What are some dishes that have…….

….identical ingredients but become dissatisfying if prepared differently?

So as I was thinking about what kind of sandwich to make for dinner, I decided on bacon and egg. Now I’m stuck choosing between a bacon sandwich with fried egg, or an egg salad sandwich with bacon. Literally the exact same ingredients, but (at least in my mind) completely different results.

What other dishes do you know that are comprised of the same ingredients, but result in very different products? How does preparation effect the flavor profiles, if at all? Are both equally good, or is one inherently disappointing if you desire the other?

 

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

I know what you’re probably thinking: It’s just a cookie, right?  I mean, they look innocent enough, golden with melty chocolate chips, crinkled edges and melt-in-your-mouth interiors… but one bite and you’re ruined for life.

These cookies will consume your life, shrink your jeans, and steal your boyfriend (I wouldn’t put it past them, anyway).

They even contain a secret ingredient.

How obnoxiously cliché, and, even more obnoxiously, intriguing.

 

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever... Oh boy, I wish I'd never discovered this recipe!

I won’t drag it out; the secret ingredient is maple syrup.  Sure, pure maple syrup (priced per ounce nearly the same as gold) would be just wonderful, but if you have a sticky bottle of Aunt Jemima in your cabinet (as I did), that will work just fine, too.

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever... Oh boy, I wish I'd never discovered this recipe!

What kind of self-respecting cookie doesn’t demand purity and quality?  Only the worst kind.

I credit this “secret ingredient” for being the greatest offender in this recipe.  It gives the cookies a subtle, caramelized flavor, as well as long-lasting chewiness and softness (these cookies stay soft for days, the cornstarch also helps with that significantly), and the flavor is to die for.  

And while anyone who takes a bite will be able to detect the extra richness of flavor, no one who I shared these cookies with was able to identify any sort of secret ingredient.  Just “really, really, good cookies”.

OK, so what’s so bad about really really good cookies?

How about the fact that they will consume you as you consume them.  I’m not kidding about them wrecking your relationships.

Mom’s favorite chocolate chip cookie?  Ditch it.  You will snub your nose at every “favorite” cookie of the past and struggle to hold back scornful laughs at anyone who comments on a “delicious cookie”.  Nobody likes a cookie snob, but you will become one.

Here comes that girl again, the one who’s too good for Chips Ahoy.

Be prepared for weight gain.  It creeps up slowly, the cookies gently embracing you at first, then clinging to your thighs, your stomach, tighter and tighter until yoga pants are your only way out of the house.  If you’re worried about your significant other noticing, don’t bother, they don’t notice anything anymore, only whether or not there are cookies readily available for consumption.

Perhaps worst of all is that these cookies can be made so easily.  There’s no KitchenAid or any sort of electric hand mixer required to make these cookies.  They can be stirred by hand, dirtying only two bowls.

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever... Oh boy, I wish I'd never discovered this recipe!

They do need to chill for 30 minutes, which would only serve as a deterrent if 25 of those minutes weren’t spent sneaking copious chunks of dough from the refrigerator.

If you’ve made it this far, I fear it might already be too late for you.

It’s too late for me, unfortunately, and I’ve made these cookies nearly a dozen times in the past two weeks.  I’m swapping gym time for cookie time to keep my fridge well-stocked with dough, and the photo shoot for this post took three times as long as it should have because I kept eating the subjects.

If you can, stick to the “best ever” cookies, stick to Grandma’s cookies and the family favorites.  Those cookies are safe, they are your friends, made to be consumed by you.

These cookies will consume you, instead.

Good luck.

 

The WORST EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, melted and then cooled for at least 5 minutes*
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature preferred)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 3¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used half regular semisweet chips and half mini semisweet chips)
Instructions

In large bowl, stir together melted butter and sugars.

  1. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring combined.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring until completely combined.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Cover bowl with clear wrap and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes (chilling!? I told you, this recipe is the worst.)
  7. While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350F and prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.
  8. Scoop about 2-3 Tbsp of cookie dough and roll into balls, making them slightly taller than they are wide. Place them at least 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.
  9. Bake about 13 minutes (cookies will appear to be a bit underdone, but edges should be just beginning to turn golden brown).
  10. Allow cookies to cool completely on cookie sheet. If desired, gently press a few chocolate chips on top of the hot cookies.
  11. Keep unbaked cookie dough in fridge while waiting to put the next batch in the oven, and do not place cookie dough on a hot cookie sheet.
Notes
*You do not want your butter to be too hot or it may melt the sugar and you’ll have a very runny dough. Best practice would be to cut the butter into about Tbsp-sized pieces, microwave in 10-second increments (stirring after each) until it is just completely melted, and then allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Freezer Cooking!

What is your overall approach to freezer cooking: You can do a mix of one-dish meals—things like casseroles, soups, stews, and chilis—but I also like to prepare ingredients up to a certain stage and freeze them so I can grab them and start cooking some of my favorite meals. One of the things that some folks don’t love about freezer cooking is that there are sooooo many casseroles, which can get to be a little old after awhile…but if I have a bunch of individual ingredients prepped and ready to go, not everything has to wind up being in casserole form. (I’ll give you some examples in a minute.)

Also note: When you have a freezer full of food, you can then fill your fridge with salad greens, spinach, and other veggies so you can make a big, healthy salad on the side. Perfect!

When I do freezer cooking, I almost never freeze things in nice baking dishes or Pyrex pans—primarily because I don’t want to tie them up for such a long time.

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I’m an ardent fan of foil baking pans of various sizes: You can buy them in bulk at warehouse clubs, and in most cases you can wash and reuse them a time or two…or, if you’re not in the mood to wash anything, you can just toss them once the food is gone.

TPW_8001

Plastic freezer bags of various sizes are another favorite freezer vessel of mine, and my general approach is filling the bag, then totally flattening it as I seal it. So whether it’s taco meat or soup, they freeze flat and allows me to stack them as high as they’ll go. This is much better than filling them in an upright position, which makes ’em more bulky.

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I also love these food storage containers for stews, soups, sauces, etc. They are totally handy and can easily be reused.

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Labeling is very important from two angles: First, it’s always a good idea to know how many centuries ago something was cooked. Second, in the case of foil-covered pans or storage containers, you generally can’t see clearly what’s inside. Labeling keeps you from having to “break the seal” and peel the foil back or open a container. A Sharpie is my favorite tool, as it writes as clearly on foil as it does on plastic.

One helpful thing you can do is to write, along with what the dish is and the date, baking/warming instructions on each package, i.e. “375/40 minutes.” Of course, you’ll need to add the thawing time to that (or adjust the baking time accordingly.)

While you may have many one-dish recipes (casseroles, etc.) that you love to cook and freeze, one of my favorite freezer cooking tricks is making ready-to-go ingredients in bulk. Here are some things I do…and why:

TPW_6384

Grilled chicken breasts. I love grilling up a whole bunch of marinated chicken breasts, then freezing them whole in packages of 2 or 4. (I don’t want to put a whole bunch in one large bag because then I’d have to open and close it, which would affect the quality over time.) If you have frozen grilled chicken breasts, you can thaw them out and:

* Slice them and put them on top of a Caesar Salad
* Dice them and put them on top of a Cobb Salad or Chef’s Salad
* Chop them, quickly saute in a little oil and taco seasoning, and put them on tacos or inside quesadillas.
* Dice them and stir them into Tortilla soup
* Leave them whole and put them inside panini.
* Shred them and put them in chilis, soups, or pastas

sliders

Or cut ’em in half, melt cheese on top, throw on some bacon, and make sliders!

That’s a whole lot of dinner options right there, and you don’t have to worry about stocking your fridge with raw chicken all the time; it’s cooked up, all ready to go! You just have to remember to remove it from the freeze and thaw it out.

Salad Tacos

Browned Hamburger. Oh, the possibilities. I freeze it in smaller bags and larger bags so I’ll have the right quantity for what I need. Here are the worlds that are opened up:

tacos

Tacos. Throw it into a skillet with tomato sauce and taco seasoning and heat it up real quick, and you can have regular tacos, taco salads, nachos, even…

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Taco pizza with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes on top! (The recipe I linked to doesn’t have meat on it, but you’d just put it on top of the cheese layer.)

  • Make a quick Spaghetti Sauce
  • Make chili and sloppy Joes

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Uncooked hamburger patties. Flash freeze them on a sheet pan for 30 minute so, then freeze in zipper bags 2, 4, or 6 at a time. I love just forming a slew of patties all at once, then not having to worry about it.

pattymelt

All the better to make Patty Melts with, my dear!

Pie Crust. Formed into disks and stored in ziplocs. To use, just remove, let thaw for 30 minutes or so, then roll out.
Pizza Dough. Unrisen, stored in ziplocs.

muffins2

Muffins of all varieties!

rolls

Sweet rolls of all shapes and sizes.  You can freeze them, unrisen and unabaked…then thaw and bake them later. Or you can freeze them all ready to go and warm them when you’re ready.

french

Baked French Toast.  Make full batches, and freeze them in smaller foil containers (either round or square) before the baking stage. Then just pop ’em in the oven straight from the freezer. Yummy breakfast!

* You can also do a savory version using crumbled sausage, onion, cheese, etc.

burritos

Cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage for things like these breakfast burritos.

You get the picture?  The list is endless.  Soups, Stews, Chili and Sauces.  Pot Pies.  Pulled Pork.

 

How to Make Hot Sauce

Homemade Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a hot condiment. Not just spicy hot but “hot” as in popular. There are stores and websites devoted to hot sauce, complete with fun, catchy names and colorful labels. Every restaurant in America seems to have hot sauce on the table, and if not, all you have to do is ask for it.

This is a very basic, simple version. You can enjoy this recipe as it is or you can combine different types of chiles and aromatics to make your own. Just remember the basic ingredients for making any hot sauce: peppers, salt and vinegar.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Start with all red jalapeño chiles if you want a red sauce.  You can certainly use a different chile or any combination of chiles. You can even fire-roast the chiles! Regardless of what chile you choose, you’ll need about one pound of peppers.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Remove the stems of the chiles and roughly chop them. Add onion, garlic, salt and chiles with seeds into a food processor. Pulse until it becomes a rough puree. Spoon chile mixture into a clean 1-quart glass jar. Loosely cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Add vinegar to jar, stir, and loosely cover. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 day and up to 7 days. The longer it sits the more flavor develops. Don’t worry about letting it sit at room temperature! Because of the high acid content, it’s safe.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Pour the mixture into a food processor and process until smooth!

Then all you have to do is cover the jar tightly and store the hot sauce in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for up to four months.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Tada! Now you have some awesome hot sauce for your eggs in the morning. You can put this hot sauce on everything! That was easy, right? It takes some time, but that time allows the flavors to become more complex and almost sweeter.

Homemade Hot Sauce

There was a time when I stayed far away from hot sauce. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed an appreciation for quality hot sauce. And I’ve learned that there are so many different variations available! So you are almost guaranteed to find one that you like. Even better, with this recipe, you have the starting point for making the sauce that’s perfect for you. So feel free to experiment. Make it hotter, milder, chunkier, more garlicky, kinda smoky—go ahead and make it your own!

Now that you know how to make hot sauce, what are you going to put it on first? Is your family a hot-sauce-loving family?

Homemade Hot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Fresh Chiles, Such As Jalapeno, Serrano, Fresno, Poblano, Habanero, Or A Mix
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Diced Onion
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1-1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar

Instructions

Pulse chiles, garlic, onions and kosher salt in a food processor until you have a rough puree. Transfer to a 1-quart glass gar, loosely cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Add vinegar, stir and loosely cover. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 7 days. The longer you let it stand, the more the flavor develops.

Pour mixture into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Store in the refrigerator up to 4 months.

Note: Hot sauce may separate. This is normal; shake before use.

 

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New Episodes of Good Eats on Netflix

Netflix has had about 24 episodes of Good Eats for about 6 months. But we just noticed that it looks like those are now gone and were replaced with new ones! I know what I’m bingeing on tonight!

How to Soften Butter

Softening Butter 101

We’ve all seen the term “softened butter” in recipes, but what exactly are we looking for and WHY are we doing it?

You’ll find softened butter in recipes using the creaming method, typically for cookies, cakes, and muffins. Pie crusts, biscuits, and scones usually call for cold butter. Creaming is mixing the butter and sugar to create air pockets. These pockets are what help leavenings to work and make baked goods light and airy.

Softening Butter 101

Here’s what softened butter looks like. It should still be cool to the touch, but when pressed using a little pressure, your finger will leave an indentation.

Softening Butter 101

This butter is overly softened. A finger pressed in with no pressure at all will leave an indentation, almost sinking into the butter. Not only that, but the butter will be squishy all over. Air bubbles in butter that is too soft or melted will collapse—and we want those air bubbles.

Softening Butter 101

This, you might have guessed, is melted butter. Is it just me, or is this plate of butter smiling at us? Again, this will leave us with collapsed air bubbles.

Note: You can cream cold butter. You’ll need a stand mixer and a few extra minutes. You’ll also need to stand over your mixer with your hands over the bowl as chunks of butter may go flying across your kitchen. Don’t ask how I know this.

How to soften butter

Ideally, butter should be left on the counter for 30 minutes or so at room temperature. I like to take my butter out of the refrigerator first, then gather all of my other ingredients, line my baking pans, throw in a load of laundry, check Instagram, etc.

A microwave can be used, but watch carefully. For a half stick of butter, start at 20 seconds on 10% power. Check from there, and rotate the butter, if more time is required.

To hasten along butter softening on the counter, cut the butter into chunks. Another way to speed the process along is to place the butter between two sheets of waxed paper and roll with a rolling pin.

Softening Butter 101

Once your butter is softened, you’re ready to cream with the sugar. Start on low speed, then increase to medium-low (about a 3 or 4 on a stand mixer). Cream the butter for 2-3 minutes using the paddle attachment.

Softening Butter 101

This is the mixture after one minute. I can still see some chunks of butter and the mixture is heavy and gloppy. (Gloppy is a technical term.)

Softening Butter 101

After 3 minutes, the mixture is fluffy and lightened in color. The butter is completely incorporated with the sugar.

 

Show Mom How Much You Love Her With Something Personal

Are you looking for something special for Mother’s Day?  Have you run out of ideas?  Look no further, we have the solution for you.  Instead of a card this year, why not write your message on something she’ll use in her kitchen everyday? Every time she does, she will think of you.  All of these are available from $24 to $39.

 

 

Personalized Rectangular Cutting Board

Chopping Board with Engraved Name

 

Not what you are looking for?  No problem.  Maybe she’d like a new Recipe Binder, or something else we personally engrave for you.

Visit CookbookPeople.com for more great gifts for cooks!

April 26 is National Pretzel Day

Pretzels

Have a passion for pretzels?

soft pretzelJoin millions of Americans coast to coast who will be celebrating National Pretzel Day on Tuesday, April 26, 2016.

It’s the day to check out entertaining facts about how the pretzel was invented, and more on how to celebrate the twisted treat that’s been a favorite of knoshers since the 15th century!

Also, take advantage of local pretzel vendors who will be offering warm-from-the-oven goodness with free giveaways of fresh, chewy pretzels on April 26 in honor of the day.

Pretzel fun facts

german baking guild with pretzel
The pretzel is at the center of the arms
of the Backerhandwerks (bakers guild)
in Germany.

Pretzels have been enjoyed since medieval times when monks created the treats from bits of dough that were twisted together to represent a child’s arms in prayer. The frugal monks called it a pretiola, or Latin for “little reward.”

From there, the pretiola slowly morphed into the Italian word, brachiola, or “little arms.” The brachiola soon journeyed beyond France and Italy to find favor in Austria and Germany where it became known as the “bretzel.”

And the rest, as they say, is pretzel history…

• The phrase “tying the knot” came from the Swiss, who still incorporate the lucky pretzel in wedding ceremonies.

• The world’s first hard pretzel was said to have first appeared in the 17th century when a colonial Pennsylvania baker over-baked a batch, and deemed them delicious.

• Pretzels were made by hand until 1935 when the first automated pretzel machine was introduced, enabling factory bakers to mass produce them to the tune of 245 pretzels per minute.

• More than $550 million worth of pretzels are sold in the United States every year…. and that’s a lot of pretzels!


How to celebrate National Pretzel Day

hard pretzelsThat’s easy! Head to your favorite corner push cart to buy a soft pretzel from a street vendor. Smell the aroma, and savor the doughy taste as you dig in for some chewy just-baked goodness.

Or, make your way to the grocery store. In the snack aisle, you’ll find bags of hard pretzels of every variety including salted, non-salted, sourdough, onion, honey mustard, and more. Pretzels also come in sticks, squares and other shapes that give it just the right mouth feel for addictive snacking.

You can also head to the kitchen to make your own homemade creations. Some pretzel lovers use frozen bread or pizza dough for a quick way for making homemade pretzels, but if you want to create them from scratch, here’s the basic recipe:


Homemade pretzel recipe

How to make a pretzel twist
how to twist a pretzel
Roll 12″ pieces into long snakes.
Twist-tie the ends at top and fold
them over to meet at the bottom.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt


Directions

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture with the sugar, salt and flour and mix until a stiff dough is formed.
3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in volume.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Roll pieces out into long “snakes” and form into pretzel shapes (see illustration).
6. Place pretzels on lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops with the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

You can also get creative with a whole variety of pretzel recipes including instructions for making small, big, and oversized pretzels. Different toppings such as sesame seeds or poppy seeds – are limited only to your imagination. Have fun!

April 25 – National Zucchini Bread Day

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Five Food Finds about Zucchini

  • A zucchini has more potassium than a banana.
  • The word zucchini comes from ‘zucca’ the Italian word for squash.
  • Biggest is NOT best. The most flavorful zucchinis are small- to medium-sized.
  • According to World’s Healthiest Foods Nutrition info, nutrients and vitamins found in zucchini can help prevent cancer and heart disease.
  • The flower of the zucchini plant is also edible.

Zucchini Bread Overview

Zucchini bread first became popular in the 1960s. The hippie movement was in full swing, and hippies sought healthier foods. As an alternative to the sugary frosted layer cakes and sheet cakes of the time, sweet quick breads like zucchini bread and carrot cake became popular, modeled after banana bread. As with bananas, the high water content of the zucchini adds moisture to the cake.

This lovely tea bread contains grated zucchini, chopped pecans or walnuts, and optional ingredients such as coconut, grated apple, raisins, sultanas and even chocolate chips.

  • We enjoy it instead of a breakfast muffin.
  • It’s perfect as a tea bread, plain or with cream cheese frosting.
  • The loaves freeze well. You can cut slices from the frozen loaf and microwave for 10 seconds.
  • Grated zucchini and its accompaniments (nuts, grated apple, etc.) can also be added to a yellow or chocolate cake mix.

Don’t think that, because it contains vegetables, zucchini bread is health food. Yet, zucchini contains lutein, a phytochemical believed to protect vision. Baking with the optional whole wheat flour helps.

FOOD TRIVIA: Zucchini is not a vegetable but a fruit. It carries its seeds on the inside, like all other true fruits. Strawberries are an “accessory fruit” (previously known as a false fruit), a category where the fruit’s flesh is derived not from the ovary of the plant, but from some adjacent tissue. Other examples include figs, apples and pears. The strawberry is the only “fruit” with seeds on the outside. The “seeds” are actually incorporations of the pistils of the flower of the plant.

 

Zucchini Bread Recipe

Makes two 5×9-inch loaves.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans, plus a few tablespoons for
    optional garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium zucchini), skins on*
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • For chocolate zucchini bread: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips†
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*If you have extra grated zucchini, use it as a soup garnish or toss it into a salad.

For chocolate zucchini bread, omit the optional add-ins below except for the crystallized ginger option, either mixed in or used as a garnish.

 

Optional Add-Ins

  • 1 large grated Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dark, milk, white or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (we enjoy using the ginger as
    a crunchy topping instead of incorporating it into the batter—see Step 9 below)
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds
  • Zest of two lemons
  • Chopped nuts for garnish

 

Preparation

 

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Butter and the two loaf pans (or use a baking spray) and set aside. Or, line the pans with a parchment, leaving 2-3 inches hanging over the long side as to lift the zucchini bread out of the pan with ease.
  • Combine the walnuts and add-ins (apple,  chocolate chips,  coconut, etc.) in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy with a mixer. Add the brown and white sugars and beat until mixture is smooth, not crumbly.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Add the vanilla.
  • Squeeze excess water from the zucchini. Turning the mixer to Low, incorporate into the mix.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add half of the dry mix to the wet ingredients; incorporate, and add the other half.
  • Fold in the add-ins with a spatula.
  • Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans and level with a spatula. Sprinkle crystallized ginger or chopped nuts on top.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes; then turn out onto a wire racks to finish cooling.

 

April 24 – National Pigs in a Blanket Day

pigs-in-blankets-hillshirefarmFB-230

Five Food Finds about Pigs-in-a-Blanket

  • The first written record of pigs in a blanket occurs in Betty Crocker’s Cooking for Kids in 1957.
  • Pigs in a blanket are also known as devils on horsebacks, kilted sausages, and wiener winks.
  • In the United Kingdom, pigs in blankets are small sausages, or chipolatas wrapped up in bacon.
  • In America, pigs in a blanket often refers to hot dogs, Vienna sausages, or breakfast sausages wrapped in biscuit dough, croissant dough or a pancake and then baked.
  • You can combine these dishes by wrapping your sausage in bacon, then cooking them into a biscuit or croissant.
It’s time to celebrate National Pigs In Blankets Day.

Ask for some pigs in blankets in the U.K., and you’ll get a cocktail sausage wrapped in bacon (more like a pig in a pig, we think).

At IHOP, the International House Of Pancakes, you can chow down on pork sausage links rolled in a pancake “blankets.”

But across the U.S., what caterers declare to be the most popular hors d’oeuvre is a cocktail frankfurter in a pastry blanket. And don’t forget the mustard.

Culinary historians have tracked the first recipes for modern pigs in blankets—small cocktail franks baked in flaky crust—to 1950. According to FoodTimeline.org, these pastry-wrapped piggies are likely direct descendants of Victorian-era canapés.

The earliest recipe found in American cookbooks that was called “pigs in blankets” was published in the 1930. But there was no frankfurter or other sausage: it comprised oysters wrapped with bacon.

 

 

You know which little piggie recipe won out. So head to the market, grab some cocktail franks and a roll of croissant dough.
We highly recommend Dijon mustard.

While pigs in blankets are classic cocktail fare, we find them even more delicious with beer. The following recipe was adapted from Pillsbury.

RECIPE: PIGS IN BLANKETS

Ingredients For 48 Pieces

  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 48 cocktail franks (2 14-ounce packages)
  • Mustard for dipping

Preparation

1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Unroll both cans of dough and separate into 16 triangles. Cut each triangle lengthwise into 3 narrow triangles.

2. PLACE 1 frank on the thin point of each triangle. Roll up, starting at the point. Place it seam side down on an ungreased cookie sheet (you’ll need two sheets for this amount). Repeat with the remaining franks.

3. BAKE for 11 to 14 minutes or until golden brown, switching the position of cookie sheets halfway through baking. When done baking, immediately remove the from the cookie sheets to a serving tray(s) and serve.

 

April 23rd is National Cherry Cheesecake Day

chocolate-cherry-cheesecake-bettycrocker-230

A cherry cheesecake with a twist: a chocolate crust and chocolate glaze.

Prep time for this Betty Crocker recipe is just 35 minutes, plus another 5 hours and 50 minutes for baking and chilling.

You can make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it. To do so, first bake the cheesecake; cool and glaze. Freeze it until the glaze is set. Then wrap it tightly and freeze it for up to 1 month. Before serving, unwrap and thaw the cheesecake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

 

RECIPE: CHERRY CHEESECAKE WITH CHOCOLATE

Ingredients For 16 Servings

Ingredients For The Crust

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
For The Filling

  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 can or jar (21 ounces) cherry pie filling—or make your own with the recipe below

For The Glaze

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preparation

1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. In medium bowl, combine the crust ingredients; mix well. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

2. BEAT the cream cheese in large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sugar and almond extract until smooth. Add 1/2 cup whipping cream; blend well.

3. SPOON 3-1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture into crust-lined pan, spreading evenly. Carefully spoon 1 cup of the pie filling evenly overthe cream cheese layer (reserve remaining pie filling for the topping). Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture evenly over the pie filling.

4. BAKE for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour.

5. MAKE the glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup whipping cream to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate chips until melted.

6. LINE a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Remove the side of the springform pan. Place the cheesecake on the paper-lined cookie sheet. Spread the glaze over the cooled cheesecake, allowing some to flow down the side.

7. REFRIGERATE at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve topped with the remaining pie filling.

 

MAKE YOUR OWN CHERRY PIE FILLING

Some brands of pie filling are distinctly better than others. A safe bet is to pick up an organic brand. The extra cost is worth it.

For a luxury experience, we use a jar of sour cherry pie filling from Chukar Cherries (it’s $14.95).

But if your discriminating palate doesn’t like any canned cherry filling, it’s easy to make your own with just 20 minutes of prep time, and 1 hour 10 minutes of cook time.

RECIPE: CHERRY PIE FILLING

Ingredients For An 8-Inch Pie

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen tart (Montmorency) cherries; or canned cherries in water (see photo at right)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)
Preparation1. PLACE the cherries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer. After the cherries lose considerable juice (several minutes—stir occasionally), remove from the heat.

2. COMBINE in a small bowl the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into the hot cherries and combine thoroughly. Add the almond extract and stir. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently.

3. REMOVE from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water. It it’s too thin, add a bit more cornstarch.

April 22nd is National Jelly Bean Day

Here are today’s five things to know about Jelly Bean

  1. They were President Reagan’s favorite candy and he used them to help him quit smoking when he was the governor of California.
  2. Each year in the U.S, there are 16 billion jelly beans manufactured just for Easter.  This is enough to circle the Earth more than 3 times if they were laid end to end.
  3. The jelly bean is associated with Easter because of its egg-like shape.
  4. In the early 20th century, a “jelly-bean” was slang for a man of style and no substance.
  5. They were the first candy to be sold by weight rather than by piece.

Fun Fact:

The first jelly bean was created by an unknown American candy maker in the 1800s. An 1861 advertisement recommended sending jelly beans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War.

The original eight flavors of Jelly Belly beans introduced in 1976 were Very Cherry, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Lemon, Licorice and Grape.

Jelly Belly beans were the first jelly beans in outer space when President Reagan sent them on the 1983 flight of the space shuttle Challenger.

 

Today is National Jelly Bean Day. It’s also the 35th anniversary of the best-known brand of jelly beans, Jelly Belly, which petitioned for the holiday.

JELLY BEAN HISTORY

Many sugared confections are the ancestors of jelly beans. Turkish Delight, which is jelled sugar and rosewater coated with powdered sugar, is one well-known candy that, according to CandyWarehouse.com, is mentioned in the Bible.

Centuries later, an unknown confectioner switched the powdered sugar for granulated sugar, added some flavors, and created the gumdrop.

Then, in the 17th century, a French confectioner invented a process called panning, which created a hard sugar coating by stirring candies in a mixture of sugar and syrup. Nuts were panned (such as Jordan almonds); later, chocolate was used to create chocolate-covered nuts and other candies.

Take a gooey mixture called a sugar slurry, add a coating and you get a jelly bean. Jelly beans are made from sugar, corn syrup and starch, with small amounts of anti-foaming agent, flavoring, lecithin and salt. To make them shiny, they’re coated with edible wax and confectioners’ glaze.

The modern jelly bean is believed to have been invented in the U.S., sometime after 1850. The earliest recorded advertisement for jelly beans is from Boston confectioner William Schrafft, who may have also been the creator.* The ad promoted sending jelly beans to Union Soldiers engaged in the Civil War (1861-1865).

By the early 1900s, jelly beans had become a staple penny candy. Possibly, they were the first bulk candy. They became part of the Easter tradition in the 1930s, when somebody connected their egg shape with the eggs symbolic of the spiritual rebirth of Easter. Their festive colors made them a perfect celebratory candy.

During World War II, much of the chocolate produced in the U.S. was sent overseas to soldiers. Americans focused on other sweets; flavorful, colorful jelly beans became popular.

And, if you’re old enough to remember, they were the favorite candy of president Ronald Regan. He persuaded the Jelly Belly company to make a blueberry jelly bean so that he could serve red, white and blue jelly beans in the Oval Office.

Here’s some jelly bean trivia:†

  • Americans will eat some 15 billion jelly beans over the Easter holiday.
  • Boys are more likely to eat a handful at a time while girls like them one by one.
  • Given an assortment, most people eat them in this order: red, purple, green, yellow and black.

 

April 21 is National Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day

Here are today’s five things to know about Cashews

  1. Pistachio, mango, cashew and poison ivy are in the same family.
  2. Cashews are native to Costa Rica and Central America. The fresh cashew nut has a substance inside that produce a big burn and rash in skin and mouth, at the same time this is a highly valuable product known as Cashew Nut Shell Liquid or CNSL, ingredient that have special structural features for transformation into specialty chemicals and high value polymers, this is important considering the fact that, since this is a renewable resource, is better than synthetics.
  3. One thing is the cashew nut and a different thing is the cashew apple, this last one is a kind of fruit to which it’s attached the nut, this fleshy fruit has an aroma some people love while others dislike, the most common way of preparation of this fruit is doing a tasteful juice mixed with water and sugar.
  4. Cashews in Costa Rica are harvested during March and April.
  5. A quite interesting experience is to burn in wood fire a raw cashew nut, this CNSL is highly flammable and while it burns produces impressive tiny explosions. Kids shouldn’t try this without parent’s supervision.  Gases and fumes can also irritate, so this experiment should be done in open spaces.

Fun Fact:

India is the world’s largest producer of cashews, with Brazil second and Africa a distant third.

While high in fat, cashews actually contain less fat than other mass-produced nuts, such as almond and walnuts, and the amount of dietary fiber contained make them a good food for weight loss when eaten in moderation.

Cashews have a high fat content, which means that if they are left at room temperature, they won’t stay fresh for long.

April 20 is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day

Here are today’s five things to know about Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

  1. The term ‘upside down cake’ wasn’t used very much before the middle of the 19th century, but the style of baking probably dates back much further, probably to the Middle Ages.
  2. The early recipes for fruit upside down cakes were made in cast iron skillets on top of the stove.
  3. The classic American ‘Pineapple Upside Down Cake’ dates to sometime after 1903, when Jim Dole invented canned pineapple.
  4. The Hawaiian Pineapple Co. (now Dole Pineapple) held a pineapple recipe contest in 1925, with judges from Fannie Farmer’s School, Good Housekeeping and McCall’s magazine on the judging panel. The 100 winning recipes would be published in a cookbook the following year.
  5. The Hawaiin Pineapple Company ran an ad campaign in 1926 based on the fact that so many recipes for the cake had been submitted, naturally making the Pineapple Upside Down Cake even more popular.

Fun Fact:

Caribbean Indians placed pineapples or pineapple crowns outside the entrances of their homes to symbolize friendship and hospitality.

The Spanish explorers thought pineapples looked like pinecones, so they called them “Pina.” The English added “apple” to associate it with juicy delectable fruits.

Pineapple, “halakahiki” in Hawaiian, meaning foreign fruit, has been grown in Hawaii since the early 1800’s.

 

This cake was originally made in a skillet and called skillet cake; fruit was set on the bottom with the batter poured on top. The baked cake is inverted, and the fruit that was once at the bottom forms a decorative topping. When canned pineapple rings became available in the first half of the 20th century, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became the rage—often with maraschino cherries in the center of the pineapple rings. As the recipe evolved, cooks put their skillets in the oven to bake. Nordicware, creator of the bundt pan, created a special round  pan with indentations for the pineapple slices, guaranteeing an even presentation. Upside Down Cake is related to the Tarte Tatin, an accidental upside-down pie from 1880s France.

Family Cookbook: Turn Family Recipes Into a Cherished Heirloom

Creating a Family Cookbook! All you need to know about creating your own, GREAT tips and resources! @amandaformaro

Collect your family’s recipes and compile them in a book for a truly delicious heirloom.

What would Thanksgiving be without your aunt’s famous pumpkin pie? If Grandpa doesn’t bring his special chocolate swirled fudge to holiday get-togethers, chances are a family riot might break out! (Well, not really, but you get the idea.)

Recipes are quite often handed down from generation to generation, handwritten on food-stained index cards or scrawled onto lined paper tattered over time.

Now imagine collecting some of those favorite family recipes and compiling them into a cherished cookbook everyone can enjoy. You’ll need a little time for this project and we all have busy lives, but, with a little perseverance and a lot of love, you can put together a wonderful family heirloom that will be cherished for years to come.

Making a list
First, make a list of all the recipes you would like to include in your book. Try to keep it manageable and don’t shoot for too big of a book to start with. Try maybe 15 or 20 recipes as a springboard and work from there. If you aren’t sure which to include, start contacting family members for their favorite recipes and ask them to contribute. Be sure to list the names of the family members you’ll need to contact for each recipe.

Collecting the recipes is the hardest part
Remember, everyone is busy. It’s quite possible that one of the recipes is only used once a year. Asking a cousin to find that recipe between her son’s soccer practices, her daughter’s dance class, work and making dinner might not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s probably not on the top of her priority list. Try to make it easy for people to submit by creating a written recipe template they can fill out, offer to let them email it to you or let them dictate it to you over the phone.

Decide on the contents
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, photographs and quotes from the recipe’s creators can make nice additions to your cookbook. If you are pressed for time, however, you may want to consider keeping the book design simple, or just using a few clip art images instead. Remember: Collecting the recipes will take time — as will collecting photographs and gathering quotes. Keep all of this in mind when planning what will go in to your book.

If your deadline isn’t looming, here are a few ideas for personalizing your family cookbook:

    • Family interviews – Try asking questions about the recipes to be included. How many generations has the recipe been handed down? Who started the tradition? What special memories are associated with this particular recipe?
    • Photos and other art – Include family photographs of holiday gatherings, vintage photos of descendants or even hand-drawn artwork from the young members of the family.
    • Handwritten recipes – Make use of original hand written recipes — even those on aging recipe cards. Scan the recipe and use it as a photo in the book. This adds nostalgia and authenticity to your collection.
    • Collection of memories – Ask family members for their favorite memories about certain recipes and the relative that usually prepares it.
    • Quotes – Did your grandma always say “A pinch of pepper goes a long way,” or do you remember her uncanny ability to never waste a thing? Quips and quotes add personal touches to the pages.
    • Food photos – If you’re feeling ambitious and you have extra time, make a few of the submitted recipes and take pictures! They will make a wonderful addition to your cookbook.

Choosing a publication method
In its simplest form your cookbook could be created in a word processing document then printed out and bound together by hand. If you prefer something a little sturdier, however, several companies offer private publication.  We here at The Cookbook People offer a cookbook making software allowing you to create this wonderful masterpiece using your home computer.

Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software (CD or Download) here

 

Prices for these services vary depending on the size of your book as well as the number of pages needed. There are also options for soft and hardcovers, and even hardcover with “lay flat” pages. Research the different options each company offers to find the best option for you.

Whether you decide to print the pages yourself, take them to an office printer or use online software, your results will be heartfelt and appreciated. Family cookbooks preserve wonderful memories and will be cherished by all that receive them.

April 19th is National Rice Ball Day

Here are today’s five things to know about Rice Balls

  1. The rice balls preserve very well, and can even be used to preserve meats or other foods within its airtight seal.
  2. The rice ball is traditionally Japanese.
  3. Typically the rice is soaked in vinegar and made to stick together.  Dipping it in soy sauce will cause it to fall apart again.
  4. Rice balls date back at least as far as the 11th century.
  5. Another word for the rice ball is “Onigiri”, a word commonly misused to refer to sushi.

Fun Fact:

Popular onigiri fillings include tuna salad, salmon flakes, seafood salad, konbu (a type of sea vegatable), umeboshi (a sour bright-red pickled Japanese plum), tempura, and even natto (eat this one at your own risk!).

“Onigri” literally means “to hold on to”.

It was believed that onigiri could not be mass-produced as the hand-rolling technique was considered too difficult for a machine to replicate. In the 1980s, however, a machine that made triangular onigiri was devised.

April 18th is National Animal Crackers Day

Here are today’s five things to know about Animal Crackers

Barnum's Crackers

  1. The famous Barnum’s animal crackers box was originally a Christmas ornament hung by a string.  The string can still be found on boxes.
  2. A box of Animal Crackers sold for 5 cents in 1902.
  3. Animal Crackers originated in England where they were known as animal biscuits.
  4. 54 different animals have been created as animal crackers. The most popular brand, Barnum’s Animal Crackers, has featured 37 different animals since 1902.
  5. The most recent addition to the Barnum’s animal crackers is the Koala bear.

 

 

Fun Fact:

Over the years, the only ones that have survived the entire lifetime of the product are bears, elephants, lions and tigers.

Shirley Temple sang “Animal crackers in my soup, Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop,”, but rabbits never found their way into a box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers.

The name referred to P. T. Barnum (1810-1891), the famous circus owner and showman.