Kitchen Tips I Wish I’d Have Known Sooner

Anyone who has cooked has run into the inevitable missing, not enough or spoiled ingredient.  I have also over cooked and under cooked more things than I can count.  Had I known these tips before I’d have saved many recipes from disaster!

Kitchen Tips and Tricks

  • No Heavy Cream – If your recipe calls for heavy cream and you don’t have any don’t panic!  You can make your own heavy cream with just two ingredients:  Whole Milk and Butter.  Simply combine 2/3 Cup whole milk with 1/3 Cup melted (and slightly cooled) unsalted butter and you’ve got 1 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • Carrots – To keep them fresh the longest, cut the tops off and store them in a closed plastic bag in the refrigerator.  If you leave carrots out too long and they look sad and limp, throw them into an ice bath (ice and cold water in a large bowl or bag) and they’ll perk right up.
  • Eggs (Are they still good?) –  Fill a pan or a bowl with water and place the eggs you intend to eat in the water how they rest tells you if they are still fresh enough to eat.On the bottom of the bowl: 100% fresh and at peak flavor; One corner lifted: A week or so old. Entirely edible!; Standing on a point: A couple weeks old. Eat as soon as possible;  Floating at the top: Super old! Do not eat!
  • Run out of eggs in the middle of a recipe? – You can substitute 1/2 of a mashed banana, 1/4 Cup unsweetened applesauce, or 3 TBLS creamy peanut butter for an egg in a pinch.  Other substitutions include: I TBLS ground flax combined with 3 TBLS water; 1 TBLS chia seed combined with 1/3 cup water (mix & let stand 15 minutes); or 1 TBLS soy protein powder combined with 3 TBLS water.
  • Have ingredients but don’t know what to make with them? – Go to http://www.supercook.com, enter your ingredients and it tells you what you can make and how to make it.
  • Tired of crying when you cut onions? – Rub the blade of your knife with canola or olive oil before you start cutting and reduce the tears.
  • Are your zucchini noodles too wet/mushy? – Sweat them on a paper towel on a cookie sheet in a 200° F oven for 30 minutes before you cook them.
  • Limp Celery – Wrap your celery in foil before placing in the crisper and it will stay fresh for weeks.
  • Hard Ice Cream – Put ice cream container in a sealed zip bag and ice cream will stay soft.
  • The biggest kitchen error I make is boiling eggs!  Inevitably they come out over done (you know, when the yolks are grey- ick).  I found a great graphic and list that will make cooking eggs the mindless task it should be!

eggtimingchartStep one: Place the eggs in a pot with cold water. Make sure there’s an inch of water above the eggs and don’t crowd them in. (Tip: Add vinegar to the water so eggshells are easier to peel)  Place the pot on the stovetop over high heat.

Step two: When the water starts lightly boiling around the eggs, cover the pot and move it to a burner that’s off or onto a potholder on the countertop.  Time to set the timer:

Three minutes: Whites are soft and slightly gloopy. Yolks are completely liquid.

Four minutes: Whites are set but soft and floppy. Yolks are still runny but a little more solid.

Six minutes: Whites are soft but firm. Yolks are smooth and pudding-like.

10 minutes: Whites and yolks are totally firm, but yolks are still creamy.

15 minutes: A completely solid, hard-boiled egg.

Remove from the hot water and place them into an ice-water bath for a minute to stop the cooking. Tap ‘em on the edge of the sink to gently crack and peel them open.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Did You Know…?

freezer_openThere are many foods I didn’t know could be frozen, saving me from the inevitable time when I need something like buttermilk, which I never have on hand when I come across a recipe that calls for it.  Learning this led me on an internet search to see what other seldomly stocked foods can be frozen for use later.

You Can Safely Freeze:

  • Buttermilk:  Fill an empty ice cube tray.  Freeze overnight and transfer frozen cubes to a freezer bag.  Keeps up to 3 months and each cube slot measures 1 ounce (1/8th of a Cup)
  • Bananas:  Freeze them overnight when they are at their ripest point (when skin is browning but not going bad) in their skins. Using a sharp knife slice the frozen bananas in half lengthwise and peel off the skins.  Store in freezer bags for use in smoothies.  Homemade Frozen Bananas: Put two frozen halves together with a popsicle stick between them and coat with melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle with/roll in nuts, coconut, or rainbow/other sprinkles and place on a pan lined with waxed paper.  Freeze an hour or two and enjoy for dessert.
  • Butter: This is particularly good to know since I rarely need unsalted butter and buy it 1 pound at a time (4 – 1/2 Cup cubes) when it’s on sale.  Now I can cut cubes in half  (1/4 C portions) and freeze them in freezer bags for later use!
  • Cheese: Don’t freeze whole chunks – it crumbles when you defrost and try to slice it.  Instead grate or shred it and freeze in 1 Cup portions in zip bags for recipes at a later date.
  • Eggs:  Remove the shells and freeze individually in snack sized zip bags.  You can also freeze egg whites separately from their yolks.  I’d recommend marking the bags with the number of egg whites or whole eggs you freeze per bag to make using later easier.  Frozen “pre-made” omelettes:  In a large measuring cup crack the desired number of eggs and whisk .  Stir in 2 TBLS milk, 1/4 Cup each chopped bell pepper (or any pepper you desire) and chopped ham (bacon, turkey, chicken breast, ground beef, sausage, etc.) and 2 TBLS chopped onion (if desired).  Pour into sandwich sized zip bags and freeze until needed. Great weekday breakfast option.  You can remove a bag to the refrigerator the night before to thaw, pour into a preheated pan to cook, sprinkle with a bit of frozen grated cheese & eat right before running out the door the next morning.
  • Garlic: Separate cloves but leave skin on and freeze in a doubled zip bag to keep freezer odor free.
  • Wine:  Unlike hard alcohol, wine does freeze solid.  Freeze in 1 ounce portions in an ice cube tray and transfer to a freezer bag to use in sauces or other recipes.
  • Yogurt: Measure it into 2 to 4 TBLS (aka 2 to 4 oz or 1/4 to 1/2 Cup) portions and freeze in zip bags.  Don’t forget to mark the bags for later recipe use.
  • Lunch meat: Can be safely frozen in zip bags for up to 2 months.
  • Bread:  You can freeze a loaf of sliced bread for up to 3 months and you don’t even need to thaw it before eating it. The freezer is a better storage option than the fridge, which can dry bread out.
  •  Milk / Half & Half:  Milk can be frozen for 3 months.  Half & half stays good for 4 months in the freezer, but never freeze heavy cream.  Cream doesn’t freeze well at all.  I never understood why my mother-in-law always shook the milk before pouring out of the carton, now I do!  She kept it frozen in the chest freezer in the garage and was breaking up the ice.
  • Grains:  Quinoa, farro and bulgur last 3 months in the cupboard but up to 6 months in the freezer!
  • Tofu:  Chop it in chunks and freeze for up to 5 months to add to smoothies, soups, stews, etc.
  • Tortillas:  That at room temperature, not in the microwave.

Important things to remember about freezing any food are:

  • Make sure you are using a bag or container meant for freezer use to ward off freezer burn, keep smells from escaping into the freezer, and keep your food fresher longer
  • Remember to mark the date frozen as well as the last date you should use the food directly on the bag or on a piece of tape with a permanent marker.
  • Don’t over stuff your freezer.  A well organized freezer gives you the ability to easily see what you have on hand and helps food freeze faster/stay frozen because cooled air can flow between and around the packages.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Roasted Jalapeno Avocado Bacon Pie

Because Thursday is the slowest day at my “real job” I usually have time to fool around in the kitchen to try to create a new dish to serve for dinner.  This week was no different except that I needed to come up with something healthy because I am (BOO – HISSdieting i.e., not eating anything that even resembles Halloween candy or that I can pick up at a drive-thru window, have delivered to my front door, or comes out of a can or box.  No Bueno!

jabpieings Determined to stay on track, into the kitchen I went to make a healthy meal that would taste good, keep me full and make my digestion work hard (and burn calories) all night long.

aha-cartoonHappily I found some of my favorite spicy, salty, satisfying flavors there!  Bacon, fresh jalapenos, a forgotten Roma tomato (thankfully still firm), some ripe avocados from my backyard, green onions, eggs, and a wedge of aged gouda.  AHA Moment: I’d eat breakfast for dinner!

Roasted Jalapeno Avocado Bacon Tortilla Pie

  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/4 Cups Sour Cream
  • 4 Slices of Bacon (cooked crisp, drained, cooled and chopped)
  • 3 Green Onions
  • 1/2 of 1 Large Roma Tomato
  • 7 Corn Tortillas
  • 1 Medium Avocado
  • 1 Cup Shredded Aged Gouda Cheese
  • 1 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil Spray
  • Freshly Ground Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9.5″ Pyrex pie plate with the Olive Oil Spray.

In a small non-stick frying pan heat each of the tortillas until just lightly browned on both sides.  Lay one in the center on the bottom and then layer the rest around the pan overlapping to make sure there is a “crust like” coverage.

In the same pan roast the whole jalapenos until the skin bubbles and begins to blacken.  If you want a bit less spice, remove the seeds and stem first.  Combine both of the cheeses: sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese over the bottom of the tortilla crust.  When peppers are roasted, chop them and scatter over the first cheese layer.

Chop and quickly dry saute’ the whites only of the green onions (chop the greens and set aside) and the Roma tomato with a bit of salt & pepper.  Distribute the onion/tomato mixture over the jalapenos then cover with 1/2 of the remaining cheese.

Chop the avocado then layer it with the bacon over the second cheese layer.

Mix the 4 eggs and the sour cream until well combined and beginning to thicken.  Add cracked salt and pepper then pour carefully over the pie surface taking care not to overflow the edges of the exposed tortillas on the sides. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and put pie pan in the center of the pre-heated oven.  Bake 40-45 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown and a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out with no egg mixture on it and center is cooked through.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing into wedges to serve.  Top each wedge with the reserved chopped green onions.

jabpie2     jabpie3     jabpie4

To make this a complete meal serve with a salad of Romaine, the reserved 1/2 of the tomato, and any other fresh produce you’d like (I chop a green apple, some jicama, and add a shredded carrot) then dress lightly with olive oil, combined with salt, pepper and some lemon juice to keep it healthy.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to:  recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. If so, visit my This Girl Loves To Eat community at:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Doc Says It Might Be Time To Cut Back a Bit

childdietI hate dieting!  Me without a hearty breakfast (think coffee, eggs, bacon, and some kind of bread), lunch, a snack around 4, and dinner + wine = a grumpy, hangry girl with a raging headache!

But I’ll be a good girl, at least as much as I can be, so my doctor gets happier with my blood tests and that stupid body composition machine she likes to torture me with every few months.

So, I grudgingly started today with a meal replacement shake prescribed by my doctor: Designs for Health PaleoMeal Plus Lean Body 14 Day Program.

There are some pluses to this choice:

  • It’s only available with a doctor referral
  • You get a significant discount off the regular $139 with a doctor referral
  • It’s made with Proserum, exceptional quality, native whey protein concentrate
  • Comes from cows that graze on pesticide-free, chemical-free natural grass pastures, and which are never given hormones, genetically modified organisms, or injected pathogens
  • The most important part, I get to eat between meals!

In addition, I know that I’m not making an effort to drink enough water, so 1 stocked up on liter bottles of Essentia 9.5% alkaline water.

Lunch was a really exciting smoothie concoction that I threw into the Vitamix:

  • 2-3 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach
  • 1 Large Ripe Nectarine – seed removed
  • 1 Naval Orange Peeled
  • 8 Medium – Large Frozen Strawberries
  • 6-8 Ice Cubes

I mixed the fruit & spinach together on 2-5 speed until blended then threw the ice cubes in and popped it up to 8 until the ice cubes were crushed up.  It was a very putrid shade of green but surprisingly sweet.

Big Bonus:  I got 5 of my fruit/vegetable servings out of the way in one fell swoop!

sugarbabiesTattling on myself:  While I was digging through the refrigerator I came across a bag of Sugar Babies.  The bag of Sugar Babies is no longer in the refrigerator…  Baby Steps.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood