Friday, October 20, 2017

Question for Mom


What is the difference between salted and unsalted butter? – Jack E. 

The salt content.   Unsalted butter has none, which means it doesn’t keep as long.  Salted butter can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 months.  Practically speaking, either one can be used in a recipe and can be substituted for each other.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When an Interesting Recipe Is Not Worth Trying

Black Bean Lasagna
What finally prompted me to throw an interesting new recipe into the trash was this sentence: “Refrigerate the dough for 2 hours.”  There were several other complicated steps to this dish, which wasn’t even a main but a side to serve with my regular dinner.  Perhaps if someone else had made it for me and it tasted divine, I would have committed to preparing it myself.

I make complicated dishes all the time, including Whole Grain Bread once a week and Blueberry Jam at least once a month.  Apple Pie does not daunt me.  And just the other day I whipped up a batch of Clover Leaf Rolls.

Although it’s not one of my favorite jobs, I will debone a chicken breast if I have to.  I welcome the chance to clean 5 pounds of mussels because I am very fond of Moules Marinieres (aka mussels).  Also it’s not that time-consuming.

As a practical cook who prepares dinner at least 6 days a week, I have developed a wide range of recipes that are quick AND taste good.  Yes, Homemade Pizza requires waiting for the dough to rise, but it’s a proven success.  So is Black Bean Lasagna, which I haven’t made recently.  I think I’ll put one together for dinner tonight, 
Black Bean Lasagna – serves 8 (adapted from “Help!My Apartment Has a Dining Room”)  
8-ounce package cream cheese
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, stems removed and leaves cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil + more as needed
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
12 lasagna noodles
1 16-ounce container cottage cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
Set the cream cheese on the counter to soften.  Begin heating a large pot of water. 
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and cilantro and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften. 
Add half the black beans to the vegetable mixture.  Mash the other half and add them to the mixture.  Add the tomato sauce and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.  Remove from the heat and set aside. 
When the water comes to a boil, add the lasagna noodles, one at a time, pushing them into the water until fully submerged.  Set the timer for 12 minutes.  Stir occasionally to keep them from sticking together.  When the timer rings, taste to see if the noodles are done.  If too chewy, cook for 1 more minute.  Drain the noodles in a colander.  Separate any that have stuck together and set aside. 
Mix the cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and black pepper in a large bowl and set aside. 
Begin heating the oven to 350 degrees.  Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-x-12-inch or 9-x-13-inch pan with oil.  Cover the bottom of the pan with 4 lasagna noodles, overlapping them slightly.  Cover the noodles with one-third of the bean mixture, spreading it evenly.  Then cover the bean mixture with one-third of the cheese mixture.  Repeat two more times. 
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and seal it tightly around the edges.  Bake the lasagna for 40-45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.
                            For easy recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

Monday, October 16, 2017

Question for Mom

Old-Fashioned Tin Flour Sifter 
Why do some recipes call for sifting flour?  Do I have to do it?—Shelley D.  

Years ago flour sometimes was a home for bugs, and sifting it before use allowed you to get rid of them.  Today’s flour does not have this problem.  I stopped sifting flour years ago after making a terrible mess in the kitchen.  I’m told that sifting flour is still recommended if you’re making delicate pastries.  Rather than get my old sifter out, I’d choose to make something else. 

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 124


To remove fat from gravy, soup or meat stews, refrigerate the cooked food overnight.  The fat will solidify and rise to the top of the container.  Use a fork or large soup spoon to lift the fat off and discard.  This technique is easier and more effective than trying to spoon away fat while the dish is still cooking.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Another 4 Ways to Use Chocolate Chips

Jaffa Squares
I’ve got to stop eating chocolate chips straight from the package.  I suppose I could cut off my supply, which would mean no longer buying the 72-ounce bags from Costco.  But that seems like an extreme measure.  Surely I will soon need to make one of the many chocolate desserts that I have mastered over the years.

Chocolate chips are incredibly versatile as an ingredient. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Parsnips: What Are They and How Do I Cook Them?

Carrots (left)  Parsnips (right)
Parsnips look like carrots but are cream-colored instead of orange.  They are a little sweeter than carrots but just as versatile.

I first tasted a parsnip at a dinner party when the hostess served Curried Parsnip Soup.  I was intrigued by the idea of a soup made from a vegetable I’d never heard of.  But I couldn’t fully taste the delicate flavor because of the seasoning.

A few days later I scrubbed and roasted a few parsnips as a side dish.  Everybody liked them.  Now I often add parsnips to a panful of raw vegetables, sprinkle on some olive oil and pop the pan into the oven for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 123


The secret to quickly chopping fresh parsley is not worrying about including a few cut-up stems with the leaves.  After washing and patting dry the amount of parsley you need, chop off and discard as much of the stems as you can with one big cut.  Then finely chop the leaves and remaining stems.

                                               See all my Cooking Tips!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Healthy Reuben Bagel


There’s nothing like biting into a Reuben Sandwich and having corned beef juice dribbling down your face and sauerkraut falling into your lap.  The Reuben Sandwich of my dreams is so stuffed with these ingredients, plus melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye bread, that I can barely get it into my mouth.

I happily dealt with that problem for years until I decided that too much fatty meat was not good for me.  So I gave up eating Reuben Sandwiches. But I never forgot the taste.

Then I bought a dozen mixed bagels and discovered a rye bagel in the bag.  “Aha!” I thought.  “Time for a Reuben Sandwich.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

Question for Mom


How much juice can I squeeze out of an orange?  --Ashley A.

A large orange can yield from 1/2 to 2/3 cup juice.  A very large orange might yield as much as 1 cup juice.  Valencia oranges seem to provide more juice than navels, although a lot depends on how thick the skin is.  The thicker the skin, the less juice there is.  Another clue: the heavier the orange, the more juice it has. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Gumbo and Garlic Bread


Normally I would think twice before recommending a mix.  However, after my whole family loved the soup that was based on a box of Zatarain's Gumbo Mix, I feel comfortable mentioning it.  We even fought over the leftovers, and that is unheard of in our house.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Kosher Salt: What Is It and How Do I Use It?

Table Salt (left) and Kosher Salt (right)
Kosher salt is like the extra-large t-shirt displayed next to mediums.  The flakes are bigger and coarser than regular table salt, but surprisingly these flakes are less salty.  They can be used in almost any recipe calling for salt. 

But be careful.  A teaspoon of table salt is a lot more salty than a teaspoon of kosher salt.  “The Cook’s Bible” says 1 tablespoon kosher salt = 2 teaspoons table salt. 

Not a lot of recipes demand kosher salt, but it is used often enough in cooking that two big companies—Morton’s and Diamond Crystal—package and sell it.  Kosher salt costs more than table salt, but even then the price is low--$1.99 for a 1-pound container at my local supermarket.

Here’s a bit of history:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 122

Vegetable Quiche
If your quiche mixture seems too runny, add 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs before baking to absorb some of the extra liquid.

                                                       See all my Cooking Tips!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Question for Mom

Seafood Pasta
I’ve heard people at restaurants request their pasta cooked ‘al dente.’  What does that mean? 
--Joy H.

“Al dente" is an Italian expression referring to the doneness of cooked noodles.  “Al dente” is the opposite of limp or over-cooked noodles.  "Al dente" noodles are ever so slightly chewy.  Be aware there’s a fine line between "al dente" and not quite cooked.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Secrets of the Radish


Radishes never seemed mysterious.  When I was growing up, they sometimes appeared as a side dish along with some slices of cucumber.  It was like an instant salad, both spicy and colorful.  Once in a while my mother put sliced raw radishes and small chunks of cucumber into a bowl of sour cream.  That would be our lunch when she’d run out of everything else.

When I began cooking, I ignored radishes unless a recipe called for them, which was almost never. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Reinventing a Classic Vegetable

Gugarati Green Beans
Sometimes cooking a traditional vegetable a different way makes me think I’m Christopher Columbus discovering a new world.  It happened a while ago with green beans.

My first memory of green beans involved a tuna casserole.  I’m pretty sure those beans came out of a can.  They must have been overcooked because they were soft and squishy.  But at the time I didn’t know they could taste any different.  I just ate what was put in front of me.

Years later I picked some green beans growing in a friend’s garden and discovered:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 88


Be creative with leftovers.  Six uneaten French fries from last night’s dinner became the basis of today’s lunch.  First I warmed up the fries in the microwave.  Then I heated up a flour tortilla in a frying pan, flipped it over, placed the fries in a rough line down the middle and added some cheddar cheese.  I covered the pan with a lid and continued cooking for about 30 seconds, or until the cheese melted.  Voila!  Cheapest lunch ever.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mortar and Pestle: What Is It and How Do I Use It?

Glass Mortar and Pestle
A mortar and a pestle are actually two stand-alone items that are sold together and work together.  Basically they mash things up, things not really mashable with a fork.  In my case that usually means whole spices.

I bought a mortar and pestle some years ago because I thought it looked cool, but I only started using it when I began liking the taste of Szechuan peppercorns.  They were too expensive to put in a pepper mill, so I ground them up in my mortar and pestle.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Spinach: Fresh vs. Frozen


I couldn’t resist the 40-ounce bag of fresh spinach at Costco yesterday for $3.99.  I’ve been a fan of fresh spinach since my earliest cooking days.  I like putting it in salads, dropping a few handfuls into soup, a stir-fry, a stew or hot pasta.  I’ve recently taken to mixing some fresh spinach into ground turkey recipes, just to provide some novelty.  I also make an excellent Spinach Quiche.   

Frozen spinach just doesn’t provide the same taste experience, especially the chopped version.  Draining a pot of once-frozen, then-cooked chopped spinach is highly unappealing.  I would never serve it as a vegetable.  Whole-leaf frozen spinach is slightly better in principle, but I can’t remember the last time I offered it as a side dish.  As for canned spinach…I don’t want to think about it.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 121


Don’t rinse cooked pasta.  Fresh water washes away the starch coating that will help the sauce stick to the pasta.

                                                  See all my Cooking Tips!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Oops! I Ran Out of xxx in the Middle of Cooking


How many times have you discovered you were missing an ingredient in the middle of getting dinner ready?  Somehow I can look at a recipe, carefully check the ingredients and still manage to overlook the need for an egg or a cup of milk. 

If the ingredient is something odd—like anchovies or honeydew melon—I make a special point of confirming its existence in the house. But if it’s something so basic, so certain to be in the fridge or the cupboard, then I often don’t bother to check that I actually have it. 

I never buy lemons, for instance, because there’s a lemon tree 20 feet from my front door.  So lemons are always in supply—except when they’re not, as I discovered the other day when I went out to pick one.  The tree was full of mini-green lemons, which should be ripe next month.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Manzana Bananas: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?


I never heard of Manzana Bananas until I saw them in the produce department at a local grocery store.  They’re cute little bananas, 8-10 to a bunch, and they provide about three mouthfuls of fruit.

They seemed like the perfect answer to my lifelong problem of buying regular bananas and watching them over-ripen before having the chance to eat all of them.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Fool for Chocolate


I sensed my life  going downhill yesterday when I found myself in the kitchen eating a spoonful of creamy peanut butter covered with chocolate chips.  It was my own fault.  I’d made a chocolate cake earlier in the week and foolishly given most of it away.  I didn’t want it to tempt me, but here I was making a fool of myself over chocolate.

I could have whipped up a batch of chocolate peanut butter cups, but that would have been work.  Or I could have made a batch of Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies – same problem.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Question for Mom


If I put too much salt in something I’m cooking, how do I get it out? – Henry H.

Cooks have tried all kinds of tricks to get rid of extra salt, but I’ve found only one thing that works: doubling the recipe without adding any further salt.  Of course, this is practical only if you happen to have the extra ingredients on hand and the time to prepare the recipe again. 

Some people believe that if you add a large slice of raw potato to the salty mixture, let it cook for 10-15 minutes and then discard it, the salt will be gone.  That has never worked for me. 

If you have a habit of over-salting, leave out the salt altogether (unless you’re baking) and let people add it at the table.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 120

Chocolate Cake with Buttercream icing
A cake baked in a 9” x 12” pan is easy to deal with because you need only ice the top.  If you’re willing to serve directly from the pan. you can forget the sides.  You can also store the cake in the pan.  Some large cake pans even come with covers.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Back in the Old Days


If you want to know about kitchen life in the 1940s and 1950s, when all food advice was directed at women and it wasn’t unusual to spend whole days cooking, pick up “Heloise’s Kitchen Hints,” published in 1963.  I found a copy at a garage sale and cringed my way through it.

Here are some of the things I learned:

“When scalding a chicken, add one teaspoon of soda to the boiling water.  The feathers will come off easier, and the flesh will be clean and white.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 119


Use fresh breadcrumbs to thicken soup.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Balsamic Vinegar: What Is It and How Do I Cook With It?


Balsamic vinegar became popular in the U.S. about 40 years ago.  It is a dark, strongly flavored vinegar made in Italy and aged for as little as three years and as much as 25 years before being bottled.  No wonder some bottles can sell for at least $1,000.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Why a Recipe Doesn’t Always Come Out the Same and Does It Matter?


Wholegrain Bread
Some dishes in my repertoire are decades old.  I make them at least monthly—Spaghetti with Clam Sauce, Asian Turkey Burgers and Blueberry Jam are good examples.  At least one—Wholegrain Bread—I make weekly.

And yet, even though the recipes are burned into my brain, they often turn out slightly differently.  The biggest botch, involving Spaghetti with Clam Sauce, came about when Bart once made it and forgot to add the clams.  But he was able to sprinkle the chopped clams on top, so all ended well.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Question for Mom


Will a candy thermometer also work as a meat thermometer?  -- Ginger B.

No.  A candy thermometer can clip to the side of a pot or a deep-fat fryer and measure the temperature of hot oil or melted sugar used in making candy such as fudge.  A candy thermometer may go as high as 400 degrees. A meat thermometer, which registers the internal temperature of roasting meat, generally goes only as high as 180 degrees.  Some candy thermometers have a spike at one end, making you think maybe they would work on meat, but they aren’t meant to determine whether the chicken is fully cooked.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Use at Least 1 Exotic Ingredient in Every Recipe

Thai Chicken Pizza
Here’s an idea to make dinnertime a little jazzier.  Add at least one exotic ingredient to whatever you’re cooking.  It could be a new spice you want to try or an unusual vegetable.  Maybe substitute peanut oil for canola oil. That will definitely change the favor of the dish.

If you don’t like the end result, add another exotic ingredient to counteract the first one.  Or add water or broth and turn the dish into a soup.  Throw in a handful of noodles or possibly a drained can of corn or beans.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 87


Don’t want to pay a lot for unsweetened baking chocolate?  Use unsweetened cocoa instead, which is much cheaper. Three tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon butter equal 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate.  

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Question for Mom


How can I prevent a skin forming on top of my chocolate pudding? – Karen G. 

Very easily.  Once you have made the pudding and transferred it to a large bowl or individual cups, lay plastic wrap over the entire surface of the pudding and smooth it out so there are no  bubbles.  Refrigerate until needed.  Just before serving, remove the plastic. 

                                                         See all Questions for Mom

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 86


If your cherry tomatoes taste sour, don’t throw them out.  Sauté them in a few tablespoons honey for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Serve as a side dish or bake them, as I did, as part of a tomato pie.

Cherry Tomato Pie – serves 6 as a side dish

1 pre-baked pie crust
2 tablespoons honey
2 1/2 -3 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and dried but left whole
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 8-ounce brick cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Begin preheating the oven to 400 degrees (375 degrees if using a glass pie pan).

Put the honey in a medium frying pan and begin heating over medium heat.  Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously until some of them begin to shrivel.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spread the mustard onto the bottom of the pie crust and then cover with thin slices of cream cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Transfer the partly cooked tomatoes and any juices on top of the cream cheese so that the cream cheese is totally covered.   Bake for about 20 minutes, or until some of the tomatoes begin to collapse. 

Serve immediately or let cool and serve at room temperature.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Ants May Have Saved Me


Never do I look forward to an ant attack in the kitchen, but this summer I found an upside: no death by botulism. 

By the time I noticed the first ant on the counter, the invasion was well underway.  The dishwasher seemed to be their new home, but soon enough I realized they had discovered my pantry—actually a tall, 5-shelved closet filled with boxes of dry pasta, sugar, lentils, spices and all kinds of bottled and canned goods.  “Thank goodness for cans,” I thought.  Ants may be persistent, but they can’t eat metal.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Question for Mom


My food often tastes bland even though I added the spices called for in the recipes.  What am I doing wrong? –Eddie G.

The most likely culprit is the age of your spices.  If they've been hanging around in your kitchen for more than a year, they may have lost their punch.  Try doubling the amount the recipe calls for.  If that doesn’t work, buy replacements.

On the other hand, the recipe you’re using may have been written by someone who doesn’t like spicy food.  That’s why the recipe calls for just a tiny amount of spice.  Try doubling or even tripling the amount of spice—although do be cautious if it’s cayenne pepper.  Or you can add more spice to a small portion and taste-test it.

Unless you use a lot of a particular spice, don’t buy the large economy size jar because it will lose its taste before you use it up.

As a last resort: find recipes spiced to your liking and use that cook’s recipes.

                                                  See all Questions for Mom

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How Far Can You Stray From a Classic Recipe?


I’ve been aware of Gado Gado, an Indonesian salad, for years.  I’ve admired pictures of it and even considered making it at one point.  But I never did because 1) it looked like too much work, and 2) it didn’t appear filling enough to be a main course.

Sunset Magazine’s July issue carried a recipe for this salad, and I finally decided to try it.  ‘Too much work’ and ‘not filling enough’ still seemed valid concerns, so I decided to add a few of my own touches and subtract one of theirs--the bean sprouts, because there were enough cold vegetables already on the platter.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 118


If you have a small bit of leftover rice, need more and don’t want to go to the trouble of waiting for more rice to cook, try this:  add 1/2 cup dried instant couscous and 1/2 cup boiling water to a bowl containing the leftover rice.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes, or until the couscous plumps up.  You will have an unusual-looking but basic side dish.

                                                           See all my Cooking Tips!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Question for Mom




Why do recipes say that roasted meat and poultry should rest for at least 15 minutes when they come out of the oven? - Angie P.

Resting time allows the juices to settle back into the cooked meat or poultry and also makes carving easier.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rescuing Food Disasters

Meatball Sandwiches
Unfortunately you can’t just call the Fire Department when you have a food disaster.  Instead you need to call on your ingenuity.  Hunger is a great motivator.  Just ask my brother, who filed this report.

“I was preparing my dinner, having gotten out the three left-over meatballs (from the previous night's ‘spaghetti and meatballs’ dinner), the spaghetti sauce, the mozzarella cheese and the last bun that was in the house.  I had just finished toasting the bun and was in the process of moving it from the toaster-oven to a pan.  There I intended to add the meatballs, sauce and cheese before reinserting the whole concoction into the toaster-oven for a few minutes, at the "top brown" setting, so as to melt the cheese and warm everything up. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 85


If you have leftover French bread that you have already sliced, freeze it until you need garlic bread.  Then spread the pieces on a baking tray covered with a silicon mat or foil.  Cover each with a little olive oil, oregano, salad seasoning and fresh garlic.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until the slices are slightly crispy. and serve.

                                      See all my Money-Saving Tips!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mom’s Basic Bootcamp: Pizza Dough


I have been making pizza for so many years that I could probably create the dough in my sleep.  In fact, I’ve written about pizza before because I love it so much.

Making pizza dough is a simple procedure, although there are many ways for something to go wrong.  I’ve stumbled through all of them.

The worst was forgetting to add salt.  You wouldn’t think a little bit of salt would make a difference, but you could really taste its absence.  My second worst mistake was adding too much salt, which made the crust nearly inedible.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Za’atar: What Is It and How Do I Cook with It?

(Left) Za'atar                                                          (Right) Sumac
Za’atar (aka zatar or zahtar) is a spice blend that has been around for centuries and used primarily in the Middle East.  Travelers have come across it sprinkled on pita bread, hummus, meat, salads and roast potatoes and began searching for it when they got back home.  Now it’s available in some ethnic groceries and online at Penzeys.com, spiceandtea.com and wholespice.com.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 84


If you have frozen leftover slices of French bread, and they are dried out when they thaw, don’t toss them in the trash.  Sprinkle them with a small amount of water and set aside for 10 minutes until they soften up.  Then cut them into small pieces.  Add some chopped garlic, sliced scallions, olive oil, salt and black pepper and use the mixture to stuff tomatoes or mushrooms. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the bread starts to crisp.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 117


Don’t bother rinsing the inside of a roasting chicken.  There’s no need.  Water will spread raw chicken juices and bacteria into the sink and possibly beyond, where they can contaminate surfaces and anything else sitting there.  If you roast the chicken until it’s fully cooked (165 degrees on a meat thermometer), the heat will kill all bacteria.  Water can’t do that.

                                   See all my Cooking Tips!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

First Catch Your Trout


Or get a friend to go fishing on your behalf.  That’s how I came to be cooking fresh trout a few years ago.  My friend caught more than he could eat while camping, so he brought me some extras.  And he told me how to cook them.

Pan-Fried trout is a no-nonsense recipe, especially if you’re camping in the woods and know how to light a fire.  I confess I have never been camping, and I have never rubbed two sticks together to create a spark.  I don’t have a cast iron frying pan either, although I do have a frying pan big enough to hold three trout.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Question for Mom

Butterflied shrimp in middle of plate

What does it mean to butterfly shrimp?  Ethan B.

Butterflying shrimp involves cutting them almost in half lengthwise and flattening them out to look like a butterfly.  The two sides are still attached, but the shrimp looks twice as big.  Butterflying cuts down on the cooking time.  It’s a technique often used for dramatic effect when grilling shrimp.  You can also use this technique to make the serving look bigger.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Persian Cucumbers: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?


Persian cucumbers are miniature cucumbers.  They are 5 or 6 inches long, have thin, non-waxed skin and tiny seeds.  They never taste bitter like regular cucumbers sometimes do.  They do not need to be peeled before eating.

I started seeing them in ethnic markets a few years ago, and now they are readily available in many supermarkets.  If you’ve ever bought a regular cucumber, used half of it and left the other half rotting in the fridge’s vegetable bin, you’ll welcome these pint-size versions.

I like Persian cucumbers in salads or as a simple cold side dish.  Use the old fork trick of sticking the tines into the top of a cucumber and pulling down the sides to make shallow indentations.

Toss some slices into a stir-fry or a potato salad.  Make cucumber sandwiches. You can even pickle Persian cucumbers if you want.
                                   
                              For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

Friday, July 7, 2017

Whoops! I Forgot an Ingredient


“Why does this spaghetti taste so bland?” I asked myself last night at the dinner table.  I thought through the previous five minutes, when I was putting final additions to the sauce. Then I realized, “I forgot the fresh garlic.”

Uh oh.  Should I confess?  I looked over at Bart, who was happily eating every strand.  Maybe he was being polite or maybe he hadn’t noticed.  Maybe he was just relieved that leftover turkey burgers were no longer on the menu.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 116

Uncooked Turkey Burger
I’ve offered this tip before, but it bears repeating on the 4th of July.  If you are grilling turkey burgers and want to make sure they are fully cooked without burning them, do this:

Grill them for a few minutes per side, making sure they are beginning to brown and have grill marks.  Then transfer them to a roasting pan or sheet pan and bake them at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the juice they exude is no longer pink.  Turkey burgers should never be served rare.

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Is It Possible to Have Too Many Ripe Tomatoes?


Yes.  Too many ripe homegrown tomatoes on my kitchen counter can cause guilt, piggishness and extra work in general.  I can’t eat them all immediately.  Well, I could, but why should I be ruled by a tomato?

I could cook them up in soups, stir-fries, sauces and casseroles or make lots of salads.  I could haul out my Tomato Pie recipe. I could try canning them, but I have never canned anything.  I could experiment with drying them in the oven for use later.  I really should try that, but that seems too much like work.