Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 40

Before hard-boiling an egg, make a tiny hole in the large end with a needle, pushing it in about 1/4 inch, just far enough to pierce the membrane inside the shell. There’s also a gadget available to do this job for you. It’s called an egg pricker. When the egg is cooked, it will be easier to peel.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 38

A good place to shop is your pantry. Check to see what canned or boxed foods you have overlooked or have gotten pushed to the back and forgotten.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chocolate Again…and Forever

I just can’t keep away from chocolate.  It’s never far from my thoughts, possibly because various forms of it are stashed all over my kitchen.  Hiding in one cabinet is a bag of chocolate discs I melt to make candy.  Also there is a box of Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels made by the Girl Scouts and a bag of Dark Chocolate Acai and Blueberry Flavor balls.  No more Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups left over from Halloween, alas.

Another cupboard contains two 17.6-oz. bars of Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate Bars imported from Belgium, a 3.5-oz. bar of Godiva 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, a 3.5-oz. cardboard tube of Droste Chocolate Pastilles, five boxes of Bakers 4-oz. 100% Unsweetened Baking Bars, a 72-oz. bag of Nestle’s Chocolate Chips, an 8-oz. can of Baking Cocoa and a 4-oz. bottle of Pure Chocolate Extract.

On my kitchen bookshelves are 14 chocolate cookbooks, including “Chocolate on the Brain”, which I wrote with my son Kevin.  I guess we weren’t exaggerating with the title.

Not only is chocolate always on my brain but also I am thinking up new ways to use it. My latest is a Chocolate Fondue that can be spooned onto individual plates and eaten with pieces of angel food cake or bananas, strawberries and oranges.  It makes a good winter dessert. When people are sniffling, no one wants to dip into a communal pot of anything, even chocolate fondue. 

Chocolate is good for many things, but I’m not sure if it kills germs.  However, I have seen research hinting that dark chocolate can fight tooth decay.

Chocolate Fondue on a Plate – serves 5-6 moderate portions  
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1-inch squares of angel food cake (often sold in grocery bakeries) or slices of banana,
    whole strawberries or sections of oranges 
Begin melting the chocolate chips in a small, heavy pan over low heat.  Watch carefully and stir as the chips begin to melt.  When the chips are mostly melted, remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate is smooth.  Add the sour cream and stir until it’s fully incorporated. 
Portion it out on small plates and serve with angel food cake or slices of banana, whole strawberries or sections of an orange. 
          For more chocolate recipes, get “Chocolate on the Brain” 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 39

When grating lemon peel, stop when you get to the white part under the yellow skin. It’s bitter.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 37

Make sure you actually get the sale prices advertised. Occasionally grocery stores don’t align their scanners with their promotions.

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

The ICK Factor

Roast Chicken
Many recipes have what I call “The ICK Factor.”  For some, it’s cutting onions, which can make you cry.  For others, it’s washing the dirt off fresh spinach, leeks or beets.

Cracking eggs and getting raw egg white on your fingers is icky.  So is cutting away fat from a raw pork chop. 

Shaping meatballs by hand is cold, icky work, but they look so much better than meatballs scooped with a spoon and, untouched, dropped into a sauce to cook. 

Skimming off fat that rises to the surface of a dish like Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine Sauce) or Meatloaf is unpleasant, but eating them without having removed this fat first is more unpleasant.

Yuck to pulling “beards” (a mass of threads sticking out of the shell) from uncooked mussels, but eating the beard is worse.

Using your fingers to yank bones out of raw fish fillets or salmon steaks is disagreeable but it’s better than spitting them out.   

Taking a bite of rare chicken is not only icky but potentially dangerous to your health.  The same holds true for rare pork and undercooked fresh (not pre-cooked) sausages. 

For me, touching cold raw chicken is the worst, particularly if it’s a whole chicken and I have to reach into the cavity to pull out the giblets (heart, liver, kidneys) and sometimes even the chopped-off neck.  Cook them separately if you like, but do remove them before roasting the chicken. 

Chicken with Giblets
On the plus side, Roast Chicken is one of the easiest recipes to prepare--if you can just get over handling it.  In his learning-to-cook days, my son/cookbook co-author Kevin at least once successfully removed the innards by shaking the whole chicken, cavity-side down, over the sink. Ultimately, though, it’s easier to put your hand inside. 
Roast Chicken – serves 4, depending on size (adapted from "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!")  
1 whole chicken, from 3 1/2 – 4 pounds (thawed if frozen) 
1 teaspoon canola or corn oil 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)  
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
Remove the giblets and rinse the chicken in water.  Place it on a rack in a roasting pan.  Wipe the skin with the oil, which will help it brown evenly.  Sprinkle the skin with garlic powder, if desired.  The taste won’t change much, but it will smell wonderful as it cooks. 
Bake for about 1 1/2 hours.  To see if the chicken is fully cooked, tip the pan so some of the juices run out of the cavity. If the juice is clear, not red, the chicken is ready to eat.  If the juice is red, cook for another 15 minutes and test again.  If the leg wiggles easily, it is done.  Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for a few minutes.  Slice or cut it into pieces and serve. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 38

Whenever you bake potatoes, bake a few extra. Cut them into 1/2-inch cubes and add them to stuffed tortillas or salads. Or fry them with a cut-up onion and serve as a side dish.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 37

Store butter in the freezer. To get it to room temperature more quickly, cut it into 1/2-inch slices with a heavy knife. Or if you need it for baking but are not supposed to melt it, grate it into a bowl, using the largest holes of a grater.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Flour Overload

Pre-Baked Pie Crust
Maybe I went a little overboard the other day on my baking.  How many home cooks do you know who would be able to use 12 cups of flour making three different baked products in one afternoon?  I made 2 loaves of whole wheat bread, 1 pie crust for a quiche and 4 pizzas.

I like to bake, and I’m not afraid of yeast, but I don’t normally bake this much at once. However, our bread supply was running low.  I’ve made bread every week for years—not to save money but because we like homemade bread, especially when it’s toasted. That accounted for 7 cups of flour.

Then I needed a quiche to take to a potluck, so I made my super-easy, foolproof pie crust, which needed 1 cup of flour.

Lastly, it was Saturday, and Saturday night is Pizza Night at our house.  Four pizzas mean 4 cups of flour. 

It’s time to buy my next 25-pound bag of flour.

Here’s the simplest recipe of the three, straight from my sister-in-law Sue’s recipe collection.

Unbaked Quiche with Pre-Baked Crust
Can’t-Fail Pie Crust – makes 1 crust 

1 cup all-purpose flour + more for rolling 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup canola or corn oil 
1/4 cup cold water + more if necessary 
If you are going to pre-bake the pie crust, place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees for a metal or ceramic pie pan or 425 degrees for a glass pie pan. 
Combine the flour, salt, oil and water in a medium bowl and mix well with a fork or wooden spoon until the mixture forms itself into a ball.  If it won’t hold together, add 1 teaspoon water. 
Place 1/2 teaspoon flour onto a 14-inch-long piece of wax paper.  Place the ball of dough in the center and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon flour over the top.  Place a second 14-inch-long piece of wax paper on top of the floured dough and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a circle about 12 inches across. 
Remove and discard the top sheet of wax paper.  Pick up the bottom sheet and place it, dough side down, on a 9-inch pie pan.  Carefully peel off the wax paper and ease the dough into the pan.  Press it against the bottom and then up the sides of the pan. 
Using kitchen scissors, cut off all but 1/2-inch of the excess dough hanging over the edge.  Fold the protruding edge under itself (not under the edge of the pie pan) and press down so that it is flat against the pan rim.  Using fork tines or your thumbs, press down to make an indentation.  Check to make sure there are no holes or cracks in the dough.  Patch it with extra dough if necessary.   
To pre-bake the crust:  Gently poke the tines of a fork into a dozen places on the base of the crust and about every two inches on the sides to keep the crust from puffing up as it bakes.  Some people pour dried beans into the crust to keep it from puffing up, but I never have.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the crust begins to color and is crisp to the touch.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack until ready to fill.  If any cracks or holes appear, patch them with a mixture made of 1 teaspoon flour and a few drops of water stirred together to make a paste.  
Add filling and bake as your recipe advises.
Baked Onion and Zucchini Quiche

This recipe is also included in “Chocolate on the Brain” 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 36

To get the last drops of honey that have crystallized in the bottom of the bottle, put the closed bottle in a bowl of hot water and shake until the honey warms up and liquefies.

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 36

If you peel potatoes more than 15 minutes before you plan to cook them, submerge them in cold water to keep them from turning brown.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

“What was the best chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever eaten?” I asked Bart earlier today.  “The last one,” he said, licking off some crumbs left from the cookie he had just demolished.  Never make a batch of chocolate chip cookies two days before you need them.  My 60-cookie dessert tray was now down to about 40 cookies.  When he wasn’t looking, I hid the rest.

It’s true that any chocolate chip cookie is better than no chocolate chip cookie.   For some, size matters.  I’ve eaten chocolate chip cookies the size of small dinner plates, and I didn’t mind sharing them because they tasted too much like cake.  I’ve also had chocolate chip cookies no bigger than a quarter, but eating 10 of them to get my chocolate chip cookie fix seemed piggish.

My mother made a good chocolate chip cookie using the recipe on a bag of NESTLÉ® chocolate chips.  I tried the same recipe, but they never seemed to taste as good.

So I kept looking and sampling.  Today my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is one inspired by Mrs. Fields.  I’ve tinkered with it, adding a lot more chocolate chips and a few tablespoons of cocoa.  Baking cocoa is unsweetened, but there’s more than enough sugar in chocolate chip cookie batter to counteract any bitterness.  Like all chocolate chip cookies, these taste best about 10 minutes after you take them out of the oven.

Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies - makes 50-60 cookies 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter 
1 cup sugar 
1 cup brown sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 1/2 cups instant (uncooked) oats, ground to a fine powder in a food processor 
2 cups flour 
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3 cups chocolate chips 
Cream the butter and the two sugars in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add the ground oats, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt and beat until everything is well mixed.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  
Prepare cookie sheet(s) the way you normally do. I use a silicone baking mat, but I recently discovered parchment paper, which also keeps cookies from sticking. 
Using a tablespoon, scoop up enough dough to make 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for about 11 minutes.  Cookies will hold their shape but not brown.  Do not over-bake. 
Transfer the baked cookies to a cooling rack.
          For more chocolate recipes, get “Chocolate on the Brain” 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 35

Buy meat in bulk, divide it into portions for 2 or 4, wrap well and freeze until needed.

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