Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beauty Before Taste? Not at My Table

You can’t eat pictures, although I do remember seeing a movie called “King of the Hill,” where a boy is so hungry that he cuts pictures of food from magazines, puts them on a plate and then gobbles them up.

What I’m talking about is real food on my table.  I’m happy to admire a beautifully roasted chicken, but given the choice of how it looks versus how it tastes, I’ll take taste any day.  I came to this point of view when boxed cake mixes started using chocolate “flavoring” instead of real chocolate.  They looked great but tasted like cardboard.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Question for Mom

(L-R) Yams, White Potatoes, Red Potatoes, Russet Potatoes
With 4th of July coming up, can you tell me what’s the best kind of potato to use for potato salad? – Jim K.

Any potato will work.  But if you like your cut-up potatoes to hold their shape, choose red, white or Yukon Gold potatoes.  New potatoes, which average 1 inch in diameter, are also a good choice, if you can find them. Russets tend to fall apart in potato salad. 

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 56

When buying eggs, open the carton and gently move each egg to make sure it’s not cracked, broken or stuck to the carton.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Era-Themed Dinners

1950s-Style Shrimp Cocktails
The most fun I’ve had in the kitchen recently came as a result of menu boredom.  “Not the same old dishes yet again,” I thought to myself as the family sat down for our regular Sunday dinner.

“We need something new, something exciting,” I said.  “How about a meal may parents ate in the 1950s?”  The Fifties weren’t noted for fine dining experiences.  For most Americans it was a meat and potatoes era, and salad meant a chunk of iceberg lettuce covered in Russian dressing. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 60

Make sure freshly baked cookies are at room temperature before storing them in a closed container.  Otherwise, they will get too soft.  

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 55

Oven-Roasted Tilapia Kebabs
To feed more people with a set amount of meat or fish, turn it into kebabs. Add to the skewers such vegetables as whole mushrooms, onion chunks, zucchini slices, bell pepper pieces or 1-inch slices of uncooked corn on the cob. Dab with oil and then grill, oven-roast or pan-fry.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Question for Mom

Do red, orange and yellow bell peppers taste any different? - Mary B.

When you eat them raw, red bell peppers are the sweetest.  But if you cook them, there is not much difference in taste, especially if they’re seasoned. In case you’re wondering, red bell peppers have the most vitamin C.  I avoid using green bell peppers because I find them hard to digest.

Brightly colored cooked bell peppers in their own juice remind me of sunny summer vacation days in France.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Writing Notes in Cookbooks

Homemade Blueberry Jam
When I was a kid, books were sacred.  You were not to write in them, tear out pages or harm them in any way.  So the first time I wrote a note to myself in the margin of a cookbook, I felt guilty.  But I felt I had a good reason.  I had made this particular recipe before but had forgotten that I didn’t like it.  So when I absentmindedly made it again and still didn’t like it, I vowed to remind myself so as to not make it a third time.

Soon enough I was writing notes on almost all the cookbook recipes I used.  I would tell myself that I left out a certain ingredient or I added a few new ingredients or I found a shortcut.  Over the years this habit has proved very useful.

Making blueberry jam is a perfect example.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 59

When baking a cake, don’t start testing for doneness until you begin to smell it.  Then peek at it through the oven door’s glass window to see if it’s begun to pull away from the edges of the pan.  If it has, open the door and gently poke the cake in the middle with a cake tester, skewer, toothpick or, in a pinch, a sharp knife.  If it’s done, the implement will come out clean.  If it has liquid or crumbs sticking to it, continue baking, testing every 5 minutes or so.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 54

To cut down on grocery bills, I still clip coupons.  But I’m finding fewer and fewer to clip, so now I search for them online.  It’s easy.  Go to www.google.com and type in Food Coupons or Coupons, and then name the product you’re looking for.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Misreading Directions

Not following directions on a map can take you to places you never thought you’d go.  Maybe you didn’t want to be there – or maybe you discovered a beautiful waterfall.  It’s the same with recipes.

I have two friends who misread recipe directions and had absolute disasters. 

One baked an Easter ham for his college co-op residents and somehow interpreted the directions “Place cloves into the ham about 1 inch apart before baking” to read “Cover ham with cloves before baking.”  He used about 500 cloves on a 14-pound ham.  The residents ate out that night.

The other decided to make spaghetti for the first time.  The directions read something like, “Fill a pot with water, bring it to a boil, add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes.”  He filled a frying pan with water, turned the heat to high, dumped a pound of noodles into the pan, set the timer and left the room.  The smell of burned noodles eventually drew him back into the kitchen, where he threw away the frying pan.

Then there’s this happy accident

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 58

Make plain white rice more exotic by stir-frying a chopped onion or some scallions and a few sliced mushrooms or bell pepper pieces in 1 tablespoon oil. Then add the mixture to hot cooked rice, stir well and serve.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Coolest Kitchen Gadget Ever

I went all the way to Paris to find this 5-bladed kitchen scissors, not realizing I could have bought it online.  But Paris is a lot more enticing than the computer in my office.  I always stop by E. Dehillerin, a French kitchen equipment store with hundreds of knives, whisks, cookware and copper pots filling its first floor and basement.  I’m never disappointed.  

I didn’t know I needed these exotic scissors to cut parsley, basil and cilantro, but now I can’t live without them.  There is even a cleaning device built into the plastic case so you don’t slice open your fingers trying to remove leftover bits of greenery.

E. Dehillerin Knife Display
E. Dehillerin Dish Display
E. Dehillerin Whisk Display

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

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

Crab Salad from Chez Fernand
I’m always looking for the easiest possible dish to put on the table.  It helps if the dish also looks appetizing and even better if it offers a hint of sophistication.  Ultimately, though, it has to taste good.  Beautiful pictures of beautiful food are delightful, but if the actual food is simply fodder--or worse--what’s the point?

I was surprised to find this Crab Salad Appetizer on the menu at a small restaurant called Chez Fernand on Paris’ Left Bank.  It was simple, attractively presented and, best of all, delicious.

I vowed to make it myself and came up with this very easy recipe.