Friday, September 30, 2016

Question for Mom

Ricotta (left) and Cottage Cheese (right)
When should I use ricotta instead of cottage cheese? –Tom P.

I bought my first tub of ricotta not long ago after someone criticized me for using cottage cheese in a lasagna recipe.  I have to confess that although I’d heard friends speak lovingly of ricotta, I was perfectly happy with cottage cheese.  I’d eaten it since I was a kid and was used to its taste.

Finally I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Ricotta is creamier than cottage cheese.  In fact, it reminded me of cream cheese, although a little less dense.  In the lasagna the taste of ricotta was pretty much indistinguishable from cottage cheese, although it looked better. 

The family’s picky eater, who normally gobbles down lasagna, ate the noodles but pushed the ricotta around on his plate.  On the other hand, the family’s junior eating machine ate three portions.  Several of the adults said they liked my new version of lasagna better than the old.  Others said they preferred the cottage cheese version. 

End result: Ricotta, which is somewhat more expensive than cottage cheese, may make some dishes better, but lasagna isn’t necessarily one of them.  I plan to experiment with the leftover ricotta in a different dish and will report back.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 63


If you have leftover raw vegetables that you served with a dip, slice them up and toss into a stir-fry. Or cook them in a small amount of water and serve as a side dish. Those packages of “baby” carrots that accumulate in the fridge can be put to good use here.

See all my Money-Saving Tips!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 72


Bake a fruit pie on a rimmed baking sheet.  That way if the juices overflow, they won’t get on the floor of the oven.

Apple Streusel Pie is the perfect reason to test this tip.  The produce manager at my local grocery store recommended Granny Smith apples for pie baking, and he was right.  They did not disintegrate into mush, and they provided a nice tart flavor.

Granny Smith Apples
The best thing about this pie, besides its taste, is that it needs just a bottom crust.

Apple Streusel Pie – serves 8-10 
1 unbaked pie crust (click here for recipe) 
6 large Granny Smith apples 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
3 tablespoons flour 
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg  
Streusel Topping 
1/2 cup flour 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter 
Make the pie crust, put it in a pie pan (deep dish if you have one) and set aside. 
Peel, core and slice the apples.  This takes more time than you would think and is the hardest part of making this pie.  Put the slices in a very large bowl. 

Begin preheating the oven to 375 degrees. 
Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.  Stir the mixture thoroughly and pour over the top of the apples.  Toss the apples gently with 2 large spoons so that the mixture covers as much of the apples’ surfaces as possible.  Transfer the apples and any leftover mixture into the pie crust. 
Make the streusel topping.  Combine the flour, sugar and butter in the bowl you just emptied. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into tiny pieces and mix into the flour and sugar.  Sprinkle this mixture over the apples. 

Place the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet or broiling pan (to catch juices that may overflow the pie pan) and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the streusel begins to brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.
           See all my Cooking Tips!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What Makes a Sandwich?

Cuban Sandwich
Did you ever hear of a Spaghetti Sandwich?  How about a Chip Sandwich (aka Chip Butty or French Fry Sandwich)?  These used to be food staples on British film sets—served to starving actors and crew members, often during shoots in the middle of the night. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Okra: What Is It and How Do I Cook It?


There are two schools of thought about this vegetable: love and hate.  Both exist within my immediate family.  I’m one of the lovers, while my cookbook collaborator, Kevin, is a hater.  Thus we have no okra recipes in our four cookbooks.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 71


Test to see if the oil in a frying pan is hot enough by flicking a drop of water into the heated oil. The water should sizzle. If it doesn’t, heat for another 30 seconds and try again.

See all my Cooking Tips!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Are Cooks Born or Trained?

Cheddar Potato Soup
How did you get started in the kitchen?  Curiosity?  Necessity?  A cooking class?

For me, it was necessity.  A newly minted college graduate sharing a one-bedroom apartment in New York, I had a low-paying job and a large appetite.  To keep from going hungry, I had to start cooking.  But I didn’t know how to make anything.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sesame Oil: What Is It and How Do I Cook with It?


Sesame oil is sold in small bottles and is used mainly for flavoring.  Be careful if you use it for frying because it can burn easily. 

The oil is pressed from roasted sesame seeds and is usually a golden color, although I have seen a brown version.  It’s popular in Asian cooking.  Add a few drops of sesame oil just before you serve a stir-fry or tofu dish, and you will be surprised how much it improves the taste with its unique nutty flavor.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 62


Use eggs as your main protein source for dinner once a week. They will definitely reduce your food bill.

See all my Money-Saving Tips!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 70

Drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans to remove excess salt.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Missing an Ingredient?

Easy Biscuits
Sometimes I have a blind spot when I’m reading a recipe.  The list of ingredients is right in front of me, and yet I fail to see that I need 2 eggs and only realize when I’m in the middle of making the recipe that I don’t have any.

Should I drive to the grocery store?  Ask my neighbor if she has any spare?  Throw away what I’ve made so far?  Keep cooking and leave the eggs out?  Find an egg substitute?

Depending on which ingredient is missing, any of the above could be the right option.  So how to do know which to pick?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Question for Mom


How much juice is in one lemon?  Alice F.

It depends on the size of the lemon and how thick the peel is.  The average thin-skinned lemon, which is about 2 ½ inches long, should yield about 2 ½ tablespoons juice.  A bigger lemon with a very thick peel might yield just 1 tablespoon juice.  Thin-skinned lemons are a better value.

Here are some other useful measuring tidbits:

4 oz. cheddar cheese = 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 

1 large apple = 1 cup sliced apples

12 oz. (1 package) chocolate chips = 2 cups chocolate chips

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 61


When chicken tenders first came on the market, they were cheaper than boneless chicken breasts. Now they’re more expensive, so why buy them? Buy boneless chicken breasts instead and cut them into strips.

See all my Money-Saving Tips!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Kale: What Is It and How Do I Cook It?


You’ve probably seen kale at the salad bar—not necessarily in the salads but underneath the salads.  It’s practically indestructible and also cheap, with thick stems and strong, curly leaves. 

Kale is often a deep green, but it can also have some purple or blue streaks.  It’s sold in bunches in the fresh vegetable sections of most stores, and it holds up well in the fridge.  Avoid bunches that look dried out or have yellowish leaves.