Monday, August 31, 2015

The Importance of a Killer Dessert

Chocolate Chip Squares (photo by Jenny Craig)

You can slave in the kitchen for days making the perfect meal, but if the dessert doesn’t prompt guests to demand seconds, thirds and fourths, you might as well have ordered out.  Even guests who tell you they’re on a diet or they don’t eat carbs or they’re too full will remember an outstanding dessert.  And if you somehow made a mess of the main dish, they’ll forget it immediately because they’re slavering over something much better.

You can even make your mark at someone else’s dinner party if you volunteer to bring the dessert—as long as it looks fabulous and tastes even better.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 16

Making a stir-fry? It’s easier to slice meat thinly when it’s partly frozen. Just pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes before cutting.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 15

Do you frequently make your own pizza? Instead of paying for bottled pizza sauce, spend much less on an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce. Mix in a few tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder), 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir and use.  Penzeys makes its own Pizza Seasoning(ingredients undisclosed).

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Foolproof Recipes…or Do Only Fools Believe That?

I would like to be able to tell someone, “This recipe is foolproof,” and know I’m being honest.  But I know better.  No matter how simple a recipe seems, something can always go wrong.

What could be easier than baking a potato?  Turn on the oven.  Set the temperature.  Scrub the potato.  Place it on the oven rack.  Set the timer.  Come back in 1 or 1 1/4 hours.  Remove and eat.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 15

When you are cutting raw chicken or other uncooked meat or fish on a cutting board, be sure to scrub the board thoroughly before using it to cut anything else. Otherwise you may inadvertently give yourself food poisoning.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 14

Know when to throw it away. If your bananas are too mushy, some people say, “Make banana bread.” I say, “Unless you’re a banana bread fanatic, why bother?” You’re just using up more ingredients and taking in more calories. Or even worse, you let the banana bread molder in the back of the fridge. Toss the bananas (or other food you can't bring yourself to eat) and don’t feel guilty.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

If Fish Didn’t Have Bones

Crunchy Baked Fish with Tabouli Salad and Garlic Mayonnaise (photo by Jenny Craig) 

I didn’t grow up with fish sticks, but I did like pickled herring and gefilte fish—neither of which had a bone in sight.  My introduction to real fish came in London, where there was a chain of restaurants called Wheelers.  You could order Dover sole cooked at least a dozen different ways.  When the waiter brought your dinner, he deboned it right in front of you.

Regrettably I never developed that skill, so my family dealt with many mouthfuls of bones and consequently hated fish.  Now that I’m more aware of fish’s healthful benefits, I have made strong efforts to cook relatively boneless versions.  

Salmon steaks (which are chopped through the backbone) have bones, but salmon fillets don’t.  Fresh tuna lacks bones, but it’s expensive.  Fillets of cheaper fish, such as rockfish, tilapia and swai, are usually bone-free.  Or if you’re looking for another gadget to add to your collection, invest in a pair of fish tweezers.

Here is my version of fish sticks.
Crunchy Baked Fish - serves 4 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Dining Room”
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 pounds fish fillets 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. 
Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a soup bowl or large plate and set aside.  Place the mayonnaise in another soup bowl or large plate and set aside. 
Rinse the fish and remove any visible bones.  If you like, cut each fillet into 3-4 relatively equal pieces. 
Using a fork, dip a fillet into the mayonnaise and coat both sides.  Then transfer it to the bread crumb mixture and coat both sides. 
Transfer the coated fillet to the foil-covered sheet and repeat the process until done. 
Bake for 10 minutes, or until the fish breaks into flakes when you press on it with a fork.  Serve immediately.
           For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 14

Is your brown sugar like concrete? Instead of getting out a hammer, add a slice of apple or a slice of bread and close the container. The extra moisture will soften the sugar overnight.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 13

Substitute a cheaper ingredient for a more expensive one. For instance, it won’t make a difference if you use an onion instead of 1-2 leeks. I have nothing against leeks, although they are messy to clean. Leeks are probably listed as an ingredient in the first place because the recipe writer wanted to make the recipe more distinctive-sounding, not more distinctive-tasting. New recipes are sometimes just “improvements” on old recipes. The unwritten rule for writing recipes is to change at least 3 ingredients.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

How to Feel Like an Idiot in the Kitchen

Russian Vegetable Borscht (photo by Andy Mills)
I must be incompetent.  I found a recipe for a stuffed flatbread in a prestigious publication, and it caused my mouth to water.  It involved making dough and a filling and then frying the flatbreads on a hot griddle.  The whole process was supposed to take an hour. 

I’ve been making my own bread and pizza for years.  How hard could it be to make this dish?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 13

Too fond of bacon? Next time you buy a package, separate the uncooked strips and freeze them individually or in packages of 2 (in resealable freezer bags, freezer wrap or foil). Defrost only what you need. You can use a large resealable bag to store many individual slices, as long as they don’t touch each other. Lay the bag flat in the freezer. Once the strips are frozen, you can stack them on top of each other.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 12

Use eggs more often as a main dish. Why not make a cheese omelet or a vegetable frittata for dinner? Throw in a baked potato, and you have a meal for under $2.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Can Food Preferences Be Genetic?

Now that my cookbook co-author/son Kevin is out of the house, I don’t get a chance to cook just for him very often.  However, he dropped by for lunch the other day, and I automatically knew what he would most prefer to eat—a tuna tortilla.

During my 4 years of high school, I packed a tuna sandwich for lunch every day.  I even ate them on weekends.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 11

Buy a whole raw chicken and cut it up yourself. Use strong scissors to make the job easier.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 12

Save time by cooking extra. Leftover potatoes can help fill a burrito, or they can become mashed potato pancakes. Extra potatoes or rice can bulk up a soup. If you have a lot of rice, make Chinese Fried Rice. Freeze leftover cooked meat in 1- or 2-person portions. Be sure to label what it is. Nobody wants to eat mystery meat.

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