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14 posts from May 2013

05/30/2013

~ Making Citrus Smoothies w/Fruit Puree Ice Cubes ~

IMG_7490I 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.  I enjoy swiping a finger full of peanut butter from the jar and the satisfying crunch of a good granola bar makes me happy too.  I do not love smoothies made with dairy, yogurt or other sundry milky products. They remind me of dumbed-down milkshakes.  When I want a milkshake, I'll make a real-deal one!  

IMG_7481I drink smoothies for pure, refreshing, enjoyment...

When I want a smoothie, I want it easy to make,

ice-y cold, full of bold fresh fruit, slightly sweet 'n tart, and,

just thick enough to eat with a spoon &/or slurp through a straw!

IMG_7460A bit about smoothies:  Health food stores on our West Coast began selling pureed fruit drinks with a milkshake-like consistency back in the 1930's.  In the 1940's, Waring blender cookbooks published recipes for banana smoothies and pineapple smoothies.  Smoothies were popularized in the USA during the 1950's and '60's, when almost every homemaker had a blender in her kitchen.  The first trademark came in 1970 under the name "California Smoothie", which was marketed by the California Smoothie Company of Paramus, NJ.  In the 1970's, ice milk was blended in to create the "fruit shake".  In the 1980's, smoothie bars began opening across the country.  In the 1990's, the frozen IMG_7447yogurt craze took hold and it became trendy to add it to the smoothie.   By 2000, the juice-smoothie business was a multi-billion dollar industry! 

Smoothies are intended to be a quick breakfast that takes just a minute to make, which makes them a perfect snack for any time during a busy day as well.  Smoothies are supposed to provide a big serving of fresh fruit to start your day off, which is why they are healthy. The classic smoothie (also known as the granddaddy of all smoothies) is:  

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup quartered and frozen strawberries

1 frozen banana, sliced after freezing

The three get whizzed together in a blender for about 30-45 seconds and that is all there is to it!  

IMG_7504 IMG_7505 IMG_7502The classic combination is how I fell in love with smoothies...

IMG_7342... and I've strayed very little from the original formula.  The key to making a great smoothie is to choose very ripe fruit.  Most recipes tell you to chop it into chunks and freeze it, and, up until a couple of years ago, that is exactly what I did.  Then, one day it occurred to me to puree the fruit first (which takes 35-45 seconds) and freeze it in ice cube trays.  After the Memorial Day weekend, I had leftover kiwi, pineapple and strawberries.  These frozen fruit puree cubes are going to make IMG_7334quite a few super-easy-to-make smoothies in three of my favorite flavor combinations:  kiwi-limeade, pineapple-orangeade and strawberry-lemonade!

Learn my method by reading ~ Fun w/Summer Fruit: Fresh-Fruit-Puree Ice Cubes ~ in Categories 6, 10, 11, 16 & 20 or by clicking on the Related Article link below!

IMG_7412Freezing bananas couldn't be easier.  Purchase your bananas at any stage of ripeness, but, don't freeze them until they soften a bit (at room temperature on the countertop) and develop brown spots on their skins.  After that, peel them, place them in a food storage bag, freeze them and slice them frozen, just before putting them in the blender.  For convenience, I usually freeze six at a time!

PICT0007 IMG_7355                             Also for convenience (particularly if I have guests and have several smoothies to make), I'm not one bit ashamed to admit to purchasing good-quality fruit juices to make my smoothies.  When I have the time, I certainly do juice my own fruit to make my own OJ and "ades", but alas, it is not a perfect world and many of us just don't have the time. One-half cup of these store-bought juices add just the right amount of sweetness and 50-60 calories to a pure fruit drink, which is about the same as freshly squeezed, and I am just fine with that.  To learn my formula for making lemonade (which works for limeade and orangeade too),  ~ When Life Hands You Lemons: Make Lemonade! ~ can be found in Categories 10, 16 or 20!

IMG_7451For each of my three smoothies,

Kiwi-Banana-Limeade

Pineapple-Banana-Orangeade

Strawberry-Banana-Lemonade

you'll need:

3 standard-size kiwi, pineapple or strawberry puree ice cubes

1  frozen banana, sliced

1/2 cup limeade, orangeade or lemonade

Place ingredients in a blender and puree on high speed for 30-45 seconds.  Serve immediately:

IMG_7454Making Citrus Smoothies w/Fruit Puree Ice Cubes:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many 1-cup size smoothies as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; blender

PICT2691 PICT2691Cook's Note: I adore malted milk and back in 2011, my family bought me an official "milkshake making machine" and some soda fountain glasses for Christmas.  My world instantly became a better place.  In the dead of Winter, February of 2012, I started turning out some great shakes and malts.  In the event you've got a hankering for a real-deal milkshake instead of a fruity smoothie, you can find my method for ~ How to:  Make Great Milkshakes & Malts at Home ~ in Categories  6, 15 & 16.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/27/2013

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

IMG_7364Wherever 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 are over, the foodie gardeners I know plant their gardens in anticipation of the upcoming fresh fruits and vegetables that go hand-in-hand with Summer.  It is an exciting time of year for foodies! 

IMG_7421It will be a few weeks before I harvest any of nature's bounty from our own backyard gardens, but all sorts of high-quality fruits and vegetables are flooding into our grocery stores right now, which makes the wait bearable.  In preparation for my Memorial Day celebration, I bought a bag of gorgeous kiwi, a couple of pineapples, and 2 big boxes of unbelievably sweet strawberries. Over the holiday weekend, with each one, I made an absolutely luscious Summertime dessert!

Meet 3 of my favorite, easy-to-make, Summertime fruit desserts:

PICT0010 PICT0013My recipe for ~ Just What the Doctored Ordered: Kiwi-Lime Sorbet ~, which I posted last July, can be found in Categories 6, 20 and 22.  It was Friday night's dessert and a great way to kickoff the holiday weekend.  It only took me 5 minutes to prep and put the ingredients in my electric ice cream maker, and, while Joe cooked burgers on the grill, the ice cream maker made dessert for me!

PICT0008 PICT5086Saturday was cool and my guests were happy to be inside.  I cooked up a batch of crockpot chili and Joe deep-fried chicken wings. While the chili was slow-cooking, I made ~ A Simple, Summertime Treat:  Pineapple Cobbler ~ for dessert.  You can find the recipe in Categories 6, 10 & 20!

PICT4930 PICT4878Yesterday, (Sunday) we were back outside in the sun.  On the grill, Joe outdid himself and served some great Delmonico steaks, chicken breasts and sweet corn.  Before my guests packed up and headed home, I treated them to ~ It's a Dad Thing:  My Dad's Strawberry Soup ~.  There wasn't a drop left, and, last but not least, it's in Categories 6, 11, 16 & 20!

IMG_7373Today I'm using the leftover fruit to make fruit-puree ice cubes! 

IMG_7306It's no secret that I've been entertaining for a lot of years.  I've made ice cubes for specialty cocktails and ice rings for punch out of citrus and fruit juices countless times.  Example:  I freeze cranberry juice in an ice ring mold if I am serving punch made with cranberry juice.  It just makes sense.  Why would I allow frozen water to melt into a great-tasting punch when a complimentary-flavored frozen juice would add additional flavor!?!

IMG_7309 IMG_7317Fruit puree ice cubes are a great addition to all sorts of beverages, whether or not they contain alcohol. Use any type of very ripe fruit to make fruit puree ice cubes.  Just peel and chop it (if applicable) and place it in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree it until it is a pourable liquid (scraping down the sides of the work bowl with a IMG_7323rubber spatula once or twice during the process).  The entire process only takes 35-45 seconds.  Transfer to any size or shape ice cube tray and freeze until solid.  That being said, it is important to pair the ice cubes to a beverage that compliments it.  Here are some of my suggested combinations: 

IMG_7333Fruity Citrus juices (pictured below):

Kiwi Limeade (left)

Pineapple Orangeade (middle)

Strawberry Lemonade (right)

Fruity Soft Drinks:

Cherry Cola

IMG_7343Mango Gingerale

Blueberry Lemon-Lime Soda

Fruity Everyday Beverages:

Banana Iced Coffee

Raspberry or Blackberry Iced Tea

Cantaloupe, Honey Dew or Watermelon Sparkling Water

Note:  Experiment with your own combinations, just remember: carefully pair your pure-fruit ice cubes with your beverage.  Enjoy!

IMG_7409Fun w/Summer Fruit:  Fresh-Fruit-Puree Ice Cubes:  Recipe yields instructions for making as many fresh fruit puree ice cubes as you want.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; blender or food processor; ice cube trays

6a0120a8551282970b0167691f882a970b-800wiCook's Note:  To learn my formula for making lemonade (which works just the same for making limeade and orangeade too), my recipe for ~ When Life Hands You Lemons: Make Lemonade! ~ can be found in Categories 10, 16 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/23/2013

~ A Summertime Shrimp, Avocado & Tomato Salad ~

IMG_7277Yikes!  Here in Central Pennsylvania, the weather has done a real-life, real-deal, flip-flop.  Last week, in 40 degree temperatures, I was baking cookies to warm up my kitchen.  This week, with 90 degree temperatures,  I find myself scrolling through my recipe archives for cold salads and lighter fare, to avoid heating the kitchen at all.  Yesterday, I shot my weekly Kitchen Encounters segment for WHVL-TV's Sunday morning Centre of It All Show.  It was episode #41:

IMG_7154I prepared my recipe for ~ Shrimp & Pasta Salad w/Lemony Garlic Dressing + (Three Tips for Properly Preparing Pasta Salad too!) ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 2, 10, 14, 15 or 17!  This dish not only beats the heat, it stands up to it too.  It is one of my all-time favorite, go-to, one-dish, main-dish Summertime meals, and, it would be great to take to an outdoor Memorial Day potluck picnic.  This picture was taken just before the crew (& me) dug into it!

IMG_7138 IMG_7139 IMG_5428When you're doing a cooking segment for TV, you've got to plan for unforeseen technical difficulites or mishaps...  

IMG_5428... We have had very few, but it requires me to always have a back-up for every ingredient on hand in case it does.  Yes, that does mean extra work (this is the not-so-glamorous part of being on TV), but, it also means I almost always have some great leftover ingredients afterward.  In the case of today, I have an extra pound of perfectly-cooked shrimp in my refrigerator!

To learn how I like to cook shrimp...

PICT4409... in a mixture of water, white wine, lemon and fragrant bay leaves: 

PICT4452~ Once upon a time... A Tale About Shrimp Cocktail ~ can be found in Categories 1, 11, 14, 16 & 21!

PICT4940No avocado is a good as the Hass avocado (rhymes with pass) and this morning, I found some perfectly-ripe ones at the market. The moment I saw them, I knew what shimp salad I'd be making for dinner tonight, so, then I bought a box of tomatoes, a couple of limes, and, some cilantro too!

~ Everything You Need to Know About the Avocado ~ can be found in Kitchen Encounters Categories 15 & 16, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below!

IMG_7184You'll need high-quality tomatoes. There is no substitute for a freshly-picked tomato straight out of the garden, but here in Happy Valley, we won't have any of those for a couple of months, so:  it's Campari tomatoes for me until then! 

This light, refreshing, oh-so tasty salad can be served as:

an appetizer, a side-dish, or, a small meal.

Wrap it in a lettuce leaf, put it on a flour tortilla, or eat it as is!

IMG_7276This salad is great way to start the outdoor entertaining season!

IMG_72031  pound cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped into 1/2" pieces and chilled (Note:  Here are calculations to make this easy:  1 pound of cooked, 1/2" diced shrimp = 2 generous cups of diced shrimp.  1 1/4 pounds uncooked shrimp = 1 pound cooked shrimp after removing tails. )

1 1/2 cups, 1/2"-3/4" diced, Hass avocados, depending on their size: 2-3 avocados

1 1/2  cups, 1/2"-3/4" chopped, Campari tomatoes, or freshly-picked vine-ripened tomatoes

1/2  cup diced red onion

1  tablespoon very finely-diced jalapeno pepper, no seeds or white rib sections

2  tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves, no stems included

2 limes, about 2  tablespoons lime juice

zest from 2 limes, stir zest from 1 into the salad and reserve zest from the other for garnishing finished salad

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, to taste (Note:  I use 10 grinds of sea salt and 30 grinds of peppercorn blend.  If you're looking for a measurement for table salt and pepper: start with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and work your way up from there.)

1- 1 1/2  tablespoons high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil

additional cilantro sprigs, for garnish

IMG_7216 IMG_7214~ Step 1. Prep the shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and cilantro as directed, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the lime juice and zest from 1 lime.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently and thoroughly combine until all ingredients are coated in lime juice.

IMG_7224~ Step 2.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fold mixture together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle in the olive oil.  Using the spatula, gently but thoroughly toss until all ingredients are coated in oil.  Serve immediately or transfer mixture to a food storage container and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Note:  This is truly best served immediately, and 1-2 hours in the refrigerator doesn't damage it, but any longer than that = compromise:

IMG_7228A Summertime Shrimp, Avocado & Tomato Salad:  Recipe yields 6 cups, 6, 1-cup servings/8, 3/4-cup servings/12, 1/2 cup servings

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; 2-quart food storage container w/tight fitting lid 

6a0120a8551282970b0133f3d743ae970b-500wiCook's Note:  Can't decide what to serve this salad with?  It goes great with corn on the cob.  You might want to read ~ The Corn Chronicles:  Perfect Corn on the Cob ~ to get all of my tips for choosing and cooking corn.  The recipe is in Categories 4, 10 or 15!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/21/2013

~ Everything You Need to Know About the Avocado ~

PICT4940Next 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 each year.  Trust me when I tell you, after a taste test between the Hass and any other smooth-skinned variety (like Florida's leafy-green Fuerte, pictured above), you will agree there is no comparison in either flavor or texture:  Hass wins... and this tree, a member of the laurel family, has a bitter-sweet history to go with it too:

220px-Persea_americana_fruit_2All Hass avocado trees descended from one single "mother tree" that was raised by a mail carrier named Rudolf Hass, of LaHabra Heights, CA.  Hass purchased the seedling tree from a grower named A.R. Rideout, who grew and experimented growing and developing many varieties of avocados.  Hass tried unsuccessfully to graft another variety onto it and planned on cutting the tree down, until his children talked him out of it.  Since his kids loved the tree's fruit, and the tree gave a good yield, he named it after himself and patented it in 1935.  That same year, Hass entered into a business with a Whittier, CA, nurseryman to grow and promote his avocados. Rudolf Hass died in 1952, never realizing the global impact his avocados would have on all of us.

Sadly, Hass's original tree died after a long struggle with root fungus and was cut down in 2002.

PICT4946Avocados ripen best after picking. A perfectly-ripe Hass avocado will be darkish green (it will have lost its bright green color) and firm to the touch with an ever-so-slight give when gentle pressure is applied.  If an avocado seems even the slightest bit soft, it is over-ripe. When a knife is run through and around the perimeter of a perfectly ripe avocado, it will literally cut like butter and the two halves will separate cleanly with a gentle twist.

PICT4962Note:  If you have no alternative but to purchase under-ripe (hard) avocados:  to speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag and set aside, at room temperature, for 1-2 days. Most times, overnight on the countertop will do just fine. To increase the shelf life of ripe avocados, store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.  

PICT4974But, and this is an important but: Once an avocado is opened and the edible flesh is exposed to air, it discolors rapidly.  To minimize discolorization, I advise adding diced, cubed or sliced avocado to the dish being served at the very last moment.  Tossing cubed, sliced, mashed or smashed avocado flesh with citric acid, like lime or lemon juice (and zest too), helps delay discoloring, but not much more than an hour or two (trust me).

PICT4952The pit (which in reality is a seed that can be planted to grow an avocado tree and is another blog post) is cleanly and easily removed by holding the pitted half of the avocado securely in the palm of your hand.  Using a chef's knife, give the pit a somewhat forceful tap with the center of the knife blade. Then, one gentle twist of the knife and voila:  the pit is out.  Proceed to:

Peel away the skin and slice or dice in any manner you want!

PICT4954To quickly cube or slice the pitted/seeded avocado, for applications like adding to salads:  

PICT4971Simply score the soft flesh into desired-sized cubes or slices, then scoop them out with an ordinary tablespoon.  

When planning to mash or smash the edible flesh (for dishes like guacamole), skip cubing the avocado and simply scoop the flesh out in very large pieces.  If not using immediately, remember to toss with lime juice!  

Avocado Fiction:

Burying the avocado pit in your guacamole will keep the dip from discoloring.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  BYI:  Some information should be banned from the internet!

PICT5031In order to keep color in my guacamole for an extra 24 hours, I add a few tablespoons of bottled green chile sauce (salsa verde).  It adds a bit of heat too!  You can find my recipe for ~ Holy Guacamole! It's the Second Day of Summer ~ in Categories 1, 4, 8, 10, 13 & 14!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, commentary and photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/19/2013

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

IMG_7108I 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!

IMG_6459A 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 onto a baking pan.  Occasionally (as pictured here), they get coated in some sugar before going on the pan to bake.  As the mounds of dough bake, they spread and flatten out.  In addition to the three fun recipes I posted this week, chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies are two more popular examples. They're not fancy or gourmet.  They're the kind of cookies your mom and grandmother made and had waiting for you on the kitchen table with a glass of milk when you arrived home from school!

YOGI---BOOBOOWith the Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, if you are inclined to pack a pic-a-nic basket and head to Jellystone Park, any or all of these cookies would be a great choice to take.  They can be made up to a week ahead of time, and, if stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place, they'll stay fresh for a week after that!

Here's a quick recap of three favorite cookies of my youth:

IMG_6515Monday, May 13th:  ~ My Favorite Sugar Cookie is:  The Snickerdoodle ~.  This flat, golden on the outside, slightly-chewy on the inside sugar cookie is made with butter and shortening and gets dusted with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar prior to baking.  They are German in origin, and I grew up eating them in Eastern PA (aka PA Deutsch country).  These are very addictive and I recommend making a double batch!

IMG_6718Wednesday, May 15th: ~ My Favorite Spice-y Cookie is:  The Ginger Snap ~.  Our colonists brought these to America.  They arrived with the spices in powdered form:  cinnamon, cloves and ginger, along with molasses, which was much less expensive than sugar. Real gingersnaps are NOT hard as rocks (like you buy in the store). They snap with each bite, but, they've got a slightly-chewy center! 

IMG_6993Friday, May 17th: ~ My Favorite Salty Cookie is:  Chunky Peanut Butter ~.  This cookie is all-American and it was around quite a while before Mrs. Wakefield accidentally invented the chocolate chip cookie.  In 1936, Pillsbury published their peanut butter cookie recipe and introduced us to the famous criss-cross fork pattern on top.  There's a rich history behind this crunch-a-licious cookie and I recommend you read my post!

IMG_7032The weather has finally taken a turn for the better here in Pennsylvania and it is time for me to swich gears and start posting about picnics, barbecues and grills.  Over the years I've amassed a large collection of truly lovely picnic baskets.  This small lunch-box sized one is one of my favorites.  It is perfect for me to pack a picnic lunch for just Joe and I.  These small, relatively inexpensive picnic baskets also make for a unique way to serve cookies, bar cookies or brownies to a crowd at a picnic:

IMG_7062"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)  

05/17/2013

~My Favorite Salty Cookie is: Chunky Peanut Butter~

IMG_7001"Three cookies of my youth week" here on KE is coming to a close!  Sigh.

IMG_6554On Monday we made ~ My Favorite Sugar Cookie:  The Snickerdoodle ~, then, on Wednesday we made ~ My Favorite Spice-y Cookie is:  The Ginger Snap ~.  Both recipes can be found in Category 7, and they IMG_6400are from my very 1st cookbook:  a bridal shower gift to me 'way back when' in 1974! 

IMG_6769Snickerdoodles (pictured above) and gingersnaps (pictured here) are referred to as "drop cookies". They are made by dropping uniform sized pieces of dough onto a baking pan.  They are not fancy or gourmet (and I don't care for versions of recipes that try to make them so).  They are the kind your mom and grandmom had waiting on the kitchen table with a glass of milk for you and your friends afterschool.  The kind you grab on your way in the door or out the door. The kind you love to dunk in your coffee at breakfast or a glass of milk at the end of a long, hard day!

IMG_7025Today, T.G.I.F., I'm making peanut butter cookies.  The ones with the signature criss-cross fork marks on top.  Why bake cookies in mid-May? We've had a cold-snap here in Central Pennsylvania:  40-degree temperatures (which I dislike), with lots of rain (which I admit we need). Cold and damp gave me the perfect excuse to preheat my oven. The thermometer is predicted to go into the 70's tomorrow, so, look for me to head outside to the garden and the grill this weekend!

Why did I choose the peanut butter cookie as my third "cookie of my youth" this week instead of the chocolate chip cookie?

ImagesThat is what my husband Joe wanted to know.  My answer is simple: The peanut butter cookie came first in American history.  Peanuts are native to the Americas (chocolate chips are not), and, hundreds of years ago, the Aztecs were pulverizing them into a pasty, edible substance.  The transition from peanut paste to peanut butter was the gradual result of modern processing, which added oil to the paste to achieve a smoother, spreadable product which traveled well.  

In a nutshell, here's a brief, historical timeline which explains it all (or most of it):

1895:  Dr. John Kellogg patented a process for preparing nut meal (which included peanuts) and served it as a health food to his wealthy patients at his Battle Creek, MI, sanitarium.

1897:  Popular Science News, under "Recent Inventions", proclaims that peanut butter could be used in recipes as shortening, in place of butter and/or lard.

1890's:  (Similar to Dr. Kellogg) Dr. Ambrose Strab, in St. Louis, MO, provides peanut butter to his poor, toothless, elderly patients, as a souce of protien that didn't require them to chew...

1903:  ... after years of work, Dr. Ambrose Strab patents his peanut-butter-making machine.

250px-PeanutButter1904:  Peanut butter was featured at the St. Louis World's Fair and soon afterword Beech-Nut and Heinz introduced it nationally, but, because it did not travel well, it needed to be produced regionally.

1910's-1920's:  The hydrogenation process was developed. Hydrogenation raised the melting point of peanut butter, so that it remained solid at room temperature (it stopped the separation of the oil from the solids), which gave it a long shelf life.  Peanut butter began being mass-manufactured and sold, in both smooth and crunchy form,  in glass jars, by companies like Peter Pan and Jif.  It quickly became a staple in American kitchens and lunch boxes.

Peanut-Butter-Cookies-Jessie-Woodrow-Wilson-19131916:  An issue of The Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania), published an article entitled, "Some of Mrs. Wilson's Favorite Recipes:  The President's Wife Gives Hints on Cooking", which included a list of cookie recipes, one of which was a recipe for for Peanut Cookies that included peanut butter (and no chopped peanuts).

Poppin_Fresh_(Pillsbury_Doughboy)1917-1920's:  Recipes for peanut butter cookies began appearing (and are well-documented) in newspapers, journals, magazines, cookbooks and other publications.

1930:  Mrs. Wakefield accidentally invented the chocolate-chip cookie by substituting a chopped up Nestle chocolate bar for nuts in her cookies (because she ran out of nuts in her pantry). She expected the chocolate to melt (to form a chocolate cookie), but it did not, it stayed in chunks. She published her recipe in 1936.  Nestle bought it from her in 1939 (for a lifetime supply of chocolate) and printed it on the back of their package.

1936:  The Pillsbury Cookbook published their recipe for peanut butter cookies and introduced the famous and beloved criss-cross fork pattern on top of the cookies.  The rest is history.

Did you know:  Peanut butter contains neither nuts nor butter. Peanuts are legumes (seed pod plants that split up along both sides when ripe), just like beans, lentils, peas and soybeans! 

Let's move on and bake some American cookie history:

IMG_68501/4  cup salted butter, at room temperature (1/2 stick)

1/4  cup butter-flavored shortening, at room temperature 

3/4  cup chunky-style peanut butter, your favorite brand

1/2  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1  large egg, at room temperature

1 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/4  teaspoon salt

3/4  cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped (chop after measuring)

1/4  cup additional granulated sugar

IMG_6854~ Step 1.  Chop the peanuts as directed.  You can use a cutting board and a chef's knife, or, if you have one of these "nifty chopper thingies", now is the time to use it.  I chopped all of the peanuts in less than a minute.  Note:  I do not recommend using a food processor, as it tends to chop them too small, which defeats the purpose of chunky peanut butter cookies!

IMG_6868 IMG_6861~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, place the butter, shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, sugar and egg.

~ Step 3.  On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, thoroughly combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula as you work, until smooth.

IMG_6893 IMG_6889~ Step 4. Lower the mixer speed and blend in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Using the rubber spatula, fold in the chopped peanuts.

~ Step 5.  Place the granulated sugar in a small, shallow bowl and set aside.

IMG_6631~ Step 6.  Line 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper.

Note:  Don't have 3 large baking pans?  Your option is to coat, put the criss-cross fork marks on top, and bake the cookies in batches, but pans must be completely cool before placing unbaked cookie dough balls on them.

IMG_6914~ Step 7:  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, scoop out some dough, gently drop it into and coat it with the granulated sugar, while at the same time forming it into a 1 1/2" ball.  

IMG_6919Place balls, well apart, 9 on each pan.  

Note:  These cookies are going to spread out quite a bit as they bake, so don't be tempted to try to crowd any more on the pan.

Time for the criss-cross fork marks!

IMG_6925~ Step 8.  Using an ordinary table fork, press down on the center of each cookie, until it reaches a thickness of about 1/2".  Reverse the direction of the fork and repeat. It's sort of like making a tic-tac-toe board on top of each cookie.

Note:  If you're inclined to skip this step, don't.  Because this dough is so dense, cookies will not flatten on their own and what you'll end up with are cookies that are burnt on the outside and raw in the inside.

IMG_6964~ Step 9.  Bake, one pan at a time, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven until lightly golden, about 10-12 minutes, or until light-golden and set, but not yet firm. Remove from oven and allow to cool, in pan, 5 minutes.  Using a thin spatula, transfer cookies to cooling racks to cool completely, about 30-45 minutes:

Note:  While the criss-cross pattern is more visible on peanut butter cookies made with smooth peanut butter, I wouldn't trade the look for the taste and texture of these any day of the week!

IMG_6993My Favorite Salty Cookie is:  Chunky Peanut Butter:  Recipe yields 2  dozen, 3"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: cutting board and chef's knife, or, "nifty chopper thingy"; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; fork; 2 large cooling racks; thin spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0162fe2345f0970d-800wiCook's Note:  I can't write about peanut butter without mentioning this one.  If you're looking for another way to get a real-deal peanut butter fix, you can find my recipe for ~ Agnes Starosta's Creamy, Dreamy "Killer" Peanut Butter Fudge ~ in Category 7.  This recipe is legendary in our family!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/15/2013

~ My Favorite Spice-y Cookie is: The Ginger Snap ~

IMG_6769Today is part two of "three cookies of my youth" week here on KE.  Here in Central PA we're experiencing some unseasonably cold weather, 30-40-degrees (which I dislike), with lots of rain (which I admit we need).  I've decided to take advantage of the uncooperative weather, preheat my oven and bake some cookies.  Not fancy gourmet cookies either.  The kind your mom and grandmom had waiting on the kitchen table with a glass of milk for you and your friends after school.  By next week at this time I'll probably be complaining about how hot it is -- there will be plenty of time to switch gears and head outside to the garden and grill when it happens!

IMG_6554On Monday I posted ~ My Favorite Sugar Cookie:  The Snickerdoodle ~.  You can find the recipe in Category 7, or just click on the Related Article link below.  These flat, golden, crispy on the outside, slightly-chewy on the the inside cookies are made with butter and shortening, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar prior to baking.  Where I grew up, these "super-yummy cookies with the quirky name" were a very popular and quite common. Never eaten one?  I suggest you give this recipe a try ASAP!   

IMG_6400If you love spice cakes and cookies as much as I do, you no doubt love gingersnaps.  I grew up eating the real-deal ones and it kind of makes me sad that so may of todays youth have not.  It's high time they did.

Meet Mel's First Cookbook!

I was 19 and this was one of the gifts given to me for my bridal shower in 1974, by my fiance's grandmother.  It's the 1972 edition and 16th printing of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  Pages 144 and 145 were marked and three recipes were underlined:  Gingersnaps, Snickerdoodles & Peanut Butter Cookies.  These three recipes worked so well, I've changed them very little over almost 40 years.

IMG_6769A bit about the ginger snap, gingersnap, ginger biscuit:  These are basically small, unadorned, round versions of those well-known fancy-shaped and often-decorated gingerbread cookies:  the traditional German Christmas cookie called "Lebkuchen".  "Gingersnap" comes from the fact that they are quite crispy and make a snapping sound with each bite.  

IMG_6724All recipes pretty much contain cinnamon, cloves, ginger and sometimes cardamom.  At one time allspice was used but was eventually replaced by cloves. Gingersnaps have long been favored in England and Germany and were brought to America by our colonists, who brought the ingredients, in powdered form, along with molasses, which was much less expensive than sugar!

Real-deal gingersnaps are NOT hard as rocks (like you buy in the store).  They're full-flavored, they are crispy on the outside, and, they've got slightly-chewy centers!

Nobody can eat just one.  Got milk?

IMG_65763/4  cup butter-flavored shortening, at room temperature

1  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1  large egg, at room temperature

1/4  cup full-flavor molasses

2 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2  teaspoons ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon salt

1/4  cup granulated sugar

IMG_6590 IMG_6582~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, place the shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses.  

Tip:  Molasses is a sticky liquid.  If you 'grease' the measuring cup with some shortening, butter or no-stick cooking spray, it will glide right out. This works well for honey, maple syrup, ketchup and mustard too!

IMG_6616 IMG_6609Step 2.  On medium-speed of hand-held electric mixer, thoroughly combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula as you work, until smooth, about 2 minutes.

~ Step 3.  Lower the mixer speed and blend in the flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt.  Continue to blend until mixture forms a mass, about 3 minutes.  

IMG_6625~ Step 4.  Transfer the cookie dough to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate until well-chilled,  about 1-1/2-2 hours.

IMG_6631~ Step 5. Line, 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper.  Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl.

Note:  Don't have 3 pans?  Coat and bake in batches, but pans must be completely cool before placing unbaked dough balls on them. 

IMG_6641~ Step 6.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, scoop out some dough, gently drop it into and coat it with the granulated sugar, while at the same time forming it into a 1 1/4" ball.  Place balls, well-apart, 12 on each pan.

Note:  While one pan is in the oven, do not roll more cookies and place on the next pan. Put dough back in the refrigerator to keep cold, meaning:  if dough is kept at a constant temperature, all pans of cookies will bake the same.

IMG_6656 IMG_6653Step 7. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes or until cookies are set and look "crackly" on top.  Watch carefully after 8 minutes.

~ Step 8.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, in pan, about 3-4 minutes.  Using a thin spatula, transfer cookies to cooling racks to cool completely: 

IMG_6718My Favorite Spice-y Cookie is:  The Ginger Snap:  Recipe yields 3 dozen, 2"-round  cookies.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; food storage container w/tight fitting lid; 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; 2-4 large cooking racks; thin spatula

6a0120a8551282970b014e873d4a9c970d-800wi PICT1084Cook's Note: "Nana" gave me another bridal shower gift too:  this baking pan, spatula, measuring cups, spoons and a handwritten copy of ~ Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~, taped to the bottom of the pan.  You can find the recipe in Category 6!

I truly do come from a foodie family!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 3013) 

05/13/2013

~ My Favorite Sugar Cookie is: The Snickerdoodle ~

IMG_6570Today is a preheat the oven kinda day in my kitchen.  We're having a cold snap here in Central PA:  frost warnings and 30-40- degree temperatures in mid-May -- what's up with that?  Don't ask me why, but while I was clutching my steaming hot cup of coffee this morning, snickerdoodles popped into my foodie head.  I haven't posted a cookie recipe in quite a while, and, if the weather isn't going to cooperate, I'm declaring it "three cookies-of-my-youth week" on KE.

Nothing's ever as good as it was when you were a kid:

IMG_6554What in the wide world of cookie sports is a snickerdoodle?

IMG_6504A bit about the snickerdoodle:  A traditional snickerdoodle is a flat, golden, crispy on the outside, slightly-chewy on the inside, sugar cookie made with butter and shortening, then dusted with cinnamon and sugar prior to baking.  It doesn't contain chocolate or white chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, other embellishments or flavorings. Spare me any recipes that attempt to make this cookie gourmet.  As for its quirky name:  according to Wikipedia, it is believed they are German in origin and evolved from the German word "Schnickennudeln", which is a cinnamon-dusted sweet roll. Other tales about how they got named exist, but, this particular one seems right to me.  Why?

A bit about me and snickerdoodles:  I grew up in the Lehigh Valley of Eastern Pennsylvania, often called "Pennsylvania Dutch country".  I was told that snickerdoodles were Pennsylvania Dutch sugar cookies.  I'm here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" is slang for the German word "Deutsch", so: when we say Pennsylvania Dutch, we mean Pennsylvania Deutsch and are crediting the Germanic or German-speaking people for this delicious cuisine (and these cookies)!

IMG_6400At the age of 19, I ate the best snickerdoodles I ever tasted, made by my fiance's grandmother, "Nana".  Nana was my son Jesse's paternal great-grandmother and my grandson David's great-great grandmother.  It just so happens, Nana and her husband, Pap-Pap, were Pennsylvania Dutch.  My recipe is Nana's recipe and it came straight out of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  This is the first cookbook I ever owned.  It's the 1972 edition and 16th printing of the book.  It was given to me as a bridal shower gift from Nana in 1974.  Pages 144 & 145 were marked and 3 recipes underlined: Gingersnaps, Snickerdoodles & Peanut Butter Cookies!

I hope you're having fun, because I sure am!

IMG_64031/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup butter-flavored shortening, at room temperature

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2 1/4  cups, unbleached all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons cream of tartar

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/4  teaspoon salt

2  tablespoons ground cinnamon

4  tablespoons additional sugar

IMG_6424 IMG_6411~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, place the butter, shortening, sugar and eggs.  

~ Step 2.  On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, thoroughly combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula as you work, until smooth, about 1 minute.

IMG_6445

IMG_6442                                           ~ Step 3. Lower the mixer speed and blend in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  

IMG_6454~ Step 4.  In a shallow bowl, mix together the cinnamon and additional sugar.

IMG_6459~ Step 4.  Line 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, scoop out some dough, gently drop it into and coat it with the cinnamon-sugar, while at the same time forming it into a 1 1/4" ball.   Place balls, well-apart, 12 on each prepared pan.   

Note:  Don't have 4 pans?  Coat and bake in batches, but pans must be completely cool before placing unbaked dough balls on them.   

IMG_6501 IMG_6483                                          ~ Step 5. Bake, one pan at a time, on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are are set and look "crackly" on top. Watch very carefully after 7 minutes.

~ Step 6.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, in pan, about 2 minutes.  Using a thin spatula, transfer cookies to cooling racks to cool completely:

IMG_6515My Favorite Sugar Cookie is:  The Snickerdoodle:  Recipe yields 4 dozen, 3"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; 2-4  large cooling racks; thin spatula

6a0120a8551282970b014e873d4a9c970d-800wi PICT1084Cook's Note: Nana gave me another bridal shower gift too:  this baking pan, spatula, measuring cups, spoons and a handwritten copy of ~Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~, taped to the bottom of the pan.  You can find the recipe in Category 6!

I truly do come from a foodie family!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/11/2013

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (5/10/13) ~

Culinary Q & A #2Let me start by wishing all of you moms, step-moms and soon-to-be moms a very Happy Mother's Day tomorrow.  In honor of moms everywhere, over the past week I posted a couple of unique ways to start mom's day off in a special way. Click into Categories 9 or 20 to find:

~ The Benefits of Baking Eggs & Bacon for Breakfast ~, and

~ Baked Eggs in Birds Nests (Hash Brown Potatoes) ~.

IMG_6036 IMG_6213 IMG_6378I also posted my mother-in-law's recipe for ~ Simplicity:  Creamy, Crunchy "Classic" Egg Salad ~in Cats. 2, 14 & 20!

Before I sign off, fold up my apron, put my feet up and enjoy my own relaxing mom holiday, Kitchen Encounters got two great questions this week that need answering ASAP:

Q.  Melody says and asks:  Hi Mel!  I have made your ~ Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese ~ [found in Categories 4, 14, 17 & 18] a few times now and due to popular demand it is now the ONLY mac and cheese I make.  Thank-you for sharing this wonderful recipe.  After baking it, can I portion and freeze it for quick weekday meals in the future?

6a0120a8551282970b0177443dcf8d970d-800wiA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Happy Mother's Day Melody!  Yes, like lasagna and other baked pasta dishes, you can freeze macaroni and cheese.  There's more good news:  You can freeze it prior to baking, or afterward.  The choice is yours.  Just remember to thaw it completely and return it to room temperature prior to baking the uncooked version in the oven as directed, or, reheating the cooked version (which I think works best if done in the microwave)!

************

6a0120a8551282970b017d3cf61d77970c-800wiQ.  Lyle asks:  Melanie, I met you at WPSU over ten years ago.  I was an onlooker at one of the cooking shows (my sister was a guest) and I remember watching you do some remarkable food-styling that day. I'm happy you're now doing your own show, and, writing this marvelous blog. I've noticed in a few of your posts some special cutters and slicers. They appear to be made of aluminum, some w/piano wire.  Can you tell me where I can buy them?  

PS:  I'm "dying" to make your French fries! [Note to readers: ~ Do You Want (Perfect) "French" Fries with That? ~ can be found in Categories 4, 15, 20 or 21.] 

IMG_6393A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Lyle! How nice to hear from you -- that was a long time ago and there were always a lot of people around my table in the studio.  E-mail me your last name and your sister's name. I'd love to know which one of the shows she was on.  About my slicers:  you are correct, they are cast aluminum strung with piano wire.  When I bought them (thirty-some years ago) they were available almost everywhere.  Now, they are considered vintage, but, after doing a quick internet search, I am here to tell you they all can be found on various vintage/antique sites. They are truly useful, well-made gadgets:  butter slicer, egg slicer, apple corer, egg wedger, cherry stoner, French-fry cutter.  In the case of each and every one, "they don't make 'em like they used to"!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

05/09/2013

~ Simplicity: Creamy, Crunchy "Classic" Egg Salad ~

IMG_6302Do you remember the first time you ate the best egg salad you ever tasted in your life?  The one that changed the way you felt about egg salad forever?  The kind that when you "smooshed" down on it, the bread melted around and into every bite?   I do and I was 18.  I had just graduated from high school a week earlier and was dating my future fiance at the time.  His mother invited me to lunch on her patio.  She made egg salad sandwiches and served them with a simple cucumber and tomato salad dressed with, to this day, my all-time favorite vinaigrette.

With Mother's Day right around the corner, I thought I'd pay tribute to a mother-in-law today!

Is there such a thing as "classic" or "traditional" egg salad?

IMG_4783In my opinion, just like its tuna salad cousin, not in terms of a formal recipe.  When I use the words classic or traditional in the context of egg salad, I think of the special way my mother made it for me or your grandmother made it for you. After all, egg salad only really requires four things:  eggs, mayonnaise, celery and onion. That's what I thought until I tasted my future mother-in-laws, which contained no celery or onions!

(Note:  For the other staple of our office-sandwich generation (pictured just above), you can find my recipe for ~ Creamy, Chunky, Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad ~ in Categories 2 or 4!)

Meet the egg salad recipe that doesn't make you miss the tuna!

IMG_6378Until that afternoon, I had always considered egg salad a bit of a letdown.  To me, egg salad was just tuna salad without the tuna.  Good, but nothing to write home about. Then, I tasted Phylliss's: The eggs were tender, perfectly cooked, and, she chopped the whites separately from the yolks, which gave it a lovely visual appeal.  It got its crunch from sweet pickles rather than celery, and, it contained no onion, which allowed the other ingredients to be the star of the show.  Dijon mustard provided the classic egg salad tang, and, a bit of sugar and sweet gherkin juice gave it a sweet edge that made me want to eat it all day long!

6a0120a8551282970b0147e274afe9970b-800wiShortly after I got married, I asked her for her recipe and to this day I haven't changed one thing, except:

6a0120a8551282970b016767f23475970b-800wiI always serve it on my recipe for ~ Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe ~, which can be found in Categories 5, 15 or 18.  I also make it with with homemade mayonnaise. ~ How to: Make Mayonnaise ("Mayo") ~ is in Categories 8, 15 or 20!

IMG_6257If you're a purist like me, make the bread and the mayonnaise first.  If not, decide on your favorite bread and substitute ONLY Hellman's Mayonnaise, which is what Phyliss used.  Now you need to hard-cook:

8  jumbo eggs

as directed in my recipe for ~ A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs ~, which can be found in Category 15.

Note:  I decided I like to use jumbo eggs for egg salad because of their 2:1 ratio of white to yolk.

IMG_6274Peel the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites.  Dice each into 1/4" bits and pieces.

IMG_6279There's no need to point out these are liquid measures.  I am using them to show:  8 jumbo eggs will result in:

2  cups diced egg whites

1  cup diced egg yolks

which you'll need for this recipe...

IMG_6282... along with:

1/2-3/4 cup diced, sweet midget gherkins, I use 3/4 cup

6  tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably homemade, Hellman's may be substituted

2  teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons gherkin juice

2  teaspoons sugar

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, to taste

IMG_6297 IMG_6293                                        In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, Dijon, gherkin juice and sugar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste (I used 8 grinds of salt and 24 grinds of pepper).  

Add the diced egg whites, yolks and gherkins.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold until thoroughly combined.  Transfer to a food storage container and place in the refrigerator until well-chilled, several hours or overnight.

IMG_6366Simplicity:  Creamy, Crunchy "Classic" Egg Salad:  Recipe yields 3 cups or 6, 1/2 cup servings or enough for 6 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b015391a193c2970b-800wiCook's Note:  If you'd like to try my mother-in-law's vinaigrette (the one I spoke about above), you can find my recipe for ~ A Roasted Beet, Apple, Onion, Orange & Toasted Walnut Salad w/:  My Favorite Vinaigrette ~ in Categories 2, 4 or 14.  I keep a bottle of it in my refrigerator at all times!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/07/2013

~Baked Eggs in Birds Nests (Hash Brown Potatoes)~

IMG_6213When I woke up this morning and looked in the refrigerator, it was time to decide what to do with the extra two dozen eggs, sitting next to the two dozen eggs I regularly keep in my refrigerator. On Sunday I posted my recipe for ~ The Benefits of Baking Eggs & Bacon for Breakfast ~, and yesterday, I made said baked eggs on camera for my weekly cooking segment on WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show.  So why did I buy more eggs than I needed?  One thing I've learned about being on TV is:  if you need 1 quart of milk, buy 2, because if the milk accidentally gets spilled, there's no time to cry over it, you've got to quickly replace it and move on!

IMG_5971As I mentioned in Sunday's post (which can be found in Categories 9 & 20 or by clicking the Related Article link below) and on camera: "baking eggs in standard-sized muffin pans has been on B&B menus for years, which is where I first ate bacon-wrapped baked eggs."  On that same trip to Cape May, NJ, the hostess served them two ways:  Bacon and Baked Egg Muffins (pictured here), and Baked Eggs in Birds Nests.  We each got one of each on our plates.  Millie was also kind enough to briefly explain to me how she made both!

Millie B decided to close her B&B in 1992, but my versions of her recipes live on (as does Millie):

IMG_6177What a fun way to start your day -- or anyone elses day!

IMG_6076~ Step 1.  In the microwave, partially-bake/undercook:

1,  10-ounce potato for every 3 hash brown birds nests 

until tender enough to pierce through to the center w/a fork, but not easily enough to slice and eat.

Note:  In my GE Profile Advantium oven, 2 potatoes took 7 minutes.

IMG_6097~ Step 2.  Set potatoes aside until cool enough to comfortably hold and handle with your hands, about 20 minutes.

~ Step 3.  Using a paring knife, slice the pole ends from each potato (to make a flat surface), stand each up on its side and remove the skin.  

~ Step 4.  Using a hand-held box grater, shred the potatoes, distributing them on a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  

IMG_6100Note:  I hold the box grater several inches above the pan and move the grater back and forth as I work.  This allows the the potatoes to fall freely and randomly onto the pan.

IMG_6108~ Step 5. Season the potatoes with:

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

granulated onion powder

IMG_6114~ Step 4.  Lightly "spritz" the inside of 6, standard-size muffin cups with:

no-stick cooking spray.

Place a layer of shredded potatoes in the bottom of each cup.  Begin adding potatoes, working your way up and around the sides of, and slightly overlapping the top of, each cup, to build six "birds nests".

IMG_6121Note:  As you are building, "lightly" add the potatoes, meaning:  allow the sides to remain light and airy, and don't press them firmly against the sides or over the top of the pan.

IMG_6123That being said, if you have a wooden tart tamper, lightly pressing down on the bottom of each nest will make for a prettier presentation in the end!

IMG_6133 IMG_6126~ Step 6. Bake the empty nests on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven until lightly golden, about 12-14 minutes.

Note:  Remember, these are going to bake again once the eggs go into them, so don't let them start to burn.

Remove from oven, place the pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely, about 45 minutes.

IMG_6149~ Step 7.  While the nests are cooling, bring:

6  large eggs

to room temperature.

IMG_6146Carefully crack one egg into the center of each nest and season with:

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

IMG_6163 IMG_6153                                              ~ Step 8. Bake eggs on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, until eggs are done to your liking.  My family likes them with soft, runny yolks, which takes 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, slide a thin spatula down the side and underneath each nest, remove from pan and serve immediately:

IMG_6231Baked Eggs in Birds Nests (Hash Brown Potatoes):  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  microwave oven; paring knife; box grater; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; standard-size muffin pan; wooden tart tamper (optional); cooling rack; thin spatula

IMG_7504Cook's Note:  If you are a lover of runny yolks (as am I), back in December I posted my recipe for ~ A Simply Satisfying Breakfast: Soft-Cooked Eggs ~.  You can find it in Categories 9 or 20!

Shortly after I posted this recipe, a lot of you wanted to know more about these adorable chick-a-dee egg cups.  I can't guarantee they're still available, but I bought them back in December and found them on amazon.com!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

05/05/2013

~The Benefits of Baking Eggs & Bacon for Breakfast~

IMG_6036Sunday mornings in my kitchen involve taking the time to cook a sit-down, late-morning breakfast.  In the Summer we love to eat out on our deck and watch the joggers and bikers head up to Tussey Mountain, and, in the Winter we eat in the kitchen and watch the skiers come down "the mountain".  Joe and I have been empty nesters for about 19 years now, so perking some coffee, toasting some sort of bread, cooking a few eggs in any number of ways, and, frying some ham, bacon or sausage is a pretty easy thing to do for two.  But, it wasn't always this way:

IMG_6067Cooking breakfast for 3 teens + 1 hungry hubby = 1 dozen eggs! 

PICT0061During the 1980's and 1990's we were raising three little boys with tiny appetites who turned into teenagers with tapeworms. Cooking breakfast for 3 teens + a hungry hubby = 1 dozen eggs.  It's shocking.  Scrambled egg days were a cinch... cook 'em in a big skillet and scoop 'em out.  However, in order to get everybody out the door at the same time, "sunny-side-up" egg days were  challenging!

IMG_3840During those years, I developed a couple of time-saving breakfast tricks that work great to date. Nowadays I use them both when we entertain a few overnight guests:

1)  My mess-free method for making a lot of bacon all at once, ~ Crispy Oven-Roasted Bacon ~ can be found in Categories 9, 15 or 20!

Place the bacon in a disposable aluminum broiling pan.  Roast in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Drain and serve.  How easy is that!

IMG_59062)  Baking eggs in standard-sized muffin pans has been on B&B menus for years, which is where I first ate bacon-wrapped baked eggs.  It's a perfect way to make and serve a lot of eggs all at once.  My kids loved when I made them and they named them "bacon and egg muffins".  Then, one sunny-side-up-egg day, it occurred to me to use my muffin-top pans to bake sunny-side-up eggs too.  I never looked back!

IMG_6031Note:  There are lots of creative variations for eggs that are baked in muffin pans. "Baked eggs in birdsnests" for instance, line the muffin cups with hash brown potatoes.  Others contain toasted bread, cooked ham or sausage and/or sauted vegetables.  Here are my two go-to basic recipes:

How to make standard-size "Bacon and Baked Egg Muffins":

IMG_5909~ Step 1.  In a 375 degree oven, oven-roast, as directed above:

1 strip of thick-sliced bacon 

for every egg you are making, but, remove from oven after just 12-14 minutes.  Bacon will be partially-cooked.  Wrap each strip around the perimeter of each muffin cup.

Into each, carefully crack and add:

1  jumbo egg, at room temperature

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_5921~ Step 2.  In a 375 degree oven, bake until eggs are done to your liking.  My family likes them with soft runny yolks which takes 10 minutes.

Note:  Smaller-sized eggs bake in less time, so prepare for that if using extra-large or large eggs.  But take it from me: jumbo eggs fill each muffin cup almost to the brim and bake up perfectly every time!

Slide a thin spatuala down the side and underneath each egg, remove from pan and serve immediately:

IMG_5971

 

How to make muffin-top "Baked Sunny-Side-Up Eggs":

IMG_5993~ Step 1.  In a 375 degree oven, oven-roast, as directed above:

1  strip of thick-sliced bacon

for every sunny-side-up egg you are making, about 20-25 minutes, or until fully-cooked to your liking. Remove from oven and set aside.

Into each muffin-top, crack & add:

1  jumbo egg, at room temperature

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_5997~ Step 2.  In a 375 degree oven, bake until eggs are done to your liking.  We like soft runny yolks, which takes about 6 minutes.

Note:  Smaller-sized eggs bake in less time, so prepare for that if using extra-large or large eggs.  But take it from me:  jumbo eggs fill each muffin-top cup almost to the brim and bake up perfectly each time!

Slide a thin spatula down the side and underneath each egg, remove from pan and serve immediately:

IMG_6027The Benefits of Baking Eggs for Breakfast/Brunch:  Recipe yields instructions for baking as many eggs and bacon, in either of two ways, as you want.

Special Equipment List:  11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan(s), the kind w/corrugated bottom, standard-size muffin pan(s); standard-size muffin-top pan(s); thin spatula 

IMG_2753Cook's Note: Breakfast casseroles were invented for people who want to get all of the work done the night before.  You can find my recipe for ~ English Muffins, Sweet Sausage, Eggs & Cheese:  My Super-Simple Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole ~  in Categories 9, 17 or 20.  It feeds 12...  what's not to love about that!    

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/03/2013

~ Shrimp Etouffee: A Hallmark of Louisiana Cuisine ~

IMG_5822Of all the wonderful places in the world we've traveled to, and, spent enough time in to get to know the people and their food, New Orleans is my all-time favorite.  Joe's and my feet first hit Bourbon Street in 1983.  I had just turned 30 and was well on my way to fine-tuning my life as a foodie.  I'd done my homework and had a list of all sorts of fine-dining restaurants, sandwich shops and cafes I wanted to eat in, as well as a list of hallmark foods I wanted to try!

How I ate my way through NOLA & where I first ate etouffee!

6a0120a8551282970b016762c4cb9c970b-800wiOn that trip we stayed at the Fairmont Hotel, which has since been renovated and reopened as the Roosevelt Hotel.  This classy, historic place is famous for its Sazarac Bar & Sazarac Cocktail (a rye-, bitters- and Absinthe-based drink).  Our first stop was Galatoires, and, before we even got there, I knew I'd be trying their signature shrimp remoulade.  Throughout the week:  At Brennan's, for breakfast, we ate many beignets and eggs all sorts of ways (a la Clark, a la Nouvelle, Portuguese and Sardou too). Of course we drank our hurricane's at Pat O'Brien's, but, they serve aweome food too, and, if you're ever there, be sure to try their gumbo, jambalaya, or red beans and rice.  Thanks to street vendors on every corner, I got addicted to the real-deal 'po boy sandwich (I know I ate at least 5 or 6 on that trip).  At Arnaud's I inhaled a Beef Wellington... not an entire filet from a larger cut, but a life-changing, individually wrapped one served with peppercorn sauce.  At Antoine's I don't remember what I ate because my mind remains fixated on the Crepes Suzette flamed in orange liqueur.  Lastly, there was Commander's Palace.  I had saved this culinary experience for our grand finale and was so excited to eat a meal prepared by the revered Executive Chef Paul Prudhomme.  Imagine my letdown when I learned he had recently turned his kitchen reins over to an up-and-coming new chef on the NOLA scene:  it was Executive Chef Emeril Lagasse's crawfish etouffee I ate that night -- need I say any more?

6a0120a8551282970b016301cf18e1970d-800wiIf you want to taste some of the NOLA fare I have fallen in love with:

My recipe for ~ Mardi Gras Shrimp Remoulade a la Galatoire's ~ (mentioned above and pictured here), can be found in Categories 1, 2, 10, 11, 14 or 17!  

My recipe for ~ Louisiana's Famous Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwiches ~ (mentioned above and pictured above), can be found in Categories 2, 11 or 14!!

IMG_2070 IMG_2081~ My Love Affair with: Individual Beef Wellingtons ~ continues to this day.  You can find this spectacular (if I do say so myself) recipe in Categories  3 or 21!

In case you haven't figured it out yet,  if you're a foodie, two weeks in New Orleans will change your life!

IMG_5803A bit about etouffee (ay-TOO-fay): One of New Orlean's hallmark dishes, it is basically a thick, spicy, maindish shellfish stew served over cooked white rice*.  It is neither brothy or soupy.  Originally a dish found in the Bayou and backwaters of Louisiana, it was introduced to New Orleans restaurants about 80 years ago, and, nowadays, many restaurants will tell you it is the most popular dish on their menu.

In French, the word "etouffee" means "smothered" or "suffocated".  Etouffee recipes are found in both Cajun and Creole cuisines and are seasoned as such, with either Cajun or Creole seasoning.  The smothery sauce is made with a flour-and-butter-based golden brown roux**, the "Holy Trinity" (onion, celery and green pepper), seafood stock***, and, one type of shellfish (crawfish, shrimp or crab), not a combination of shellfish.  Fresh or canned tomatoes are optional.  In New Orleans, crawfish etouffee is classic.  Here in the 'burbs, shrimp will do nicely!

IMG_5689* No people take their rice more seriously than the people of New Orleans, and I was surprised to learn they have their own method for cooking it.  Their Creole technique differs from the conventional method in that the ratio of water to rice is 4:1 instead of 2:1, it gets boiled and drained (similar to cooking pasta), and, it gets finished off in a low 325 degree oven.  You can find my version of ~ Commander's Kitchen's Recipe for: "Boiled" Rice ~ in Category 4!

PICT0002**  At some point in time, cooks of all levels of expertise encounter a hot food, usually a liquid, that needs to be thickened.  Whether it's a soup, a stew, a sauce or a gravy, knowing or not knowing how to do this can and will make or break an otherwise great recipe.  To learn all about this techniquie, read:  ~ How to: Make a Roux & Slurry (to Thicken Foods) ~ in Category 15!

IMG_5456*** You've heard me say it many times, "you only get out of something what you put into it" and homemade stock is the blueprint to the success or failure of many a recipe. Making shrimp stock couldn't be easier.  All you need to do is:  ~ Save Those Shrimp Shells!!!  Because I Said So!!! (How to:  Make a Basic Shrimp Stock a la Melanie) ~.  Find the the recipe in Categories 14, 15 or 22!

It's time to make some excellent etouffee!

IMG_5697

2 1/2-3  pounds medium shrimp (51-60 count), peeled, deveined and tails off  

2  tablespoons Creole seasoning, 2 total tablespoons throughout recipe,  1 tablespoon for seasoning the shrimp and 1 tablespoon for seasoning the roux

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

3/4  cup diced celery

1/2  cup finely-diced green bell pepper

2 large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

7  tablespoons unsalted butter 

5  tablespoons all-purpose flour

3  cups shrimp stock, prepared as directed above (canned seafood stock may be substituted), heated to steaming, 3 cups total throughout recipe 

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

2  fresh bay leaves, or 3-4 dried bay leaves

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1  teaspoon Louisiana Gold hot sauce, more or less, to taste

2x  recipe for Commander's Kitchen's "Boiled" Rice, prepared as directed, or, 6 cups of cooked or steamed white rice (3 cups before cooking), your favorite recipe

minced fresh parsley and/or parsley sprigs, for garnish

IMG_5701~ Step 1.  Prepare the shrimp stock as directed and set aside.  Prep the shrimp as directed (remember to save and freeze those shells for next time).  Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Creole seasoning and set aside.  Prep the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic as pictured above and set aside. Prepare the rice as directed or your favorite way, and set aside.

Things are ready to rock and roll:

PICT0003 PICT0008 PICT0016~ Step 2.  In 12" skillet, melt butter over low heat, increase to medium, add flour and whisk until the color of peanut butter...

IMG_5715 IMG_5710~ Step 3.  ... this will take 3-4 minutes depending upon the heat of your stove.  Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning to the roux.  Using a large spoon, stir to form a paste.

IMG_5728~ Step 4.  Adjust the heat to medium and add some hot shrimp stock, 1/2 cup at a time until 2 cups of total stock has been added, allowing the mixture to thicken each time you add the stock.  This will only take 20-30 seconds after each addition. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for about 30-60 more seconds. The mixture should look like gravy, not too thick and not too thin. Stir in the bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

IMG_5745 IMG_5738                                          ~ Step 5. Add the last 1 cup of shrimp stock.

Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer and continue to simmer until the mixture is once again thickened to the consistency of gravy and reduced by about one-third, about 25-35 minutes.

IMG_5765Optional Note.  At this point I turn the heat off, place a lid on the skillet and allow the mixture to steep for 1-2 hours.  Besides the obvious benefit of better flavor, this also gives you the opportunity to prepare etoufee in advance of serving, which is particularly convenient if you're serving it to guests!  T.G.I.F!!! 

IMG_5772~ Step 6.  Add the seasoned shrimp to the gently simmering sauce. Continue to cook until pink and just cooked through.  In the case of medium-shrimp, this will take about 4-5 minutes.

Note:  Some folks like larger shrimp, but, in our family, we prefer them slightly smaller (not too small), just bite-sized, succulent shrimp in each and every last bite of our etouffee!

IMG_5789 IMG_5798 IMG_5803~ Step 7. Make a bed of rice on each plate. Smother rice with etouffee. Top  with a bit more rice and some minced parsley!

IMG_5860Shrimp Etouffee:  A Hallmark of Louisiana Cuisine:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet w/lid, preferably nonstick; whisk; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017c33da8ae6970b-800wiCook's Note:  Every dessert in Louisiana is outstanding, and it's hard to single out just one, but, if it's a classic New Orleans recipe you're looking for,  you might want to try ~ A Holiday Tradition:  My Bourbon Street Pecan Pie ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 6, 11 or 18!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

05/01/2013

~ Commander's Kitchen's Recipe for: "Boiled" Rice ~

IMG_5689Sometimes we cooks take the simplest of things for granted.  We intuitively know what spices, herbs, vegetables and/or fruits to add to a pot of perfectly-cooked, fluffy white rice to turn it into a spectacular side-dish.  We instinctively use this inexpensive grain as a foil to stretch a meal that feeds a family of four into a meal that feeds six-to-eight.  We grew up eating it, we make it for our families, we keep it on hand in our pantries, we order it in restaurants and we don't talk about it very much.  After all... it's just rice.  Measure it, cook it, fluff it, serve it... what's to talk about!

6a0120a8551282970b014e87dacbcc970d-800wiI've never had any problems cooking rice via the old-as-the-hills conventional "2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice" method on the stovetop, but a lot of you have.  So much so, that your questions prompted me to write a post about it back in April of 2011.  You can learn ~ How to:  Cook Perfect White Rice on the Stovetop ~, the way my grandmother taught me how to do it, in Categories 4 or 15. To date, not one blogging day has passed that my simple and straightforward rice post hasn't garnered me and KE several hits!

IMG_5456Over the past few days, I've been posting some fun recipes for Cajun-Creole New Orleans-style food.  On Friday I posted my recipe for ~ Save Those Shrimp Shells!!!  Because I Said So!!! (How to:  Make a Basic Shrimp Stock a la Melanie) ~, in Categories  14, 15 or 22.  Tomorrow I will be using that stock to make ~ Shrimp Etouffee: A Hallmark of Louisiana Cuisine ~.  It will be found in Categories 2, 3, 14 or 19!

IMG_5622On my first trip to NOLA back in 1983, not only did I eat my way through that amazing city, I came back with a stack of amazing cookbooks. I learned that no people take their rice more seriously than the people of New Orleans, and I was surprised to learn they have their own method for cooking it.  It too is simple and straightforward, but their method is more like cooking pasta than rice.  Also, it starts out on the stovetop and finishes in the oven... this was unconventional news to me. Because I got my very first taste of Etouffee in Commander's Palace back in 1983, it's appropriate to feature their cookbook, and, their method for cooking their rice with you.  Without further adieu :

Boiled Creole Rice a la Commander's Kitchen Cookbook:

6a0120a8551282970b014e87dacfb9970d-320wi"Rice is the major staple of Louisiana cooking, and it's always called boiled rice, not steamed rice, probably because you keep the water boiling.  With so many meandering rivers, lakes, streams and bayous slicing through the state, Louisiana has lots of the boggy flatlands where rice thrives almost effortlessly.  It's so abundant that we're always using it to stretch a meal for unexpected guests.  We serve boiled rice in cakes, as hot calas (rice cakes served with cane syrup), in rice dressing, in stuffing, in jambalaya, with red beans, and on and on." ...  

... "We serve long-grain and short-grain.  Our rice is unusual in that it starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven.  This is a true Creole technique.  You're probably accustomed to a much smaller ratio of water to rice.  The process of dumping the excess water, then finishing the cooking in the oven is what we call "sweating the rice"."

(Note from Mel:  In the event you are not inclined to experiment with a new way to cook rice, feel free to stick to my conventional method or your own favorite way to cook it.  Why?  Because there is no gray area with rice:  either the grains fluff and separate in the end, or you've got pasty glop.  I enjoyed trying this Creole method out, and, once I got the hang of it (which required a couple of adjustments on my part), it did work beautifully.   I will say this:  if you are cooking Louisiana fare, and don't have time for trial and error, cook the rice the way you always do and just add some bay leaves during the cooking process... they add a lovely fragrance and flavor!

6a0120a8551282970b014e60f63889970c-320wi1  cup extra long-grain or long-grain white rice

1 quart water

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2 fresh bay leaves, or 3-4 dried

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

1-2  tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

6a0120a8551282970b014e60f63023970c-320wi~ Step 1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

~ Step 2.  Wash the rice three times with cold water, stirring the rice with your hands and draining the water each time.  Drain thoroughly, until grains are almost dry again.

6a0120a8551282970b01538de20285970b-320wi~ Step 3.  Bring the water and salt to a rolling boil in a large ovenproof pot that has a lid.  

Sprinkle in the rice, add bay leaves, and stir occasionally and gently with a wooden spoon until water returns to a boil, about 30-60 seconds.

Note:  Stirring will release the starch, so avoid overstirring. Once the water returns to boiling, do not stir at all for the rest of the cooking process.  The boiling prevents the rice from sticking.

IMG_5634~ Step 4.  Cover the pot, but with the lid slightly ajar, to let steam out. Continue boiling for about 9-10 minutes, or until the grains swell and become tender to the touch.

~ Step 5.  Drain the rice by creating a small opening between the lid and the pot.  Remove the lid.  

IMG_5640Season top of rice with salt, pepper and dots of butter.   

~ Step 6.  Place pot, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven for 5-6 minutes, taking care not to brown it.  Do not stir during this time.  Remove pot from oven and fluff/rake through the rice with a fork.  Using a large spoon, remove rice from pot and immediately place in a bowl to prevent carryover heat from over-cooking it.  Serve immediately or use as directed:

IMG_5822Commander's Kitchen's Recipe for:  "Boiled" Rice:  Recipe yields 4, 2/3 cup servings, or, about 2 2/3 cups cooked rice.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart stockpot w/lid; colandar; wooden spoon

Cook's Note:  While we Yankees eat potatoes with most traditional meals, rice takes center stage in Cajun and Creole cuisine.  The average Cajun or Creole would give the average Chinese a run for his or her money in rice consumption... and they have little patience for exotic varieties such as arborio, basmati or jasmine either.  The great state of Louisiana is the third largest producer of rice in the United States.  Their love of rice is linked to the influence of the Spanish who colonized Louisiana and had enormous influence on their cuisine.  This is similar to the influence the Northern and Eastern European potato-eaters had on the rest of us!

6a0120a8551282970b01774381887b970d-800wiExtra Cook's Note:  We love rice in our house and sometimes I like to make it in an electric rice steamer too.  I use rice in all sorts of different ways. Here's one of my favorites: ~ Leftover Rice?  Use it to Make Chinese Fried Rice ~.  My recipe is in Categories 3, 4, 13 or 14!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)