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

07/28/2021

~Tomato Season & Why I Adore the Compari Tomato~

The Campari tomato claimed its fame in 2002 when a brief reference was made to it in the TV series, "The Sopranos." One mention -- it boosted both its relevancy in the tomato-loving world and its level of respect within the all-important Italian-American community. In 2003, Campari was rewarded with a 50% uptick in sales. To this day, it is my year-round store-bought tomato of choice. In my opinion, the Campari tomato is the most perfect tomato ever produced -- it's so damned flavorful, having the ideal balance of acid to sugar, and a texture that endears each one to...... View full recipe for "~Tomato Season & Why I Adore the Compari Tomato~"

07/25/2021

~ Put Gluten-Free Beer in Gluten-Free Pizza-Dough ~

Let me start by saying that a great pizza crust is puffy, chewy and crispy with a bit of yeasty flavor. Let me end by saying, a gluten-free pizza crust is none of those things. In fact, the only two things a traditional yeast-risen pizza crust and a yeast-risen gluten-free pizza crust have in common are shape and function. Once I got past that and stopped trying to turn "water into wine", it was easier (I didn't say easy, 'cause it took several tries) for me to move-on and come up with a perfectly-palatable very-tasty gluten-free crust to please those...... View full recipe for "~ Put Gluten-Free Beer in Gluten-Free Pizza-Dough ~"

07/12/2021

~ Making the Most of the Short & Sweet Corn Season ~

What a wonderful gift the Native Americans gave to the world. Everything on the corn plant can be used: the husks for tamales, the silks for tea, the kernels for food and the stalks for fodder. Modern day horticulturists developed our two most popular varieties: white (Country Gentleman) and yellow (Golden Bantam). White corn kernels are smaller and sweeter. Yellow corn kernels are larger and fuller-flavored. The more recently developed hybrid (Butter & Sugar Corn) produces ears speckled with both yellow and white kernels -- my personal favorite. Almost nothing beats a serving of fresh, steaming corn on the cob...... View full recipe for "~ Making the Most of the Short & Sweet Corn Season ~"

07/09/2021

~Make Tortillas de Maize from Scratch - Corn Tortillas~

Tortillas de Maize, meaning corn tortillas, originated in Mexico during pre-Columbian times -- the cultures that evolved in parts of Mexico, Central America and Western South America prior to the Spanish conquest during the 16th Century. This means the corn tortilla predates the wheat-flour tortilla, as wheat was not not grown in the the Americas prior to European colonization in the mid-1500s. In Aztec times, two or three corn tortillas would have been eaten with each meal. Maize itself has been a Mexican staple food for centuries and remains the most planted crop in the regions of Mexico, and, you...... View full recipe for "~Make Tortillas de Maize from Scratch - Corn Tortillas~"

07/03/2021

~The Cool History behind the Composed Cobb Salad~

The Cobb salad, affectionately called the California Cobb, was invented in 1937 at Hollywood's Brown Derby Restaurant by the owner, Robert Cobb. As the story goes, 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. Another tale (of woe) says that Mr. Cobb threw the salad together to satisfy the appetite of a loyal customer to came into the restaurant complaining of a toothache, so, Cobb...... View full recipe for "~The Cool History behind the Composed Cobb Salad~"

06/30/2021

~ The Cool History behind the Composed Chef Salad ~

A restaurant that serves a great chef's salad for lunch is a restaurant I will frequent. Like Seinfeld's Elaine, I like a big salad, and I don't mean a big bowl of lettuce. I mean a lot of perfectly-cooked good stuff in it, right down to more-than-a-few crunchy, buttery-rich croutons on top. The chef's salad is exactly that salad -- it's not served before the meal or after the meal, it is the meal. The chef salad is a "composed salad", meaning, it is a pretty-to-look-at, arranged-on-a-plate, high-quality, salad -- a perfectly-balanced mixture of color, flavor and texture. At the...... View full recipe for "~ The Cool History behind the Composed Chef Salad ~"

06/24/2021

~The Sizzling History behind Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon)~

Fajitas were originally named tacos-al-carbon and were served as portable food, ready-to-eat-with-the-hands, by wrapping strips of unpretentious skirt steak that had been cooked over a campfire or on a grill, in a warm corn or flour tortilla, meaning they were served taco-style. "Faja" is the Spanish word for "strip, band, sash or belt", and, with "ita" added to the end, it means "a little strip, band, sash or belt", meaning the ingredients for fajitas are always cut into strips. The dish dates back to cattle ranching life along the Rio Grande Valley regions of the Texas-Mexico border in the 1930's....... View full recipe for "~The Sizzling History behind Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon)~"

04/29/2021

~Steak My Day - Summer-Up & Try Pork Blade Steak~

The pork blade steak is my new-to-me muse -- in my own words, it's a bone-fide kick-butt man-sized pork chop. Known as pork steak, pork butt steak or pork blade steak, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork. Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs*, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple. As a country-style spare-rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask the Sam's Club butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-to-our-locale steaks for me. Perhaps this...... View full recipe for "~Steak My Day - Summer-Up & Try Pork Blade Steak~"

04/23/2021

~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf & Pullman Loaf Pan ~

A flat-topped loaf of white sandwich bread that gets baked in a square-sided loaf pan with a lid is, culinarily, known as a Pullman loaf. It goes without saying, the technical term for the loaf pan itself is a Pullman pan. The fancy French terms for a Pullman loaf are "pain-de-mie" ("pain" meaning "bread", and "mie" meaning "the soft white inner part of the loaf"), and, "pain anglais" (meaning "English loaf"). It's a loaf of somewhat-firm-yet-soft enriched white bread with perfectly square sides and minimal crust. It slices easily, making it the quintessential sandwich loaf. The Pullman loaf is the...... View full recipe for "~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf & Pullman Loaf Pan ~"

03/24/2021

~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- and Define a Paillard ~

A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal. That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard. It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard. In certain areas of the United States, paillards are simply referred to as "cutlets". Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a few boneless, skinless chicken thighs as an example. Paillard (PI-yahrd): This fancy French word dating back...... View full recipe for "~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- and Define a Paillard ~"

02/20/2021

~ Fry the Entire Danged Thing -- Unsectioned Wings ~

Chicken wings. While not even close to the top of my list of healthy-eating snacks or meals, they are at the top of my list of favorite snacks or meals, and, much like the greater percentage of the rest of the population of the United States, from time-to-time I get a craving for them. Also, much like the greater percentage of the rest of the population of the United States, I am in agreement, deep-fried wings, as opposed to air-fried oven-roasted or barbecue-grilled, are the best wings. What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in...... View full recipe for "~ Fry the Entire Danged Thing -- Unsectioned Wings ~"

12/18/2020

~Old Bay -- Maryland's Staple in a Classic Yellow Can~

Newsflash -- There are two reasons to never consider trying to make Old Bay Seasoning at home. The first: You can't do it, you'll never get the proportions right, and, those of us who recognize the signature taste -- we'll hate you for yours. The second: Old Bay Seasoning is a source of Marylander pride. It's a staple -- it's found, right next to the salt and pepper shakers, on the tables in eateries everywhere. If you wouldn't try pawning some off-the-rails homemade salt or pepper off on your guests (or customers), don't try it with Old Bay seasoning either....... View full recipe for "~Old Bay -- Maryland's Staple in a Classic Yellow Can~ "

11/24/2020

~ Simple Tips for Entertaining for Breakfast or Brunch ~

Entertaining guests for breakfast or brunch is decidedly different than entertaining guests for cocktails and/or dinner. For starters, we breakfast chefs don't have the luxury of several hours prep time leading up to the get-together, which means, all of the shopping and as much of the fare (as is humanly possible) needs to be prepped or semi-prepared the night before. An early call to the kitchen means "all the boxes" need to be checked, and double-checked, prior to showtime. Do NOT bite-off more than you can chew. Don't break your budget (just don't do it), resist the urge to be...... View full recipe for "~ Simple Tips for Entertaining for Breakfast or Brunch ~"

10/31/2020

~Stirring the Pot: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~

In my kitchen, cold weather is soup and stew weather, and, once the frost is on the pumpkin I like to make my soups and stews in slow-simmered big batches. After we've enjoyed one hearty warm-us-up meal, I freeze the rest in two-quart containers, so we can slurp soups and stews several more times until Spring comes. Chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, and, ham and bean soup are my on my family's short-list of favorites. For the most part, when making soup or stew, "chicken is chicken" and "beef is beef", meaning: they're almost self-explanatory. That said, when making soups...... View full recipe for "~Stirring the Pot: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~"

10/28/2020

~ Defining the Differences between Soups and Stews ~

When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall. Why? When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside. Why? When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast. Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the two favorite things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): a stockpot full of luscious, heartwarming, soup...... View full recipe for "~ Defining the Differences between Soups and Stews ~"

10/25/2020

~ Tips for Big Batch Eat-Some Freeze-Some Cooking ~

If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for: the pots are big, the load is heavy. There's more. As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you. Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next,...... View full recipe for "~ Tips for Big Batch Eat-Some Freeze-Some Cooking ~"

07/29/2020

~ When You Say PA Dutch, Why We Say PA Deutsch ~

Let me make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either. The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch". So: When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine. The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh...... View full recipe for "~ When You Say PA Dutch, Why We Say PA Deutsch ~"

07/15/2020

~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~

An over-fried corn tortilla can be like eating broken glass. That super-crispy-crunchy state is best left for frying tortilla wedges or wisps to serve as tortilla chips with dips, or wisps to garnish various Mexican-style soups or main-dishes. No one wants to pick up a taco only to take a bite and have the taco shell shatter all over the plate. This is not a blog post I ever intended to write, but, based on the number of times I get asked how I fry my taco shells, in order to achieve the perfect crisp-yet-pliable texture, I guess I should....... View full recipe for "~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~"

07/03/2020

~The Story Behind Macaroni & Yankee Doodle Dandy~

Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni. Fun song to sing? If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain. Sans the folks who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree that here in the United States, it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought while in Italy. Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America. A bit about macaroni: Macaroni is a...... View full recipe for "~The Story Behind Macaroni & Yankee Doodle Dandy~"

06/02/2020

~About Fideo, the Traditional Noodle (Dish) of Mexico~

Fideo is a traditional noodle dish or soup. It's popular in homes and restaurants throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States. No two cooks make it the same way. Hey! It's noodles. Had I not had a lovely Mexican-American woman as a neighbor here in PA back in the latter 70s, I'd have missed out on this easy-to-prepare Mexican-, Mexican-American comfort food. Like noodles and pasta in general, home cooks and restaurant chefs prepare this versatile and inexpensive ingredient in all sorts of creative ways, using spices, flavorings, and/or vegetable-, protein- additions authentic to the region they live in. Fideo...... View full recipe for "~About Fideo, the Traditional Noodle (Dish) of Mexico~"

05/28/2020

~ About Creste di Gallo or Crest of the Rooster Pasta ~

Coming up on eleven years of food blogging and I've never taken-on pontificating about a pasta shape. Until now, there was no reason. After all, there are over 400 shapes of pasta in this food world. Some are fresh, some are dried, all took shape for a reason, and all have a purpose, with some being better suited to certain dishes or sauces than others, and, everyone has their favorite. There's never been reason for me to interfere in any of the good-spirited Italian-, Italian-American banter about the best pasta for whatever the purpose -- long strands or fork-friendly count...... View full recipe for "~ About Creste di Gallo or Crest of the Rooster Pasta ~"

05/25/2020

~ Memorial Day Road Trip to Champ's BBQ Chicken ~

Enjoy the long, relaxing Memorial Day holiday weekend by scoring a complete barbecue chicken dinner from Champs Sports Grill. Located at 1611 North Atherton Street, State College, in Happy Valley, PA, this three day special event features an outdoor roadside grill and guarantees pull-up and pick up within three minutes of arrival in the parking lot. This winner-winner chicken dinner can be preordered for a specifically-timed curbside pickup by phoning 234-7700 too. $39.99 feeds four-six people. It contains four perfectly-grilled, juicy and tender half-chickens with Mel's BBQ sauce, a pan of Mel's bacon-y baked beans, Champs creamy-crunchy cole slaw, Scott's...... View full recipe for "~ Memorial Day Road Trip to Champ's BBQ Chicken ~"

09/15/2019

~ The Perfectly-Seasoned 16-Minute Broiled Burger ~

On busy weeknights, or when I'm just plain pressed for time, popping a flank steak, a couple of pork blade steaks, or a few burgers under the broiler frees up my hands and some time to set the table, toss a salad or fix a side-dish and collect a couple of condiments. In exactly 18-, 22- or 16-minutes respectively (17 minutes if we want cheeseburgers), dinner is on its way to the table. To those who contend that broiling is not the ideal method for cooking any of the above, I say "poppycock". Position the oven rack 5 1/2"-6" underneath...... View full recipe for " ~ The Perfectly-Seasoned 16-Minute Broiled Burger ~"

08/31/2019

~Hoagies, Heros, Grinders & Submarine Sandwiches~

Me on any given day. Grab two slices of super-fresh bread. Layer of some thin-sliced meat and cheese on top of one of them. Add, almost always, a slice of onion and tomato along with a leafy green, plop the top on it, and, I'm in sandwich heaven. When asked what food I couldn't live without, the sandwich is always my answer. 'Tis true, I can slap almost anything between two slices of bread, slather it with some sort of a spread, sauce or dressing and make it taste really, really good. On days when I swap out the bread...... View full recipe for "~Hoagies, Heros, Grinders & Submarine Sandwiches~"

08/21/2019

~ The Difference Between Imitation Krab & King Crab ~

If you grew up eating imitation krab (as it is often spelled for differentiation purposes, you never felt you were consuming a compromising product. Culinarily, it was a one of the staples of mid-century entertaining -- right up there with fondue, Spam and molded Jell-O -- and life was good. Krab Salad and Krabby's (crab on cheesy toast) were two of my favorites. Imitation crab revealed nothing about ones standing in life either -- from the ditch digger's wife to the doctor's wife, everyone used it. Truth told, unless you grew up in or within driving distance of a crabbing...... View full recipe for "~ The Difference Between Imitation Krab & King Crab ~"

07/15/2019

~A Bit About Mexican Cotija & Queso Fresco Cheese~

Americans love Mexican food. Americans love it so much, we'd all vote for a taco truck on every street corner. That said, when it comes to Mexican food, we Americans have quizzically wed ourselves to using cheddar or Jack cheddar cheese as toppings in or on nachos, quesadillas, refried bean dip, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chili con carne, etc. Most of us are guilty as charged and I am no exception. Shredded cheddar is in my refrigerator at all times, and nine out of ten times, it's going on something Tex-Mex. American kids and adults alike love cheddar, every grocery store...... View full recipe for "~A Bit About Mexican Cotija & Queso Fresco Cheese~"

07/13/2019

~ Adding Olives to Mexican or Mexican-Style Dishes ~

Olives in Mexican food? It's controversial. So-called experts will flatly state that olives in Mexican food make the dish Spanish, not Mexican, meaning "don't". That said, with some of the largest concentrations of green olive trees in the world being located in regions throughout Mexico, areas bordering Texas, and, the Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja California, common sense would and should lead one (it did me) to a different conclusion, meaning, if you are an olive lover, "go for it". Just know, a Mexican dish you added olives to can't be peddled as "authentic" or "classic" Mexican" -- olives render...... View full recipe for "~ Adding Olives to Mexican or Mexican-Style Dishes ~"

06/03/2019

~Choosing, Prepping and Storing Amazing Asparagus~

In this part of the Northeast, Asparagus season starts around the beginning of May and lasts approximately to the end of June. It's one of my favorite green vegetables, but, interestingly, I prefer to purchase it rather than grow it. Why? Frankly, when we did grow our own, on days when I needed it, I couldn't rely on enough being ready for harvest and vice versa. Asparagus spears, which pup up out of the ground like little soldiers, grow on their own time, not mine. Early in the season, it can take a spear up to three days to mature....... View full recipe for "~Choosing, Prepping and Storing Amazing Asparagus~"

04/10/2019

~ The Classic Italian Endicott-Style Spiedie Sandwich ~

Endicott, NY, is off the beaten path for some, which is why the spiedie sandwich just might be the best sandwich a lot of folks never heard of. The odd part is, growing up with parents who pretty much stuck close to their home in Eastern, PA, as a family we actually made it to New York every now and then, and, everyone in our family, including grandma, loved a spiedie sandwich. It was back in the 1960's, and, I was so young, I didn't even know I was eating an official spiedie. My grandmother, my mom's mother, had a...... View full recipe for "~ The Classic Italian Endicott-Style Spiedie Sandwich ~"

03/12/2019

~Russian Dressing & How it Differs from 1000 Islands~

It's almost understandable why most home cooks don't know what the difference between Russian and Thousand Islands dressing is, but, it's head-scratchingly odd that many restaurant chefs don't. Truth told, when I order a Rueben or a Rachel sandwich, one dressing or the other, whichever is offered, will do nicely -- they're both favorites of mine. That said, when a menu states Russian dressing, I expect Russian dressing and vice versa. These two condiments, while they can be used interchangeably as a matter of preference, are not interchangeable. While Russian dressing is not Russian, it is a compilation of ingredients...... View full recipe for "~Russian Dressing & How it Differs from 1000 Islands~"

03/03/2019

~ Using Natural and Dutch-Process Cocoa Powders ~

It's not a matter of what's on-hand in the pantry, what mom or grandma used, brand recognition or cost. There is a difference between natural and Dutch-process cocoa powder, and, it is rocket science. The word is "acidity". Those of the mindset the two can be used interchangeably, babbling on about it being mostly a matter of preference (I have witnessed it said many times), are contributing to recipe failure -- which is the number one reason why some folks hate to bake. The cocoa bean is a dried, fatty seed found inside a 10"-12" cocoa pod, and, each pod...... View full recipe for "~ Using Natural and Dutch-Process Cocoa Powders ~"

02/25/2019

~ Secrets to the Italian-American Sausage Sandwich ~

Whether one is at the ballpark, a carnival, or entering a shopping mall, one can't help but notice the line in front of the vendor selling Italian sausage sandwiches. Hot-off-the-griddle, a succulent link of sweet or hot sausage on a medium-textured Italian roll, heaped with a savory mélange of griddle-sautéed peppers and onions: it's next to impossible to resist. If you've ever eaten one, you've also noticed they taste immensely better than the majority of home-grilled versions. Why is this? Read on, and "don't knock it until you've tried it", so, criticize this post with caution. The best technique for...... View full recipe for "~ Secrets to the Italian-American Sausage Sandwich ~"

02/02/2019

~ Mel's Great-Big Cauliflower Pizza Crust Experiment ~

In crust I trust, but, in the case of the two bloatedly-overpriced-at-almost-$9.00 cauliflower pizza crusts I purchased (on a whim just to get a taste-in-my-mouth for what all the buzz is about), I'd rather eat cardboard. In my food world, in order to avoid eating compromising crap, I eat less of the things I love before cutting-back on carbs, or worse, cutting-out gluten completely. "Once you get used to them, they're pretty good", is not a retort to my comments, so stuff it. The only way to justify this type of ingredient-specific-deprivation requires a diagnosis from a doctor. My great...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Great-Big Cauliflower Pizza Crust Experiment ~"

01/28/2019

~How Much is & How Many Florets in One Cauliflower~

Mother Nature did not have OCD. If she did, there would be more symmetry in the world. It would be a pretty boring place, but, at least all our vegetables would be the same size, which brings me to this point: How much is in a head of cauliflower? The most frustrating thing about most cauliflower recipes is their lack of specificity regarding precisely how much cauliflower to purchase. Generic measurements for volume (2 cups-, 4 cups-florets) or a vague product description (1 large head, 2 medium heads), are meaningless to the average cooker-of-cauliflower, and, are the biggest causes of...... View full recipe for "~How Much is & How Many Florets in One Cauliflower~"

01/17/2019

~ Du Pain, du Vin, du Cinq Boursin Cheese Recipes ~

Boursin cheese has been the star of KE the past ten days, and, it has enjoyed a delicious run. While some might question, or find themselves bored with, my little foray into Boursin (a most delicious form of French cheesefeed), there is always a reason behind one of my obsessions. In the case of the plethora of Boursin recipes, there are three reasons. #1. When someone asks, I always answer, and, I did -- with my recipe for Boursin mashed potatoes. #2. In our food world, food is expensive -- if I'm going to recommend purchasing a special or pricey...... View full recipe for "~ Du Pain, du Vin, du Cinq Boursin Cheese Recipes ~"

12/31/2018

~ Ringing in the New Year Eating Pork & Sauerkraut ~

Anywhere you find a gathering of Pennsylvania Dutch (Dutch=Deutsch=German) or Eastern Europeans (primarily throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and into the Midwest), you'll find them ringing in the New Year by eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day, in order to receive a years worth of good luck, health and prosperity. It's a combination of tradition steeped in superstition backed up with a dose of practical purpose. Where I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, we had a large population of both. My family was Eastern European, we knew many PA Deutsch folks, and, both cuisines intersected in numerous ways, starting with:...... View full recipe for "~ Ringing in the New Year Eating Pork & Sauerkraut ~"

11/10/2018

~ Side-by-Side: Texican Chili & Mexican Rice Bowls ~

Side by side. Arm in arm. Hand in hand. The combination of steaming-hot Tex-Mex-style chili and Mexican-style rice teamed up in the same bowl is a hearty, satisfying, yummalicious meal. I was, however, taken aback to learn, that, unlike spaghetti and meatballs for example, it's not a duo that most folks pair together right "off the top of their head". When my neighbor dropped by yesterday to borrow some herbs de Provence from my spice rack, she found me eating a chili-rice bowl for lunch. With a look of wonderment, she said, "why didn't I think of that?" She went...... View full recipe for "~ Side-by-Side: Texican Chili & Mexican Rice Bowls ~"

10/31/2018

~ It's in the Name: Smashburger & Smashed Burgers ~

If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed. As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, then give it a giant whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty. A few juices would bubble up around the sides, but,...... View full recipe for "~ It's in the Name: Smashburger & Smashed Burgers ~"

10/09/2018

~The Crispy Bits about Bruschetta, Crostini and Panini~

Bread comes in many forms. I am of the opinion that bread IS the staff of life, and, I average one serving of bread per day. Sans the occasional requisite soft-textured grilled-cheese sliced white, the hot-dog roll and the hamburger bun, any humble flatbread or pita pocket, along with the breakfast-y bagel and English muffin, the display here represents a sampling of my personal artisanal favorites. Except for one, the delicate croissant, they are all firm-textured, and, by choosing the correct shape, I can make make one of three crispy Italian-style specialties. Bruschetta (broo-skeh-tah) means "oiled slice" and comes from...... View full recipe for "~The Crispy Bits about Bruschetta, Crostini and Panini~"

10/07/2018

~ Grillmarked: Italian-Style Panini-Croissant-Crostini ~

Panini-croissant-crostini. That's a lot to digest, and if you're of Italian-heritage, simmer down, lighten up, and read on before criticizing my fun-loving play on mouth-watering words. Sandwich-press-grilled panini, full of cured Italian meats and cheese, substituting mini-croissants for the traditional rustic Italian bread (I've affectionately added the word crostini to describe them, because I serve them, crostini-style, as 3-4 bite appetizers), are crowd-pleasing snacks that get gobbled up at a tailgate party faster than beer flows at a fraternity house. While crusty, firm-textured rustic-type breads make marvelous panini, I am here to tell you, if you've never made a panini...... View full recipe for "~ Grillmarked: Italian-Style Panini-Croissant-Crostini ~"

09/21/2018

~ Steaming & Separating Cabbage in the Microwave ~

Being a gal of Eastern European decent, I'm kind of a connoisseur of cabbage. While cabbage eating isn't limited to Eastern European cuisine, it is indeed associated primarily with it. In my family alone, from hot side-dishes like butter-braised cabbage and carrots and cabbage and egg noodles, to cold side-salads like creamy cole slaw and vinegary pepper slaw, to main-dish ham, cabbage and potato soup and stuffed cabbage rolls, I do not believe my mother's refrigerator was ever without a head of cabbage in it. "Kapusta" or "cabbage" was a staple. Cabbage is a staple in every Eastern European kitchen....... View full recipe for "~ Steaming & Separating Cabbage in the Microwave ~"

07/12/2018

~A Little Thing Called Gem Lettuce: A Leafy Treasure~

Lettuce is not a subject people get excited about. That said, everyone has a preference, nonchalantly placing their favorite variety in their shopping cart as they saunter through the produce department. In our present day food world, it's understandable to take this humble, fragile and perishable vegetable for granted, but, prior to the 1920's, that was not the case. Americans relied primarily on seasonal leaf lettuces that were grown in their gardens or sold in their local markets for their salads -- salad eating in the colder regions was a seasonal pleasure. Out of season, the cook relied on rugged...... View full recipe for "~A Little Thing Called Gem Lettuce: A Leafy Treasure~"

03/24/2018

~ How to: Perfectly Reheat a Leftover Slice of Pizza ~

Pizza is a staple in my kitchen, and, as a wife and mother who is well-known for craving a "slice of 'za" at midnight, leftover pizza is not something I throw away. More often than not, it's a few slices of my beloved homemade pie, on rare occasions it's delivery, and, snack pizza, the kind we quickly put together on flatbread (like pocketless pita, Naan and English muffins) are, like bread, milk and eggs, omnipresent in my refrigerator or freezer. That said, I am not a fan of cold pizza. I prefer my serving of pizza to be hot with...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Perfectly Reheat a Leftover Slice of Pizza ~"

03/17/2018

~Fresh vs. Canned: How Pineapple Reacts w/Protein~

It's natural to assume fresh fruit is better than canned, and, if you're eating fresh pineapple, fresh not only tastes better, it is indeed better for you and your digestive system. That said, nothing is more disheartening than taking the time to prepare a marinade for your favorite protein made from fresh pineapple juice, or, folding a cup or two of diced pineapple into a favorite casserole and have the protein rendered mushy. The cause is an enzyme found in fresh-cut pineapple. No matter how you slice it, dice it, or hollow it out: Why did my marinated meat (poultry,...... View full recipe for "~Fresh vs. Canned: How Pineapple Reacts w/Protein~"

12/21/2017

~ The Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein ~

Chinese-American fare. It's a favorite in our house. About once a week, we either order take-out or delivery from our two favorite places, or, I take the time to make some. Each of us has our favorite menu item -- the one that we crave and can't wait to plunge our chopsticks into. For me, it's chow mein or lo mein -- two of China's most iconic dishes. "What exactly is the difference between the two?" When I got asked that very question last night, I decided to transcribe the discussion into a blog post today -- while it's still...... View full recipe for "~ The Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein ~"

12/05/2017

~ My Favorite Big Salad: A Hoagie Chef Sans Bread ~

Let's discuss it over a salad at lunch. There's no counting how many times I've said those words. One thing is for certain, I said them and I meant them, because: a classically-made chef salad is my favorite item to order on a lunch menu. Let's be clear -- I don't diet and don't believe in dieting unless it's for real-deal medical reasons. Eating real and well, anything I want, in moderation + avoiding the drive-thru, has always worked for me. My opinion of trend-setting self-imposed diets is one you don't want to hear -- you can't handle the truth....... View full recipe for "~ My Favorite Big Salad: A Hoagie Chef Sans Bread ~"

11/23/2017

~ Some Hot & Savory Open-Faced Sandwich History ~

There's no time like the week after Thanksgiving to dive into a discussion about open-faced sandwiches. After all, a great percentage of our United States's population just spent the weekend making hot, open-faced sandwiches using their leftover turkey, dressing and gravy. I'm no exception. Shortly after sitting down to write my recipes for Kentucky's Classic Hot Brown and Pittsburgh's Original Devonshire, two iconic hot turkey sandwiches, both with rich histories (and my next two posts), I took a break to research the finer-points of the open-faced sandwich. Why? Technically, open-faced sandwiches aren't sandwiches in the true sense of the word....... View full recipe for "~ Some Hot & Savory Open-Faced Sandwich History ~"

11/18/2017

~ My Twenty-Five Minute Chicken Thigh & Rice Soup ~

During the past few months, due to the illness of a family member, I've had to cook and eat more than a few meals in a hurry and on the run. Even with a sort-of unlimited budget, I found out quickly how time constrictions affect purchasing decisions. I'd never shopped the aisles of "quick cooking" or "instant" before. I'd always had all the time needed to leisurely cook breakfast, lunch or dinner, so, I admittedly found this frustrating. That said, I had decided early to look upon the drive-through windows as last resorts. Successes intermingled with failures, but, before long,...... View full recipe for "~ My Twenty-Five Minute Chicken Thigh & Rice Soup ~"

11/15/2017

~ Confessions from an Instant Ramen Noodle Junkie ~

While watching a late-night episode of "Locked Up" on MSNBC last night, I learned an interesting fact about those super-curly square-block instant ramen noodles: They are the #1 selling item in prison commissaries. That didn't surprise me as much as the reason: Prisoners buy them for the seasoning packets, not the noodles. It seems that prison cafeteria food is so lacking in salt, those packets get sprinkled on or stirred into almost everything. Get in my my soup! I learn something new every day (or night). In my kitchen, we use the noodles, not the seasoning packets. Amongst other things,...... View full recipe for "~ Confessions from an Instant Ramen Noodle Junkie ~"

07/14/2017

~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Hellmann's vs Duke's ~

Mayonnaise. As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never too far from my mayo. During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase bigger jars, in two-packs. When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could (and will) eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day. There's more. I can't imagine my life without mayonnaise-based tartar and remoulade sauces in it, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade...... View full recipe for "~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Hellmann's vs Duke's ~"