Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

soup.jpg I love making and eating soup when the weather turns cold.  Every year I just keep trying new ones.  When I am at the grocery store, I just look at all the different ingredients, grab a few and always find a recipe online that works.  It is kind of a fun challenge.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter ( I only had peanut butter with nuts, but just put it in the blender with the soup and it was great)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • 1 large Roma (plum) tomato, seeded and diced  (I only had cherry, so chopped fine and deseeded by wiping with a paper towel)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and lime zest. Set aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.
  2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add sweet potatoes, and chicken stock. Season with cumin, chili flakes, and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  3. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or regular blender. If using a countertop blender, puree in small batches, filling the blender just a bit past halfway to avoid spillage. Whisk peanut butter into the soup, (I added in the blender) and heat through. Stir in lime juice, and salt.
  4. Ladle into warm bowls, and top with a dollop of the reserved sour cream, a few pieces of diced tomato, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Serve with a salad or nice piece of French Bread and it is a lunch or dinner for kings. Oh, and don’t forget to add a nice glass of wine.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Steak ~ 7 Best Cuts

This post is for my steak-loving husband.

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Peer into your butcher’s case or roam the frigid aisles of Costco’s meat section, and you’ll encounter a whole world of confusing steak cuts. That doesn’t mean you should let all these admittedly confounding varieties get the best of you. We’re breaking down the differences between seven of our favorite steaks, including how to cook each of them to juicy perfection. With a little practice, we guarantee you’ll be showing up your favorite steakhouse.

① Filet Mignon

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A staple of white-tablecloth steakhouses across the country, this tender muscle does barely, if any, of the heavy lifting on the cow, resulting in a soft, buttery texture that gives way in the mere presence of a steak knife. However, this cut is also nearly devoid of any fat, meaning the mild flavor has less of the lip-smacking juiciness meat eaters crave.

Can be Known As: filet de boeuf, tender steak, beef tenderloin, tenderloin steak.

When to Order: The classic Valentine’s Day offering, filets are perfect for diners who are a) more concerned with tenderness rather than flavor and b) have money to spare. Filets are also well suited for anyone on a diet who just really needs a steak.

How to Cook it: It’s versatile enough to be cooked via whichever method you prefer, from pan-roasting to grilling. There’s no fat to compensate for overcooking, so sous vide is a safe bet if you need extra security.

② Rib Eye 

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One of the most prized cuts of all, the rib eye comes boneless or with the rib bone still attached, in which case it’s frequently known as a cowboy steak. And while the bone might make it harder to navigate your knife and fork, gnawing on gristle and crispy fat is undoubtedly the best part of the steak-eating experience. Speaking of which, it’s that abundance of fat, both marbled within the meat and surrounding the edges via the white fat cap that makes rib eyes so intense and beefy in flavor. They’re not as meltingly soft as filets, but ribeyes have just enough of a chew to remind you why your experience as a vegan didn’t last.

Also Known As: cowboy steak, tomahawk steak, Spencer steak, Delmonico steak.

When to Order: If you’re a carnivore who wants the best beef-eating experience possible, and has a supply of Lipitor on hand.

How to Cook It: Rib eyes are equally at home over charcoal flames, in a cast-iron pan or under a screaming broiler. The high-fat content means, yes, you can get away with cooking them somewhat past medium without the meat turning into a chewy football.

③ New York Strip

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It might not be as tender as it’s posh cousin (the filet) or as sumptuous as the always-fatty ribeye, but the New York strip is a solid jack-of-all-trades. A bit more chew and a little less marbling mean it’s less expensive so you won’t be picking your jaw up from the floor when it comes time to pay, making this the perfect midweek dinner for when you need a pick-me-up.

Also Known As: shell steak, Kansas City steak, sirloin steak.

When to Order: This is the all-around, crowd-pleasing steak star made specifically for Goldilocks in terms of flavor, tenderness, and price.

How to Cook It: Just like a ribeye, strip steaks are happy any way you cook them. Just be warned that some can run a little lean, making them less resilient to overcooking.

④  Porterhouse

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A porterhouse is simply a New York strip and delicate filet mignon separated by a T-shaped bone, hence another nickname, the mighty T-bone. This is the one time we suggest putting away the cast iron as meat shrinks as it cooks, meaning when seared, a porterhouse’s surface fails to make contact with the pan as the bone begins to jut out. And since the filet side is more prone to overcooking, it can be a challenge getting the entirety of the steak to finish at the same time.

Also Known As: T-bone steak.

When to Order: If you’re an experienced steak expert or part of a couple who doesn’t like to compromise (no judgment), or if you’re exceptionally hungry and prefer to spend your paycheck on steak versus rent.

How to Cook It: Grilling or broiling is your best bet. Just make sure the tenderloin side of the porterhouse is exposed to less heat, so it doesn’t overcook before the strip is finished.

⑤ Hanger

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Formerly the butcher’s hidden gem, the once-humble hanger has exploded in popularity over the years. It might not be as affordable as it used to be, but the cut, taken from the front of the cow’s belly, is still a bargain considering it’s astonishingly savory flavor and relative tenderness. When taken right off the cow, hangers tend to be covered in a blanket of tough sinew and silver skin, though most butchers will sell it already trimmed.

Also Known As: onglet, butcher’s steak, hanging tender.

When to Order: If you’re looking for maximum payoff with little effort; or a carnivore who prefers to spend only half their paycheck on steak.

How to Cook It: A loose, soft texture makes hanger steak perfect for soaking up sticky marinades and dry rubs. Keep in mind there’s a sweet spot when it comes to cooking this cut: Too rare, and it remains unpleasantly toothsome; too overdone, and it will dry out just like any other steak.

⑥ Flank

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Long, hardworking muscle fibers make flank steak relatively tough to chew on when improperly prepared. After cooking to medium rare, be sure to slice the meat thinly against the grain. (On the plus side, it’s easy to get a large number of servings from this square cut, making it perfect fodder for a summer buffet.)

Also Known As: London broil.

When to Order: Because of the flank steak’s low quality in terms of texture, you’d be wise to skip ordering this one in a restaurant.

How to Cook It: As long as it doesn’t go past medium rare, flank steak is happy whichever way you cook it. It’s one of the few “steak” cuts that do well when braised.

⑦ Skirt Steak

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The go-to choice when it comes to carne asada and fajitas, this flavorful, well-marbled cut is just as savory and succulent as a ribeye, while remaining one of the cheapest cuts behind the counter (at least, for now). You can bolster the naturally beefy flavor with a quick marinade, but the most important thing is to cook skirt steak as fast as possible and cut it thinly against the grain.

Also Known As: fajita meat, Philadelphia steak.

When to Order: Like flank steak, skirt steak is best cooked at home (and not ordered when out) if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck or just happen to be throwing a fajita party.

How to Cook It: These steaks are naturally thin, so blistering heat is required to make sure the outside is charred before the interior becomes overcooked.

 

Steak ~ 7 Best Cuts

10 Mistakes You’re Making with Raw Chicken

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Many home cooks may not realize the simple, but potentially dangerous mistakes they’re making with raw chicken. If not handled correctly, you may set yourself and your family up for some seriously sad tummy troubles.

These are 10 potential mistakes even experienced home cooks make with raw chicken.

Storing chicken improperly

The tiny drawing of a turkey on your refrigerator shelf may seem like a helpful hint for picking where you should store your cellophane-wrapped packages of poultry. That’s not always the best indicator.

Chicken juices tend to leak and drip from packages, which means if it’s stored on a shelf above ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables, you could contaminate a great deal of the food in your fridge.

Solution: Place chicken packages on a plate or in a casserole dish, and store them on the bottom shelf or in the bottom drawer of your fridge. The plate will capture any juices that leak, protecting everything else you have stored.

Thawing incorrectly

We don’t mean to go all food safety police here, but this is one of the most dangerous and most common mistakes you can make with your raw chicken. At room temperature, the bacteria in these birds can quickly multiply.  Salmonella is especially prolific at these warmer temps. If you leave the chicken out too long such as you might when you’re thawing it for tonight’s dinner you could set up camp for bacteria that will result in foodborne illness (i.e. food poisoning).

Solution: Don’t put the frozen chicken on the counter or in the sink to thaw. While the center of the chicken is ice cold, the outer portions will be too warm to stop bacterial growth. Instead, thaw the chicken in your fridge up to two days ahead of when you plan to cook with it. That will give the chicken’s thickest parts plenty of time to de-ice while keeping the outside portions chilled and more importantly, safe.

Not letting chicken warm up a bit

After the last raw chicken mistake, this may seem counterintuitive, but hear us out: You don’t want to leave the chicken out too long (remember, food poisoning), but you also don’t want to cook it straight from the fridge.

Leaving the chicken out at room temperature for 15 minutes will make the chicken cook more evenly, helping you avoid a brown outside with a raw, undercooked inside.

Solution: When you’re gathering all of the ingredients for dinner, go ahead and take the chicken (in the plate or dish where it’s stored) out of the fridge. Let it sit for no more than 15 minutes.

Rinsing chicken before you cook it

If you give your birds a bath before you bake them, it’s time to stop. Raw chicken doesn’t need to be and should not be rinsed before cooking. You may think you’re rinsing away bacteria—salmonella is a big concern with chicken—but you may actually just be spreading it. In fact, research suggests you may splash bacteria as far as three feet from your sink when you rinse poultry.

Solution: Skip the bath. Cook chicken directly from the package, and you’ll cut down on possible contamination around your kitchen.

Not drying your chicken

Didn’t we just tell you not to wash chicken? We did. But you should definitely dry your chicken before you cook it.

That’s because fluids from processing and packaging chicken are often washed in a saline solution to keep it looking moist when on the shelf can make your chicken soggy when you put it right into the pan. A dry bird gets more beautiful browning and a wonderfully crisp sear.

Solution: Before you put the chicken in the pan or on the grill, give it a quick dab with paper towels. Better yet, let the chicken air-dry in the refrigerator for a few hours. To do this, you’ll place the chicken on a tray or platter and leave it, uncovered, in your fridge. The air will wick away moisture from the skin of the chicken, leaving it nice and dry for crisp searing. (Dry brining is a popular technique for getting really crispy turkey skin at Thanksgiving.)

Marinating your chicken the wrong way

Marinating is a great technique for adding flavor with minimal effort. You need only combine your chicken pieces with your homemade marinade and let it rest for several hours before it’s time to cook it.

However, you’re making a big mistake if you leave your chicken on the counter to marinate while you prepare all the other components for your meal. You could set yourself up for a foodborne illness.

Solution: Once you have your marinade, pour it into a zip-top bag or container that closes. (A lidded container is fine as long as the lid won’t fly off.) Then, add your chicken. Toss gently to coat the chicken in the marinade, and immediately put it back into the fridge. Toss or flip the chicken a few more times to get all pieces of chicken evenly coated.

When you’re finished with the marinade, throw the bag right into the trash or empty it from the container down the sink. Marinade that has come into contact with raw chicken is not reusable, even if you boil it. It’s just too risky. Instead, save some of your marinade before you combine it with the chicken, and use it for a last-second brushing before serving.

The raw chicken comes into contact with other foods

If space is at a premium in your petite kitchen, you may be tempted to reuse surfaces (i.e. cutting boards) to keep from dirtying up extra dishes. Don’t do it.

Chop raw chicken on a separate prep board from other ingredients you might be slicing or mincing for your meal. If you chop kale on the same board you sliced chicken, you could cross-contaminate the leafy greens with juices from the bird. That’s possible even if you wipe the board down with a sanitizing towel. Bacteria are just too difficult to eliminate without a high-temperature wash, like that of a dishwasher.

Reusing kitchen tools without washing

If you use the same tongs to flip raw chicken as you do to toss the side salad you’ve prepared, you may be cross contaminating your raw ingredients with the bacteria from your raw chicken. This increases your risk for foodborne illnesses and food poisoning.

Solution: You need to set aside all utensils that come into contact with raw meat, and don’t use them for other foods. Then, you should wash them thoroughly after each use so as to prevent the spread of poultry juices.

Not washing your hands after handling raw chicken

Your hands are the most useful tool you have in your kitchen. They’re also the most likely to spread bacteria.

Indeed, you may easily cross-contaminate your entire kitchen if you use your dirty hands to handle chicken, turn on a sink, grab a fork from the drawer, and open the refrigerator. Each surface you come into contact with may now harbor potentially deadly bacteria.

Solution: Take extra care to notice what and where you touch after handling raw chicken. Better yet, “save” one hand for non-chicken related tasks. As soon as you’ve flipped the chicken or put it in the bag for marinating, use your non-chicken hand to turn on the faucet at the sink and pump some soap. Wash your hands thoroughly, and dry with a clean towel. Don’t use a towel you’ve used to wipe down surfaces around your kitchen, or you could pick up any bacteria the towel is hiding.

Ripping skin off the meat with your hands

If you’ve tried tugging chicken skin off breasts, thighs, or drumsticks before cooking them, you know how slippery those pieces can be. One stuck-on piece of sinew and your main course may be sent flying into the floor.

It’s also smart to leave the skin on cuts like thighs and drumsticks because the fat can infuse the meat with flavor during the cooking process. You can just remove the skin before serving.

Solution: Give your grippers a rest and use a paring knife instead. The short knives are easy to grip and quickly cut away at the tough tissue. They can also be easier to handle, which reduces the risk of losing any precious meat during the trimming process.

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10 Mistakes You’re Making with Raw Chicken

Inviting Kitchens to Wake You Up 

I found it interesting in reading through these that even though “Granite” is supposedly on it’s way out, a number of these kitchens are inspired with granite.   I still love it in a kitchen, as it adds such life!
Inviting Kitchens to Wake You Up 

Olive Oil Tips & Tricks

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Olive oil is one of the world’s most ancient foods and it’s one of the most common cooking ingredients. In fact, along with salt and pepper, olive oil is one of the best pantry staples, because it’s an essential element to so, so many recipes. You can use it to roast veggies, grill chicken, make a super simple salad dressing, drizzle over crostini. In addition to being a baller ingredient that elevates any and all food, olive oil is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are an essential component to any well-rounded diet.

Choosing an olive oil from a shelf of bottles at wildly varied price points can be tricky. Olive oil is so versatile because there are many flavors, notes, and colors. In that respect, it’s like wine. And like wine, it can be intimidating.

We hear words like extra and virgin thrown around a lot, but most people couldn’t tell you what that actually means. And with tons of fraudulent bottles clogging the market, it can be hard to tell which olive oils are actually worth your time and your money. Let’s face it, olive oil is NOT cheap.

1. Only buy oil labeled extra-virgin. This is not a guarantee that the oil will be the best, but at least it will probably not be among the worst. Bottles labeled just plain “Olive Oil” and “Light Olive Oil” are refined oils and, like vegetable oil, while they’re not bad in any way, they are not very interesting.

2. Read the label. Even if it’s written in Italian, French or Spanish, you can probably figure out enough to recognize harvest and “use by” dates. The finest producers always put the harvest date proudly on their olive oil. The use-by date can be a little deceptive since it is usually 18 months from bottling, rather than from harvest.

Check for the region the oil was produced in. If you see more than one country, region, or even city listed, put the bottle back on the store shelf. You don’t want the olives blended from all different countries. Because when it comes to the olives used in olive oil, the things that grow together go together.

You want to look for the olive cultivar. This is just a fancy way of saying which type of olives were used to make the oil. The more specific information the producers display on the bottle, the more likely that extra-virgin claim is legit.

Remember to always check the harvest date, and opt for the freshest you can find.

3. Avoid anything in a clear glass bottle, no matter how pretty and enticing the label. Light is the great enemy of olive oil and the oil inside will likely have lost most of its flavor and aroma. Look for extra-virgin olive oil in dark glass bottles or, better yet, opaque tins. Olive Oil does not like light, so keep yours out of the sun.  Your kitchen counter is not a good place to keep it.

4. Know that the term “first cold pressing,” although widely used, is redundant. By legal definition, the extra-virgin oil must come from the first (usually the only) pressing, which must be accomplished with no added heat (at ambient temperatures no higher than around 80ºF.

5. Extra-virgin olive oil does not improve with age. Fresher is better, and right out of the mill, olive oil is a fabulous experience. Fresh oil may have unexpectedly assertive flavors of bitterness and pungency that sometimes override the fruitiness. These challenging flavors are treasured by connoisseurs because they indicate high quality, and by nutritionists, because they’re evidence of lots of healthful polyphenols.

6. Light is the enemy and so is heat. Keep your precious bottles in a cool, dark environment. I have a couple of tin containers within reach of my stove, each of which holds 1 ½ cups of oil, enough for a couple of days in my kitchen. They get refilled from the bulk of my oil, which I keep in a cupboard in an unheated pantry.

7. Use your oil! And don’t be afraid to cook with extra-virgin. It is perfectly stable up to about 420ºF. The Joy of Cooking says 360ºF is the optimum temperature for deep-frying, I use extra-virgin comfortably for almost all of my cooking. And because it doesn’t get better with age, I use last year’s oil for cooking, and this year’s fresh oil for garnishing.

8. Use it liberally! Learn to love a hot baked potato, cracked open and topped with lots of the freshest finest oil you can buy, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly ground Telicherry pepper. Or try my favorite Catalan breakfast—grilled rustic bread with a ripe tomato crushed into the top, then salt and pepper and a glug of extra-virgin over it all.

9. Buy from trusted retailers who know how to maintain quality. I find the best quality olive oil from online sources. Here are a few good ones: olio2go.com,
dipaloselects.commarkethallfoods.comcortibrothers.com,
zingermans.com, and www.gustiamo.com

10. Like with other juices, fresher is always better when it comes to olive oil.

Olive oil is adversely affected by several factors including time passed since its pressing, heat, light, and air. Luckily the shelf life is a little bit longer than that of the kale, apple, and parsley blend you love olive oil is at its best in its first two years. An older bottle probably won’t hurt you, but it slowly loses its beautiful flavors and health benefits with every passing day.

Olive oil harvests in the northern hemisphere (usually in countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy) take place in October and November. This means if you’re looking for the freshest bottle, you’ll want the harvest date listed on the label to be from the previous year. Anything earlier than that indicates an old bottle unlike wine, olive oil doesn’t get better with age

11. But know that if you go for just regular “virgin,” you’ll still get all the health benefits.

While the lower quality virgin olive oil may not taste as good as its extra-virgin counterparts,  there isn’t any nutritional difference between the two. Pure olive oils, on the other hand, have been chemically processed which means you may want to avoid them altogether. When you see a bottle labeled pure, light, or olive oil, this can be an indicator that it is a refined, lesser quality product.

12. Different olives produce oils that taste different.

Olive oil adds depth and dimension to virtually any dish. And experts make careers tasting and assessing the subtleties of olive oil. Hundreds of olive varieties are cultivated around the world, and dozens are valued for producing delicious oil.

Knowing which olives were used can also help you determine what the oil will taste like. If you see an oil made with a taggiasca olive, it’s going to be light and delicate and sweet. But if you see an oil made with a nocellara olive,  it will be leafy, herbaceous, and robust.”

Different varieties absolutely have different flavor profiles and personalities, but the end result of the oil is determined by much more including geography, the method of harvesting and pressing, as well as blending and storage. Again, think wine, there are plenty of luscious Pinot Noirs and plenty of bad Pinot Noirs.

To really use this knowledge to your advantage, you’ll need to have a bit of olive intel in your back pocket. A quick Google search of the different types should give you enough flavor info to make a decision. Or try a new type each time you buy a bottle and see what you like best. There hundreds of different olive varieties out there and olive oils vary greatly from region to region, so there are a lot of flavors to be had. If you’re at a store that allows you to taste olive oil, take advantage! The more you taste, the more you’ll discover what styles make you happy.

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13. You can’t tell how an olive oil will taste by looking at it.

Just as you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you don’t want to judge an olive oil by its color. A greener olive oil isn’t necessarily a better or fresher olive oil, though this is commonly thought to be the case. Color is determined by factors like the type of olives used and when the oil was extracted. The only way to truly judge the quality of an oil is to crack it open and give it a taste.

14. You don’t want to cheap out on olive oil, but it shouldn’t break the bank either.

As you’re scanning the oil aisle, there’s definitely the potential for sticker shock, but there’s a wide range of prices and you don’t have to drop a ton of dough for a decent bottle. As for how much you should be spending in general, Try not to drop below $15 per liter, which is about 34 ounces. You’ll often find bottles that size at the supermarket and it’s a good amount to have on hand if you cook regularly. (If you don’t cook that often, it’s easy to find smaller bottles, too.)

15. Use cheaper bottles for cooking and pricier oils for drizzling.

If you do decide to splurge on a pricier bottle one between $20 and $40 you may want to reserve it for drizzling and finishing dishes. When you cook olive oil, you cook the nuances out of it. So if you really want to savor the flavor of an oil soaked into a piece of bread or poured over a bowl of hummus, keep one nice bottle on hand for that, and use another (cheaper) bottle for all your cooking needs.

Many chefs tend to cook with cheaper (but still totally respectable) EVOO, like California Olive Ranch, and save the truly mind-blowing stuff, like Castillo de Canna for drizzling and finishing.

16. And finally, you absolutely should use olive oil for way more than just salads.

Olive oil is an incredible ingredient and the cornerstone of the famous Mediterranean diet. Exquisite olive oil elevates everything it touches: salads, grilled veggies, meat and seafood, soups, stews, pasta, and risotto really do go from good to awesome when anointed with yummy EVOO. It’s the perfect bridge between tradition and innovation. It can be utilized in a plethora of culinary applications with astounding results.

From cooking with to finishing to everything in between, olive oil can elevate many dishes.

Olive Oil Tips & Tricks

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

 Muffins and quick bread, dips, and pies almost always start with the same instruction: “Preheat the oven to 350°F.” Why?

Why is that?

What makes 350°F the magical temperature?

Why is it that so many types of baked foods from cake to bread go in a 350°F oven and come out perfectly after a relatively brief bake?

The answer to that is one part science and one part, well, human laziness.

Putting something in a hot oven sets off a series of chemical reactions that turn the gooey dough into a bouncing bread or sheets of puff pastry into flaky pastries. A temperature of around 350°F is hot enough to complete a lot of these steps quickly.

Step 1. At 90°F, fats begin to melt and combine with the gluten proteins (flour). Gases from the baking soda or baking powder are released, which helps make the baked good tender.

Step 2..At 140°F, the gluten proteins (flour) begin to swell and dry out. That’s when cake or cookies go from wet batter to dry food.

Step 3. At 300°F, sugar starts to caramelize.

Step 4. The Maillard Reaction, a point at which foods begin to brown and develop their distinctive flavor, happens around 320°F.

So why 350°F? It’s good enough to make all those necessary steps happen quickly, even if your oven runs a little cold and it’s not so hot you have to worry about burning.

But how did we decide to bake things at 350°F and not 340°F or 360°F?

That requires a trip back to the turn of the century.

Before we had ovens that could be warmed up in 5-degree increments like we do today, we had ovens that could bake at three settings: slow, moderate, or high. Recipes for baked goods often called for “moderate ovens.”

After World War II, oven manufacturers capitalized on some technological improvements from the war. Newer models of ovens gave cooks slightly more control by letting them set their gas and electric ovens in 25°F increments. Today, many modern ovens will let you set your oven in 5°F increments.

Attempting to adapt antiquated recipe instructions to match the modern day appliances, recipe writers converted a “moderate” temperature to 350°F, which was typically halfway between an oven’s lowest setting, around 200°F, and its highest, around 500°F.

Is 350°F really the best temperature for baking?

No, probably not. Ovens are notoriously unreliable, so setting your oven to 350°F promises you’ll land somewhere between 330-370°F. You’ll hit 350°F only if your oven is well-calibrated. That being said, most ovens have hot spots and cool spots, so it’s not a good bet that you’re really cooking at precisely 350°F.

Recipe writers and food marketers know that it’s better to err on the side of caution with the “moderate” temperature than to get very specific and have a failed recipe.

Some baked goods, like crusty baguettes,  benefit from baking at a higher temperature, but a too-high temp could sink it. The higher heat will help the bread rise more quickly and set the crust before the gluten in the bread has a chance to dry out and stiffen.

The same can be true for muffins: the muffin tops rise taller in the higher heat, and you can lower the temp to finish baking them and prevent them from drying out.

Likewise, many chocolate chip cookie recipes bake at a higher temp as high as 425°F or start hot and finish at a lower temp. The hot start gets the dough to the caramelization and Maillard Reaction stages faster and then slows the cooking down to keep the cookies from drying out or burning.

Until ovens become almost foolproof and manufacturers can guarantee an oven really is the temp it says, we’ll stick with the magical 350°F. It’s good enough to get the job done.

I like keeping an oven thermometer close at hand to check my oven temperature from time to time.

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

I do not like Stuffed Bell Peppers

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This photo is nowhere near as bad as what my mother used to make on a weekly basis.  She used only hamburger and rice and put it in the green bell pepper.  The gook from the hamburger sat on top and it was hard to look at, let alone eat.  To this day, the thought of it takes away my appetite.

Here is the problem.  My husband loves it and has fond memories of eating it when younger.

So I thought about it and came up with my own version of Stuffed Bell Peppers

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Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove and discard the stems, then finely chop the tops; set aside. Scoop out the seeds and as much of the membrane as you can. Place the peppers cut-side up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them upright.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up the lumps, until the meat is cooked through and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of the fat.

Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and chopped peppers and cook until beginning to soften (3 to 4 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and a pinch or 2 of red pepper flakes. Cook until everything is heated through, then stir in the beef and rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in 4 oz of the cheese.

Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and top each with a sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Pour a small amount of water into the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle the peppers with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and lightly browned, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Since I still could not get my head around the “bell pepper” part of this, I put a little in miniature pie plates and just baked.  I actually liked it. It is not as pretty, but it was yummy.

 

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The other thing that I actually did, was use leftovers.  I had made mushroom and onion risotto the previous night so I just used it in place of the rice, onion, and garlic.  The risotto was a good way to use a bottle of white wine that I did not like the taste, but if you added a bit of butter to the risotto, it was DELICIOUS!   I used Romano cheese, so the risotto was dairy free.  But the pepper jack was not.  It is amazing how much different Pepper Jack cheese tastes when cooked, as it is not one of the cheeses I would normally buy.

The original recipe was from Lee Drummond, but she added zucchini, and even though I have it over-growing in my garden, it did not appeal to me in this dish.

BTW my husband loved it.  I served it with baby carrots, so he was a happy husband.

I do not like Stuffed Bell Peppers

How to Survive a Kitchen Remodel

How to Survive a Kitchen Remodel

Working Projects

 

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As a working designer, I sometimes forget that it is important to share projects I am currently working on.  This a remodel of a kitchen that is about to start construction. We completely re-designed the area with a sitting area to enjoy the view, lots more storage, and more light.  Can’t wait to see the work begin.  satre Orr Front Door in Color

The front entry will be enhanced with a Store Front door and side windows, to let in additional light and make more of a statement entry.

Satre Kitchen Floorplan

The kitchen is completely re-designed to make the space open and user-friendly.

Kathy_Bill Living Room View 6_20

There will be lots of storage and a raised bar area at the entry to the house.

Kathy Bill Window Wall Cabinetry 6_20

The window wall will give you lots of storage with a view.

Kathy_Bill Kitchen Aisle 6_20

The inside aisle will be a cooks dream with a gas cooktop and two ovens.  I will keep you posted as the work begins.

Happy to help you with all your interior design needs.

 

 

Working Projects