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13 posts from February 2013


~ It's a Triple-Corn Jalapeno Corn-Muffin Kinda Day ~

IMG_2563How seriously do you take your cornbread recipe?  I take mine very seriously, but, I'm not proclaiming it the best recipe.  Why?  If I walked into a room full of people right now and struck up a conversation about cornbread, the cornbread lovers would all chime in unision, "I have the absolute best recipe and I'd be happy to share it with you."  If there were a native Southerner or two in the room with us Yankees, there would be a full-blown lecture about Southen cornbread being the only "real" cornbread.  The spirited discussion would revolve around the rights and wrongs of cornbread baking, and, Northern- vs. Southern-style cornbread.  With just one or two very, very minor deviations, I classify my cornbread as Southern!

"Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern cornbread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it." ~ Mark Twain

6a0120a8551282970b0153925ee30f970b-800wiFive things you need to know about Southern cornbread & Mel:

1) Southern cornbread has a larger ratio of corn meal to wheat flour (all-purpose flour) than Northern versions, and many cooks in the South add no wheat flour at all.  I've tried it both ways and my preference is to add a bit of wheat flour to the mix.  Corn, which is both a vegetable and a grain, lacks gluten which is what allows wheat flour to rise.  My position is:  a bit of flour does cornbread a world of good.  The ratio I like best is three parts of corn meal to one part flour.

2) Southern cooks are adamant about using buttermilk only to make cornbread.  I have done it using plain milk and I am taking this position:  buttermilk is indeed essential to great cornbread.

3) Southern recipes almost always stir in a small amount of liquid fat:  oil, melted butter or bacon drippings.  I dislike oil and am a melted butter kind of girl, unless I'm adding bacon bits to my cornbread and just happen to have fresh bacon drippings on hand.  Repeat:  I dislike oil.

4) Southern purists add no sugar to their cornbread.  I dislike sugar-free cornbread, and, since this is a free country, this Yankee woman puts sugar in her cornbread.

5) Southerners are the first ones to personalize their cornbread with flavorful additives like corn kernels and bacon bits.  Diced chili peppers are frequently added to spice things up.  I've tried all three and I'm taking this position:  they are all great when added singularly or in conjunction with each other.  The more the merrier where cornbread is concerned.

IMG_2414A few days ago, I made and posted my recipe for ~ Chilly-Day Comfort:  Robin's Chile Relleno Bake!!! ~.  This casserole is hearty, yet light, and somewhat like a strata*, but without the bread. Because it contains no bread, cornbread or corn muffins are the perfect accompaniment to it. It can be found in Categories 3, 9, 13, 19 or 20 or by clicking on the Related Articles link below.

*Note: A strata is a layered casserole in the same food category with quiche and frittata. It consists primarily of some type of cubed bread, grated cheese and a beaten egg mixture.  After that, it can include cooked meats, seafood, and/or vegetables.  After the ingredients are layered in the casserole dish, it is baked and served hot, warm or at room temperature for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Usually served as main course, some renditions make wonderful side-dishes.

IMG_2540A bit about corn muffins:  Muffins made from cornmeal are popular all over the USA, and, the corn muffin is the offical muffin of the state of Massachusetts.  Corn muffins are basicially muffin-shaped cornbread, but, are usually sweeter.  I add extra sugar to my corn muffins while other bakers add sweeteners like corn syrup, honey and even maple syrup.  Corn muffins made with traditional corn bread ingredients (a healthy amount of cornmeal), will not have the signature domed-top that other kinds of muffins and their cupcake cousins, which are made with all-purpose flour or cake flour, do. 

Would you like a corn muffin would that?  Yes please!

















1 1/2  cups yellow cornmeal

1/2  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2  teaspoons salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

2  extra-large eggs, beaten

1  cup buttermilk

6  tablespoons sugar

1  cup creamed corn

1  cup whole corn kernels, fully-cooked and shaved off the cob, or, canned and well-drained

2  tablespoons finely-diced, crisply-fried bacon (optional)

1/4  cup well-drained, pickled jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)

1/4  cup melted butter (1/2 stick)

6a0120a8551282970b015436326b70970c-320wi~ Step 1.  Prep and have ready any optional ingredients to be added and set them aside.

~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large spoon, thoroughly stir together the dry ingredients:  the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and white pepper.  Set aside.

Note:  This can be done up to a day in advance.  How convenient is that!

6a0120a8551282970b014e8c52cc72970d-320wi~ Step 3.  In the microwave, melt the butter.  Set aside, about 5 minutes, to cool slightly.

~ Step 4.  In a medium mixing bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs.  Using a large spoon, add and stir in the following wet ingredients, plus the sugar:  buttermilk, creamed corn, whole corn kernels and sugar.  Stir in any optional ingredients.  Add the butter and vigorously mix until sugar is dissolved, about 15-30 seconds.

IMG_2519~ Step 5.  Before proceeding any further with this recipe, take a few moments to line the desired-size muffin pans (standard or miniature) with "cupcake" papers.  You'll need 12 standard-size papers, or, 36 miniature-size papers.

Tip from Mel:  Use yellow-colored or white "cupcake" papers.  After baking, your muffins almost look like the papers aren't even there!  

6a0120a8551282970b017ee8bfaf79970d-320wi~ Step 6.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Using a large spoon, stir until the batter is just combined.  Don't overwork it and don't worry about any lumps.

IMG_2536~ Step 7. Using a 2 1/2" or 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop (depending on what size muffins you are making), scoop the batter into prepared muffin pans.

~ Step 8.   Bake muffins on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until puffed and slightly golden, about 15 minutes for standard muffins and 13 minutes for miniature muffins.  Remove from oven and immediatley transfer muffins from pans to cooling rack.  Cool for about 3 minutes before serving  hot, or, longer to serve warm or at room temperature:

IMG_2544It's a Triple-Corn Jalapeno Corn-Muffin Kinda Day:  Recipe yields 1 dozen standard-size muffins or 3 dozen miniature-size muffins.

Special Equipment List:  large spoon; fork; 1-2 standard-size muffin pans, enough for 12 muffins, or, 2-3 miniature-size muffin pans, enough for 3 dozen muffins; 1 dozen standard-size or 3 dozen miniature-size, disposable cupcake/muffin papers; 2 1/2" or 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b014e8c52b68d970d-800wiCook's Note: If it's just one traditional loaf of cornbread your looking to make, my recipe for ~ It's a Triple-Corn Japapeno Cornbread Kinda Day ~ (which is almost identical to the corn muffins I made today)can be found in Catetories 5 or 13.  And... don't forget the red chile honey or jelly!   

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ The Oregano Debate: Mediterranean vs. Mexican ~

IMG_2490"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" 

~ Don Michael Corleone.  (The Godfather III movie.)

We've been enjoying a week of Tex-Mex-themed recipes and chile pepper posts here on Kitchen Encounters.  Just as I started to write my next and last February post (about cornbread and cornbread muffins... so stay tuned), I got a second question from a regular reader, and, it was, again, so good, it too merits a post of its own, so, without further adieu:

6a0120a8551282970b0168ebf0c318970c-800wiYesterday, Liz wanted to know if there is a difference between chile powder, spelled with and "e" and chili powder, spelled with an "i". There most certainly is, and, you can read my answer, ~ Is it spelled chile or chili?  It's NOT a regional thing! ~ in Categories 13, 15 or 16, or, click on the Related Article link below.  Today, Liz wants to know:

IMG_2481Q.  Liz says and asks:  Melanie thank-you so much for my newfound understanding of chile powder and chili powder, and, for responding to my question almost immediately. Now, I have one more spicey question.  

In all of your Tex-Mex recipes you specifically refer to Mexican oregano.  I've seen it in the spice-isle section of my grocery stores, but always assumed it was the same as "regular" or Mediterranean oregano, except imported from Mexico.  Is this true and can they be used interchangeably?  Because of your chile powder answer, I'm sort of laughing at myself and guessing the answer is going to be: "not the same", and, "do not use interchangeably".

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Liz, Mediterranean oregano and Mexican oregano, despite their sharing a common name (because they have a common base flavor that stands up well to bold cuisines), are NOT the same.  In fact they are two completely different plant species. I do not recommend that you use them interchangeably.  I do, however, recommend that if you love Tex-Mex fare, you pick up a bottle of Mexican oregano and add it to your spice rack ASAP.

IMG_2469Mediterranean oregano: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It's sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

Mexican oregano: is a member of lemon verbena family. It's native to Mexico and grows throughout Central and South America.  It is sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano.  Mexican oregano has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

BOTH Mediterranean and Mexican oregano: come in fresh and dried form.  Always remember that fresh and dried herbs don't have the same aroma or taste, and, when preparing a recipe, use what that recipe calls for.  Also, the drying process concentrates the flavor of an herb, making the dried herb stronger in flavor.  The general rule for substitution is:

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs

IMG_2486Exceptions to this rule are bay leaves, cilantro and parsley, which lose flavor when dried.  In the case of these, use twice as much:  2 fresh bay leaves = 4 dried bay leaves.  Lastly, fresh herbs are usually added to the dish being prepared near the end of the cooking process (to maintain their color and flavor), while dried herbs are added to the dish at the beginning of the cooking process (giving their flavor time to infuse).

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


~Is it spelled chile or chili? It is NOT a regional thing!~

6a0120a8551282970b0168ebf0c318970c-800wiAt any given moment, I have a few to several jars of randomly purchased chile powders or chile blends on my spice rack.  They are all quite good, are marketed by reputable manufacturers and I am thankful for them.  They do, however, limit me to using whatever each manufacturer has produced or included in their product, as well as what is available to me at my local markets. I want to point out that using dried chile powder and dried chili powder in the home kitchen is very convenient, and, if used corrrectly, compromises much less than the "fresh chile pepper purists" want you to believe.  That being said, it helps to know what you are buying.  To know what you are buying, you need to know what the spelling means.  On you do:  the label will reveal it all.

IMG_2459Yesterday, a reader questioned my spelling of chile powder and the spelling of chili powder in general. I thought it was a great question, so, today I'm going to take the mystery out of it for everyone.

Q.  Liz says and asks:  I noticed in your recipe for white chicken chili that you spelled chili powder with an 'e' and then a second time with an 'i'.  At first I thought it was a typo. Then, I took a look at a few of your other recipes and noticed that you spell it differently quite often. My husband said he thought both spellings were acceptable and it is a regional thing.  Then, I looked at a few spice bottles in the grocery store and they too were labeled differently.  I'm confused.  Is there a difference between the two?

6a0120a8551282970b0133f563b1e5970b-800wiBy the way, your white chicken chili is the best we have ever tasted!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Liz, what a great question.  There is indeed a difference between chile powder and chili powder, and: 

Once you know what the spelling means,

you will know what it is and what is in it! 

IMG_2464CHILE:  Spelled with an"e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family.

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (like chili con carne).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with and "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of ground, dried spices (for example:  cumin, garlic, onion) and chile powder, meaning:  the manufacturer has added spices to the chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

(Note to readers:  For those of you who would like my recipe for ~ "White Out" White Chicken 'n Corn Chili ~, just click into Categories  2, 3, 13, 17, 19 or 22!)

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Chilly-Day Comfort: Robin's Chile Relleno Bake!!! ~

IMG_2414I've had this recipe sitting on my desktop since February 2nd, the day my foodie Facebook friend and fellow blogger Robin Mullen posted it just in time for Super Bowl XLVII (47).  Joe and I adore Tex-Mex food (in case you haven't noticed Category 13 here on Kitchen Encounters is partially devoted to it), so, this recipe caught my eye immediately.  (I've always wanted to add a really yummy Tex-Mex casserole to my repertoire, but, an inspiration for one never came about.) Super Bowl Sunday was the next day (February 3rd), and, since I hadn't made a decision on what to make for Joe, I thought Robin's casserole would be perfect.  Alas, there were no fresh poblano peppers to be found here in Central PA on that day.  After a short chat with Robin, who recommended not substituting anything in their place, I set it aside, on a short stack of "things I gotta try really soon" recipes.  Thank-you for the inspiration Robin!

IMG_2373Yesterday, I sent Joe to Wegman's with a short list of ingredients for my 37th KE cooking segment on WHVL-TV.  Joe called from the store and asked, "Was it poblano peppers you were looking for a couple of weeks ago?"  About 30 minutes later he was home with everything I needed for my shoot, plus, two pounds of handsome poblanos.  Today, we woke up to sleet and freezing rain. With poblanos on hand, this is going to be the perfect cold-weather dinner!

RobinEnter:  Robin Mullen, an interior designer and photographer who lives in Denver, Colorado. She loves to travel, especially to her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  She is also passionate about cooking and dining well.  Robin has been traveling to San Miguel de Allende for over 39 years.  A few times as year, she organizes small groups to tour San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding areas of colonial old Mexico.  Known for her attention to detail, these intimate tours provides one a chance to join friends of similar taste and to experience San Miguel's exceptional cuture, endless shopping, savory cuisine, ideal climate and its amazing colonial architecture.  I follow her blog on a regular basis, and, if you are lover of Mexican cuisine and history, I highly-recommend that you check it out at:

IMG_2184A bit about poblanos and chile relleno:  Poblanos are a dark green to greenish-black chile with a flavor that is mildly-spicy.  They're about 2 1/2"-3" wide and about 4"-5" long, tapering from top to bottom into a sort-of triangular shape.  The best polanos are grown in central Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.  "Poblano" is the word for the inhabitants of the state of Puebla, Mexico, where this chile pepper originated.   Their peak season is late-Summer and early-Fall.  In their dried form, they are known as "chile ancho", meaning,"wide chile".  They are almost never eaten in raw form, but are cooked in a wide variety of Tex-Mex dishes and sauces.  They are best known as the chile of choice for "chile relleno", which means, "stuffed peppers".  In this dish, the peppers are stuffed with a cheese mixture, batter-dipped and deep-fried until the outside is crisp and golden and the inside is melted and oozing.  Poblanos are also popular during the Mexican independence day festivities as part of a dish called "chiles en nogada", which incorporates green, white and red ingredients corresponding to the colors of the Mexican flag!

Roasting poblano peppers enhances their flavor and texture!

IMG_2245When we're roasting poblanos in the Summer months, Joe places them on the grids of our gas grill, turning them, until the skin is charred.  When I'm roasting 1-2 indoors, I poke one with a fork and hold it over the flame on my gas stove (which is how Robin does hers), until the skin is charred on all sides. When I have several to roast, I do them all at once under the broiler in my oven (which is your alternative in the event you don't have a gas grill or a gas stove)!

IMG_2189 IMG_2194~ Step 1. Stand each poblano upright, stem side up. Using a chef's knive, cut vertically down all 3 sides of the pepper, to form three relatively-flat sides.  Remove seeds and trim out any white rib sections.

IMG_2199~ Step 2.  Place the pepper pieces, side-by-side, in a single layer, skin-side-up on an appropriately-sized baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

Note:  This is six peppers and this is a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan.

IMG_2206 IMG_2203                                             ~ Step 3. Place pan 6" under preheated broiler until skins are blistered and a deep, chocolate-brown color, about 6-9 minutes.

Note:  Watch carefully during this time, as peppers can and will go from chocolate-brown charred to black-burned quickly!

IMG_2217~ Step 4.  Remove pan from oven, cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil and set aside for about 10-15 minutes.  This will allow the skin to sweat and steam, which will make them easy to remove from the flavorful flesh.

IMG_2224Step 5.  Uncover the pan.  Using your fingertips, starting at the wide end of each pepper, begin pulling the thin, charred skin from the now smoky-flavored, softened, flesh.

IMG_2229Removing the skin from six peppers took me less than 5 minutes.  How easy was that!

Note:  Some sources will instruct to char the skin to a "blackened" state. Feel free to do that if you wish, but I find that tactic detrimental to the fine taste of the poblano pepper!

Chile Relleno Casserole: Perfect for Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner!

IMG_22542  pounds fresh poblano peppers, roasted and peeled, cut into strips or large, 1 1/2"-2" chunks (6, 5-6 ounce poblanos)

1  pound ground beef (Note:  I'm using ground sirloin (95/5).)

1  pound ground pork (Note:  I'm using ground pork tenderloin.)

8  ounces yellow or sweet onion, IMG_2247diced, about 2 cups

4  large garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tablespoons

2  teaspoons ground cumin

1  teaspoon Mexican oregano

1  teaspoon ancho chile powder

2  teaspoons sea salt 

2  4.5-ounce cans chopped green chiles, drained

IMG_22651 pound grated white or yellow cheddar cheese, about 4 cups (Note:  I'm using 8 ounces Monterey Jack w/Jalapeno cheese and 8 ounces yellow cheddar.)

8 large eggs 

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  tablespoons Sriracha sauce

IMG_2269~ Step 1.  Crumble the ground beef and pork into a 12" skillet.  Dice the onion and mince the garlic, adding them to the skillet as you work. Sprinkle in the cumin, Mexican oregano, ancho chile powder and sea salt.

IMG_2278 IMG_2272~ Step 2.  Over medium-high heat, saute, stirring frequently, breaking the meat up into smaller bits and pieces as you go, until the meat is just cooked through and the onions are soft, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat.

~ Step 3. Prop the pan on its side to tip it at a slight angle (I use a kitchen towel).  Allow liquid to drain from the meat, about 30 seconds. Using a small ladle, remove and discard the liquid.  Stir in the green chiles and set the pan aside.

IMG_2298~ Step 4.  Grate the cheese and set aside.  I tossed both of my cheeses together in a food storage bag.

IMG_2282~ Step 5.  In a large bowl, on medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, combine the eggs and flour and until smooth.  Lower the mixer speed and blend in the milk, Sriracha and salt.  Set aside.  To assemble and bake the casserole:

IMG_2302 IMG_2308 IMG_2314 IMG_2315


         ~ Step 6, 7, 8 & 9.  Arrange half of the poblano pepper pieces in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Distribute half of the grated cheese over the top.  Spoon all of the meat mixture on top of the cheese.  Arrange the second half of the pepper pieces over the top.

IMG_2324 IMG_2319~ Steps 10, 11 & 12. Pour milk mixture over the top.  Distribute remaining cheese over the top.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.

Casserole will be bubbling around the perimeter, puffed up in the center and lightly-browned. Remove from oven and allow to rest 15-20 minutes prior to slicing and serving:

IMG_2348Chilly-Day Comfort:  Robin's Chiles Rellenos Bake!!!:  Recipe yields 12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; aluminum foil; 12" skillet; spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dish; whisk

IMG_2454Cook's Note:  Looking for a great lunch to take to the office?  Cut the casserole into squares and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate. Grab one every AM on your way out the door and reheat it in the office microwave.  Remember to keep a bottle of your favorite hot sauce in your desk drawer!

6a0120a8551282970b015435f6f6ae970c-800wiExtra Cook's Note:  Joe grows poblanos in his garden.  In the late-Summer, early-Fall I enjoy using them in all sorts of Tex-Mex fare. You can find one of our favorite meals in Categories 3, 13, 19 or 20:  ~ Stuffed Peppers?  Make Mine Poblanos Please!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ How to: Roast Large Chile Peppers in the Oven!!! ~

IMG_2245Roasting peppers on a gas grill, over a gas stovetop, or, in the oven, goes a long way to enhance their flavor and texture.  Joe found some really handsome poblanos in our grocery store yesterday and I could not have been more pleased.  Green and red bell peppers are available to us year round, but we don't often see poblanos in Central Pennsylvania in February. I'm roasting them tonight, so I can use them in a chile relleno casserole tomorrow!

IMG_2235When roasting large-sized peppers in the Summer months, Joe puts them directly on the grids of our gas grill, turning them until the skin is charred.  When I'm roasting 1-2 indoors, I poke one with a fork and hold it over the flame on my gas stove, until the skin is charred on all sides.  When I have several to roast, I do them all at once, under the broiler, in my oven (which is your alternative if you don't have a gas grill or a gas stove)!

IMG_2189 IMG_2194~ Step 1. Stand each pepper upright, stem side up. Using a chef's knife, cut vertically down all sides of the pepper, to form 3-4 relatively flat sides.  Remove seeds and trim out the white rib sections.

IMG_2199~ Step 2.  Place the pepper pieces, side-by-side, in a single layer, skin-side-up, on an appropriately-sized baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

Note:  This is six peppers and this is a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan.

IMG_2206 IMG_2203                                       ~ Step 3. Place pan 6" under preheated broiler until skins are blistered and a deep, chocolate-brown color, about 6-9 minutes.

Note:  Watch carefully during this time, as peppers can and will go from chocolate-brown charred to black-burned quickly!

IMG_2217~ Step 4.  Remove pan from oven, cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil and set aside for about 10-15 minutes.  This will allow the skin to sweat and steam, which will make it easy to remove from the flavorful flesh.

IMG_2224~ Step 5.  Uncover the pan.  Using your fingertips, starting at the wide end of each pepper, begin pulling the thin, charred skin from the now smokey-flavored, softened flesh.

IMG_2229Removing the skin from six peppers took me less than 5 minutes.  How easy was that!

Note:  Some sources will instruct to char the skin to a "blackened" state. Feel free to do that, but, I find that tactic detrimental to the fine taste of any type of fresh pepper!

IMG_2184How to:  Roast Large Chile Peppers in the Oven!!!:  Recipe yields instructions to roast as many chile peppers, at the same time, as needed.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 17 12" x 12 1/2" baking pan(s); parchment paper; aluminum foil

IMG_2414Cook's Note:  For a really special way to use roasted poblano peppers, check out my recipe for ~ Chilly-Day Comfort Food:  Robin's Chile Relleno Bake!!! ~ in Categories 3, 9, 13, 19 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Culinary Rule #1: Mise en Place -- Put it into Place ~

IMG_1820The family cook, whether he/she cooks because they have to, because they love to, or both, realizes the time, energy and organization required to produce even a simple family meal.  On those special occasions or holidays, when the fare must be increased to include a dozen or more added guests, one can only wonder how a professional chef, or a restaurant, manages to produce quality meals and many menu items for so many people, and, more than once a day.

The family cook relies mostly on following a specific recipe or cooking what they have commited to memory, and, the professional chef relies mostly on basic procedures and techniques that allow them the flexibility to read a recipe and adjust it to voluminous demands.  Family cooks, who have learned to apply some of these procedures and techniques to home cooking, are: great family cooks.  Professisonal chefs, who have added knowledge of ethnic cuisine, culture and family heritage to their learned skills are:  great professisonal chefs.  How do they do it?

The French have a fancy phrase for it:  Mise en place.

6a0120a8551282970b01539210babe970b-320wiTo novice cooks, mise en place (meez-ahn-plahs) might sound like another fancy French term guaranteed to intimidate you, and, perhaps it should.  Here's why: behind every successful cook there is an organized kitchen.  

PICT0005Mise en place means, "a place for everything and everything in its place".  When I teach a cooking class, it starts and ends with mise en place: Start the day with everything in its place, cook all day with everything in its place, and end the day with everything in its place. If that sounds militaristic, it is, but, once you delve into the mindset behind the words, it really is a kind, gentle, easy way to keep a kitchen running like a well-oiled machine.

Cook w/confidence, common sense, a clear head, &, most importantly, keep the kitchen clean throughout the process.

6a0120a8551282970b017ee89e7ebc970dIf you are the family cook, panic should not set in at the thought of the words "procedures and techniques".  There is no need to enroll in an expensive cooking school or start mastering the French language.  Julia Child did, then demonstrated and taught us all that we didn't have to.  She set high standards for us in her kitchen while making it all look fun and easy.

To become a great family cook, confidence, common sense and a clear head are really the only requirements, unless you simply refuse to read and follow a well-written recipe, and that, I cannot help you with.  Here is a bit of my confident, logical, clear-headed Julia-esque advice:

Part One:  The Recipe

Culinary Q & A #2The recipe should be looked upon as your guideline or road map for the dish you are preparing.  It is not etched in stone.  Most recipes will assume that you know a little about cooking and are familiar with basic terminology.  Read the recipe through to become familiar with whether you will be boiling, baking, frying, etc.  Once you've established in your mind, and are comfortable with the process(es) required, be prepared to evaluate, criticize and change the recipe to suit your own Another Day at the Office #2needs and taste.  Recognize that no two kitchens are alike.  Your stove regulates heat differently, your pots and pans distribute that heat differently, and even the temperature in your house is different from mine (and that of everyone else that you know).  So, while precise instructions in a recipe are very helpful, it is impossible for them to be exact.  For example:  

407515_2691616649700_1276632630_n"Saute chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, turning only once, about 6-8 minutes per side" are well-written instructions.  What takes me 5 minutes on a gas stove can take someone else up to 8 minutes on an electric stove.

Additionally, specific serving instructions like "serve immediately", "let rest" and "allow to return to room temperature", are supplied for very good reason and note should always be made of them.  A dish can quickly lose its charm if served too hot, too cold or before its time.

Part Two:  The Measurement

PICT0005The measurement, while I'm mentioning this second along the road to becoming a great family cook, is probably the most important kitchen basic.  That being said, family cooks for centuries have been seemingly satisfied with innacurate methods for measuring, and, have the mediocre results to prove it.  Most recipes written for the family cook (this blog not included) have been lowered to the "one cup of this", "two whole pieces of that" standard of measure.  The industrial age of manufactured goods has us "spoiled", expecting, even demanding, products that all look and weigh the same.  Uniformity is not something food is known for.   IMG_9127

Nature sees to it that no two carrots are the same size or weight, no two apples are of the same ripeness when picked, no two chickens are exactly alike, nor would we want them to be.  No matter how hard you try, the first cup of carrots that you chop will not weigh the same as the second, third, and so on. Three pounds of apples are simply not the same as three pounds of peeled apples.  No two chickens will roast in exactly the same amount of time, etc., etc., etc.  

The moment you realize that a good-quality kitchen scale is one of the most important small appliances you will ever invest in, you are well on your way to becoming a great family cook.

Part Three:  The Organization

PICT2689The organization does not come naturally to all people, but it is necessary for survival in the kitchen.  No matter how large or small your kitchen, staying organized is huge.  Find a place for everything, keep everything in its place, and return it to its place the moment you are done using it. Wasting time rumaging around looking for a misplaced vegetable peeler is not only inefficient, it is no ones idea of a good time.  

Even the simplest of recipes require advance thought and planning.

 Without being fanatical, here are a few of my tips:

PICT0003 6a0120a8551282970b01675eb51084970b-320wi1)  Make sure you have all hardware and ingredients necessary to the recipe preparation and assemble them on a work surface. Grease and flour pans, wash and cut vegetables, trim meat and poultry.  In other words: prep as much as you can and as far in advance as you can.

IMG_3306 IMG_40462)  Turn three jobs into one: consolidate work.  If you need chopped parsley and minced garlic for more than one recipe, do it all at the same time.  Food storage bags are a great vessel for storing prepped ingredients.  They take up less space in the refrigerator, and, there are no containers to wash.

PICT00213)  Determine exactly how far you can take each recipe just short of its final preparation and do it.  What seems like one small unfinished task, left to the end, can turn into one giant problem if there are enough of them left undone.  One additional unforseen problem, coupled with a few unfinished tasks is called:  a crisis.

IMG_60434)  Clean up as you work.  Before you begin to cook anything, run all of the hardware you used through the dishwasher or wash it by hand. Wipe off work surfaces and empty trash cans.  Start clean, cook clean, and end clean.  No one respects a messy cook in a dirty kitchen.  No one wants to eat food prepared by a messy cook in a dirty kitchen. 

Part Four:  The Presentation

IMG_2081 IMG_2111The presentation of the finished product, if ignored, will be the demise of a wonderful recipe or even an entire meal.  No matter how properly prepared, no matter if it is an extravagant, gourmet meal or a simple, straightforward sandwich, if it is served haphazardly on a dish, thoughtlessly placed next to 6a0120a8551282970b0134892d3b28970c-800wiunflattering foods of similar color and texture, with spilled sauce neglectfully unwiped from the rim of the plate, you'll win no culinary awards.  Cooking is one field of expertise where neatness does count.  Cut food carefully, as instructed, and, serve it at the proper temperature.  When applicable, use attractive, colorful, edible garnishes (see photo below):


6a0120a8551282970b0162fc7897c3970d-800wiConfidence, common sense and a clear head will carry you far in the kitchen. Read and evaluate your recipe. Measure and weigh your ingredients.  Organize your work area and processes.  Present your food as neatly and beautifully as possible.  Above all, don't be afraid to make judgement calls.  Do what works for you, makes you comfortable and do it well.  Don't be a boring cook.  Be imaginative, creative, relax, and, have fun.

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

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Caramelized Bananas: A treat for any time of day! ~

IMG_2116Truthfully, I never ate caramelized bananas, fried bananas, or flambed bananas before I ate the famous Bananas Foster dessert at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans in 1982.  The dish, while simple to prepare, is quite a show stopper.  At tableside, a mixture of butter, sugar, cinnamon and banana liqueur are heated together in a skillet.  Banana halves are added and sauted until they begin to soften and caramelize (brown).  Rum is then added and ignited to produce a flame.  When the flames subside (which only takes a matter of seconds) the hot bananas and warm sauce are served over vanilla ice cream.  What's not to love about that!

IMG_2068A bit about bananas:  Bananas didn't appear in the USA until the beginning of the 20th century when refrigerated boats were first used to safely transport them from tropical regions. The banana becomes more starchy and sweet as it ripens and is extremely versatile. Besides eating them as is, they can be added to fruit salads, baked into breads or muffins, turned into pudding or ice cream, and, let's not forget about Elvis's famous peanut butter and banana sandwiches!

ImagesA bit about Brennan's Restaurant:  In the 1950's, New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America.  Owner Owen Edward Brennan challened his chef, Paul Blange, to come up with a culinary creation to promote the fruit.  In 1951, Chef Paul created Bananas Foster and named it after Richard Foster, a regular customer who served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission and was devoted to cleaning up the French Quarter.  Little did anyone realize that Bananas Foster would become an international favorite and the most requested item on their menu.  At Brennan's, thirty-five thousand pounds of bananas are flamed each year in the making of this famous dessert!

IMG_2068After returning from that trip to NOLA, it did not take me long to start experimenting with recipes for caramelized bananas.  I refer to them as caramelized bananas because that implies the use of a skillet to brown them.  I don't refer to them as fried bananas, because, that implies the use of a deep-fryer or a pot of hot oil, and, caramelized bananas should not be confused with deep-fried bananas (that's another recipe and another blog post).  While Brennan's Bananas Foster was definitely the inspiration for the recipe I am about to share, it's not "a la Brennan's" (in the style of Brennan's) for two reasons:  I substituted Grand Marnier for Banana liqueur & Rum (which are classic) to suit my taste, and, you won't see any flames shooting up from my recipe!

IMG_17296  large, firm, yellow bananas, not over-ripe (as pictured above), about 2 pounds prior to peeling

2  tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled (about 5 minutes)

2  tablespoons Grand Marnier (a sweet, orange-flavored liqueur)*

1/2  cup dark brown sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Note:  Feel free to substitute rum for Grand Marnier if you like, and, if you're serving this to children, skip the alcohol completely and use 4 tablespoons melted butter!

IMG_1737~ Step 1.  Melt and cool the butter as directed.  In a medium bowl place the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Add the Grand Marnier, followed by the melted butter.  

IMG_1746~ Step 2. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thick.  Set aside for 5-10 more minutes, to allow sugar to dissolve completely.  Stir again.

IMG_2077~ Step 3.  Peel and slice the bananas into 1/4"-thick coins, placing them in a measuring container as you work.  I recommend you use a measuring container because every bunch of six bananas varies in weight and size. You'll want about 3 1/2 cups of total coined bananas.

(Note:  Culinarily, the verb "coin" means to slice into little rounds that resemble coins.)

IMG_2087 IMG_2082~ Step 4. Place the sugar paste in a 12" skillet.

Over low heat, allow it to slowly melt.  Lift the pan off the heat occasionally and give it a tip and a turn, until the sugar is melted and has evenly coated the bottom of the pan.

IMG_2089~ Step 5.  Add bananas to skillet.

IMG_2094Using a large spoon, give them a few gentle tosses, to coat them in the sugar sauce.

Note:  Do not coin the bananas until just before you melt the sugar into the skillet or they will turn brown.

IMG_2102~ Step 6.  Increase heat to medium high.  Stirring/stir-frying almost constantly, cook just until the bananas soften, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

Do not cook any longer or the bananas will become mushy and fall apart.  

Remove from heat and set aside for 5-10 minutes before serving hot or warm atop:

A Grapefruit, Orange & Carmelized Banana Fruit Cup (for breakfast):

IMG_2122A Toasted Brioche, Peanut Butter & Caramelized Banana Sandwich (for lunch):

IMG_2148A Scoop of Butter Pecan Ice Cream w/Caramelized Bananas (for dessert):

IMG_2159Caramelized Bananas:  A treat for any time of day!:  Recipe yields 6 servings of caramelized bananas, allowing 1 banana per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-quart measuring container; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b016764d85990970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b0168e9d176bb970c-320wiCook's Note: Did your bananas get a bit over-ripe to suit your taste?  

Bananas can almost never be too ripe to make banana bread and the ones pictured above are perfect. My recipe for ~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~ can be found in Categories 5, 11 and 22!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~How to: Supreme Citrus Fruits (an easy Knife Skill)~

IMG_1985If there is one thing I do like about Winter it is vibrant-colored, in season, citrus fruit, and, for some reason, citrus fruit is over-the-top, tart 'n sweet and juicy this year.  I've been eating a red grapefruit every morning, putting orange segments in our salads, green lime slices in my gin and tonics, and, I even made us a bright-yellow lemon-meringue pie last week for dessert!

FYI:  Summer is NOT 'prime time' for citrus fruit!  Winter is!!!

6a0120a8551282970b0154326cfbc5970c-320wi PICT0003All citrus fruits are appreciated for their juice and the flavorful oils contained in their zest.  All citrus fruit can be eaten "as is", but grapefruit and oranges are by far the two most popular. That being said:  

There is only one way to eat unpeeled citrus fruit, and, there are two ways to eat peeled citrus fruit. These three culinary terms are:

The three S's of citrus fruit:  Slice, Segment & Supreme! 

Slice:  The fruit is sliced in half (and eaten with a curve-bladed knife and serrated spoon).  The fruit is sliced into rounds, half moon-shaped rounds or wedges (and picked up and eaten).

Segment:  The fruit is peeled by hand, by pulling the peel loose a few pieces at a time, to expose one round piece of fruit.  The fruit is then pulled apart, into edible segments.  

Supreme:  A sharp knife is used to surgically remove the skin, all of the bitter white pith, the unsightly membranes, all seeds, and, separate it into wedges.  This is the ultimate way to prep citrus fruit for use in a fruit cup for breakfast or inclusion in a salad for lunch or dinner.  To supreme a citrus fruit is a verb.  To eat a supreme is a noun attributed to each individual wedge. 

How to supreme an orange:

IMG_1993~ Step 1.  Slice the pole ends (the top and bottom) from the orange, to expose the fruit at both ends.

Note:  Choose a knife you feel comfortable with.  Too long a blade will be cumbersome.  Too short a blade may be hard to control.  I'm using a medium chef's knife with a 5" blade.  In the culinary world, when it comes to knife skills, choose a knife that feels good in your hand, but if your knife isn't sharp, don't even begin the project!

IMG_1994~ Step 2.  Stand the orange upright, on one of the exposed sides. Starting at the top, just where the white pith meets the fruit, begin slicing strips off, following the curve/contour of the fruit.  Continue slicing around the orange until all of the skin and all of the white pith is off and a brightly-colored, "round" piece of juicy fruit is exposed.



Note:  Depending on the size of the orange, I usually end up needing eight slices of the knife to expose the entire orange.  A grapefruit requires me about twelve.  Anything less than this will result in you wasting perfectly good fruit.  Take your time as you do this and error on the side of too many slices!




~ Step 3.  Take a look at the orange fruit.  You will notice white lines (these are membranes) running vertically (top to bottom) through it.  

Starting at the top, gently slice downwards, with the blade of your knife positioned on the inside of each white line, two slices for each supreme (see photo below).




~ Step 4.  As you work, you will notice that the membrane that remains clinging to the core of the fruit resembles the pages of a book.

Continue slicing until all of the segments are supremed.  Towards the end,  if it is easier for you, place the orange on its side to remove the last one or two.

From this orange, in 1-2 minutes, I got 8 supremes. In the center is what remains of the membrane: 

IMG_2043How to: Supreme Citrus Fruits (an easy Knife Skill):  Recipe yields instructions on how to supreme citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; 5" chef's knife or a paring knife, whatever you feel most comfortable with

6a0120a8551282970b0177441b2db0970d-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b0167693ffb0b970b-320wiCook's Note: For two of my favorite ways to use lemons, check out my recipes for:

~  My Love Affair w/Lemon & Lemon Meringue Pie ~ in Category 6, and:

~  When Life Hands You Lemons: Make Lemonade! ~ in Categories 10, 16 or 20!

Click on the Related Articles links below to get two of my favorite grapefruit recipes!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Mel's Pink Poodle Cocktail (aka... The Salty Dog!) ~

IMG_1961When it comes to breakfast and brunch, no self-respecting buffet is complete without a pitcher of grapefuit, orange and tomato juice.  When it comes to breakfast and brunch cocktails, I don't stray from that train of thought and almost always offer:  citrus-y orange and grapefruit juice with vodka or gin, and, a spicy tomato-y bloody Mary.  They are all easy to make, they all get served over ice in the same-sized highball-type glasses, and, they are a great way to start the day!

A 'canine cocktail' named 'The Salty Dog'?   

IMG_1974A few years ago we invited three couples over on a Sunday morning for a Valentine's Day brunch.  I was making made-to-order omlettes and Joe was serving the cocktails.  I had just received a juicer for Christmas two months earlier and Joe used it to freshly squeeze the orange and grapefruit juice.  Joe was about to make Larry a vodka and grapefruit juice when Larry said, "Can you make mine a Salty Dog?"  Almost everyone sitting around my kitchen counter that morning, including Joe and I, had no idea what he was referring to.  Larry explained:

The Salty Dog cocktail is: vodka (or gin) and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice that is served in a salt-rimmed glass.  Without the salt around the rim of the glass, this drink is called a Grayhound.

IMG_1530Almost all of us decided to try one, and, it just so happened that we'd used a box of pink grapefruit to make the juice, so they were a very pretty color too. When it comes to naming 'canine cocktails', my love of poodles surfaced and got a laugh from everyone when I joked, "these should be called pink poodles"!

Best in Show:  Mel's Pink Poodle Cocktail!

IMG_1894For each drink:

10-ounce highball glass:

3/4  cup grapefruit juice, preferably freshly-squeezed (each grapefruit will yield about 3/4 cup of juice)

1-1 1/2  ounces of your favorite gin or vodka (I prefer gin)

coarse sea salt, for rimming glass

6-8 ice cubes

IMG_1901~ Step 1. Stand each grapefruit up on its side, with the pole ends (the top and bottom) facing left and right. Slice in half.  Using a hand-held citrus reamer or an electric juicer, squeeze out the grapefruit juice and remove any seeds.

Note:  If making 1-4 drinks, you can do this with a hand-held citrus reamer in less than 5 minutes.  For a large pitcher of juice, you might want to consider investing in a juicer, or, a juicer attachment for your electric stand mixer!

IMG_1917 IMG_1915~ Step 2. This step is optional:  

When I'm drinking citrus juice, I enjoy some pulp in my glass.  When I'm drinking a citrus juice cocktail, I like it a little more refined, so I run the juice through a tea strainer.  If you are using an electric juicer, you'll be able to control this.  Chill for about 1 hour.

IMG_1926~ Step 3.  Fill a small bowl with about 1/4"-1/2" of coarse sea salt. Dip the rim of the glass into the grapefruit juice, then into the salt.  If you like, use your fingertips to press it onto the outside of the glass.  How far down you dip the glass into the juice will determine how much salt ends up on the glass.  Joe likes it as pictured here, I like it with about half as much salt!


~ Step 4.  Carefully drop 6-8 ice cubes into the glass, to fill it about three-quarters full.  Do this judiciously, so you don't knock the salt crystals off the rim of the glass. The size of your ice cubes will determine how many you use and there are 8 ice cubes in each of these two highball glasses.  Add the gin or vodka, followed by the strained grapefruit juice.  Serve immediately:

Drink responsibly, don't drink and drive, and, don't drink alone.  Well... two out of three ain't bad!

IMG_1944Mel's Pink Poodle Cocktail (aka... The Salty Dog!):  Recipes yields instructions to make as many cocktails as you want.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; citrus reamer or electric juicer; small measuring container or large pitcher; tea strainer (optional); 10-ounce highball glasses

6a0120a8551282970b014e8923e0b0970d-800wiCook's Note:  Before you know it, Winter will have turned into Spring and Summer. My very own, original recipe for ~ June 15th:  It's Time for Mel's "Big Pink Drinks" ~ can be found in Categories 10, 11, 16 or 17. This drink will seriously change your life!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Broiled Ruby-Red Grand-Marnier Grapefruit 'Brulee' for Breakfast? A Romantic Start to Valentines Day! ~

IMG_1858Simple pleasures are the best, and grapefuit is one of my favorites.  Even in my childhood, I adored grapefruit.  Every February, a big bag of them got delivered to my parents door.  I could be wrong, but I believe mom ordered them because they were a fundraiser for my brother's cub scout pack.  Almost every morning in February, my brother and I started our breakfast off with a half a grapefruit.  If you think it's hard to get school-age children to like the bitter-sweet taste of grapefruit, think again.  My mom turned it into an event of sorts:

Meet the grapefruit knife and spoons from my youth (circa 1960):

IMG_1663"Get me the crooked knife", she'd say.  That's what we called the curve-bladed knife culinarily known as a grapefruit knife.  She'd cut around the inside perimeter of each half, to separate the juicy fruit from the tough skin.  We loved watching her do that.  Next she'd say, "get out the crazy spoons", and, we'd rush to the 'silverware' drawer to fish out our serrated-edged, weapon-like grapefruit spoons.  We'd sprinkle our grapefruit half with some Sugar 'n Cinnamon (a product I keep in my pantry to this day) and attack our grapefruit half!

Meet my present day grapefruit knife and spoons (circa 2000): 

IMG_1671February is National Grapefruit Month, and, it has been a banner year for grapefruit.  Whatever happened during this years growing season, they are over-the-top juicy, flavorful and succulent. I've been buying 3-4 at a time, of all kinds, from several different markets.  I don't store them in the refrigerator.  I eat one a day, so, they're in no danger of spoiling, and, I think they are so much better if eaten at room temperature. Nowadays, I skip the sugar. First I slice one in half, then I eat the sections, then I squeeze every drop of juice into a glass and sip up every drip!

IMG_1553Yesterday, I sent Joe off to run a few errands, which included a stop at Sam's Club to pick up the things we buy in bulk, plus a couple of their thick-cut T-Bone steaks for dinner. Our local Sam's Club has a great butcher shop as well as a produce department.  When Joe came home he said, "Honey, I bought you a present, a box of red grapefruit!"

IMG_1566A bit about grapefruit:  In the fruit world, grapefruit is a child -- less than 300 years old.  Historians think it was an accidental cross between a pummelo and an orange because there are no records of deliberate hybridization.  It's sometimes called a shaddock, for Captain Shaddock, a 17th century English ship commander who brought pummelo seeds from the East Indies to the West Indies in 1693.

IMG_1724Grapefruit first appeared in the United States in 1823, when Count Odette Philippe brought seeds from the Bahamas to Florida.  Because of its somewhat bitter, acidic flavor, it wasn't very popular at first.  The first shipment of Florida grapefruit made its way to Philadelphia and New York in 1885, where, in these metropolitan areas, it was met with interest, and, it quickly began to gain in popularity.  Before long, grapefruit farms where popping up in Texas, Arizona and California!

Once referrred to as the "forbidden fruit", grapefruit is said to have gotten its name from a 19th century naturalist who observed the fruit that grew from Shaddock's seeds and noted, "the fruit grows in clusters much like grapes"!

Choosing, storing and eating a grapefruit:

IMG_1676When choosing a grapefruit, choose one that feels solid and weighty with a smooth, shiny skin. That being said, do not reject one with some blemishes or scarring on the flesh (pictured here), which comes from bee stings.  Bees love sweet things, so, the more stings, the sweeter your grapefruit will be. This is true for choosing other citrus fruits as well.  Grapefruit will keep for a week at room temperature (65+ degrees) and 6-8 weeks stored in the refrigerator.  Grapefruit is recognized for many health benefits, but,  it does interact adversely with certain prescription medications, so, if you're on medication, check with your doctor!

Slicing a grapefruit:

IMG_1681By the 1930's a half of a grapefruit was a common start to the American breakfast in homes and restaurants.  A special knife, with a curved blade was developed to loosen the sections.  It was topped with honey or granulated sugar and sometimes a dash of cinnamon.  By the 1950's, almost every home in America owned a grapefruit knife and a set of pointy, serrated-tipped spoons too.  During the 1960's recipes for grapefruit salads, grapefruit Jello molds and broiled grapefruit desserts were popping up on menus and dinner tables everywhere.  Nowadays, no breakfast buffet is considered complete without a pitcher of orange and grapefruit juice on it!

IMG_1690~ Step 1.  For optimum flavor, remove grapefruit from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before eating it at room temerature.  

Stand each of:

2 grapefruit, any variety

up on its side with the pole ends (the top and bottom) facing left and right.  Using a chef's skife, slice the grapefruit in half.

IMG_1677Using the tines of a fork, gently remove and discard any seeds you can easily see.

IMG_1692 IMG_1695~ Step 2. Using the curved blade of the grapefruit knife positioned between the flesh and the fruit, maneuver it around the perimeter, to loosen the fruit.

IMG_1702~ Step 3. Using the straight blade of the knife, carefully cut through the triangular sections, to free them from their membrain.  

IMG_1707Note:  If you are planning to broil your grapefruit, it is important that when you are slicing you do your best not to poke holes in the flesh, so the yummy juices don't drip out!  

IMG_1709At this point, the grapefruit is ready to place in a grapefruit bowl or a small cereal-type bowl and eat as is, or, top with something sweet and eat!

Broiling a grapefruit (couldn't be easier):

IMG_1733~ Step 1.  Place the sliced and sectioned grapefruit halves in 4, oven-safe grapefruit bowls that have been placed on a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan lined with parchment paper, or, directly in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish that has been sprayed with no-stick spray.

IMG_1729 IMG_1737                                             ~ Step 2. In a small bowl, mix together until smooth:

2  tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled (about 5 minutes)

2  tablespoons Grand Marnier (a sweet, orange-flavored liqueur)*

1/2  cup dark brown sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Note:  If you're serving this to kids, skip the Grand Marnier and use 4 tablespoons of melted butter!

IMG_1750~ Step 3.  Spoon two tablespoons of the sugary paste onto the top of each grapefruit.

IMG_1757Using a tablespoon, a spatula, or even your fingertips, spread it as evenly over the top of the fruit as you can, stopping just when you reach the point where the fruit meets the flesh.

IMG_1809~ Step 4.  Place 6" under preheated broiler and broil until the topping is very bubbly and the sugar is caramelizing (like a brulee) and juices are starting to drizzle down the sides, about 3-3 1/2 minutes. Watch carefully, as these can and will go from golden brown to burned very quickly. 

Remove from oven and allow to rest about 5-10 minutes prior to serving. Dig in, eat your way around, then, drink the syrupy juices:

IMG_1881Broiled Ruby-Red Grand-Marnier Grapefruit 'Brulee' for Breakfast?  A Romantic Start to Valentine's Day!:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; fork; curved-blade grapefruit knife or paring knife; oven-safe grapefruit bowls or an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b017ee4165c62970d-800wiCook's Note:  Since this version of eating grapefruit is quite sweet and dessertlike, I don't recommend serving it followed by something like pancakes or waffles that require something sweet to eat (like maple syrup and/or powdered sugar).  My recipe for ~ English Muffins, Sweet Sausage, Eggs & Cheese:  My Super-Simple, Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole ~ can be found in Categories 9, 17 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~What is an 'egg ring' & should you own one or two?~

IMG_1637Valentine's Day is next week.  In our house on this special day, I always make Joe breakfast in bed, and, he returns the favor by taking me out for dinner, or, we cook a special dinner together. This year, I've decided to make: buttermilk pancakes and sunny-side up eggs.  These are not just any pancakes and eggs, these are really-pretty pancakes and really-pretty eggs.  Simple and pretty?  Absolutely.  Meet my heart-shaped egg rings!

A standard-sized egg ring is a 3 1/2"-round, 1/2" deep, stainless steel ring mold or nonstick stainless steel ring mold that resembles a big cookie cutter.  It literally is "a ring around a cooking egg" sort of like a collar, that forms the cooking egg into a perfect circle.  It makes for a really-pretty, professional-looking presentation.  Do you need to own one or two?  Culinarily, they are not a kitchen necessity.  Should you invest in one or two?  I recommend that you do! 

IMG_1448Why?  Because egg rings are a really versatile, time-saving kitchen tool.  Besides making eggs look beautiful, they can be used to produce, pretty, even-sized pancakes too.  Like a cookie cutter, an egg ring can be used to trim the crust from a slice of bread to form it into a round piece of matching toast.  They are also the perfect vessel for pre-forming sausage patties (and burgers) too.  If you are a "McMuffin" lover, having your toast, your egg and your sausage all the same size and shape is: sandwich perfection!  

Here's how an egg ring works for eggs and pancakes:

IMG_1315 IMG_1316 IMG_1320 IMG_1360




Melt a bit of butter in a nonstick skillet over low heat (this is 1 teaspoon of butter in an 8" skillet).

IMG_1627Allow the egg ring to heat up a bit, about 15-30 seconds.  Heating the ring will help to prevent the egg from sticking to it.  A whole egg (left photo) with an unbroken yolk can be cracked and dropped inside the ring to allow it to cook sunny-side up, or, a whisked egg can be poured inside the ring (pictured above) to make a round scrambled "egg pancake". Want it over easy? Flip it over to briefly cook it on the second side.  How easy was that.

IMG_1584 IMG_1598In a 12" skillet, you can make 4 pancakes. Add 1/4 cup of batter to each 'ring'.  Over medium heat, cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Run a paring knife around the inside perimeter, to loosen pancake from ring.  Remove the mold.  Flip over to cook briefly on the second side!  

IMG_1567I have many types of culinary ring forms in my kitchen.  You can buy a set of 4 same-sized egg rings for about $16.00-$20.00.  Some ring sets (like the round ones pictured here) can be connected together, so you can make four eggs at one time and lift all of the rings off at the same time.  Others (like the heart-shaped ones pictured here) come with handles, which makes removing the hot ring really easy!

IMG_1573For the same amount of money, $16.00-$20.00, you can buy graduated sets.  If you can only afford one or the other, I recommend the graduated set because they are much more versatile.  You can use them to form and/or cook whatever size of round- or heart-shaped anything you want. If you like slider-sized sandwiches or silver-dollar pancakes, a graduated set is the kind you'll want to purchase.  They are virtually every size you could ever need for cooking, baking cookies, cake decorating, and craft projects too.

Egg Rings.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways!

~ How to:  Make Croutons (& Toasts) ~ (in Categories 2, 5, 9 or 15):

Croutons & Toasts #1 (Both Finished Front View)~ Blueberry-Kiwi-Watermelon Salad ~ (in Categories 2, 4, 8, 10 or 14):

PICT0008~ Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon-Orange Brownies ~ (in Categories 7 or 13):

6a0120a8551282970b0148c6d0c87b970c-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2013)


~ Egg Bagel, Sausage & Scrambled Egg Sandwich: A Super Breakfast for Super Bowl (or any) Sunday ~

IMG_1443You've heard me say it before:  I am not a morning person.  I do not love to cook breakfast. Eating breakfast, well that is another story.  I love breakfast and I have a particular weakness for a well-made bagel, sausage and egg sandwich.  I am very particular about it too:  Only a NY bakery-style yellow-colored egg bagel, a juicy sweet-sausage patty, and, a fluffy scrambled "egg pancake" will do.  Cheese?  I prefer my sandwich without it, but, I'll put it on for you if you ask nicely... two slices of white or yellow American cheese per sandwich!

561986_10150609009322126_703831008_nOn weekdays, Joe and I almost never eat breakfast together.  He picks up a cup of coffee and a muffin at The Pump Station, in Boalsburg, on his way to the office. The Pump Station was originally a gas station that some folks ingeniously converted into a coffee shop.  I am pleased to report that they make a bagel, sausage and egg sandwich that I approve of.

Whenever Joe and I are out and about in the morning hours together, we like to use their drive-through to order our coffee, Joe's muffin, and, my bagel sandwich (without cheese). That being said, as much as I love their sandwiches, if you go there, you only stand a scant 50/50 chance of them getting your order right.  Mine often comes with cheese, and, on occasion they forget the sausage and substitute bacon.  Unless you're eating there, you are a mile down a four-lane highway before you find out this is not what you ordered.  Even if you stop to check out your sandwich in their parking lot before you leave, who wants to start their day starting over.  Not me!

Once is a mistake, twice is disappointment, three times is inept, four times (after a polite phone call to an arrogant, excuse-making owner-ess) is either:  untrained personnel who can't place an order correctly, or, a cook who can't read and produce said order, or both.  After five times... you've lost my business AND I'm blogging about it.  Buying local isn't always what it's cracked up to be.  No cheese means no cheese, and, McDonald's is short two miles down the road!!! 

IMG_1448On Sunday mornings, I always cook breakfast.  It's one of our fun traditions.  We sleep late, so, sometimes breakfast is more like brunch.  Joe and the poodles stay in bed watching ESPN, while I meander downstairs, tune my kitchen TV to something of my liking, then, I cook up something scrumptious.  Next, we gather around the kitchen counter, eat, read the Sunday newspaper, and, promply at 11:30AM, we tune into WHVL-TV's (local Comcast channel 14) Centre of It All Show, to watch me on it, doing my weekly Kitchen Encounters cooking segment!

Today, is such a Sunday.  It is also Super Bowl XLVII Sunday.  Forty-seven total Super Bowl games and I've seen every one of them.  I have no allegiances to either team that is playing tonight, and, while many people complain annually about "the hype" for this game, I consider it a "man holiday", so, I treat it with respect.  As they say, "payback is hell" and Valentine's Day is right around the corner.  This means, if Joe wants my bagel sandwiches for breakfast, he's getting them.  If he wants chili at game time, he's getting that too!

It all starts with the bagel!  It must be the perfect bagel!


It must be an egg bagel.

Don't cheat.

Here in Happy Valley?

That would be an egg bagel from:

Wegman's... they're the real-deal!

For this recipe, you will need:

3  egg bagels, the best available

6 slices American cheese

  IMG_1255For the sausage:

1  pound of sweet sausage, the best available, your favorite brand

IMG_1262Note:  I prefer to buy the sausage in links and form the patties myself, to ensure they are the proper size:  1 pound of sausage = 3, 5 1/3-ounce patties.

IMG_1293For the eggs:

3  jumbo eggs, at room temp

3  teaspoons salted butter

6  tablespoons milk 

freshly ground:  nutmeg, sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_1294If you don't have a nutmeg grinder, use just a pinch of ground nutmeg.

IMG_1286 IMG_1273~ Step 1. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove and discard casings from the sausage. Portion the meat into 3 equal-sized, 4" round patties.  Over medium heat, fry until golden on both sides, turning only once, about 4 minutes per side.  Place patties on a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

IMG_1309Note:  I like to prepare my eggs one-at-a time in a small 8" nonstick skillet.  For each one:

~ Step 2.  Break one egg into a 1-cup measuring container.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk + a few grinds of  nutmeg, sea salt and peppercorn blend (about 4-6 grinds each). Using a fork, thoroughly whisk the mixture together.

IMG_1315~ Step 3.  In skillet, melt 1 teaspoon of butter over low heat.

IMG_1320~ Step 4.  Place a 4" egg ring into the skillet.  Pour the whisked egg mixture into the ring.

IMG_1324~ Step 5. Increase heat to medium-low. Using the fork, stir the egg mixture around, almost constantly, until it starts to form soft curds, about 2-3 minutes:

IMG_1334 IMG_1330                                              ~ Step 6. There will come a point when the egg will start to separate from the sides of the ring.  It is now time to stop stirring.

After about 15-20 more seconds of cooking, run a paring knife around the inside perimeter of the ring to loosen the egg from the ring completely.



IMG_1360~ Step 7. Using a pair of tongs, remove the egg ring. Using a spatula, flip the "egg pancake" over, to cook on the second side, about 15-30 more seconds.



IMG_1366                                      ~ Step 8. Repeat this process with the remaining 2 eggs. Transfer each "egg pancake" to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

~ Step 9.  Slice, lightly-toast and generously butter the bagels.

IMG_1384 IMG_1386                                     ~ Step 10. Immediately, place two slices of cheese on the bottom of each bagel, followed by a slice of sausage and an egg pancake.  Top with the buttered bagel top and wrap the sandwich in alumium foil.  

Note:  Wrapping the sandwich in foil for a few moments will steam the bagel a bit and melt the cheese. 

IMG_1474Egg Bagel, Sausage & Scrambled Egg Sandwich:  A Super Breakfast for Super Bowl (or any) Sunday :  Recipe yields 3 sandwiches (two for Joe and one for me).

Special Equipment List:  kitchen shears; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; spatula; aluminum foil; 8" skillet, preferably nonstick; 1-cup measuring container; fork; egg ring; paring knife; tongs serrated bread knife; toaster

IMG_1516Cook's Note:  When I make these sandwiches, I often make a double batch:  six of them.  I tightly wrap each of the extras in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. For as long as they last, Joe takes one to the office with him each day.

IMG_1499To reheat: Place wrapped sandwich in microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  So much better than the drive-through!!!  

IMG_2791Extra Cook's Note:  For a variation on the same theme, for those of us who are always looking for a way to get out of cooking breakfast, check out my recipe for ~ English Muffins, Sweet Sausage, Eggs & Cheese: My Super-Simple, Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole ~ in Categories 9, 17 & 20! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Tomorrow's Groundhog Day! Will he or won't he? ~

6a0120a8551282970b0163007d9027970d-800wiTomorrow is Groundhog Day and Gobbler's Knob, PA is full of anticipation and activity today!  

Tradition says that if the groundhog sees his shadow on a bright, sunlit day, we're going to have six more week of Winter, and, he goes back to his burrow and returns to sleep. Here in PA, that groundhog is the famous Punxsutawney Phil!

In the event you'd like to bake a big batch of  ~ Spicy Groundhogs ~ for the celebration, you can find the detailed, OFFICIAL cookie recipe (which I prepared and posted last year right here on 6a0120a8551282970b016300674345970d-320wiKitchen Encounters), in Category 7!

The official headquarters for Phil is the place to go to order your official supplies:  groundhog shaped cookie cutters of various sizes, recipe sheets, and, even an official headband to wear while baking. You'll find a lot of other fun memorabilia there too!

Go to: and join Phil's party!

6a0120a8551282970b0163007db33a970d-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)