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good to know

You know how it is when you know something and you just assume others know it too?  Then it dawns on you that maybe not everyone knows what it is that you know.  For instance, did you know that the PLU numbers on produce stickers hold more information than just the price of the item? Important information, that can help you make more informed and conscious buying decisions.

There you have it!  Check it out the next time you go grocery shopping.

I have a “Tip Index” over there on the left, under the “Pages” heading. The first year or two of the blog, I was ultra-diligent about updating the index every time I posted a tip in a recipe. I’ve been way too lax about it recently. So, I thought I’d share with you a couple good Cooking Tip sites. They make for an interesting read and even if you already know 98% of the tips listed, it might be that other 2% that makes cooking a bit easier and more enjoyable.

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June 25, 2012   1 Comment

angel food cake

I don’t know what my record high is for the number of photos in one post, but this may top them all.  Why would such a sweet, innocent, plain-Jane-looking, and in fact, angelic cake need so many (14) descriptive pictures? Because when we’re talking about angel food cake, we’re talking all about the “Incredible Edible Egg.”

Eggs truly are incredible!  Perfection in a shell.  Magical, if you will.  They are the workhorse of the kitchen, providing the strength to bind ingredients, the power to rise and puff souffles, and the delicacy to act as the wings of an angel food cake. Simple egg whites whipping up into soft, fluffy, light as air, clouds of creamy goodness.

Egg whites are mostly protein and have no fat.  When whipped, they hold air and their volume increases by up to 7 times. When whipping whites, what you are looking for is “peaks”. With soft peaks the bubbles are a little more pronounced, and when you remove the beating whisk, the peaks tip over. Stiff peaks stand up straight when you remove the whisk. Egg whites whipped to this stage are used in meringues and cakes when sugar is added.

Plus, once the sugar is added, you won’t need to worry about over-beating, and the meringue can be whipped almost indefinitely… but only once the sugar is in there, otherwise it is quite easy to over-beat the whites. They will become dry and separate into clumps. Once that happens – they are ruined.

A most important note: Egg whites simply will not whip in the presence of fat. Egg yolks contain all the fat in an egg, so if you drop a little bit of yolk into your whites, carefully remove it by scooping with a bit of egg shell, this works because the shell attracts the yolk (same is true if egg shell gets into your cracked egg -shell also attracts to shell).  If there is more than a drop of yolk in the whites, just toss that egg out and start over.  And always whip with a sparkling clean whisk and bowl.

Ironically, fresh cold eggs are easiest to separate but older room temperature eggs whip quicker and can achieve a bit more volume. Personally, I separate my eggs when they are cold and don’t worry about how fresh they are or even wait for them to come to room temperature, it is what it is!

The reason recipes often call for cream of tartar or lemon juice is because acid makes beaten whites more stable.

And the reason angel food cakes are inverted as they are cooling, is because this cooling method keeps the cake from collapsing or deflating once it is removed from the oven.  (I think my photo of the cake inverted on a wine bottle looks like a table lamp… but maybe that’s just me.)

Hopefully all this is more than you ever wanted or needed to know about the wonderful egg  -  now on to the main attraction – The Cake!

Oh wait, one more thing… real quick… I had to make a cake ahead of time, then the kids made the cake in class.  They frosted my cake and tomorrow I will show you what we did with the cake they made – Oh my word, you will L-O-V-E IT!

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June 20, 2012   6 Comments

kiwi wi-kend

I mentioned the other day that I’m in the middle of my three-week cooking series at Les Gourmettes. The first week was a Mother’s Day brunch menu and I needed kiwifruit for a fruit salad. Yes, I said “kiwifruit”, not just “kiwi”.  That is because kiwi is a bird and kiwifruit is … well, it’s a fruit!

Kiwifruit grows on vines and is named after the flightless kiwi bird, native to New Zealand, with hair-like brown feathers. They lay greenish-white eggs. Kiwi fruits are native to China, where they were originally called “macaque peach”.

Nutrition-wise, kiwifruits contain about as much potassium as bananas, are packed with more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of orange, and are also rich in Vitamins A and E. Plus the black seeds can be crushed to produce kiwi fruit oil, which is very rich in important Omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Since this is a cooking blog and not a blog about birds, it is safe to say that when you see “kiwi” in a recipe here, you can be 100% certain I’m talking about the fruit and not the bird.

So anyhow… back to the kiwi I needed for my class.  I went to the grocery store and the price of kiwi was 2 for $1. I needed 10 kiwi and I wasn’t about to pay $5 for them. I remembered that I’d seen kiwi at Costco. Sure enough, there was a big carton for $5.59. When I say a big carton, I mean 30 kiwi!  That’s more then I needed, of course, but that’s not the point.  The point is, I wasn’t going to pay 50 cents each at one store when I could just as easily pay 19 cents each elsewhere.

Um, yeah, so now I have 20 kiwi sitting here that I have to try and find something to do with. So, it’s gonna be a kiwi weekend.

First up, how about a lesson in how to properly and easily peel a kiwi?

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May 12, 2012   6 Comments

wicked granola

Yesterday I told you that I found the recipe I posted on Pinterest and that it was pinned by my friend, Gwen. Coincidentally, while I was whipping up that batch of Lemon Rolls, Gwen emailed me.  When I responded, I let her know I was making the rolls she had pinned and that she NEEDED – NO, not just needed, but actually owed it to me, to come by and take some of them off my hands.  She refused! Imagine that! Refusing free Meyer Lemon Rolls…OK, she had a good excuse as to why she could not, but still…

So today, in retaliation, I’ve decided to make one of Gwen’s most famous recipes… a version of her granola. Yes, Gwen is famous for her granola, you can check out her blog post HERE to find out why and see Gwen’s recipe.  But the real honest-to-goodness reason Gwen is famous for her granola, is because it is so darn good.

Below is my version of Gwen’s Granola with a few tweaks of my own.  I’ve taken the name of the of the Good Witch of the North, from Broadway’s Wicked, which also happens to be a combination our two names – Gwen and Linda… and named it…

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March 27, 2012   3 Comments

slow start

In all honesty, I am not fully recovered from the big weekend lobster bake… still putting away all that stuff I dragged out of storage. Plus, I have been busy making lobster stock from all those shells.  Therefore, we’ll start the week of recipes slowly and begin with clarified butter. This was used for dipping the lobster and other seafood into.

Clarified butter is what is left when melting unsalted butter – after the water evaporates, some solids float to the surface and are skimmed off, and the remainder of the milk solids sink to the bottom and are left behind when the butter fat (the clarified butter) is poured off.

Drawn butter is an American term for clarified butter. It has a higher smoke point than regular butter, which makes it much better for sautéing. It also has a longer shelf life than fresh butter and since is has negligible amounts of lactose, it is more acceptable to people with lactose intolerance.

And just in case you’ve heard of it before and have been wondering… ghee is the East Indian form of clarified butter.

Also note that there is about a 25% loss in the quantity of butter, after clarifying.  You may clarify any amount of butter. I started with 2 sticks (1 cup) but realized that would not be enough for the dinner party, so I ended up clarifying another 2 sticks, or a full pound of butter.

Feel free to save the milk solids you’ve skimmed off.  They can be added to rice, polenta, soups, popcorn, or even your morning toast or oatmeal.  I used them in the boiled potatoes at the lobster bake ~ that recipe will be up in a few days.

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January 23, 2012   1 Comment

Tip Time

Weekly Tip #10

I think I may have missed a week of “tip time”.  We did have “game time” last week though. To make it up to you, an extra tip this week.

Holiday Baking Special Edition

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December 16, 2011   3 Comments

lovely crème fraîche

Weekly Tip #9

According to the “source of all knowledge” – Wikipedia – “Crème fraîche originates from Normandy in France, where the crème fraîche from a defined area around the town of Isigny-sur-Mer in the Calvados department of Normandy is highly regarded, and is the only cream to have AOC (‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’) status, which was awarded in 1986.”

Crème fraîche is a matured thickened cream with a slightly tangy, nutty flavor and a velvety rich texture, thicker and richer than sour cream. Crème fraîche is particularly useful in finishing sauces in French cooking because it does not curdle.

Although you can find it at Trader Joe’s and many other grocery stores today, that was not the case only a few short years ago. What’s a French loving person to do?  Make your own, of course! And I often still choose to do so.  It is easy and less expensive, and with the holidays on the doorstep, I am sure to be using plenty of it.  And what a wonderful hostess gift to give to a cook! I love the packaging in that top photo… I just may have to do this!  GO HERE to order the labels and HERE for the tags, if you would like.

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December 4, 2011   No Comments

Tip Time – Rum!

Weekly Tip #8

Today, I’m actually giving you more bang for your buck – two tips and a recipe – my gift to you!

The first tip is for you Facebook users.  Go to THIS LINK and “like” (or maybe it’s now “follow”) this page for Chow BellaChow Bella is the informative, fun, sometimes irreverent New Times food blog. You will get more food info and learn more about what’s going on in the Valley of Sun (and beyond) than you ever thought there was to know about! Plus, tomorrow, I will be featured in their “Perfect Food Day” series. I think you’ll like it!  And…. while you’re on Facebook – if you haven’t “liked” or “followed” the Les Petites Gourmettes page – do that too! Here is THE LINK for that page.  Now on to the second (and real) tip for today…

Holiday baking time is upon us. Here is shortcut from Chef Anne Willian for making rum balls while using up leftover or stale muffins at the same time.

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November 29, 2011   No Comments

Tip Time – no stress allowed!

Before we get to today’s timely tip, I want to remind you that if you need help with a Thanksgiving timeline, CLICK HERE.  And if you are looking for Thanksgiving recipes – go to the “Complete Recipe Index” over there on the left and scroll down to the red “Holidays” section and then scroll down to “Thanksgiving” where there are more than 30 Thanksgiving recipes awaiting you.

Weekly Tip #7

I know that at least some of you are hosting Thanksgiving in 3 days and that you are stressing.  One of the major stresses is, “How am I going to get everything done?!?” The reason this is a common stress is because many of us, including me, don’t seem to be able to delegate tasks. Even though several guests and family members have offered to help – it is hard to begin to even know where to start delegating when all the burners are blazing, timers are going off, and your mind is racing.  It seems as though it is just easier to do everything yourself. The solution to this common problem? Decide today what you can have people do for you when crunch time comes.

Make a list of non-cooking tasks – the last thing you need is more bodies in the kitchen. And make sure everything needed to complete those tasks is in plain sight, otherwise you’ll get stressed telling people what drawer or cupboard to find things in, or end up dropping what you’re doing and getting it yourself.

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November 21, 2011   3 Comments

Tip Time

Weekly Tip #6

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November 15, 2011   No Comments