Friday, October 20, 2017

Question for Mom

What is the difference between salted and unsalted butter? – Jack E. 

The salt content.   Unsalted butter has none, which means it doesn’t keep as long.  Salted butter can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 months.  Practically speaking, either one can be used in a recipe and can be substituted for each other.

                                                      See all Questions for Mom

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When an Interesting Recipe Is Not Worth Trying

Black Bean Lasagna
What finally prompted me to throw an interesting new recipe into the trash was this sentence: “Refrigerate the dough for 2 hours.”  There were several other complicated steps to this dish, which wasn’t even a main but a side to serve with my regular dinner.  Perhaps if someone else had made it for me and it tasted divine, I would have committed to preparing it myself.

I make complicated dishes all the time, including Whole Grain Bread once a week and Blueberry Jam at least once a month.  Apple Pie does not daunt me.  And just the other day I whipped up a batch of Clover Leaf Rolls.

Although it’s not one of my favorite jobs, I will debone a chicken breast if I have to.  I welcome the chance to clean 5 pounds of mussels because I am very fond of Moules Marinieres (aka mussels).  Also it’s not that time-consuming.

As a practical cook who prepares dinner at least 6 days a week, I have developed a wide range of recipes that are quick AND taste good.  Yes, Homemade Pizza requires waiting for the dough to rise, but it’s a proven success.  So is Black Bean Lasagna, which I haven’t made recently.  I think I’ll put one together for dinner tonight, 
Black Bean Lasagna – serves 8 (adapted from “Help!My Apartment Has a Dining Room”)  
8-ounce package cream cheese
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, stems removed and leaves cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil + more as needed
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
12 lasagna noodles
1 16-ounce container cottage cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
Set the cream cheese on the counter to soften.  Begin heating a large pot of water. 
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and cilantro and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften. 
Add half the black beans to the vegetable mixture.  Mash the other half and add them to the mixture.  Add the tomato sauce and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.  Remove from the heat and set aside. 
When the water comes to a boil, add the lasagna noodles, one at a time, pushing them into the water until fully submerged.  Set the timer for 12 minutes.  Stir occasionally to keep them from sticking together.  When the timer rings, taste to see if the noodles are done.  If too chewy, cook for 1 more minute.  Drain the noodles in a colander.  Separate any that have stuck together and set aside. 
Mix the cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and black pepper in a large bowl and set aside. 
Begin heating the oven to 350 degrees.  Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-x-12-inch or 9-x-13-inch pan with oil.  Cover the bottom of the pan with 4 lasagna noodles, overlapping them slightly.  Cover the noodles with one-third of the bean mixture, spreading it evenly.  Then cover the bean mixture with one-third of the cheese mixture.  Repeat two more times. 
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and seal it tightly around the edges.  Bake the lasagna for 40-45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.
                            For easy recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

Monday, October 16, 2017

Question for Mom

Old-Fashioned Tin Flour Sifter 
Why do some recipes call for sifting flour?  Do I have to do it?—Shelley D.  

Years ago flour sometimes was a home for bugs, and sifting it before use allowed you to get rid of them.  Today’s flour does not have this problem.  I stopped sifting flour years ago after making a terrible mess in the kitchen.  I’m told that sifting flour is still recommended if you’re making delicate pastries.  Rather than get my old sifter out, I’d choose to make something else. 

                                                           See all Questions for Mom

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 124

To remove fat from gravy, soup or meat stews, refrigerate the cooked food overnight.  The fat will solidify and rise to the top of the container.  Use a fork or large soup spoon to lift the fat off and discard.  This technique is easier and more effective than trying to spoon away fat while the dish is still cooking.

                                        See all my Cooking Tips!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Another 4 Ways to Use Chocolate Chips

Jaffa Squares
I’ve got to stop eating chocolate chips straight from the package.  I suppose I could cut off my supply, which would mean no longer buying the 72-ounce bags from Costco.  But that seems like an extreme measure.  Surely I will soon need to make one of the many chocolate desserts that I have mastered over the years.

Chocolate chips are incredibly versatile as an ingredient. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Parsnips: What Are They and How Do I Cook Them?

Carrots (left)  Parsnips (right)
Parsnips look like carrots but are cream-colored instead of orange.  They are a little sweeter than carrots but just as versatile.

I first tasted a parsnip at a dinner party when the hostess served Curried Parsnip Soup.  I was intrigued by the idea of a soup made from a vegetable I’d never heard of.  But I couldn’t fully taste the delicate flavor because of the seasoning.

A few days later I scrubbed and roasted a few parsnips as a side dish.  Everybody liked them.  Now I often add parsnips to a panful of raw vegetables, sprinkle on some olive oil and pop the pan into the oven for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 123

The secret to quickly chopping fresh parsley is not worrying about including a few cut-up stems with the leaves.  After washing and patting dry the amount of parsley you need, chop off and discard as much of the stems as you can with one big cut.  Then finely chop the leaves and remaining stems.

                                               See all my Cooking Tips!