January :Tricks with Cake MixesFebruary : Making Heart Shaped CakesMarch : An orange by any other name...April : COLOR!
May : S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G that dinner June : The perfect marinadesJuly : BBQ Safety August : Summer BugsSeptember : Stocking UpOctober :Trick or Treat!
November : Preparing a turkey & Turkey Tips
December : Fill your house with the delicious aroma of cooking
November : Notes on a perfect turkey: (from Bernie the Butcher)
Preparing a turkey -
If your turkey is frozen, allow 1/2 hour per pound to defrost. Never defrost a turkey on the counter - ALWAYS in the refrigerator. Always stuff your turkey just before roasting. Roast at 325o about 18-25 minutes per pound (18-20 for a non-stuffed bird, 20-25 for a stuffed bird). Never refrigerate leftover turkey with the stuffing inside.
Always stuff your turkey just before roasting and if you are using a cooked stuffing make sure that it is cool.
The secret to success is slow cooking and basting, basting, basting! I baste every 15 - 20 minutes. This will result in a golden bird. To start the basting process off (since you have no pan drippings yet), prepare a mixture of melted butter (or margarine) and some chicken stock. Use this for the first few bastings until the drippings drip.
Cook the turkey under a loose tent of foil for the first few hours. This will keep the breast meat from getting too dried out. Remove the tent for the last 1-1/2 hour of cooking.
Use an instant meat thermometer to check if the turkey is done. It should register 180-185 when inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh, and when pulled out the juices should run clear.
And finally , 2 no-no's - never cook a turkey overnight at very low temperatures and never partially cook a turkey one day to finish the next.
Trick or Treat!
I've always believed that Halloween should be declared a holiday. Instead of the usual Tip of the Month let me tell you about some Halloween party decorations that we once made...
We took a pair of pants and a sweatshirt, stuffed them with newspaper and sat "him" in a rocking chair with "his" back to the front door. Then we took a life-size Wolfman full head mask and stuffed it with a blown up balloon. We balanced the Wolfman mask on top of the "body" very carefully, dimmed the lights, lit the candles, unlocked the front door, hid and waited for the guests to arrive. (all the while playing a recording of screams and squeaky doors). When the guests arrived they saw a "person" sitting in the chair dressed for Halloween. Of course they tried to say hello to this "person" but he wasn't talking. It only took one guest to go over to the rocking chair to tap the "guy" on the shoulder.... You guessed it - the head fell off and rolled onto the floor and the women screamed!
Latex medical gloves with polished "fingernails" and filled with gelatin make very effective ghoulish decorations as well. And don't forget the big carving knife (careful) dripping with red food coloring sticking our of the "body" (same newspaper guy, different party).
And last, but not least there is always the devilishly carved pumpkin - take a look at some of our examples. (warning - lots of graphics)
Let's face it - the animals do it so why shouldn't we?
Purchase a bushel or so of Italian tomatoes, some fresh basil, some fresh parsley, some fresh oregano and any other herb you want. Run it all through the food processor, ladle into freezer bags, and freeze. Fresh herbed tomato sauce to perk up a boring winter night.
Bell peppers (green, red, yellow orange etc) can be sliced and frozen. If you have a large enough freezer just take the tops off, remove the seeds and freeze them whole to get a head start on stuffed peppers.
Onions can be chopped and frozen in preparation for a soup or stew. I don't recommend using the frozen ones for a sauté as they tend to get mushy after freezing.
Garlic, unfortunately, doesn't freeze well. (well it's ok if you are going to cook with it after but I wouldn't use it in, let's say, a salad dressing...) But luckily it is in abundance all year round.
Quarter fresh brussel sprouts and freeze. Defrost and sauté with garlic and onions (and perhaps some of your frozen red peppers)!
Prepare a gallon of pesto and freeze in small containers to use as sauce and some individual ice cube trays to use as a quick addition to a stir fry.
Along the same lines chop up any fresh leftover herbs and mix with butter. Freeze in ice cube trays. You'll never run out of a tantalizing herb butter.
Have a few bananas that are going black? Stick them into the freezer to use at a later date for banana cake/bread etc.
Have some leftover berries that you can't bear to throw away? Dry them well and freeze them whole, or puree them and freeze to use as a coulis or sauce.
Summer Food Safety
Ahh Summer when the botulism blooms and the salmonella sings.... While we love eating outdoors in the summer to satisfy our more basic hunter instincts ;-) there are little bugs (and we're not talking insects) that thrive on food set out in the hot sun. Try to keep everything in your refrigerator, ice chest or cooler until the very last minute. Make sure your table has an umbrella or some shade. Try to avoid letting salads with mayonnaise or creamy dressings sit out in direct sunlight even if it's for "oh only a few minutes!" When cooking hamburger or other ground meats try to avoid handling them too much and cook them til they're no longer pink inside. The idea here is that the buggies get mooshed around inside with the meat as you mix it and rare or medium rare meat will not get hot enough inside to kill them. A steak, on the other hand, will only have the bugs on the outside, (or so they say...) thereby the direct heat of the flames will destroy them.
- Do not grill indoors unless the unit is built specifically for that.
Avoid charcoal fires in high winds.
Never squirt charcoal lighter fluid directly onto a fire.
Position charcoal grill over a non flammable surface (i.e. concrete) in case embers fall through the air vents. If you are grilling on a wooden deck wet down the deck before you start the fire.
Wear heavy duty oven or grill mitts to avoid burns.
Don't wear "flowing clothing" .
Use long handled tools.
Lift the cover away from you.
Don't attempt to move the hot grill.
Tips on the perfect marinades: (From Bernie the Butcher)
Pour oil in slowly, and either whisk, blend or shake in a glass bottle to ensure the mixture emulsifies
The tighter the food tissue the more time it needs to marinade> A filet of sole will never need the same amount of time as a filet mignon.
Never reuse your marinade!
If you want to use your marinade to baste, heat it to boiling first. (This will kill any bacteria)
When dealing with acids, make sure you use a non reactive mixing bowl - otherwise your marinade may come out funny tasting due to the mixture of the metal with the acid.
S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g that dinner...
Unexpected company dropped in and now your meal for four has to serve six or even (gasp!) eight? No problem - "stuff 'em with starch" is our motto! Do what the restaurants do and put a breadbasket on the table while you are preparing the first course. Serving soup? Boil up some pasta to serve in it. Add croutons (easily made) to the salad. Give them a MOUNTAIN of mashed potatoes (remember "Close Encounters"). By the time they're ready for dessert (which you probably don't have enough of anyways) they'll say "no dessert, thanks - I'm stuffed!"
Colo r! Did you ever serve roast beef, potatoes and gravy on a plate only to notice that your plate looks kind of "brown". When planning your meals, try to use colorful vegetables as accents. For example, if you are serving chicken Supremes with a white sauce, and want to serve it with rice, add sautéed chunks of red, yellow and green peppers to your rice for a festive look. Takes no time at all and the results are spectacular.
At the same time, while some dishes look beautiful on the shelf, try to imagine them with food on them. Black dishes with deep purple and pink flowers are spectacular as a table setting, but lose something when the plate is filled with a red spaghetti bolognese. My favorite color of dish to use is white. They're simple yet elegant and lend themselves beautifully to garnishing of any type and/or color!
An orange by any other name.....
Tired of decorating your easter tables with the usual stuff? Try beautifying an orange like this one! All it takes is a little paint, some glue and a few ribbons and you will have decorations that everyone will remember for years to come! After you have finished decorating them, arrange them in a festive bowl, and await the compliments!
Making a heart shaped cake without a heart shaped pan:
Want to bake a last minute Valentine's cake but don't feel like spending money on a heart shaped pan? Don't worry - it's easy with the pans you have at home. Bake your cake in a round pan and a square pan of the same "dimensions" (i.e.: if you use an 8" diameter round then you use an 8" square). When the cakes are cooled take the square pan and turn it so that one of the "points" is facing you. (In other words it will look diamond shape) Cut the round cake exactly in half so that you have 2 semi-circles. Place each semi-circle on each of the top sides of your diamond and voila! Instant heart. Ice with your favorite icing and no one will be the wiser.
Last minute company coming, or just too tired after the Holidays to even think of preparing dessert? Use a <gasp!> cake mix! The mixes of today are much better tasting than they used to be (remember that chemical taste?). Prepare the mix according to package directions - most mixes also give you low cholesterol and low fat alternatives. Then bake it in your favorite Bundt pan to give it a fancy shape. Just before serving sift some icing sugar through a small sieve over the top and you have a quick and easy dessert! If you want to go all out, slice the cake in 2 horizontally, scoop out some of the cake from the bottom half, fill with your favorite ice-cream and freeze until you are ready to serve. Voila! Instant ice-cream cake!
For a beautifully aromatic household during the Holiday season-
Preheat your oven to 200o . Fill a baking sheet (with at least a 1" edge) with water about halfway up and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Place the sheet in the oven . As it warms up the smell of cinnamon will permeate the house! Delicious! Be careful though, not to let the water evaporate, or else you will get the smell of burnt cinnamon and sugar :-)