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12 posts from June 2017

06/30/2017

~Dare to be Square: Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares~

IMG_0990Pan cookies.  That's what I called this oldie-but-goodie recipe way back when my mom used to make them in the 1970's.  She made Magic Cookie Squares and a Wacky Cake in that 9" x 13" aluminum pan too, but, when I asked for pan cookies, or, when she announced she was making pan cookies, it meant one thing:  The Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Pan Cookie -- the one printed on the back of their bags of semi-sweet chocolate morsels (and currently on their website).  It also meant that besides a few days of great after-school snacks, there'd be a freshly-baked warm one on all of our plates, with a scoop of ice-cream on top, for dessert after dinner.

Crispy on the outside w/a chewy soft chocolate center.  Sigh.

IMG_1027Baking chocolate chip cookies is easy, but baking chocolate chip pan cookie squares is even easier.  If you're in the midst of an uncontrollable chocolate chip cookie craving, bake pan cookies  -- in less time with less mess and zero stress, you'll be eating thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie squares loaded with lots of ooey gooey chocolate chips.  No electric mixer required and no need to chill the dough either.  There's more.  With my version of the classic recipe, you don't even have to wait for the butter to soften -- just melt it in the microwave.  Mix 'em, bake 'em, cut 'em and stack 'em up next to a big mug of your favorite coffee or a glass of milk and indulge. 

IMG_09102 cups + 2  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  large egg + 1 large egg yolk

2  teaspoons pure chocolate extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  cup lightly-packed light brown sugar

1/2  cup sugar 

12  tablespoons salted butter (1 1/2 sticks)  

2  cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels, or, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels + 1 cup milk-chocolate morsels

1  cup chopped walnuts (optional)

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_8827 IMG_0920 IMG_0912~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, using a spoon, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk the egg, egg yolk, chocolate extract and vanilla extract.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, place the brown sugar and granulated sugar.  In the microwave, melt the butter.

IMG_0923 IMG_0925 IMG_0926 IMG_0928 IMG_0931 IMG_0932~Step 2.  In the large bowl, using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly stir together the brown sugar, sugar and the melted butter.  Add and thoroughly incorporate the egg/extract mixture, then, add and fold in the flour mixture until just combined.  A thick cookie dough will have formed.  Fold in the chocolate morsels (and the optional walnuts too).

IMG_0936 IMG_0939 IMG_0940~Step 3.  Spray a 9" x 9" x 2" square baking pan w/a removable bottom (or a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan) with cooking spray.   Transfer the cookie dough to the pan.  Using the rubber spatula, spread the dough throughout the bottom of the pan, doing your best to form a smooth-topped layer of even thickness throughout.

IMG_0944 IMG_0947~ Step 4.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325° oven, 24-26 minutes, until puffy and lightly-browned on top.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, in pan, 1 hour.  Remove from pan by pushing up on the bottom and return to wire rack to cool completely, 1 hour, prior to slicing and serving.  Note:  It might be necessary to run a paring knife around the sides of the pan if cookie has not baked cleanly away from sides.

Mix, bake, slice & eat with your favorite mug of your favorite coffee (while reading your favorite cooking blog):

IMG_0995Dare to be Square:  Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares:  Recipe yields 32, 2 1/4"-square pan cookies, which after cooling, can be cut, individually wrapped and frozen.

Special Equipment List: spoon; fork; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; 9" x 9" x 2" baking pan w/removable bottom, or, 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan; wire cooling rack; paring knife  

IMG_9703Cook's Note:  For generations, we Americans have had a love affair with chocolate chip cookies. Surveys unanimously and overwhelmingly place the chocolate chip cookie at the top of our all-time favorite cookie list for over three-quarters of our population, and, it all started with the all-American Toll House cookie.  Who do we thank for and what's the history behind this iconic cookie?  To find out, read my post  ~ The Original Nestlé's Toll House Cookie Recipe ~.  Trust me. I'm certain you'll find it fascinating.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/28/2017

~ Sausage, Pepper and Onion Pasta or Pizza Sauce ~

IMG_0874Spaghetti with ground meat sauce.  It's an all-American Italian-American classic that makes short work of pleasing all the people all the time (while feeding all of them at the same time) -- especially kids.  Ground beef, diced onion, crushed tomatoes, herbs and seasonings.  It might be basic and simple, but it's a meal everyone wants to come home to.  I raised three boys, and, in terms of spaghetti with meat sauce, there was one variation they enjoyed with equal enthusiasm: my bolder, fuller-flavored "sausage sandwich sauce"  -- that is what they affectionately named it.

"Sausage sandwich sauce."  That's what my boys named it.

IMG_0899If you're familiar with the fixings for the beloved and classic Italian-American sausage sandwich (sautéed or grilled sausage links or patties, bell peppers and onions), it's obvious why my kids astutely named it "sausage sandwich sauce".  My thick, rich, sausage, pepper and onion sauce is perfect for pasta and pizza -- it's like eating a sausage sandwich served on pasta or pizza (rather than heaped atop a sandwich roll or slathered over a pizza crust).  There's more.  Unlike traditional Italian meat sauces, which simmer low and slow for a long time to develop the flavor, this one can be made quickly -- about 15 minutes to prep the ingredients, 15 minutes to sauté the meat and veggies, and, 15 minutes to simmer the actual sauce.  Cook the pasta while the sauce is simmering and voila:  dinner is on the table in 45 short minutes.  Tell me -- what's not to love.

All the flavor of a sausage sandwich -- on pasta or pizza

IMG_07934  tablespoons olive oil

12-16  ounces sweet or hot Italian sausage (or a combination of both), casings removed, pulled into small bits and pieces

6  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

6  ounces diced green bell pepper

6  ounces diced red bell pepper

2  teaspoons dried oregano

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2   teaspoon sugar

1 1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2  cup Chianti (an Italian red wine), or Port wine

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

2  28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (6 cups crushed tomatoes)

IMG_0798 IMG_0802 IMG_0805~ Step 1.  Place the olive oil in the bottom of a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight deep sides. Using your fingertips, quickly pull and drop small bits of sausage into the pan -- it ok if they overlap or fall on top of each other. Sauté over medium-high heat, using a spatula to keep the meat moving constantly, just until sausage bits have started to firm up and have lost almost all of their pink color, about 2-3 minutes.

Note:  Why pull the sausage apart first rather than break it up with a spatula while it cooks (which is a bit easier)?  It's personal.  I like small, soft, succulent bits and pieces of cooked but unbrowned sausage swimming around in my sauce.  If it is put in the pan "as is" and broken up with a spatula as it cooks, a good deal of it starts to brown and crisp, which turns small, soft, succulent bits into bigger, harder, dried-out chunks and pieces.  My way is more refined.

IMG_0810 IMG_0814 IMG_0816~ Step 2.  Add onions and bell peppers to pan along with the seasonings (oregano, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt and black pepper).  Stir to combine and continue to sauté, stirring almost constantly, until vegetables are just softened, 5-6 minutes.  Do not overcook -- the bell peppers should still be colorful.

IMG_0819 IMG_0821 IMG_0825 IMG_0834~Step 3.  Stir the  wine into the vegetables, followed by the tomato paste.  When tomato paste is completely incorporated, add the crushed tomatoes.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.  There's no reason to cook this full-flavored sauce longer.  

Remove from heat & use to sauce pasta or pizza.

IMG_0845Or portion into food storage containers & freeze.

IMG_0856Tread lightly.  A little of this bold sauce goes a long way.

IMG_0882My Sausage, Pepper & Onion Pasta & Pizza Sauce:  Recipe yields 10 cups/enough to sauce 3 pounds of pasta/enough for 3 meals, or, enough to sauce 6, 12"-round pizzas.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; spatula; 1-cup measuring container; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017ee9a89cc2970dCook's Note:  Anyone who has raised children knows that Italian-American spaghetti and meatballs and many pasta dishes in general keep the complaints down to a minimum. Surely you didn't think I'd post today's sausage sauce without giving you the link to my ~ Pasta with Ground Meat Sauce ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/25/2017

~ Seriously Simple & Sweet: Fresh All Strawberry Pie ~

IMG_0773When it comes to freshly-picked, home-grown strawberries, past eating them out-of-hand, as a strawberry dessert lover, I'm a purest at heart.  Today's recipe is a perfect example.  I'd rather bake a smaller-sized pie that's loaded with lots of strawberries, than add another ingredient to them (because I don't have enough strawberries) to fill a bigger pie dish.  Note:  I have nothing (zero) against the quintessential strawberry-rhubarb pie concoction (we grow rhubarb in our garden too), I just prefer to indulge in a slice of pie containing all of one or all of the other.  Period.

IMG_4770My memories of fresh strawberry pie consist of two distinctly different versions.  The first, which I along with almost every other kid in 1960's America loved, was super-simple and made with strawberry-flavored Jell-O (gelatin).  This was the kind that was typically available in grocery stores during strawberry season (probably because the gelatin extended the pie's shelf life).  The second, which was more scratch made, was thickened with a pantry product called Sure-Jell (powdered pectin).  This was the kind made at home or found in bakeries during strawberry season.  For lack of a better word, the second pie was less gelatinous than the first, but, both pies were good in their own right.  That said, as a discerning adult, the latter is far superior to the first.

IMG_0690Today's pie is a 6 1/2" pie.  

When I bake half-sized pies I bake them in pie dishes that measure 5" across the bottom, 6 1/2" across the top, and, are 1 3/4" deep.  To make a full-sized, standard 9" pie, simply double my pie filling recipe.

Double my pie filling recipe to make a full-sized, standard 9" pie.

IMG_0682To make a half-sized pie pastry shell, you need pie pastry, and, to make 1, 6 1/2" round shell, you need two-thirds the amount you would use to make one, 9" single-crust pie.  Use your favorite recipe or click here to get my recipe for ~ Making Pâte Brisée: Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~.  That said, when I'm making a half-sized shell, the perfect size to feed four people, I feel no guilt in using a store-bought crust to save time.  It bakes up golden and no ever complains.

IMG_0683Blind-bake or bake-blind, is the English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled.  There are two instances when you need to prebake your pie pastry:  #1)  A pastry shell that, once the filling is added, does not return to the oven for further baking, and, #2)  A pastry shell that will get filled with a custard, cream, mousse or fully-cooked/ready-to-eat filling and will return to the oven for further baking. In this application, the degree to which you prebake the pastry (barely brown, lightly brown, golden brown) is determined by the length of time it will take the filled pie to finish baking, meaning:  the longer it takes the pie filling to bake, the lighter in color the prebaked crust should be when it goes into the oven, so, always follow the recipe's instructions. For more specifics, read ~ How to: Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell (Baking Blind) ~.  Today's pie pastry: has been baked in a 425° oven for 8-9 minutes and has been completely cooled on a wire rack.

My Seriously Simple & Sweet Strawberry Pie Filling:

IMG_06981  6 1/2" pie pastry, homemade or store-bought, blind-baked & cooled completely

1 1/2  pounds hulled fresh, whole strawberries

6  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon low-sugar Sure-Jell (powdered pectin)

1  tablespoon cornstarch

1  tablespoon lemon juice, fresh or high-quality Organic bottled lemon juice

1  tablespoon pure strawberry extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons water

IMG_0701~ Step 1.  Choose 10 of the prettiest, medium-sized hulled strawberries (about 4 ounces). Slice them on half and decoratively arrange them on a 6" dessert plate, or a plate roughly the size of the top of the pie dish.  Set them aside -- these are going to be the top of the pie.  Slice (the remaining) 1 pound, 4 ounces of strawberries to a thickness of 1/4" (about 4 cups sliced strawberries).

Place 2 cups of sliced berries in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade (to make the glaze) and set remaining 2 cups sliced berries aside (to make the filling).

IMG_0705 IMG_0708 IMG_0714 IMG_0722~Step 2.  To make the glaze,  to the 2 cups of sliced strawberries in the processor, add the sugar, powdered pectin, cornstarch, lemon juice, strawberry extract and vanilla extract.  Using a series of 10 rapid on-off pulses followed by the motor running for 30 seconds, purée the strawberries. Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart saucier or saucepan.  Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a boil and continue to boil until glaze has thickened, about 1 full minute.

IMG_0726 IMG_0733 IMG_0734 IMG_0739 IMG_0742 IMG_0749~Step 3.  To make the pie filling, remove the glaze from the heat, transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove 3 tablespoons of glaze from the bowl and place in a small bowl or ramekin. Add the remaining 2 cups of strawberries to the medium bowl of glaze.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold the strawberries into the glaze, to evenly coat the strawberries.  Using a tablespoon, stir the 1 1/2 tablespoons water into the 3 tablespoons remaining glaze.

IMG_0745 IMG_0754 IMG_0757~ Step 4.  Using a large spoon or spatula, spoon the pie filling into the prepared pie shell, leveling it so the strawberries remain flat.  Decoratively arrange the reserved strawberry halves over the top.  Using a pastry brush, paint the tops of the strawberry halves with the "watered down" glaze.  Refrigerate the pie, uncovered, until the glaze it set, about 2 hours, or until serving time (4-6 hours).  That said:  

This simply scrumptious pie is best served the day it's made.

IMG_0786Seriously Simple & Sweet:  Fresh All Strawberry Pie:  Recipe yields 1 half-sized pie/4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 1-quart saucier or saucepan; large spoon; large rubber spatula; pastry brush

IMG_5400Cook's Note:  There is a certain satisfaction in teaching people how to love food made from a misunderstood ingredient.  Rhubarb, sometimes called "the pie vegetable" is one such ingredient. The green-stalked rhubarb we grow in our garden was transplanted from my dad's garden, which was transplanted from his dad's garden. For those of you who like your rhubarb pie unadulterated, and that includes not too much sugar: ~ Pucker-Up for a Straight-Up Rhubarb Streusel Pie ~.  Give my very special recipe a try!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/23/2017

~ Simple & Sweet: Homemade Strawberry Topping ~

IMG_0672Strawberries, one of the first fruits to ripen in the Spring, are considered to be the fruit that announces "Summer is here", and, here in Central Pennsylvania, we've been enjoying our own homegrown and locally-grown farmers-market strawberries for a couple of weeks now.  From pancakes, waffles and French toast, to cheesecake, shortcake and ice-cream (to name a few), the 20-30 minutes it takes to make strawberry topping is well-worth the effort.  It's luscious.

Those who scratch-make this pretty-to-look-at positively-yummy tart-and-sweet topping make it to their own liking.  Some folks hull and toss the berries in whole, then after it has cooked, mash the mixture so it contains uniform-sized bits and pieces.  Some remove and purée a portion of the cooked topping, then, stir the purée back into the chunkier topping for a multi-textural experience. Others strain the cooked topping, to produce a thick, chunky topping in one container, and, a thin, drizzly sauce in another.  In all cases, it can be served hot, warm or chilled.  It's personal.

IMG_4770Simple, sweet & straightforward, here's my version:

All recipes for strawberry topping contain sugar and almost all contain vanilla extract and a bit of lemon juice too.  My recipe contains all three plus a full tablespoon of organic strawberry extract for an even fuller-flavor.  I do, however, do one thing different.  I like to use cornstarch to thicken the mixture.  This shortens the simmer time from about 15 minutes to 3 minutes, which means my strawberries maintain more of their shape and texture.  Mostly I do nothing with my topping after it comes off the stove, except let it cool to room temperature 1-2 hours prior to refrigerating it.  That said, on occasion I purée it with an immersion blender -- halfway until it is almost smooth with little pieces of strawberry in it, or, all the way, until it is completely smooth.  It's your choice.

IMG_06094-5  cups hulled & 1/4" sliced straw berries (1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds after hulling)

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons water

1  tablespoon pure strawberry extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  teaspoon lemon juice, fresh or high-quality Organic bottled lemon juice

2  tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water

2  drops red food coloring (optional)

IMG_0612 IMG_0618 IMG_0621 IMG_0615~Step 1.  Hull and slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in a saucier or saucepan as you work.  Add the sugar, water, extracts and lemon juice.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  Over medium- medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to a steady, gentle simmer.  While mixture it coming to a simmer, in a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water.

IMG_0624 IMG_0626 IMG_0629 IMG_0642~Step 2.  Drizzle the the milky-looking cornstarch/water mixture into the simmering strawberries -- it will change in appearance to clear and glistening as it simmers. Continue to gently simmer the strawberries until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 3 1/2-4 minutes. Stir in 1-2 drops of the optional red food coloring at this time -- not too much, just enough to boost the color a bit.

IMG_0642Remove from heat & serve warm, or, allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 1-2 hours, prior to refrigerating (which will thicken it a bit more) & serving cold.

IMG_0650Simple & Sweet:  Homemade Strawberry Topping:  Recipe yields 3 cups strawberry dessert topping.  Keep stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.  Do not freeze.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucier or 3-4-quart saucepan; large spoon

IMG_4966Cook's Note:  ~ Scrumptious Sweet-Cream-Biscuits & Strawberries (commonly referred to as Strawberry Short Cakes ~.  I grew up eating this classic dessert served on sponge cake -- which makes sense because sponge cake is a specialty of the Pennsylvania Deutsch.  If you grew up in New England, they put strawberries on short biscuits.  This makes sense because this type of short cake, called a biscuit by the British, was brought to America by the English settlers.  "Short" refers to their crumbly texture.  "Cake" refers to the fact that they sweeten them to make them more tender.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

06/21/2017

~The Ninety Nine Vermonster Cheddar Cheeseburger~

IMG_0498Ninety Nine is a restaurant and pub chain headquartered in Massachusetts, with over 100 locations throughout the Northeast.  With 47 locations in Massachusetts, 10 in Connecticut, 3 in Maine, 12 in New Hampshire and 2 in Rhode Island and 2 in Vermont, they know a thing or two about New-England-Style pub grub and hospitality.  They boast no-nonsense food at down-to-earth prices and "a passion to serve".  My one-and-only experience with a Ninety-Nine restaurant was in Vermont, and it was a very tasty one, in the form of a Vermonster of a cheeseburger.

99-logoWhile a big juicy cheeseburger with cheddar and bacon on it was neither new or surprising to me, I won't lie, it was the thought of sweet and savory sautéed onions and apples piled on top of it with a creamy maple syrup-laced mayonnaise slathered on the slightly-sweet potato roll that hooked me.  Once I read those words, I stopped reading the menu.

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 7.06.06 AMNinety Nine flame broils all of their burgers, and they are indeed juicy with the signature charred taste (a direct result of that cooking method). That said, I am an indoor/fair-weather outdoor kinda gal, and, even over an open flame, give me a cast-iron skillet with a lid and I'll make you a great burger that will compete with anyones.

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 7.06.33 AMGive me a skillet w/a lid & I'll make a burger that'll compete w/any.

While everyone, including me, likes a 'burger made over the high, but dry, heat of a charcoal or gas grill, I love a 'burger that is pan-seared, in its own juices, in a skillet.  I grew up eating them prepared exclusively in that manner, and, truthfully, before everyone had a grill in their backyard, so did everyone else.  Our grandmothers knew how to make great burgers -- moist and juicy with no lighter fluid or propane required.  Quite frankly, it's a lost art, and, I'm here to show you how to do it on your stovetop.  That said, in the Summer and Fall, I like to make 'burgers on my portable gas burner.  Why?  I can make them on my deck, your patio, and, at tailgate any time.

IMG_8577 IMG_8586 IMG_8593 IMG_8601Meet the Iwantani 35F portable butane stove.  With 15,000 BTU's it's a high-quality workhorse that comes in a nifty protective carry case too.  If you've always wanted a gas stove but circumstances prevent it, this $75-$80 piece of equipment is, without compromise, as good as any residential gas stove and far superior to every electric stove.  It turns on and off with one easy click (which is why it's been given the nickname "click-burner" stove) and regulates heat perfectly. On high, it's hot enough to stir-fry like a pro, and, on low, it will keep sauce simmering gently without any boil overs or fear of scorching.  It runs on inexpensive butane canisters (about $20 for a case of twelve) which will last 45-60 minutes each, depending on how high the flame is set.

Part One:  Making the Maple Mayonnaise

IMG_0482For the maple mayonnaise:

3/4  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup pure Vermont maple syrup

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

IMG_0486~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together the mayonnaise, maple syrup and pepper.  Cover w/plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Overnight is best.

Part Two:  Making the Toppings:

IMG_0494For the bacon and the sautéed onion and apple topping:

8  slices thick-sliced bacon bacon, fried crisp, drained & cut in half to form 16 pieces

3 1/2-4  cups peeled and 1/4"-thick sliced, "half-moon-shaped Vidalia onions, or other sweet onion (about 12 ounces)*

3 1/2-4 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith or Gala apples (3 apples, about 8 ounces each prior to peeling)*

4  tablespoons salted butter + 2 tablespoons bacon drippings (reserved from above)

1  tablespoon sugar

2  tablespoons pure maple syrup

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

*Note:  To insure even cooking, it is important to slice the onions and apples to a uniform thickness.  If you want them thicker, slice them thicker.  Also, don't worry if your apples turn a little brown while waiting to get added to the pan.  They are going to turn brown anyway in the skillet.

IMG_0528 IMG_0531 IMG_0534 IMG_0537~Step 1.  In 12" skillet, over medium- medium-high heat, fry bacon as directed.  Transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.  Remove and discard all but about 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet.  Over low heat, melt butter into the bacon drippings.  Add and stir in the onions, until thoroughly combined.  Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have lost a lot of their moisture, are limp, and steamed through, about 5-6 minutes.

IMG_0539 IMG_0542 IMG_0544 IMG_0548 IMG_0550~Step 2.  Add and stir the apples, sugar, maple syrup and pepper  into the onion mixture, until thoroughly combined.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the apples have lost their volume and are limp too, another 6 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Sauté, stirring constantly, like you would a stir-fry, 6 more minutes, until golden. Remove from heat and set aside (or, feel free to cook a bit longer if you want a deeper golden color*).

Note:  If deeper golden is desired, go another 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, but watch carefully as the sugar and maple syrups in this mixture can and will go from brown to burned in an instant.  

Part Three:  Making the Cheeseburgers

IMG_0556For 4 cheeseburgers and the assembly:

1 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

8  slices yellow cheddar cheese

all the fried bacon

all the onion and apple topping

all the maple mayonnaise 

4  potato hamburger rolls

IMG_0524 IMG_8638 IMG_8647~Step 1.  Divide the meat into 4, 6-ounce portions. Form each portion into a 4"-4 1/2"-round disc, approximately 1/2" thick. Place hamburgers in the skillet and season them liberally with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Turn the "click burner" on and adjust the heat to medium high.

IMG_8655 IMG_8665 IMG_8668 IMG_8673 IMG_0561~Step 2.  Cook 'burgers on first side six minutes.  Flip them over on their second sides, and, this time, lightly season them (less than the first side) with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Reduce heat to medium- medium-low and continue to cook another six minutes.  Place two slices of cheese on each 'burger, put lid on skillet, turn heat off, and wait, for the cheese to melt, 1-1 1/2 minutes.

Slather each potato roll w/maple mayo, place a cheddar-'burger on top + two half-slices bacon & a big scoop of onion-apple sauté:

IMG_0506Enjoy every last delightful sweet, savory & slightly-salty bite:

IMG_0583The Ninety Nine Vermonster Cheddar Cheeseburger:  Recipe yields 4 large cheeseburgers.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon; 12" skillet w/lid; paper towels; cutting board; vegetable peeler; paring knife; large slotted spoon; spatula

IMG_8160Cook's Note:  For those who don't eat red meat, Ninety Nine will happily make you a turkey burger instead.  For those who want to ~ Know the Pros & 'Cons' of Ground Turkey or Beef ~, just read my post.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/18/2017

~ A Classic Cobb Salad: Open-Faced Sandwich-Style ~

IMG_0427 (1)A restaurant that serves a great Cobb or chef's salad for lunch is a restaurant I will frequent.  Like Seinfeld's Elaine, I like a big salad, light on the lettuce with a lot of perfectly-cooked good stuff in it, right down to more-than-a-few crunchy, buttery-rich croutons on top.  The Cobb and chef's salads are both "composed salads", meaning, they are a pretty-to-look-at, arranged-on-a-plate, high-quality, meal unto themselves -- a perfectly-balanced mixture of color, flavor and texture.  At the discretion of the chef, a combination of impeccably-fresh and perfectly-cooked ingredients (via poaching, simmering, boiling, marinating, roasting, broiling, baking, grilling, etc.) get carefully-selected and meticulously sliced, diced or minced, pulled, julienned or chiffonade.  

The making of a composed salad is:  a cooking lesson unto itself.

IMG_0455Cobb & chef's salad are two distinctly different composed salads.

250px-Chef_SaladWhile the Cobb and chef salad are both composed salads, they are distinctly different. Historically, the chef salad was the precursor to a 17th Century protein-packed meal called salmagundi.  It consisted of cooked meat, poultry or fish, various cheeses, fresh, blanched or marinated vegetables, cooked eggs and/or toasted nuts or seeds, served on a bed of greens with a vinaigrette.  That said, Chef Louis Diat of The Ritz is credited for popularizing it in the 1940's. (Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Cobb_salad _21_July_2008The Cobb salad (affectionately called the California Cobb) was invented in 1937 at Hollywood's Brown Derby Restaurant by the owner, Robert Cobb.  It's said to have been composed for some hungry late night diners.  Mr. Cobb carefully chose from a variety of uniformly sliced and diced ingredients from the day's fare, arranging them in unusually neat lines atop a bed of lettuce as he plated.  Shortly thereafter, his work-of-art salad became a famous menu item.

While a chef salad can contain any number of ingredients, the Cobb salad is quite specific.  It starts with a lettuce mixture, typically, iceberg, romaine and a few bitter greens too, which dramatically afters the flavor profile of the salad, making it much more interesting.  While poached or roasted chicken breast is classic, ham is sometimes substituted, and crisply-fried bacon always makes an appearance.  Other must-haves are: hard-cooked egg, avocado, tomato, and, blue or roquefort cheese.  Buttery croutons add the crunch and a red-wine vinaigrette pulls it all together.

My favorite version of the perfect classic Cobb salad... 

IMG_0388Start with a chiffonade of ice-cold, crispy romaine lettuce topped with decoratively arranged thinly-sliced fork-tender, all-white meat poached chicken breast, and some chards of crispy oven-roasted bacon bits.  Arrange some tender hard-cooked eggs (with bright yellow yolks -- no horrid gray halos), acidy tomato, mellow Hass avocado and sharp red onion atop or around the chicken. Sprinkle with a generous amount of tangy blue cheese crumbles and a few buttery French-bread homemade croutons.  It's customary to serve it with red-wine vinaigrette and my recipe takes a back seat to none.  That said, my husband prefers his Cobb salad with blue cheese dressing

IMG_0445... is served atop one big, buttery, French bread crouton! 

IMG_0348"Crouton" is our English word for any small piece of plain or seasoned, sliced or cubed, toasted or fried bread used to accompany or garnish soups, salads and other dishes.  It is derived from the French word "croûton" (kroo-tawn) which the French define as a small piece of bread or snack bread usually served with drinks.  "Croûte" (kroot) is the French word for crust and "en croûte" refers to food wrapped in or IMG_0350topped with a pastry crust then baked until the pastry is golden.

1  3-ounce, 6" long French demi baguette, trimmed lengthwise through the center to form 2, 1/2"-thick slices of 6" long bread

4  tablespoons salted butter

1/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon white pepper

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09a6f400970d IMG_0356Over medium heat, melt garlic powder and pepper into butter in a 10" nonstick skillet. Increase heat to medium-high and fry the bread, until lightly golden on both sides, turning only once, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Transfer bread to a paper-towel-lined plate to cool to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes.  Do not over-crisp.

Note:  Do not over-crisp the bread-slice crouton.  Unlike croutons used on  salad, these are best if they have a bit of chew to them, meaning:  crispy yet soft enough to cut through with a knife.

IMG_0394 IMG_0398 IMG_0401 IMG_0403Arrange about 1/2 cup chiffonade of romaine atop 1, 6"-long French bread crouton.  Place 5-6 small poached chicken slices alternately with 5-6 small red onion rings on top of the lettuce. On top of the chicken and onions, arrange 3-4 thin slices hard-cooked egg, 3-4 thin slices avocado and 6-8 slices grape tomato coins.  Garnish with some fried bacon bits or chards and blue cheese crumbles over all, drizzle with red wine vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Serve immediately with a nice glass of your favorite white wine: 

IMG_0454A Classic Cobb Salad:  Open-Faced Sandwich-Style:  Recipe yields instructions to make open-faced sandwich-style salads/1 serving each.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; chef's knife 10" nonstick skillet; paper towels

IMG_0869Cook's NoteThe 1905 salad.  Never heard of it?  You haven't traveled to Florida very often.  The Columbia Restaurant, now a chain of six or seven restaurants (I've lost track) throughout The Sunshine State, is a fourth-generation family business that specializes in really good Spanish food at reasonable prices. Their signature dish is a chef's salad with a lemony vinaigrette -- it's one of my all-time favorites.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/15/2017

~ In a Pie Shell: A Pie Filling is Thicker than Pudding ~

IMG_0286"What's the difference between pie filling and pudding?"  That was the question that came across my desk last week, and, when you ask, I always answer.  "I can't seem to find any recipes for pudding on your blog."  That was the comment that followed the question that came across my desk last week, and, when it is brought to my attention that my blog is lacking something, I fix it.  

Thank-you Missy.  You triggered my writing three pudding posts, ~ Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding ~, ~ Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding ~ and ~ Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding ~, one pie post, ~ How to: Make a Better Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pie , and, as a bonus, ~ How to: Cut, Form & Bake Small Pie Pastry Shells.  This is my last post on the subject (for now at least) and I'm reasonably certain I covered the topic thoroughly.  It was a tasty week.

IMG_0317What is the difference between a pudding & a pie filling?

There are exceptions to every rule and a lot of overlaps, but, here in the United States, "pudding" is the word used to describe a creamy, smooth milk-based dessert that is thickened by a starch, usually cornstarch.  On the other hand, "custard" is a milk- or cream-based dessert thickened by eggs and/or egg yolks.  "Cream puddings" use a custard base and are thickened by cornstarch.

My grandmother made fantastic pudding.  Technically speaking, her pudding recipes are based on the French method for making egg custard.  That means they contain egg yolks, which result in a deeper shade of yellow and a creamier texture.  For added richness, she also used a mixture of milk and cream (half and half), instead of milk.  All good news for a pudding lover like me.

Her recipes for pudding are very similar to each other (except for the flavoring), which, makes them remarkably easy to commit to memory.  The only time she changed one was when she wanted to make pie filling instead of pudding.  For a pie, she added an extra egg yolk and an extra tablespoon of cornstarch.  Why?  In order to achieve that pretty-to-look-at cleanly-cut slice of pie, pie filling needs extra thickener. This, in a pie shell, is the easiest way to define the difference between a pudding and a pudding- or custard-based pie filling.

To turn any of my pudding recipes into pie filling:

IMG_0056Add one extra egg yolk & one extra tablespoon cornstarch:

IMG_0309

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/12/2017

~How to: Make a Better Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pie~

IMG_0283Chocolate pie.  The kind our grandmothers made before they had too-many-to-mention options for high-quality, super-expensive brands of chocolate, cocoa powder and extracts imported from all over the world.  Two generations ago, when a mom wanted to surprise her family with a chocolate pie for dessert, she simply opened her pantry door, and, without hesitation, reached for a can of Hershey's cocoa powder and/or a few squares of Baker's unsweetened chocolate.  She cooked the pie filling on the stovetop, poured it into a baked pie shell, chilled the pie in the "icebox" and served it with freshly-whipped cream on top.  Those were kinder, gentler times.

IMG_0309We've come a long way baby.  There are so many chocolates, chocolate products and products that pair perfectly with chocolate, it's impossible not to make a better chocolate pie -- and I'm not suggesting my grandmother's chocolate pie recipe take a back seat to any one.  Her pie was fantastic.  In the 1940"s, she simply didn't have all the options that I have available to me.

IMG_0317What's the difference between pudding & pie filling?

IMG_0286In a pie shell:  Pie filling needs to be thicker than pudding.

My grandmother made fantastic pudding.  Her recipes for ~ Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding ~, ~ Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding ~ and ~ Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding ~ were very similar to each other (except for the flavoring), which, made them remarkably easy to commit to memory.  Technically speaking, her pudding recipes are based on the French method for making egg custard.  That means they contain egg yolks, which result in a deeper shade of yellow and a creamier texture.  For added richness, she also used a mixture of milk and cream (half and half).  

The only time she changed one was when she wanted to make pie filling instead of pudding.  For a pie, she added an extra egg yolk and an extra tablespoon of cornstarch.  Why?  In order to achieve that pretty-to-look-at cleanly-cut slice of pie, pie filling needs extra thickener. This, is the easiest way to define the difference between a pudding and a pudding-based pie filling.

IMG_02241  cup heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk, or, 2 cups half and half

1  tablespoon each:  pure chocolate and pure vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

3  tablespoons salted butter

3 large egg yolks

1  large egg

3/4  cup sugar

4  tablespoons cocoa powder, your favorite brand (Note:  I'm using Droste, Dutch processed today.)

1  teaspoon espresso powder

4  tablespoons cornstarch (1/4 cup)

3 1/2-4  ounces 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate, your favorite brand, chopped or broken into bits and pieces (Note:  I'm using a 4-ounce bar of Ghirardelli today.)

IMG_9769IMG_9772IMG_9774IMG_9776~Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, measure and stir together the cream and milk or half and half, both extracts and the salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg.  Set aside.  Cut the butter into small cubes and set aside.

IMG_0227IMG_0230IMG_0232IMG_0238~Step 2.  Place the sugar, cocoa powder, expresso powder and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan. Using a wire whisk, thoroughly combine the three.  Whisk in all of the flavored milk mixture, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Turn heat on to medium. Whisking constantly, heat until steaming, 2-3 minutes.  Do not simmer or boil.  Turn the heat off, add the butter and whisk until butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated.  Remove from heat.

IMG_0240 IMG_0246 IMG_0249 IMG_0254~Step 3.  Slowly and in a thin stream, while whisking the eggs constantly with a fork, add 3-4 tablespoons of the steaming liquid to the eggs.  (Note:  This is called "tempering" and it will raise their temperature slowly and just enough to keep them from scrambling upon contact with the steaming liquid.)  In a slow, steady stream, whisk the tempered eggs into the milk mixture.

IMG_0254IMG_0261IMG_0267IMG_0269~Step 4.  Return saucier to stovetop.  Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring mixture slowly to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Simmer gently, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Turn the heat off, add the chocolate pieces and continue to stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is thoroughly combined.  Transfer pie filling to a 1-quart measuring container, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the pie filling, and allow to cool and settle a bit, 30-45 minutes.  You will have 3 total cups of dense, rich and decadent chocolate pie filling.  

Spoon filling into a baked 9" pie shell or 4, 4 1/2"-5" pie shells.   IMG_0197Refrigerate pie(s), uncovered, 4-6 hours or overnight. 

IMG_0274How to:  Make a Better Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pie:  Recipe yields 3 cups chocolate pie filling/1, 9" pie = 8-10 servings/ 4, 4 1/2"-5" pies = 4 (one pie per person)-8 (two servings per pie) two)-12 servings (four mini-slices per pie -- which are quite pretty on a dessert tray), 

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; fork; paring knife; cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucier or saucepan; wire whisk; 1-quart measuring container; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d28c2e10970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d28c2e4b970cCook's Note: ~ Let's Talk Chocolate: All about Baker's Chocolate ~. Baker's chocolate is an All-American product with a fascinating history. There's more.  ~ The Baker's German's ('German') Chocolate Pie ~ isn't German either.  It's a spinoff of the famous German Chocolate Cake recipe, which was the invention of a Dallas, Texas homemaker, Mrs. George Clay, back in 1957.  Fun foodie facts!  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/09/2017

~ How to: Cut, Form & Bake Small Pie Pastry Shells ~

IMG_0200Equivalent to a very generous slice of pie, everyone loves a small sweet or savory pie or quiche all to oneself or to share with our significant other -- especially those of us who love to nibble on the crispy crust.  When it comes to desserts, more specifically pies, tarts and cheesecakes, for special occasions, individual sweet treats are just more fun -- they make people smile.  While a bit more labor-intensive up front, they're well worth the "fussy" extra effort.  Why?  They're perfectly-portioned and require no slicing.  Serving them is 100% mess-free and stress-free.

IMG_0197This post refers to shells made w/classic, rolled pie pastry:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8fdda4b970bTo make small pie pastry shells, you need pie pastry, and, to make 4, 4"-4 1/2" round shells, you need the same amount you would use to make one, 9" single-crust pie.  Use your favorite recipe or click here to get my recipe for ~ Making Pâte Brisée: Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~.  That said, when I'm making small shells, each one the perfect size to feed one or two people, I feel no guilt in using store-bought crusts to save time.  They bake up golden and 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09a0f82a970dcrispy, and, no one has ever complained.

Blind-bake or bake-blind, is the English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled.  There are two instances when you need to prebake your pie pastry:  #1)  A pastry shell that, once the filling is added, does not return to the oven for further baking.  In this application the pie pastry must be fully-baked, nicely browned and completely cooled before you add the filling, and, #2)  A pastry shell that will get filled with a custard, cream, mousse or fully-cooked/ready-to-eat filling and will return to the oven for further baking.  In this application, the degree to which you prebake the pastry (barely brown, lightly brown, golden brown) is determined by the length of time it will take the filled pie to finish baking, meaning:  the longer it takes the pie filling to bake, the lighter in color the prebaked crust should be when it goes into the oven, so, always follow the recipe's instructions. For more specifics, read ~ How to: Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell (Baking Blind) ~.

61WM8GKxZUL._SL1000_To make small pastry shells, you need small pie dishes or pie tins.  I have long preferred baking pies in clear glass (it allows me to keep an eye on how the pie pastry is browning) and Libby makes a great product for a great price ($16.00 for a set of 10, 4 1/2"-round dishes on Amazon and available for free shipping with a prime membership). If you love to bake, they're well worth the modest investment and they make a great gift too.

Roll pastry to a thickness of 1/16" & a diameter of 12 1/2":

IMG_9889Position 4, 4"-4 1/2" round pie dishes as pictured here:

IMG_9897Using a knife, slice the pastry into 4 quarters:

IMG_9900Drape one quarter of pastry over the top of each pie dish & use your fingertips to press it into the bottom & up the sides:

IMG_9904Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim & form the edges:

IMG_9907Using the tines of a fork, prick the bottoms of each shell:

IMG_9916Place formed pastry shells, well-part on a baking pan:

IMG_9923Bake on center rack of 425° oven, until golden, 8-9 minutes:

IMG_9925Cool completely, on a wire rack, prior to proceeding w/recipe: 

IMG_0205How to:  Cut, Form & Bake Small Pie Pastry Shells:  Recipe yields instructions to make 4, 4"-4 1/2" round, unbaked or fully-baked small pie shells.

Special Equipment List:  pastry board; rolling pin; ruler (optional): chef's knife; 4, 4"-4 1/2" round pie dishes or tins; kitchen shears; fork; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2881604970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8fddef1970bCook's Note: While we're on the subject, let's not forget about these  ~ Making Graham Cracker & Cookie Crumb Crusts ~. They're super-easy to make and so much better than store-bought (not that there is anything wrong with that).  Give it a read.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

06/06/2017

~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding ~

IMG_0177Exotically fragrant, vanilla is said to be the world's most popular flavor (and is the second most expensive next to saffron).  One would be hard pressed to find an American kitchen pantry that doesn't contain at least one bottle of pure vanilla extract and/or a whole vanilla bean or two. Why? Something wonderful happens when any form of pure vanilla gets added to all sorts of sweet or savory dishes.  My very vanilla pudding recipe is a spin-off of my grandmother's vanilla pudding recipe, and, it is the base recipe and starting point for all three of my favorite pudding recipes.

IMG_0193My grandmother made fantastic pudding, none of which took much longer to prepare than boxed quick-cooking options.  Her recipes for vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch pudding were very similar to each other (except for the flavoring), which, made them remarkably easy to commit to memory.  The only time she changed one was when she was making pie filling instead of pudding.  For a pie, she added an extra egg yolk and an extra tablespoon of cornstarch, which, in a nutshell, is the easiest way to define the difference between a pudding and a pie filling.  That said, whether she was making vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch pudding or pie filling, she added vanilla extract to each one, in addition to any other extract or flavoring du jour.  Read on:

IMG_0100Something wonderful happens when exotically fragrant vanilla gets added to all sorts of sweet or savory dishes.

IMG_7867Vanilla is easy to love -- its scent is enchanting, its taste is exotic.  It can be used in an array of sweet and savory culinary applications, but, it is indisputably the number one flavoring in desserts. For my taste, most published recipes don't add enough vanilla.  I typically double the recommended amount -- yes, I double it and I have never once been disappointed.  Back in her day, my grandmother only had access to vanilla beans or vanilla extract.  Happily, since then, two other products have entered our vanilla world and all home cooks should know about them. 

IMG_7881A bit about vanilla bean paste and vanilla powder:  Everyone who bakes stores high-quality pure vanilla extract (not imitation flavoring) in their pantry along with a few vanilla bean pods too. They're available everywhere, with extract being more economical than whole pods.  You'll find two other vanilla products in my pantry too: vanilla bean paste & vanilla powder.

Vanilla bean paste is a sweet, syrupy mixture full of vanilla beans that have been scraped out of the pods.  Like vanilla extract, it's full of IMG_7887natural vanilla flavor, plus, it's got all the pretty speckled beans in it too.  I think of it as a convenient cross between the extract and the pod, and, I like to add it to pudding because the seeds distribute themselves evenly throughout the mixture.  1 tablespoon paste = 1 tablespoon extract = 1 bean pod.

Vanilla powder is a free-flowing sugar which may be used in place of pure extract in any recipe.  It stirs into beverages, and, gets sprinkled onto desserts.  I particularly like it for making pudding and cake frosting because it doesn't affect the color like extract does.  1 tablespoon powder = 1 tablespoon extract.

My very vanilla pudding recipe is a spinoff of my grandmother's recipe & is the base recipe for all of my pudding recipes.

My Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding recipe should technically be called Old-Fashioned Very French Vanilla Pudding.  For that matter, so are my other pudding recipes (~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding ~, and ~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding ~). Why?  While there is little difference between different high-quality vanilla products used to flavor pudding (or ice cream and other desserts for that matter), French vanilla pudding is based on the French method of making egg custard.  This means it contains egg yolks, which results in a deeper shade of yellow and a creamier texture.  That's good news for pudding lovers like me.

IMG_00701  cup heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk, or, 2 cups half and half

2  tablespoons:  pure pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, your choice

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

3  tablespoons salted butter

2  large egg yolks

1  large egg

3/4  cup sugar

3  tablespoons cornstarch

1  tablespoon vanilla powder

IMG_9769IMG_9772IMG_9774IMG_9776~Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, measure and stir together the cream and milk or half and half, extract or paste, and, the salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg.  Set aside.  Cut the butter into small cubes and set aside.

IMG_0072 IMG_0076 IMG_0082 IMG_0085~Step 2.  Measure and place the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla powder in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan. Using a wire whisk, thoroughly combine the three.  Whisk in all of the flavored milk mixture, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Turn heat on to medium. Whisking constantly, heat until steaming 2-3 minutes.  Do not simmer or boil.  Turn the heat off, add the butter and whisk until butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated.  Remove from heat.

IMG_0089 IMG_0093 IMG_0097Step 3.  Slowly and in a thin stream, while whisking the eggs constantly with a fork, add 3-4 tablespoons of the steaming liquid to the eggs.  (Note:  This is called "tempering" and it will raise their temperature slowly and just enough to keep them from scrambling upon contact with the steaming hot milk mixture.)  In a slow, steady stream, whisk the tempered eggs into the milk mixture.  Return saucier to stovetop.

IMG_0100 IMG_0113~ Step 4.  Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring mixture slowly to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Simmer gently, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to a 1-quart measuring container.*  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and cool about two hours.  Stir and portion into custard cups, cover and chill for several hours (or overnight), or, use as directed in recipe.

*Note:  A lot of pudding recipes instruct to pass the pudding through a fine mesh strainer (into the measuring container) at this point, to achieve an extra-silky-smooth consistency.  This is the type of unnecessary nonsense that causes people to not make pudding.  #1.  Pudding is too thick to pass through a fine strainer or any strainer.  Try it.  It'll make you want to jump off a bridge.

Portion 3/4 cup pudding into each of 4, 1-cup custard cups:

IMG_0123Freshly-whipped cream & butter toffee bits on mine please:

IMG_0144How to:  Make Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding:  Recipe yields 3 cups pudding/4 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; fork; paring knife; cutting board; 3-quart saucier or saucepan; wire whisk; 1-quart measuring container; plastic wrap; 4, 1-cup custard cups

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c90084ab970bCook's Note:  About the only thing I like better than chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch pudding is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor.  This dessert, ~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake  ~ was one of my mother's specialties.  I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding got cooked.  Once assembled, she'd put the 'icebox' cake in the refrigerator for what seemed like an eternity, but, it had to chill to set up properly -- well worth the wait.  Eat more pudding. 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/04/2017

~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding ~

IMG_0056When I was raising three boys in the '70's and '80's, chocolate was, hands down, their favorite pudding flavor.  Just like today, grocery store shelves were full of convenient pudding options (boxes and boxes of instant and quick-cooking pudding, and, ready-to-eat lunch-box-size pudding cups). While I was often tempted to succumb to their wishes and buy those boxes, I resisted. I grew up eating homemade, creamy, dreamy, rich real-deal pudding -- my memories prevented it. As for the pudding cups, I admit, I allowed them, on occasion, as a school lunchbox treat.

IMG_0028Don't succumb to boxes of instant or quick-cooking pudding.  Creamy, dreamy, rich & real-deal pudding is easy to make.

IMG_9973My grandmother made fantastic pudding, none of which took much longer to prepare than boxed quick-cooking options.  Her recipes for chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch pudding were very similar to each other (except for the flavoring), which, made them remarkably easy to commit to memory.  The only time she changed one was when she was making pie filling instead of pudding.  For a pie, she added an extra egg yolk and an extra tablespoon of cornstarch, which, in a nutshell, is the easiest way to define the difference between a pudding and a pie filling.

IMG_99341  cup heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk, or, 2 cups half and half

1  tablespoon each:  pure chocolate and pure vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

3  tablespoons salted butter

2  large egg yolks

1  large egg

3/4  cup sugar

6  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3  tablespoons cornstarch

IMG_9769 IMG_9772 IMG_9774 IMG_9776~Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, measure and stir together the cream and milk or half and half, both extracts and the salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg.  Set aside.  Cut the butter into small cubes and set aside.

IMG_9941IMG_9944IMG_9950IMG_9951~Step 2.  Measure and place the sugar, cocoa powder and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan. Using a wire whisk, thoroughly combine the three.  Whisk in all of the flavored milk mixture, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Turn heat on to medium. Whisking constantly, heat until steaming 2-3 minutes.  Do not simmer or boil.  Turn the heat off, add the butter and whisk until butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated.  Remove from heat.

IMG_9958IMG_9960IMG_9964Step 3.  Slowly and in a thin stream, while whisking the eggs constantly with a fork, add 3-4 tablespoons of the steaming liquid to the eggs.  (Note:  This is called "tempering" and it will raise their temperature slowly and just enough to keep them from scrambling upon contact with the steaming hot milk mixture.)  In a slow, steady stream, whisk the tempered eggs into the milk mixture.  Return saucier to stovetop.

IMG_9973IMG_9991~ Step 4.  Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring mixture slowly to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Simmer gently, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to a 1-quart measuring container.*  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and cool about two hours.  Stir and portion into custard cups, cover and chill for several hours (or overnight), or, use as directed in recipe.

*Note:  A lot of pudding recipes instruct to pass the pudding through a fine mesh strainer (into the measuring container) at this point, to achieve an extra-silky-smooth consistency.  This is the type of unnecessary nonsense that causes people to not make pudding.  #1.  Pudding is too thick to pass through a fine strainer or any strainer.  Try it.  It'll make you want to jump off a bridge.

Portion 3/4 cup pudding into each of 4, 1-cup custard cups:

IMG_9997Freshly-whipped cream and diced bananas on mine please:

IMG_0020How to:  Make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding:  Recipe yields 3 cups pudding/4 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; fork; paring knife; cutting board; 3-quart saucier or saucepan; wire whisk; 1-quart measuring container; plastic wrap; 4, 1-cup custard cups

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09a2d129970dCook's Note:  About the only thing I like better than chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch pudding is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor.  This dessert, ~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake  ~ was one of my mother's specialties.  I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding got cooked.  Once assembled, she'd put the 'icebox' cake in the refrigerator for what seemed like an eternity, but, it had to chill to set up properly -- well worth the wait.  Eat more pudding.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

06/02/2017

~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding ~

IMG_9874My three favorite flavors of pudding are butterscotch, chocolate and vanilla (in that order). They're all creamy and dreamy, but something wonderful happens when brown sugar and butter team up to make real-deal butterscotch.  Homemade pudding (from scratch, not a box), was something my grandmother made often -- just for me.  I'm in my early 60's, that was back in the latter 50's, and: there is no letting go of homemade pudding memories.  Whether it was butterscotch, chocolate or vanilla, she'd always leave me an ample sample, in the bottom of her enamelware saucepan and on the wooden spoon, because:  I adored it warm and freshly made.   Homemade pudding is one of life's simple pleasures and making butterscotch pudding is one of my life's simpler pleasures.

IMG_9884Something wonderful happens when brown sugar & butter team up:

IMG_9811Originally, butterscotch was a hard candy made from brown sugar, butter and water, in which the sugar got boiled to the soft crack stage.  Since hard candy was hard to cut or break into pretty, even-sized pieces, the butterscotch got "scotched" or "scored", to make cleaner cuts after it hardened.  Nowadays, butterscotch is the word used to describe the flavor of brown sugar and butter cooked together with other ingredients (like corn syrup, cream and vanilla or butter rum flavorings, as well as cornstarch or flour and eggs/egg yolks) to make sauce, pudding, pie filling and cookies.  Butterscotch is also available in the form of baking chips and liquid flavoring too.

IMG_97651  cup heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk, or, 2 cups half and half

1  tablespoon each:  pure butterscotch and pure vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

3  tablespoons salted butter

2  large egg yolks

1  large egg

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

3  tablespoons cornstarch 

IMG_9769 IMG_9772 IMG_9774 IMG_9776~Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, measure and stir together the cream and milk or half and half, both extracts and the salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg.  Set aside.  Cut the butter into small cubes and set aside.

IMG_9779 IMG_9780 IMG_9787 IMG_9790~Step 2.  Measure and place the brown sugar and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan. Using a wire whisk, thoroughly combine the two.  Whisk in all of the flavored milk mixture, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Turn heat on to medium. Whisking constantly, heat until steaming 2-3 minutes.  Do not simmer or boil.  Turn the heat off, add the butter and whisk until butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated.  Remove from heat.

IMG_9795 IMG_9800 IMG_9804Step 3.  Slowly and in a thin stream, while whisking the eggs constantly with a fork, add 3-4 tablespoons of the steaming liquid to the eggs.  (Note:  This is called "tempering" and it will raise their temperature slowly and just enough to keep them from scrambling upon contact with the steaming hot milk mixture.)  In a slow, steady stream, whisk the tempered eggs into the milk mixture.  Return saucier to stovetop.

IMG_9811 IMG_9819~ Step 4.  Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring mixture slowly to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Simmer gently, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to a 1-quart measuring container.*  Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the pudding and cool about two hours.  Stir and portion into custard cups, cover and chill for several hours (or overnight), or, use as directed in recipe.

*Note:  A lot of pudding recipes instruct to pass the pudding through a fine mesh strainer (into the measuring container) at this point, to achieve an extra-silky-smooth consistency.  This is the type of unnecessary nonsense that causes people to not make pudding.  #1.  Pudding is too thick to pass through a fine strainer or any strainer.  Try it.  It'll make you want to jump off a bridge.

Portion 3/4 cup pudding into each of 4, 1-cup custard cups:

IMG_9824Freshly-whipped cream & chopped pecans on mine please:

IMG_9845How to:  Make Homemade Butterscotch Pudding:  Recipe yields 3 cups pudding/4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; fork; paring knife; cutting board; 3-quart saucier or saucepan; wire whisk; 1-quart measuring container; plastic wrap; 4, 1-cup custard cups

IMG_3751Cook's Note:  About the only thing I like better than chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch pudding is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor.  This dessert, ~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake  ~ was one of my mother's specialties.  I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding got cooked.  Once assembled, she'd put the 'icebox' cake in the refrigerator for what seemed like an eternity, but, it had to chill to set up properly -- well worth the wait.  Eat more pudding.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)