Monday, October 31, 2016

Barley: What Is it and How Do I Cook It?

Pearl Barley
Barley has been around for more than 10,000 years.  I first tasted it in my grandmother’s Chicken Barley Soup, but I didn’t know what it was until much later.

I really fell for this grain when I lived in London and frequented Cranks, a popular vegetarian restaurant.  It was originally located right on Carnaby Street, well before the street itself became the headquarters of Swinging London.  By the time I discovered it, though, Cranks had moved around the corner to Marshall Street.  I never noticed any high fashion people there having lunch, but I did see lots of unusual salads. Almost all of them featured such grains as cracked wheat, wheat berries or barley.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 78

Mixed Noodles with Pesto Sauce
If you eat a lot of pasta and have leftovers of different varieties—maybe spaghetti, farfalle, rotini and gigli --reheat them together and just add sauce.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Question for Mom

How long do spices last? – Cheryl Z.

When I was growing up, my mother kept spices around for decades.  She hardly used them and didn’t realize they would lose their punch after awhile.  I’ve been guilty of that myself on occasion.  But after reading Penzeys Spices Thanksgiving catalog, I know better.  Here is what this herb and spice company says: 

“The government’s guidelines for freshness dating is four years for whole spices and two years for ground.  Some people say six months is the longest spices should be stored, but most spices are harvested only once a year, so it does not make sense to discard them every six months.  On the other hand, two years is too long to store finely powdered spices….  When in doubt about a spice, just smell it.  If it smells strong and spicy, use it.  If not, toss it.”  

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mom’s Basic Bootcamp: Roast Chicken

This is the first in a series of basic recipes anyone can easily make.  They have existed for centuries because 1) they are simple, and 2) they taste good.  Once you master their preparation, you’re free to improvise…or not.  I usually don’t because I know what I’m getting, and I don’t have to think twice about how to make it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Turning Leftovers into New Dishes

Chinese Fried Rice
I feel guilty if I throw away leftovers—unless they have a suspicious green tinge.  Luckily I don’t mind eating the same thing a few nights in a row.  I feel like I’m on kitchen vacation.

Unfortunately, Bart doesn’t share this view.  If he liked what I made originally, he will drum up some enthusiasm when he sees it on his plate on Day #2.  But there’s no way he will eagerly lap it up on Day #3.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 77

Keep a package of dried tortellini is your cupboard.  It makes an excellent, cheap, quick emergency dinner.  Top it with a few tablespoons of pesto sauce, garlic butter sauce or a prepared pasta sauce. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese, if you have some handy.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mom Money-Saving Tip 64

Don’t store unripe bananas next to apples. Apples produce a type of gas called ethylene that ripens fruit.  Bananas will turn brown much faster in the presence of ethylene.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Bean Sauce: What Is It and How Do I Cook with It?

Ground Bean Sauce (left) and Bean Sauce (right)
There are various forms of Bean Sauce on the shelves of Asian supermarkets, including Bean Sauce, Black Bean Garlic Sauce, Ground Bean Sauce, Spicy Black Bean Sauce and Chili Bean Sauce.  This condiment is used to add spice and some thickness to Asian dishes.  It is quite salty, so you don’t need very much—1-2 teaspoons should be enough for a dish that serves 4.  Consistency varies, from smooth to chunky. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

When Someone Else Is Cooking

On that rare occasion when friends invite us to dinner at their home, I couldn’t be more excited.  First of all, it means I have to cook just one thing since I always like to contribute something.  Often it’s a dessert.  I seldom make desserts when I’m putting dinner on my own table.  It’s a combination of laziness and calories.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 76

Peanut Butter
If you’re measuring something sticky, wipe the inside of the measuring cup or spoon with a bit of oil. The sticky ingredient will pour right out.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 75

Undercooked Pork
If meat is undercooked, slice it and put it under the broiler and broil for 45-60 seconds per side, continuing to keep an eye on it, until it is done enough for your taste.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

I Can Make That Too: Peanut Butter Cups in Mom’s Kitchen vs. Store-Bought Peanut Butter Cups

My first encounter with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup came in middle school, when we had a fundraiser that involved buying candy wholesale and selling it full price to fellow students.  The Peanut Butter Cups sold out immediately.  Did I really buy them all?

Now, many years later, I’m okay with not getting too many Halloweeners.  That way I can take charge of the leftover Peanut Butter Cups.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 74

Baked Tilapia
If you overcook fish, top it with salsa and say that’s the way it’s supposed to be. The salsa will disguise any dryness.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Comfort Food

Blintzes with Pumpkin Butter, Blueberry Jam and Sour Cream
Most children give up their blankies, teddy bears and other childhood comforts as they reach adolescence.  But they often continue to be partial to certain foods that remind them of happy times.  For some, Mashed Potatoes are their comfort food.  Others want Chicken Soup, Fried Chicken, Spaghetti Bolognese, Chocolate, Chips and Salsa, Ice Cream or, as my friend Ilene says, “A cup of hot tea with a really good cookie.”

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mom Cooking Tip 73

Cold Grated Cheese
Cheese is easier to grate when it’s cold, so grate it straight from the fridge. If it’s been sitting out for a while, chill it in the freezer for 20 minutes. That way the grated slivers won’t stick together.

Warm Grated Cheese
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