Posts

Stop Making These Slow Cooker Mistakes and Watch What Happens

I gave away my slow cooker. I’d stopped using it feeling pretty much like a slow-cooking failure. I’d just acquired a multi-cooker Instant Pot with a slow cook option should I ever need to try that again. Besides, who wants to dine on meat that’s an odd shade of gray and vegetables with all the texture of mush? How can boneless skinless chicken breasts cook in liquid all day long and come out tough and dry as dust? Turns out I was the problem, not my humble kitchen appliance.

Shiny new slow cooker

As easy as slow cookers are meant to be, they come with rules (who knew?). I ruined so many meals—and my relationship with what should’ve been my favorite small appliance—because I  pretty much broke all the rules. I committed every slow cooker mistake.

If you’re a slow-cooker hater, here’s your opportunity to learn from my mistakes. And get ready, because it just might be time to break out your slow cooker to give it another chance. Read more

Surprisingly Amazing Ways to Make Meals from Leftovers

How to use leftovers? Oh, let me count the ways. There really are so many ways to make meals from leftovers, something the late Julia Child preferred to call “the remains of the day.” Such an elegant way to refer to leftovers! Regardless, both terms refer to anything from half a pan of lasagna to a dab of mashed potatoes that sit in the fridge until they turn green, at which time we feel a lot better about throwing those leftovers away, right. And these days with the price of food soaring, that’s like throwing cash in the garbage.

The secret to sticking to a food budget is to first find a delicious use for every last bit of what we buy, then have an immediate plan for leftovers, and finally, to be diligent to follow through. Really, it all comes down to choosing to see leftovers as ingredients for new dishes—not just multiple go-rounds of the same thing until it’s finally gone.

 

leftover-containers-of-food-in-a-refrigerator

Following are some pretty awesome ideas (if I do say so myself!) that have helped me to see leftovers in a new way. It’s a list you may wish to keep handy.

Pro-tip: At the end, look for the tiny printer icon that will let you print out all or any portion of this post.

Read more

How to Clean Cookie Sheet Pans So They Look New!

They come in sizes big and small, rimmed or without sides. We use them to bake just about anything, but mostly cookies. And they can get super grungy with layers of baked- and burnt-on grease resulting in ugly stains and residue build-up.

 

Does anything here look familiar to you? If so, I have good news. Your cookie sheets can be cleaned and restored, even back to the way they looked when new.

What follows is a relatively quick and easy way to get rid of baked-on grease, stubborn food residue, and even rust on any type of cookie and baking sheets—aluminized steel, aluminum, and non-stick—and then to clean and maintain to keep them sparkling clean.

Read more

4 Absolutely Brilliant Ways to Cook Corn on the Cob

There’s just nothing that screams late summer like sweet corn when it’s fresh, hot, and slathered with butter and salt. Today, I want to share with you four brilliantly delicious ways to cook corn on the cob that are sure to thrill and delight you, your family, and guests, too.

Corn on the cob is a summer staple that should be part of every summer celebration and backyard cookout because not only is fresh corn cheap when it’s in season, it’s quick and easy to prepare, too! But first, let’s talk about how to start with the best ears of corn.

 

Ways to cook corn on the cob

How to choose

There you are in front of a pile of freshly-picked, in-the-husks, sweet corn. You want to select ears with these characteristics:

  • Bright green husks that are tightly wrapped and mostly intact.
  • The stem area where it was cut from the stalk should be sticky and moist. If this is really dry, it’s old corn.
  • Check the tassels. They, too, should be slightly sticky, moist, and silky.
  • Peel back a small area of the husk to check for wormholes and brown spots. Avoid.

4 ways to prepare

There must be as many ways to prepare fresh corn on the cob as there are people who love to eat it. Here are my favorites:

Read more

The Useful Life of Spice plus How to Repurpose at the End

When I packed up my kitchen for our big move a few years ago, I was embarrassed to discover what I had accumulated in the spice drawer.

I’m pretty sure there were a couple bottles of something or other in there that were certified antiques, pre-dating the Nixon administration. And that ground allspice? I think the sell-by date was 50 A.D.

 

Spice-Cabinet

Do spices expire?

The useful life of spices and dried herbs vary but you don’t have to worry about them going bad like other foods. The problem, however, is that they can lose flavor, which is the reason we use them at all.

A bottle of curry powder you’ve had for an untold number of years won’t make you sick. But it won’t be as potent and flavorful as when it was fresh. Spices, especially once ground, degrade over time.

As I researched to get to the bottom of this question, I found a reference to an unsupported rule of thumb floating around out there that says we should use or toss herbs and spices after six-months. What?! That seems a bit short to me. I sure can’t afford to purge my spice drawer twice a year,  which prompted me to check further with more reliable resources.

Read more

Peaches—Tips, Tricks, and My Grandmother’s Peach Cobbler

And just like that, it’s peach season. That’s a big deal where I live in northern Colorado in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. We love peaches! Soon we’ll be enjoying Peach Street Fairs, Palisade Peach Festivals; peach fruit piled high in every store’s produce department and featured on nearly every restaurant’s menu.

ripe-tree-ripened-peaches

Freestone or cling?

While there are many varieties of peaches, basically there are two types: If a peach is “freestone,” it means the stone falls right off of the flesh when it’s cut. A “clingstone” will stick to the pit.

Freestones are larger, juicier, sweeter, and more comfortable to work with in the kitchen since the pit pops right out of a ripe peach. Many store-bought yellow and white peaches fall into this category. One of the most famous is the Georgia peach.

Clingstone peaches—peaches that are harder to pit because the pit firmly adheres to the flesh—are mostly used for canning.

Fresh peaches are available throughout North America starting in late July until the first or second week of September.

Read more

How to Make Taco Seasoning Mix and What to Do With It

Seasoning packets from the supermarket may be convenient, but they have drawbacks—not the least of which is they’re relatively expensive! I just checked Lawry’s Taco Spices and Seasonings Mix—! I just hate to pay that much for so little. And I don’t have to because I’ve got a great recipe to make taco seasoning mix myself, using ordinary spices I have already. As a bonus know exactly what’s in it, and how old the ingredients are.

 

Plate of two soft shell beef tacos

 

The recipes that follow call for the amount of seasoning you would find in the typical supermarket seasoning packet—about 4 1/2 tablespoons of mix.

While you could make the amount you need as you need it, a better idea is to make a bunch while you’re at it, then keep it tightly sealed in your spice rack. It’ll come in handy more times than you can imagine. The recipe multiplies well.

Enjoy this simple mix and the two family-friendly recipes that follow for both beef and chicken tacos. Yum!  Read more

How to Make Perfect Iced Tea

The only thing more comforting than a big, tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer day is knowing how to make that perfect iced tea yourself. With confidence and for just pennies per serving.

 

Two jars of perfect, refreshing ice tea sitting on a wood table

Proper Iced Tea

My dear mother-in-law, a very proper Canadian, taught me the difference between proper iced tea and the “swill” most restaurants pour, which in her opinion was, at best, a very poor facsimile. And trust me, she knew her stuff—including the six rules for proper iced tea:

Rule 1

Use plenty of tea. The flavor of tea served cold is not as intense as when served hot. That means it must be brewed stronger, so use more tea bags. Use two tea bags for every 3 cups of water.

Rule 2

Do not oversteep. Allowing tea to oversteep releases the tannins in the tea, which can make it bitter. If you want it weaker, reduce the steeping time, not the number of tea bags.

Rule 3

Cool first. Once you remove the tea bags, allow to cool before you pour it over ice but do not put it in the refrigerator to cool. Doing so will make your tea cloudy.

Read more