New in the Kitchen

Kitchen stores or departments are among my very favorite places to wander through and check out what’s new. There’s always something! On my last foray, I found the can-be-flattened kitchen tools now available include not only strainers of various sizes and types and measuring cups, but mixing bowls as well.

I think the brand name I was looking at was “Squish” – I love that! How appropriate for any kitchen without a lot of storage space – I’m thinking tiny apartment, mobile home, motor home or a poorly designed house without adequate cupboards, cabinets and drawers.

They’re brightly colored, non-breakable and look to be very practical. I haven’t bought any because I simply don‘t need them yet, but I’d love to hear what you think.

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean

The Story of The Little White Lie Cake

I don’t know where this came from or if it’s even partly true, but it brings a smile to my lips every time I read it.  Enjoy!

Alice had promised to bake a cake for the elementary school’s Bake Sale, but forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix and quickly made it while getting ready for work and helping her son pack for Scout camp. When Alice took the cake from the oven,  the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured. She realized there was no time to bake another  cake.

 Being a woman of her word, Alice felt she had to deliver what she’d promised, so she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake. She found it in the bathroom – a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in the center of the cake and covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfect.

 Before she left the house to drop off the cake and head for work, Alice gave her 10 year old daughter some money and instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened. “Buy my cake and bring it home.”

A short time later, Alice received a frantic phone call from her daughter. “Mom, your cake is gone! Somebody else bought it – I don’t know who!”

Alice was horrified – she was beside herself. Everyone would know! What would they think? How would she recover from this? All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people laughing at her cake and talking about her behind her back.

Although she would have preferred to stay in bed with the covers pulled over her head, the next day Alice promised herself she would try not to think about the cake. She would go ahead and attend the bridal shower luncheon of a friend and try to have a good time. Besides, she realized, she didn’t have a good excuse to stay home. a single parent and not from the founding families of Tuscaloosa. But, having already RSVP’d, she couldn’t think of a believable excuse to stay home.

The meal was elegant and no one mentioned the bake sale. Just as Alice was starting to relax and enjoy herself, it was time for dessert. Her heart stopped when the hostess brought out  the cake in question. She started to get out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the mother of the bride said, “What a beautiful cake!”

Alice, still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess say, “Thank you, I baked it myself.”

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

 

 

 

Corn Ball Cookies?

Something is amiss. I picked up a recipe card for Corn Cookies in a kitchen/food store the other day. Never having heard of corn cookies, it was something new to try.

Results:  Either the gourmet corn meal the recipe called for is really different from the kind I have (mixed with a ‘secret’ ingredient?) or I did something very wrong, but I ended up with Corn Ball Cookies.

The dough wasn’t doughy at all, but very crumbly. The only way I could get it to stick together was to pack a couple of tablespoons of it into my hand and squeeze it into a ball.  So that’s what I did. They baked and the only noticeable difference between the raw and the cooked was a light brown cookie bottom.

The shape stayed the same; no rising, no flattening out, no nothin’. They actually taste pretty good; they’re nice and crunchy and have a sweetened corn flavor.  I can’t help thinking I missed something.

Corn Ball Cookie, anyone?

Don’t mind if I do!

Your friend in the kitchen,

Jean

When you don’t know what to buy: Gourmet Marshmallows

Waiting to meet a friend, I browsed a bit in an upscale market and found the Plush Puffs. Almost as big a surprise as discovering cotton candy in the grocery store. That just doesn’t seem right.  It’s for fairs and carnivals and other special childhood events – not the grocery store!!!

Anyway, I had time to examine the packages of Plush Puffs and they looked home made. Never thought about home made marshmallows, but I’ll have to try them sometime.

There were six flavors. and they all sounded interesting: Caramel Swirl, Sydney’s Cinnamon, Luscious Lemony Meringue, Cherry Chocolate Chip, Toasted Coconut and Chocolate Chipetta. Thinking about roasting them and making S’Mores made my mouth water.

But I didn’t buy them. Maybe next time.

Love and Tomato Paste

Years ago we moved to southern Oregon, bought an old farmhouse on ten acres of wooded land and embarked on a three year adventure of living a 1980′s pioneer lifestyle, reminiscent of a much earlier time.

Grocery bills were low because so many friends had gardens and were glad to load up our car with produce they couldn’t possibly consume. One friend raised a couple of beef a year and we filled our freezer with grass-fed, no steroids steaks, roasts and hamburger. We ate eggs from free-range chickens.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen - learning to become a food processor. I needed to cook, can, freeze and take full advantage of the wondrous bounty of living in the country where things grow almost effortlessly.

My friend Betty called one day, saying she had a couple hundred pounds of tomatoes and asked if we would like to have half of them. Of course.

We decided to get together and spend a day  preparing them for the pantry/freezer. We had the larger kitchen, so she and her husband came to our house early the next morning.

The four of us spent the entire day canning dozens of quarts of tomatoes, making gallons of tomato sauce and slicing tomatoes for the food dryer. Near the end of the day, someone (who shall remain nameless) suggested that for storage space purposes, we cook down the last few batches of sauce into tomato paste. What a great idea!

We put it on simmer and ate dinner. We stirred and played cards. We simmered some more and reflected on our day. We felt like marathon runners who were nearing the finish line and needed just one more big push, on simmer.

But at ten o’clock, with the sauce still sauce and not paste, Betty and I couldn’t hold our eyes open any more and retreated to the living room to nap, leaving the guys in charge.

When the smoke alarm (the brain’s panic button) went off, I ran to the kitchen. “It’s okay,” Roger said, fanning the alarm. “The kitchen is hot from having the stove on all day.” (Old farmhouses don’t have air conditioners and most Oregonians don’t know anything about swamp coolers!) ”We’ll bring the fan in here and move the air around.”

Still no tomato paste, so I went back to the recliner. A few minutes later, there it went again. I plugged my ears and stayed put.

The third time, I was wrapped in sleep like a baby in a blanket. I wasn’t worried about the house burning down, but I was highly annoyed (as in VERY ANGRY) at being awakened by that horrible noise. Two grown men in the kitchen and they couldn’t figure out how to keep the darn thing from going off! What’s wrong with them?

I charged into the kitchen like a bull in a china shop, ready to do battle. The first thing I saw when I got there was a banner hanging on the wall with these words written in large letters:

“No greater love hath any man than to can whilst his wife sleeps.”

What’s a girl to do?  I don’t know about you, but I smiled and went back to bed.

 

Some Foods Just Don’t Mix

Learning to cook is an ongoing process of discovery. You learn flavor combinations and cooking techniques that work and some that don’t. Unfortunately, sometimes you learn the hard way.

One of my early discoveries came about simply because I don’t like going to the grocery store for one or two items. It’s especially true if I’ve committed to cooking something right now and discover I’m out of, or short on a particular ingredient. The idea of stopping to go to the store just isn’t acceptable if there are any other options.

So I’ve been known to substitute ingredients, or find a recipe for the lacking store bought item and make it from scratch. (This tells you it isn’t just the time factor I object to; it’s the interruption. I’d rather cook than run to the store.)

Most of the time, my substitutions are right out of the book: yogurt for sour cream, diluted canned milk for 2%, white sugar and molasses for brown sugar. But sometimes, circumstances demand creative thinking.

I was up to the challenge that muggy summer day in Oregon when I decided not to heat up the kitchen for dinner. I reached for my trusty Jello cookbook and sure enough, I found a great recipe for a salad made with lime Jello, celery, onion, mayo and diced chicken. It sounded wonderful and exactly what I was looking for.

I went to the pantry – oops, no lime Jello. No lemon, either. Only Strawberry. Well, why wouldn’t that work?

Then to the freezer for the cooked chicken. Oops, out of that, too. I couldn’t skip the meat because I was feeding my husband, teenage son Brett and his buddy Ben.  As luck would have it, I found a pound of cooked ground beef. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was better than going to the store. So I forged on.

The results were less than spectacular. Brown meat in red Jello doesn’t make the grade. They wouldn’t eat it. They didn’t want to taste it.  Shoot, they didn’t even want to look at it! I think they settled for grilled cheese and something.

In my own defense, I will say the flavor wasn’t as bad as they anticipated, but there were consequences. They’ve never forgotten it. None of them. When invited to dinner after that,  Ben always asked, “What’s your mom fixing?” before he said yes. Jello salads became less of a desired food item in our house. I gave away my Jello cookbook. And the worst thing about it was I’d made a double batch!