My Kitchen Companions

Other than Roger, pots & pans and actual cooking tools, my favorite kitchen companions are books - cooking, of course. I learned to cook as a new bride from a Better Homes & Gardens beginner book, way back when. It was a wedding gift from my Mom and over the years I literally wore it out.

When I cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey, BH & G taught me how. Thanks to them, I found no surprise package of giblets in the turkey cavity when we served it.

When hamburger was on sale and I bought ten pounds, my book provided recipes for meatloaf, hamburger soup and steak substitute.

It was the first place I looked for answers to the questions, “How do I …..?” and “What is this ingredient?” (Now, of course, you go online!)    

My library has quite a few cooking and recipe books. One of the most used is a slightly more recent (1994) reference book: The Kitchen Companion (aptly named) by Polly Clingerman. I did an online search to see if it is still available and it is, with prices ranging (used) from 5o cents to several hundred dollars – go figure!

The book is actually a compilation of recipes, notes, charts, substitutions, tips, tricks and techniques from a  log she created  during 30 years of living, cooking and entertaining around the world while in the diplomatic service.

It is my go-to kitchen reference. I learn something every time I open it.

What are your kitchen companions?

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean

Baking Small is the In Thing

There’s something innately appealing about cute little things, be they babies, puppies or inanimate objects. I was in a kitchen store the other day  (surprise, surprise!)  and was instantly drawn to all the small electric appliances available to bake “cute little foods.”

*Cakesicle Maker (Why not “Baker?”)
*Cake Pop & Donut Hole Maker
*Strawberry Shortcake Maker
*Ice Cream Sandwich Maker – This was the best one, I thought; it baked round miniature waffles you use to make ice cream sand-wiches.
*Pretzel Maker
*Personal Pie Maker
*Smiley Pancake Maker
*Mini Cupcake Maker

Each appliance was brightly colored and wouldn’t they be fun for the kids? But look at that list! It’ll be hard to choose and goodness knows there’s no room in the pantry to store them.

My friend suggested I buy the ones I can’t resist and give them as gifts. Hmm…

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean

 

 

 

Kitchen Tips, Hints & Insider Secrets

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For instance, did you know that keeping tomatoes in the refrigerator  damages enzymes that make them taste good? Cold also has a negative influence on the texture of a tomato.

So keep them on the counter. You’ll have better tasting tomatoes and more room in the fridge!

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean

Apricot Coconut Bars

I just added a recipe to my “Gotta Try This” list. It’s for Apricot Coconut Bars from the 1930′s in a little cookbook called “Mama’s in the Kitchen; Weird & Wonderful Home Cooking 1900-1950.”

It isn’t one of the weird ones, but I’ll get to those later.

To make the crust:

Whisk together: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup sugar
Cut 1/2 cup butter in dry mix

Press into 9 inch square baking pan and bake at 350 until lightly browned. (Maybe 10 minutes? I’ll let you know after I actually make it!)

For the filling:

Dice 1 cup dried apricots and simmer in a small amount of water for 5 minutes, then drain and let cool.
Whisk together:    1/3 cup flour       1/2 teaspoon baking powder       1/4 teaspoon salt
In a larger separate bowl, beat 2 eggs;  add 1/2 cup brown sugar & 1 teaspoon almond extract.
Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture, then the apricots and 1/2 cup flaked coconut and mix well.
Spread onto the baked crust, sprinkle with an additional 1/2 cup coconut and bake at 350 for approximately 25 minutes.  Cool and cut into bars.

If you try this before I do, let me know how you liked it!

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean
 

 

 

 

Home Made Jams & Jellies – Easier than you think

Over the past year I’ve been experimenting with home made jams and jellies. This is after many years of store bought. Even though I’ve received jars of jam as gifts from other people, I somehow never considered (until now) doing it myself.

I’m delighted, not only with the results, but discovering that a small batch doesn’t take all day, the directions are fairly simple, people love home made and there are lots of interesting recipes to try.

So far, I’ve had yummy success with five that are sweet and two that are savory (meaning don’t try them on a peanut butter sandwich!)

The sweets are an Orange Rosemary Jelly, an Apple Thyme Jelly, an Apricot Pineapple Marmalade, a Balsamic Strawberry Jam and a Basil Jelly.  The three jellies call for fresh herbs. I have a rosemary plant in my yard that grows all year, so I can make the Orange Rosemary any time. Fresh thyme and basil are seasonal and now done for the year, so I’ll have to wait.

The other two are Tomato Jam and Red Onion with Herbs Jelly – definitely different, but good. The tomato is excellent on meat sandwiches and I’m still experimenting with the onion. Maybe I’ll mix it with barbecue sauce and brush it on the last few minutes.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean

Jams and jellies make great gifts as well as treats for the family. So I’m stocking up