Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mom Cooking Tip 149

Beet Greens
Eat your greens!  Those words ricochet around the table whenever our family starts reminiscing about the primary school lunches they were forced to eat when we lived in London.  We all laugh about those overcooked blobs of greenery.  Little does anyone realize that for variety and nutrition I’ve added raw spinach leaves, arugula and beet greens to the salad sitting right in front of them.  It’s my secret. 
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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Mom Cooking Tip 148

Want your cookies to come out of the oven perfectly round?  Here’s a tip from my 17-year-old friend Ava.  Roll a portion of cookie dough into a 1-inch ball and place it on a greased cookie sheet.  Grease the bottom of a drinking glass with butter and then dip the bottom of the glass in granulated sugar.  Press the bottom of the glass down gently but firmly on the dough ball so the dough spreads out into a circle.  Repeat the process until all the dough is used up.  Bake according to the recipe’s directions. 

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?

This is an easy question, and you probably know the answer. But I bet you don’t always use these cooking tools when you should.  I know I don’t, and sometimes the end result suffers.

When I don’t use them?

1) Measuring vanilla extract.  It costs so much that I don’t want to waste any left on the spoon.  But then maybe I add more than I should.

2) Measuring something sticky like peanut butter, which clings to the cup and is hard to scrape out.  Sometimes I remember to first wipe the inside of the cup with oil, which prevents the peanut butter from sticking.

3) Measuring flour when I’m making bread or pizza.  I confess that I don’t always use a knife to level across the top of the cup.  I tend to eyeball it, knowing that if I add a little too much flour and the dough is too stiff, I can then add a bit more water to counteract it.

When I always use them?

1) When I’m adding salt.  Too much salt can ruin just about anything.  Once you’ve added it, there’s usually no taking it back – unless you’ve added it to dry ingredients and you can actually see the salt granules lying on top in a pile.  Scoop out and discard the excess.

2) When I’m adding baking powder or baking soda.  These ingredients have a major effect on baking cakes and cookies.  Too much or too little can ruin the final product.

3) When I’m adding spices, especially black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Too much of either of these can make food inedible.  You can always add more if the dish isn’t spicy enough, but you can’t take it away.

Measuring cups are usually available in these sizes: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup.

Measuring spoons are usually available in these sizes: 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon.  Sometimes you can also find 1/8 teaspoon and 1/2 tablespoon measures.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Easiest-Ever Summer Dinner

It’s 96 degrees outside, and we don’t have air conditioning.  It’s dinnertime, and my thoughts are turning to what would make the perfect meal: lobster rolls.

I first met a lobster roll about 15 years ago while visiting friends in Boston.  What I remember more than the actual lobster roll is the way we obtained the lobsters.  Our friends calling a local fisherman, and 30 minutes later he knocked on their door with several freshly caught lobsters in a crate.  These friends are not gourmet cooks, but they knew just how to crack open a lobster.   

I do not have a friendly fisherman to call.  But I have something better in my freezer: large shrimp.  To me, shrimp taste very similar to lobster.  Not only are they considerably cheaper per pound, but they work exceedingly well as a lobster substitute.  Thus, Mom’s Shrimp Rolls are on tonight’s menu. 
Shrimp Rolls – serves 2-3 
12-15 extra-large cooked shrimp (15-25 shrimp to the pound)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise or sour cream + more if needed
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 small scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 hot dog buns 
Place an oven rack about 6 inches below the broiling unit and begin preheating the broiler.  Open the hot dog buns about halfway and place them open-side up on a cookie sheet. 
Cut the cooked shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces. In a medium bowl combine the pieces with mayonnaise (or sour cream), horseradish, lemon juice, celery, scallions, dill, salt, black pepper and paprika and stir thoroughly.  If the mixture is not sticking together, add 1 more teaspoon mayonnaise or sour cream. 
When the broiler is hot, slide the buns on the rack and heat for about 1 minute, or until the edges of the buns start to brown.  The buns will burn very quickly, so keep an eye on them. 
Remove the buns and fill them with the shrimp mixture.  Serve immediately.  Each serving is 1 or 1 ½ buns.
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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sour Cream: What Is It and How Do I Use It?

I grew up with tubs of sour cream in the fridge.  My mother sometimes served individual bowls of it for lunch.  She’d cut up a cucumber, some radishes and a few tomatoes, mix it all together and Voila!  I guess it was a forerunner to today’s vegetable yogurts.

Out of habit, I too keep a tub of sour cream in the fridge.  But I don’t eat it with cut-up vegetables.  I use it to make Baked Stuffed Potatoes, Chocolate Icing and Chocolate Cheesecake.  I put dollops of it in Salmon Chowder, Hungarian Goulash, Ground Turkey Stroganoff and Shrimp Florentine.   

With potato salad, I prefer sour cream with just a little mayonnaise.  The taste is milder, and the calories are much fewer.  1 tablespoon mayonnaise is about 57 calories, while 1 tablespoon sour cream is about 23 calories.

Unless I want to make whipped cream, I never buy heavy whipping cream.  Sour cream is cheaper, and it never goes to waste because I use it so frequently.

For the record, sour cream is made from cream and lactic acid bacteria, which causes the cream to thicken and become sour.
Mom’s Potato Salad – serves 8-12

2 pounds potatoes
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds  
Scrub the potatoes but leave the peel on.  Put the potatoes in a large pot and half-fill the pot with water.  Cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the tines of a fork can penetrate a potato without much resistance.  Remove from the heat, drain the potatoes and cover them with cold water.  Set aside to cool. 
Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, scallions, celery, garlic, powdered mustard, salt, black pepper, paprika and celery seeds and mix well.  Set aside. 
When the potatoes have cooled, pull off and discard the skins and cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes.  Add them to the sour cream mixture and stir until the potato pieces are covered.  If the mixture seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two of sour cream or mayonnaise.  Cover and refrigerate until needed. 
For the record, sour cream is made from cream and lactic acid bacteria, which causes the cream to thicken and become sour. 
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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Just How Popular Is Pizza?

Blaze Build-It-Yourself Pizza
I have been a pizza fan since I had my first bite in high school.  That was so long ago that frozen pizza and pizza rolls had yet to be invented. 

My small town had only one pizzeria, and it served pizza in rectangular shapes, not the triangles we usually eat today.

When I moved to New York, I discovered what was then called Sicilian Pizza, aka deep-dish pizza or Chicago-style pizza.  I loved every serving.  And then I moved to London, where pizza tasted like cardboard and was often topped with watercress.  

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Mom Money-Saving Tip 97

My friend Rukhi gave me this tip, which can save both money and time.  When there’s a sale on onions or a glut of tomatoes from your garden, here’s how to make use of them before they spoil:

Cook several large onions (peeled and cut in quarters) with a similar amount of whole tomatoes in 1 cup water over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, or until the onions have softened.  Pull off and discard the tomato skins.  Drain and discard the cooking liquid.

Make tomato puree by blending the cooked onions and tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  

Freeze the mixture in 1-cup amounts in plastic storage containers or small freezer bags.  When you’re cooking soups, sauces or stews, add a bag.

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