chopped peanuts and melted butter.

2. Pour mixture on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch pie (do not use an 8-inch pie pan).

3. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

4. Remove pie crust from oven and cool completely.

5. Spread softened chocolate ice cream over the cooled pie crust.

6 . Freeze until firm (approximately 30 minutes)

7. In a large mixer bowl, combine vanilla ice cream and peanut butter, mix at low speed, scraping the bowl often, until peanut butter is evenly distributed.

8. Freeze until ice cream and peanut butter mixture holds into mounds (30 to 45 minutes).

9. Spoon ice cream and peanut butter mixture over chocolate ice cream layer.

10. Spread to edges of crust, mounding slightly higher in the center.

11. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts.

12. Freeze for 4 to 5 hours or until pie is firm.

13. Let pie stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving

14. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.


Chicken Nuggets

3 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 thyme
1 teaspoon basil
½ cup melted butter

1. Cut the chicken into 1 ½ inch squares.

2. Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, thyme, basil and salt.

3. Dip chicken into the melted butter.

4. Then dip in the bread crumb mixture.

5. Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.


Seasoned Potato Fries

4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the potato strips in a large resealable plastic bag.

2. Add the oil and shake

3. Add the seasonings and shake

4. Put the potato strips on a greased baking sheet in a single layer.

5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, or until crispy.


Grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches

Bread - enough for 2 slices per sandwich
American or Swiss Cheese - 2 slices per sandwich
Bacon - 3 slices per sandwich
Butter

1. Butter all the bread on one side.

2. Microwave bacon until crisp

3. Assemble sandwiches - bread (butter side down, 1 slice of cheese. 3 slices of bacon, slice of cheese, bread ( butter side up)

4. Heat skillet on medium high.

5. Place a sandwich in skillet and cook until golden brown or darker depending on taste.

6. Flip over and cook on other side.


Pork Tenderloin

These are in your grocer’s meat case. They even come preseasoned. They usually take 20 minutes per pound to cook.


Baked Potato Wedges

6 medium Potatoes
4 tablespoons Melted Butter
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley
Salt & pepper


1. Scrub potatoes. Do not peel.

2. Cut each potato lengthwise in quarters.

3. Stir together melted butter, garlic powder and parsley.

4. Arrange potatoes skin side down on a shallow baking pan.

5. Brush seasoned butter over cut surfaces of potatoes.

6. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

7. Bake, uncovered, at 400F degrees for about 1 hour or until golden brown and tender when pierced.



Green Beans and Almonds

2/3 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Coarse kosher or sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper


1. Place almonds in small nonstick skillet.

2. Stir over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes.

3. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

4. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water to a boil.

5. Add the beans and partially cook for 4 to 5 minutes

6. Remove from heat.

7. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately immerse them in ice water to stop from cooking; drain and set aside.

8. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.

9. Add beans and vinegar; toss to coat and heat through, about 2 minutes.

10. Season with salt and pepper.

11. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.
Makes 6 servings.

Time for some recipes

Sloppy Joes and Cheese Fries

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 cup chopped onions
6 ounce can tomato paste
15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 hamburger buns

1. Saute the onions until they turn translucent.

2. Add the meat and brown

3. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, tomato sauce, lemon juice, sugar and garlic powder.

4. Pour over the browned meat and let simmer for 25 minutes.

5. Spoon the sloppy joes onto the hamburger buns

Options - Some people like to add a slice of provolone or American cheese to their sandwich.
Instead of making the sauce, some people like to use a bottle of chili sauce. How much you use depends in how sloppy you want your sloppy joes to be.I read somewhere about instead of sloppy joes, you can hollow out the inside of a hard roll, fill the roll with the sloppy joe mixture and top with shredded mozzarella cheese - these are called “Tidy Josephs”.

On to the Cheese Fries...

1 package of frozen steak fries
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/3 cup (or more) ranch dressing

1. Prepare the steak fries according to package directions.

2. Cook the steak fries until golden brown.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

4. Arrange the fries on an oven-safe plate.

5. Sprinkle on the Cheddar cheese, then the Monterey Jack cheese.

6. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon over the cheese.

7. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Serve with ranch dressing.
Kitchen Skills, Tips and Hints

Safety Tips

1. Always turn the handles on your pots and pans towards the center of your stove top. It's possible to catch the handle of your pan on your clothing as you walk by. If you have small children you don't even want to imagine what could happen.

2. Tip the lid of a pan away from you when you take the lid off a hot pan. This keeps you from having hot steam in your face.

3. If food or grease should catch on fire.Smother the flames with the pan lid or a cookie sheet. You want to shut off the oxygen supply to the fire.You can also throw flour on the fire.
NEVER pick or carry a pan of grease that has caught fire.


BASIC KITCHEN SKILLS


Bake - To cook by dry heat, usually in oven

Baste - To moisten surface of food during cooking with melted fat or liquid

Beat - To combine ingredients by rapidly lifting over and over with a spoon

Blend - To mix two or more ingredients until well combined
Boil - To cook in liquid (usually water) in which bubbles constantly rise to the surface and break

Braise - To cook meat in moist heat in a covered pan

Broil - To cook foods in the oven broiler

Brown - To cook over low to medium heat in a skillet on stove or under a broiler

Chop - To cut up into small pieces with a knife

Cream - To mix or work with a spoon into a smooth, soft mass

Fold In - To combine ingredients by cutting down through the mixture with a spoon or rubber spatula across the bottom of the bowl and bringing it up the side — a down, under, up and over motion

Fry - To cook in a skillet in hot fat that covers the food partially or completely

Grate - To rub on a grater and separate into small pieces

Knead - To work and press dough with the palms of the hands, turning a small amount after each push

Marinate - To soak food in seasoned liquid before cooking

Mince - To chop or cut very fine

Poach - To cook in a hot liquid (often water) that is kept just below the boiling point

Preheat - To heat oven to desired temperature 5 to 10 minutes before putting food in the oven

Roast - To cook in a dry heat in an open pan in the oven

Sauté - To cook in a pan that has been coated with a small amount of fat

Shred - To tear or slice into long, narrow pieces

Sift - To put dry ingredients through a sifter or a sieve

Simmer - To cook slowly over very low heat with liquid moving slowly

Toast -To brown directly under the broiler

Whisk - To beat into a froth



FOOD WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

dash, speck, a few grains = less than 1/8 teaspoon

3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon

16 tablespoons = 1 cup

8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup

4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup

5 1/3 tablespoons = 1/3 cup

8 ounces = 1 cup (liquid)

2 cups = 1 pint

1 cup = 1/2 pint

2 pints = 1 quart

4 cups = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

8 quarts = 1 peck (dry)

4 pecks = 1 bushel

16 ounces = 1 pound

1 pound butter = 2 cups or 4 sticks

1/2 pound butter = 1 cup or 2 sticks

1/4 pound butter = 1/2 cup or 1 stick

1 pound granulated sugar = 2 1/4 cups sugar

1 square chocolate = 1 ounce chocolate

1 square chocolate = 3 Tbs. cocoa + 1 T. fat

10 miniature marshmallows = 1 standard size marshmallow

4 1/2 cups of min. marshmallows = 1/2 pound marshmallow


OVEN TEMPERATURES

Very Slow 250° to 300°

Slow 300° to 325°

Moderate 350° to 375°

Hot 400° to 425°

Very Hot 450° to 475°



Tips and Hints


Brown Sugar - Add a slice of soft bread to a package of rock-hard brown sugar. Close the bag tightly, and in a few hours the sugar will be soft again.

Crackers - To crisp soggy crackers, put them on a cookie sheet and heat in the oven for a few minutes.

Fat - Lettuce leaves absorb fat. Place a few into the pot and watch the fat cling to them.To remove fat from stew, soup or pot roast, wrap an ice cube or two in white paper toweling and skim the surface. Fat will cling to the toweling.

Glasses - When one glass is stuck inside another, do not force them apart. Fill the top glass with cold water and dip the lower one in hot water. They will come apart without breaking.

A small nick in the rim of a glass can be smoothed out by using an emery board.

Use a wet paper towel to pick up broken glass slivers. Simply blot them and they will stick to the paper.

Scratches on glassware will disappear if polished with toothpaste.

Make glasses extra shiny by adding lemon peels to the water in which they are rinsed. The lemon acid released gives glasses a clear shine.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What's the #1 kitchen issue?

Food Safety is such an important issue today. Why go to the trouble of preparing a wonderful meal, if you are going to give everyone food poisoning! Your meal should be memorable, but not for the wrong reasons.

The BBC offers an exam with certification. Check out your knowledge. You might be surprised!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/tv_and_radio/masterchef/modules_index.shtml

Converting Centigrade to Fahrenheit degrees.

Centigrade degrees times 9/5 plus 32 = Fahrenheit

Also check out the Master Chef program. It’s very good.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Warning!

Meat recall expands again on E. coli fears

Up to 5.7 million pounds of beef in 11 states may be contaminated
MSNBC News ServicesUpdated: 1 hour, 47 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES - A meat supplier has again expanded a voluntary recall of beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli.The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement Saturday that United Food Group LLC had expanded an earlier recall to include approximately 5.7 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground beef after a person in Arizona tested positive for E. coli. In all, 14 people in six states have been sickened by beef from the California-based firm. All patients have recovered, the government said in a statement.The ground beef products subject to recall were produced between April 6 and April 20 and were shipped to retail stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. They were sold under brand names Moran's All Natural, Miller Meat Company, Stater Bros., Inter-American Products, Inc., and Basha's.The grocery stores affected included Albertson's, Basha's, Grocery Outlet, Fry's, "R" Ranch Markets, Save-A-Lot, Save-Mart, Scolari's Wholesale Markets, Smart and Final, Smith's, Stater Bros., Superior Warehouse and Trader Joe's.

The products had sell-by dates from April 15-May 7, and product labels carried the establishment number "EST. 1241" inside the USDA mark of inspection or printed on the package. The frozen ground beef patty products bear a sell-by date between July 6 and Jan. 20, 2008.

Even though the sell-by dates are past, did you freeze any of this meat?

Another meat recall
On Friday, Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. recalled more than 40,000 pounds of ground beef shipped to Wal-Mart stores in 12 states after samples tested at a Sherman, Texas, plant showed signs of E. coli contamination. No illnesses had been tied to the Tyson products. Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc. said the recall was not related to contaminated ground beef distributed by United Food Group LLC.The recalled Tyson products were sent to Wal-Mart stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, Tyson said.

The United Food Group recall, which was first announced June 3 and expanded on June 6, was expanded again when a test for E. coli came back positive for a person in Arizona, the Department of Agriculture said.

Symptoms of E. coli include stomach cramps that may be severe and diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. E. coli sometimes can lead to complications including kidney failure.

Customers with questions about the recall can call United Food Group's hot line at 1-800-325-4164. Those with recalled products should either throw the product away or return to point of purchase for a refund.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Stocking Your Pantry

If you are just starting out, you need to stock your pantry.
These are the basics. As time goes on, your pantry will grow to include itemsthat you just can't live without. But for now...

Bread
All Purpose Flour
Granulated Sugar
Brown Sugar
Salt & Pepper
Sea or Kosher Salt
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Vinegar (white vinegar for starters)
Pasta
Tomato sauce
Tomato paste
Spaghetti Sauce
Syrup
Jam or Jelly
Potatoes (red)
Onions
Ketchup
Mustard
Mayonnaise
Crackers
Tuna Fish
Soy Sauce
Worchestershire Sauce
Oregano
Basil
Garlic Powder
Cinnamon
Peanut Butter
Soup

For the Refrigerator
milk
eggs
butter
cheese
fresh vegetables
fresh meat

HOW TO BUY CHICKEN

Chicken is one of the most versatile meats around. It can be prepared in a multitude of different way, all of them good. But what do you look for in the store?

Types of Chicken

Broiler-fryers - These are young chickens that weigh from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds. They are 7-10 weeks old. They are tender with mildly flavored meat.
Roasters - These chickens weigh 4-9 pounds and are 16 weeks old.
Capons - These are young castrated roosters that weigh between 5-7 pounds. They have a rich flavor but are high in fat.
Stewing Hens - These are 1 - 1 1/2 years old. Their meat is very tough and stringy. Only use them in soup or stew.
The packages of cut up chicken that you usually find in the store are broiler-fryers.

What to check for

1. Make sure that the package does not have any tears in it

2. Check the 'sell-by date'

3. Physically inspect the chicken . Its skin should be creamy white to deep yellow; meat should never look gray or pasty. Odors could signal spoilage.

4. Buy enough chicken for your family.
One broiler-fryer (2 to 3 pounds), cut up, yields 3 to 5 servings;
one roaster (3 to 6 pounds) yields 4 to 8 servings.
One whole chicken breast or two chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces total) yields 2 servings;
one pound of chicken thighs or drumsticks yields about 2 servings.
As a rule, two whole chicken breasts (about 12 ounces each) yield about 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken;
one broiler-fryer (about 3 pounds) yields about 2-1/2 cups chopped, cooked chicken.

5. Check the package for the U.S.D.A. Grade A rating.

How to Store Chicken
Chicken can keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to two days in its original package. If you are not going to cook it right away - freeze it. (Always thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator, allow 5 hours per pound)

Safe Handling
When you handle raw chicken, wash everything - your cuttingboard, knives, the counter and your hands. Why? Raw chicken can harbor harmful salmonella bacteria. If bacteria are transferred to work surfaces, utensils or hands, they could contaminate other foods, as well as the cooked chicken, and cause food poisoning.
Chicken should always be cooked completely before eating. You should never cook chicken partially and then store it to be finished later.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Bread Tips

Have you ever wondered which is the freshest, so you "squeeze" for freshness or softness? Did you know that bread is delivered fresh to the stores five days a week? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Each day has a different color twist tie. They are:

Monday - Blue
Tuesday - Green
Thursday - Red
Friday - White
Saturday - Yellow

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tips and Hints

Brown Sugar
Add a slice of soft bread to a package of rock-hard brown sugar. Close the bag tightly, and in a few hours the sugar will be soft again.

Crackers
To crisp soggy crackers, put them on a cookie sheet and heat in the oven for a few minutes.

Fat
Lettuce leaves absorb fat. Place a few into the pot and watch the fat cling to them.To remove fat from stew, soup or pot roast, wrap an ice cube or two in white paper toweling and skim the surface. Fat will cling to the toweling.

Glasses
When one glass is stuck inside another, do not force them apart. Fill the top glass with cold water and dip the lower one in hot water. They will come apart without breaking.

A small nick in the rim of a glass can be smoothed out by using an emery board.

Use a wet paper towel to pick up broken glass slivers. Simply blot them and they will stick to the paper.

Scratches on glassware will disappear if polished with toothpaste.

Make glasses extra shiny by adding lemon peels to the water in which they are rinsed. The lemon acid released gives glasses a clear shine.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

All About Eggs

The Wonderful World of EGGS

Just how fresh is that egg?

1. The float test - If you put an egg is a container of water and it sinks to the bottom of the container, it's fresh. As eggs age, they absorb air through the shell and they become lighter.

2. Expiration date - eggs typically have an expiration date of 30 days after they are laid. They are still safe to use 10-15 days after that date.

3. The color of the whites - clear egg whites are from older chickens. but safe. Pinkish egg whites are spoiled and a cloudy egg white means that it is very fresh.

Brown or White eggs? Which are healthier? What's the difference?

Actually, they are the same. White feathered hens lay white eggs and hens with red feathers lay brown eggs. Nutritionally, they both have the same amount of nutrients. Brown eggs are usually more expensive, because the hens that lay them are a little larger and eat more food.

Jumbo. Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small and Peewee. AA, A, B

The biggest hens lay the biggest eggs, wrong. The size of the egg has to do with the hen's age. The older the hen the bigger the egg. There's something to be said for maturity. The grades AA and A have thicker whites and firm round yolks compared to grade B eggs.

Saftey Tip

Make sure that your eggs are thoroughly cooked. 75% of Salmonella cases have been linked to raw or undercooked eggs.

Storage Tip

Always keep your eggs refrigerated in their original carton. If you store them in a bowl or in the egg compartment of your frig, they will absorb odors from other foods.

Hints and Tips

If you drop any egg on the floor, cover it with salt and wait a few minutes, then scoop it up with a paper towel.

How to soft or hard cook eggs

We don't call them soft or hard boiled eggs, because you don't want to boil them. Boiling makes them rubbery.

1. Place eggs in single layer in saucepan.
2. Cover with at least one inch of water over tops of shells.
3. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil.
4. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from heat and let stand.
5. Soft-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 1 to 4 minutes, depending on your tastes.
6. Hard-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 15 to 17 minutes.
7. When cooked to desired level, drain off hot water.
8. Immediately cover with cold water and add a few ice cubes.
9. Soft-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until cool enough to handle. Serve.
10. Hard-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until completely cooled.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cookbook Review

Yesterday, I was browsing at the Hilliard Public Library and I found a book called "The Comfort Diner Cookbook" by Ira Freehof with Pia Catton.
The recipes really are comfort food. I grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio and there was a small diner on Sixth Street called the Elite Diner. They had the best french fries and gravy. That is probably why I picked up this book. It was published in 2005 and I'm sure that you will enjoy some of the recipes. They are quick, easy and good.

Diners have always been especially famous for their breakfasts. I'm going to include some really great recipes.



Buttermilk Pancakes
serves 6

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs

1. In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of the butter and set it aside to cool.

2. In a large bow, mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

3. In a separate bowl combine the milk and buttermilk. Whisk in the eggs. Slowly add the 1/4 cup melted butter to the eggs. (Be sure that the butter has cooled. If the butter is too warm, it will cook the eggs.) Whisk to combine.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed.

5. On a griddle or in a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the batter onto the surface and cook for about 1 minute, until small air holes appear on the pancake's surface. Flip the pancake and cook for 1 minute more, until cooked through. Repeat to make the remaining pancakes, adding more butter to the pan as needed.

I know that pancake mix is quick and easy, but these are really good, and worth the work.



For a really light pancake, almost a crepe, try these. They are really good with fresh raspberries on top.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
serves 4

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
4 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
confectioners sugar

1. In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of the butter. Allow it to cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice.
Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly. Slowly add the melted butter and continue to mix. Add all of the flour and mix thoroughly.

3. On a griddle or in a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the batter onto the surface amd cook for about 1 minute, or until small air holes appear on the pancake's surface. Flip the pancake and cook for 1 minute more, until cooked through. Repeat to cook the remaining pancakes, adding more butter to the pan as needed.

4. Serve with confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top.



Tyler, these are for you.

Big Bread French Toast
serves 4

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 loaf brioche bread, unsliced
maple syrup, to serve

1. In a large bowl, combine the cinnamon with the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla, whicking thoroughly after each addition so that the cinnamon is fully moistened. This will prevent it from floating on the top of the batter.
2. Preheat a griddle or saute' pan to medium-high heat and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter.
3. Slice the bread into four 3 inch wide slices. Halve each piece of bread on the diagonal, as you would a sandwich. Dip the triangles of bread into the batter and place immediately on the hot griddle or pan.
4. Cook each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the bread so the sliced middle portion is on the heat and cook for about 1 minute. Repeat to cook the remaining slices, adding more butter to the pan as needed. Serve hot with maple syrup.


Potato Pancakes

4 cups shredded Idaho potatoes (2-3 potatoes)
2 cups shredded Spanish onions (2 medium onions)
2 1/2 thinly sliced, stemed shiitake mushrooms (or other variety: 12-14 mushrooms)
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Thick-N-Chunky applesauce, to serve

1. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, and mushrooms.
2. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then add them to the vegetables. Mix in the flour to combine. Season with the salt and pepper.
3. In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat or a griddle at 300 degrees, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Scoop up 1/4 cup of the potato batter and wring out the excess liquid with your hands. (Do this over the sink or an empty bowl). Flatten it into a 3 inch round pancake. Place the pancake in the skillet and saute' for 6-7 minutes on each side, until golden brown. You can saute' several pancakes at the same time, but allow at least 1 inch of space between them. Repeat until there is no batter remaining, adding additional butter to the skillet as needed. Serve with Thick-n-Chunkly applesauce. You'll have to get the book to find out how to make Thick-n-Chunky applesauce.


These are just a few of the wonderful recipes that you will find in the "Comfort Diner Cookbook". Lunch and dinner recipes are also featured.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Planting a garden

The weather has been beautiful here in Ohio. (It's about time!!!)

Next weekend, we going to plant a small vegetable garden. I have visions of beautiful tomatoes, peppers, radishes and whatever else looks good at the nursery. I wanted to plant onions, but I thought about the fact that we have 3 dogs. Onions are very bad for dogs and two of our dogs are diggers. We also want to plant a lot of herbs: sage, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, lemongrass, basil, chives and oregano. I'll let you know how it goes. If you are planning a garden, let us know what you are planting.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shopping for Vegetables

Back to the grocery store

Vegetable shopping: Vegetables should be firm and have a nice appearance. The color should be rich. Vegetables are like men, if they’re wilted and flabby, leave them in the store. Go for the young and firm. (This could be the reason that I’m back sitting on the shelf.)






Asparagus

Asparagus stems should be firm and thin, with deep green or purple closed tips.
Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor. Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel, and be sure to place the asparagus in the back of the refrigerator away from any light. Wash under cold water and cut off the base before cooking.


IDEA - sauté asparagus with garlic, shiitake mushrooms and chicken.

IDEA - Toss freshly cooked pasta with asparagus, olive oil and thyme, tarragon and rosemary.

IDEA - Steam asparagus and serve with a light lemon vinaigrette.

TIP – If your recipe calls for cold asparagus, plunge the stalks into cold water immediately after cooking, then remove them quickly: letting them soak too long can cause them to become soggy.

Beets

If the beets still have the tops attached, you can tell from the appearance of the leaves if they are fresh. They should be firm and round with a slender tap root (the main root).

Broccoli

Choose broccoli with floret clusters that are compact and not bruised. They should be uniformly colored, either dark green, sage or purple-green, depending upon variety, and with no yellowing. In addition, they should not have any yellow flowers blossoming. The stalk and stems should be firm. Broccoli is very perishable and should be stored in open plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a week.
IDEA – Sprinkle lemon juice and sesame seeds over lightly steamed broccoli.

IDEA – Toss pasta with olive oil, pine nuts and broccoli florets. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Brussels Sprouts

They look like little bright green cabbages. Keep unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag, they can be kept for 10 days.

IDEA - Combine quartered cooked Brussels sprouts with sliced red onions, walnuts and your favorite mild tasting cheese such as a goat cheese or feta; toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Cabbage
There are 3 main groups of cabbage: green smooth-leaved cabbage, crinkly-leaved green Savoy cabbage and red cabbage. The red cabbage looks really nice in coleslaw. The heads should be firm and heavy without too many loose outer leaves. Keeping cabbage cold will keep it fresh and help it retain its vitamin C content. Put the whole head in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator. Red and green cabbage will keep this way for about 2 weeks while Savoy cabbage will keep for about 1 week.

IDEA - Combine shredded red and white cabbage with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and seasonings such as turmeric, cumin, coriander and black pepper to make coleslaw with an Indian twist.

Carrots
They should be well formed, smooth, well colored and firm. If they have tops, they should not look wilted.
The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this, make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

Cauliflower

The white edible portion is called the “curd”. The outer green leaves are called the jacket leaves. The while portion should be compact and solid. Sometimes the white portion has a speckled look, this is not good.

IDEA - sauté cauliflower with garlic, minced ginger and tamari.

Celery
Look for crisp stalks. The stalks should have a solid feel and the leaflets should look fresh. Just in case, you bought the celery when it was fresh and somehow it got lost in the refrigerator; you can try putting the end of the celery (the part that is attached) in ice water. If it is not too far gone, that will freshen it. To store celery, place it in a sealed container or wrap it in a plastic bag or damp cloth and store it in the refrigerator.
IDEA - Add chopped celery to your favorite tuna fish or chicken salad recipe.

IDEA - Fill celery stalks with peanut butter or cream cheese.


Corn

Sweet corn is most plentiful from early May until mid-September. Yellow-kernel corn is the most popular, but some have white kernels.
Corn should be refrigerated immediately after being picked. Corn will retain fairly good quality for a number of days, if it has been kept cold and moist since harvesting. Therefore, it should be refrigerated as soon as possible and kept moist until used. Look for fresh green husks. The silk-ends should not be dried out.


Cucumbers

Cucumbers should have a good green color and be firm over their whole length. Avoid cucumbers that have a dull color with shriveled ends.
Thinner cucumbers will generally have less seeds than those that are thicker.
Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. If you do not use the entire cucumber during one meal, wrap the remainder tightly in plastic or place it in a sealed container so that it does not become dried out. For maximum quality, cucumber should be used within one or two days. Cucumbers should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.
IDEA - Mix diced cucumbers with sugar snap peas and mint leaves and toss with rice wine vinaigrette.

Eggplants

Eggplants may be either a dark purple or white. They should be firm and should not have any brown spots. Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days.
TIP - When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.
IDEA - Mix cubed baked eggplant with grilled peppers, lentils, onions and garlic and top with balsamic vinaigrette.
Garlic
Purchase garlic that is plump and has unbroken skin. Gently squeeze the garlic bulb between your fingers to check that it feels firm and is not damp.



TIP - Store fresh garlic in either an uncovered or a loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from exposure to heat and sunlight. This will help maintain its maximum freshness and help prevent sprouting, which reduces its flavor and causes excess waste. It is not necessary to refrigerate garlic.
Depending upon its age and variety, whole garlic bulbs will keep fresh from two weeks to two months. Inspect the bulb frequently and remove any cloves that appear to be dried out or moldy. Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.
TIP - Tips for Preparing Garlic:
The first step to using garlic (unless you are roasting the entire bulb) is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is to place the bulb on a cutting board or hard surface and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.
To separate the skin from the individual cloves, place a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tap it with the flat side of a wide knife. You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.

IDEA - Marinate pressed garlic in olive oil and use this flavored oil in dressings and marinades.

IDEA - Purée fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to make quick and easy hummus dip.

IDEA - Sauté steamed spinach, garlic, and fresh lemon juice.

IDEA - Add garlic to sauces and soups.
IDEA - Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.


Green Beans

Purchase beans that have smooth feel and a good green color, and that are free from brown spots or bruises. They should have a firm texture and “snap” when broken.
Store unwashed fresh bean pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.

IDEA - roast green beans, red peppers and garlic and combine with olive oil and seasonings to make a delicious salad.


Lettuce

There are a lot of different varieties. The most common is iceberg lettuce. The heads are large, round and solid with medium green outer leaves and lighter green inner leaves. The leaves should look fresh and crisp. Avoid heads with irregular shapes.
Butter-head lettuce (Big Boston and Bibb varieties) have a smaller head than iceberg lettuce. The leaves are softer and light green in color.
Romaine lettuce has crisp, dark-green leaves in a loosely folded head.
Leaf lettuce do not come in the form of a compact head. Leaves are broad, tender, smooth, and they vary in color according to variety.

Romaine and leaf lettuce should be washed and dried before storing in the refrigerator to remove their excess moisture, while Boston lettuce need not be washed before storing. A salad spinner can be very helpful in the drying of lettuce (and other salad ingredients as well). These lettuces should be either stored in a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp cloth and stored in the refrigerator crisper.

To store arugula, watercress and other types of salad greens that are sold with their roots attached, wrap the roots in a damp paper towel and place the entire greens in a plastic bag.
Romaine lettuce will keep for five to seven days, Boston and leaf lettuce for two to three days, while fragile greens such as arugula and watercress ideally should be prepared the day of purchase. All types of lettuce should be stored away from ethylene-producing fruits, such as apples, bananas and pears, since they will cause the lettuce leaves to brown.

Mushrooms
We usually describe mushrooms as having a cap (the wide portion on top), gills (the rows of paper-thin tissue seen underneath the cap when it opens), and a stem.
Look for young mushrooms that are small to medium in size. Caps should be either closed around the stem or moderately open with pink or light-tan gills. The surface of the cap should be white or creamy, or uniform light brown if of a brown type. Avoid mushrooms with wide open caps and dark gills underneath.

The best way to store loose button mushrooms is to keep them in the refrigerator either placed in a loosely closed paper bag, wrapped in a damp cloth or laid out in a glass dish that is covered with a moist cloth. These methods will help them to preserve their moisture without becoming soggy and will keep them fresh for several days. Mushrooms that are purchased prepackaged can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week in their original container.
TIP - Mushrooms are so porous that if they are exposed to too much water, they will quickly absorb it and become soggy. Therefore, the best way to clean mushrooms without sacrificing their texture and taste is to clean them using minimal, if any, water. To do this, simply wipe them with a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen cloth.

IDEA - Sautéed mushrooms and onions make a great side dish to meat dishes.


Onions

One of my favorite vegetables. They come in yellow, white and red.
The yellow onion is full flavored and can be used for cooking almost anything. When they are cooked they turn a rich dark brown color. If you are making French Onion soup, this is the onion to use. Choose onions that are clean, well shaped, have no opening at the neck and feature crisp, dry outer skins. Avoid those that are sprouting or have signs of mold.

Onions should be stored at room temperature, away from bright light, and in a manner where they are well ventilated. To do this, either place them in a wire hanging basket or a perforated bowl with a raised base so that air can circulate underneath. The length of storage varies with the type of onion. Those that are more pungent in flavor, such as yellow onions, can stay longer than those with a sweeter taste, such as white onions, since the compounds that confer their sharp taste help to preserve them. All onions should be stored away from potatoes, as they will absorb their moisture and ethylene gas, causing them to spoil more readily. The remainder of cut onions should be wrapped tightly in plastic or in a sealed container and should be used within a day or two.
Red onions are wonderful for fresh uses and for grilling. White onions are used in most Mexican dishes. When you sauté white onions they turn golden and have a sweet flavor. Avoid buying onions which have sprouted.

Green Onions – Look for bunches with crisp green tops. These are regular onions that are harvested very young.




When purchasing scallions, look for those that have green, fresh-looking tops that appear crisp, yet tender. The base should be whitish in color for two or three inches. Avoid those that have wilted or yellowed tops. Scallions should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator where they will keep for about one week.
IDEA - Combine chopped onions, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeno for an all-in-one guacamole salsa dip.

IDEA - To perk up plain rice, sprinkle some green onions, also known as scallions, and sesame seeds on top.

IDEA - Enjoy a classic Italian salad-sliced onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil.

Parsley
Look for fresh and crisp bright green leaves. If your parsley wilts, trim off the ends of the stems and place them in cold water. Avoid any bunches that are discolored or yellowing.

Fresh parsley should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.
TIP - Fresh parsley should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile. The best way to clean it is just like you would spinach. Place it in a bowl of cold water and swish it around with your hands.

TIP - If you have excess flat leaf parsley, you can easily dry it by laying it out in a single layer on a clean kitchen cloth. Once dried, it should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place.

TIP - Curly leaf parsley is best preserved by freezing, as opposed to drying. Although it will retain most of its flavor, it has a tendency to lose its crispness, so it is best used in recipes without first thawing.

TIP - Since it has a stronger flavor than the curly variety, Italian flat leaf parsley holds up better to cooking and therefore is usually the type preferred for hot dishes. Flat leaf parsley has a stronger flavor than the curly variety. It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, color and nutritional value.
IDEA - Add parsley to pesto sauce to add more texture to its green color.

IDEA - Combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a rub for chicken, lamb and beef.


Peas

When purchasing garden peas, look for ones whose pods are firm, velvety and smooth. Their color should be a medium green. Those whose green color is especially light or dark, or those that are yellow, whitish or are speckled with gray, should be avoided.


Unlike the rounded pods of garden peas, the pods of snow peas are flat. You should be able to see the shape of the peas through the pod. Choose smaller ones as they tend to be sweeter.
Unwashed, unshelled peas stored in the refrigerator in a bag or unsealed container will keep for several days. Before you remove the peas from the pod, rinse them briefly under running water. To easily shell them, snap off the top and bottom of the pod and then gently pull off the "thread" that lines the seam of most peapods.
IDEA - Mix green peas with chicken, diced onions and almonds to make a chicken salad.

Peppers
Peppers should be firm and have a deep color, green, yellow or red. They should also be slightly heavy. Avoid peppers that appear flabby. Unwashed sweet peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for up to one week. Before coring and/or cutting the pepper, wash it under running water. If the pepper has been waxed, you should also scrub it well.

IDEA - Add finely chopped bell peppers to tuna or chicken salad.
IDEA - Bell peppers are one of the best vegetables to serve in a crudités platter (vegetables and dip) since not only do they add a brilliant splash of color, but their texture is also the perfect crunchy complement for dips.

TIP – Use a paring knife to cut around the stem and remove it. Peppers can be cut into various shapes and sizes. To easily chop, dice or cut the peppers into strips, first cut the pepper in half lengthwise, clean out the core and seeds, and then, after placing the skin side down on the cutting surface, cut into the desired size and shape. Peppers can also be cut horizontally into rings.

Potatoes
Look for potatoes that are firm and have no green on them. The green produces a bitter flavor. Potatoes can be used for all types of recipes. “New potatoes” are not fully mature. They are best used for boiling or creaming. "General purpose potatoes" are best for boiling and frying. There are also special potatoes grown for baking., for example, Russet Burbank.
TIP - Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as their starch content will turn to sugar giving them an undesirable taste. In addition, do not store potatoes near onions, as the gases that they each emit will cause the degradation of one another. Wherever you store them, they should be kept in a burlap or paper bag. Mature potatoes stored properly can keep up to two months.

TIP - Potatoes should be cleaned and cut right before cooking in order to avoid the discoloration that occurs with exposure to air. If you cannot cook them immediately after cutting, place them in a bowl of cold water to which you have added a little bit of lemon juice.

IDEA - Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.

IDEA - Salad Nicoise - cooked new potatoes with chunks of tuna fish and steamed green beans dressed lightly with oil and vinegar.

IDEA - Toss steamed, diced potato with olive oil and fresh herbs of your choice.


Radishes

Look for medium size radishes (3/4 to 1 inch in diameter). They should be plump, round and firm. Radishes are either red or white. Avoid large radishes: they usually have a pithy center.


Rhubarb
Look for fresh, firm rhubarb stems with a bright, glossy appearance. Stems should have a large amount of pink or red color, although many good-quality stems will be predominantly light green. Be sure that the stem is tender and not fibrous.

Spinach

Choose spinach that has deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing. The leaves should look fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised. Store fresh spinach loosely packed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep fresh for about five days. Do not wash it before storing as the moisture will cause it to spoil.
IDEA - Add layers of steamed spinach to your next lasagna recipe.

IDEA - Toss steamed spinach with pressed garlic, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.

IDEA - Pine nuts are a great addition to cooked spinach.
IDEA - Spinach makes great salads.

Squash

Summer - When purchasing summer squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will lead to decay. It should be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about seven days.

IDEA - Add zucchini or other summer squash to your favorite muffin or bread recipe; decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-third to compensate for the moisture present in the squash.

Winter - Winter squash is easily prone to decay, so it is important to carefully inspect it before purchase. Choose ones that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy, rinds. Winter squash has a much longer storage life than summer squash. Depending upon the variety, it can be kept for between one week to six months.

Sweet Potatoes and Yam

Look for firm smooth sweet potatoes with uniformly colored skins. Yams are moist, sweet and have orange-colored flesh. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are dry and have pale-colored flesh. Sweet potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. They should be stored loose and not kept in a plastic bag. Keep them away from exposure to sunlight.
Tomatoes

The tomatoes with the best taste come from locally grown farms. They ripen completely before they are picked. Most tomatoes that you find in the grocery are picked when they start to turn pink. If your tomatoes need to ripen more, place them in a warn place out of direct sunlight. Do not put your tomatoes in the refrigerator unless they are fully ripe.






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Sunday, April 15, 2007

At the Grocery Store

At the Grocery Store

You have probably heard it time and again, but seriously; don’t shop if you are hungry. Everything looks good, but your wallet. You will spend a lot more than you planned.

Here in Columbus, we have a lot of great food stores. I like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Giant Eagle. If you are really into produce, Whole Foods is paradise. Their selection is great.



Buying Fruit

Stay away from fruit that have blemishes, punctures or brown spots.


Apples should be firm and can be stored up to a month in the refrigerator.






Apricots - Look for fruits with a rich orange color while avoiding those that are pale and yellow. Fruits should be slightly soft. If they are too firm they have not been tree-ripened, and tree-ripened fruits always taste best.




Avocado - gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm yet will yield to gentle pressure.






Bananas should not have brown or soft spots. Bananas can be stored for one week in a cool place. They should not be refrigerated.














Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes etc.) should be brightly colored. The heavier they are, the juicer they are.

















Cantaloupe
How to find a ripe melon. If you tap the melon with the palm of your hand and hear a hollow sound, the melon has passed the first test. Choose a melon that seems heavy for its size, and one that does not have bruises or overly soft spots. You should be able to smell the fruit's sweetness (be careful that it doesn’t smell really strong, then it would be overripe.
Leaving a firm cantaloupe at room temperature for several days will allow the texture of its flesh to become softer and juicier. Once the cantaloupe has reached its peak ripeness, place it in the refrigerator to store. Melon that has been cut should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.


IDEA - Slice melons in half horizontally, scoop out seeds and use each half as a basket in which to serve fruit salad.




Grapes - Choose grapes that are plump and free from wrinkles. They should be firmly attached to a healthy looking stem. One way to evaluate the sweetness of grapes is by their color. Green grapes should have a slight yellowish hue, red grapes should be mostly red, while purple and blue-black grapes should be deep and rich in color.
They should always be stored in the refrigerator. Loosely wrap unwashed grapes in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. They should stay fresh for several days.

IDEA - Freeze grapes: wash and pat them dry, then arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. Once frozen, transfer grapes to a heavy plastic bag and return them to the freezer. They're like frozen grape jelly beans!



Melons should be heavy and have a sweet aroma, with no cracks or soft spots.




Pears should be left out at room temperature until they ripen. Gently press the area near the stem; if it gives a little bit, it’s ripe. Then store in the refrigerator.








Pineapples should be heavy and have a sweet aroma. The leaves will pull easily away from the stem.







Plums - If you want to purchase plums that are ripe and ready to eat, look for ones that yield to gentle pressure and that are slightly soft at their tip. Good quality plums will feature a rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom," reflecting that they have not been over-handled. They should also be free of punctures, bruises or any signs of decay.



Strawberries

Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps on. Visually check each package, making sure there are no signs of mold growth. If one berry is molded, mold spores will have traveled throughout the entire package. When purchasing strawberries by the pound, one-and-a-half pounds equal one quart. This will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.
Use strawberries as soon after purchasing as possible. Berries should not be left at room temperature for more than a few hours.
Store unwashed berries loosely covered with plastic wrap in the coldest part of your refrigerator for two to three days at most. Do not wash berries until ready to use.
To wash, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Do not allow berries to set in water as they will lose color and flavor.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

This meal can be made the night before and then popped into the oven, when you get home. Add a salad and dinner rolls and you are all set.

8 ounces elbow macaroni
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
12 ounce container small curd cottage cheese
8 ounce container sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until done; drain.
3. In 9x13 inch baking dish, stir together the macaroni, Cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle topping over macaroni mixture.
5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden. If you are preparing this ahead and refrigerating the casserole, increase your cooking time to 45 minutes.

Welcome to The Secret Onion Cooking School

http://secretonion.blogspot.com/y_key_eb626e5972ffef64.html .
Welcome to my first blog entry.
Not long ago, I put up a website, http://www.Secret-Onion-Cooking-School.com the main idea that I kept reading about was something called a niche. In the beginning, you want to be all things to everyone. In the end, you have a little bit about everything, but not a lot about anything in particular. So here is my niche -learning how to cook. If you surf for cooking schools on the net, you will find some really great sites. But, you will also discover their prices are a little high. This is my attempt to teach beginning cooking and to make it fun. In the beginning, a long, long time ago, I started to cook. There were some really good meals and there were disasters. Dinners were meat, potatoes and vegetables. Sometimes, I added a salad to spice things up. Talk about a rut. Casseroles were never served. What a shame! I have since found out that there are some very good casseroles out there. Plus, they can usually be made ahead of time and then put in the oven when you come home from work. This makes life a lot easier. Basically, this blog is about comfort foods.I always thought that the macaroni and cheese that my grandmother made was really good. But I found a recipe that is much, much better. Just as a side note, everyone in my family always puts catsup on mac and cheese. I never realized that this was considered weird until my brother, Rick's, girlfriend came to dinner. She couldn't get over the fact that we used the catsup bottle pretty liberally. Of course, her favorite was an olive sandwich with mustard.
On to how to make macaroni and cheese.