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

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

Home Made Salad Dressing – Yummy!

At a recent Make-a-Memory Cooking Party, we celebrated a mother’s birthday. Her grown daughters planned it as a surprise – a cooking class followed by a special lunch. This is a woman who has always cooked from scratch and has spent a lot of time in the kitchen. The daughters’ one requirement was that I fix dishes their Mom had never prepared. It was fun to plan her surprise cooking class and lunch.
One of the things I did was make homemade salad dressing for a very simple four-ingredient salad. It was a hit!
Here’s the recipe with some easy tips included:  Don’t let the long list of ingredients throw you – it goes together easily and is truly worth the effort!
SALAD:
1 head Romaine lettuce
1/2 bunch spinach leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup croutons
DRESSING:
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (TIP: If you have more lemon juice than vinegar, reverse the amounts; no problem)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (TIP: can be fresh or bottled)
1 clove garlic, minced (TIP:  ok to use 1/8 teaspoon dried garlic instead (spice dept of grocery store, labeled as minced garlic)
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives (TIP: ok to use tops of green onions)
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
DIRECTIONS:
Place all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. (TIP: I put plastic wrap between the jar and the lid to prevent any leakage.)
Shake well and refrigerate.
Shake again and add dressing to salad ingredients just before serving.
This recipe serves 6-8.  For a smaller salad, prepare fewer greens, add less cheese and fewer croutons. Add a small amount of dressing, toss and taste, until you have as much as you desire.  Keep unused portion in the fridge and use again later. Just shake it well and label.
Enjoy!
Jean
Your friend in the kitchen!
While you’re here, check out this page: www.jeanskitchen.net/make-a-memory-cooking-parties

Beets & Eggs – A Simple Salad

I recently purchased an egg slicer. Haven’t had one for years and don’t need one very often. I’ve been slicing eggs with a knife. But I have to say, the slicer does a beautiful job of creating even, smooth slices. The yolk seems less inclined to separate from the white and makes the egg easier to handle.

Anyway, buying the slicer made me remember one of my favorite salads growing up and gave me a good reason to make it:  Beets & Eggs   Here’s how Mom did it:

1. She would shred lettuce and spread it out on a large plate.
2. Open and drain a couple of cans of sliced pickled beets (we were a big family).
3. Take hardboiled eggs out of the refrigerator; peel, then slice them crosswise.
4.  Lay a slice of beet and a slice of egg alternately in a circle around the outer section of the lettuce lined plate. If there was room on the plate, she’d make a second circle inside the first. If there was still more room, she’d pile the remaining beets and a few egg slices in  the very center.
5. She added a few dollops of mayonnaise here and there and it was ready to serve.

If you don’t like pickled beets, you can make this with plain, cooked and sliced beets. It’s a very pretty salad. You can also do the same presentation on individual salad plates with the dollop of mayo in the center.

Enjoy!

 

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.

“Happy Birthday” Cooking Class

What fun it was to celebrate Jean’s birthday with her and her two adult daughters on Saturday. The girls planned it as a birthday surprise: a cooking class in my kitchen, just for them, followed by a special lunch for the four of us.

They snacked on Heirloom Brown Bread with Raisins & Dates and sipped Sun Tea as we got acquainted. The menu included Apricot Chicken, Fruited Rice, Almost Caesar Salad w/Homemade Dressing, Rosemary Bread and for dessert, “They Won’t Believe You Made It” Lemon Ice Cream with Gingersnap Cookies. Cooking from scratch is so much fun!

We talked food, cooking and the novelty of a private party cooking class. A good time was had by all.

Thank you, ladies. It was a special treat to celebrate with you!