Saturday, April 30, 2016

Childhood Food Memories

Whenever I talk to my lifelong friend Lynne, we usually find ourselves reminiscing about our teen years.  Those conversations remind me how good Lynne’s house always smelled when I’d stop by after school.  Her mother was a first-class baker, and she apparently spent many afternoons making bread, cakes, cookies and cloverleaf rolls.

Maybe Lynne’s mother, whom I will call Mrs. B, is the reason I was never daunted by yeast

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 53

Here’s a shortcut when making garlic bread from French bread– slice the bread horizontally and spoon on the butter/garlic mixture.  Wrap tightly in foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  When ready to serve it, unwrap and slice vertically into 1-inch pieces.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 50

Leftovers in My Refrigerator: Stuffed Mushrooms, Penne, Candied Yam
Analyze your leftovers. If you consistently have 1-portion servings left, either reduce the amount of food you are cooking or increase it enough so that you can freeze half for a future meal.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

I Can Make That Too: Mussels in Mom’s Kitchen vs. the Restaurant Version

Mussels from Mom's Kitchen
I started loving mussels when I lived in London and could buy fresh ones at the fishmonger’s stall in the Tachbrook Street Market, near Victoria Station. This was before mussel farming began in earnest, so the mussels I got were wild ones, often with barnacles attached to their shells.

Cleaning the mussels took ages and sometimes required a hammer and flat-head screwdriver to knock off the barnacles.  They had to go because they were likely to be full of sand.  I also had to yank out the mussels’ beards—a bunch of threads that help the mussel attach to an underwater surface.  That took brute strength.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 52

Corn on the cob gets tough if it’s overcooked. Add ears of corn to a pot of unsalted boiling water, cover and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from the water with tongs and serve with butter and salt on the side.  I prefer removing the husks before cooking because there’s less folderol at the table.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Stuffing a Tomato

When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, fresh tomatoes were for eating whole or cut up in salads.  Somehow cooking them didn’t occur to my mother.  If she wanted tomato sauce, she opened a can or she used ketchup. 

Imagine my surprise when I went to Greece as a high school exchange student and had my first Stuffed Tomato.  Everything about it was exotic—the herbs and spices, the crunchy breadcrumbs on top drizzled with something called olive oil? 

Okay, I was 16 and pretty ignorant about cooking, but that summer in Greece changed everything.  For one thing, I gained 15 pounds because I liked the food so much.  More importantly, I realized that I could have an impact on what I ate.  If I wanted a Stuffed Tomato, a Stuffed Grape Leaf or some Taramasalata (a Greek dip made from fish roe), I could learn to make it myself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Question for Mom

Clockwise from left: Coriander Seeds, Cilantro, Ground Coriander
What’s the difference between coriander and cilantro?--Steve D.
Coriander is the name of the plant.  The leaves, commonly known either as fresh coriander or cilantro (the Spanish word for coriander), are sold in bunches like parsley.  Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Mexican and Indian recipes. 

The coriander plant’s small round seeds are called coriander.  The seeds can be used whole or ground up and sold as a powder.  The powder tastes considerably different from the leaves, which have a lemony flavor. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 49

To crisp up stale cereal, spread it out on a pie plate or cookie sheet and bake it for 10 minutes at 250 degrees. Let cool before storing it in an airtight container.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Another Reason to Eat Dark Chocolate

1-Person Serving
Not that I need a reason, but here is an excellent one to justify my daily intake of dark chocolate.  According to a study published last December in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, eating dark chocolate may improve endurance performance.  Researchers at Kingston University in England tested this theory on recreational cyclists by giving them 1 1/2 squares (1.4 ounces) of dark chocolate.  Their endurance improved, possibly due to the effects of an antioxidant in the chocolate called epicatechin. 

More research needs to be done.  For instance, researchers did not test people who ate chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, fudge or chocolate ice cream.   I’ll volunteer for the follow-up study.  I think I qualify because I have recently begun going to the gym three days a week, usually after eating some dark chocolate.  Maybe I’ll up my intake and see if I can do more leg lifts.

To test out the research yourself, here’s a very easy recipe made almost entirely of dark chocolate.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 51

According to a friend from India, adding spices directly to oil or butter while it’s heating intensifies their flavor. It works for me.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Cipolline Onions: What Are and How Do I Cook Them?

Somehow I managed to miss the existence of Cipolline onions until yesterday, when I stumbled across a bag of them at my local grocery store.  These onions are tiny, although not quite as tiny as pearl onions. 

They’re cute the way baby carrots or other miniature vegetables are cute.  They taste stronger than scallions and need about 45 minutes of roasting in the oven to be soft enough to enjoy.

They’re pronounced chih-poh-LEE-nee.  Cipolla is the Italian name for onion, and Cipolline means small onion.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Does Size Matter?

I’ve seen pictures of potatoes the size of Volkswagons, but only recently have I stumbled across potatoes large enough to feed six people.  It was one of the unexpected benefits of not paying attention while I was shopping. 

Russet potatoes were on my list.  Twenty-pound bags were on sale for $5, so I heaved one into my cart without really looking at what I was buying.  Hours later when the dinner hour was approaching, I reached inside and pulled out a 2-pounder.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 48

Meat used to be the most expensive item in a meal, but now fresh vegetables, especially the organic ones, push prices up. Buy only as much organic produce as you know you will be able to use.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 50

     When cleaning strawberries, use the tip of a potato peeler to dig out the stem.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

When Is It Worth Spending a Lot of Time in the Kitchen?

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
Some people would say “Never,” but I find cooking relaxing—unless it’s not going well. 

Recently I spent more hours than I care to admit making three large chocolate desserts for a bean-to-bar chocolate tasting (more on that in a future post).  It was worth it to me for many reasons, but mostly because I felt competent doing something most people I know would be afraid to try.  My circle of friends does not include professional chefs, although a close friend used to work in a test kitchen.

I make pizza just about every Saturday night because three teenagers are at the table and congenially demand it.  It’s worth the effort because they love pizza – and so do I.  There are no shortcuts when making real pizza dough, but hey…how often do teenagers willingly talk to you while waiting for the next pizza to come out of the oven?

Yesterday I was moved to make Black Bean Soup because my husband was laid low with allergies.  He has fond memories of his mother’s version of this soup, so I decided to cheer him up with some.  It’s not difficult, but it takes a few hours if you use dried black beans.  And that’s without soaking them overnight first—a process I have determined is not necessary.  Dried black beans taste better than canned, and they’re economical.  One pound of dried beans makes enough soup for 10-12 people.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 49

Yellow Lentil Soup
If your soup is too watery, heat it over medium-high heat for a few minutes while constantly stirring. This works well for cream soups. To prevent overcooking soups featuring cut-up vegetables, pasta or rice, scoop most of them out and set aside. Then boil the broth for several more minutes.

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