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106 posts categorized "16) Bitchin' from Melanie's Kitchen: Commentaries, Opinions, Rantings, Stories & an Occasional Beverage or Cocktail"

03/29/2017

~ Blessed are the Cheesemakers: Try Brick Cheese ~

Cheese. It's one of my favorite foodie subjects. I'd rather spend time in a cheese shop than a bakery any day of the week. Give me a choice between a doughnut and a chunk of cheddar and I'm off to the pantry to get a box of crackers. I like hard cheeses, soft cheeses, young cheeses and aged cheeses. I like expensive imported cheeses, cheap American processed cheeses and a whole host of cheese balls and cheese spreads. "Say cheese", is one of my favorite things to say from behind the camera. There's more. I get downright giddy when I...... View full recipe for "~ Blessed are the Cheesemakers: Try Brick Cheese ~"

02/28/2017

~ What the Heck are Capers & Non-Pariel Capers? ~

Culinarily speaking, capers are a small, round, dark-green condiment pickled in a salty brine. Similar to green olives, the curing process brings out their tangy, pungent, lemony flavor which pops in your mouth. Technically, they are the flower buds of the shrubby caper bush (Capparis spinosa), which grows in and around regions of the Meditterranean. The buds are picked before they flower, dried in the sun, and then packed in salt. It's a labor-intensive process, as they can only be harvested by hand. The buds range in size from that of a tiny baby pea to that of a small...... View full recipe for "~ What the Heck are Capers & Non-Pariel Capers? ~"

02/14/2017

~ How to Make Whole Buttermilk & Crème Fraîche ~

Once upon a time here in Happy Valley, circa the 1970's and into the 80's, crème fraîche wasn't an item one could find in the dairy case of any market. Why? Most folks had no idea what it was except for schooled chefs and those of us who scoured French cookbooks and/or read magazines like Bon Appétit, Food & Wine and Gourmet. Yes indeed -- foodie life was very different pre- Food Network and the information superhighway we refer to as the internet. A bit about crème "fraîche" (pronounced "fresh" and meaning "fresh cream"): In technical terms, it's a French-invented...... View full recipe for "~ How to Make Whole Buttermilk & Crème Fraîche ~"

02/12/2017

~ Powdered Buttermilk: What it is & How to use it. ~

Once upon a time, buttermilk was something I kept on hand. As a cook and baker for our family of five, I used it regularly to make quite a few things: pancakes, waffles, biscuits, scones, coffee cake, pound cake, fried chicken and salad dressing. To breads and cakes it adds tangy flavor and volume and produces a fine, soft crumb. Its acidity when used as a marinade is a natural tenderizer for poultry and meat. There's more. It does all this without adding a lot of extra fat. Times change. Our children grew up and left the nest. That left...... View full recipe for "~ Powdered Buttermilk: What it is & How to use it. ~"

01/20/2017

~ The Differences Between: Cupcakes and Muffins ~

Cupcakes and muffins. Past their shape and portable-foodness, they have less in common than one might think. The fast, simple generic answer is: Cupcakes are fancy little cup-sized cakes and muffins are plain little cup-sized quick-breads. Served with an ice-cold glass of milk or cup of piping hot coffee, rare is the person who would take a pass on either. That said, I will always choose a muffin over a cupcake. Sorry cupcake -- this post is going to be a bit biased. Shape. They're both baked in multiple-cupped pans, to produce individual-sized, portable portions. Prior to the invention of...... View full recipe for "~ The Differences Between: Cupcakes and Muffins ~"

12/22/2016

~ Thick Creamy Eggnog & Rum Milkshakes 'n Malts ~

Sipping milkshake cocktails in front of a warm fire and a twinkling Christmas tree with the snow falling outside might not be everyone's 'ideal', but, I'm not everyone -- I am an eggnog lover who adores thick, creamy, rum-laced eggnog malts. On years when Joe and I are alone for the holidays, scratch-making eggnog isn't a priority for me because I can purchase seriously high-quality eggnog from my local Meyer Dairy. So, once a year, I "milk" the situation. Whenever applicable, eggnog replaces milk in my beverages, and, I bake and cook with it too. I make eggnog cookies, poundcake,...... View full recipe for "~ Thick Creamy Eggnog & Rum Milkshakes 'n Malts ~"

10/16/2016

~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~

My public opinion of Buffalo chicken wings is the popular and safe one: everyone loves Buffalo wings. My private opinion is: serving them needs to be better regulated. Just so there are no misunderstandings, I like wings, but, a finger food drenched in a vivid orangish-red sauce guaranteed to stain my pretty French manicure or ruin my silk blouse ticks me off. There's more: To those who serve wings in a sauce so hot it forces tears to my eyes that causes my mascara run: Extremism is a dish best saved for yourself, not served to your unsuspecting guests. "Primum...... View full recipe for "~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~ "

09/11/2016

~ Bird's Custard Powder. You make it so special... ~

Custard powder. These are two words not typically on the tip of the average American foodie's tongue. That's understandable, because, unless an American cook has some form of culinary ties to the United Kingdom or Australia (via cookbooks, travel or personal friendship), it's not an ingredient that has made its way into our food lover's vocabulary. Given its popularity "across the pond", I find that hard to understand, because, for me it's a "nifty", time-saving pantry staple. I learned about custard powder back in the early 1990's. This was not an ingredient I ever found in my grandmother's or mother's...... View full recipe for "~ Bird's Custard Powder. You make it so special... ~"

03/27/2015

~ Mel's Over-the-Top but Very Easy Eggs Benedict: A Rich Dish w/a Great Story -- HISstory vs HERstory! ~

Eggs Benedict. For us runny-egg lovers, this is the la-tee-da, ooh-la-la, creme-de-la-creme of fancy-schmancy, American AM indulgences. American? Really? I, an all-American girl, did not grow up eating this. Heck, I never even heard of it until I found myself eating breakfast and brunch in some high-end restaurants in Philadelphia during the mid-1970's, and, I always assumed it was French -- until I started to do a bit of research. It seems this rich, artery-clogging delight has a fascinating story (HISstory vs. HERstory). This is a tale just begging to be told: Culinary Fisticuffs? The Battle Between the Benedicts!!! HISstory...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Over-the-Top but Very Easy Eggs Benedict: A Rich Dish w/a Great Story -- HISstory vs HERstory! ~"

11/18/2014

~ Parmesan Sherry Cream Sauce for Pasta/Seafood: Don't Debate It, Grate It -- It'll melt your heart away! ~

"Calling all cars, there's a woman in Happy Valley putting cheese sauce on her seafood". That sounds nonsensical because it is nonsensical and no self-appointed authority on Italian food (yes, Italians in particular get their panties in a bunch over this) is going to convince me otherwise. In certain circumstances I find the combination of pasta and seafood swimming in a sea of silky, smooth, cheese sauce sensuous and seductive. In fact, the food world is a better place because philistines like myself aren't afraid to break a culinary commandment once in a while -- especially one without any meaty...... View full recipe for "~ Parmesan Sherry Cream Sauce for Pasta/Seafood: Don't Debate It, Grate It -- It'll melt your heart away! ~"

11/10/2014

~ Cooking with Bay Laurel (Fresh vs. Dried Leaves) ~

My husband grows things. He's one of those people with two green thumbs. So, when he decided to add a bay laurel tree to his herb garden, for me it meant one more in a long list of wonderful fresh herbs I get to cook with throughout the year. The good news for the bay tree is, it gets to come indoors for the Winter and enjoys a sunny spot in front of my kitchen patio doors. There was never a time that I didn't have a jar of Turkish bay leaves on my kitchen spice rack. Over the years,...... View full recipe for "~ Cooking with Bay Laurel (Fresh vs. Dried Leaves) ~"

11/08/2014

~ So what exactly is in Poultry Seasoning? Poultry? ~

My grandmother ("Baba") and my great aunt (my grandmother's sister "Tettie") always had a small tin of poultry seasoning in their respective pantries. My grandmother used Durkee's and my great aunt used McCormick. My mother does not care for poultry seasoning, so, her pantry is bare. I actually keep two brands on hand, McCormick and Bell's -- I like them both, but I don't always use them interchangeably. I use McCormick because it is the flavor blend I grew up with, so it goes into family recipes like ~ Tetties Baked Mashed-Potato Stuffing Casserole ~. A bit about "poultry seasoning":...... View full recipe for "~ So what exactly is in Poultry Seasoning? Poultry? ~"

10/19/2014

~ For the LOVE of Cheese: PLEASE Cut it Correctly (+ the best tips I can give for wrapping and storing)! ~

Blessed are the cheesemakers. They make hard, dry, grating cheeses; firm, moist, sliceable cheeses, and; soft, gooey, spreadable cheeses. They make blue, white and yellow cheeses. Some cheeses are aged for years, others for a few months, and, some aren't aged at all. They make herby, spicy, fruity and/or nutty cheeses. They make mild, aromatic and strong, stinky cheeses. They make cheese from the milk of cows, goats and sheep -- sometimes it's pasteurized and sometimes it's not. There are a thousand+ varieties of cheese in this food world -- some are mass produced, some are specialty, some are artisan...... View full recipe for "~ For the LOVE of Cheese: PLEASE Cut it Correctly (+ the best tips I can give for wrapping and storing)! ~"

10/10/2014

~ Hold the Pickles, Hold the Lettuce, Special Orders Don't Upset Us: Try a Fall Turkey Sandwich My Way~

The well-constructed sandwich. For me it is the perfect food. It is an art form. On any given day I can make a sandwich and it will leave me happy, satisfied and not wanting for anything else. As much as I love soups and salads, more often than not, they leave me wishing I had ordered a sandwich to sink my pearly whites into, savoring each layer of flavor and texture to the point of childlike ecstasy. A sandwich is a symbol of profound greatness and should be savored with gusto. If there were a way for me to tally...... View full recipe for "~ Hold the Pickles, Hold the Lettuce, Special Orders Don't Upset Us: Try a Fall Turkey Sandwich My Way~"

09/09/2014

~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~

The first time I made compound butter I was certain I had invented something important. It was a life-changing moment. It didn't get taught to me by my grandmother, Food TV or via a cookbook or a cooking publication. I didn't learn the technical term for it until years later. As a 6-year old, it was important to mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cinnamon 'n Sugar with two tablespoons of softened butter to make my cinnamon toast -- I didn't like getting cinnamon-sugar dust up my nose. The quantity yielded 3 slices of perfectly-executed cinnamon-raisin toast (two for me and...... View full recipe for "~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~"

07/27/2014

~ The difference between fajita & taco seasoning is: More than "just a little bit of this & a little bit of that". ~

Like fajita seasoning, taco seasoning is a standarized concoction of spices common to Tex-Mex cuisine. It was invented for convenience sake by American manufacturers for modern day American cooks trying to find an easy way to mimic authentic flavors without really learning how to cook the dish authentically. A standarized blend of anything is a totally foreign concept to Mexican cooks -- and that includes our American-manufactured chili powders. Read on: Chili powder, spelled with an "i" is an American concoction that bears little resemblence to chile powder, spelled with an "e". Chili powder contains spices and salt. Mexican cooks...... View full recipe for "~ The difference between fajita & taco seasoning is: More than "just a little bit of this & a little bit of that". ~"

06/09/2014

~The Saucey Scoop on Sugo & Ragu (& Bolognese)~

Tomato sauce. There isn't a cook that doesn't have at least one tomato sauce recipe in their repertoire. In tomato-eating cultures, there are as many versions of tomato sauce as there are cooks. They can be fresh or cooked, thick or thin, chunky or smooth, spicy or plain, simple or complex. Some can be made in five minutes, others can take five hours. Hot or cold, tomato sauce can be a condiment or a sauce for meat, poultry, fish, seafood or vegetable dishes, but, it is most commonly associated with Italian cuisine, more specifically, saucing Italian pasta dishes. A little...... View full recipe for "~The Saucey Scoop on Sugo & Ragu (& Bolognese)~"

04/20/2014

~ Happy Easter to You All: Enjoy Your Family Feast ~

Happy Easter! I've been cooking up a storm for the past few days in anticipation and preparation for my family's annual Russian Orthodox Easter feast. Whatever your heritage, if you are of the Christian faith and the family cook, you are well aware of the organizational skills it takes to 'pull off' this yearly extravaganza. If your heritage dictates that you serve the same traditional ethnic food each year, from time-honored recipes handed down from generation to generation, you didn't learn how to do this by osmosis. Somewhere along the line you took it upon yourself to learn how to...... View full recipe for "~ Happy Easter to You All: Enjoy Your Family Feast ~"

04/13/2014

~ Mad Men. Final Season Premier Tonight on AMC. What will Don Draper do and where will he land??? ~

My parents had All in the Family, my children had Seinfeld. I've claimed Mad Men as my own. For me, aside from the adultery, alcoholism, divorce, debauchery and paranoia, watching this show is like being on the Starship Enterprise and saying, "Scotty, beam me back and pick me up in an hour". I grew up in suburbia in the 1960's, was an executive secretary in the '70's in a place where three-martini lunches were common and every office had an ice bucket, and then, in the 1980's I was happily married, with children, and, traveling the world too! I have...... View full recipe for "~ Mad Men. Final Season Premier Tonight on AMC. What will Don Draper do and where will he land??? ~"

03/08/2014

~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs Overnight Soaking ~

There is always a method to my madness and occasionally it includes writing a post about a method, a technique, or, an ingredient . It's easy for anyone to take a pretty photo, write a list of ingredients, hand out a six-pack of instructions, and, send readers on their way. Unfortunately, if you've ever taught a cooking class, you know you can't do that. If you write a blog that teaches people to cook step-by-step, you REALLY can't do that. I can't do that. Today is such a post. Dried beans, peas and lentils are mature beans that are dried...... View full recipe for "~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs Overnight Soaking ~ "

03/06/2014

~ Hog Heaven: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~

A lot of us Northern gals who lived in the 'burbs and learned to cook during the '60's and 70's didn't get much experience cooking two of the most flavorful parts of the hog: the hock, and its meatier cousin, the shank. Being Eastern European, fresh pork roasts and chops, smoked hams and pork sausages were cooked often by my mother, but she never used the hock or the shank. I never heard my grandmother make reference to them either, and she was raised on a farm. In the nearby Pennsylania Deutsch (German speaking) farming communities, I heard mention of...... View full recipe for "~ Hog Heaven: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~"

02/23/2014

~ Cooking Boneless Pork Backribs (Pork on a Fork) ~

Some people go to church on Sundays. Joe goes to Sam's Club. Men like Sam's Club. Even the name implies the place is for men. Sam's sell things in bulk and men like that. This works out great for me: 1) Once a week Joe picks up everything I use in big amounts (aluminim foil sheets, pans, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.), which makes mid-week shopping more like running quick, errands. 2) Sam's Club has a great meat department, which I have come to rely on for several items. Bonelesss pork backribs, however, took me some time to warm up...... View full recipe for "~ Cooking Boneless Pork Backribs (Pork on a Fork) ~"

01/08/2014

~ Time Out to Define: Hoisin Sauce & Oyster Sauce ~

Since I am about to embark on a little mid-January trist with Chinese food, I decided to define two of the most used sauces in the Chinese pantry: Hoisin and Oyster. Why? Because too many Americans think they are "almost the same" and can be used interchangeably: wrong. Hoisin Sauce (HOY-sihn): "Hoisin" means "sea-fresh" in Chinese, but contains no seafood and is not served with seafod either. Sometimes referred to as "Peking sauce", it is a rich, reddish-brown sauce with a sweet, tangy flavor. It's made from soybeans, sesame seeds, garlic, chile peppers, salt, sugar and spices. Besides being used...... View full recipe for "~ Time Out to Define: Hoisin Sauce & Oyster Sauce ~"

01/01/2014

~ Good-bye 2013, Hello 2014! Happy New Year!!! ~

In a few short moments, the clock will strike 12:00AM and a New Year will begin. Everyone enjoys new beginnings and fresh starts, which is probably why this holiday is enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. Joe and I will be celebrating quietly with our bottle of bubbly (which is the norm for us), with the same toast as always: the hope for health, peace and prosperity for everyone, everywhere + lots of good food too! "We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti (Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) Related articles ~May Your Christmas Day be...... View full recipe for "~ Good-bye 2013, Hello 2014! Happy New Year!!! ~"

12/24/2013

~May Your Christmas Day be Merry, Bright & White!~

It's Christmas Eve. It's time for family, friends, and food (in any combination, in any order). Like all of you family cooks or chefs, I too am "knee deep" in preparations (and enjoying every moment of it)! Whether you celebrate tradition, or change it up every year, give it your best attempt, never apologize for a minor mishap, and, make sure you find time for YOU to enjoy the festivities with those you love too! I've got my beef stock made (yesterday's post) for French onion soup, and, a prime rib ready to roast tomorrow. I've also got a hand-painted,...... View full recipe for "~May Your Christmas Day be Merry, Bright & White!~"

12/15/2013

~Therapy for Users of Aluminum Foil & Plastic Wrap~

I've got 'Happy Valley' kitchen therapy for you today! This post is going to be short, sweet, to the point, and, if you are like me, it is going to change your life. Today, on FB, one of my friends posted a YouTube video, posted by a Russian guy, telling us American consumers we've been misusing our aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Since I've been screaming at manufacturers of these products for over thirty years, it's time for me to apologize. Why? The answer has been right before my eyes! On each side of every box, there are tabs, CLEARLY...... View full recipe for "~Therapy for Users of Aluminum Foil & Plastic Wrap~ "

12/11/2013

~ Snowstorm Steak (How Mel Broils Steak Indoors) ~

Oh baby it's cold outside, and, the truth be told: I am not an outdoors kinda gal unless certain conditions are met: I like my weather sunny and warm enough to drive with the top down on my convertible, or, sit in a chaise lounge with a G&T and watch Joe perfectly grill some thick, juicy steaks under a blue and white "Happy Valley" sky. Pretty amusing considering I live in the Northeastern United States, more specifially, Central PA, which can be like sitting on an iceberg at times. And, "iceberg" definitely defines the Northeast this week. So, what does...... View full recipe for "~ Snowstorm Steak (How Mel Broils Steak Indoors) ~"

11/28/2013

~ Happy Thanksgiving! Fun Stuff from My Archives! ~

I hope you all enjoyed a lovely day sharing your best Thanksgiving recipes and memories with your family and friends. I applaud all of you who cook on this day for your families. We will be celebrating tomorrow. We've been gobling on Black Friday for about 20 years now. Why? It gives the ones we love (who don't have the luxury of taking Wednesday off) today to travel here to Happy Valley for the entire weekend. It works very nicely. Today, during the course of baking pies and pre-prep, Joe remembered the year he and I made two turduckens for...... View full recipe for "~ Happy Thanksgiving! Fun Stuff from My Archives! ~"

11/07/2013

~ Flour Facts: All-Purpose, Bread, Cake and Pastry ~

As the holiday season approaches, family bakers everywhere will be purchasing flour to make their signature breads and sweet treats: pies for Thanksiving, cookies for Christmas, cakes for New Years, etc. There are savory ethnic treats too. For example: My family's Eastern European noodles and pirogi, and, Joe's Italian family's pasta and pizza. Savvy bakers with heritage recipes will be purchasing more than one type of flour to accomplish all of these with ease! A well-written recipe will specify the type of flour required to produce the best results, and, I'd rather not bake something than substitute different flour. Why?...... View full recipe for "~ Flour Facts: All-Purpose, Bread, Cake and Pastry ~"

10/19/2013

~ Three Pies of Melanie's Youth Week -- In Review ~

Bye-bye American Pie Week on Kitchen Encounters! I rarely write a retrospective blog post. In over three years of blogging, this is only my fourth one. If you've been following along this week (which stretched into almost two weeks because I was having so much fun doing research and collecting information), I shared three, relatively easy-to-make recipes that just happened to be "custard pies": Southern chess pie, PA Deutshe shoo-fly pie and German chocolate pie! I chose these three because: 1) They are all American pies, each with its own unique history or story; 2) They are all pies I...... View full recipe for "~ Three Pies of Melanie's Youth Week -- In Review ~"

10/17/2013

~ My PA Dutch Favorite: Shoo-Fly Pie (Part Two!?!): How to Control the Crumbiness/Wetness of this Pie! ~

A shoo-fly pie recipe has two parts? Well, apparently yes. When I posted my recipe for ~ My PA Dutch Favorite: Shoo-Fly Pie (Give it a Try!) ~ last Friday, I was not prepared for the stir it would cause. Some emotions on Facebook ran high. Mine was a fine looking pie, full of fragrant spices and baked just the way my family likes it, with an ooey-gooey wet bottom and slightly-crunchy crumb topping. To read this entire recipe click on the Related Article link below! One problem I have with Facebook readers is, they often comment on my food...... View full recipe for "~ My PA Dutch Favorite: Shoo-Fly Pie (Part Two!?!): How to Control the Crumbiness/Wetness of this Pie! ~ "

09/29/2013

~Marcella Hazan (1924-2013): Paying Tribute to an Italian Culinary Legend, Famed Author & FB Friend ~

We foodies lost an important lady today. Marcella Hazan, best known for her six cookbooks, which were translated from Italian to American by her husband of 57 years, Victor, died today. Those of us who were friends with her on FB received a simple message from her husband this morning. I am glad to say I was one of them, and, she even commented on a few of my FB posts. Some of her comments to me were positive, others... not so much! Julia Child (a lifelong friend of hers) once said, "she's forbidding because she is rough... that's her...... View full recipe for "~Marcella Hazan (1924-2013): Paying Tribute to an Italian Culinary Legend, Famed Author & FB Friend ~ "

08/30/2013

~ The Low-Down on Loaf Pans: What Size & Kind? ~

You've decided to bake a loaf of bread just like Grandma used to make. Good for you! Nothing is quite as ethereal as the aroma of freshly-baked bread. Her recipe says to put the dough in a loaf pan and you don't have one. You drive to the nearest cooking store to find out you must choose between several manufacturers and price ranges, different materials ranging from clear glass and ceramic to shiny, gray or black metal -- each kind in a variety of sizes too. When I was a novice cook (too many years ago to mention), decisions like...... View full recipe for "~ The Low-Down on Loaf Pans: What Size & Kind? ~"

08/25/2013

~ Kyocera: How do I love thee? Count those blades!~

I am obviously not a stranger to knives and I own four sets of excellent quality ones. Knives are personal and every knowledgeable cook's or chef's opinion is exactly that. An opinion based upon their personal preference -- which is the way it should be. Knives are like buying a car: you have to test drive it, you have to like it after you do, and, you should research personal recommendations and published reports prior to making your final choice! I always advise students to invest in the best knives they can afford because not only are they an investment...... View full recipe for "~ Kyocera: How do I love thee? Count those blades!~"

08/13/2013

~ Time Out to Define: Sukiyaki, Teriyaki & Yakitori!!! ~

Hold the presses! Just as I was about to return my Japanese ingredients back to my pantry (and move on to posting a couple of my family's Russian Summertime side-dish salad recipes), I got a question from a reader regarding last weeks posts for ~ My Japanese Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack!!! ~, ~ Japanese 'Yakitori no Tare' (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~, ~ Japanese 'Yakitori' (Skewered & Grilled Chicken) ~, and, ~ Japanese 'Tempura' ('Light Batter' for Deep-Frying) ~ (all of which can be found by clicking on the Related Article links below)! Janet says and asks: My husband...... View full recipe for "~ Time Out to Define: Sukiyaki, Teriyaki & Yakitori!!! ~"

08/10/2013

~ August 10th: Happy Birthday to Me, KE & Snoopy!~

Three years ago, at the stroke of 12:01 AM on 8/10/2010, I pushed "publish" on my 1st Kitchen Encounters blog post. August 10th is my birthday, and, KE was my 55th birthday present from my husband! In August of 2011, I was grateful for a few thousand "hits", indicating my recipes and commentary were being appreciated; in 2012, I was thankful for tens of thousands, and; this year, it's hundreds of thousands -- 619 posts to date & thanks for allowing me to share my kitchen encounters with you and vice versa! And they say you can't teach an old...... View full recipe for "~ August 10th: Happy Birthday to Me, KE & Snoopy!~"

07/30/2013

~ My Japanese Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack!!! ~

My Yakitori Story (the long and not so short of it): Back in 1986 I tagged along on one of Joe's business trips and spent ten days in Tokyo. During the day, while Joe was in business meetings, I passed the time in a variety of ways. Besides shopping in the Ginza (one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world), I took classes in flower arranging and origami, attended an official tea ceremony, and, got to see where the exquisite fresh-water Kasumi pearls come from! In the evenings we were wined and dined by corporate executives in amazing...... View full recipe for "~ My Japanese Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack!!! ~"

07/28/2013

~ Clock ticking? Wrap it up or make a lettuce wrap! ~

Necessity is the mother of invention! "Necessity is the mother of invention" is a proverb ascribed to the Greek philosopher Plato and it means: difficult or impossible scenarios prompt inventions aimed at reducing the difficulty of the task. We've all been there: there's only two minutes left on the game clock before you've got to run out the door and you and/or yours are starving. Lettuce wraps require zero culinary skill, no effort and about one minute of the time remaining on the clock. I'm rather certain that lettuce wraps were invented by someone in a big hurry and in...... View full recipe for "~ Clock ticking? Wrap it up or make a lettuce wrap! ~"

07/07/2013

~ Bakeware Essentials: A Bundt Pan & A Tube Pan ~

Before I post my next recipe, which is going to be a sour-cherry sour-cream pound-cake baked in a tube pan, I decided to answer two frequently asked questions in my cooking classes: #1: "What is the difference between a bundt pan & a tube pan?" Let me start by saying: be sensible. If you wouldn't change the recommended time and temperature guidelines for a recipe, why change the recommended pan. If a recipe specifically says to use a bundt pan, use it, and, if a recipe specifically says to use a tube pan, use it (especially if the author or...... View full recipe for "~ Bakeware Essentials: A Bundt Pan & A Tube Pan ~"

07/01/2013

~ Sour Cherry Season!!! (Late June thru Early July) ~

In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat. My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries". Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives. That being said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief with the cherries being ready to pick at...... View full recipe for "~ Sour Cherry Season!!! (Late June thru Early July) ~"

06/21/2013

~ Demystifying Thai Curries: Green, Red & Yellow! ~

Thai curry (gaeng" being the Thai word for Thai curry) is not the same as Indian curry. "Karee" is the Thai word for "curry in the style of India" ("kari" being the Indian word for "sauce"). Unlike Indian curries, Thai cooks simmer their curries for a much shorter period of time and use a much bigger ratio of fresh ingredients and herbs to dry spices or spice blends, which get pulverized to paste form (curry paste). The only two curry dishes in Thailand that are based upon dried herbs and spices are Massaman and Panang curry, and, those are not...... View full recipe for "~ Demystifying Thai Curries: Green, Red & Yellow! ~"

05/30/2013

~ Making Citrus Smoothies w/Fruit Puree Ice Cubes ~

I am neither an authority (a schooled expert) on smoothies nor a smoothie aficionado (an ardent devotee). I am more of a smoothie connoisseur (a discriminating judge). I've tasted well-made ones and I've tasted not-so-well-made ones. I've tasted well-made ones that I didn't care for at all and not-so-well-made ones that I liked a lot. I do not concoct smoothies for nutritional value or health benefits -- I cook meals for that. I like my kale on a plate and my oatmeal in a bowl thank you. I do not drink smoothies for a protein fix or boost of energy....... View full recipe for "~ Making Citrus Smoothies w/Fruit Puree Ice Cubes ~ "

05/27/2013

~ Fun w/Summer Fruit: Fresh-Fruit-Puree Ice Cubes ~

Wherever you live, I hope you are enjoying a lovely, long Memorial Day weekend. Often referred to as "the unofficial start to Summer", and, "the unofficial start to the outdooor entertaining season", Memorial Day, out of respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our great country, is a weekend full of entire-town celebrations (complete with parades and carnivals), as well as relaxed family gatherings. In preparation for this holiday, every foodie grillmaster I know cleans their barbecue grill in anticipation of cooking fare that is inspired by and complementary of nature's bounty. As soon as the holiday's festivities...... View full recipe for "~ Fun w/Summer Fruit: Fresh-Fruit-Puree Ice Cubes ~"

05/21/2013

~ Everything You Need to Know About the Avocado ~

Next to the tomato, meet my favorite fruit: the Hass avocado! The most popular avocado is the California Hass, which rhymes with "pass" (which is frequently mispronounced and mispelled "Haas"). This pear-shaped fruit weighs in at about half a pound and has bumpy, rough, dark greenish-black skin (it was known early on as an alligator pear). It is known for its silky, rich, buttery texture and mild, nutlike flavor. It is the only avocado variety to be grown year-round, represents about 80% of all avocados sold in the world and generates more than $1 billion in revenues in the US...... View full recipe for "~ Everything You Need to Know About the Avocado ~"

05/19/2013

~ Three Cookies of Mel's Youth Week -- In Review ~

I rarely write a retrospective blog post. In fact in almost three years of blogging, this is only my third one. If you've been following along this week, I shared three simple, straightforward and special-to-me recipes for "drop cookies": snickerdoodles, ginger snaps and peanut butter. All three of the recipes can be found in Category 7 or by clicking on the Related Article links below! A bit about drop cookies: They are one of the simplest types of cookies to make, and the term refers to cookies made from a relatively soft dough that gets dropped, in uniformly-sized spoonfuls, directly...... View full recipe for "~ Three Cookies of Mel's Youth Week -- In Review ~"

04/29/2013

~ Vintage + Nostalgic = Priceless Remembrances ~

As a foodie blogger, I am always on the lookout for props to make food photos more interesting, and, I admit to buying a few vintage items, once in a while, at a flea market or on e-bay. A close friend of ours, Mark Sunderland, is an accomplished interior designer and antique dealer in Atlanta, GA. He's always on the lookout for interesting pieces for me too (many of which you have seen in my posts), and, when he visits his childhood home in Altoona, PA, he often stops by with a box of treasures. I enjoy all of them,...... View full recipe for "~ Vintage + Nostalgic = Priceless Remembrances ~"

04/12/2013

~ A Real-Deal Italian Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar ~

The Italian word "balsamico" means "balsam-like or "curative". Balsamic vinegar was introduced to the United States in the late 1970's and quickly became the darling of restaurant chefs, followed by gourmet cooks. It is hard to believe that thirty-some years ago almost none of us in America had even heard of it. This wonderful condiment is still made in Modena, Italy, where it is aged in oak or other wooden kegs. While it is technically considered a wine-vinegar, it is not made from wine. It's made from grape pressings that have not been permitted to ferment into wine. During the...... View full recipe for "~ A Real-Deal Italian Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar ~"

03/22/2013

~ Reunited w/a Treasured Preschutti Family Recipe: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia for an Italian Easter~

At Easter, Italian cooks bake a very unique, peppery egg and cheese bread called crescia (kray-shah), which means "to grow". As with almost all ethnic recipes, there are as many versions as there are cooks. My husband and his brother Tom grew up loving this bread, and I admit to being intimidated when I was faced with developing a recipe for the two of them based solely upon how they recalled it from their youth in Jessup, PA (without any first hand knowledge of it personally). After talking to a few Italian relatives from Jessup, who actually make the bread...... View full recipe for "~ Reunited w/a Treasured Preschutti Family Recipe: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia for an Italian Easter~"

03/14/2013

~ Neufchatel vs Cream Cheese: Are they the same?~

It's impossible to find real-deal French Neufchatel cheese in American dairy cases, and, it's rare to come across it in many specialty cheese shops either. It's even a hassle to order it on-line. I know. I tried all day yesterday. Because of that, most American cooks don't really know what real-deal Neufchatel cheese is. Why? Because what's labeled as Neufchatel and placed in the dairy case next to Philadelphia cream cheese, is the American version of Neufchatel cheese. So what is French Neufchatel Cheese? Real-deal French Neufchatel is considered the oldest (or on the short list of oldest) cheese in...... View full recipe for "~ Neufchatel vs Cream Cheese: Are they the same?~"

02/25/2013

~ The great oregano debate: Mediterranean Oregano vs. Mexican Oregano. Is there a difference? YES!!! ~

"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" ~ Don Michael Corleone. (A quote from The Godfather III movie.) We've been enjoying a week of Tex-Mex-themed recipes and chile pepper posts here on Kitchen Encounters. Just as I started to write my next and last February post (about cornbread and cornbread muffins... so stay tuned), I got a second question from a regular reader, and, it was, again, so good, it too merits a post of its own, so, without further adieu: Yesterday, Liz wanted to know if there is a difference between chile powder, spelled...... View full recipe for "~ The great oregano debate: Mediterranean Oregano vs. Mexican Oregano. Is there a difference? YES!!! ~"