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12 posts from December 2014


~ Basic Machinations for Mashed Potato Perfection ~

IMG_0420'Twas the season for mashed potatoes.  First there was the Thanksgiving turkey feast, followed by the Christmas prime rib feeding frenzy, and, it's not quite over yet.  The clock is ticking down to the mother-of-all pork festivals:  New Year's Day.  This morning, in a moment of reflection, it occurred to me that the combined total of these three holidays equates to approximately 50-60 pounds  of heavy hunks of meat roasted, and, about 25-30 pounds of potatoes mashed.

IMG_0436It's hard to imagine my food world without mashed potatoes. They are an institution -- a way of life. They're the quintessential side-dish served year-round at elegant celebrations, casual get-togethers and weekday meals.  They're revered by young and old alike -- they make everyone happy.  It may outwardly seem like every cook or chef has their favorite method for achieving "the perfect mash", but, in truth, the really good recipes vary little.  Granted, some folks cook their potatoes with the skins on, others peel them first; some folks add warmed cream or milk, others add buttermilk or sour cream, and; some folks like their potatoes silky smooth, while others like them slightly chunky, but: they all follow the same basic potato principles -- those handed down from generation to generation.

6a0120a8551282970b0163055c04a6970d 6a0120a8551282970b016768dd410c970b IMG_0340~ Step 1.  Choosing the right potatoes:  There are three basic tuber options for making traditional, classic mashed potatoes like GrandMa made.  

Russets (baking potatoes/starchy potatoes), Reds (boiling potatoes/waxy potatoes) and Golds (all-purpose potatoes/middle-of-the road potatoes).  Baking potatoes are high in starch, which makes them ideal for making mashed potatoes because their drier texture keeps them light and fluffy when mashed.  Boiling potatoes are considered to be waxy, meaning they hold their shape great during the boiling process, so, the trait that makes them great for potato salad, makes them undesirable for mashing because they tend to get lumpy and heavy when mashed. All-purpose potatoes, moister than the baking potato and less waxy than the boiling potato, not only mash well, they are adored, and preferred, for their golden color and buttery flavor.

~ Step 2IMG_0337Weigh & wash, peel & chunk:  Weigh.  If you learn one thing from me on Kitchen Encounters, it should be:  "nothing in the the food world is uniform in size or weight", and, "in order for pieces of any type of food to cook evenly (and at the same rate of speed), they need to be cut into even-sized pieces."  GrandMa might have told you to use "six large potatoes", I'm telling you to use:

3  pounds Yukon gold potatoes.  

Wash. Rinse the potatoes under cold water, and, gently scrub them, if need be, clean of any dirt.  Peel.  Using a vegetable peeler, remove and discard the skin. Chunk. Cut into even-sized 1 1/4"-1 1/2" chunks, placing them in an 8-quart stockpot with enough cold water to cover by 1" as you work.    Big chunks take longer to cook through and small cubes cook faster, but, small cubes absorb more water too, which is not desired.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0b436f3970c~ Step 3.  To the cold water add:

1 teaspoon sea salt

Bring potatoes to a boil over high heat, then, adjust the temperature to a gentle but steady simmer.  Cook until fork tender.  Once simmering, mine take 5-6 minutes.  Immediately drain into a colander and immediately return potatoes to still hot stockpot, then, return the pot to the still warm stovetop.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0b43735970c IMG_0350                                      ~ Step 4. While potatoes are coming to a boil, prep and have ready:

6  tablespoons salted butter, cut

1  cup heavy or whipping cream, gently warmed in the microwave

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning

IMG_0371 IMG_0361~ Step 5. When the drained potatoes are returned to the stovetop, toss in the butter.  Using a large spoon, stir until the butter has melted and all of the potatoes are coated.  Lightly season with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, then add half of the cream.

IMG_0351Knowing when to mash and when to rice.  A potato ricer is a handy gadget to keep on hand in your kitchen, but, it is completely wrong in the case of boiled Gold potatoes. That said, the ricer works great when you are using baked, dry Russets to make mashed potatoes -- which get scooped out of the potato skins and into the ricer.

Note:  NEVER use a food processor to make mashed potatoes, unless it is sticky, gluey glop you desire.

IMG_0387 IMG_0381~ Step 6. Using a hand-held potato masher in conjunction with a large spoon, begin the process of gradually adding cream, mashing and stirring, and, tasting and seasoning, until desired consistency is reached. Stop when they're to your liking.  It's ok if you don't add all  of the cream.

IMG_0392Tip from Mel.  Mashed potatoes are best served immediately, but, truthfully, left in the warm pot, covered, they "hold" just fine for 20-30 minutes.  Reheating them is, of course, slightly-compromising, but, if the situation is unavoidable, opt for the microwave, not the stovetop!

Note:  I dolloped the potatoes into this container for a visual of what 3 pounds of baked Russets or boiled Golds will yield.  This is certainly enough for 6-8 hearty 3/4- 1-cup family-style servings, or, more if you are portioning, plating and serving.

Top w/a pat of butter, season w/a bit of additional S&P, and...

IMG_0438... take a taste of mashed-potato heaven:

IMG_0453Basic Machinations for Mashed Potato Perfection:  Recipe yields 8 cups.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; colander; large spoon; vegetable masher

6a0120a8551282970b014e8858f3e9970dCook's Note:  There's another potato I didn't talk about, and, I love it mashed or smashed too. Check out ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~ in Categories 4 or 18.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


~ The Gold Standard: Creamy Potato and Egg Salad ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07cebeb8970dI have a confession to make.  I am a potato salad snob.  I want the old-fashioned, down-home, classic, creamy and chunky "grandma's-type" with no hype -- nothing trendy or flashy with a grandiose name or gourmet ingredients.  My favorite potatoes for potato salad are: creamy Yukon golds or small "new" reds.  I always peel the golds and cut them into bite-sized chunks. I never peel the reds, leaving their soft skins intact, and, cut them into bite-sized halves or quarters.  I always boil my potatoes until fork tender on the outside, yet still firm and slightly undercooked in their centers.  I always add chopped celery and onion, I only use Hellman's mayonnaise, Grey Poupon Dijon mustard and Heinz sweet pickle relish, and, there's one more thing potato salad has got to contain:  perfectly hard-cooked eggs with creamy-dreamy yellow centers.

Time out from the Holidays for a bowl-game tailgate =

IMG_0321If December (more specifically the weekend between Christmas and New Year's) seems like an odd time to be writing a potato salad post, it is -- I can't quite believe I'm doing it. That said, Penn State played in the PinStripe Bowl last night.  When the sun came out here in Happy Valley and the temperature rose to 60 degrees too, I seized the day and served ~ My Pan-Seared Flat-Iron Steak Slider Sandwiches ~ with potato salad for our tailgate party. Just click on the Related Article link below for the recipe.

Time out for a great steak sandwich & perfect potato salad!

6  pounds peeled and rinsed gold potatos, cut into bite-sized chunks

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning the water potatoes are cooked in

8-12  jumbo eggs, hard-cooked and peeled

12-16  ounces medium-diced (1/2") celery

12-16  ounces medium-diced (1/2") yellow or sweet onion

4  cups Hellman's mayonaisse, chilled

4  tablespoons Heinz sweet pickle relish

4  tablespoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

1  tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2  teaspoons celery seed

1  tablespoon sugar

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon white pepper

6a0120a8551282970b01a5116efb69970c~ Step 1.  Prep the potatoes as directed, placing them in a stockpot with enough cold water to cover as you work.  Over high heat, bring potatoes to a boil.  Add the salt. Reduce heat to a steady simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender, but still firm and slightly undercooked in the their centers, 6-8 minutes.  This timing will vary depending upon how large or small you chunked your potatoes.  Do not Potato Salad (Cooked Potatoes) #1overcook.  

~ Step 2.  Drain potatoes into a very large colander and rinse under cold running water, until cool to the touch.  

Note:  Take your time rinsing the potatoes, you really want to lower their temperature to halt residual heat from overcooking them.

Allow potatoes to drain and "dry" (meaning free from moisture, not dried out), about 45-60 minutes. 

Potato Salad (Cooked & Chopped Eggs) #1 Boiling Eggs #3                                      ~ Step 3. Hard-cook and peel the eggs, according to the directions in my recipe for ~ A Little Thing Called: Boiling Eggs ~, which you can find by clicking into Category 15.  Pat the eggs dry in paper towels, cut each egg into 4 wedges, then cut each wedge into thirds.  Set aside.  Note:  I cook the eggs while the potatoes are "drying", and, I use the same stockpot I used to cook the potatoes.  These, my friends, are perfectly cooked eggs -- admit it.

IMG_0326~ Step 4.  Dice the celery and onion as directed.  I like their flavor and crunch, so, I use the full 16 ounces, and, I dice mine a little on the large side.  That choice is yours.

In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together the mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, Dijon mustard, 6a0120a8551282970b014e884f3418970dvinegar, celery seed, sugar and sea salt, until a semi-smooth (the sweet pickle relish has bits and pieces in it), emulsified sauce forms.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the celery, onions, potatoes, and lastly, gently fold in the delicate eggs, doing your best to keep them in large pieces.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very-well chilled,  several hours or overnight.

This isn't my only potato salad recipe, but, it's my "gold standard" recipe:

6a0120a8551282970b0154322ef1bc970cThe Gold Standard:  Creamy Potato and Egg Salad:  Recipe yields 20-24 cups (depending upon how many eggs you cook and how much celery and onion you add), which is, as pictured above, 12, 3/4-1-cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife, 8-quart stockpot; very large colander; paper towels, whisk; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

IMG_6302Cook's Note:  If you are like me, you are an egg lover, and, that means that a "gold standard" recipe for egg salad is just as important as a "gold standard" recipe for potato salad. You can find my recipe for ~ Simplicity:  Creamy, Crunchy, "Classic" Egg Salad ~ by clicking into Categories 2, 14, 20 or 26! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


~ My Pan-Seared Flat-Iron Steak Slider-Sandwiches~

IMG_0321Ok -- I admit it.  When my food world is moving so fast I can barely catch a breath, that's when I'm most tempted to order take-out or head for the drive-through (humming the "you deserve a break today" tune all the way).  I don't I rarely do.  Why?  I've got a few fast and furious home remedies that cure a fast-food, "where's the beef" craving or snack attack the moment it starts stealing its way into my brain.  I call them "flash-in-the-pan" meals because they go from stovetop to dinner table in almost less time that it takes to say "would you like fries with that"!

In my house, flat-iron steak sandwiches are one such meal.  After thinly-slicing some onion and a fresh French baguette, each steak cooks in a skillet for exactly six minutes -- less time than it takes to make the average hamburger, and, the moment you taste that first slice of meat, you just know you're in for a beefy treat.  These sandwiches are perfect for a quick weekday lunch or dinner, a late night snack attack, and, here in Happy Valley, PA (home of the Penn State Nittany Lions), they're very popular at our stadium tailgates and in-home bowl parties.  If you've ever wondered how the lesser known flat-iron steak compares to it's other flat-steak cousins, read on:

6a0120a8551282970b019b00f2ad09970bSimilar to flank steak  (top photo), skirt steak (middle photo) and hanger steak (no photo), flat-iron steak (bottom photo) wasn't always a part of my repertoire.  It wasn't because I didn't like them.  All of these steaks were really slow to make their way to the part of the steak food chain where the powers-that-be decided to market and sell them to the public.  They were the IMG_8261 15-06-13tough, less desirable, but flavorful cuts of beef that butchers tossed into the pile of miscellaneous cuts and trimmings destined for ground beef, or, they saved for themselves. Flank steaks (made famous by Louisiana's Chef Paul Prudhomme and his wildly-popular Blackened Steak Seasoning and recipe), were the first to take the commercial American marketplace by storm back in the latter 1980's.

IMG_0101A bit about flat-iron steaks:  A muscle cut off the shoulder blade of the animal, it's sometimes marketed as a "top blade steak".  Because it is cut with the grain of the shoulder, rather than the usual cross-grain, it is a bit tougher than its other flat- shaped steak cousins.  Once removed from the animal,  the roast is separated into two pieces, by cutting horizontally through the Chuck-jpg BeefCutChuckcenter, to remove the heavy connective tissue.  The entire top blade yields four, flat, rectangularish-shaped steaks weighing about 8-12 ounces each.  

Flat-iron steaks have been around for as long as man has been butchering beef, but, it's only recently that restaurants, especially upscale ones, have been serving flat iron steaks taken from expensive Kobe or Wagyu beef -- it's a profitable way for chefs to offer the beef from these highly-desired animals in an affordable manner to customers.  It is said to have gotten its name because it resembled the old, flat, irons women heated on their coal- or wood-burning stovetops and used to press clothing.  Read on:

When a flat-iron steak meets a flat iron (a grill press)!

IMG_0119Circa 1980-ish, this superb kitchen gadget is worth its 2 1/2-pound weight in gold.  Grill presses are used to keep fried foods flat (bacon, ham slices, sausage patties, burgers, steaks, chops, etc.).  It's the precursor to the modern-day panini press.  It's not-too-heavy, it's not-too light, which ensures an even flow of heat, an even sear, less spatter, and, a lot less cleanup too!

A well-done flat-iron steak is not well done at all!    

In order for flat-irons to be juicy, tender and tasty, these steaks, just like their other flat-steak cousins, are best serve rare, absolutely no more than medium-rare, and that requires high heat over a short period of time -- making pan-searing or grilling the ideal cooking methods.  If you require your beef well-done, these cuts should not be on your grocery list.  Sometimes they are marinated first, sometimes they are rubbed with a spice blend first, but, once cooked, they are always sliced thinly, across the grain holding the knife at a 30 degree angle.  Past that, they can be served just like any other knife-and-fork steak, but, I adore them on sandwiches!

IMG_9846 IMG_3204Restaurant chefs like to present their flat-irons garnished with a dollop of some sort of house-made savory compound butter, referred to as "Maitre d' butter". It almost always contains garlic and/or onion and an herb or two of some sort.  When I serve my steaks knife-and-fork-style, I dollop them with my recipe for ~ Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter ~. You can find that mouth-watering recipe in Categories 4, 8, 12, 20 or 22.  That said, when I serve my flat-irons sandwich-style, the bread gets slathered with ~ My Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread ~.  Besides tangy cream cheese and creamy butter, it's flavored with lots of garlic, onion, Herbes de Provence and plenty of black pepper.  What's not to love about that combo melting down over a juicy steak of any kind.  Just click on the Relatied Article link below for the recipe!

IMG_01072  8-ounce, 12" long French batards, a shorter, plumper, squatter version of the French Baguette, each loaf will yield 6 small, snack-sized sandwiches

2  8-12-ounce flat-iron steaks, the bigger the better, at room temperature, 1 steak per loaf of bread

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning steaks

2  tablespoons salted butter + 2 tablespoons olive oil per steak, a total of 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons olive oil

1  3" wheel of ~ My Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread ~, or, 1  5-ounce wheel store-bought Boursin (garlic & fine herbs-flavored), at room temperature, 1/2 wheel per loaf of bread

1  cup very thinly-sliced (shaved) red onion, 1/2 cup per loaf of bread

IMG_0113 IMG_0116~ Step 1. Just prior to cooking the steaks (no longer than 5 minutes), season their tops lightly with freshly-ground sea salt and generously with freshly-ground black pepper.  In a 12" skillet over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter into 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

IMG_0140 IMG_0125                                             ~ Step 2. Increase heat to medium-high.  Add one steak to hot skillet, peppered side down. Immediately, season the second side in the same manner as the first.

~ Step 3.  Cook steak three minutes on the first side and three minutes on the second, preferably with a IMG_0152 IMG_0144                                               cast-iron grill press placed on the top for the full six minute cooking time, turning only once.  Do not overcook this steak.  Using a paper towel, wipe the skillet clean and repeat the process with the second steak.

Transfer each steak, as they cook, to a warm plate to rest for 10-15 minutes prior to slicing.

Now don't these look just perfect?  Resist.  Desist.  Rest.

IMG_0172You bet your juicy steak they do.  After the rest period, holding a large chef's knife at a 30 degree angle, slice each steak into nice, even, pieces -- as thinly as you possibly can.

IMG_0192Ready for a sandwich?  Set up shop and follow your heart:

IMG_0222Slather and stack...

IMG_0238... and pop on the top!

IMG_0258Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, secure with six sandwich picks...

IMG_0271... slice into six slider-size sandwiches & serve!

IMG_0325My Pan-Seared Flat-Iron Steak Slider-Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 12 small but mighty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: 12" skillet; cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 12 sandwich picks; serrated bread knife

IMG_8667 IMG_8539Cook's Note: For another "flash-in-the-pan" meal, made on my grill pan, ~ Tequila-Lime Skirt-Steak Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon) ~ can be found in Categories 2, 10, 13, 19 & 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


~ Pork Tenderloin Medallions w/Dijon-Cream Sauce ~

IMG_0070This time of year, recipes for easy-to-prepare weeknight meals are more important to me than ever. I affectionately refer to them as "flash-in-the-pan meals", because, in a flash, in one pan, with no stress, I am eating something delicious -- in the case of this recipe, it is elegant enough to serve to company as well.  It's one of those dishes that makes you feel like a bona fide French chef too -- medallions, shallots, wine, butter, cream, Dijon and capers.  If you want to add a few diced mushroom caps, they just add to the porcine fun.  Voila.  There is little left for me to say except:  get your "mise en place" because from start-to-finish, this dinner cooks up really fast!

6a0120a8551282970b015432d85dde970cBefore you start your 10-minutes of prep work and 10 minutes of actual cooking, decide what you want to serve this meal with.  My suggestions are couscous, noodles, rice or instant polenta.  They're all great, so choose whatever suits your fancy or what's on-hand in your pantry.  Once you decide, cook it up before you start to cook the pork medallions.  I'm serving my dinner with couscous tonight.

6a0120a8551282970b014e88f8307d970dI'm also making a double batch of everything and I am writing the recipe as such.  Even if you don't need to feed 6-8 people, once you taste this, you will want leftovers. To learn how I cook my couscous, click into Categories 4, 14, 15 or 20 and read ~ Couscous:  What it is and How to Cook and Use it ~.

IMG_98902  small 1-1 1/4 pound, vacuum-packed pork tenderloins, trimmed of all visible fat, each cut crosswise into 16 even-sized pieces, about 1/2"-thick each

freshly-ground peppercorn blend

IMG_98974  tablespoons salted butter

2  tablespoons olive oil

1/2  cup white wine, or chicken stock

1  cup finely-diced shallots, or, yellow or sweet onion

1  cup finely-diced baby bella IMG_9900mushroom caps

1 cup chicken stock

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1/4  cup Dijon mustard

1/4  cup large-sized capers, well-drained

peppercorn blend, for seasoning finished dish -- no salt necessary, Dijon and capers will add enough

IMG_9914 IMG_9906                                         ~ Step 1. Generously season tops of medallions with freshly ground peppercorn blend and set aside.  (Note:  You can substitute black pepper, but, peppercorn blend is truly better.)  In a 14" skillet over low heat, melt the butter into the olive oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.

IMG_9929 IMG_9921Step 2. Working quickly, add medallions, peppered sides down, to pan.  Lightly pepper the second sides.  Saute for exactly 2 minutes per side, turning only once.

Medallions will be just starting to turn golden around the edges and tops, and, will just short of being IMG_9932cooked through to the center.

Working quickly, remove medallions from pan, placing them on a large plate or platter.  Lightly cover them with aluminum foil and set aside while preparing the Dijon-cream sauce according to the following directions:

IMG_9940 IMG_9944 IMG_9950 IMG_9960~Step 3.  Add the wine to the hot pan.  There will be a lot of steam.  Using a spatula, deglaze the pan by scraping loose all of the browned bits, less than 1 minute.  Add the diced shallots and mushroom caps.  Saute, stirring almost constantly, until shallots are translucent, mushrooms have lost their moisture and almost no liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.

IMG_9962 IMG_9968 IMG_9977 IMG_9978 IMG_0005~Step 4.  Add the chicken stock, cream, Dijon and capers.  Stir to throughly combine and bring to a rapid simmer, just short of a full boil. Continue to simmer rapidly, stirring almost constantly, until mixture has thickened enough so that when the spoon is pulled from the pan, you can draw a line through the sauce with your finger.  Depending upon how rapidly the mixture is simmering on your stovetop, this will take 4-6 minutes.

IMG_0011~ Step 5.  Turn the heat to as low as you can (I have an extra-low setting).  If the sauce is still simmering, turn the heat off, but let the pan remain on the burner.  

Return the medallions to the sauce in the pan.  I do not, at any point, immerse their tops in the sauce, but that presentation is your choice. Cover the pan and allow the medallions to heat through, about 1-2 minutes.  Do not overcook.

To serve:  Arrange 4-6 medallions around a mound of couscous, noodles, rice or polenta, drizzle with sauce, and... 

IMG_0088... enjoy an easy meal fit for a king!

IMG_0063Pork Tenderloin Medallions w/Dijon-Cream Sauce:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; spatula; large plate or platter; aluminum foil; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b019b0115604f970d-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my favorite "flash in the pan dinners', also elegant enough to serve to company, click into Categories  3, 20 or 21 to get my recipe for ~ T.G.I. Five-Minute Filet Mignon w/a Cremini Saute ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


~ Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread~

IMG_9712Like many others in the food world, over the next two weeks, my kitchen is going to experiece a marked increase in activity.  Some of it has been planned in advance, some of it will be impromptu, but all of it will be casual -- very casual.  I have my reasons.  Suffice it to say that during the holidays, I offer my kitchen counter as an oasis -- a respite from blinking lights, blaring carols and brash displays of lawn ornaments.  It's all about friends and family finding the time to stop by to sip on a beverage, tell a tale or two and exchange a yuletide greeting.  Depending upon the time of day, I always offer a snack:  Coffee or 'nog and cookies in the morning hours; wine or cocktails with some form of cheese and crackers for the afternoon or evening.

IMG_9707 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0ad3556970cThis year, I reached for my pizzelle irons.  I made a big batch of my ~ Double-Lemon and Vanilla Kissed Pizzelle Cookies~ (recipe in Categories 7 & 12), and an even bigger batch of my ~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers ~.  I made enough to last for two weeks and each one is safely stored in a big cookie can on a shelf in my pantry.  

IMG_6747Baking savory "cookies" is as easy as baking sweet cookies, and, I must report:  people expect homemade cookies, but they get really exited about homemade cheese crackers.  My post ~ Home for the Holidays, The Cheese Cracker Tray ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2 or 11.  Pictured here are my Brie Shortbread, Cheddar Cheese Sticks, and, Gorgonzola Wafers.  Needless to say, these were the inspiration for me to develop the Pecorino and Pepper Pizzelle Snackers!

While my savory pizzelles are great on their own, I did come up with a quick and easy cream cheese spread to serve with them.  The spread contains all the same seasonings I used in the pizzelles, plus some garlic powder too, so it complements the pizzelle perfectly.  Once the cream cheese and butter come to room temperature, it gets mixed in less than one minute.  

IMG_9850I'm willing to wager you have all of the ingredients on-hand!

IMG_97648  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

4  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  tablespoon herbes de Provence (a blend of rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_9776~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place all of the ingredients as listed:  

IMG_9768Starting on lowest speed of hand-held electric mixer and gradually working your way up to high speed, thoroughly combine, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of bowl almost constantly, about 45-60 total seconds.  The mixture will be soft, smooth, creamy and spreadable.

~ Step 3.  Transfer the mixture to a 2-cup food storage container, cover it, and, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  It's best after it has time for all of the flavors to marry.  When you want to serve it, remove it from the refrigerator about 1-1 1/2 hours ahead of time.

I prefer a professional presentation & it's easy to do:

Because I want to have this spread on hand to serve randomly to my guests over the next two weeks, I've come up with a way to allow me to make a triple or quadruple batch, portion it into 6-8 molds, refrigerate it, and, serve this, at the spur of the moment, and in an attractive way!

IMG_9779Meet my 3"-round, 2"-high, 1-cup size, restaurant-quality, mini cheese cake pans, complete with removable bottoms.  I have a two dozen of these and I love them.  I invested in them several years ago for a catering client who wanted individual cherry cheesecakes served for dessert.  These are the perfect size for me to mold almost any cream cheese-based spread, and remove it all in one piece for a pretty presentation!

IMG_9795Using a pen or a pencil, trace around one the bottoms on a piece of parchement paper, making as many circles as you'll need.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut around the inside of the lines.  

IMG_9798Place one cutout in the bottom of each pan.

Using an ordinary tablespoon, portioning and dividing as evenly as possible, spoon the soft cheese IMG_9804spread between the two molds, mounding it towards the center.

IMG_9809Using the back of the spoon, press and spread the mixture evenly down and into the sides of the mold.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate as IMG_9814directed (at least 2 hours).

IMG_9811To serve, remove from refrigerator. Using a sharp paring knife, cut around the perimeter of pan, to loosen the spread from the sides.  

Invert onto a serving dish and gently press down on center of the removable bottom.  The cheese will IMG_9825slip effortlessly down and onto the dish.  Lift the sides up and off.

IMG_9827Remove the bottom, peel back the parchment paper, cover loosely with plastic wrap and all to come to room temperature, or desired consistency, 1-1 1/2 hours.

When desired consistency is reached -- it's snack time! 

IMG_9733'Tis great spread on a freshly-roasted chicken or turkey sandwich too!

IMG_9888Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups of cheese spread.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/lid, or, 2, 3"-round x 2" high mini-cheesecake pans w/removable bottoms; parchment paper; kitchen shears; tablespoon; plastic wrap; sharp paring knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0a19469970cCook's Note:  For those occasional times when I entertain overnight guests during the holiday season, casual is the theme that reins supreme for breakfast at my kitchen counter too.  My decadent, make ahead recipe for ~ Rise and Shine: Creamy Crustless Crabmeat Quiche ~ can be found in Categories 3, 9, 11, 14, 20 or 21.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers~

IMG_9707'Tis the season for cookie baking, and, if you own a pizzelle iron, it undoubtedly is or will be out on your kitchen counter.  Pizzelle, which is plural for pizzella (pronounced "pit-sell" with a "ts" sound like in "pizza") are large, thin, crisp, embossed wafer cookies that are formed using a special iron.  It is said they were born in central Italy, in or around Rome, and were served to honor important government celebrations and family weddings because they were so beautiful to look at (not to mention delicious).  Historically, each family's pizzelle iron was embossed in the center with the family crest or other symbols of specific meaning, which indicated that each cookie was made by hand, and, these irons were passed down from generation to generation.

6a0120a8551282970b015438a33ea0970cAntique irons are very hard to find and can be quite expensive, $100-$300.  The traditional iron is made of cast-iron, and in effect is a double skillet intended to be held over an open flame. Modern versions of these are easily found and cost much less, $50-$70.  They are lightweight, easy to maneuver and are simply held over a hot burner of the modern-day stovetop.  That said:

6a0120a8551282970b015438a36048970cFor $50-70 you can buy an electric pizzelle iron, like mine, which is pictured here.  I t works like a waffle iron and I would never consider trading it for a traditional iron.  Once it is preheated, I place my cookie dough on the surface, close the lid, and, in less than one minute, a perfectly baked pizzella emerges. A little red light on top even blinks on to tell me when the cookie is done. Did I forget to mention how much easier the after-baking cleanup is? These machines are seriously well-worth the investment.

IMG_9595Note: While all brands work on the same principle, similar to a waffle iron, the shape and surface area varies from manufacturer to manufacturer -- some make smaller cookies, some make larger cookies. This means you will have to experiment and adjust the amount of cookie dough you use, via a smaller or larger cookie scoop, to avoid cookies that end up too small and not completely formed, or, cookies that bake with excess dough spilling over the sides.

Meet my mini-pizzelle iron!

IMG_6747I bought this machine two years ago because it makes small, 3"-round pizzelle, which are perfect cookies for making ice-cream sandwiches. Then, back in early November, I wrote a series of posts about "savory cookies":  ~ Home for the Holidays, The Cheese Cracker Tray ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2 or 11.  Pictured here are my Brie Shortbread, Cheddar Cheese Sticks, and, Gorgonzola Wafers. Needless to say, these were the inspiration for my new:  Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers!

It's crunch time -- If you're still looking for one more holiday snack to serve, these easy, cheesey, cripsy treats are it!

IMG_9733These cheesey, peppery, pizzelle "snackers" (short for "snack cracker") are so much better than a plain cracker, and, oh boy, they're even better with a slather of any kind of herby cream cheese dip or soft, spreadable cheese -- Boursin for example, or, even better, ~ Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread ~.  My spread is pictured in all of my photos and the recipe can be found by clicking on the Related Article link below.  Snackers are easy to make, and, the recipe doubles, triples or quadruples with ease, so, in a short amount of time you can make a big batch -- they'll keep stored in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks (if they last that long)!

IMG_96043  large eggs, at room temperature

1/2  cup salted butter, melted and cooled about 5 minutes

1  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup finely-grated and lightly-packed Locatelli cheese, or your favorite high-quality Pecorino Romano (Note:  The tangy, slightly bold and salty flavor of Pecorino Romano is perfect for these snackers.  I always use a microplane grater to get the necessary fine texture.)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2  teaspoons cracked black pepper

1  teaspoon herbes de Provence (a blend of rosemary, majoram, thyme and savory)

1 1/2  teaspoons onion powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_9611~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave and allow it to cool about 5-6 minutes.  While the butter is cooling, using a microplane grater, grate the cheese.

~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cracked black pepper, herbes de Provence, onion powder and salt. Set aside.

IMG_9621 IMG_9612~ Step 3.  In a medium mixing bowl, starting on low speed and increasing to high, beat the eggs until frothy, about 1 minute.  

Turn the mixer off and drizzle in the melted butter.  On medium speed, blend in the butter, until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.

IMG_9631 IMG_9627                                                 ~ Step 4. Add the flour mixture.  On medium-low mixer speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, beat until a soft, slightly-sticky but workable dough forms, 30-45 seconds.  Using spatula, fold in the cheese.  Allow to rest for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_9657~ Step 5.  Place iron on a sheet of parchment and preheat.  Baking pizzelle is a bit messy.  Placing iron on parchment makes cleanup of drips easy!  When preheated:

IMG_9645Using a 1" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place well-rounded (not flattened) scoopfuls on each of the pizzelle grids.

IMG_9647Tip from Mel:  When you close the lid on the pizzelle iron, it is going to push the balls of dough foreward into each of the circular grids.  

If you place each scoop of dough in the center, but, towards the back of each grid (rather than spot on in the center), when the lid closes, the dough will spread forward evenly into each grid and you will get nicely- and fully-formed pizzelle -- you can thank me later!

IMG_9667 IMG_9661~ Step 6. Close the lid on the iron and secure the clasp to lock the handles.  Bake for about 50 seconds.  Unlock and open the lid, pizzelle will be barely or lightly-browned.  This is how I like mine baked.  Five to ten seconds longer will result in more browning, so, suit yourself.  Using a small spatula remove pizzelle to a cooling rack.

IMG_9686Tip from Mel:  Hot off the iron, pizzelle are firm but pliable (they crisp up as they cool), and, they cool very quickly, within 2-3 minutes.  If you are a perfectionist like me, use a pair of kitchen shears to trim the raggedy ends.  Do this within the first 30-40 seconds off the grids -- they won't be too hot to handle.  Waste not, want not -- eat the trimmings -- they're a reward!

Cool & stack the trimmed pizzelle on a rack as you work...

IMG_9696... and have yourself a merry little snack attack:

IMG_9728Savory Parmesan-Pepper Pizzelle Snackers:  Recipe yields 4 dozen, 3"-round savory snackers.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; microplane grater; hand-held electric mixter; large rubber spatula; parchment paper; electric pizzelle iron preheated according to manufacturer's specifications; 1" ice-cream scoop; small spatula; cooling rack; kitchen shears

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c71b97a7970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b01675f1b881b970bCook's Note: My recipe for the traditional pizzelle,  ~ Double-Lemon & Vanilla-Kissed Pizzelle Cookies ~ can be found in Categories 7 or 12.  These cookies are made on my full-size pizzelle iron then trimmed and cut into pretty fan shapes while they are still hot.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


~ When in Rome, start with: Bucatini all'Amatriciana ~

IMG_9574Amatrice is a town in the mountainous northeastern panhandle of Lazio, near Abruzzo (central Italy).  "All' Amatriciana" means "made in the style of Amatrice and sugo Amatriciana is one of the oldest Italian sauces.  It's a humble, rustic pasta dish commonly found on the restaurant menus of Rome.  This immortal sauce is bold-flavored, and, like many Italian classics, it is easily prepared with a short list of ingredients, but, the list is specific and the dish is only as good as the quality of said ingredients.  Recipes vary, so there is some room for improvisation, but this is seriously not the time to let your creative self stray too far from the traditions of home Rome, and:

IMG_9438This dish is all about the pork fat - & there's nothing wrong w/that!

IMG_9566That said, I have no first-hand knowledge of this dish or romantic tale to tell about eating it in a restaurant in Rome or getting an old and authentic family recipe from a friend.  I learned about it on TV, more specifically from Mario Batali, and, I was fascinated by what he had to say and what I learned that morning.  It was years ago, back in the days prior to The Food Network transitioning to silly, cheap reality game-show cooking programs -- the star of those shows actually cooked and knew their own recipes -- their job required personality + intelligence.

Amatrice.8A bit about all' Amatriciana (ah-ma-tree-she-ana):  The ancient version of the dish was created centuries ago by the shepherds from the coastal plains near Rome who would drive their flocks to the high pastures near Amatrice for the Summer months.  Throughout the "transumanza" ("migration") they prepared "pasta alla gricia" for themselves (Grisciano was a hamlet near Amatrice).  Gricia, a lesser-known dish that is still served today, is the original "white" version of present day all'Amatriciana.  

Gricia is/was a simple dish of pork, pecorino, peperoncino and pasta -- it contained no tomatoes, because at that time, tomatoes did not exist in Italy.  Then, in the latter 1700's, when tomatoes became a culinary ingredient in Italy, the Italians were happy to add them, and, the name was affectionately changed to "Amatriciana", in honor of the town which made it famous.

Amatriciana:  Five Basic Ingredients = One Iconic Italian Dish.

When 'Much Ado About Nothing' = Ado About Everything. 

IMG_9314A bit about the ingredients for all' Amatriciana:  cured unsmoked pork, Roma tomatoes, red pepper flakes, grated cheese, pasta.  It sounds easy enough, and it is, but to get it right, read on:

IMG_9369Cured unsmoked pork (guanciale, pronounced gwahn-CHAY-lay, or pancetta):  Every traditional and authentic version of Amatriciana is made with guanciale (pig jowl).  It is saltier, fattier, slightly sweeter and bolder in flavor than pancetta -- it also gets buttery and translucent after cooking.  Guanciale is also hard to find (I need to special order it from a chef friend), so, if you do not have a source for it, pancetta has become, and is, the accepted substitute.  That said, some people prefer the taste of one over the other, so, let your taste break that tie. I love guanciale and keep a piece in my freezer at all times. Because American bacon is smoked, please do not do that.

IMG_9333Roma tomatoes (canned or fresh): Surprisingly, in the case of this dish, canned tomatoes are preferred, and, the best  fresh tomatoes in Italy are San Marzano. Why canned tomatoes and not fresh tomatoes?  As it was explained to me, the rugged mountains of Lazio, where Amatrice is located, was not prime territory for growing tomatoes, meaning:  they could be grown, but the growing season was so short, it was normal and common for them to prepare this dish using home-canned San Marzano tomatoes when they had no fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce with.  So, yes, high-quality canned tomatoes in the off-season -- by all means.

IMG_9347Pepper (red peperoncino or black):  In the case of this dish, peperoncino (red pepper flakes) are authentic and always used. Black pepper is typically not.  It is, however, worth noting that black pepper is typically used in the curing process of both guanciale and pancetta, so, it does make an unnofficial appearence in this dish. Many Americans don't realize that Italians use red pepper flakes much like we use black pepper -- crushed or powdered it gets added to simmering liquids or sprinkled on top of finished dishes.  Many kinds of capsicums are grown in Italy, and Calabria grows some of the finest red chile peppers in the world.

6a0120a8551282970b0168e9a4231d970cGrated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano):  It is grated Pecorino Romano all the way baby.  Pecorino is a hard, salty, sharp grating cheese made from sheep's milk ("pecora") -- it's perfect for bold-flavored dishes and Locatelli is considered Pecorino Romano royalty.  It was a staple in the diet for the legionaries of ancient Rome and is still made exclusively from the milk of sheep raised on the plains of Lazio and Sardinia according to the original, time-honored methods.  Logic alone should tell you if this dish was invented by the shepherds around Rome, they were not preparing it using cow's milk Parmigiano-Reggiano, and neither should you.

IMG_9377Pasta (bucatini or spaghetti):  It depends on who's dinner table you are sitting at.  There are two factions, the fanatical left and the fanatical right, and trust me, you do not want to disagree with either. Personally, I say it's the one-of-a-kind super-long stranded, thick, hollow-centered bucatini that gives this dish its real-deal slurpy character and sloppy charm, and, it has nothing to do with arrogantly thinking spaghetti is too ordinary.  It comes  from making Amatriciana both ways. Bucatini's thickness gives it the surface area during and after saucing to produce the ideal result:  a balanced dish consisting of pasta lightly enrobed in, not drenched or hidden by, a bold-flavored, slightly cheesy-tasting sauce studded with crispy pork.

Parting shots before preparing my version for Sunday dinner:    

IMG_9389What the food police say about garlic, onion, herbs, wine & EVOO:  We Americans tend to associate Italian food with garlic and tend to put garlic in anything and everything we associate with Italian cuisine.  Italians ridicule us for this.  This dish needs no garlic -- even if you love garlic in general, restrain yourself.  That said, adding diced onion to the guanciale fat and sauteing it until translucent adds pleasant sweetness to the tomato sauce -- even the purists agree there is no crime in that.  As for herbs, since San Marzano tomatoes have a few basil leaves packed in the can, if you feel the need to include an herb or garnish with an herb, use fresh basil.  As for a splash of splendid wine or a drizzle of fruity EVOO to finish off this modestly seasoned, hearty dish -- what happens in an Italian kitchen stays in an Italian kitchen.

IMG_9400For the pasta:

16-18 ounces bucatini*

5 quarts water

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

*Note:  The average length of a strand of real-deal Italian-made bucatini is 40 inches (that's over 3 feet).  I'm sure it would be amusing to cook them "as is" some day, but, to make them user-friendly, I break the long strands in half "at the bend", then break the lengths in half again.

IMG_9415For the Amatriciana sauce:

8  ounces guanciale, 8 ounces after removing any visible rind

1  28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand-crushed

1 1/2  teaspoons peperoncino

3/4  teaspoon sea salt, to taste, do not oversalt*

6  ounces finely-grated Locatelli cheese, about 3 cups

*Note:  If this doesn't seem like enough salt to you, the guanciale is going to add additional salt to the sauce, and to the finished dish.  The grated Locatelli cheese is going to do the same.    

IMG_9408 IMG_9401~ Step 1.   Using a chef's knife, slice and discard any visible rind from top of guanciale.  Slice, like you would bacon, into thin, slightly less than 1/4"-thick slices, then cut the slices into short 1/4" chards.  Slicing it this way results in it being crispy on the outside w/a slightly-chewy center.

IMG_9419 IMG_9426~ Step 2.  Place the guanciale in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan over medium-high heat.  Using a slotted spatula or spoon, stirring almost constantly, saute until it is golden brown and puffy, about 8 minutes (more or less).  To know exactly when it is done, look at these photos:

IMG_9421 IMG_9429When the guanciale starts to heat up, the fat will turn translucent (Jello-like looking).  As it sautes, translucent will turn to opaque.  When opaque turns to golden, the guanciale is cooked perfectly. Overcooking it will dry it out -- don't do that.

IMG_9432 IMG_9438~ Step 3. Turn the heat off.  

Using a slotted spatula or spoon, transfer the guanciale to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to drain.

There will be a lot of flavorful, fatty drippings in the bottom of the pan. This is exactly want you want.

IMG_9450 IMG_9447~ Step 4. Add the tomatoes to the pan drippings, then, add the peperoncino and salt. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover the pan and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sauce will be reduced a bit, thickened and emulsified (fat will be incorporated):

IMG_9459 IMG_9455Cover pan completely, remove from heat and set aside while cooking the bucatini as  directed below:

~ Step 5.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the salt. Add the bucatini and cook until al dente.  This timing will vary IMG_9489slightly, depending on the manufacturer -- the bucatini I used today took 11 minutes.  Drain into colander.

IMG_9493Note: You're thinking this thick pasta should take longer?  The center hole allows water to flow through, so, it cooks about the same as others.

IMG_9500 IMG_9501 IMG_9514 IMG_9524





Steps 6, 7, 8 & 9.  Add the steaming hot, drained pasta to the sauce.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until pasta is evenly and lightly coated.  Toss in two cups of the Locatelli cheese.  Toss in the crispy guanciale pieces.  Cover and rest about 5 minutes.

Toss in the last 1 cup of finely-grated Locatelli and toss again: 

IMG_9546Serve ASAP garnished w/more Locatelli & peperoncino: 

IMG_9576When in Rome, start with:  Bucatini all'Amatriciana:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, preferably nonstick; slotted spatula or spoon; 8-quart stockpot; colander; salad servers or two forks or two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b01a73dd57389970d-800wiCook's Note:  For another Roman specialty, one that I do have first hand experience with, click into Categories 3, 11, 12, 14, 21 or 22, to get my recipe for ~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna:  Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Creame Sauce & Lasagna ~.  Pictured here tossed with the traditional pappardelle pasta, this long-simmered ragu is perhaps my favorite of all Italian sauces.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07c51e9c970dI was just asked a question from a KE reader who said, "I ruined my mother's pumpkin pie recipe at Thanksgiving because I substituted condensed milk for evaporated milk.  I'm about to bake some Christmas cookies from one of her recipes, and, while I won't make that mistake twice, I still don't understand what the difference is between the two.  Can you quickly explain it to me?"

It only takes a taste of each to know they are very different...

1380405_881838341849337_4484291976577709115_nNo kidding around, I thought everyone knew the difference between these two commonly used ingredients -- I remember learning about them back in 7th grade Home Economics (thank-you Mrs. Richards).  I don't know if they even offer Home Ec any more.  I'm certain this info is available in almost every baking book printed in the USA today, and, I know it can be found elsewhere on the internet as well.  That said, when asked I answer, and, the question prompted me to write a quick Q&A post ASAP today so folks can learn about it here on Kitchen Encounters too.  Let me start with the most important information first: these two products cannot, under any circumstances, ever be used interchangeably. 

... and cannot be used interchangeably.

IMG_9301Evaporated milk is a canned cow's milk product that has about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk.  Sweetened condensed milk (also referred to as condensed milk), like evaporated milk, has the water removed from it, but has quite a bit of sugar added to it as well.  They cannot be used interchangeably. But, if you find yourself without either one and no means of getting to a grocery store, there are emergency substitutions:  

Substitutions for evaporated milk are:  an equal measure of light cream, half & half or cream.  I have read that buttermilk can be substituted too -- I have never tried it, but, I think the tangy taste of buttermilk may not bode well in some culinary applications.  If you keep dry (powdered) milk in your pantry, you can mix it with 40% of the water the package directions require and use it too.

Substitutions for condensed milk are:  if you do a quick internet search they are there, but they all require messy, time-consuming machinations that don't consistently result in an admirable result.  My recommendation on this:  get in your car and go buy the condensed milk.  If you are still intent on trying it, in a blender combine until smooth: 1 cup dry (powdered) milk, 1/3 cup hot water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.  Refrigerate.

A little bit of interesting background and history:

Both products have a unique flavor, creamy texture (with condensed milk being much thicker) and on the shelf, physically take up half the space of milk.  Evaporated milk was invented by dairy farmers over 100 years ago, because fresh milk, without refrigeration, had a very short shelf life and could not be shipped very far.  In the 1920's and 1930's evaporated milk gained favor as a baby formula.  Evaporated milk is still widely used in many countries were no refrigeration is available.  Sweetened condensed milk was invented in France by Nicolas Appert in 1820.  In 1853, Gail Borden, Jr., was the first to market condensed milk in the USA.  The US Government ordered huge quantities of it during the American Civil War and handed out its 14-ounce/1,300 calorie cans as field rations to the soldiers.  By the 1860's the soldiers had spread the word and condensed milk became a major product in the American marketplace... sweet!

Pay Attention to that Expiration Date.

Once the cans are open, both must be refrigerated, or, like fresh milk products, they will spoil.  Even though both products have a long shelf life, with condensed milk lasting longer than evaporated milk, you still need to check the date on the can before using either of them.

Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk #2Condensed milk should be thick, yet drizzly and pale cream-colored.  Past the expiration date, it tends to seize up or crystallize and darken to a caramel-color, which does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, but:

If in doubt throw it out!  

I managed to track down a can well past the expiration date.  While it tasted just fine, I probably wouldn't use it because the change in color and consistency would most likely affect the cookie recipe I am planning to bake next.

In the case of evaporated milk, if it does not pour smooth and isn't a uniform, light creamy white color, or, if it has any has any lumps in it, throw it out immediately.  A few parting words:

When using either of these two products for any purpose, be it in cooking or baking (which relies upon weights, measures and precise ingredients), PLEASE remember to read your labels and check your expiration dates before even getting started.

Hello Dolly!  The 5-6-7- Layer Magic Cookie Bar:

6a0120a8551282970b01a5116ae038970c-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 


~ Mel's Happy Valley Meyer Dairy Eggnog Cookies ~

IMG_9233Eggnog -- the traditional and official drink of Christmas and New Years.  There is nothing quite like sipping slowly from a punch-cup full of this creamy-rich liquor-laced libation.  In many families, making eggnog from scratch is an event.  The recipe is often times a well-guarded secret, being passed down from generation to generation.  The only egg nog I got to drink as a child were the sips I could sneak out of a jovial adult's punch cup at more than a few neighborhood cocktail parties.  Our nextdoor neighbor, Mrs. Rimm, she made great eggnog.

IMG_9263A bit about eggnog:  References to eggnog date back to the 1800's, when, even back then it was served during the Winter holiday season. Known as "egg milk punch", it was and still is a sweetened dairy-based beverage made with milk, sugar, raw egg yolks, whipped egg whites and a splash of rum and/or vanilla extract. Nowadays cream is always included in place of some or all of the milk, because today's milk has a much lower fat content than milk in the 1800's, which had cream on top.

Brandy, rum and/or bourbon are almost always added.  The plain truth:  Eggnog just tastes better with some alcohol in it.  Each smallish finished serving is poured into a punch cup, then it's topped off with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream and a sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg.

IMG_9277Eggnog literally means "eggs in a small cup", and it is used on both sides of the Atlantic to toast to ones health.  "Nog" is an old English term for a small wooden cup.  As an English creation, it descended from a hot British drink called posset, made from eggs beaten with milk, sugar and some type of spirit. During that time period, alcoholic drinks were commonly served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because it was cooked, posset traveled and adapted well to local tastes wherever it landed.  One such place was our American colonies. America was full of farms, which were full of chickens, cows and plenty of cheap rum -- which is our signature ingredient. 

Fast forward to present day.  Over the holidays, pasteurized eggnog is sold in milk-like cartons in almost every grocery store in America.  Here is where I stick my two cents in.  All store-bought eggnog is not created equal.  Most mass-produced name brands are cloyingly sweet, leaving an almost bubblegum-like aftertaste.  Most purists agree that those who don't like this Yultide beverage have simply never had the opportunity to taste real-deal eggnog.

The best place to buy pasteurized eggnog is at your local dairy.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0a57be4970cMeet Meyer Dairy.  Founded in 1970 by two  brothers and located just four short miles from my kitchen door, I have been buying milk and ice cream from these folks since the day I moved to Happy Valley in 1974.  Joseph Meyer, the owner explains, "We're farmers, so we produce our own milk.  We put in a drop tank to bring it up from the farm to process and bottle it in our shop."  Over the years they added many varieties of ice-cream, and the flavors change daily. Besides one of their generous cones of the creamy-dreamy stuff, there's plenty of room to sit down and enjoy a hot dog or a hamburger too.  They sell lots of other local and PA based products too:  grilled stickies from The College Diner, apple butter from the Lions Club and Middleswarth potato chips -- everyone loves Meyer Dairy!

Yes, Meyer's sells their milk in returnable glass bottles:

IMG_9129'Tis the season for Meyer Dairy to roll out their eggnog and eggnog ice cream, and, my holiday season wouldn't be the same without either one.  I adore that ice cream flavor but when I stopped in the shop this AM, the charming gal behind the counter told me they won't start making it for another week yet.  One sip of their eggnog is all anyone needs to know this is not your run-of-the-mill store-bought milkgrog.  It is rich, just the right thickness, pleasantly spiced and not overly sweet.  The only thing left in the back of your throat is the taste of real-deal farm-fresh cream.  Meyer's eggnog is beyond compare, and:

IMG_9125To bake the best:  Mel's Happy Valley Meyer Dairy Eggnog Cookies -- I insist upon the best locally-made pasteurized eggnog money can buy!

IMG_9087For the dry ingredients:

2  cups + 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

3/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

~ Step 1.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Set aside.

IMG_9092For the wet ingredients:

3/4  cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup firmly-packed light-brown sugar

1/2  cup sugar

2  extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

2  teaspoons butter-rum extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2  cup Meyer Dairy pasteurized eggnog, or the best quality pasteurized eggnog money can buy (Note: Scratch-made homemade eggnog does not work well for making eggnog cookies.)

IMG_9095 IMG_9098~ Step 2. Place the softened butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl.  Separate the egg yolks from the whites (refrigerate whites for use in in another recipe -- I use them to make macaroons). Stir the rum and vanilla extract into the eggnog. Starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer (to blend), then increasing speed to high, whip the mixture until smooth, 3 full minutes, IMG_9105scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula the entire time.  Turn mixer off.

IMG_9111~ Step 3. Add all of the eggnog mixture to the bowl. Starting on low speed of mixer (to blend),  then increasing speed to high, whip the mixture until smooth, 1 full minute, once again, using the IMG_9113rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently.  Turn the mixer off.

IMG_9117~ Step 4. Begin adding the flour, in three parts (1/3, 1/3, 1/3), no need to measure exactly.  Again, starting on low speed and ending up on high after each addition, while scraping down sides of bowl.  Total time to IMG_9132incorporate flour:  about 3 minutes.

~ Step 5.  Cover bowl of cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Thirty minutes is not enough and 1 1/2 hours is too much.  While cookie dough is chilling line 2, 17 1/2" x 12 3/4" IMG_9136baking pans with parchment paper.

IMG_9145~ Step 6. Remove dough from refrigerator. Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop, place lightly-packed scoopfuls of dough, well-apart, 12 on each pan.

~ Step 7.  Place pans of cookies in refrigerator to chill for about 20-30 minutes prior to baking.

IMG_9146~ Step 8.  One at a time, place chilled pan of cookies on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 12-13 minutes. Cookies will be just beginning to brown and will still be slightly-soft. Do not overbake my cookies!  

Remove pan from oven and cool cookies, on pan, for 3 minutes, prior to transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best, as it gives them time to "dry out" slightly).

Cool completely -- 2 hours or overnight:

IMG_9171Cookies can be eaten just they are, trust me, they smell and taste just like a cup of well-made eggnog, or, frosted with: ~ Mel's Happy Valley Meyer Dairy Eggnog Frosting ~, as follows:

IMG_9197For the eggnog frosting:

2  cups confectioners' sugar

4  tablespoons Meyer Dairy pasteurized eggnog, or the best quality pasteurized eggnog money can buy (Note:  Scratch-made homemade eggnog does not work well for making frosting either.)

1  tablespoon butter-rum extract

ground nutmeg, for sprinkling on frosted cookies

IMG_9216 IMG_9202                                            ~ Step 1. In a small mixing bowl combine all ingredients together until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir again.  Mixture will be thick, smooth and ribbonlike.

~ Step 2.  Using a small cheese- IMG_9218type spreader, frost the tops of each cookie, then, very lightly sprinkle nutmeg over the frosted tops of all. Allow cookies to remain on cooling rack until the frosting dries and hardens, about 3-4 hours or overnight.  Store cookies in an airtight container, separating the layers with wax paper, in a cool dry place for up to 2 weeks.  Once frosting is hard, it stays firm as long as they're stored in a cool place. Unfrosted cookies may be frozen, thawed and frosted afterward.

Be sure to make a big batch -- they disappear fast!

IMG_9291Trust me -- these taste just like eggnog...

IMG_9239... and taste even better with eggnog!!!

IMG_9268Mel's Happy Valley Meyer Dairy Eggnog Cookies:  Recipe yields 2 dozen cookies (in reality it yields 2 dozen + 2, for a total of 26 cookies in each batch).

Special Equipment List: whisk; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 3/4" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; cooling rack; tablespoon; small cheese-type spreader

6a0120a8551282970b0162fe3acbf4970dCook's Note:  Over the holidays, besides making eggnog from scratch, another one of my favorite beverages to serve is real-deal hot chocolate, and, I like to make a big batch of it ahead of time.  My recipe for ~ A Make-Ahead Christmas Morning Hot Chocolate ~ can be found in Categories 9, 11 or 16!

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

(Recipe, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


~ Perfect Popovers: When doing less really is more! ~

IMG_8968Pretty, puffed-up, golden-brown pockets of crusty, light, airy carbohydrate perfection.  With hollow, soft, almost custardlike centers, besides their wonderful taste, freshly and properly baked popovers emerging from the oven are a magnificent sight.  They are "one of the culinary wonders of the world".  Traditional popovers are really easy to make, and the less you mess with the recipe the better they turn out, but, if the the wet and dry ingredients aren't of the correct ratio, and if the proper baking procedure isn't followed, they will literally be a flip-flop.  If you'd like to impress your friends and family with some delicious kitchen drama, bake some popovers for your next breakfast or brunch.  That said, popovers are best served hot, right out of the oven.  I never invite friends to "popover for popovers" -- in my kitchen, reservations are required!

IMG_8999"Pop over for popovers?"  Not in my kitchen!  

Reservations are required, or, you'll miss the performance!!!

IMG_8982A bit about popovers:  A simple-to-make drizzly batter, about the consistency of cream and resemblant of a crepe batter (made from whole milk, eggs, melted butter, all-purpose flour and salt) gets made and rested.  The batter is then frothed in a blender and poured into a preheated muffin-esque looking pan, then baked in a hot oven.  Without the aid of any leaveners (yeast, baking powder or baking soda), the build up of steam propels the batter to balloon up towards the sky.  The detailed, technical explanation is 100% food science.  As long as the batter has been prepared correctly, once in the oven, a perfect storm of events occurs:  the formation of gluten in the flour and the puffing action of the eggs, in combination with the creation of steam, in a perfectly-shaped vessel, in a hot oven that does not get opened at all during the process.

IMG_8878A bit about popover pans:  The name "popover" is said to have come from the fact that as the batter bakes, it expands, causing it to "pop over" the top and sides of each cup-shaped insert in the pan.  The cups of a popover pan are deeper and narrower than that of an ordinary muffin pan and they are spaced much farther apart too.  This shape and space allows the heat to ideally circulate and plenty of room for the  IMG_8883popovers to rise up and over the sides without touching as they bake (which can cause collapse).

Plenty of people successfully bake popovers in an ordinary muffin tin and I don't want to rain on their popover parade, but:

If you love real-deal popovers, I highly suggest you invest $15-$20 in a popover pan or two that will last you a lifetime!

Make as many popovers as you like, my recipe doubles, triples or quadruples with ease.

My recipe is a traditional one.  These are the popovers I  grew up eating and is the recipe I was given at the age of 21 or 22.  That said, in the latter 1980's I encountered an ever-so-slightly different popover.  It was on a trip to Dallas and I was lunching in the Zodiac Room of the flagship Neiman Marcus store.  Their popovers, served with some sublime strawberry butter, were slightly denser and had a mushroomlike dome-shaped top.  Yes, they were delicious, but, they weren't mine, and I could not quite put my finger on what the difference was.  Much later, I came to learn that recipes such as theirs contain baking powder, which, cuts the baker a bit of slack.  My grandmother would call it cheating.  In all honesty, I do feel that traditionally made popovers really are crispier on the outside and creamier on the inside.  You be the judge!   

IMG_8983For every pan of 6 popovers you'll need:

IMG_88943/4 cup whole milk, no substitutions

2  large eggs, well-beaten, no substitutions

1  tablespoon salted butter, melted, unsalted butter may be substituted

3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour, no substitutions

1/4  teaspoon + 1/8  teaspoon sea salt, kosher salt may be substituted

1/4  teaspoon + 1/8  teaspoon granulated sugar, no substitutions

1-1 1/2  teaspoons additional butter, for preparing pan, no substitutions

IMG_8897 IMG_8886~ Step 1. Generously and evenly grease the inside of each of six popover cups with butter.  I use a paper towel to do this.  Set aside.

~ Step 2.  In a 1-quart measuring container, place flour, salt and sugar.  This type container makes it easy to mix in and pour from.

IMG_8903 IMG_8906 IMG_8913 IMG_8926~Step 3.  To the flour, add the milk, beaten eggs and melted butter.  Whisk vigorously until mixture is thin, drizzly and smooth, about 1 minute, scraping the bottom to be sure all flour gets incorporated.  Cover container with plastic wrap and set aside, at room temperature, for 1 hour.

IMG_8952~ Step 4.  Preheat oven to 400-410 degrees -- under 400 degrees is too low and 425 degrees is way too high.  When the oven is preheated, place the prepared pan on center rack for 2 1/2 minutes.

IMG_8949~ Step 5. During the last minute of preheating the pan, use a hand-held immersion blender to froth the batter.  

IMG_8959~ Step 6.  Remove hot pan from oven.  There will be some melted butter beading around in the bottom -- this is EXACTLY what you want.

IMG_8956~ Step 7. Wasting no time, drizzle all of the frothed batter into the six hot popover cups, filling each one to slightly less than half full.

~ Step 8.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400-410 degree oven for exactly 30 minutes.

Note:  Some recipes instruct to start baking in a hotter oven (450 degrees) then lower the temperature halfway through the cooking process (to 375-350 degrees).  I have a BIG problem with that fluctuation in temperature, especially when I am baking multiple batches.  I have been making popovers in a moderately-hot 400-410 degree oven and maintaining that temperature throughout the batch-baking process for years -- with NO compromise in the end result!

Do not open oven door for even one second to peek inside!!!

IMG_8971Each popover will bake slightly differently...

IMG_8976... taking on a beautiful personality of its own...

IMG_8975... but all will be sky-high and hollow in the center:

IMG_9000Immediately remove from popover cups and serve ASAP...

IMG_9044... with butter &/or your favorite jam or preserves!

IMG_9063Perfect Popovers:  When doing less really is more!:  Recipe yields 6 popovers.

Special Equipment List:  paper towel;  popover pan(s); 1-quart measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; whisk; plastic wrap;  hand-held immersion blender; cooling rack

IMG_3636 IMG_3595Cook's Note: For an incredible treat, serve my popovers with some of my ~ Orange, Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Breakfast Butter ~.  You can find my recipe by clicking into Categories 4, 8, 9, 20 or 22!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


~ Rise & Shine: Creamy Crustless Crabmeat Quiche~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07bc6a02970d-800wiIf you are like me, there can never be enough easy and elegant breakfast or brunch recipes in the food world.  On my best day I am not a nice person early in the morning.  I'm not mean (depending upon who you ask), I just tend to need time to quietly organize my thoughts in the morning.  A typical weekday for me entails cooking and cleanup with photography and writing sandwiched in between and afterward.  This leaves me protective of my mornings to myself.

6a0120a8551282970b0147e2078d0b970bThat said, I entertain regularly too, and, when I have overnight guests I want their morning meal to be as delicious as their previous nights dinner.  My crustless crabmeat quiche is one of my favorite "go to" recipes, especially during the holiday season -- I often serve it for breakfast on Christmas morning or brunch on New Years Day.  Besides being festive and elegant, all of the easy prep work can be done a day in advance.  In the morning, it takes me a mere 5 minutes to mix it up and pop it in the oven to bake for 50 minutes.  Bacon is great, but, my favorite way to serve this is scooped atop a sausage patty alongside a croissant, and, with a Bloody Mary!

In case you've never heard of crustless quiche before, it's worth mention that all quiche recipes are not created equal, meaning:  don't try turning every quiche recipe you run across into a crustless one.  Those that require layering of ingredients, rather than mixing, are problematic.

IMG_88701  pound lump crabmeat, the best available, undrained

4  ounces finely-diced shallots or sweet onion

8  ounces grated Gruyere cheese

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3  jumbo eggs

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  teaspoon lemon juice, fresh or high-quality bottled concentrate

1  teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, more or less, to taste

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing quiche dish

8-12 each:  5- 6-ounce sweet sausage patties and croissants (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0148c720369f970c~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, using two forks, toss together the diced shallots, grated cheese and flour, until ingredients are just evenly coated in the flour.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the crabmeat, just until incorporated into the cheese mixture.  You don't want ot break up or mash the big lumps of the delicate crabmeat.

Gently spoon the mixture evenly into a 9" quiche dish that has been sprayed with no-stick spray.

6a0120a8551282970b0147e116f07d970b~ Step 2.  In a 1-quart measuring container, whisk together the eggs, cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, cayenne pepper sauce, nutmeg and white pepper.

Slowly, in a thin stream, drizzle the cream mixture over and around the top surface of the crab mixture.

Go slowly, to give the liquid time to drizzle down into the cracks and crevaces of the light and airy crab mixture.  Do not press down on, spread, or stir this mixture.

6a0120a8551282970b0147e2078d0b970b~ Step 3.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  Quiche will be golden brown, puffed throughout and a knife inserted into the center will come out clean.  Quiche can be served hot, warm or at room temperature (and leftovers reheat perfectly in the microwave the next day too).  Scoop and serve this decadent, rich breakfast or brunch entree on warmed serving plates.

6a0120a8551282970b017d40c333f6970cFor the optional sausage:

4  pounds sweet sausage, the best available, your favorite brand

6a0120a8551282970b017c36949ba3970bNote:  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.

6a0120a8551282970b017c3694bb9d970b 6a0120a8551282970b017c3694bda1970b~ Step 4. While quiche is cooling, using a pair of kitchen shears, remove and discard the casings from sausage links.  Portion the meat in equal-sized 4"-round patties.  Over medium heat, fry until golden on both sides, turning only once, about 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

6a0120a8551282970b0148c810aece970cRise & Shine:  Creamy Crustless Crabmeat Quiche:  Recipe yields 12 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" quiche dish; cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 2 forks; large rubber spatula; 1-quart measuring container; whisk; cooling rack; kitchen shears; 12" skillet, preferaly nonstick; spatula; aluminum foil; 2 1/4"- 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop or large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b019affd6a0cd970d-800wiCook's Note:  While champagne goes great with this quiche, Bloody Mary's are better. There are a lot of recipes for Bloody Mary's, almost everyone has their own or a favorite place to go and drink one.  For my all-time favorite Bloody Mary, the recipe I've been making for almost 35 years (and the only one you'll get served in my kitchen), click into Categories 9, 11, 16, 17 or 18 to read ~ Stan's "Hail Mary, I'm Born Again" Bloody Mary ~!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


~ How do you measure up? Dry vs. Liquid Measure ~

IMG_8814'Tis the season for making and baking candies, cookies, cakes and all sorts of sweet treats. Great cooks know that in order to achieve confection perfection, it's imperative to weigh and measure all ingredients precisely -- and this means using the right tools the right way.  How many of us have tried to duplicate one of grandma's vintage recipes only to be met with disappointment in the end because grandma measured using "a handful of this" and "a pinch of that".  If this was how grandma measured, grandma wasn't a great cook and I don't care how good her food tasted.  Thankfully I had a grandmother who bought me my first set of measuring cups and spoons -- I was five and I got a pretty blue apron for my birthday that year too!

Meet Mel's "things that measure things" drawer:

(a kitchen drawer dedicated solely to liquid & dry measures) 

IMG_8861Whether you are a professional pastry chef or a home baker, because of the chemistry involved in baking, the correct ratio of dry to wet ingredients is the only way to produce the proper consistency, density and texture of whatever you are making or baking.  If you're a novice, don't be fooled by encounters with TV chefs who appear as though they are not measuring their ingredients.  In reality, they are -- with the exception of ridiculously stupid game-show-type cooking shows, these practiced professionals measure all of their ingredients beforehand.

What's the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups?

IMG_8805While the volume measured in both of them is the same (1 cup liquid = 1 cup dry), the two look and are designed differently, for good reason.  Liquid measuring cups, which do come in different sizes, are typically see through and graduated with easy-to-read markings on the side which make it simple to fill to the desired level (1/4-, 1/2-, 3/4-cup, etc.).  They have a spout too, which ensures an even pour without spills or drips.  Dry measuring cups are typically not see through and come in a graduated set (1/4- 1/2- 3/4-cup, etc.), with each piece meant to be filled to the brim, then leveled with a knife or a straight-edge -- this is called the "scoop and level" technique.  You can't level dry ingredients precisely in a liquid measuring cup, and, you can't fill a dry measuring cup to the tippy-top with liquid (well, actually you can) and expect to succeed 100% of the time at tranferring all of it successfully to its destination without spilling.

What about measuring spoons?  They all look the same!

IMG_8823With rare exception, all measuring spoons look the same, they are not see through and are meant to be used to measure both dry and liquid ingredients.  Once again, the volume is the same (1 teaspoon liquid = 1 teaspoon dry).  Like dry measuring cups, they are sold in graduated sets (4-7 pieces) for measuring various fractions of tablespoons and teaspoons.  I recommend purchasing the largest set possible.  Because of their small size, dry ingredients are easily leveled off, and, by slowly adding wet ingredients to the spoon to the point just before they would spill over the sides, they are easy to maneuver and deliver to the intended destination. That said, I did purchase a small, clear glass mini-measure (pictured above) which is graduated and measures up to 6 tablespoons, which I find very convenient and make use of often.

Recipe says: "8 ounces".  Does this mean use a liquid measure?

IMG_8841No it does not.  When a recipes says to use 8 ounces of any liquid, yes, always use a liquid measuring cup, in which case 8 ounces is always = to 1 cup.  But, when a recipe says to use 8 ounces of any dry ingredient, they are speaking a different language, and it always means:  use a kithen scale.  Why?  There's a distinct difference between liquid volume and dry weight.  

For example:  In the photo above, I have placed 1 cup of sugar + about 1 extra teaspoon.  I've got 8 ounces of sugar.  In the photo below, I have placed 1 cup of flour.  I've got 5 ounces of flour.  While 1 cup of sugar weighs approximately 8 ounces, 1 cup of flour does not even come close to weighing 8 ounces.  There's more:  The weight of a dry ingredient also depends on the type and the manufacturer.  Confectioners' sugar does not weigh the same as brown sugar or granulated sugar.  Whole wheat flour does not weigh the same as rye flour or all-purpose flour.

IMG_8826Moral of the story:  Ask Santa for a Kitchen Scale for Christmas!

How do You Measure up?  Dry vs. Liquid Measure:  Recipe explains the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups, and, the difference between liquid volume and dry weight.

Special Equipment List:  dry measuring cups; wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; kitchen scale

6a0120a8551282970b019b00e7c7e4970b-800wiCook's Note:  There is no time like the present to get ready for the holiday baking season.  For another one of my "information only" posts that might come in handy, click into Categories 5, 6, 7, 15 or 16 to read: ~ Flour Facts:  All-Purpose, Bread, Cake and Pastry ~!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)