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137 posts categorized "15) With Love from Melanie's Kitchen: Techniques, Basic Recipes, My Soup Stocks & an Occasional Oration"

05/02/2017

~ The Iwatani Twelve-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~

A not-so-funny thing happened last Monday. Happy Valley, Centre County, PA got hit by a violent storm that rendered a great percentage of us without electricity, and in some cases water as well, for three days. I've lived here for forty-three years -- this was longest we've ever been without power. I'm no expert. I can't prove it was a tornado that hit our street, but, I can't name one other "thing" that moves in a straight line snapping telephone poles and felling trees at their roots, doing virtually no other damage, except a tornado -- my deck and patio...... View full recipe for "~ The Iwatani Twelve-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~"

04/30/2017

~ Five-Minute Food-Processor Cream-Cheese Glaze ~

Everyone loves cream cheese frosting sandwiched between the layers and slathered on the sides and top of an applesauce, banana, carrot, coconut or pumpkin cake -- meet my short list of layer-, sheet-, or cup- cakes that require cream cheese frosting. That said, certain quick breads and muffins (which traditionally don't get frosted), many bundt cakes, cinnamon rolls, pastries and even an occasional cookie, benefit from a smooth, drizzly, glaze, and, the tang that cream cheese adds to the classic confectioners'-sugar-and-milk mixture is: a perfect finishing touch. I've decided, in tandem with a few professionals, that making the ultimate smooth,...... View full recipe for "~ Five-Minute Food-Processor Cream-Cheese Glaze ~"

04/23/2017

~ Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts ~

Leftover shredded or chopped chicken. It's an ingredient we all come across on a regular basis in a wide variety of recipes for appetizers, salads, sandwiches and casseroles -- I've even seen it called for in some throw-together soup and stew meals. That said, I rarely use true "leftover" chicken to prepare any of them. Here's why: Most times, when I have leftover chicken, it's been seasoned and cooked to suit a specific recipe. Nine out of ten times, the flavor profile doesn't align with the recipe du jour. Example: The grilled chicken breast rubbed with fajita seasoning leftover from...... View full recipe for "~ Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts ~ "

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? ~"

02/17/2017

~ In the Beginning: Basic Vinaigrette Demystified ~

I have no idea who prepared the first salad -- no one does. Whoever it was, I'm guessing it was an accident, and more likely than not, as a result of hunger. Gathered from fields, around streams and in wooded areas, a mixture of wild greens, an herb or two, wild mushrooms, flowers and a some berries and/or seeds would surely satisfy the appetite. As time passed, a pinch of salt got added. A little later, a squirt of citrus, then a splash of vinegar. Last to the party: oil. Yes indeed, he or she was definitely onto something. That...... View full recipe for "~ In the Beginning: Basic Vinaigrette Demystified ~"

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. ~"

01/22/2017

~ A Plain, All-Purpose, No-Nonsense Muffin Recipe ~

Who bakes plain muffins and why? I do and here's why. I enjoy a lot of treats unembellished -- doughnuts, cake doughnuts, cream cakes, crumb cakes and coffeecakes to name a few. Heck, I even like plain cheesecake. That said, for those who prefer their muffins chocked-full of goodies (fresh or dried fruits, berries, nuts, chocolate- peanut butter- or cinnamon-chips and/or toffee bits), having a basic muffin batter recipe in your back pocket takes the guess and stress out of making all sorts of muffins exactly the way your family, friends and you like them -- simply by adding a...... View full recipe for "~ A Plain, All-Purpose, No-Nonsense Muffin Recipe ~"

11/25/2016

~Time Out: Tomahawk Steak (Long Bone-In Ribeye)~

The tomahawk ribeye steak, also known as a "cowboy" or a "long bone-in" ribeye is a specialty cut that you assuredly won't find at your local supermarket. Without jest (no joke), I literally found one on my kitchen doorstep, leaning up against the kitchen/laundry room door, this very morning. I have a friend, Scott. He owns a few well-known Happy Valley restaurants (you locals all know who he is, and, he is one reason I get to call myself a cooking consultant). He likes to surprise me unexpectedly with unique ingredients occasionally. Today, while driving to and from his eateries,...... View full recipe for "~Time Out: Tomahawk Steak (Long Bone-In Ribeye)~"

11/22/2016

~ How to: Oven-Roast Butternut Squash (Halves) ~

I love butternut squash and every Fall Joe's garden gifts us with a few beauties. Some are big and some are small, some are short and some are tall -- I love them all. Butternut squash, how do I love thee, let me count the ways: 1) Sliced raw and baked into main or side-dish casseroles. 2) Peeled, cubed, seasoned and roasted, or, sliced into halves, roasted and mashed as tasty side-dishes. 3) Steamed to make purée for appetizers, soups and desserts. A bit about butternut squash: Butternut squash is one of our healthy super-foods. That’s great but I'd eat...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Oven-Roast Butternut Squash (Halves) ~"

11/12/2016

~ Plain, Simple & Unpretentious Basic White Sauce ~

Melted butter, flour and hot milk. Whisk it all together with some salt and pepper to taste, simmer it for a few short minutes and you've got basic white sauce. It's one of the things I learned to make "way back when" in Home Economics, and, the recipe the teacher used was out of a 1960's or '70's edition of the The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which was kept on a shelf along with a few of her other favorites of the time (The Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker's Cookbook, etc.). < On page 274 of this 1974 edition, Fannie Farmer...... View full recipe for "~ Plain, Simple & Unpretentious Basic White Sauce ~"

10/30/2016

~ Short and Sweet: A Three-Ingredient Tart Pastry ~

Pies and tarts: Two of my all-time favorite desserts. This isn't a "pass/fail", but, you only get out of something what you put into it, and, the pie or tart pastry you choose to use can turn a dessert from ordinary to extraordinary. While we all agree we love the time-saving convenience of picking up a store-bought pie crust or pastry on occasion, in our hearts we also know their taste and texture are a compromise. Even a store-bought, artificially-flavored graham cracker or cookie crust pales in comparison to one made at home using real-deal melted butter instead. Is there...... View full recipe for "~ Short and Sweet: A Three-Ingredient Tart Pastry ~"

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... ~"

02/29/2016

~ Making Graham Cracker & Cookie Crumb Crusts ~

Cheesecakes, cream pies, many layered bar-type cookies, and, some refrigerated pudding and frozen ice-cream desserts call for using a graham cracker or cookie crumb crust as a buttery, crunchy base. While homemade graham crackers, sugar cookies, gingersnaps and chocolate wafers make exceptional crumb crusts, I won't lie, it would have to be one heck of an insanely over-the-top dessert for me to bake any of them for the sole purpose of starting with a real-deal scratch-made base. That said, I don't at all care for the quality of ready-made crumb crusts. Why? They taste bland to me, and that's primarily...... View full recipe for "~ Making Graham Cracker & Cookie Crumb Crusts ~"

02/04/2016

~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~

The next time baked potatoes are on your mind or menu, and you have a bit of extra time, make a batch of sexy, stylish Swedish Hasselback potatoes. Want to feel like a rock star? Go the extra mile and make them using using small, fingerling potatoes -- people adore fancy-schmancy, darling-to-look-at, petite food. Place two or three on a plate next to a perfectly-cooked steak or pass a tray of them around at a cocktail party -- majestic -- to say the least. The Hasselbecken Tavern was established in the 1700's as a small red hut located in a...... View full recipe for "~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~"

01/11/2016

~ How to: Make Crispy Crunchy Corn Tortilla Wisps ~

My husband tells everyone he married me for my taco shells -- it's a truthful joke. There was a period in my life when I made homemade taco shells like some people make homemade pizza -- once a week perhaps. The first time I invited Joe and his two little sons to my apartment for dinner in 1979, I made tacos for the kids. There I was, me and my tortilla press, putting on a show for my future step-sons while my own toddler rode his Hot Wheel in a circle around the coffee table while watching The Price is...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Make Crispy Crunchy Corn Tortilla Wisps ~"

12/02/2015

~ How & Why to Make: (French-Style) Breadcrumbs ~

Buying store-bought breadcrumbs is like buying a store-bought pie crust. It's an all-too-convenient time-saver in a very busy world, but, when you get down to brass tacks, there's no tasteful way to compare the two. Economically, the cost differential is comparable to spending a hard-earned dollar vs. finding a shiny penny -- it's extreme. While, whenever I need them, I always make my own fresh breadcrumbs in the food processor, up until a few years ago, I was a full-blown buyer of dried, seasoned and unseasoned breadcrumbs -- Progresso or 4C. These are good products. I am not criticizing them....... View full recipe for "~ How & Why to Make: (French-Style) Breadcrumbs ~"

11/30/2015

~ Purchase Shrimp by their "Count", not their "Size" ~

How does shrimp sizing work? In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't. There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa. This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these five words: small, medium, large, extra-large and jumbo. When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words, they are numbers. Using the photo at the top of this post, let's read the label together: Wild American White Shrimp -- 16/20 E-Z Peel Wild shrimp: All experts agree, wild shrimp are sweeter tasting and firmer textured than farm-raised...... View full recipe for "~ Purchase Shrimp by their "Count", not their "Size" ~"

08/13/2015

~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta-Dough ~

I love my pasta machine. By today's standards, it's is a dinosaur. It celebrated its 25th birthday over the weekend. I celebrated my 60th birthday over the weekend. It was my 35th birthday present. How's that for Kitchen Countertop Appliance Statistics 101. I'm hoping "they still make 'em like they used to" because the Italian-made Simac is an amazing piece of high-quality equipment. It has earned a place on my kitchen counter right next to my Simac gelato machine. No store-bought pasta product compares to scratch-made pasta in taste or texture. I've hand-mixed plenty of pasta dough and a put...... View full recipe for "~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta-Dough ~"

07/30/2015

~ The Facts about ClearJel (Cook-Type vs. Instant) ~

On more than an occasional basis, everyone who enjoys the sport of cooking needs to thicken food, and, choosing the right thickening agent for the particular job can mean the difference between delight and disaster. Because thickeners come in many forms and they all work a bit differently, depending upon what's being prepared (a savory sauce, gravy or stew, or a sweet preserve, pie filling or pudding), it's in one's best interest to be well-informed in this arena. I am not a rocket scientist, so when it comes to discussing thickening agents, I stick to discussing what I know: how...... View full recipe for "~ The Facts about ClearJel (Cook-Type vs. Instant) ~"

06/20/2015

~ A Little Thing Called: How to Hard-Cook an Egg ~

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more. Life is too short to eat a hard-cooked egg with an unappealing greenish-gray ring-around-the yolk. I ordered a chef-salad yesterday. Not just any chef's salad, one at my favorite place, made the way I like it: extra onions and tomatoes, all-turkey, extra turkey in place of ham, an extra hard-cooked egg and balsamic vinaigrette. Elaine on Seinfeld called it "a big salad -- it's a salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it." In a classic chef salad, hard-cooked egg is a standard ingredient. Why bother...... View full recipe for "~ A Little Thing Called: How to Hard-Cook an Egg ~"

06/18/2015

~ How and When to use Liquid or Powdered Pectin ~

I grew up eating home-canned jellies, jams and preserves (and lots of apple butter too). In all seriousness, in their lifetimes, between my grandmother and her sister, Ann and Mary, no one in either family ever had to pick up a jar of Smucker's or Welch's. For a child like me, I found watching these two rocket scientists at work more interesting than anything on television. This type of fruit preservation can be very frustrating to the uniformed novice: every fruit gets treated a bit differently, no two recipes are alike and many recipes are cryptic. It really is rocket...... View full recipe for "~ How and When to use Liquid or Powdered Pectin ~"

06/06/2015

~ Know the Pros & 'Cons' of Ground Turkey vs Beef ~

Between you and I, Joe and I are not lovers of ground turkey, turkey franks, turkey kielbasa, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, etc. We do, however, love real-deal roast turkey with all the trimmings, and, adore turkey sandwiches. I in particular get really annoyed by television chefs and advertisements that peddle these products as "just as good as" ground beef or pork, sausages and cured bacon products. In my opinion, they are a disparagingly dry, bland, boring "look alike" alternative for folks who can't or won't eat beef or pork. They're usually marketed as being "healthier" or "lighter" -- which, in...... View full recipe for "~ Know the Pros & 'Cons' of Ground Turkey vs Beef ~"

06/04/2015

~ "Secrets" to Seriously Moist Cakes and Cupcakes ~

"It's a piece of cake" is an old saying that was popularized in WWII in reference to how easy the upcoming mission was going to be. "A cake walk" was military slang for a raid that turned out to be much easier than expected. "Takes the cake" is an expression that means "wins the prize". "If I knew you were coming I'd've baked a cake" is an expression of delightful surprise at having a special someone drop back into your life. Cakes really do play a significant role in all our lives! "Anyone can bake a cake" is a true...... View full recipe for "~ "Secrets" to Seriously Moist Cakes and Cupcakes ~"

04/05/2015

~ It's Easy Being Green: Cream of Asparagus Soup + (How to: Choose, Store and Cook Asparagus too!) ~

The calendar, green grass, daffodils and sunshine tell me it is Spring. That said, a few days of uncharacteristically warm March temperatures took a dive down into the mid-thirties to start April off. Yesterday I turned the heat back on in the house and today have declared this to be a soup day. No vegetable announces the Spring season and the Easter holiday like asparagus! They are in-season, plentiful, plump and flavorful. I've been buying them in 2-pound quantities every couple of days, and it just so happens I have 1 1/2 pounds of them in my refrigerator, just enough...... View full recipe for "~ It's Easy Being Green: Cream of Asparagus Soup + (How to: Choose, Store and Cook Asparagus too!) ~"

03/19/2015

~ The Big Easy: Making Blender Hollandaise Sauce ~

My love and enthusiasm for French food and cooking in the style of France has spanned almost four decades. When time permits, I have no problem spending eight hours or the better part of two days doing whaever it takes to make something superb. That said, when I find a shortcut way of doing anything that causes me no compromise in flavor and texture, I am like the proud pig who just dug up the world's largest truffle. Blender hollandaise is one such example. A bit about hollandaise sauce: Hollandaise is one of the five famous Mother Sauces of France:...... View full recipe for "~ The Big Easy: Making Blender Hollandaise Sauce ~"

02/22/2015

~ Sweet Dreams: Creme Patissiere (Pastry Cream) ~

Some people dream about chocolate. I dream about egg-laced pastry cream: silky-smooth, lushly-thickened creme patissiere. It's decadent and naughtily-seductive in an elegant sort of way. Desserts containing this sophisticated custard are at the top of my 'favorite sweet things' VERY short list. They're up there next to freshly-made real-deal lemon or blueberry Danish, and, the original Lindy's cherry cheesecake with their signature vanilla-wafer cookie crust. A bit about "creme patissiere" (pah-tees-SYAY): These are the two fancy French words for "pastry cream". It's essentially "sauce anglaise" (ahn-GLEHZ), aka a drizzly "vanilla sauce" that has been thickened with a starch (flour can...... View full recipe for "~ Sweet Dreams: Creme Patissiere (Pastry Cream) ~ "

01/04/2015

~ How & Why to Tie Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb or Pork)~

When I was growing up, and, into the better part of my adult life, I never encountered vacuum-packed meat of any kind. Meat and poultry, and, fish and seafood, were freshly cut and/or processed, on a daily basis. This happened at mom and pop butcher shops everywhere and on premises at all grocery stores. At a very young age, I learned by listening to my mother, how to "talk shop" with a butcher. When my mother ordered a primbe rib roast for the holidays, she would say, "eight ribs, Frenched, trimmed and tied". If it was a boneless beef tenderloin...... View full recipe for "~ How & Why to Tie Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb or Pork)~"

01/02/2015

~ How to: French a Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb or Pork) ~

Knowing how to "French" a rib roast is a very cheffy skill. Like boning poultry or fileting fish, you won't graduate from culinary school unless you can do it proficiently. The verb "to French" means to "strip the meat away from the bone of a rib or a chop to cleanly expose the bone." It's done with the finesse and expertise of a fine surgeon using a scalpel. This process not for everyone, and, if you're not concerned with an upscale restaurant-type presentation, it isn't even necessary. In fact, if you don't have a long, thin, razer sharp knife, don't...... View full recipe for "~ How to: French a Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb or Pork) ~"

12/31/2014

~ Basic Machinations for Mashed Potato Perfection ~

'Twas the season for mashed potatoes. First there was the Thanksgiving turkey feast, followed by the Christmas prime rib feeding frenzy, and, it's not quite over yet. The clock is ticking down to the mother-of-all pork festivals: New Year's Day. This morning, in a moment of reflection, it occurred to me that the combined total of these three holidays equates to approximately 50-60 pounds of heavy hunks of meat roasted, and, about 25-30 pounds of potatoes mashed. It's hard to imagine my food world without mashed potatoes. They are an institution -- a way of life. They're the quintessential side-dish...... View full recipe for "~ Basic Machinations for Mashed Potato Perfection ~"

12/11/2014

~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~

I was just asked a question from a KE reader who said, "I ruined my mother's pumpkin pie recipe at Thanksgiving because I substituted condensed milk for evaporated milk. I'm about to bake some Christmas cookies from one of her recipes, and, while I won't make that mistake twice, I still don't understand what the difference is between the two. Can you quickly explain it to me?" It only takes a taste of each to know they are very different... No kidding around, I thought everyone knew the difference between these two commonly used ingredients -- I remember learning about...... View full recipe for "~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~"

12/01/2014

~ How do you measure up? Dry vs. Liquid Measure ~

'Tis the season for making and baking candies, cookies, cakes and all sorts of sweet treats. Great cooks know that in order to achieve confection perfection, it's imperative to weigh and measure all ingredients precisely -- and this means using the right tools the right way. How many of us have tried to duplicate one of grandma's vintage recipes only to be met with disappointment in the end because grandma measured using "a handful of this" and "a pinch of that". If this was how grandma measured, grandma wasn't a great cook and I don't care how good her food...... View full recipe for "~ How do you measure up? Dry vs. Liquid Measure ~"

11/20/2014

~ Roasting Poultry and Making Gravy Too: My Own Techniques and Oration (the long and not short of it) ~

After thirty years of roasting almost every type of poultry, from 2-pound game hens to 24-pound monster-sized turkeys, I've faced and solved almost every glitch imaginable, carefully documenting them (so as not to let any of them occur twice). I won't lie to you, in the early years there were some tears, but about 5-6 years into my meticulous list of DON'T EVER DO THIS AGAIN, I started producing those moist, juicy birds with crispy, golden skin that everyone covets. Then, about 18 or so years ago, I switched to a different list. One that documented the size of each...... View full recipe for "~ Roasting Poultry and Making Gravy Too: My Own Techniques and Oration (the long and not short of it) ~ "

11/12/2014

~ Portioning Poultry: The Chart/Guide that Will Help ~

Every cook, novice or expert, at some point, finds him or herself asking the question, "how much poultry do I need to buy?" This chart is a great place to start. I ripped it out of a magazine in my doctors office almost 38 years ago. Since my son Jess will celebrate his 38th birthday in December, my recollection is precise. We women remember important stuff like our wedding day, the birth of a child, and, the first time we cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for our family -- timing the turkey, making the gravy, and, mashing all those potatoes. It's overwhelming!...... View full recipe for "~ Portioning Poultry: The Chart/Guide that Will Help ~"

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)! ~"

10/06/2014

~ How to: Remove the Skin from Hazelnuts/Filberts ~

I love hazelnuts. I always have. I am the one who inconspicuously picks them out of the bowl of mixed nuts at the neighborhood cocktail party. I always have a pound or two of unsalted hazelnuts in my freezer and a bottle of extract in my pantry, because I prefer them to other nuts in many baked goods and confections. I keep a relatively pricey bottle of fragrant French hazelnut oil in my refrigerator to make salad dressings, I keep hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico) at my bar to make cocktails, and, I put hazelnut-flavored creamer in my coffee. I do not...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Remove the Skin from Hazelnuts/Filberts ~"

09/27/2014

~ My All-Purpose PA Dutch-Style Streusel Topping ~

A buttery-rich, cripsy streusel topping is one of my favorite things. I like it because it is both sweet and savory, which makes it very adaptable. I grew up in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, "PA Deutsch Country" -- "the land of apple desserts" Everyone who baked used streusel to top tart fruit pies, coffeecakes and muffins. A neighbor of ours, Agnes, who baked a few times a week, would mix up a big bowl of her streusel topping and keep it on hand in the refrigerator all week -- which if you have a lot of baking to...... View full recipe for "~ My All-Purpose PA Dutch-Style Streusel Topping ~"

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 ~"

08/05/2014

~ How to: Hollow Out Tomatoes for Stuffing Them ~

My motto: Almost anything tastes better with a tomato and almost anything tastes better in a tomato. The tomato season is finally upon us here in Central PA (we wait all year long for it in this part of the country), and with each passing day, Joe's harvest gets larger. When I can no longer keep up with eating them just as they are or adding them to sandwiches and salads, one of my favorite things to do is stuff them. I'll be sharing one or two of my favorite recipes for stuffed tomatoes this week, so I thought I'd...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Hollow Out Tomatoes for Stuffing Them ~"

07/01/2014

~How to: Choose, Store, Peel, Halve & Core Pears ~

July 1st. It's a bit early for pear seaon here in Pennsylvania. Our Bartlett trees won't bear fruit until August, but, I was given a box of beautiful Bosc pears two days ago, so there is no time like the present for me to write a post about this voluptuous looking, seductive tasting fruit. In case you didn't know, pears and apples are botanical cousins, but, when perfectly ripe, I'll choose the succulent pear over the crisp apple every time. I think of pears as sophisticated apples! A bit of pear history: The pear is one of the oldest cultivated...... View full recipe for "~How to: Choose, Store, Peel, Halve & Core Pears ~ "

06/13/2014

~ How to: Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell (Baking Blind) ~

It's June 13th, Friday 13th & there's going to be a clear sky & a full moon tonight too! It's about 9:30AM and Joe just came in from his garden with about 8 pounds of rhubarb. Eating rhubarb pie out on our deck in the moonlight tonight will be an amusing way to end an otherwise humdrum workweek, so, I'd best get to work. Hardly. I'll mix a couple of pie pastries up in my food processor and blind bake them. Start to finish, I'll be done in less than 30 minutes. Relax, I'm not handing out blindfolds. But, the...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell (Baking Blind) ~"

04/24/2014

~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~

Rye bread is a staple of Eastern European cuisine, so, I grew up eating rye bread and loving it. We ate it toasted for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch and as our bread course for dinner. Some of the best rye breads I have ever encountered have come out of the Jewish bakeries of New York and New Jersey. I'm no innocent when it comes to knowing great rye bread. My favorite rye breads are light ryes (as opposed to dark ryes) containing caraway seeds (a staple in the Eastern European pantry). In fact, it is the nutty, pungent, slightly-musky...... View full recipe for "~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~"

04/01/2014

~ This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken + My Stressfree "Carving for Dummies" Methodology ~

Rotisserie chicken is not my "gig". It takes all the sport out of cooking. I roast chickens. I have roasted many chickens in my life, and, I've been roasting chickens since before some of you were born. I've never served roasted chicken to a guest that didn't mention how moist and perfectly cooked it was and ask how in the world I got it that way. Everyone and anyone who cooks has an opinion on roasting chicken, and, mine is quite basic: two chickens, two hours. "You can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roast...... View full recipe for "~ This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken + My Stressfree "Carving for Dummies" Methodology ~"

03/28/2014

~ Bread Machine Basics and Cinnamon-Raisin Bread (Lose that store-bought swirl and give this a whirl!!!) ~

I love a simple piece of toast and a glass of iced tea in the morning. I adore eggs too, but on super-busy days, toast and tea is just fine with me. Favorite toasts include egg bagels, English muffins, brioche and cinnamon-raisin bread. I've always had a knack for bread baking, and, I can't remember ever having any bad experiences. While I can make bagels and English muffins from scratch, I rarely do, and, when it comes to brioche and cinnamon-raisin bread, I've adapted my recipes to the bread machine. Yes, even I (who possesses the skill and desire) no...... View full recipe for "~ Bread Machine Basics and Cinnamon-Raisin Bread (Lose that store-bought swirl and give this a whirl!!!) ~"

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) ~"

01/21/2014

~ My E-Z Creamy-Dreamy Folded French Omelette ~

It's minus-3 degrees here in Happy Valley this morning! I have no idea "what's up" with the weather this Winter, but, I'm finding myself cooking a lot more "Honey, I've decided to work at home instead of going into my offices today" breakfasts. Today, we had French omelettes, one of my personal favorites: made the way I like them made! If you've ever eaten an omelette in Europe, more specifically in France, you know it is different than our American omelette. It is buttery, delicate and creamy. On the outside, it is a pretty-yellow color, showing no signs of browning,...... View full recipe for "~ My E-Z Creamy-Dreamy Folded French Omelette ~"