Mastering Ministrone — November 19, 2020

Mastering Ministrone

So now that we’ve bought the perfect pot, found the perfect recie, bought the best veggies, sliced and diced, and so forth…

Now what?

1.Constantly keep an eye on your soup while it is cooking. This will allow you to  adjust the spices and cooking temperature as needed.

2. Cook on low heat. Don’t think that cooking your soup at a higher temperature will ensure that everything will actually get cooked instead of being raw or hard when you are ready to serve the soup.

Doing this will instead turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces…not to mention possibly ruining the bottom of that expensive soup pot that we all went out and bought after reading a previous article, right?

Instead bring your soup slowly to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.

This will allow the ingredients to maintain their structure and integrity, while at the same time combining all of the ingredients into a flavorful soup.

3. Cover or not?…Depending on the finished product that you want,  leaving the soup uncovered or covering the soup with the lid is a matter of personal  reference. Leaving the lid off will make the soup base evaporate faster, creating a thicker and more flavorful soup.

4, Dig in Deep…There are many soup recipes out there that  require taking some of the soup as it is cooking and blending it and then adding it back into the soup in order to thicken the soup. Using an immersion blender will reduce the risk of your getting burned and make this job easier and neater.

Here is a list from Good Housekeeping of some of the most highly recommended immersion blenders available…

5. Use your brain when using grains…Pasta and grains that are called for as ingredients will often overcook. Avoid this by cooking them separately and then adding them into the soup just before serving.

Finding the Perfect Pot to Pea In — November 4, 2020

Finding the Perfect Pot to Pea In

Before you start making your own homemade soup, there is certain equipment that you must have on hand.

And the most important equipment of all—a big enough pan.

You could find the very best recipe, spend hours making your own stock, buy the best ingredients, take the time to finely dice all of your vegetables exactly the same size, and so forth…

But will all that effort mean one darn thing if you don’t have a big enough pot.

Pots and pans are like bath towels. All of us have them—in various sizes and shapes and colors.

But most of us simply settle for the first towel that we happen to grab we get out of the shower.

How much thought do you put into your bath towels and pots and pans on a daily basis?

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Here is some advice as far as what to look for when finding “the perfect pot to pea in”…

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.Base…The bottom should be heavy in order to keep ingredients at the bottom  from scorching during long cooking..

Handles…There should be two short, sturdy handles that have been bolted on, not simply pressed and adhered on. Remember you’re going to need a “good grip” when you will be picking up a heavy pot with hot liquid.

Height…A pot that is higher than it is wide prevents too much liquid from evaporating.

Lid

  • Glass—Glass lids allow you to see the progress of your stock or soup.
  • Oven Safe—If you plan to use the pot in the oven, be sure your lid and your handles are oven safe.
  • Steaming—Look for a small hole in the glass lid with a grommet.
  • Tight—The lid should fit tightly so that you close the lid and steam properly.

Material

Material is probably the most important thing to consider when buying new pots and pans.

There are several options available, including…

Anodized aluminum…

  • Cost…$125-200
  • Dishwasher Safe…no
  • Example…Calphalon
  • Heats fairly evenly and quickly

Aluminum…

  • Cost…$21 w/o cover
  • Heats quickly

Coated Carbon Steel, enameled…

  • Cost…$80.00
  • Example…Le Creuset
  • Weight…Lightweight

Copper…

  • Dishwasher safe…no, requires constant upkeep
  • Heats rapidly
  • More of a collectible or display item, not very realistic for the real world

Stainless steel…

  • Cost…as low as $10
  • Heats rapidly and evenly
  • Weight..sturdy without being too heavy

Stainless Steel w/ aluminum or copper core base…

  • Cost…around $60
  • Heat…rapid heating thanks to the base of either aluminum or copper surrounded by stainless steel

 

 

Shape…Taller pots allow less water to steam out from the stock, but also consider how much difference in temperature there might be at the bottom of the pot than at the top of the pot.

And if you’re as short as I am, be realistic. Imagine stirring your soup as it cooks and then also picking up and pouring the contents of the pot.

 

Size…The pot should be large enough to hold at least four quarts.

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The Scoop on Drupes — September 20, 2020

The Scoop on Drupes

I debated whether or not to jump to another category or talk about the different types of fruit in this post, but I think that breaking the fruit category into smaller categories will help you as you plan your grocery list and hit the store.

So let’s begin by talking about the scoop on drupes…

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What is a Drupe?!

  • One type of drupe is the stone fruit, those fruits that are composed of a skin that surrounds a fleshy fruit part with a hard seed or pit in the middle.
  • There are two different types of stone fruits—freestone fruits, those where the seed can be taken out with no problem—such as nectarines, peaches, plums, prunes, and cherries.
  • And then clingstone fruits, those where the seed is a pain in the butt to take out—such as peaches, plums, cherries, olives, apricots, and mango. 
  • Another category of drupes is the tryma. These are nut-like drupes that actually grow within an outer husk—such as walnuts, coconuts.almonds, and cashews.
  • Finally there are bramble fruits—such as the blackberry and the raspberry—fruits that consist of what are known as drupelets, small or large clusters that have a small hard seed inside.
  • Nutritionally speaking, drupes are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The nutritional value will vary from fruit to fruit. We will look at these fruits and their nutritional value in future posts…right now I just want to break down our shopping list for our next road trip to Sprouts or Whole Foods into as many little categories as possible.

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Which Fruits are Classified as Drupe

Almonds

Apricot
Avocado
Bayberry
Blackberry
Cashews

Cherry
Coconut
Coffee
Damson
Date
Hackberry
Jujube

Loquat

Mango
Nectarine
Olive
Pecans

Peach

Pistacho

Plum
Raspberry

Walnuts

    •  

Making the Perfect Apple Scones — August 30, 2020

Making the Perfect Apple Scones

The perfect apple scones are fresh from the oven….a truly scrumptious breakfast treat…deliciously spiced with the perfect amounts of cinnamon and sugar…buttery and moist with crisp crumbly edges…consisting of soft flaky centers and crunchy golden brown exteriors.

These perfect apple scones are a great reminder that fall and cooler weather are right around the corner.

The perfect apples scones are also very easy to make…so let’s get started…

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Apples

To make the scones you will need about one heaping cup of apples. If you use too many apples, the scones will not maintain their shape because they will contain too many apple chunks and juices.

As far as which variety of apple to use, either use your favorite apple variety or whatever you happen to have on hand.

If you’re buying apples specifically for making the scones, good apple varieties to try include Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Fuji.

Another thing to keep in ind when you are choosing which variety of apples to use is whether or not you will be glazing your scones. If you will be glazing your scones, you will want to use a tart apple, such as a Granny Smith. If not, you will want  to use a sweeter apple, such as a MacIntosh.

You will need to peel, core and shred the apple before aking the scone.

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Other Ingredients

  • 1/2C brown sugar
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 1Tbsp baking powder
  • ½tsp baking soda
  • 2½tsp cinnamon
  • 2C flour
  • ¼C butter, chilled
  • ½C heavy cream or buttermilk

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Topping

3Tbsp sugar

1/2tsp cinnamon

water or milk, as needeed for prope4r consistency

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Prep Work

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

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Making the Batter

Whisk together the dry ingredients—flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon—in a large bowl Now stir together the liquid ingredients…Shred your apple. Add the shredded apple, then the milk. Mix until they form a soft dough. Add more flour if the dough gets too sticky, Combine the two. Knead a few times, working some extra flour into it until it is barely sticky.

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Shaping the SconesScrape the dough onto a floured parchment or pan.

Divide into two balls of dough….

Flatten until both circles are about 6″ in diameter and 3/4″ thick, using a knife or bench knife that you’ve run under cold water,

Place them on a well greased baking sheet.

Carefully separate the wedges away from the center until there is about 1/2″ space between their outer edges.Sprinkle with brown sugar and/or cinnamon.

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Making the Topping 

Stir the sugar and cinnamon.together. Brush each circle with a bit of water or milk. Sprinkle onto circles.

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Freezing the Scones

Now place the scones in the freezer for about thirty minutes. This serves several purposes, including…

  • allowing them to rise higher
  • giving the the best texture and highest rise
  • making the scones a bit flakier
  • making the scones more tender
  • relaxing the gluten in the flour

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Baking the Scones

  1. Bake for 15- 20 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove and cool….When the scones are cooled,, whisk together the glaze ingredients until they are smooth. Drizzle over the scones then let harden completely…
  2. Bake the scones for 18 to 22 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked…Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days…
  3. Bake the scones in a preheated 375°F oven for about 30 minutes…Scones are best served warm. They’re delicious as is, but add butter and/or jam (or apple butter), if you like. To reheat room-temperature scones, place on a baking sheet, tent lightly with foil, and warm in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Making the Perfect Apple Salad — August 25, 2020

Making the Perfect Apple Salad

The perfect apple salad is a sweet and savory treat that is perfect not only for a healthy lunch,…but also for holiday dinners like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Typically when you think about apple salads, you think of a salad that is known as a Waldorf salad, a lightly sweetened salad consisting of apples, celery, nuts, grapes and walnuts….all brought together with a creamy mayonnaise and whipped cream dressing

The .Waldorf salad was supposedly created by Oscar Tschirky, maitre d’hotel of the famous New York hotel known as the Waldorf-Astoria.

The salad recipe first appeared in his cookbook, The Cook Book by Oscar of the Waldorf in 1896 and has become a favorite ever since.

nSo let’s get cooking…

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The Apples

Apples…2C apples…which is typically 2 medium apples.

A few good choices would be Granny Smith, Pink Ladies, Golden Delicious, and McIntosh.

Feel free to experiment with different apple varieties…depending on what’s in season or what you happen to have on hand. Just make sure that you use crisp apple…not one with a softer, more mealy flesh.

Also combining different varieties of apples will give your salad a ore  complex flavor.

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Other Dry Ingredients

Celery…1C, thinly sliced

Dried Cranberries

Nuts…1/2C chopped walnuts or pecans

Raisins…1/2C

Grapes…1/2 cup seedless red grapes

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Dressing Ingredients

1/2C cup sour cream

1/3C mayonnaise

1/8tspcinnamon…

2tspoons honey

1/8tsp cinnamon

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Instructions

Making the salad is probably common sense…first prep your ingredients…then combine the dry ingredients…then make the dressing…then add the dressing to your dry ingredients—pretty simple, right..

Prep the veggies…You want to cut the apples, celery and whatever else needs chopping into 1/2″ cubes. Sprinkle the cubed apples with sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Toast nuts in over at 350 F for about five minutes to bring out their flavor.

Make the salad…Combine dry ingredients. Wait and add nuts, if using, until right before serving.

Make the dressing…Combine sour cream, cinnamon and honey in large bowl; mix well.

Finish the salad…Add dressing to prepped apples. Toss together until coated. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. 

Making the Perfect Apple Muffins — August 17, 2020

Making the Perfect Apple Muffins

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease your muffin pan.
Stir together the dry ingredients.
Stir together the wet ingredients.
Make a well in the dry ingredients.
Add the wet ingrefients to the dry.
Stir all the ingrdients together.

Fill the muffin liners 3/4 of the way up.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Making the Perfect Fried Apples — July 29, 2020

Making the Perfect Fried Apples

Making the Perfect Apple Dumplings — July 27, 2020

Making the Perfect Apple Dumplings

Making the Perfect Apple Bread — July 10, 2020

Making the Perfect Apple Bread

To freeze...Wrap in plastic and aluminum foil..can be frozen for up to three months.

When You’re Hungry in Hungary — May 25, 2020

When You’re Hungry in Hungary