Sunday, November 29, 2009

Calibrate your thermometer

Here's a very quick tip that will help you in the kitchen. To check to see if your meat thermometer is working properly, heat water to boiling point (212 degrees Farenheit).. and insert the probe into about two inches of water. If the thermometer doesn't register 212 there's no need to throw it away. Simply subtract the difference of what your thermometer registers from 212.. and then use your thermometer knowing that it's 'off' by this amount of degrees.

Example:  Your thermometer reads 200 when inserted into boiling water.... it's off by 12 degrees.  You are preparing a recipe that must have an internal temperature of 170...

So, when your thermometer reads 158 degrees F you are there.  (170 degrees F required temperature less 12 degrees difference in your register = 158 degrees F). Make sense?

Thanks for stopping by... I hope you will check out this quick tip.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Delicious Pumpkin Roll


Hmmm... Pumpkin Roll.. just the thought conjures up thoughts of Autumn, jack-o-lanterns, crisp leaves.. and, of course, Thanksgiving.. my favorite holiday!

This is a perfect time of year to enjoy this beautiful dessert. It's really quite simple to make (I promise), and everyone will think you worked hours to create this delight.


Here are the ingredients for the batter...


For the cake, you will need...

2/3 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. flour
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
1/4 c. chopped walnuts



Place sugar, flour, baking soda, eggs, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Lightly grease a 12" by 18" jelly roll pan and then line it with waxed paper and then lightly grease the paper. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth with a knife to level the batter.



Add chopped walnuts on top of the batter.

and then bake in a 375 degree (F) oven for 15 minutes.


Here's a pic of the cake after baking has been completed.

Can't you just about smell the cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin? Yum!
  

Turn the cake onto a white linen kitchen towel that you sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and slowly peel off the wax paper.


Re-roll the cake... and keep it in the kitchen towel. Allow it to cool completely on the kitchen counter. As it cools, it will retain the curled form.

Once the cake is completely cooled, prepare the filling. You will need...

1 1/4 c. confectioner's Sugar
1 8oz. pkg of cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. butter


Blend with mixer until smooth.

Yep.. that's a retro '50's Kitchenaid Mixer (bought a pink one by mistake - note to self, check labels before purchasing items)

Unroll the cake....

And cover with the cream cheese filling...

Then re-roll the cake.

Here's what it will look like all rolled up again... then cover with foil and place in refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

To serve.. dust top lightly with confectioner's sugar
                             



And cut into slices to serve.

I hope you have the opportunity to try this amazing dessert. It really is a very easy and delicious finish to a Sunday supper!
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!
Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Got Beef??

I like to think of my time in the kitchen as a "Time Management" project. Since the time when my sons were tiny, and being a single working mom attending college at night, my time was precious. So I improvised many kitchen activities to the best of my abilities and I learned how to maximize my time in the kitchen.

Span back to 1980 when I purchased two cookbooks that changed my life... They might not still be in print, but they are my 'go-to' bibles (it's worth checking into Amazon to see if you can find them).

The first is "Make a Mix Cookery" and the second bible is "More Make a Mix Cookery".. both written by three very talented ladies.. Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward and Madeline Westover - three terrific troopers in planning meals, saving time and money. The basic premise these ladies put down on paper isn't anything mystical... but rather quite simple and very smart.. cook once, store/freeze it and eat it several times. Here's an example...

Let's take a basic ground beef mixture, for example... Your local grocer has 85% lean ground beef on sale this week for $1.85 a pound. Grab it -- grab 5 or 10lbs if your budget allows!! And then try this mixture...

5 lbs. ground beef
3-4 medium onions, chopped
5 T. chopped garlic
1 T. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1 T. olive oil

In a very large skillet or Dutch oven.. warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until golden. Add ground beef, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder, worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain any excess fat. Allow to cool. I then pack the cooked meat into serving sizes. I allow approximately one pound for each meal I'm planning. I'm an advocate of freezing these portions using my sealing machine.

In our home, this meat mixture is the basis for many meals during the month, such as.....

Stuffed Peppers
Shepherd's (Cottage) Pie
Tamale Pie
Beef Tacos
Sloppy Joes
Bolognese Sauce
Chili

What a time saver. It's all quite simple.. defrost, and then create another terrific meal by adding a few simple ingredients. And remember that defrosting plastic containers in a microwave is a definite 'no-no'.. due to the carcinogens that plastics create when warmed. To make defrosting safe, just let the plastic container sit in the refrigerator overnight.. or if pressed for time, place in lukewarm water until you can pop it out into a saucepan or skillet to warm it up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Butt-Kicking Green Chili with Pork


I know a lot of people really insist on specific measurements for recipes, but I'm always trying something new. Yep, I've had a few bombs along the way.... I admit it.
While using specific ingredients and measurements in baking is imperative, casseroles and one-dish items lend themselves to experiments.
This once was an experiment in my kitchen but has now become a favorite. If you follow along I promise you will get a general sense of what works best for you and your family's taste.. the result is a wonderful concoction of green pork chili.

To begin, saute one medium onion chopped and 1 T. minced garlic in 2 T. olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

I added 1 1/2 lbs. of cubed pork and seasoned with salt and coarsely ground pepper, to taste. Once the pork was lightly browned, I added Ro-tel tomatoes, green chilies, green chili sauce(salsa verde), a can of diced jalapenos (this is butt-kicking hot.. but we like it that way... use less, or omit, depending on your taste) three bay leaves and two cans of white northern beans (liquid drained).

For an authentic chili taste, and to add a smoky taste, I add a packet of Goya Sazon seasoning mix. The combination of spices in this little packet is great in so many Southwest and Mexican dishes such as Machaca, chili and Spanish rice.





Cover the pot and allow the mixture to simmer over very low heat about two hours. This ensures that the flavors really blend and the pork is fork tender.



If you are in the mood for some power cooking, make a large batch of this and freeze some. It's perfect comfort food for a chilly night (no pun intended). You could also allow this to cook in a crock pot on low heat for at least eight hours.
To defrost, place the container in a sink of warm water. Don't microwave in plastic containers!

I would love to hear from you if you get to try this dish.. and would love to hear how you conjured up your own variation.
Bon Appetit!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Peggy's Cream Puffs

When I was about 8 years old, or so, I earned my Girl Scout Baking Badge by learning how to make Cream Puffs with a classmate's Mom.. they were very mini puffs, and slightly dusted with powdered sugar. I remember thinking that I had never tasted anything as light and wonderful as that. I knew cream puffs would quickly become one of my favorite desserts. The recipe we used is no where to be found, but this recipe is one I have been using for about 25 years.. it hasn't failed yet!

Fast forward a few (LOL) years later.. and now I'm paying it forward.. I'm showing a friend's daughter how I make cream puffs - and there's no badge involved, just a promise I made to Lauren a while back. Lauren's become quite an avid baker and hopefully she will add this recipe to her repertoire! Here's a picture of her smiling as we get started.


So let's get started...

This recipe makes approximately 20 medium cream puffs, or 15 eclairs, or 35-40 mini puffs

1 c. water
½ c. butter cut into pieces
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
4 large eggs, room temperature

In medium saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a boil.


Remove from heat. Stir in flour all at once and beat well until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and has a similar consistency of mashed potatoes. Cool for one minute. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Mixture should be smooth and have a glossy look.

This is how the pastry will look after all eggs have been added...


For medium sized puffs, drop a teaspoonful of pastry onto greased baking sheet (or fill pastry tube with mixture and make 1 ½” mounds). Space about 2” apart. For eclairs pipe pastry into a 2" strip, for mini, pipe or spoon approximately 1/2 teaspoon onto baking sheet.





For medium sized puffs, bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking 25-30 minutes or until puffs are golden brown and sides appear dry. Let cool on a wire rack. (for eclairs, allow 15 minutes at 450 degrees, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. For mini puffs, 10 minutes at 450 degrees and 20 minutes at 350 degrees)
Fill centers with creamy custard filling (recipe follows)





Very Easy Custard Filling
1 large package of instant vanilla pudding or two (3.4 oz) small using ½ of the required milk per pudding package directions
1 envelope of Dream Whip using ½ of the required milk per Dream Whip package directions

1 Tbs. of vanilla extract

With an electric mixer mix instant pudding and chill. Make Dream Whip using an electric mixer and chill… Once the pudding is set (about ten minutes) fold Dream Whip into pudding. Keep mixture chilled until ready to use.





Toppings
For chocolate topping, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish on defrost setting until melted. To prevent burning, start with 1 minute and continue to microwave until melted, stirring often.

Or dust with powdered sugar.


Alternate fillings: With salad mixtures these little puffs make wonderful h'ors dourves.
Larger puffs filled with salads make a great lunch or buffet item. The fillings you can use are endless.


Crab salad
Shrimp salad
Ham salad
Tuna salad
Chicken salad
Lemon, lime or orange curd

Chocolate mousse
Ice Cream (Profiteroles)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wow.... .Homemade Mozzarella

Hi everyone.. welcome to my cooking blog. Today I had the great opportunity to go to a demonstration on making homemade Mozzarella cheese. I can't even begin to describe the creamy taste homemade mozzarella has compared to what we can buy in the store. Once I'm able to buy curds at my local market (they have them on order), I'm going to try it out. If it works like it should, I promise to do a tutorial here.

Upcoming.. Cream puff tutorial during the week of June 15th.. so stay tuned, and check back often.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Power Cooking at Operation M.O.M.

Yesterday was a ‘power cooking’ day… that means I cook once and freeze a huge amount for other days when I’m super busy.

So, I pulled out all of my spaghetti making supplies to make my East Coast spaghetti sauce with meatballs, sausages, braciole and some pork ribs. It makes the kitchen an absolute mess, but I’ve got a delicious sauce for dinner guests tonight, enough for us again later this week, and 20 meals frozen for use in the next few months…..yep, it’s a lot of work initially.. Also, I froze containers of just sauce which is ideal for meatless dinners such as ravioli and baked ziti.

You have to have a lot of freezer space to do this kind of cooking, but I promise you it’s well worth it, especially when you are using a tried and true recipe that you know will come out just perfect.

I freeze in plastic storage containers, and also use my vacuum sealer since food bags take up very little space. The trick is to make sure the container is air-tight to prevent frost. Don’t defrost in the microwave as plastic breaks down with noxious fumes.. just let the container sit in a sink of lukewarm water.. it’s much safer.

I really watch the weekly fliers for sale items. If lean ground beef is on sale, I’ll buy 10lbs or so… cook it up and then freeze into meal-sized packages using the vacuum sealer. On any busy day a package of frozen cooked ground beef can quickly become one of our favorite comfort food meals:

Beef Enchiladas
Chili
Shephard’s Pie
Tamale Pie
My husband’s favorite Sock-a-roni meat sauce
Spaghetti Bolognese
Mexican Goulash

The uses are pretty endless… Try power cooking with your favorite recipes…
Thanks for stopping by.. I promise to take pics next time... but this time my kitchen was sooo messy!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Got Gnats? - Safe Solution

I don't know why this works.. but it does.

Once the weather gets a bit warmer we seem to have little gnats and fruit flies near houseplants, fruits and veggies. To get rid of these pesky little fellas, try this chemical-free solution.

In a small glass dish, add a squirt of dish soap and add 2-3 T. of apple cider vinegar. Give it a bit of a stir and leave it out on your counter top near the little pests. You will be amazed at how many of these creatures you've collected by the next day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Make Your Own Seasonings

I guarantee that these recipes for you to make at home will cost pennies compared to what you would pay at the grocers. Here's a few that I use all the time.

Paula Deen has been so generous to share her recipe for her house seasoning with all of her viewers. It's so easy to put together and so handy to have available. Since I like her method of cooking, especially comfort foods, I decided to try it. And, I haven't stopped trying it since. It's amazing just how this simple mixture brings great flavor to all of your cooking - everything from asparagus to zucchini.

Paula Deen's House Seasoning
1 c. salt
1/2 c. coarsely ground pepper
1/2 c. garlic powder

Mix together and store in an airtight container.

Here's another spice mixture we use at our house, Montreal Seasoning. It's simple to put together and is a great rub for sirloins, flank, london broil and other steaks. This will cost a fraction to make compared to the price you would pay at the store.

2 tbl. sweet Paprika
1 1/2 tbl. black pepper (I prefer coarsely ground)
3 tbl. salt (I prefer coarse kosher salt)
2 tbl. garlic powder
2 tbl. onion powder
1 1/2 tbl. ground coriander
2 tsp. Cayenne pepper

Combine all spices in a small bowl and stir to mix. Store mixture in an airtight jar.

And here's Bobby Flay's rendition of Espresso Rub. This is absolutely fantastic and you won't believe how much flavor it brings to a rib eye. You would never guess coffee was even involved as there's no coffee taste at all.

Bobby Flay's Espresso Rub

1/4 c. ancho chili powder
1/4 c. finely ground espresso (I prefer decaf if I can find it)

2 tbl. Spanish paprika
2 tbl. brown sugar

1 tbl. dry mustard

1 tbl. coarse kosher salt
1 tbl. ground black pepper
1 tbl. ground coriander
1 tbl. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. chili de arbol powder

You can see how Bobby Flay uses this rub to cook his steaks here. We absolutely love this. I hope you will try it and drop me a line to let me know your thoughts on this and these other seasoning mixes.

Welcome to my blog

Hi everyone! And, thanks for stopping by my newest blog. This blog will be dedicated to the more realistic part of daily life. Here you will find household hints, recipes and meals that won't break the bank, and lots of time-saving ideas.


I've been cooking since I was a child and my responsibility as the oldest was having dinner ready to go to the table once everyone arrived home. That's where I learned the basics. But every now and then I had to experiment. I was "Martha" before she became a household name. That's what my family calls me anyway....


I can't tell you how many times my younger siblings would complain to my Mom about the items I would conjure up. We were a family used to meatloaf, gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans... great wholesome comfort food - you get the picture. That basic stuff was great.. but I wanted to 'create' a meal they wouldn't forget. I can recall presenting Duck L'Orange, iceburg lettuce wedges with Russian dressing, and tapioca with mandarin orange slices. They went ballistic and balked. Now, they clamor for my stuff and want the recipes. Imagine that!

I hope you will stop back often to see what I've whipped up. I'll also have some great links to share from some very talented cooks and bakers! See you then.

Cooking Tips

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