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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

10/15/2020

~Creamy RedHot-Ranch Buffalo-Style Salad Dressing~

IMG_6410In my food world, if I could conjure up the ideal, somewhat-healthy pub-grub menu item, it would be a chef's-type Buffalo-style-chicken salad.  It would be served to me while I was sitting in my favorite sportsbar, in front of a straight-out-of-the-tap frosty brew with a college football game on the flatscreen.  Nothing fancy, just a bowl full of crisp lettuce, diced carrots and sliced celery tossed with salty blue cheese crumbles and topped with strips of thin-sliced Boar's Head, Blazing Buffalo-style chicken, plus, crunchy,  Buffalo-spiced croutons.  There's more.  When it comes to dressing my salad, it's got to be full of Buffalo wing-sauce flavor blended with the creamy-dreamy coolness that only Hidden Valley Ranch dressing can offer -- the best of both worlds so to speak.

If you're willing to go the extra mile to make croutons...

IMG_6394One could call me obsessed for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  In my defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't?  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned croutons scattered atop an ingredient-specific salad or soup that speaks volumes about the cook, and, Buffalo-style is a prime example.

... don't drop the ball when it comes to the dressing!

IMG_5692For my RedHot Ranch salad dressing (yield: 1 generous cup):

*3/4  cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing

*1/4  cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1  teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1 1/2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

* Note:  When preparing the 1 cup of dressing, I like the ratio of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing to 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce.  That said, if you want your dressing hotter (as in spicier), feel free to adjust it to suit your palate.  Example: 1/2 cup dressing to 1/2 cup wing sauce.

IMG_5693 IMG_5693 IMG_5693~ Step 1. To prepare the dressing, in a 1-cup measuring container, thoroughly stir all ingredients together.  Set aside, at room temperature, while prepping all ingredients for the croutons and the salad.

RedHot-Ranch Salad Dressing -- The best of both worlds: 

IMG_6417Creamy RedHot-Ranch Bufalo-Style Salad Dressing:  Recipe yields 1 generous cup dressing.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/13/2020

~ RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad ~

IMG_6403One could call me obsessed, or perhaps off-my-rocker, for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  That said, in my own defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't I go the extra mile to make a great sandwich or salad even greater.  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned homemade bread or croutons used in an ingredient-specific sandwich or on an ingredient-specific salad that speaks volumes about the cook.

IMG_6390A bit about croutons in general: "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 "crouton" (kroo-tawn) which the French define as a small piece of bread or snack bread that is usually served with drinks.  "Croute" (kroot) is the French word for crust and "en croute" refers to food wrapped in or topped with a pastry crust then baked. Croutons are super-easy to make, plus they are the perfect use for almost any leftover bread (the exception being soft, cottony, white, sandwich-type bread).  My quick skillet method for preparing them produces a crispy, butter-flavored crouton on the outside with a slightly softer "chewy/al dente" center.  This differs from the lengthier oven method for preparing croutons (a low temperature for a longer period of time), which produces a crispy crouton throughout. 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e0e80e200dA bit about bread-machine bread in general.  Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine.  What is wrong with that?  Nothing.  Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the machine-kneading) has been inserted into it. When making bread in a bread machine, the protocol for adding ingredients to the bread pan is: wet ingredients first, dry ingredients second (on top of wet ingredients), granulated yeast last.

IMG_63261 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend

2  tablespoons Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend

1  packet granulated dry yeast

IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329~Step 1.  To make the Buffalo-seasoned bread-machine bread loaf, in the following order, in the pan of the breach machine, place the warm water and olive oil.  Add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the RedHot Ranch seasoning and RedHot original seasoning.  Do not stir.  Using your index finger, make a small, semi-shallow indentation on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep as to reach the liquid below.  Add the yeast to the indentation.

IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6351 IMG_6351~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Plug the machine in, select the "white bread" cycle, followed by se the "light crust" option.  Push start.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.  When  machine signals bread is done, carefully open the lid.  Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from machine by using the handle to lift it up and out.  Turn bread pan at a 30-45º angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn loaf upright and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  In approximately three hours, you will have a two-pound loaf of somewhat spicy Buffalo-seasoned bread.

IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6370 IMG_6370~Step 3.  To prepare the croutons, using a serrated bread knife, cut 1-pound of the bread (half of the bread loaf) into 3/4"-1" cubes. In a 12" skillet (preferably nonstick), melt 2 sticks salted butter over low heat. Stir 2 teaspoons each of Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend and Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend into the melted butter.

IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376~Step 4.  Add all of the bread cubes to the pan.  Increase heat to medium.  Using two large nonstick spoons, gently stir and toss the bread cubes constantly, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  No melted butter will remain in the bottom of the pan, just a golden brown residue. Remove from heat and allow croutons to cool slightly in the pan, 10-15 minutes, to allow carryover heat to continue to crisp them.  Line a baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels, transfer croutons to pan and spread them in a single layer.  Set aside to cool completely. 

Store, uncovered, 1-2 days, while using in salads or soups:  

IMG_6394RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad: Recipe yields 6 cups of cubed croutons.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; bread machine; serrated bread knife; 12" nonstick skillet; 2 large nonstick spoons

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/10/2020

~Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt, Caramel, Pecan Cookies~

IMG_6304When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts), and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.  There's more.  Our grandson is allergic to nuts, so, nuts of any kind are not in the cards when I'm baking cookies for him.  So, while today's cookies are chocked full of lightly-toasted crunchy pecans, it is not unusual to find my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of nut-free Toll House cookies either.

What the heck is a baking truffle?  Had I been asked this question a few short weeks ago, I'd have been at a loss for an answer.  That said, it's one of the best new-to-me inventions in quite some time. I don't refer to myself as a consummate baker, but, I do keep my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of homemade cookies at all times.  For the most part, it does take Joe and I a bit of time, a two-to-three weeks, to eat them all, but, when the jars are empty, I bake cookies again, and, I'm always in search of a new recipe or twist on an old one.

IMG_6184 2Hello Nestlē sea salt and caramel baking truffles.  Just reading the label made my mouth start to water. I've always loved milk-chocolate-covered soft-caramels, and, when sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, all the better.  Nestlē's baking truffles, which resemble tiny candies rather than teardrop-shaped chocolate chips, are:  soft caramels enrobed in Nestlē's signature semi-sweet chocolate.  I bought eighteen nine-ounce bags.  I've got plans for these, starting with cookies.

Nestlē Toll House Cookies made w/Nestlē sea salt caramel baking truffles + pecans.  Need I say any more than that?

2 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons each: pure chocolate extract and pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

18  ounces Nestlē sea salt & caramel baking truffles (2, 9-ounce bags)

6  ounces rough-chopped and very light-toasted pecans

IMG_6265 IMG_6265 IMG_6265~ Step 1.  Using a chef's knife, rough chop the pecans and place them on a small (toaster-oven-sized) baking pan.  Roasted on center rack of 325º oven until fragrant and barely browned and very lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely, about 10-15 minutes.

IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234~Step 2.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_6275 IMG_6277 IMG_6283~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the baking truffles and pecans. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 4, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_6287 IMG_6287~ Step 4.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 13-14 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely, prior to storing in an air-tight container.

Patience people.  Cool cookies.  Then, ready your glass of milk:

IMG_6315Crispy, chewy, thin, delicate, &, full of oozy-gooey semi-sweet chocolate & caramel flavor + crunchy pecans too:

IMG_6298Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt, Caramel, Pecan Cookies:  Recipe yields 5 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; 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; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b026be4192589200dCook's Note: The Nestlē Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  It, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie. Try my ~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlē-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)