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White Fruitcake that Dreams are Made Of

I have no pride and, according to some, no taste. I love fruitcake. Sickeningly sweet, loaded with pecans, cherries, pineapple, and golden raisins; heavy as a brick and about four weeks old. Yum.

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Undeserved reputation

For some reason, which I cannot even begin to fathom, fruitcake has acquired a somewhat dubious reputation. It’s been horribly maligned— often referred to as “disgusting!” It’s the laughing stock of the season, which as a fruitcake connoisseur, I find completely offensive.

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Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever, Healthy, Delicious, and Cheap!

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s this: Turkey is cheap! And the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner can be, too.

Turkey feast

The secret to enjoying a traditional feast without overspending is to know a few tricks. I sat down with two highly respected professionals—a butcher and a personal chef. What I learned from John Smith, professional butcher and personal chef, Liz Tarditi, pretty much blew a hole in everything I thought I knew about buying, thawing and preparing a turkey.

Get the best turkey

Choosing the best turkey is easier said than done unless you fully understand the difference between a store brand and a name brand bird. Just because a turkey is more expensive does not make it any better, says John. All that means is that it has a lot of advertising built into its price.

What customers don’t know is that one turkey processor will slap many different labels on his crop of birds. The turkeys are all the same, only the labels are different. This is a rule you can count on, according to John the Butcher: “Always go with the cheapest turkey and you’ll never go wrong. I’ve sold tens of thousands of store brand turkeys to very happy customers.”

EC: Fresh or frozen?

JS: First, let me define a “fresh” turkey. According to the people who make the laws, turkeys can be called “fresh” even though the moisture in the bird is frozen! If you press very firmly on the bird the meat is not frozen. The turkey processors have it down to a science. They bring the temperature of the “fresh” birds down to the very legal limit before sending them off to the store two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, are quick-frozen immediately upon butchering. So the freshest turkey is really a frozen turkey. The freezing process has no noticeable effect on the quality of the bird.

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11 Practical Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget

If soaring food prices are getting you down, help is on the way! Here are some basic saving strategies, practical solutions, and novel ideas to stretch your food budget—and make your life easier.

Grate savings

You pay a lot to have someone else grate your cheese for you—at least twice the price of buying cheese by the block. Currently, at my supermarket, cheese in blocks runs from about $2 to $2.50 a pound for the store brand to about $5.00 a pound and more for name brands. The very same cheeses, pre-grated, run almost exactly double across the board, $4 to $10 a pound. Here’s the tip: Grate it yourself. It will stay fresher and you’ll save money, too.

Pro tip: Commercially grated or shredded cheese comes with an added ingredient like potato starch or modified cornstarch to prevent “caking” or “clumping.” Well, guess what? Those anti-caking ingredients inhibit melting, too. Now you know why pre-grated or shredded cheese doesn’t seem to always melt as readily, often leaving an odd thickened texture.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

 

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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.

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