Tech Tips
Yeah, our site still has a few glitches. I will not berate myself by listing them here, but please be aware that I AM VERY AWARE, and am trying to learn how to fix them. Hey, this is my first web site, and I’m a semi-old fart… like an almost teen is called a “tween”, I like the term “twart” wink That being said, I’ve noticed that a couple of you have had some difficulty navigating, and a couple friends have had questions… let me try to address a couple of those (man, I used the word "couple" a lot in that paragraph!): The listing at the bottom of the “News”/Home page only shows the titles of the most recent articles in each category. If you click on the category title, it will show you a listing of ALL articles in that area. Or, if you prefer to look in chronological order (though reversed – newest is first), just go page by page. Whenever I mention a tip or recipe that comes from another web site, look for the words in green. If you click on those words it should take you directly to the source – even if it’s another article or recipe in Cookingskewl. If you get an error message, the site might have relocated the article or recipe - PLEASE, let us know. How to become a member is detailed on the page labeled “Membership & Privacy” – it actually IS simple, but if it makes you feel any better, I did it wrong the first time, too! On that note, PLEASE sign up and let me hear from you – sometimes I get restless just listening to my own “voice”. Feel free to send me emails as well! If you’d like to become a contributor, let me see a couple articles, and I’ll gladly set it up for you. OK. I’ve answered the questions I’ve been asked. Hope it helps!

Posted by Linda :
Monday 29 December 2008 - 01:01:18
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A Decadent New Year’s Eve Suggestion
As much as I hate to repeat my work, my family had asked me to make the ”Greek Pizza” I had made in October as a nibble for Christmas Day – they all had enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a place in town that had any lamb! I heard from two different stores that their latest shipment was “sub-par”, so they weren’t going to order any more until after the first of the year. So I looked, and LOOKED for another inspiration, but nothing appealed to me – THEN I checked my old file of recipes! I found a recipe for Shrimp Scampi Cheesecake Appetizer that I had bookmarked a couple years ago, and had never made. After going back to, and reading all the reviews (which I highly recommend!!), I decided to make an almost half recipe and bake it as a dip instead of a bunch of mini pastries. By “almost half”, I mean half the cheese, 2/3 the cream cheese and cream, half the eggs and salt – full quantity of onion and garlic. I lined & baked two small casserole/large ramekin dishes with a couple buttered layers of Phyllo (big pastries, if you will – should have done three…). Again, as not all members of my family like seafood, I filled one ramekin before I added the shrimp, then went “to town” on the other one and a half (half a pound of shrimp in about 3 or 4 cups – it was Christmas, after all). Served it with a bunch of different crackers - I am in love with the new Triscuits with cracked black pepper and olive oil! Also served a few lemon wedges on the side… Even the kids liked it!!!! The adults raved. With a little nuking (and smoothing of the surface with my addition of a little sour cream on top), the second serving was just as good! It’s very rich, and as my title states, decadent (and a little pricey); BUT, ohhh so tasty! Very easy to make and impressive to all – with or without shrimp. If you REALLY want to make an impression, try using the original recipe’s suggestion of puff pastry cups (or the reviewers’ suggestion of Phyllo cups) – especially for a party. The filling can stand alone as a dip/spread quite well, and you can save yourself a lot of hassle. Happy New Year! p.s. Like so many good recipes, nobody liked the name! I ended up calling it “Shrimp Scampi Cheese Dip”, or if you use the pastry, try Shrimp Scampi Cups… J

Posted by Linda :
Friday 26 December 2008 - 02:00:23
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A chicken dish that you’ve just got to try!
I made “Fried” Chicken with a twist last night – in fact the segment, courtesy of CBS News and Chef George Duran was titled “Unexpected Twists On Comfort Foods”. “Guiltless Oven-Fried Chicken”, made with boneless skinless chicken thighs coated with a spicy (low-fat) mayonnaise blend and panko was, well, one of the best “fried” chicken recipes I’ve ever had – including the Colonel’s! I admit, I like things spicy, so I used Chinese chili powder as opposed to the “normal” chili powder we’ve grown accustomed to (much hotter); the prep was extremely easy, baking time short, clean up simple… The flavors and textures – well, I can’t compliment enough! My only complaint is that it didn’t make enough! Two of us devoured what was supposed to make four servings. Next time I will double the meat, and enjoy the leftovers. I don’t think you need to double the other ingredients (just be generous in your measuring) – I had mayo blend and panko to coat a few more pieces. Comfort food is definitely the right description! This recipe is a “keeper”!

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 20 December 2008 - 00:42:10
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HOLIDAY EATING TIPS - a good (but honest) laugh
(Sent by Anne Marie, source unknown)

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday
buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see
carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare…
You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares
that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to
turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have
one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole
point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out
of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with
skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a
sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to
control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat
other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and
New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.
This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet
table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table,
like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position
yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before
becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of
each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin.
Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert?
Labor Day.

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with
the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have
some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave
the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention.
Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the
intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but
rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up,
totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Have a great holiday season!!!

Posted by Linda :
Monday 15 December 2008 - 19:58:12
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And now it all comes together..
A while back I posted an article about Strata ; just recently, I’ve relayed a tip on enhancing the flavor of less expensive mushrooms. When telling you about our family’s Thanksgiving, I practically drooled as I wrote about Mom’s stuffing being my favorite part of the meal. Well today, I’ve seen a recipe that brings the best of all of those! From Martha Stewart’s guest Chef Vitaly Paley, this recipe for Savory Bread Pudding looks amazing. Elegant in presentation, a great blend of flavors, I could practically taste it while watching TV – without that much needed invention of “smell-a-vision” wink The above link sends you to the main preparation; here’s where to find the Fresh Pork Sausage and Persillade (a fancy name for a garlic and parsley blend). This meal is definitely going on my “must do” list! What a great winter treat.

Posted by Linda :
Wednesday 10 December 2008 - 18:56:07
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A Time to scream - then take action
My niece, who has great cooks surrounding her, told me about her experiences in her “home economics” course at school. Honestly, I had to stop her conversation because we were eating!

An apple pie dough that has yeast and requires kneading?!? Meatballs that had nothing other than ground beef, S&P, and a little thyme… Tomato sauce that has only tomato paste and water and a few seasonings?!?!!?! Pasta overcooked the first time, and then reheated… I'll grant that the meatballs and sauce could be used if that's all you have or can afford - but shouldn't the teacher be showing the RIGHT way to these children?

As a good aunt, I’ve encouraged my niece to be respectful to her teacher – and let her parents and I deal with the rest. Man, do I want to storm that classroom…

I'm not worried about Ris; she knows right from wrong - in the kitchen and elsewhere. My concern is for the other students who may not have such a strong or interactive home life.

Please, please, please – fight against ignorance every chance that you get. It is everywhere, and can hurt so many. Any topic, any place – dumb is forever, but ignorance can be cured!

Posted by Linda :
Wednesday 03 December 2008 - 15:04:30
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For mushroom connoisseurs – on a budget
Here’s a great tip from Nick Stellino of PBS!

If you like the flavor of Porcini’s (or I would imagine many of the mushroom family), but only have a budget for the cheaper Button Mushrooms, try the following.

Splurge on a package of the dried (I’m going to keep using his example of Porcini) shrooms. Finely grind about a tablespoon of the dried Porcini, (he suggested using a food processor for the grinding…) and then sprinkle the powder on about a pound of the Buttons – one tablespoon per pound, got it? Then let rest, refrigerated, overnight.

He didn't say so, but I would think this technique would work even better if you sliced the mushrooms first - provides more surface area to come into contact with the powder.

Now, I’m assuming that he’s talking about fresh Buttons… but the same kind of technique could enhance even the use of the canned variety. All mushrooms are full of moisture, and therefore can absorb flavors.

Why not add flavor whenever you can?

Posted by Linda :
Friday 28 November 2008 - 23:30:48
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How one idea can lead to another…
I saw a Martha Stewart episode a little while back with a Pumpkin Marble Cake. The recipe, as well as the NordicWare pan intrigued me. So when I was at Maines, my favorite restaurant/open-to-the-public supply store, I looked. They didn’t have the cake pan in stock, but they DID have something very similar for cupcakes. I went over my budget for the day and bought it (truth is, I spent three times what I had planned on, for the pan and other stuff I had to have…). As bad as that may be, it was FUN!!! So I just had to make the recipe for Thanksgiving. Now, I use a lot of cinnamon, and usually have at least two jars at a time – do you think I could find either one? In fairness (to me), we’ve been doing a lot of reorganizing and clearing of clutter… The point is, I substituted Five Spice Powder for the cinnamon, allspice, etc… If I say so myself, it was an enlightened choice! Please note: 5 spice is potent stuff, so I only used 2 teaspoons total per batch - and it turned out perfectly. As I had made a double batch of the batter, it took about three hours to finish baking the 40 cupcakes (25 minutes in the oven, 20 minutes to cool before I could use the pan again) – but worth it. I used the glaze recipe for the first dozen. Delightful, but very time consuming. The balance, I spread with an “apple dipping” caramel sauce on the bottom, then dipped the cupcakes into ground walnuts. I dusted them with powdered sugar, then drizzled a little more caramel on the “stem”, and sprinkled with a little more chopped nuts. They are beautiful, taste great, and forgive me, I’m proud of the results. The hard part is waiting until Thursday…

Posted by Linda :
Monday 24 November 2008 - 23:24:37
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Turkey Day is coming!
This is one holiday that I won’t make any input on. Each family has its own traditions, and that’s the way it should be.

But I WILL share our menu. In my huge crowd of a family, there is usually a large turkey plus a turkey breast to feed the group. THEN we get to the “specialties”…

Papa must make the corn pudding – one with hot pepper, one without. Mom’s sausage, sage and onion stuffing/dressing is my favorite part of the meal. While I love sweet potatoes, I’m not a big fan of the dish with marshmallows, etc., but that is always present, and enjoyed by others. Of course, someone always brings a green bean and fried onion casserole… Mashed potatoes and gravy are a must.

Anita makes a very good fresh cranberry relish as well as a squash dish. This year I’m bringing beverages (sigh) and a broccoli/cauliflower casserole with cheddar – sort of a cross between the Cheesy Vegetable Soup and Cheesy Chicken…

Marion bakes a few kinds of wonderful pie, and we all go into a “food coma” at some point smile

Hope you have a wonderful, traditional day – and stuff yourself silly! But I encourage you to take a moment and appreciate those that are in your lives – THAT is what the day was intended for.

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 22 November 2008 - 22:59:46
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Ramen Noodles – in a good way!
From Sara Moulton’s Weeknight Meals on PBS, the following is worth checking out: Ramen in Curry Sauce with String Beans and Ground Pork or Turkey. I was intrigued at how a healthy and apparently good meal could be produced from Ramen noodles. Yes, Ramen noodles – the kind that is in those “just add hot water” soup mixes, and the packets we all seemed to survive on in college… The recipe works equally well with both ground pork and ground turkey. Fish sauce might be a little hard to find, but Worcestershire is an easy substitution. Onion can always replace scallions… I think this is worth a try!

Posted by Linda :
Wednesday 19 November 2008 - 21:57:53
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