Friday, June 30, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 115

(left) Traditional Cranberry Sauce  (right) Cranberry Sauce Made From Dried Cranberries 
Pining for cranberry sauce but can't find any fresh berries?  Use dried cranberries soaked overnight in a small amount of water.  No cooking needed.  The cranberries will plump right up, and any excess liquid can be spooned off and drunk as cranberry juice.  Kudos to my brother Steve for coming up with this idea.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Blood Oranges: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?

The first time I saw the inside of a blood orange I was shocked. It really looked like the orange was bleeding. There was some normal orange flesh, but what was that big splotch of purple?

Then I tasted it and realized it was an orange with benefits.  Not only was it exotic to look at but also it had a sweeter, more intense flavor than orange oranges.  

You can treat a blood orange like any other orange—squeeze them for juice, eat them in sections or, for maximum effect, peel them and cut them and serve them in a bowl with some greens as a side salad.  Or serve them sliced as a dessert, by themselves or with sliced strawberries.  Guests will be impressed. 

                             For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

Monday, June 26, 2017

How Often Do Your Dinners Seem Like Restaurant Fare?

Not very often at my house?  Maybe it’s because I’m usually in a hurry or I’m obsessed with using up leftovers. 

This week I had two graduations to go to, both starting at 6 pm, so eating did not begin until after 8 pm.  Who wants to be in the kitchen after spending two hours in a football stadium cheering on the new grads?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Question for Mom

What are chicken tenders? Alexis R.

Chicken tenders are skinny pieces of white meat that are part of a chicken breast but not fully attached.  You used to see them in packages of boneless chicken breasts.   About 15-20 years ago stores starting selling them as separate cuts of white meat, and they were cheaper than regular boneless breasts.  Now they’re priced higher. 

If you’re squeamish about cutting boneless chicken breasts into skinny pieces, by all means buy chicken tenders.  But you can easily cut boneless chicken into pieces yourself.  If you use a fork to hold them steady, you don’t have to touch the raw chicken.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meat and Salad in One Bowl = Strange Bedfellows

I don’t usually have meat in my salad – or salad on my meat.  In fact, when I was growing up, my mother set out “salad plates” so that her salad wouldn’t mingle with other dinner items.  No gravy ever touched a lettuce leaf in our house.

In college I discovered Chef’s Salad: hard-boiled eggs, strips of ham and/or turkey or roast beef, tomatoes, cucumber and grated cheese, mixed into chopped iceberg lettuce and covered with Thousand Island Dressing.  It made a great dinner on the run.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 114

To crisp bacon, pour off the fat into a disposable container—not down the drain—while it’s cooking.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remember Recipe Cards?

Back when I first started cooking, some grocery stores offered free recipe cards.  They were made of heavy-duty paper, cut into a 3” x 5” shape so they would fit into a wooden or metal recipe box.  On one side would be a detailed recipe and on the other a picture of the end result.  The cards were marketing tools.  If the picture looked attractive and the recipe called for a pound of stewing beef, why not buy some right now?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fava Beans: What Are They and How Do I Cook Them?

The reputation of fava beans got much darker after Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter confided in The Silence of the Lambs, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

That’s a rather grim image to bring up at the dinner table, but it did give fava beans their 15 minutes of fame.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 113

If you want to ripen a rock-hard avocado, enclose it in a paper bag for a day or two.  It will soften right up.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

If You Are Drinking Chocolate Syrup…

I don’t necessarily advise drinking chocolate syrup.  But if your chocolate craving is on the rampage and there’s no other chocolate in the house, why not?  My dad liked Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, and he would occasionally imbibe straight from the can of syrup we always had in the fridge. 

Maybe that’s why I developed a taste for it too.  However, as my cooking skills progressed, I tried to make a better version.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup is considerably tastier than what comes pre-packaged.  It’s also incredibly easy to make.  It takes 5 minutes.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Question for Mom

Can I freeze milk?  --Naomi A.

Yes.  Milk freezes well.  I often freeze extra milk or milk that has gone sour, defrosting it to use when making bread or cake.  One key thing to remember: like any liquid, milk will expand when it freezes, so do not fill the container completely to the top.  Leave at least 1 inch of space in a wide-rimmed container and at least 2 inches in a narrow-rimmed container.  Otherwise, the container may crack from the pressure of the liquid expanding.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 112

Need an emergency dessert?  Chocolate Chip Squares are easier to make than chocolate chip cookies.  You just need some basics + chocolate chips.  Clean-up is quick because you mix and bake in the same pan.
Chocolate Chip Squares – serves 8 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen”
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips 
Place one of the oven racks in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
To save time on cleanup, cook and bake in the same container.  Place an 8-inch square metal baking pan on a stove burner over low heat and add the butter.  As soon as it’s melted, turn off the heat.  
Add the two sugars and stir thoroughly.  Make sure the pan has cooled down and then add the egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt, and stir until well combined.  Mix in the chocolate chips. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top of the dough has begun to brown and pull away from the sides of the pan. 
Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the squares. Cool on a rack.  To remove from the pan, cut the baked square in half and then in quarters.  Slide a metal spatula under 1 of the quarters and lift out.  Repeat for the other quarters.  Cut each quarter in half so that you have 8 large oblong pieces.  Serve.
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Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Worst Food Prep Job

Cooks deal with a lot of yucky jobs in the kitchen, but right now I can’t think of anything worse than removing the skin of a raw chicken.  Maybe I’ll feel differently when I sit down to eat Indian-Style Whole Roast Chicken tonight, but not now.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Question for Mom

I thought all mangoes were the same, but I just found a new kind at my grocery store.  What’s the difference between baseball-size mangoes that are green with large areas of red and smaller, yellow mangoes? – Gloria Z.

Taste, for one thing.  The yellow mangoes, called ‘Yellow Honey’ or ‘Honey’ mangoes, can be a little sweeter.

(Left) Honey Mango  (Right) Tommy Atkins Mango
After some investigation, I learned that the name of the bigger mango, which is the type I always see in Southern California, is called ‘Tommy Atkins.’  It’s named after the Florida farmer who first grew it on his property and recognized its commercial potential.  It travels well and therefore is commonly available in produce aisles.

Your choice of mango often depends on where you live.  They are at least four other kinds of mango, and they have a similar taste. 

Here’s what you should know about mangoes.  This fruit, which grows on trees, very inconveniently has a very large, flat seed right in the middle.  There’s no way to remove it.  Instead, you have to remove the fruit from it. 

Peel the mango first.  Then, holding it firmly, use a sharp knife to cut slices from top to bottom on one side of the seed. Eventually you will get to the seed.  Repeat on the other side.  If you like, cut the slices into bite-size pieces.  Before throwing the seed away, trim off any remaining edible fruit.

Tommy Atkins Mango - note large white seed
Honey Mango - note large white seed
When choosing any kind of mango, avoid those that are extremely soft or have wrinkled skin.  If you plan to eat it with in a day or two, choose a mango that has started to soften.  Squeeze it gently to check.  If you plan to eat the mango next week, pick one that’s rock-hard.  It will ripen at room temperature within a few days.  When it’s ripe, store it in the refrigerator until a few hours before cutting and serving.

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