You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 of my 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. Have fun!


~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (10/7/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 Today is Sunday which makes my weekly Culinary Q&A two days late. Just so you know, Melanie's Kitchen gets SUPER busy during the Penn State football season, particularly when PSU is playing a home game. It becomes a mecca for family and friends who are in Happy Valley for the game, and, even when I am not formally expecting guests, it is indeed a rarity if someone doesn't decide to drop by to say "hi"!

PICT2206 In terms of tailgate weather, yesterday was a hallmark-card day. There is no book with directions for perfectly pairing a meal with with perfect weather, but yesterday I got more than lucky.  Our tailgaters ate 3 platters (24 servings) of my recipe for ~ Comfort Food Italian-Style: Chicken Cacciatore ~ under the blue & white Penn State sky.  You can get my recipe by clicking into Categories 3, 12, 14 or 22!

Two great cooking questions came my way this past week.  Both caused me to pause and think a bit, so perhaps it is "a good thing" I had the extra day to carefully ponder my answers!  Here we go:

Q.  Diane asks:  I received a convection toaster oven as a wedding gift back in July.  I am embarrassed to admit I have not taken it out of the box because the word convection intimidates me, mostly because almost no recipes offer convection instructions. Can you explain the differences between a convection oven and a "regular" oven to me?  Is there an easy calculation for converting recipes from conventional times to convection times?

PICT2243 A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Before we discuss the differences between convection and conventional ovens, let me say this:  take your toaster oven out of the box.  Unless I miss my guess,  it is BOTH a convection and conventional oven with conventional toast and broil features.  I have two Cuisinart convection oven toaster-broilers in my kitchen, which are also conventional ovens, and I use them often.  I also have four, large, built-in Gaggenau wall ovens which are conventional as well as convection.  Many larger convection ovens manufactured today automatically do the calculation to convection for you.  This is not the case with countertop/toaster ovens.   This being said, I am NOT an expert on convection cooking in the home (but I will interject that my restaurant chef friends use and rely upon convection cooking almost exclusively).  I will, however, share what I am certain of for fact:

Convection ovens have a third heating element and a fan that circulates hot air as the food cooks.  This speeds up the cooking process.  Depending on whether your are baking or roasting, it can be as little as 10% less, or, in the case of a large piece of meat, as much as 25-30% less.  In addition, depending upon what you are baking or roasting,  the conventional temperature will usually be reduced by 25 degrees, but it can be as much as 50 degrees.  I am sorry to report, there is no one, single, quotable, conversion calculation.  Because of these variables, most recipe developers and writers, myself included, avoid including specific instructions for convection cooking.  But, I do have good news for you:

First:  If you google the words CONVECTION OVEN CALCULATOR and click onto it, a site with a picture of an oven will appear.  On the picture of the oven, enter your recipe's conventional temperature and cook time, click whether you are baking or roasting, and, voila:  it will do the conversion for you and give you your convection instructions!

Second:  I recommend you purchase a copy of The Convection Oven Bible, by Linda Stephen. The publisher is Robert Rose and the cost of mine was $22.95.  This book is full of well-written, precise, easy-to-understand information, detailed instructions and great recipes too!


Q.  PSUinBOSSTON asks:  Mel- can we talk sauces?  Do you have any "go to" sauces that can be used when I'm not feeling very creative?  I do most of the cooking, and I usually prefer to just let the mood and ingredients inspire me.  But sometimes I just don't have it in me.  My thinking is if I had a couple of unique sauces that I could keep in the freezer, it would allow me to make a fresh meal with reduced time and effort (basically, an alternative to freezing the meats and other ingredients).  Something that would "spice up" a bland chicken or beef dish.  So how about it, Mel, and "go to" sauces?  Or do frozen sauces offend your chef sensibilities?

PICT2306 A.  Kitchen Encounters:  PSUin BOSSTON!  Great to have you back again this week!  Let me start by saying my chef sensibilities almost never get offended.  Folks like yourself, who have "real-busy-lives" outside of the kitchen, yet still maintain a desire to come home and cook a tasty meal inspire me. And, based upon your previous comments and questions, you enjoy a good meal and enjoy your time in the kitchen preparing it.  I have two "freezer friendly" sauces to share with you.  Both are family favorites as well as "go to" sauces for when unannounced guests show up on my doorstep.  You'll have to decide for yourself in what quantities you want to prepare them, as well as what size portions you want to freeze them in!

PICT2248 First:  Allow me to recommend my ~ Apricot-Mustard Sauce:  For Dipping or Drizzling ~.  It can be found in Categories 8, 10 or 22.  It's easy to make and turns chicken, pork or veal into succulent indulgences.  Pictured here:  grilled chicken, sweet potato, caramelized onion and tomatoes drizzled with apricot mustard sauce!

PICT2311 Second:  Nothing takes a steak, a flank steak or a skirt steak, or even a burger for that matter, over-the-top like a spicy Argentinian chimichurri sauce.  I made a fresh batch today, just for this post, so the recipe isn't up on my blog just yet, but it will be tomorrow.  It is pictured here atop a perfectly-cooked, well-appointed London broil.  Beef w/chimichurri sauce... it's what's for dinner in the Preschutti house tonight!

Enjoy what's left of your weekend everyone.  Once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

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

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference ~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (10/7/11) ~:


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment