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.

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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.

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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, and

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.

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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.
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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.