Bleu Cheese - and just how blue should it be?
Thanks to Shirley's forum question, I now know more about Bleu (or Blue) Cheese than I ever wanted to know!

Yes, the blue is a form of mold, and is what gives the cheese it's great and unique flavor. Over time it will continue to get bluer, and bluer... Air and humidity will contribute to this process. Buying it already crumbled is a great convenience, but exposes more surface area to the factors that make it change.

Bottom line, until it's furry and has legs, it will not hurt you - but it may not be to your liking. The flavor continues to intensify, and for some reason, we just don't LIKE blue food!

A couple tips:
Keep it well wrapped and in the coolest part of your fridge (usually the bottom back - but that's also the easiest space to forget it!).

Well-wrapped does NOT mean storing it in those plastic "one size fits all" containers it usually comes in. You want to minimize air contact for a longer, "lighter color" shelf life.

It might change the texture a little, but if all else fails, FREEZE IT (air-tight, of course). Cheese actually thaws fairly quickly, and bleu cheese is meant to be crumbly...

Hope this helps.

Posted by Linda :
Thursday 17 January 2008 - 01:26:34
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Cooking on a small scale
This is NOT my best topic (or should I say practice), but I have heard from several of you, and I know it’s important. So let's help each other...

The first assumption I will make is that you LIKE to cook. That being said, every article I’ve read (and my own experience) point to three key areas: Planning, Packaging, and Sharing.

In this article let’s start tackling Planning.

When purchasing items, consider their SECOND purpose. Let’s take a chicken for example. You want to roast it, and have a nice meal with gravy and dressing. Possible secondary purposes are chicken sandwiches (boring), chicken salad (better)… how about a chicken potpie? an Asian stir fry? a quesadilla with Monterey jack cheese and salsa? I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I haven’t mentioned the side dishes because, personally, I can’t imagine having leftover dressing -or complaining about it. wink

Now, the trick is to not just THINK about the second meal, but to have all the ingredients on hand. A stir fry might sound great, but if you have to go back to the store for veggies, or soy sauce, or rice… chances are that you are NOT going to make it, and just be bored with your leftovers (or shove them in the freezer)! Remember, today’s topic is Planning.

More articles to follow - but in the meantime, if YOU have recipes for Small Scale Cooking, PLEASE submit them! If you’re looking for a specific recipe, or have a quick tip, please go to our “Your Input” section. Longer commentary – or your original articles- can be emailed (see “Contact Us”), and may be posted here! This is your site, too!

Posted by Linda :
Sunday 13 January 2008 - 15:46:02
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Hummus 101
Hummus is a very tasty spread that is actually incredibly healthy – high in protein, calcium and fiber - low in fat and cholesterol free. It’s extremely pricey if you buy it prepared – about $2.00 for a tiny little container last time I looked – but cheap and easy to make yourself!

It’s a wonderful snack on veggies, apples, crackers and even thick potato chips (though you’ll have to use a knife to spread it – too thick for just dipping!). I’ve used it on toast with lettuce and tomato for a great sandwich (though Pita bread would be more authentic).

The following is the basic recipe and technique I use (also posted in recipes under Appetizers); further down I’ll explain some of the ingredients, substitutions and variations you might want to consider.


2 cans Garbanzo beans, drained
2 cloves Garlic
¼ cup Lemon juice
2 tablespoons Oil (preferably Olive Oil)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/3 cup Tahini
1 teaspoon Parsley (for garnish)

Blend all ingredients (except Parsley) in a food processor, using the metal blade. Give it about 3 minutes, then stir. Continue until you have a very smooth mixture (it will be thick!).

Chill in fridge for about 30 minutes to let flavors meld. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

If you don’t have a food processor, a good ole potato masher works (but you definitely want to mince the garlic first) – just make sure you work at it until the mixture is smooth and everything is well blended. I DON’T recommend a blender – this is just too thick.

Garbanzo Beans = Chick Peas = Chi Chi’s . Other types of beans can be used, but don’t call it Hummus. Oh, why not?!? It’s YOUR kitchen. I’ve been meaning to try this technique using black beans...

Tahini = Sesame Seed Paste. It’s like peanut butter, but with a milder flavor. I usually buy it at a Health Food store, but just saw it in my grocery store for $3.60 a can (which makes at least 5 or 6 batches). I’ve used PB as a substitution - just use a lot less (about one heaping spoonful), and add a little more oil.

Once, I discovered that my lemons had frozen. Since I had already opened the cans of beans, I grabbed a bottle of Italian Salad dressing (the oil and vinegar style) and used that instead of both the lemon juice and oil – worked great!

Again, this is “Hummus 101” – it can be accentuated in many ways! Roasted red pepper (pimento) is a great addition - you can always add more garlic, or roast the garlic (try “nuking” cloves for about 30 seconds on high – adds another level of flavor)! Use your imagination – hot sauce, soy sauce, black pepper, orange or lemon zest, a little chopped spinach, or onion, or tomato, or… it’s up to you!

Or to make it more “kid friendly”, leave the garlic and spicy stuff out and go ahead and use more peanut butter and some applesauce or chopped apple and cinnamon! My 6 year old niece really likes this version.

Posted by Linda :
Friday 04 January 2008 - 15:00:32
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A Tale of Two Dinners
I was asked for input on two family dinners, both serving pork tenderloin. Both had family bringing items, but wanted to “pull it all together” – let’s see how they did:

Pork Tenderloin
Southern style cornbread dressing+
Broccoli casserole
Mashed Potato Casserole)+
Cranberry dressing

Pork tenderloin (purchased already marinated with cranberry & pomegranate)
Corn pudding*
Green bean casserole
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry/pomegranate au jus (from the marinated pork)
Pumpkin Pie

I’d say both were delicious!
+ recipe posted
* recipe expected soon!

Posted by Linda :
Tuesday 01 January 2008 - 03:43:19
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cuckoo, part 2
Two and a half cups of crumbs was more than a bit much for a single TEN inch pie plate (the recipe - Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie - says to use a nine inch!). I’d suggest cutting each type of crumb back by ¼ cup, and double the butter! Other than the chocolate crumb substitution, I followed the recipe EXACTLY, and my experience knew there wasn’t enough moisture - but it was Emeril! Wished I’d followed my gut. The crust never set up, and it was VERY messy to serve. To test my theory, I DID make two more crusts - using the cookies (gave the left-over cookies to my neighbor’s kids) for one, and my original sub (see "I'm cuckoo for" under substitutions/additions) for the other, and got the same result – even 4 Tblsp butter to 2 cups crumbs wasn’t right. When I got the same result, even after baking and freezing, I re-crumbled and mixed in more (melted) butter and re-baked – WATCHING CLOSELY! The flavor of the crumbs was exactly the same, proving my substitution worked, only the additional 4 Tblsp butter held them together this time.. They are well wrapped and in my freezer, so the next time I need a pie I can fill them with something as simple as vanilla pudding, maybe dotted with chocolate chips or banana slices, and still have some flair.

Posted by Linda :
Tuesday 01 January 2008 - 03:02:57
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That first slice is a doozy...
This is a great tip that Paula Deen gave when she was a guest on the Rachael Ray show – too good not to pass on to you….

When serving a pie (or cake, or bread, or meatloaf…) that is in a disposable aluminum pan, to get that first piece out nice and neat, cut into the pan! Use a good pair of kitchen shears, and cut (just a hair wider than the slice you want) into the “lip” and down the sides. Fold down that section of the side of the pan to get it out of your way.

This way your pie server or spatula slides in easily, and that first piece can be as pristine as the rest. So, you sacrifice about a buck on a pan you probably won't use again anyways...

Thank you Paula & Rachael for a great tip that is very timely!

Posted by Linda :
Monday 17 December 2007 - 18:41:41
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Healthy, GOOD cookies!
Well, healthy for a cookie… I saw a plug for Sweet Potato & Pecan cookies on some TV show (sorry, I don’t remember which show or what the brand name was) – but I DO remember thinking YUMMMMMMM!! I checked a bunch of recipes and finally found this one from King’s County, Seattle - under "Healthy Eating" - Sweet Potato Cookies . I really liked the fact that it used honey and fresh, not processed potato flesh. But it didn’t use pecans... Well, we fixed THAT! Armed with about a cup of finely chopped pecans and a double batch of the recipe (it IS the Holiday Season), my niece and nephew and I went to work! The experimentation was fun! We tried just mixing some nuts into a bit of the dough, but we didn't think we liked that... Covering a bit of dough all over with the pecans didn't work quite right either. If you had nuts on the sides or bottom, they not only got a little over-cooked, they just fell off! The appearance and ease of the following method worked best. We all agreed (even the "tasters" who joined us later). Making small balls out of the dough, and then pressing them flat into a plate of the nuts, then placing them on the baking tray nut-side up gave us a great result! (I shouldn't have to say this, but I feel like I must: once assembled, cookies need to be baked.) As sometimes happens, our balls of dough (and therefore the cookies) got a little bigger as we progressed - but great for testing purposes. The larger cookies took longer to bake, and quite frankly, didn’t look as pretty. Keep them small, and you’ll have even more to share! Don't TELL the “secret” ingredient – the hint of lemon, the crispness of the honey, the nutmeg – all can be noted in their flavor, but you would never know that there was sweet potato in them unless you were told. The pecan becomes the star! We have a new addition to our Christmas cookie repertoire – hope you enjoy!

Posted by Linda :
Monday 10 December 2007 - 16:49:49
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ciabatta review
Unless making bread specifically for sandwiches, I don’t advocate a cooking sheet or loaf pan. If you want to make bread, BUY A STONE!!! ‘Nough said. Ciabatta is an exception, however. This is a VERY moist icky sticky dough that you are ABSOLUTELY sure you haven’t added enough flour to. Trust me, you have. The flavor in the recipe from TriniGourmet - Ciabatta Bread - is wonderful. As I've said before, the detailing of the process is excellent. I would make a couple suggestions, though. Use whole-wheat flour on your board when you divide the dough, as well as for dusting it later – consistency in appearance always helps. More importantly, the crust did not come out as crunchy as I would have liked. So even though it has a very short baking time, make sure the oven air is moist by spraying water once or twice. Or better yet, add ICE CUBES to the oven floor just before you insert the bread. Important Note: if you have a gas powered oven, use a small baking sheet or pan to catch any drips! Overall, I was very pleased, and will make it again.

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 08 December 2007 - 18:22:06
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good bread takes patience
I was recently looking for a recipe for Ciabatta Bread. I went to my usual sources, and found the same recipe over and over… so I tried Google. One site listed under “ciabatta bread recipes” was I clicked it, and this is what I got: “Welcome to You came here from a searching for t. As a result, I recommend the following posts: · No related posts “ Well, I wasn’t happy. This site wasted my time for no results. And when the “back” button wouldn’t work to get me back to my search, I was even less happy… I had to start all over again!!!! That’s when I started to write this article, and boy, was I gonna make some comments…. PLEASE KEEP READING! In fairness – to you, and Trini – I tried it again. I got the same “non-message”, still couldn’t use the “back” button, and was ready to RANT. But as I was making sure my quotes were accurate, I saw (just above the horizon) the top of a picture of what I knew was the crust of Ciabatta Bread! My apologies! What followed was a very well documented photo/recipe journal that, well, even if I didn’t know how to make bread I could have followed! In fact, I’ve got a batch started! So, a word of warning – all websites (including this one) can have glitches. If I had been as impatient on my second pass as on the first, I would have missed what looks to be a great recipe! Thanks TriniGourmet for a valuable lesson (and recipe)!

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 08 December 2007 - 17:39:58
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Mom & Anita's Birthday
I recently catered a combined birthday party for my Mom and Sister-in-law, Anita. Here’s the menu I told my Mom: Shrimp Pork chops Rice and some veggies An asian theme? Here’s what I prepared and presented [almost all recipes are from: America's Test Kitchen, others are noted] Chinese Noodles with assorted sauces Grilled Shrimp with Charmoula Sauce Baby Spinach Salad with citrus & beans Pan glazed Pork Chops, with Asian flavors Shitake Fried Rice Pan-Roasted Broccoli Now, I know this sounds complicated, but bare in mind that most of the work is in the chopping and measuring – most of which I had done ahead, and I carried all kinds of zipper bags and jars with me to the event. The entire meal was ready in less than 60 minutes! I’m not totally manic! I had one of my brothers working the grill while I worked the stovetop. Because we were expecting 12 adults and 4 kids, I also had a brined, butterflied chicken for the fussier ones. That went on the grill first. To keep people munching [and out of the kitchen] I bought Chinese noodles, duck sauce, a mild chili/garlic sauce, and made a scallion/soy based dipping sauce. While I was pan-roasting broccoli [saved the final steaming for just before serving], Jeff started cooking the sauce for the grilled shrimp. Once most of the family had arrived, he started the shrimp, and I seared [a bunch of] pork chops. Grilled Shrimp in Charmoula sauce was a big hit as an appetizer (I DIDN'T EVEN GET ANY!!!) I cooked the glaze for the pork chops and then finished cooking them (the pork chops) in it, assembled the shitake-fried rice, and served the salad [for details, check our recipes, under Veggies], then did the final steaming of the broccoli. Because I was using the fried rice as a side dish, I didn’t use all of the “protein items” included in the original recipe by ATK. Eggs, of course, and a little bit of left-over pork tenderloin…. But I let the mushrooms take center stage. The biggest problem was stovetop space [and the fact that EVERYONE seemed to want to hang out in the kitchen!] If I had it to do over again… Cooking pork chops in three different pans on three different burners meant three different temperatures and varied consistencies on the glaze. I should have used a roasting pan over two of the burners for one large cooking space [less clean up, too!] I pan-roasted the broccoli because I didn’t want the added heat from the oven, but in hindsight that might have been the better way. And for SURE, I would have gotten a couple pieces of shrimp!!!

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 08 December 2007 - 01:51:50
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