Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

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Pasta is one of those things you’ve never going to stop making, so you should probably know how to do it well.  From the right size of pot to cooking time to storing leftovers, here are some pasta mistakes I suggest you stop making immediately.

Note: this guide is exclusive to standard, Italian-style wheat pasta. Many other types of noodles, like soba, glass, mixian, and rice vermicelli, as well as gluten-free pasta, sometimes cook differently, so for those, it’s best to consult the package for best practices.

 

1. Using a pot that’s too small

Sure, it’s a pain to wash a big stockpot, but you know what’s just plain dumb? Slowly shoving a pound of fettuccine into a one-quart saucepan until it snaps in half. When making pasta, especially longer noodles like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini, it’s best to use a big pot (one with a diameter that is at least the same length as your noodle) with plenty of water. If you don’t have a stockpot, you can actually boil pasta in a skillet.

2. Not adding enough salt to the water

It may seem bonkers to toss a fistful of salt into pasta water, but keep in mind that you’re not actually ingesting all that water. To actually have a fighting chance at seasoning the pasta while it boils, you need a lot (like several tablespoons) of salt. There really isn’t an exact measurement to use here, but I would say a good rule is three tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta. If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some. Don’t use your fancy Himalayan pink or flakey sea salts (they’re expensive and most of this salt is going down the drain), nor iodized table salt (it sucks).

3. The water isn’t really boiling

In her brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat says to evenly prepare noodles made with wheat, they must be cooked at a vigorous boil, as “the pandemonium keeps the noodles moving, preventing them from sticking to one another as they release starch.” This isn’t a mere suggestion, folks. Bring your water to a rolling boil, dump in the pasta, give it a stir, and ensure that the pot continues to boil.

4. Adding oil to pasta water

Some people think that to keep pasta from sticking itself in the pot they must add olive oil to the pot. False. If your pot is large enough, at a rolling boil, and you’ve stirred the noodles around after dumping them in, there’s no reason pasta should stick to itself or to the pot while cooking.

5. Overcooking pasta

If you’re cooking pasta according to the package directions, odds are you’re going to overcook it. Especially if you’re planning to mix the pasta into heated sauce, pasta will taste perfectly cooked (that is, soft with a slight bite, also known as al dente) when it’s pulled out of the pot about three minutes earlier than the package says.

6. Tossing the pasta water

Most people simply dump their cooked pasta into a colander, letting all cooking liquid run down the drain. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, use a slotted spoon, spider, or tongs to pull out your pasta and drop it into your sauce or put it in a colander, leaving the pot of warm water on the stove. Starchy pasta water is the secret ingredient your sauces have been missing. Whether you’re making cacio e pepe or linguine with clams, a hefty splash of pasta water will thicken your sauce and encourage it to coat each noodle completely.

7. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Shocking pasta with cold water after it comes out of the pot will indeed stop the pasta from cooking more, but it will also rinse away all the delightful starch that helps sauce cling to noodles. To avoid the overcooking factor, see rule #5. If you’re rinsing to ensure the noodles don’t stick together, you should simply be ready to add the pasta into your sauce as soon as it comes out of the pot.

8. Storing leftovers improperly

You can get very sick from poorly stored pasta, so if you pay attention to any of these tips, make it this one. After your pasta dish is cooked and divided among plates, any leftovers should be cooled, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated. When cooked food is held at a temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF, it’s known as the “danger zone” by the USDA. Bacteria love moist foods like pasta, so any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and fully reheated before you eat them again (and it’s best not to wait more than a day). You may feel bad about throwing away food, but we all know reheated mushy pasta isn’t very good anyway.

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

Quick Rustic Pear Tart

Pear Tart.jpg

Ingredients:

Crust:

1/2 cup pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons buttermilk

3 tablespoons of ice water

Filling:

3 medium pears

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter cut up in 1/4″ cubes

I egg beaten

Directions:

  1. To make the crust, in a medium bowl whisk together the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Add the butter and using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you get a pebbly, coarse texture.
  2. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk and ice water.
  3. Using a fork or your fingers, gradually mix the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture.
  4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch round and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and prepare the filling.
  6. Peel the pears, core them and cut into 1/4-inch slices. In a large bowl toss the pear slices with the lemon juice. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon and toss until the pears are evenly coated. Set aside.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle about nine inches. I like rolling it out on floured parchment, then you can pick up the whole thing and put on a baking sheet. Or line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and drape the dough over the rolling pin, transfer to the prepared baking sheet. If the dough tears, patch it up with your fingers. Arrange the pears in a mound in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the border over the filling. It will only cover the pears partially and does not need to be even.
  8. Bake the tart for 15 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, keeping the tart in the oven all the while, and bake for another 40 minutes, until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown.
  9. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and just plop the 2 tablespoons of butter on top of the pears.
  10. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

This would be yummy served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Quick Rustic Pear Tart

Make Your Own Vanilla

Vanilla is expensive and Imitation Vanilla is just that, and if you taste both they do NOT taste the same.  I never thought about making my own Vanilla till a group of cooks on Facebook of all places were talking about what kind of vanilla to use.

A good number of professional cooks and home cooks make their own.  It is just something I never thought of doing, but love the idea.  I am going to be making Vanilla this week.  I might make enough to give as gifts.  What a great idea!

Many people are often familiar with clear or imitation vanilla extract. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; the pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that’s it! Don’t be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure. Imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Here is how simple it is to make your own Vanilla:

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar
  • 7 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality)

Directions:

how-to-make-vanilla-extract

Step 1: SLICE

Slice each bean once long-ways and place in a bottle. (If it helps to cut them into smaller, tootsie roll-sized pieces so they fit in the bottle more easily, go for it).

how-to-use-vanilla-beans

Step 2: POUR

Pour one cup of vodka, rum or alcohol of your choice. Make sure vanilla beans are completely submerged.

vanilla-beans-in-vodka

Step 3: SHAKE

Shake once or twice a week.

Step 4: WAIT

Wait about 8 weeks
Presto, your alcohol has turned into delicious vanilla! Store it at room temp and out of direct sunlight, and you can enjoy this puppy til’ the last drop!

homemade-vanilla-extract-recipe

What makes homemade vanilla extract so much better than “store bought”? First, you have control over the quality and type of vanilla used in the extract. Using premium grade vanilla beans will provide significantly better flavor and aroma than commercially produced extracts. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract from different types of vanilla beans? Each different vanilla variety will create a unique flavor!

Do you prefer bold and smokey? If so, try Ugandan vanilla beans. Traditional, rich and creamy? Use Madagascar Vanilla Beans! Floral aroma with a unique cherry-chocolate flavor? Venture to the Tahitian vanilla beans. You can even blend various varieties together! The floral, fruity, cherry-like notes of the Tahitian variety blend wonderfully with the nutty-chocolate character of the Bourbon varieties.

After 8 weeks the vast majority of the extraction process is complete. At this point, the vanilla is ready to use and the vanilla beans can be removed. If the vanilla beans are left in the bottle, the flavor will continue to evolve just like a fine wine (just be sure the beans are always submerged in alcohol).

Whether you are a seasoned baker, procrastinating about making vanilla extract, or looking for the perfect holiday gift this year it is easy and will save you a lot of $$$$.

Making vanilla extract is a fun, easy way to bring a favorite recipe to the next level.

Make Your Own Vanilla

Tips from Culinary School

Found this article online by “my recipes” and thought the information was quite valuable.  I am always looking for ways to make things taste better in simple ways.

Good Stock Changes the Game:

This is probably something you’ve heard before, homemade stock is always going to be superior to the stuff you can buy in boxes, cans, or cubes at the grocery store. We use stock in almost everything. In classic French cuisine, so of course, There are all kinds of distinct schools that go about culinary training differently, but in French cooking, the sauces are everything. And the sauces are all built with great stock. Restaurants, of course, have the advantage of having many, many carcasses and scraps of mirepoix to put into huge vats of stock. It’s hard to get stock like that at home, without the industrial quantities that restaurants work with. But even just making quick stock in your Instant Pot will make your sauces and soups taste much, much better.

Watch the Bits at the Bottom of the Pan

When you’re searing meat or chicken on a pan, you’re, of course, watching the piece of meat so that it browns nicely and doesn’t burn. But it’s equally important to watch the browned bits at the bottom of the pan as they’re a good indicator of whether your pan is running too hot. Plus, those browned bits,  are incredibly dense in flavor. When you have them, you should always try to use them by degreasing and then deglazing the pan after you’re done cooking your meat. That just means pouring out any excess fat and then pouring wine, stock, or another liquid to help scrape up all the delicious bits. That’s an easy way to make a pan sauce, a great addition to your meal.

The Pan Cooks the Food, the Flame Doesn’t

You want to pay attention to how hot the surface of the pan is and how high your burner is turned up. Pans hold heat to varying degrees, and it’s important to keep that in mind when figuring out which one to use for what application. For very delicate things like fish, you often want to turn off the flame when the dish gets to a certain point of cooking, and the heat from the pan will continue to cook it. Pay more attention not just to how big the flame was under the pan, but how hot the pan was getting.

Weighing versus Measuring Cups

In applications where absolute precision isn’t necessary, eyeball amounts, and when precision was necessary, use kitchen scales. Bakers swear by using scales, and digital kitchen scales are a pretty cheap addition to the kitchen, and much better measuring by weight is than relying on measuring spoons and cups. Different flours and sugars weigh different amounts.

Reduce for Flavor, Thicken Later

When you’re making soup or stew, one of the steps is always to reduce a component. You reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, and on and on. Part of the point of reducing the liquid is to thicken it. But thickening really shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reducing down a liquid. You can always use a roux or a quick beurre manie to thicken a liquid later. The point of reducing is to build flavor. You reduce it to the point where you like the flavor, season it, and then thicken it.

Rest Your Meat, Then Reheat

Resting meat is important. When you don’t let it rest after you cook it, whether its steak or roast chicken, the juices spill out over your cutting board and the meat gets dry. But It’s better to let the piece of meat rest even to the point of getting colder than you’d like, and then just put it in a very hot oven for a minute or two to reheat. That lets the juices reincorporate into the meat, then reheats it without cooking it further.

Reheating and Cooling Things Properly Is Crucial

Lots of things in restaurants are made beforehand and reheated because making things a la minute for hundreds of people is a good way to become very overwhelmed. You can bring up most things to the temperature they were when you were cooking them without cooking them further. That means that you cooked, say, a piece of chicken until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. As long as you cool that chicken properly, you can reheat it up to that internal temperature again without it getting overcooked. You don’t want to do that too many times, because the meat will dry out, but you won’t ever overcook your meat by reheating it if you keep that in mind. Similarly, with cooling things down, the danger zone for bacteria is when meat is in between piping hot and refrigerator cold. To get things cold quickly, it’s way more effective to put them in a bowl over a bowl of ice water than throwing them right into the fridge.

Depend on your Senses, Not the Directions

The throughline between very famous chefs of haute cuisine and my grandmother is that they don’t rely on recipes by the letter, they rely on their senses. Pay more attention to how the meat looks and smells and feels to tell when its done (and yeah, a thermometer too!) than what a recipe estimates. After all, recipes are great guidelines, but everyone’s kitchen equipment and conditions are totally different. You cook things until they’re done, and determine that doneness by visual and other cues.

Size Matters

This sort of cheeky mantra but it’s true so choose the right pot, pan, or bowl for the job and it makes all the difference. Too big of a pan means your meat won’t cook properly. Too small of a bowl, and whisking will be a huge chore. It matters not just because of convenience, but because your results will be different if you don’t pay attention.

Hot Plates for Hot Food

The quickest way you can give your at-home meals a restaurant touch is remembering to heat your plates before putting food on them that are meant to be eaten hot. All it takes is sticking them in the oven for a couple minutes before plating your meal. It means the food won’t cool down as fast, and you can enjoy it longer. Try it!

You Can Use Almost Every Scrap

Whether it’s egg whites or garlic skins, restaurant kitchens are geniuses at repurposing what would be food waste in most home kitchens. For them, it’s an economic concern as much as an environmental one, but it’s a practice that’s useful to adapt at home. You can use many of the things that you might otherwise scrap to make your food even better.

Tips from Culinary School

Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies

Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies: a perfect treat of sinful chocolate ganache sandwiched between two hazelnut espresso cookies. I found this recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Perfect Cookie Book”.  Next time I would just buy the hazelnuts already skinned.  That took way too long, and even though I like the taste, it took forever to roll the dough out to 1/8″ and actually my rolling pin only measure 1/6″, so that is the thickness of mine. These and Snickerdoodles, that I made yesterday will be delivered to our local Senior Apartments, for their Friday movie night.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Process hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds.
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and ground hazelnuts together in a bowl.
  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add egg and yolk, one at a time, espresso powder, and vanilla and beat until combined.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  6. Transfer dough to counter and divide in half. Form each half into a 5-inch disk, wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Let chilled dough soften on the counter, about 10 minutes. Roll 1 disk of dough into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured counter.
  9. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 30 circles; space circles 1/2 inch apart on prepared sheets.
  10. Gently reroll scraps once, cut into circles, and transfer to prepared sheets.
  11. Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 7 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
  12. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Let cookies cool completely.
  13. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Place 1 3/4 cups chocolate chips in a bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips; cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Refrigerate ganache, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40 minutes.
  14. Spread 2 teaspoons of ganache over bottom half of cookies, then top with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to adhere.
  15. Microwave remaining 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips in a bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle chocolate over cookies and let set, about 30 minutes, before serving.
Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies

Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

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Use your favorite pork sausage (I had homemade Chorizo in the freezer so used it) , a mix of tart and sweet apples, (I only had one, so used sweet only) and a flavorful apple cider or juice. The liquid will intensify in flavor, much like boiled cider, when reduced. I like to pair this filling with a cheddar cheese crust either with or without a bottom crust. Don’t worry if there is extra moisture released in the bake from your fresh juicy apples. That bottom crust will soak up the delicious flavor. I just poured off the extra liquid and it was perfect!

The original recipe was from “Art of the Pie”, but as you can see I altered the recipe to use what I had on hand, as we were in the middle of a snowstorm and I could not get out of my driveway to make to the store.  I figure you can always adlib and substitute and still have a wonderful result.  My husband loved this recipe.
Makes: one 9-inch deep-dish pie

Ingredients

Sausage and Apple Pie

  • 1recipe Cheddar Cheese Crust (below)
  • 1pound (454 grams) ground pork sausage, cooked and drained
  • 2 to 3tart apples (such as Granny Smiths) cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3sweet apples, cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1/4teaspoon (a pinch) salt
  • 1cup (248 grams) apple juice or cider – ( I did not have either, so I used a little Rose Wine)
  • 1/3cup (73 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4teaspoon fresh diced rosemary
  • 1/4allspice
  • 1egg

Cheddar Cheese Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2cups (363 grams) all-purpose flour, unbleached (use dip and sweep method), plus additional for rolling out dough
  • 1/2teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 1/4pound (115 grams) Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese or other sharp cheddar cheese, grated and chopped fine with a knife (about 1 cup grated)
  • 8tablespoons (112 grams) salted or unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 6 to 8tablespoons (88 to 118 grams) ice water

Directions

  1. Make the Cheddar Cheese Dough: Combine all ingredients but the ice water in a large bowl. With clean hands or a pastry cutter, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal with some lumps in it.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir lightly with a fork.
  3. Squeeze a handful of dough together. Mix in a bit more water as needed.
  4. Divide the dough in half and make two chubby discs about 5 inches (12 centimeters) across. Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  5. To make the Sausage and Apple Pie: Place the apples, salt, juice or cider, brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, and allspice in a sauté or fry pan and cook on medium-low heat until you can just start to put a fork into the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. Reserve the juice.
  6. Pour the juice into a small saucepan. If you have less than a cup, add more juice or cider to make 1 cup, then turn the heat to low and cook until the juice has reduced in amount to about one-quarter its amount and has nearly caramelized. Be careful not to let it burn. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Spoon the sausage into the apple mixture, pour over the reduced cider, and mix well.
  8. Adjust the salt to taste and let the filling cool.
  9. Roll out the bottom crust and place in your pie pan. Add the filling.
  10. Roll out the upper crust and place it on top. Seal the edges, crimp, and vent.
  11. Make an egg wash by beating together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork. Brush the pie with egg wash.
  12. Bake at 400° F (205° C) for 40 minutes. Give the pie two more egg washes at 10-minute intervals during the first 20 minutes of the bake.
  13. Let the pie cool for 15 minutes or more before serving.
Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

Pork Chops with Wine & Garlic

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  • 6 whole Pork Chops (medium-to-thin)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • Salt And Pepper
  • 1-1/2 cup Red Wine
  • 1/2 cup Beef Broth (more If Needed)
  • 1 whole Bay Leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 18 whole Peeled Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter (additional)
Heat oil and butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops and sear them on both sides until they’re nice and golden, about 2 minutes per side. (No need to completely cook the chops at this point.) Remove the chops from the skillet and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-high, then throw in the whole garlic cloves. Stir them around and cook them for several minutes, or until they get nice and golden brown.

Pour in the red wine, then add the bay leaf. Stir around and let it reduce, raising the heat if necessary. Cook the sauce for several minutes, or until it’s nice and reduced and thick.

Stir in the beef broth (you can add more if it needs the liquid) and add the chops back into the cooking liquid, arranging them so that they’re swimming in the sauce. Allow the chops to cook in the liquid for a few minutes, then pour in the balsamic. Shake the pan to get it to distribute, then cook for a couple more minutes, or until the pork chops are done.

Remove the chops from the pan once more, then let the sauce reduce a little more if needed until it’s very thick and rich and the garlic is soft. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle in a little salt and pepper.

Arrange pork chops on a platter, then pour the whole skillet of sauce (including garlic) over the top.

Serve with a green salad.

*You may substitute white wine for a slightly lighter sauce.

Pork Chops with Wine & Garlic

Lemon Bliss Cake

Lemon 1.jpg
This wonderful recipe was from King Arthur Cake and is a lovely golden lemon cake, extra-moist and nicely tangy due to its fresh lemon juice glaze. Baking this cake in a Bundt pan turns it from everyday to special-occasion, perfect for everything from birthday parties to an elegant dinner.

Baking gluten-free? For great results, substitute King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour for the all-purpose flour in this recipe; no other changes needed.

AT A GLANCE

PREP: 
BAKE: 
TOTAL: 
YIELD: 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS

CAKE

  • 16 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter*, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
  • 1 cup milk, whole milk preferred
  • finely grated rind of 2 medium lemons OR 3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
  • *If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 3/4 teaspoon.

GLAZE

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; the juice of about 1 1/2 juicy lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

ICING (OPTIONAL)

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first until combined, then until fluffy and lightened in color. 
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once all the eggs have been added, and beat briefly to re-combine any residue.
  4. Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Whisk the baking powder into the flour. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three parts alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. The batter may look slightly curdled when you add the milk. That’s OK; it’ll smooth out as you add the flour. Mix until everything is well combined; the batter will look a bit rough, but shouldn’t have any large lumps. Stir in the grated lemon rind or lemon oil.
  5. Thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it and smoothing the top with a spatula.
  6. Bake the cake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. A pan with a dark interior will bake cake more quickly; start checking at 40 minutes.
  7. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Microwave or heat over a burner briefly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You don’t want to cook the lemon juice, so microwave just until very warm, but not uncomfortably hot — less than 1 minute should do it. Set the glaze aside.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, and carefully run a knife between cake and pan all around the edge. Place the pan upside down on a cooling rack. If the cake drops out of the pan onto the rack, remove the pan. If the cake doesn’t drop onto the rack, let it rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift the pan off the cake. If the cake still feels like it’s sticking, give it another 5 minutes upside down, then very gently shake the pan back and forth to loosen and remove it.
  9. Brush the glaze all over the hot cake, both top and sides. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.
  10. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing and serving.
  11. To ice the cake: Mix the sugar and salt, then mix in 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, adding just enough additional juice to create a thick glaze, one that’s just barely pourable. Drizzle it artfully over the completely cool cake.
  12. Store the cake, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

 

Lemon Bliss Cake

Cookies for the Senior Center

I found out a week or so ago that the residents at our local Senior Center love sweets.  Well, I love to cook, so am going to try to make weekly treats for them.  This morning I dropped off Chocolate Chip Cookies with pecans and Peanut Butter Cookies.  Here are the recipes I used:

cookies.jpg

Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans or chopped toasted walnuts

PREPARATION

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using a heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl.

Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.

Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

Our perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe had to produce a cookie that would be moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness. Melting the butter gave us the chewiness we were looking for. Cutting back on the flour and eliminating an egg white also improved texture and brought the brown sugar flavor to the fore.

To give our chocolate chip cookie recipe the crisp edges and toffee flavor we wanted, we let the sugar dissolve in the batter for 10 minutes, then baked the cookies at a high temperature so the edges darkened while the centers stayed so.

2/2 Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still so, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway.

Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies
These cookies have a strong peanut flavor that comes from extra-crunchy peanut butter (in our taste test we preferred Jif) as well as from roasted salted peanuts that are ground in a food processor and worked into the dough. In our testing, we found that salted butter brings out the flavor of the nuts. If using unsalted butter, increase the salt to one teaspoon.

 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup extra-crunchy peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, ground in food processor to resemble bread crumbs, (about 14 pulses)

1. Adjust ovens rack to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. 
3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with electric mixer, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in peanut butter until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Gently stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture. Add ground peanuts; stir gently until just incorporated.
4. Working with generous 2 tablespoons each time, roll dough into 2-inch balls. Place balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving 2 1/2inches between each ball. Press each dough ball twice with dinner fork dipped in cold water to make crisscross design. 
5. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking time (from top to bottom racks and back to front) until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges but not on top, 10 to 12 minutes. (Cookies will not look fully baked.) Cool cookies on cookie sheet until set, about 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack with a wide spatula to cool completely. 

 

Cookies for the Senior Center

Romaine Could Be Hiding

1804w Romaine Lettuce

Americans are being told to avoid romaine lettuce at all costs for the second time this year, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new outbreak of E. coli associated with the leafy green in 11 different states. Earlier this spring, it took federal investigators upwards of six months to track down where a similar outbreak, which claimed the lives of five individuals and sickened more than 200. This latest announcement by the CDC, coming Thanksgiving week, is a blanket ban on all forms of the lettuce, and details have yet to emerge beyond the fact that it has caused 30 plus individuals to fall ill.

Currently, the CDC is advising that any romaine is disposed of or avoided, regardless of when or where it was harvested. Many of you seemed prepared to do so—Cooking Light readers shared their frustrations in the comments section of a Facebook post yesterday, with many expressing that they had already consumed romaine recently.

CDC Recommends Blanket Ban on ALL Romaine Lettuce, E. coli Discovered Once Again
Do not eat any form of romaine lettuce from any region, CDC warns.

With federal investigators unable to pinpoint an exact source of the outbreak yet, the risk of E. coli poisoning—and the chance of developing HUS, a rare form of kidney failure associated with a toxin in this viral E. coli strain—is particularly troublesome to many shoppers.

Some retailers have previously gone to great lengths to remove tainted romaine lettuce from their shelves, but romaine lettuce is a ubiquitous ingredient and can be found in many ready-to-eat products. In the coming weeks, as investigators work to discover what is causing illnesses in what’s sure to be more than just 11 states, taking the time to thoroughly check your meals for romaine could help you stay safe.

Salad Greens and Salad Bar

If you’re dining out, be sure to ask your server about any use of romaine in the food’s preparation (even if it’s not evident) and if the establishment has updated their menus. Pour over any ingredient list on pre-made or frozen food products to ensure that romaine isn’t a concern. And when you’re in the supermarket, check these eight products for romaine lettuce to be sure that all are safe for consumption:

1) Salad Bars

Whole Foods Salad Bar Tongs
Whole Foods

You may be anxious to visit a salad bar, and for good reason—E. coli bacteria can transfer on contact, so take good care when eating from any salad bar in the coming days. On the off chance that your supermarket has yet to dispose of romaine, do not buy ingredients in proximity to romaine, and remember that self-serve utensils can easily become cross contaminated. This is a good time to make romaine-free salads at home.

2) Bagged Salad Mixes

1808w Chopped Salads Aldi
The CDC was careful to include this in their bulletin: bagged mixes like Fresh Express’ “American” blend contains chopped romaine, which could be contaminated with E. coli.

3) Ready-to-Eat Salads

mcdonalds-salad

Many supermarkets, as well as fast-casual chains and other food retailers, sell pre-made salads that have been massed produced in the last month. Double check the ingredient list before enjoying pre-made salads, even if you can’t see romaine in the container upon first glance.

4) Ready-to-Eat Sandwiches and Wraps

Lettuce is in nearly all pre-made sandwiches, and so it goes without saying to check these before buying. Lettuce wraps, as well as tortilla-based wraps, are of concern.

5) Grain Bowls and Noodle Bowls

Retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer a full selection of ready-to-eat entreés in their deli selections, including noodle bowls and grain bowls that contain lettuce.

6) Green Juice and Blended Beverages

lean and green smoothie

You should take time to inspect all smoothies and blended beverages for romaine—while V8 juice contains an ambiguous “lettuce” callout on the ingredient list, some ready-to-drink beverages—especially green juices—contain romaine alongside servings of kale and spinach. This might also be a good time to make blended green juice at home, where you can swap romaine for other hearty greens.

7) Soup

This is rarer than other items on this list, but blended, chilled soups, including items like packaged gazpacho, could contain romaine lettuce.

8) Refrigerated and Frozen Prepared Entreés and Appetizers

Romaine may not be the first ingredient that comes to mind in the frozen section, but it could be of concern in prepared foods that are available for purchase in your supermarket. Take the time to double check the ingredient list, and when in doubt, ask an employee for help.

Romaine Could Be Hiding