Tips & Technique

I wish I'd thought of that - wait, I DID
I love coconut oil! There are so many uses: conditioning your hair, facial scrubs (add 1 tsp baking soda to 2Tblsp oil, blend, massage into skin. after 5 minutes splash with lukewarm water until "grit" is gone. massage again and let remaining oil absorb), I've even seen where you mix it with turmeric and use it to brush your teeth?!? Yeah, really. But we're talking about cooking.

Unless you keep your house a whole lot warmer than mine, coconut oil tends to be very solid and difficult to scoop out of the jar. Somehow I don't think it's a good idea to melt and harden and melt and harden... but I've done it. And then one day it hit me...

This is all you need:

Yes, that's a turkey baster and an ice cube tray. Got it wink? I placed the sealed jar in some very warm (NOT boiling) water, and when it was fully clear proceeded. Open carefully and use the baster to draw and deposit the melted oil. Be careful not to siphon into the bulb - I can tell you from experience it's a PAIN to clean!

Let it sit at room temperature for several hours. Even though it might LOOK solid, the last thing you want is one leaking and making one big ball.

In cool weather these can be stored on the counter - but when it starts getting warmer store in the fridge. And guess what? I measured the volume of the "cubes" in my tray - almost exactly a half (.53) tablespoon! Now isn't THAT convenient cheesey

Posted by Linda :
Sunday 22 April 2018 - 18:01:10
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Love your Coffee? Try adding these!
I've made some new friends on my new job, and when telling them about this blog and how I like to try new recipes and ideas on a regular basis, Russell's first reaction was “BISCOTTI?!?”, lol. I said “sure”. So the next time I had the urge to bake, I did some searching. An article titled “Seven Biscotti Recipes We Love” caught my eye, and I actually had all the ingredients for the first on the list: Bacon Chocolate Chipquestion? Sounded like a dream to me...
This goes together so quick and easy that I completely forgot to take pictures – this one is from the recipe site. You fry some bacon, cool, then pulverize. Cream some butter and sugar, add a flour mixture, stir in the bacon and chips. I used dark chocolate chips, as they are my favorite and what I had on hand... It was NOT a mistake, and quite enjoyable. My only issue had nothing to do with the recipe but with my oven – it simply doesn't hold a low temperate well. So after slicing the rolls and cooking at 200F to dry, I found myself checking every 10 minutes or so for multiple times – touching the slices to sense the first bit of crispness, then turning the oven off to let them sit for another half hour. Light enough to enjoy on their own, dry enough to hold together while dunking. And that little bit of saltiness and texture from the bacon?!? Outstanding! I'll share my own photos in the various steps when I make these again - oh yeah, I WILL make these again wink

Posted by Linda :
Sunday 27 August 2017 - 21:18:02
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Have you done this?
[Just started a new job with lots of studying and homework, so I must apologize for my absence once again. Brain is fried, so this is a quick tip wink ]

You know those "tubes" of meat? They're common for bulk sausage and also used for ground beef...

I saw my neighbor do something silly the other day. I'm not laughing at her, 'cause I've done something similar once or twice. Maybe you have, too.

She sliced the metal clip off one end of the tube (a tedious process), and then tried to squeeze the entire contents out of the tube from the other end. As this requires some strength (substantially more than squeezing a tube of toothpaste, lol), she actually put the uncut end that still had the metal bit BETWEEN HER TEETH(?!?) as she forcibly coaxed the contents out using both hands.

No, I didn't take a picture, but you get the gist, right?


The simple fact is that if you slice the tube in THE MIDDLE, the contents practically fall out!


How many of you are saying something like "oh for Pete's sake" right about now? If you are, my work is done for today cheesey

Cookingskewl cares <3

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 17 June 2017 - 00:45:44
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Anyone like eclairs? Cream puffs?
It was a few days before Easter, I had been asked to bring Aunt Pat's Salad... I called Papa back and asked what was for dessert. “I haven't decided yet.” “I have time – what do you want? Pie, cake, cookies, cream puffs... “ I went on a bit further but in the background I heard him - “Mmmmm – cream puffs!?!” And the rest is history wink If I say so myself...
I'd made Paris-Brest before, actually, several times. In fact, I thought I'd posted a bit about it here... It's a circular eclair, a giant cream puff if you will. Though I've been sorting and purging and organizing a TON around here, I didn't find the cookbook that held the recipe I'd used in the past, so I googled a bit and found Chef Philippe’s recipe - loved, Loved, LOVED the idea of the nutty butter cream filling, BUT... It's probably a conversion complication, but his directions for pate a choux (cream puff pastry) had almost twice the flour required and not nearly enough bake time. I followed it, and ended up with a very dense underdone ring of inedible dough. I ended up using Martha's recipe, piped per Philippe, and baked per Martha. Got all that? Or just use Martha's... But Philippe was spot on with the filling!!! I've used pastry cream, whipped cream, ice cream, various puddings... Of course I made my own praline, using this video
Here's my result:
Looks like brown sugar, doesn't it? Pop a bit into your mouth and it melts into a decadently smooth, richly flavored butter. A tiny bit of grit will remain unless you've got a professional strength nut grinder, but oh my – this alone is worth the experiment!!! Making the french silk butter cream (a first for me – and SO worth it) is very straight forward. I used about 8 heaping Tablespoons of MY yummy praline. Have I bored you yet? No, I doubt it. So the wreath of baked pate a choux – your round eclair – gets cooled and sliced horizontally. Not necessary, but if you're a perfectionist, use toothpicks to mark a matching point on both the top and bottom before you set the top aside. Pipe in your filling. PRO TIP: scoop some dollops within the center of the wreath, and then pipe around the edges where it will show! Place the top back on – align as needed... Now traditionally, as shown in both recipes, a Paris-Brest is topped with slivered almonds during the baking process. For Easter I wanted to somehow add some pastel shades as well as a “crown of thorns”, and cracked Jordan almonds seemed perfect! I just HAD to experiment and as I suspected, the candy covered nuts exploded in flame when heated in my toaster oven, lol. So how to make those delicious chunks stick to the round? Why, CHOCOLATE, of course!!! My brother and his son, neither of which usually partakes in dessert... well individually they told me that this was definitely a keeper! That's high praise indeed.
FYI: that's a bowl of “plain” whipped cream filled little puffs in the center. They should have been dusted with powered sugar, but they were disappearing so fast, I needed to take the pic wink

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 29 April 2017 - 23:40:45
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Windy afternoon Warm Up
Too much to do, too cold to go out... A pot of soup and some fresh bread sounded just about perfect. Checking the fridge and pantry there was no doubt that minestrone would be the soup du jour, and why not some breadsticks a la Olive Garden? Yeah, I thought so.
I used this recipe for minestrone as a guideline, but as I had a few projects underway, altered it for the crock pot. Basically, I added the ingredients in the same order, just let them “simmer” on high for an hour or so instead of the minutes of constant stirring if I had sauteed. I wish I had taken a picture of just the onions – they were starting to caramelize beautifully! Then in go the garlic, celery, a little while later carrots, green beans... Finally tomatoes, beans (from the freezer), beef stock and pasta... BIG TIP: I boiled the pasta in the broth but only added the stock to the pot. That way I could add the pasta to each bowl without it getting mushy! I started the breadsticks once the onions were ready - they're really quite easy. I didn't have bread flour, so I used AP – it needed about a half cup more than stated, but that's an expected difference (but use bread flour if you have it - even better final result). Blend/knead, rise. Shape, rise. Bake, brush, sprinkle. Yeah, a little TOO easy, if you know what I mean – just might make these too often!
That wind is still whipping around, but I made a nice comfy cozy dinner and still got my tasks done. Now for a good book...

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 31 December 2016 - 03:38:58
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Prepping Bundt Pans
Chocolate for Breakfast asked this question about bundt pans: "Whenever I purchase a fancy one I fail to grease it appropriately and half the cake stays in the pan. I'm not a big fan of sprays. What's your experience? " She was talking in particular about the fancy ones...
like this, with a lot of detail.
Beautiful when they work, but nightmares when bits of your cake get STUCK in those crevices frown There were many ideas posted, including my favorite ATK ( 1- use a spray, and then use a brush to make sure you coat all those details, then flour; and 2- when making a chocolate cake, use cocoa powder instead of flour!)... But the idea I liked the BEST came from Chris Eileen P., a reader who suggested the following: “Make a 'bakers spray'-like spread - super cheap without the "cloud" . Beat together 1 cup vegetable shortening, 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup oil until smooth. Store in a tightly covered dish in pantry. It does not need to be refrigerated.
Spread on pan with coffee filter, which eliminates fibers left behind like paper towels (or my preference, a pastry brush wink ). Use enough to make a haze on pan but not too globby."
I saw no reason that this same formula wouldn't work substituting cocoa powder for the flour... It works BEAUTIFULLY!
So GO for the fancy – and use some kewl tricks when you do!

Posted by Linda :
Friday 25 March 2016 - 02:17:13
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Want to hone your baking skills?
I recently came across this article from 'Food and Wine', and the game was on! I hadn't made any New Year's Resolutions, and this mission to bake a cake a month, each requiring a slightly different technique and skill set seemed a delightful goal. A whole lot easier than cooking through a Julia Child masterpiece, too wink January's cake is Citrus Angel Food Cake. As I had just recently made Lemon IceBox Pie for a work event, I actually had NINE extra large egg whites in the freezer – which was amazingly the exact amount called for – this seemed like fate! Well, as always, there was a hitch – I had no lemons. Even stranger, I had no bottled lemon juice or dried lemon zest? All three are staples, and yet... BUT – I DID had lemon extract!! A heaping teaspoon went into the sugar to saturate. Started to whip the egg whites (with cream of tarter and vanilla) to the soft peak stage - so far so good.
But when I started to add the flavored sugar everything went flat. Literally. Egg whites don't like fat, and while fresh zest has it's share of natural oil, apparently the extract had more. I had everything else measured out, so I kept on going if for no other reason than to show how easy it is to fail, lol. No, I didn't take a picture of my deflated whites – it just looked like any other cake batter... Folded in the flour mixture, spooned into my antique tube pan (I'd cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom for easy removal), put in the oven and waited.
Okay, it inflated some more!
And while I couldn't find a bottle that would fit through the tube of the pan, this goblet worked...
Not bad!!! Not bad at all! The recipe includes the ingredients for a glaze, but not the instructions – but you simply whisk them together. If I'd had sliced almonds, or maybe some white chocolate shavings I might had added a handful – but sprinkles were enough to make it pretty.
Kind of looks like a doughnut, doesn't it?
Not bad! Now, for the lessons from my Cake #1 in this challenge: Fresh lemons and zest would be better; make sure your Cream of Tarter is fresh (mine was a little dated, and I could feel some coarseness in a couple bites?); and most important!!!! Don't give up if it doesn't look or seem quite right! It may not be perfect, but it can still be enjoyable cheesey

Posted by Linda :
Friday 29 January 2016 - 00:15:34
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A Slice of Indulgence!
Make some caramel, thin it slightly with crème fraiche, and stir in a cup of roasted, salted peanuts... Have I got your attention? It gets better! You spread this mixture in a pretzel crust – that's right, a pie crust made from pretzels – and then fill to the top with peanut butter mousse... O. M. G.
It's really quite simple – the instructions are all right here. Of course, I took a couple notes wink For starters, instead of making the caramel, I had several cans of dulce de leche I had earlier prepared. A buddy has a new found, uh, obsession with this stuff, and it's a fun science experiment! Purchase sweetened condensed milk (brand and can size don't matter), peel the label(s), place in a deep pot with a lid (I used a dishcloth underneath to avoid scratching), and fill with water until there is at least a quarter inch of water over the top of the can(s). Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and simmer for three hours – that's it. IMPORTANT: Check often (every 20 minutes or so?) to make sure that the water continually covers the can(s) – if the top dries out, the pressure changes and the sealed can(s) CAN exploded!!! You do NOT want this!!! I kept a pint of water by the stove to add as needed. Remove from the water and let cool at least an hour before opening – serve warm or cold. I did several cans at once – sealed, it stores as long as the original product (dates are usually stamped on the can), and once opened it should be transferred to a jar and refrigerated. Forgot to take a pic as I opened the can, but this exactly it!
So back to the pie – I'd made the crust earlier in the day – my pretzels pulsed into a combo of chunks and crumbs – I liked the texture of the finished product, but could only spread across the bottom of the pie dish, which wasn't terrible. You might like a finer crumb, so I'm just putting this out there. A can of dulce with a third cup of sour cream (instead of crème fraiche) and peanuts makes your bottom layer – I used the nuts straight from the can, but would recommend a rough chop. The peanut butter mousse was super easy – if using a stand mixer, whip your cream first and move to another bowl, then make your peanut butter base – it'll save you time and effort.
Decadent as all get out, but an indulgence that needs to be enjoyed at least once wink And shared <3

Posted by Linda :
Monday 30 March 2015 - 20:55:54
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If at first you don't find it...
The second, I repeat, second article I posted on this site (almost seven years ago?!?) was about persistence in finding the recipe you want. I'm glad to say that my writing style has evolved to sound more like ME, but as my grandfather would have put it, “in-stick-to-it-iveness” is still a good thing!
(bacon, shrooms, onions, garlic)
I came across a delicious sounding pasta dish, copied the link then and there and bought the ingredients a couple days later. But when I tried to find the recipe again, well... the link was no longer valid? I searched several recipes of the same name, but none of them was a total match to the method and ingredients I had read...
(grape tomatoes and black olives)
Facebook has its faults, but with a positive attitude it can do wondrous things! The original link and site belonged to Salvatore Cuomo, and lo and behold, he had a Facebook page! I messaged him, he messaged back the outline of the recipe, explaining that the site was “under construction”, and then sent me the new link once it was up again. What a nice guy cheesey
I made it and it was delicious! But as I rambled so much today, all I'll tell you about my experience is that once you assemble your ingredients, it's quite simple.

Posted by Linda :
Saturday 18 October 2014 - 20:02:21
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A Healthy Holiday Treat
OK, not pristine kind of healthy, or even vegan or gluten free... but it's got veggies wink
Picture and technique from 'Taste of Home”
Here's a unique twist on that old 'Veggie Pizza' I presume we've all had – there are hundreds out there... Using packaged crescent rolls, instead of spreading them out flat you slice them into discs – genius! The recipe then uses a base made of your very own herbed cream cheese and sour cream (feel free to mix up the flavor combination to YOUR choosing), and then you top with a variety of chopped vegetables. I LOVE the idea of using celery leaves as the bow!!! Simple, easy – you can do all your prep work the day ahead (slice and bake the dough, blend your cream cheese, chop the veggies) – but I'd recommend not assembling until the day you intend to serve, or it could get soggy. Even picky eaters will like this one – after all, they can always remove the offending veggie, right? And if you take nothing else away from this - making an arrangement of circular crescent rolls is bound to be inspiring... Note from December 2013: I multiplied this for my workplace Christmas party. 5 tubes rolls, 3 times the spread (added powdered onion, lemon zest, and white pepper, PLUS the originals), a touch of cauliflower, and as my celery leaves looked "eh", opted for a red bell pepper bow!
Used Fibonacci to calculate the three rings - yes, I'm a math geek! Not exact to the sequence, but it worked - 20 pieces in the outer circle, 12 in the middle, 8 in the center... wink

Posted by Linda :
Sunday 29 December 2013 - 00:20:31
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