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

01/03/2022

~HISstory vs HERstory -- The Story of Eggs Benedict~

A la Benedict. It means in-the-style-of eggs Benedict. For runny-egg lovers, this is the la-tee-da, ooh-la-la, creme-de-la-creme of fancy-schmancy, artery-clogging AM indulgences: two golden-toasted English muffin halves, each topped with a slice of smoky ham, a perfectly poached egg and a generous drizzle of buttery hollandaise sauce. This all-American breakfast and brunch specialty has been gracing the tables of high-end restaurants for over a century. There are three claims to this beloved dish's origin, with only one being widely-accepted as the real-deal. Culinary Fisticuffs? The Battle Between the Benedicts!!! HISstory vs. HERstory: Thanks to a food article appearing in the...... View full recipe for "~HISstory vs HERstory -- The Story of Eggs Benedict~"

12/31/2021

~ And Just Like That -- Christmas Vacation was Over ~

Meet my Marty Moose eggnog cups. Made famous in National Lampoon's 1986 flick Christmas Vacation, these glass cups have been serving eggnog to family and friends in my kitchen from the day I gleefully found out I could purchase a set. They are just, plain, fun. In the midst of all the fun and celebratory toasts, have you ever wondered why we drink egg nog over the holidays, and moreover, why we drink eggnog in small cups, or, why it's even called eggnog? Why we drink eggnog to celebrate Christmas & New Year's: Eggnog means eggs in a cup, and...... View full recipe for "~ And Just Like That -- Christmas Vacation was Over ~"

12/24/2021

~ Why We Ring in the New Year w/Pork & Sauerkraut ~

If you ask Americans across our country what they're serving for dinner on New Year's Day, the most common response will be: pork and sauerkraut -- and the reason is not just because it is a delicious meal. It's a time-honored tradition based on the belief that pork and sauerkraut will bring luck and prosperity in the new year -- and who couldn't use a good bit of both. This tradition is closely linked to the Pennsylvania Deutsch (crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine, with the more commonly used term, Pennsylvania "Dutch", being...... View full recipe for "~ Why We Ring in the New Year w/Pork & Sauerkraut ~"

11/30/2021

~ Boston Cream Pie -- Why this Cake is called a Pie ~

Boston Cream Pie, a feel-good dessert that won the hearts of Americans over a century ago. The crazy thing is, it's a cake, not a pie -- not even close to a pie. That said, this retro cake, sandwiched between a layer of pastry cream and topped with chocolate, is one of my favorite cake desserts. Don't ask me why -- ok ask me why -- I find myself making Boston Cream Pie in the dead cold of Winter. That's because my mom always made it for the Thanksgiving holiday, as a cake dessert to accompany her pies (and please...... View full recipe for "~ Boston Cream Pie -- Why this Cake is called a Pie ~"

11/18/2021

~ Tis the Season to Learn the History Behind Eggnog ~

Eggnog means eggs in a cup, and it is used on both sides of the Atlantic to toast to health. Nog is an old English term for a small wooden cup. It descended from a hot British drink called posset, made from eggs beaten with milk, sugar and some type of spirit. During that period, alcoholic drinks were served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because it was cooked, posset traveled and adapted well to local tastes. One such place: the American colonies, which were full of farms which were full of chickens, cows and lots of cheap rum -- our...... View full recipe for "~ Tis the Season to Learn the History Behind Eggnog ~"

10/31/2021

~ Johnnycakes -- Precursor to the American Pancake ~

My first experience with Johnny cakes was in 1992 We decided to take a tennis vacation and headed to the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. During the Summer, Killington offers tennis packages and first-class accommodations. We drove nine hours, along winding, two-lane interstate and country roads looking at truly picturesque mountains and greenery. It was idillic, and, we had enough free time for sight-seeing, shopping in country stores and eating in local restaurants too. I ate my first Johnny cake at the resort for breakfast before hitting the courts on our first day. I liked them so much, I ordered...... View full recipe for "~ Johnnycakes -- Precursor to the American Pancake ~"

10/24/2021

~The History Behind New York's Dirty Water Hot Dogs~

Hot dogs -- one of my favorite subjects. I relish eating them, never tire of discussing them, and, whenever traveling, if the destination is known for a style of hot dog, it's one of the things I make a point of eating while I'm there. The New York-style hot dog is one I've not chatted with you about yet. That said, had I not had advance, concise, clarification of what "dirty-water-dog" means (the affectionate but unappealing nickname New Yorkers have given their dogs), cuing myself up in the line in front of the closest pushcart would not have happened. A...... View full recipe for "~The History Behind New York's Dirty Water Hot Dogs~"

10/21/2021

~The Hidden History of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing~

Before we know it, the holiday entertaining season will be upon us. Charcuterie, cheese and vegetable trays, along with assorted, chips, crackers, nuts, dips and spreads will be appearing on cocktail tables in neighborhoods all across America. Like everyone else, the snacks I choose to serve change every year, but, one thing that's always present in some form: Hidden Valley Ranch dressing or dip. Why? Everyone loves the taste of cool and creamy "Ranch". Interestingly: A little over 50 years ago no one had ever heard of ranch dressing and now it is America's most popular salad dressing. We do...... View full recipe for "~The Hidden History of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing~"

10/18/2021

~ The Story of Humble, Homey All-American Meatloaf ~

The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten. Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth and rich pan gravy alongside a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with stewed tomatoes and macaroni and cheese? Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf dinner slathered with a thick brown gravy and French fries? I remember them all, but, mostly, I remember my mom's "special" meatloaf. "Meatloaf." Say the word aloud in the company of family or friends, even...... View full recipe for "~ The Story of Humble, Homey All-American Meatloaf ~"

10/12/2021

~Chutney -- A Spicy Condiment and Sandwich Topper~

Having its origin in India, the name for this condiment comes from the East Indian word chatni, which means to entice the appetite. Indian chutneys were and are commonly made daily and eaten the same day -- originally prepared using a stone mortar and pestle, nowadays an electric food processor is often used. Just like our common American condiments, they can be found on the table for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner -- they are a part of the daily culinary routine. Chutney was imported from India to Western Europe in the early 17th century. European renditions were generically referred to...... View full recipe for "~Chutney -- A Spicy Condiment and Sandwich Topper~"

10/06/2021

~ The History of Salad Olivier: Russian Potato Salad ~

Traditionally, this salat, the Russian word for salad, was reserved for large gatherings: religious or national holidays, special community events and/or family celebrations, and, it was served all year long. With or without meat or poultry added to it, it was served as an hors d'oeuvre atop toast points, by itself as a light lunch or snack, or, as a starter-course or side-dish to a hearty meal. For the most part, I associate it with Spring (because my grandmother always made it for or after the Easter holiday), so, I like to serve this pretty-to-look-at salad as a side-dish on...... View full recipe for "~ The History of Salad Olivier: Russian Potato Salad ~"

09/24/2021

~ The History Behind the Very Famous Caesar Salad ~

Over the past four decades, the classic Caesar salad has: #1) Become America's most popular main-dish salad; #2) Altered the lettuce industry, as the demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and: #3) Turned the chicken-topped Caesar salad into the chicken item most frequently found on restaurant menus -- even more than wings and chicken fingers. Now considered the all-American salad, it was in fact invented in Mexico in 1924 by an Italian-born immigrant to Mexico. Now considered the all-American salad, the Caesar was invented on July 4th, 1924, by an Italian-Mexican chef & co-owner of a restaurant in Tijuana, who emigrated...... View full recipe for "~ The History Behind the Very Famous Caesar Salad ~"

09/15/2021

~ Jamaican Jerk Style -- A Unique Method of Cooking ~

In a (coco)nutshell, jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica. It was developed by African slaves who escaped into the mountains of Jamaica after the British captured this island paradise from Spain in 1655. Forced to adapt to their new surroundings, the Maroons (the name given to the escaped slaves) made use of the foods nature provided, by pulverizing the edibles they gathered into a fiery pasty rub. By adding fruit and/or citrus juice, the fiery pasty rub became a spicy basting and dipping sauce. When thinned down with a bit of drinking water or the milk from...... View full recipe for "~ Jamaican Jerk Style -- A Unique Method of Cooking ~"

09/12/2021

~What is Quick Bread and What Defines Quick Bread~

Quick bread is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time. It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high. Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast. Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately double-acting baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda. In the case of baking powder, it is called "double acting" because the rising process starts the moment it makes contact with the liquids, and,...... View full recipe for "~What is Quick Bread and What Defines Quick Bread~ "

09/09/2021

~Crisp, Crunch, Betty, Cobbler, Grunt, Slump & Buckle~

Our forefathers' wives. the true mothers-of-invention, invented several amusing words to define our now vintage American-heritaged fruit desserts -- none of which, uniquely, fall under the category of pie. It's a short list. Seven words that can confound even the savviest of bakers. Seven words that can confound even the savviest of bakers: A crisp is a fruit mixture topped with a crispy crumb or streusel (a streusel contains oats, a crumb does not, which makes it crumbly). If a crisp has a bottom crust, it's called a crunch. To turn a crisp or a crunch into a betty, the...... View full recipe for "~Crisp, Crunch, Betty, Cobbler, Grunt, Slump & Buckle~"

09/06/2021

~Coffeecake: Traditional Fare for Breakfast or Brunch~

Thanks to post WWII advertising campaigns by the American Coffee Bureau, by 1950, America was a country of coffee drinkers. In the workplace, the 15-minute coffee break was born, and, if you were a housewife, once you got your husband off to work and the kids off to school, you likely participated in a daily, weekly or occasional mid-morning "coffee klatch" with neighborhood friends. The term "coffee klatch" comes from the German word "kaffeeklatsch", meaning "coffee chat" -- a casual gathering for sharing coffee and conversation with close confidants. Literally translated: kaffee = coffee, and, klatsch = gossip. I like...... View full recipe for "~Coffeecake: Traditional Fare for Breakfast or Brunch~"

09/03/2021

~ What to Consider Before Cooking in Big Batches ~

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 "~ What to Consider Before Cooking in Big Batches ~"

08/31/2021

~ What is the Difference Between a Soup and a Stew ~

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 "~ What is the Difference Between a Soup and a Stew ~"

08/28/2021

~ Don't Confuse the Tomatillo with the Green Tomato ~

Tomatillo, also called tomato verde, means husk tomato, with verde meaning green in Spanish. The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which, while related to the red tomato family, and remarkably similar in appearance to the green tomato, cannot be used interchangeably with green tomatoes. Tomatillos are a staple in every Tex-Mex gardener's garden. The fruit of the tomatillo is firm, green and relatively small compared to red tomatoes (only about the size of a large, cherry tomato). They grow to maturity inside of an inedible husk (which gets disgarded), and, range in color from pale green to...... View full recipe for "~ Don't Confuse the Tomatillo with the Green Tomato ~"

08/24/2021

~Let's Talk Plantains -- The Next of Kin to the Banana~

Bananas and plantains -- they resemble each other, and they're related too. I eat a banana almost every morning, but, I can't say the same for the plantain. By accident or out of curiosity, if you've ever peeled a plantain and taken a taste, you knew you weren't eating a banana. That said, when sautéed, the taste and texture of the yellow plantain is remarkable. As a lover of sautéed bananas, a la bananas foster for dessert, or atop eggnog pancakes w/sautéed butter-rum 'n nog bananas. The best way for me to culinarily describe the difference between the two is,...... View full recipe for "~Let's Talk Plantains -- The Next of Kin to the Banana~"

08/15/2021

~ Demystifying the Differences Between Four Flours ~

All-purpose flour, bread flour, cake flour and pastry flour. It really is all in the name, and, a well-written recipe will specify the type of flour required to produce the best results. I for one would rather not bake something than substitute a different flour. Why? Unlike cooking, baking is a precise science. It is a series of chemical reactions that occur based upon a list of weighed and/or measured ingredients. The words "smidgen", "pinch" and "dash" have no place in the baking world. The moment you grasp this, you can embrace baking. And, please don't let the words "precise...... View full recipe for "~ Demystifying the Differences Between Four Flours ~"

08/09/2021

~An Inconvenient Truth - A Sweet Potato is Not a Yam~

Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root, which belongs to the morning-glory family, is native to the tropical regions of the Americas. There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" -- the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato. The pale potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet, and, after being cooked,...... View full recipe for "~An Inconvenient Truth - A Sweet Potato is Not a Yam~"

08/06/2021

~ The Bell Pepper Season & Why We All Love Them ~

Ok, maybe we ALL don't love the bell pepper but the majority of us do, including me. Served raw or cooked, they impart both flavor and color in all sorts of dishes from cuisines all around the world. At first sight, it's hard not to be attracted to their bold green, red, orange or yellow color, and, even if a recipe calls for a specific color, it's nice to know they can be used interchangeably -- although the green bell pepper is not quite as sweet as the others. Store-bought or home-grown, kept stored in the refrigerator, they have a...... View full recipe for "~ The Bell Pepper Season & Why We All Love Them ~"

08/03/2021

~The History Behind the Beloved Hass Avocado Fruit~

The most popular avocado in the United States is California Hass -- HASS, which rhymes with PASS is frequently mispronounced and mispelled Haas. This pear-shaped fruit weighs in at about half a pound and has bumpy, rough, dark greenish-black skin -- interestingly, it was originally known as the alligator pear, which, when you think about it for a moment, is an accurate description. It is known for its silky, rich, buttery texture and mild, nutlike flavor. It is the only avocado variety to be grown year-round, representing about 80% of all avocados sold in the world and generates more than...... View full recipe for "~The History Behind the Beloved Hass Avocado Fruit~"

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~"