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. 

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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.

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.

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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.