Post #789 A Brisket! A Brasket! And I’ll Stop Now

March 1, 2021 at 10:07 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not long ago, maybe three weeks or so, Partner/Spouse and I lucked into a deal at the grocery store. It was a 20 pound full-sized beef brisket for only $16. There were a whole case of them, most of them larger than the one we bought. When I got home, I cut it into 5 pieces that would each feed five people, much less the two of us. I wrapped those pieces in foil rather than zip locks so I had a visual cue to what was in them. We do this all the time. Whenever we see a deal on protein, we grab it (if we have space in the freezer). It helps keep the grocery bill down.

The weekend was warmer than normal, in the low 40s, so we weren’t looking for warm comfort foods. But I wanted to use a piece of brisket because it’s so tasty. I took a chunk out and put it in a gallon zip lock to thaw out. I put it in the bag so any meat juices would collect there instead of in odd, out of the way places on the counter or in the fridge. I let it thaw for two days and used it on Saturday.

Brisket is a very fibrous cut of meat, with a LOT of fat on the outside and marbled on the inside. The fat gives it flavor and tenderness, but because of the fibrous nature of the cut, it takes a long time to cook to get it tender. Low and slow is the only way to make a brisket good. Once it’s done, though, it’s the best tasting piece of meat on the whole cow.

So I knew I wanted it low and slow, but I also knew given that it was a warm-ish day, I didn’t want to turn the oven on to heat up the whole house all day long. (We even had the heat turned down to 65 rather than its usual 68 and it was still comfortable.) So the obvious solution is the crock pot. We have two. We have the standard round 5 quart that’s our work horse, and we have an oval 7 quart one that we use for larger meals. I thought the piece I thawed out was going into the larger one, but when I unwrapped it, it turned out to be two smaller pieces that would fit nicely into the smaller one.

I’d recently read a recipe for slow cooking meats in an onion soup mix. The recipe called for cans of french onion soup, but I always find canned soup to taste like metal and salt. We had a Knorr instant soup mix packet for french onion soup so I decided to use that.

I put half a cup of cold water in a jar with a tight lid, then poured the soup mix into it. I tightened the lid and shook it as hard as I could to dissolve it all. I cut all the major fat pockets off the meat and set it in the crock pot, then poured the soup sludge over it. I used tongs to turn the meat to coat it evenly. The crock pot went on, and I ignored it for the next four hours (except to check that it was actually working.) After six hours, the meat started to turn tender so I pulled it out to add stuff to the sauce. While the meat was tender, it still had a lot of cooking to go before it could be eaten easily.

I opened a new bottle of our favorite barbecue sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s! Half of that went into the sauce, then a half cup of ketchup to give it a little more body. Then a took and extra large onion, peeled it, sliced it, chopped it large, and added that. Stirred it all up then put the brisket back in. By this time, the brisket had relaxed enough to squish it down into the sauce completely. Two hours later, it was ambrosia!

I had a ton of ideas on how to serve this. I thought about baked potatoes, but we’d had those twice this week. Then I thought about mashed potatoes, but I wasn’t really in the mood for those. I thought about noodles, but I didn’t have the kind I wanted, and didn’t really want to make any from scratch. Rice is a good go to starch, but again, just wasn’t feeling it. Then I thought about biscuits.

Baking biscuits is simple, but it takes finesse. However, there is an amazing work around for these:

They come in a lot of different style, but we like the buttermilk best. They’re in the frozen foods cases. We keep a couple of bags of these guys around all the time. Instead of having to make an entire batch of biscuits, we can make the exact number you need. And they turn out great!

Look good, don’t they? Trust me, they are.

So, we put brisket and onions and sauce in a bowl, and put biscuits on top of that. Hot, tasty, savory, and wonderful! I wish I had a picture to share but we ate so fast, pictures weren’t possible. The meat was “fork tender” which means a knife was not necessary to eat this. The onion soup mix gave it all the flavor it needed, but the barbecue sauce made it smoky, sweet, tangy, all the flavors of a barbecue pit. The extra onion just ramped up that flavors, but they also took on the flavor of the sauce and became a sort of vegetable noodle.

The best part was I managed to put this all together with “junk” I had on hand.

So what happy “accidents” or “on purposes” have you had in your kitchen? Share and let us know about them.

As always,

Post #788 Hi Karen! Let’s Talk Turkey!

February 26, 2021 at 12:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hi Karen! You were asking me a while back about healthier alternatives to the fat-filled cuts of meat that are so inexpensive. I was walking through the grocery store a few days ago, perusing my options. Partner/Spouse and I tend to fall into the carnivorous category, and we generally choose from three proteins – Chicken/Fowl, Pork, and Beef. Not in order of popularity because we probably eat about equal amounts of each. We stay away from prepackaged and pre-seasoned meats because we’re never sure how they taste, and mostly they’re full of salt. So we get the base protein, and do our “magic” with them. Recently, we’ve been on a turkey binge. We’ve been trying to find turkey rolls. These are small turkey that have all the bones, guts, and skin removed, then meat is rolled together in a netting. You get all the dark and light meat in about 2-4 pound rolls. Easy to cook; yummy to eat; and convenient since there’s no carcass to get rid of. But they’re not to be had around here at this time of the year, for a reason known only to the grocery store managers.

However, Partner/Spouse pointed out that there is always ground turkey available. Anything you can do with ground beef, you can also do with ground turkey. So, Karen, we’re going to discuss some of your favorites and some of our favorites, but substituting ground turkey for ground beef.

First thing to understand about ground turkey is that it isn’t ground beef. While it can be exchanged in most recipes, it has to be treated a little differently. For instance, the flavor profiles need to be lighter. The heavy, earthy flavors of beef can support more robust spices and herbs. Turkey is a fowl, a lighter flavored meat, so the lighter spices and herbs must be used. As with anything, there are exceptions, and you’ll discover those as you play around with the recipes. Also, ground turkey tends to be stickier than ground beef, so sometimes a little flour is needed to counteract that. Ground beef is a mix of the meat and the fat deposits, and ground turkey is too. However, turkey has a lot less fat in it so many times extra fat must be added in the way of oils and/or butter. Always use a healthy oil like EVOO or canola oil. Partner/Spouse swears by a product from Land O’ Lakes he loves that is a blend of butter and olive oil so it’s healthier but still has all the flavors and benefits of butter.

So, the first recipe we’re going to discuss is one of your favorites (and mine) – meatloaf! Start with one pound of ground turkey. Use a dark and light meat blend. In a medium bowl, add the turkey, one cup stuffing mix (I use Stove Top for the extra herbs), two eggs, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, two slices of bacon chopped fine, 1/4 cup chopped onion, two cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup ketchup, two teaspoons Italian Spice blend, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 cup chopped parsley (or not), and mix by hand until well blended. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil to make clean up easier. Place the turkey mix on the baking sheet and shape into loaf about 8 inches by 5 inches. I used to use a loaf pan but the meatloaf then stews in the collects grease and juices. Put the meat loaf into a preheated 400 degree oven for ten minutes, then turn the temp down to 350. Drizzle the ketchup over the meatloaf. Check the internal temp after 30 minutes and continue cooking until it reaches 165. Take the pan out of the oven and let rest for ten minutes, then move to a platter. Slice and serve with salad, or potatoes, or inside bread for a sandwich. Once the tray has cooled, carefully ball up the foil liner with the collected juices and toss. The baking sheet should still be clean.

The next two are variants of the meatloaf. Meatballs are made the same way, but shape the meat into sixteen equal meatballs. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 400 for fifteen minutes. Turn the oven off but leave the meatballs in the oven for another fifteen or twenty minutes. While this step is happening, make your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce and pasta. Add the meatballs to the spaghetti and eat it all!

Turkey burgers are wonderful. When I make beef burgers, usually all I want on them is salt and pepper (light salt, heavy pepper). Then just a lightly toasted bun with mustard and cheese. With turkey burgers, I use garlic and onion powder mixed into the meat, and salt and pepper on the outside. Fry the burgers as you would beef burgers, but use a non-stick pan, or spray a regular pan with a non-stick spray. Cook until the juices run clear. When I use a pound of meat, I make four burgers, but since I usually only eat one, I freeze the other three to have later. Saves on cooking time. When I prep them, I nearly always use a whole wheat bun and toast it lightly. I layer lettuce, ripe tomato, sliced dill pickles, and provolone cheese on one bun, and mustard and ketchup on the other bun. The meat patty goes on the condiments and gets topped by the veggies. This is the only burger I do this with, but in my opinion it’s the only way.

We love chili con carne in our house. I’ve written about it before. Turkey chili we tend to make on the green side, rather than the red side. In a large pot, brown the turkey and drain any juices. Add one cup of chopped onion and continue to cook until the onion is soft, about five minutes. Do not allow them to brown. Add three cups of chicken broth (turkey if you can find it), one can of white beans (cannelloni work great), one can of green chilis, and four large tomatillos chopped. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Cook for an hour, then open a can of diced tomatoes and drain all the juice from it. Add the tomatoes to the pot, and cook for another fifteen minutes. Serve hot with sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, and warm flour tortillas.

The next recipe uses up the leftovers from the chili. In a large bowl, make your favorite cornbread. You can start from scratch, or use a box mix. It doesn’t matter. Divide the cornbread into two portions of 1/3 and 2/3. Place the 2/3 in a pan per its instructions. Layer the chili over the batter evenly about 1/2 inch thick. Use the remaining batter to dot the top so the chili and cornbread is mottled. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top and bake per instructions. Allow to cool ten minutes, then scoop into bowls and eat with your favorite sides.

Another way to use leftover chili is to reheat and spoon into large flour tortillas. Spread cheddar cheese over the chili and fold the tortillas to form burritos. It’s excellent.

Another good recipe for ground turkey (and the last I’ll be writing about for now) is rice casserole. You could also call this a rice bake. It tends to be loose rather than binding. But if you use enough cheese, it’ll bind together like a brick so there’s that. In nearly any casserole, you have a meat or meat substitute, a carbohydrate, a veggie, and a binder. In this case, our meat is ground turkey. So brown some turkey in a skillet, drain, and set aside to cool. Cook some rice and cool. Chop some vegetables and set aside. Make a gravy or sauce and set aside. Grate some cheese and set aside. Now, lets start with this specific recipe. Place the cooled turkey in a large bowl, and add two cups of cooled, cooked rice. Mix them together and add two teaspoons of Italian seasoning. Add the veggies. These can be any veggie you like. I like fresh broccoli and fresh mushrooms. Black olives are good, and chopped carrots. They can be anything that you like. For this one, I’m going to use just fresh mushrooms and black olives, but I’m also going to add roasted and salted sunflower seeds cuz they’re good. For a binder, I could use an egg, but instead I’m going to use a garlic sauce I made with fresh garlic, flour, butter, and chicken broth. So one cup of that is going in, plus a cup of grated white cheddar cheese. This all gets thoroughly mixed with the turkey and rice. The whole mess gets slammed into a baking pan that will hold it all. Then I’ll sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and sesame seeds over the cheese. This goes into a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Once everything is hot and golden and bubbly take it out and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. Serve with a salad or crusty bread. Leftovers are wonderful, too.

So, Karen, I hope this helps out a little bit. We’ll talk later about more recipes for you!

Please feel free to share the post as you like.

And as always,

Post #787 The End of a Quest!

February 18, 2021 at 4:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anyone who knows me longer than fifteen minutes, or has read the blog more than a few entries probably knows that I like wine. My favorite is Chardonnay, oaked, buttery and aged. But I’ve tried every kind of white wine imaginable, even the sweet ones. I used to turn up my nose at the reds, but I’ve started developing a taste for them in recent years but I’m more selective of those. I prefer the dry wines, and dislike the sweet ones. I won’t go near a “pink” wine; they’re just Kool-Aid with an alcoholic kick. If the wine is dry (not sweet) and has bubbles and is chilled to just this side of ice, I’m in heaven.

Years ago, I was working in Paris and we had mini-apartments. I was there for nearly three months and got to see the seasons change from late summer into fall then the start of winter. I walked my legs off in that city. Our hotel was about three to five miles from where we worked. I’d take the subway (Le Metro) in to work, but I’d walk home nearly every night. Sometimes, I’d take the metro to the halfway point where there were a series of shops, and I’d buy something cheap for dinner and walk the rest of the way. One Friday night, I decided to do some writing, so I stopped and got a baguette, a salmon filet, some butter, some cheese, a tomato, and I wanted a bottle of white wine. I went to the wine section and learned a lesson. France loves wine. The wine section was HUGE! And it was all in French. I wasn’t as familiar with wine then as I am now, and as I perused the selection, the back of my mind held on to the fact that my salmon was going to turn on me. I finally just grabbed a bottle of white and checked out.

When I got back to the hotel, I put everything away, and set the wine in the freezer to chill quicker. I set my computer up on the balcony and lit a candle since it was getting dark. Then I wrote a few hundred words on a short story. By then, I figured everything would be chilled or at room temp, depending on what was being done. I took the wine out of the freezer and set it aside. I melted butter in a frying pan over low heat and set the salmon, skin side down in the pan. I wanted a low, slow cook on the fish. While the fish was sautéing, I sliced the bread on the bias and spread it with more butter. The tomato I cut into bite sized chunks and sprinkled a few salt crystals on them. Then I opened the wine to let it breathe. Once the salmon was done, I prepared my plate, poured my first glass of wine, and sat on the balcony. The salmon was tasty, the bread was crunchy and good, the tomato was ripe and luscious. The first sip of wine I nearly spit out. It was sweet! Not the dry delectable drink I was hoping for. It tasted like Robitussin cough syrup. I managed to get two glasses down during the evening, but poured out the rest of it. After that, I learned the words for the various types of wine and made sure I got the right stuff.

So, during my days of wine and roses, I tried various wine openers until I found my favorite over time. This one:

The tiny knife cuts the foil around the top. The corkscrew goes into the cork. The fulcrum levers the cork out in two stages and makes it a simple 30 second process.

I’ve tried various stoppers and have quite a collection of novelty stoppers. My favorite is a metal stopper with a small rubber ring to keep air out and the stopper secured, and is topped with a simple wooden ball that’s been polished and finished to a gleaming shine. The ones I use most, though, are simple rubber stoppers that I used over and over.

I have wine carafes, and wine glasses of various sizes and uses. I used to buy wine glasses by the boxful, but now I just keep four of each kind/size. Way back when I was starting my wine journey, my brother bought me a wine set that I loved. It was made of wood, my favorite material. It had a heavy base to avoid tipping. It had an ornate side piece that held a small shelf about twelve inches higher than the base. The shelf had a hole near the side piece to hold a carafe or a bottle, and the rest of the shelf had four cut outs to hold four wine glasses bowl side down. The base had a small cut out to hold the corkscrew. I fell in love with the thing, and my brother was so proud of giving it to me. The glasses were the perfect size for a good pour of wine, and heavy enough to be stable, and had a simple and elegant design. There was just one drawback, that my college roommate found shortly after I brought it to our apartment. We had finished dinner and were cleaning up. Although we sometimes ate together, we seldom cooked together since we liked different things. I was a few feet away from him putting something away, and I turned to ask him something. He was drying something and as he turned, it flew out of his hand and in a perfect trajectory cleanly snapped every single glass right where the stem met the bowl then hit the carafe and shattered it. We both stared in amazement at the four stems swinging slightly in their holder for a few seconds. Then I started to laugh because from my angle it looked so funny. He was very apologetic, but what was done was done.

I managed to replace the pieces over time since they were pretty standard. I loved those glasses. I lost the other bits and pieces but I kept the glasses for years. Then, somehow, I lost them. I don’t really have a clue when I lost them but I went looking for them one day and they were gone. So, I went looking for replacements. They were not to be found. Other more popular styles and sizes had replaced them. By this time, I was divorced, living on my own, and still keeping my eyes open for them.

One evening, I had just returned from an international trip and a friend had called asking to meet me for dinner. We went to a nice restaurant where I ordered a glass of KJ (Kendall Jackson, one of my go to wines) chardonnay. A couple of friends of his chanced by and since he needed to talk to them about something, they sat with us and they had their conversation, apologizing to me for leaving me out. I wasn’t bothered since I was still pretty tired. My glass of wine arrived and it was in a huge balloon glass rather than a standard wine glass. Even in that huge glass, I could tell that the amount of wine in it wasn’t the standard pour. So I asked the waiter if he could ask the bartender to pour a little more into it since it was obviously not the right amount. He came back with the same amount and explained the bartender said it just looked like less due to the size of the glass. I replied that since I couldn’t get the amount I was paying for, I’d rather have water anyway since I was driving and very tired. I ordered my dinner and while I was waiting, a man came up to me explaining that he was the bar manager and wondered why there was a problem when they had explained what was happening. I told him there wasn’t a problem. I didn’t get the amount of wine I was paying for, so I decided I didn’t want wine anymore as I was driving. He left and returned with a glass of wine filled to the brim, just on the edge of overflowing. He set it down carefully so as not to spill it and said that it was on the house. I told him he might as well take it away as I wouldn’t be drinking it, and that I wasn’t a fool and wouldn’t let him make me one by even attempting to pick up a glass designed to spill all over me. “But it’s free!” he said. “I don’t care. I don’t want it anymore. Please take it away.” But the thing I noted about the whole transaction was that the wine glass was my perfect glass! (The incident didn’t end there with conversations with the restaurant manager, bad Yelp review, requests to change said review, offers of free meals, etc. But I remained firm and haven’t returned to the restaurant since. I don’t like being insulted.)

But seeing the glass at the restaurant gave me an idea. Maybe a restaurant supply house would have the glass? I went online and searched. Every place I looked had the glass, but the smallest lot you could buy was 36! It made sense given where I was looking, but I wasn’t going to buy $150 worth of wine glasses. So I kept my eyes peeled, and periodically asked at various restaurants if I could buy the glass, too. No one let me. I was hoping to score one or two that way.

A few years later, Partner/Spouse and I started dating, and one of the things we love to do is search through antique stores, second hand stores, yard sales, flea markets, etc. I’d been in this one a few times and thought I remembered seeing my favorite wine glasses, but instead of clear, they were a light purple. I decided since I couldn’t find them anywhere else, I was going to buy the purples ones if they were still there.

They were!! Yay!

I kept them stored on my counter and used them often. But somewhere, when I wasn’t paying attention, they disappeared again. I don’t remember when or how. And this time, when I started looking, they weren’t even at restaurant supply stores. I was actually going to bite the bullet and buy 36. I knew the name of the glass as it was called years ago, but couldn’t find them anywhere.

A couple of weeks ago, I was washing the dishes and one of them was a wine glass. I had found some glasses that I liked but weren’t my favorites. I mean, they were my current favorites, but not the ones I’d been search for. Over time, I’d broken all but two. As I was drying the glass, I felt it start to give and suddenly I was holding a large shard of glass in one hand and the glass in the other. Luckily, the whole mess was in the towel I was using so no cuts or blood was involved. But that left me with one “good” wine glass. So I ran a search on Amazon and put in the long remembered name of my favorite wine glass with no hope whatever of finding it. And I was right. No hope, and no wine glasses. Since I knew the measurements, I looked for some with the same measurement and style. I found some kind of close and figure it would do. They arrived two days ago.

I couldn’t believe it. These are them! I box of twelve for $20! I was thrilled. I washed them all, kept out four, stored the rest, and now I’m a happy camper.

So I hope you enjoyed the story of my quest. I enjoyed reliving it, and I really enjoy the wine I’m drinking in the glass.

So, has there been something like this in your life? Something you’ve looked for and couldn’t find, then chanced across it by accident? Let us all know. Feel free to share if you like!

As always,

Post #786 Blueberry Muffins on a Cold Cold Day

February 14, 2021 at 12:32 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

This past week was colder than it has been since we first arrived in New England. The Polar Vortex event that’s been dumping snow in unusual places has left us relatively snow free (new snow, that is), but with sub-zero temps that almost make it hurt to go outside. This kind of cold:

So when you have to go outside, like to walk the dog, or go get groceries, or put out the trash cans, or even to just check the mailbox nailed to the house, you gotta bundle up, and I mean bundle up hard. It’s a five minute production to get all geared up. I’m usually wearing wooly sox to keep my feet warm so those go into fur lined slippers. Then I put on a thick woolen cowl I knitted for myself (and neighbors and FiL) that can double as an ear warmer or balaclava, but usually it just to keep my neck warm. My baseball cap with the phrase “Easily distracted by dogs” on it goes on my head. Then I put my thick coat on. I lucked into this thing on Amazon and it’s the second best coat I’ve ever owned. The only one better was one I picked up in Finland during winter there. Once I’m all set, I have to get the dog set. He’s young and happy and exuberant and bouncy so he doesn’t feel the cold very much despite having short fur. So he just gets a harness across his chest that buckles across his back. We’re completely against throat collars as leash holders because they can bruise the dog’s trachea. Once outside, it usually only takes a minute before I can feel the frost building in my nostrils.

But, oh, that feeling when you walk inside. Warm and cozy, and your nose starts to run if it isn’t already from the cold. And if something is baking or stewing or slow cooking, the aromas make it feel warmer and cozier.

Last week, even with the amazing cold snap, I didn’t do any baking or slow cooking. Partner/Spouse was out of town for the week and arrived home yesterday. Today, this morning, I made blueberry muffins for breakfast. The amazing aroma, and wonderful flavor, it just made the morning feel so homey, and go so slowly. Here’s the recipe I followed.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2/3 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated golden sugar
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup frozen Maine Wild Blueberries
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter melted
  • 6 teaspoons golden sugar separated into 1/2 teaspoon portions

I started the muffins last night by setting the butter out to be softened when I got up. I also left out the eggs last night. So let’s talk about golden sugar. Golden sugar is a “new” product. It’s simply pure cane sugar that’s been processed less than standard white sugar. It has a light brown or golden color, and can be used cup for cup in place of white sugar. It’s flavor is sweet with a very slight brown sugar or molasses hint. I accidentally bought some a few weeks ago when I was reaching for white sugar that was on sale. I had to go back for the white sugar the next day, but I kept the golden sugar because it intrigued me.

So, to make the muffins, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed in a large bowl. Once they are blended completely, add the eggs one at a time and beat on low till incorporated. Set the bowl aside. NOTE: if you like the flavor of vanilla in muffins you can add a half teaspoon to this mix now (I did.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. If you like a more Autumn Spice flavor (I no longer admit to acknowledging pumpkin spice anymore) add some cinnamon and allspice. Just know that even after it’s baked, allspice flavor gets stronger over time so use it sparingly. I always grate the nutmeg fresh into the bowl. It’s really easy and takes no time. Use a long microplane. Set it over the top of the bowl and get a nut of nutmeg. Using long strokes, grate half the nut for a teaspoon. The recipe calls for half of that, but we like the flavor so I usually use a full teaspoon. Using a small to medium whisk, blend the dry ingredients thoroughly.

Now, using the 3-2 method, add one third of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture and beat until just blended. Add half the milk and beat, then add half the remaining dry ingredients and blend. Add the rest of the milk and blend, then the rest of the dry ingredients and blend. Using a rubber spatula, stir slowly to get rid of any lumps. The batter will be thick, almost cake like. Using a slow folding method, stir in the blueberries. We always use Maine wild blueberries, frozen or fresh. They’re smaller, and the flavor is intense.

Prepare a twelve cup muffin tin by spraying with vegetable spray and sprinkling with either flour or sugar (guess which I used?) Divide the batter evenly into the cups. (We like big muffins here so our muffin tins are larger than normal. So, instead of twelve, we got ten. But there’s only the three of us, so that’s plenty.) Once the tins are filled, spread the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle half a teaspoon of golden sugar over each. (If you want to, you can also add cinnamon or other spices to the sugar at this stage.) Place on the middle rack and bake until the edges are brown and crispy, 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin to make sure they’re done. The toothpick should come clean.

Remove the muffins from the pan and place on a cooling rack immediately. Allow to cool to room temperature, then eat as many as you want. As I stated earlier, I made ten. Here’s what’s left:

One of the best parts of this process (aside from eating home made blueberry muffins) is the amazing aroma that fills the house. Start to cooling process, this recipe takes about 45 minutes. I’m already making plans to fill these muffins with seeds, nuts, protein whey, etc. to make a health muffin. If I manage to work this out, I’ll let you know about it.

So what’s your weather like where you are? Do you find baking helps deal with it like I do? Let us know, we’d love to share with you. And feel free to share the post as you like.

As always,

Post #785 Kitchen Hacks Again! 15 of ‘Em!

February 7, 2021 at 1:46 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Something happened yesterday that reminded me I haven’t done a post on kitchen hacks in a long time. A hack of any kind is a shortcut to a favored result. For instance, here in the bitter cold, when you want to go somewhere in the car and there’s half a foot of snow covering it, you have to get that snow off. You have to be able to see, and it’s the law. You’re not allowed to drive around with snow on the car. It becomes a hazard for other drivers (seriously, folks, people have been killed by this stuff), and it can become a hazard for you. So you have to break out the ice scraper/brush and clear the snow. OR you can use this little hack that everyone up here knows about. Turn your car on and let it idle. Turn your heater on hot and full blast. Set the vents to point at your windshield. Then go inside and relax for fifteen minutes. When you come out, the snow is melting off your car and clean up is easy. You get the added benefit of sitting in a preheated car, too. There’s another hack for frosty days when the windshield is covered in a thick layer of frost that won’t scrape off easily. Start the car, set the heater as before, and get a pan of warm water (not boiling or hot, trust me) and pour that over your windshield. Turn on the wiper blades and the frost is gone in seconds.

Those are hacks. Secret short cuts that everyone knows. Most of the time. So here’s a bunch of kitchen hacks for you to learn or remember.

 #1 The FiL wanted fresh veggies on his grocery list this week. We go to a store that sells two types. Locally grown, either on farms or green houses; and imported from countries near the equator where winter seldom happens. You can see the difference between the two because of shipment protocols. The scallions he wanted were limp, but I got them anyway because I knew a hack. You can freshen up scallions and celery by putting them in a glass of water a few hours before using them.  You can also regrow them both in the glass of water.  The scallions will grow faster.

#2 I made fresh bread a couple of weeks ago, and when I was done kneading, because it was a soft dough, I had bits of dough clinging to my fingers and strangely, to the back of my hand. If dough is stuck on your hands, “wash” them with more flour or with corn meal.  Stand over the trash can or the sink.  The dough on your hands will rub off.

#3 A few days ago, I cooked a chuck roast in the crock pot for hours to make it soft enough to shred for tacos. I put a half cup of water in the pot and a couple of tablespoons of both garlic and onion powders, along with salt and pepper, and a dried Hatch chili. It almost made a paste, but I knew two things: the meat juices would add to the broth and coat everything in a wonderful flavor, and crock pots and long cooking times tend to decrease strong flavors. The beef turned out great, but even hours after finishing dinner (tacos on corn tortillas with beef, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, and lettuce, eaten by hand) and washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, every time my hands got near my nose, I could smell the beef. It wasn’t unpleasant, just annoying. Then I remembered a hack someone told me about. Wash your hands with any mouthwash to get rid of stubborn odors. Worked like a charm. And the minty fresh smell dissipated quickly.

#4 We got a new dog. He’s still just a big puppy, only eight months old. He’s a really big puppy. He’s big enough to get onto the counters and into the trash can. So, we had to get a new one with a foot controlled lid. The old one still has years of life left to it so it got relegated to my office. But, rather than buy three or four different size trash bags, I just use the ones that fit the new one. They’re a little big so I use a hack my sister showed me. To tighten a trash bag that too large for a trash can, pull the excess to one side and twist tightly.  Use an old plastic bread bag twist holder you’ve saved. Alternatively, if the bag is too small, cut a small slit at the top, avoiding a strap if there is one, and use binder clips attached at the midpoints at the top to keep the bag in place.

#5 When we’re going to cook meats in our house, we like to dry age them in the fridge for many hours, sometimes for a couple of days. I’m one for recycling and reusing. It galled me to put meat on a plate, then wash it while I was cooking. Then I blitzed into an idea. Not sure where I got it, either from a show, a book, or my brain. You can use the same plate twice without washing by putting foil or plastic wrap over the plate to hold the meat.  Once all the meat is in the pan, get rid of the foil or wrap and use the clean plate to hold the cooked meat. How simple is that?

#6 Mis en place is a thing. It’s pronounced meez on ploss. It helps make cooking go smoother. Then you get to the instruction “Salt and pepper to taste.” No one knows your taste but you and who knows how much salt and pepper a recipe needs. How do you set aside enough salt and pepper for your mis en place? So pour some in a small bowl and take pinches out. Makes sense. But you know why that works from a health standard? Using a small bowl decreases cross contamination from the original containers. Who knew? I didn’t until a few days ago. Don’t laugh at me.

#7 We eat pasta a lot in our house. Sometimes it’s fresh, but mostly it’s dried. And when dried pasta is being boiled, boil overs are a problem. You can use a pot large enough to allow you to have boil ups that don’t boil over, but that can be problematic in its own right. Decreasing the heat after it reaches a boil once the pasta is in can help, but it can overcook the pasta, making it mushy. To decrease boil over when cooking pasta or other items where the amount of water is not an issue, splash a small amount of cool water into the boil over and it was subside for a few minutes. Keep splashing a little in each time, and it’ll cook great.

#8 Microwaves are awkward to clean. They always in the worst place and it’s hard to reach the inside top. The easiest way to clean a microwave is to put a bowl of water, at least two cups, inside and run the machine for about 4-5 minutes.  Allow the water to cool for several minutes without opening the door.  The steam will soften any residues which will wipe up easily with a damp sponge or paper towels.  Anything that won’t come up can be retreated or a stronger cleaner can be used.

#9 This one I know I read somewhere, because it would not have been on my radar. We don’t drink beer in our house so the boxes aren’t hanging around at all. But! Empty beer six pack boxes store foil, plastic wrap, and parchment paper boxes along with other rectangular boxes of that size.

#10 Empty paper towel rolls can provide safe storage for many things:  tongs, micro-planes, long knives, and other things. You just have to be careful and replace the tubes when they wear out.

#11 An alternative pot holder when you need one is a silicone garlic peeler. It peels the garlic and keeps heat away. What more can you ask for for only $5.99?

#12 A quick make shift mortar and pestle can be a large coffee mug and a glass spice bottle. I don’t use a mortar and pestle very much, but Partner/Spouse does. Crushed pepper and spice blends are quick in a mortar/pestle set.

#13 We have a penchant for citrus in our house. We both grew up where citrus was king, and it wasn’t Florida. I could reach out off the back porch and get a lemon (when they were ripe) any time I needed one. We had electric juicers, and glass juicers, and knew all the tricks for getting more juice out of the fruit, like rolling against a hard surface or microwaving for a few seconds. It’s about bursting the inner cells so the juice is released. What if you don’t have any of those things? If you want to get juice out of citrus but don’t have a citrus reamer, try using a beater from a hand mixer. Obviously, not plugged in or anything, just hold the fruit in one hand and insert the beater with the other. Use a twisting motion exactly as though you had a reamer, and the juice will flow. Any beater will work, but the ones with the thin, wire like blades work best.

#14 This is the one that made me think of kitchen hacks. I was making egg salad for the FiL for lunch. The best way to cool boiled eggs quickly is to shock them with ice water. It helps peel the eggs easier and gets rid of the black layer around the yolk. To cool boiled eggs quickly without ice, empty the boiling water as much as possible, then run the cold water faucet in the pan continually for ten minutes.  Once the pan is full, you can reduce the amount of water going into the pan so the water replenishes itself about four times during the ten minutes. When it’s done, drain the water, and give the eggs a little shake. That’ll help release the inner membrane, too. Makes them easier to peel. One of the ones I did the other day came off in two complete separate pieces. It was like I’d finished a quest or something!

#15 You can avoid tearing fried eggs when transferring from the pan to the plate by spraying the spatula with vegetable oil spray to make it slick and allow the egg to slide off. This was a tip from ATK we watched over the weekend. It was one of those obvious things that I never ever thought of. It wasn’t an Aha! moment; it was D’Oh! moment.

So, I hope this helps you out some. If you have any kitchen hacks you’d like to share, please feel free. And share the post far and wide if you’ve a mind to.

As always,

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