Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cooking Tips

Here are a few noteworthy tips I have picked up through my years of cooking.

- When measuring corn syrup or honey, spray your measuring cup with cooking spray before hand. 
- Beware of using foil to store anything with tomato sauce (or other highly acidic foods).  It creates a chemical reaction, causing aluminum salt to form, and sometimes it will leave pin-sized holes in the foil.
- When boiling pasta, to prevent boiling over, add a tsp or two of oil to the water.
- Peel your ginger then freeze it.  It will last a LOT longer than if you refrigerate it.
- Cottage cheese will remain fresher longer if you store it upside down in the refrigerator. This slows the effects of oxidation.
- Place a piece of bread in the container with your brown sugar if it hardens.  This will pull the moisture from the bread and add it to your brown sugar.  (But don't leave the bread in there for long!)
- To fix lumpy gravy, simply pour your gravy through a sieve or small strainer. 
- A little corn starch and water go a long way to instantly thicken a sauce. Just add 1 tbsp of corn starch to 2 tbsp of water and mix well. Stir it into simmering sauces for an instant thickener. Be careful to use just enough, and add the mixture SLOWLY while stirring constantly to prevent lumps!
- When baking pies, use a pie shield.  This will prevent the crust of the pie from browning too much.  You can also use aluminum foil around the edge. 

- Brush some beaten egg white over your pie crust or pastry before baking to yield a beautiful glossy finish.
- Leftover pie dough? Roll it out and spread it with butter, then cinnamon sugar.  Cut into bite size pieces and bake for 2-4 minutes.  Delicious pie crust cookies.
- When a chocolate recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of cocoa instead of flour so there is no white "mess" on the outside of your cake or bread.
- Be sure there are no drafts where dough is rising. Drafts cause the dough to rise slowly and unevenly.
- Is your baking powder fresh? Put one tsp in 1/3 cup of water. If it does not fizz toss the baking powder-it's too old.
- When boiling corn on the cob, add a tablespoon of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness.
- Vegetables and chicken absorb marinades more quickly than pork or red meat.  3-4 hours is generally sufficient for chicken or vegetables, while pork or red meat need 6 or more hours - overnight is best.

Emergency Substitutions


  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch - 2 Tbsp. flour OR 1 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca

  • 1 c. cake flour - 1 c. less 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour

  • 1 c. all purpose flour - 1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour

  • 1 square baking chocolate - 3 Tbsp. cocoa and 1 Tbsp. shortening or butter

  • 1 c. melted shortening - 1 c. oil (not for solid shortening)

  • 1 c. milk - ½ c. evaporated milk and ½ c. water

  • 1 c. sour milk or buttermilk - 1 Tbsp. vinegar and enough milk to measure 1 c.

  • 1 c. heavy cream - 2/3 c. milk and 1/3 c. butter

  • 1 c. heavy cream, whipped - 2/3 c. well chilled evaporated milk, whipped

  • 1 tsp. baking powder - ¼ tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. cream of tartar OR ¼ tsp. baking soda and ½ c. sour milk, buttermilk, or molasses; reduce other liquid to ½ c.

  • 1 c. sugar - 1 c. honey; reduce other liquid ¼ c.; reduce baking temperature 25 degrees

  • 1 c. miniature marshmallows - 10 large marshmallows, cut up

  • 1 medium onion -  2 Tbsp. dried minced onion OR 1 tsp. onion powder OR 2 tsp. onion salt; reduce salt 1 tsp.

  • 1 garlic clove - 1/8 tsp. garlic powder OR ¼ tsp. garlic salt reduce salt 1/8 tsp. OR ½ tsp. minced garlic

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh herbs - 1 tsp. dried herbs OR ¼ tsp. powdered herbs OR ½ tsp. herb salt; reduce salt ¼ tsp.

  • 1 c. corn syrup - 1 c. sugar and ¼ c. water (or other liquid used in recipe)

  • 1 c. honey - 1 ¼ c sugar and ¼ c. water (or other liquid used in recipe)

  • 1 tsp. vanilla - 1 tsp. grated lemon peel or orange rind (will have a different flavor)
Use these tips and tricks at your own risk!  There may be more in the future, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookie Logs

These little cookies are so melt in your mouth delicious, that it is hard to resist them!  They are good without being dipped in chocolate as well, but let's be honest.  Where can you go wrong when you add extra chocolate to something?  The shortbread cookies are very easy to make, so it's really a win-win recipe!

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookie Logs

1 c. butter, softened
½ c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 c. miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. shortening
¾ c. finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking sheets. Cream together butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Mix in the flour and then one cup of the chocolate chips. Shape dough into 2x1/2 in. logs. Place logs 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10-13 minutes in preheated oven, or until firm. Let cookies cool completely before removing from pan (shortbread is very brittle). Melt the remaining 1 c. chocolate chips and shortening over a double boiler, stirring frequently until smooth. Dip one end of each cookie into the chocolate then into the nuts. Place onto wax paper until set. Makes approx. 4 dozen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Italian Bread Bowls and Broccoli Cheese Soup

Italian Bread Bowls
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed (you may not need to use all 7 cups).
When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 6-8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper). Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon water; lightly brush the loaves with half of this egg wash. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush with remaining egg mixture, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.

Broccoli Cheese Soup
1 can chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. butter
Pepper to taste
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
Steamed chopped broccoli
Simmer chicken broth and chopped onion for 15-20 minutes in a covered small saucepan, until onions are soft. Heat milk in microwave for 1-2 minutes. In a separate medium-sized stockpot, melt butter then add flour and pepper. Cook together for a couple of minutes, then whisk in warmed milk. Stir and heat together on medium-high heat until soup starts to thicken. Next add chicken broth and continue to stir until well blended. Add cheeses and steamed broccoli. Serve immediately.
Makes approximately 4 servings

Monday, November 16, 2009

English Muffin Loaves

My sister passed this recipe along to me. 

I love English Muffins.  They are so tasty, but they can get pricey, so we don't always have them on hand.  This bread tastes like English Muffins.  Just toast a few slices and yum!

2 pkg. yeast
6 C. flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 C. milk
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ C. water

Combine 3 C. flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda. Heat liquids until very warm. Add to dry mixture; beat well. Stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Spoon into 2 loaf pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover; let rise in a warm place 45 minutes. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool. Slice and toast. Makes 16 slices per loaf.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chicken Marinade

Chicken Marinade

1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup water

Marinate chicken strips all day. Broil for 10 minutes or so, depending on how thick you cut the strips. This also works great on chicken breasts on the grill.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dinner Nachos

This is my dinner in a pinch solution.  I need to go to the store.  Desperately.  I am out of nearly everything.  This is a meal that was thrown together with what I had on hand.  It turned out pretty good, and even the kids liked it.

1 pound ground beef
1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
Thick & Chunky Salsa
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
Tortilla chips
Cook beef and taco seasoning in skillet until browned. Pour off fat. Add beans, and tomatoes. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 5 min. or until done. Pour into casserole dish and top with cheese.  Broil for a few minutes until  cheese is melted.  Top with salsa and lettuce. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spicy Italian Sausage and Black Bean Soup

As the cold weather hits us, soup season is here!  Here is a recipe we tried out the other day.  It was yummy!  My three year old loved it, even though the sausage I used was on the spicier side.  If you don't want it so spicy, just use a mild italian sausage.  I cook spicy things alot, so my kids are used to it.  Sometimes I won't feed them the same thing as us if what I am cooking is extra spicy. 

I am not a fan of using wine to cook with - I just don't like the flavor.  In place of the red wine in this recipe, I just used an extra cup of beef broth.  I also had run out of celery and didn't want to go to the store.  I used celery seed to give the flavor.  I don't like using spinach in soup, so it was really just a personal preference to leave that out.  I'm sure it would be just as good with it in it. 

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 russet potato, cubed
5 stalks celery, diced
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 (32 fluid ounce) container beef broth
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked rotini pasta
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the Italian sausages in the hot oil, turning occasionally, until browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool; remove all but 1 tablespoon of grease from the pot.

Stir the garlic, onion, carrot, potato, and celery into the hot fat. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the onion has turned translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste until no lumps remain; pour in the red wine. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, stirring frequently to dissolve the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef broth, black beans, and diced tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 1 hour.

Cut the cooled sausage into 1/2-inch thick slices. Stir the sausage into the soup along with the rotini pasta, spinach, and dried oregano. Simmer until the pasta is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Parmesan Chicken

My husband raves about this recipe. 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. I use a freezer zip lock bag, place in chicken, then use a rolling pin to beat the chicken down. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and basil. In another bowl, beat the egg. Dip chicken into egg, then coat with crumb mixture. In a 13X9 baking dish place chicken breasts. Bake in preheated oven on 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cherry Crunch Cake

This cake is such a weakness of mine... I love it.

1 can cherry pie filling
1 Tbsp. almond extract
1 cake mix (white or yellow)
1 stick butter, melted
Mix cherry pie filling and almond extract in bottom of 8x8 pan. In separate bowl mix dry cake mix, butter and pecans. Layer on top of cherry mixture. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until nicely golden and filling bubbles.

I normally use a yellow cake mix.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Curried Honey Mustard Chicken

We are big fans of curry at our house (even the kids love it).  Add some to a honey mustard sauce, and you have got some seriously yummy chicken on your hands. 

1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon-style prepared mustard
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

In a medium bowl combine the melted butter/margarine, honey, mustard, curry powder and cayenne powder. Mix well. Place chicken breasts in a 9x13 inch baking dish and pour honey/mustard mixture over chicken. Cover and place in refrigerator. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Remove dish from refrigerator and bake, covered, in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove cover and bake about 10 minutes more, or until done and juices run clear (baking time will depend a little on how thick your chicken breasts are - I use pretty thick chicken breasts, so I cooked it for 20 minutes covered and another ten or so uncovered).

So I didn't decide to make this until it was way too late to marinate it for that long.  I only was able to get about an hour of marinating in.  So I used my newest favorite kitchen gadget - the meat injector. 

Have you ever used one of these?  I mentioned it here, also. I just got some of the sauce in here and injected it right into the chicken.  Yum.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Onion Mushroom Meatloaf

Normally, I use Lawry's meatloaf seasoning to make meatloaf.  When our youngest was born, we had a neighbor bring us some meatloaf for dinner.  It was so tasty, and I just couldn't resist asking for the recipe.  I made it again the other night, and it was a hit.

Preheat oven to 350°

1 envelope Lipton Onion-Mushroom Soup Mix
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (as lean as possible)
1 c. soft bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. catsup
In medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Shape into loaf in a shallow pan. Bake uncovered approximately 1 hour
1/4 c. catsup
3 T brown sugar
2 T Dijon-style mustard.
Spread topping on top of meatloaf halfway through baking time (1/2 hr) Return to oven.
Serves 6