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Recipe: Pastry Cream


No doubt about it.. I love pastry… French, German, Swiss, Austrian… you name it… the flaky pastry with that creamy vanilla cream… heaven in your mouth….

Pastry creams are relatively the same… a basic vanilla custard like cream… some have more eggs than others… but overall… very much the same. This recipe I’m about to post is very basic… you can alter it by adding all sorts of things… from coffee to liquors …

You can use it in many recipes calling for pastry cream or even pudding for fillings.

The recipe is adapted from a Le Cordon Bleu recipe… but to be absolutely fair it is important to note… that this is a basic pastry cream that many others have made as well.

TIPS


As I mentioned … this is an adapted recipe… I used the original Le Cordon Bleu recipe as a guide. The problem with it was that it was in grams and ml…. the ml were no problem at all.. measuring cups have both cups and mls.. so that was fine.



The problem was converting the sugar, flour and cornstarch… seems everyone had a different conversion… some were not even close to each other either… converting it is not as simple as one would assume … it seems the weight plays a role in the conversion… so I estimated and experimented.

I originally used 3 tablespoons each of flour and cornstarch… I found the pastry cream a little too thick… I ended up adding a splash of milk and whisking vigorously .. it smoothed right out perfectly.

If your pastry cream ends up a bit too thick for your tastes… add a small splash of milk and whisk it… add more as needed and whisk vigorously…. the cream should smooth right out.

I subsequently decreased the amounts and they worked better.. the result was softer and creamier.

I converted the sugar quantity to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons and that worked out very well… you can use more or less to your tastes.

I love the flavor of vanilla.. so this has a strong vanilla flavor.. if you like a more subtle flavor start by adding less than my recipe and adjust as you taste it to your tastes.

The key to the smooth texture is whisking vigorously throughout cooking.

The cream will burn easily… a heavy bottomed saucepan is recommended… make sure you whisk all over the bottom… especially in the corners … if it burns on it will leave a burn taste in your cream.

If you don’t have a vanilla bean… use the extract quantity instead.




Have all the ingredients and utensils ready since cooking will move fast.






So let’s start making this delicious cream…






Recipe: Pastry Cream

All you need:

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
500 ml (or 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons) whole milk
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or to taste

All you need to do:




Combine about ½ of the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until they are pale yellow.







In a small bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch (I stir with a whisk to mix evenly).

Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk until smooth, it will form a paste.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, add the milk, remaining sugar and vanilla bean.
Heat to boiling, do not leave unattended.

Remove from the heat and remove the vanilla bean. (you can slit the vanilla bean and scrap out the vanilla beans and add them to the milk if you want).



Using a ladle, add a small amount of hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Add a bit more hot milk to the mixture. (You are tempering the egg yolk mixture so it won’t cook the eggs into a scramble when you add the rest into the pot).







Add the tempered egg yolk mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly.








Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly and vigorously.

Pastry cream will thicken quickly. Remove from the heat. If lumps occur, whisk vigorously to smooth out, if it still has lumps or is too thick, add a splash of milk and whisk vigorously.

If cooked egg pieces appear in your pastry cream, strain through a sieve.
Pour the pastry cream into a heat proof bowl.




Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and allow to cool. Whisk again before using.

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All About Vanilla


This post is … as promised… a result of my “vanilla investigation”… everything you need to know about vanilla but were afraid to ask… or didn’t know to ask… which … if you’re like me… is probably more the case.

So just what is vanilla? … a good place to start. Vanilla is a flavoring derived from Vanilla Orchids… yep… orchids.. those really pretty flowers your prom date bought you…. well .. probably not exactly what he bought you.. but an orchid nonetheless.

Background

These vanilla orchids are indigenous to Mexico. The name comes from the Spanish word… vainilla, which means little pod. Up to the early 1800’s attempts at cultivating it outside of Mexico failed.

It wasn’t until 1837, that a botantist, Charles Francois Antoine Morren discovered the reason. It seems there are these bees that are local to Mexico that are needed to pollinate the vanilla orchid. Morren developed a method to artificially pollinate the vanilla orchid. Unfortunately, it was not financially feasible to do this.

It wasn’t until 1847 that a French slave living on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean discovered that the Vanilla Orchid could be hand pollinated. This method of hand pollination allowed for global cultivation of the vanilla orchid.

Different Types of Vanilla Beans

I guess I never thought about it before… but it should have been a “no-brainer” that Vanilla Orchids cultivated in different parts of the world would taste differently…. but it wasn’t. It wasn’t until I used the vanilla extract that my Mother had sent me … did I realize it tasted differently than the ones I purchased locally. The one she sent me was produced in Mexico.

After all… wines made with the same variety of grapes cultivated in different parts of the world will have “different layers” of flavor … the plants “absorb” different minerals from the soil and atmosphere… and climate will also influence how something will taste… so it stands to reason that vanilla from different parts of the world will taste slightly different.

I decided to investigate further and was surprised to find quite the list of varieties of vanilla beans available. I will briefly list what they are and a description that I got from Beanilla.com. For information, see their website.

Mexican Vanilla Bean - they are very dark brown/black. The flavor of these beans is creamy, smooth, sweet and spicy with an intense, rich and spicy scent.

Madagascar Vanilla Bean – as the name implies, they are from Madagascar, which is where about 60% of the world’s vanilla bean production is from. They are a blackish brown color and a strong rich vanilla scent. Extracts made from Madagascar beans are very common.

Bourbon Vanilla Bean – this bean is from Papua New Guinea, it’s black in color and it too, has a strong, rich vanilla aroma. These beans have a traditional vanilla flavor which is creamy, sweet, smooth and mellow. The name Bourbon has nothing to do with the alcohol Bourbon, but instead it is named for the Bourbon French kings that ruled the island of Réunion when the method of hand pollination was discovered.

Indian Vanilla Bean – these are from India, and are similar to Madagascar beans. India is fast emerging as a major vanilla producer. These beans have a strong, full, rich vanilla aroma. They have a sweet woodsy flavor.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean – these beans are from Papua, New Guinea. They are very dark brown and are often described as smelling like licorice, cherries or wine. The aroma is flowery and fruiting with a smooth flavor.

Tonga Vanilla Beans – this bean is from the Kingdom of Tonga in the south Pacific. They are brown in color and they have a strong full vanilla aroma. Some say similar to red wine.

These are a few of the main producers or vanilla beans to give you an idea of what’s out there and to give you a better understanding of what you are purchasing.

The bottom line, while all may be good beans, they are not the same. You will find, as I did, when I happened to try a different vanilla extract, the flavors are distinctly different, all basically a vanilla flavor but distinctly different.

Vanilla Bean Products

Vanilla Beans – you can purchase vanilla beans. They are available in supermarkets, usually by a major spice brand. They tend to be very expensive. You can find them far cheaper online.

I would recommend Beanilla.com, although there are other sites selling them also. The beans a long and thin. Many recipes have the vanilla bean dropped into the sauce pan during cooking. An example would be when making pastry cream. The bean is removed after cooking.

You can slit the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the tiny beans and put them directly into your food. The black specs sometimes found in vanilla ice cream are these tiny beans.

Vanilla Extract – is a solution containing the flavor compound vanillin. The solution is made up of alcohol and water. The US FDA sets the minimum standards for the extract at 35% alcohol and 13.35 ounces of vanilla bean per gallon.

Vanilla Paste – is pure vanilla made of vanilla beans. It matches vanilla extra in flavor strength and usage. You use it exactly as you would extract. Whatever the recipe calls for.. a teaspoon of extract equals a teaspoon of paste. The advantage of the paste is that it will give that black flecked look of vanilla beans to your food.

Purchasing Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are expensive in the supermarket. We recently looked and were shocked at the prices. I found better prices online at Beanilla.com

Storing Vanilla Beans

According to the folks at Beanilla.com, wrap the vanilla beans in wax paper or plastic wrap and store in an airtight glass container or Tupperware container. They recommend that you squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent them from drying out.

They should never be stored in a refrigerator, the refrigerator will dry them out.

Store them in a cool, dry place such as a pantry or basement.

They should be aired out every few weeks for about 15 minutes.

Properly stored vanilla beans can last up to 2 years but it is recommended you purchase them and use them within 6-9 months.

Dry Vanilla Beans

If your beans dry out, they can be rehydrated by soaking them in warm water or milk for several hours.

Moldy Looking Vanilla Beans

If your beans get a white, frosty look… this is most likely not mold. Vanilla beans can form crystals and they are edible. If you do suspect actual mold, though, throw them out.

For more information, please see Beanilla.com

I hope this information has been helpful… and you enjoy eating vanilla as much as I do!

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My Love Affair with Vanilla

I have always loved vanilla… even as a young child when given a choice.. I always chose vanilla. The cartoon of a kid standing in front of a large board listing all of Howard Johnson’s 28 ice cream flavors… thinking and thinking … only to finally choose… vanilla… that’s me.. totally me.

As I grew older… I started liking chocolate and then specialty flavors … but deep down in my heart… I’m still a vanilla gal… for sure. I lean toward vanilla in all things pastry and desserts. I bake with it… make puddings with it… make drinks with it… and one would think I’d know lots about it… well… think again.. I honestly didn’t.

My parents went to San Antonio on a trip with friends.. and while they were there… the ladies went shopping.. BIG surprise… and ended up in a gourmet foods store… another BIG surprise… the ladies were all over these big bottles of vanilla.. so my mother.. went along and bought hers too.

When my Mother was lamenting that she bought this big bottle of vanilla (32 ounce) and how she doesn’t bake much anymore… I offered to take it “off her hands”… since I go through so much vanilla… uh huh.. I was more than happy to “help” her out…

Anyway Mom sent the bottle to me… and I was in vanilla heaven.. a large bottle of vanilla… and I mean large… now you know how expense teeny bottles are… just figure what a 32 ounce bottle is worth… she should have sent it with an armed courier.

Vanilla is expensive no doubt about it.. with the economy the way it is … I was thinking of investing in a “vanilla farm” .. better yet… make my own vanilla farm…. But first I thought I’d better investigate a bit more… since other than loving it.. I didn’t know much about vanilla.

So I will share what I found…. see my post All About Vanilla

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Recipe: Country Fried Steak


I may be a New Yorker at heart… but there are definite advantages to living in the south… well …the winter for one thing… weather down here is a tad better in the winter… assuming you’re not a snow bunny… and I’m not… and of course… the food too.

Oh .. I still am a salad and lots of veggies kinda gal… but then there are those times a little good ole home cooking does a girl good…

What better home cooking than Country Fried Steak. I have tried making it over the years … I used to use cubed steak.. and frankly.. I didn’t care for it.. tough as nails ..


So I headed to the meat department of my local grocery store… and lo and behold I found steaks labeled for cooking Country Fried Steak.. now how great is that??

The steaks were labeled…. Beef Round Eye Round Steak… so I grabbed a package and off I went.

I perused recipes and most were almost identical… so I settled on a seasoned flour and egg wash method… hot oil… not really much to the recipe…

Country Gravy is a must… along with mashed potatoes and corn or green beans… corn it was… and supper was planned.

TIPS

This recipe makes a tasty crust… but it will not make the batter type crust… so if that’s what you’re looking for.. you best keep looking for another recipe…

I tenderized the meat … aka … smacking the Cr@p out of it… I laid down a piece of waxed paper… put the meat on top… covered with another piece of waxed paper… and away I went… you can use a meat mallet if you have one.. or I used a heavy metal pasta server… worked like a charm.. the meat just spread out nicely.

Don’t plan on cooking this long… I cooked it probably a total of 4 minutes… make sure your oil is hot…

My 4 steaks were small and thin… it was enough for two servings.

Serve with Country Gravy.

So here goes… another Southern tradition… Country Fried Steak..






Recipe: Country Fried Steak

All you need:

About a pound of round steaks
½ cup of four
Salt and pepper
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons millk
Oil for frying (about 1 cup)
Country Gravy

All you need to do:

Place the meat between two sheets of waxed paper and smack it a few times with a mallet to tenderize it.

In a shallow bowl place the flour and season it with some salt and pepper.

In another shallow bowl, beat the egg and milk.

Dredge the meat in the flour, shake off excess.

Dip the floured meat in the egg mixture, let excess drip off.

Dredge the meat again in the flour, shake off the excess.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. (350 degrees F)

Cook the meat for about 4 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

Drain on paper towels.

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Recipe: Country Gravy


Country Gravy is one of those things that one must have with Country Fried Steak… you just have to.. no questions or debate… it simply goes with it… like your left shoe needs your right shoe… you simply must have it.

Basically Country Gravy is a White Sauce made with pan drippings instead of butter… it’s as simple as that.

TIPS

Make sure you whisk constantly and vigorously when adding the milk so no lumps form.

This is best made with whole milk.

Most Country Gravies are heavy on the pepper.

So let’s get to it…






Recipe: Country Gravy

All you need:

About 2- 3 tablespoons of pan drippings and oil left in the skillet
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups of milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

All you have to do:

Remove all but about 2-3 tablespoons of oil from the skillet you cooked the Country Fried Steaks in.

Add the flour… mix well, scraping all the bits off the bottom of the skillet…. and cook for about 1-2 minutes to cook off the flour taste.

Add the milk slowly, whisking vigorously as you add it so you don’t get lumps.

Cook over medium heat until gravy thickens (enough to coat the back of a spoon).

Note: If gravy is too thick.. simply add a splash of milk and whisk it in.

Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Recipe: Red Beans and Rice


Red Beans and Rice is a Southern tradition… and New Orleans does it best… this dish ranks right up there on top of the best loved Cajun dishes. I’ve had Red Beans and Rice in many places.. all slightly different… but the basics are the same.. so when Warren and I were out at a favorite Cajun restaurant and he offered me a taste of his Red Beans and Rice… I jumped at it… and tasty it was.

We weren’t in New Orleans… but could have been… with the Boudin Balls… and the rest of the menu… but alas we had to settle for southern Georgia… but we did alright … wonderful food and quirky atmosphere… a good night.

That night only whet my appetite for some more of that Cajun food… so as I sat down to plan this week’s posts… I decided to recreate those Red Beans and Rice…

Just about every recipe for Red Beans and Rice includes Andouille sausage… oddly.. the dish from the other night didn’t have it in there… but had a distinctly smoky flavor… so I decided to not use Andouille sausage and use a smoked ham hock instead.

Many recipes include both .. and you certainly can add it in… but I did not.

I also decided to use a crock pot because I wanted to simplify things… I figured if it didn’t work out well.. the recipe would go off to the recipe graveyard or back to the drawing board to be re-worked… fortunately it couldn’t have worked out any better… just perfect… the result was extremely close to what we enjoyed at the restaurant.

This recipe is so simple and foolproof… and so good.

TIPS

As I mentioned… you can add in Andouille sausage… slice it up and cook it in a skillet and then add it to the crock pot.

I did one other change… I didn’t make the white rice separately… I added Minute rice to the crock pot about 30 minutes before I turned the pot off… if you want to cook the rice separately then mix it with the beans… decrease the chicken stock or broth by ½ cup.

The beans will be soupy .. the consistency of a runny gravy… which is traditionally correct… when adding rice … the extra liquid gets absorbed… same will follow if you add uncooked rice to the crock pot at the end.

I used my Cajun Seasoning… you can use whatever Cajun seasoning you’d like, but if you substitute another seasoning blend.. you will need to figure out just how much to use. Click the link for my recipe…

I used about ½ tablespoon Cajun seasoning in the beginning and added almost another ½ tablespoon at the end… my rice had a definite bite to it.. if you don’t like things so spicy.. add less at the end.

I add my Cajun seasoning in at the beginning and then at the end I add more to taste.

This recipe makes about 6 generous side servings.

So here goes… it’s so simple… you won’t believe it..






Recipe: Red Beans and Rice

All you need:

½ pound small red dried beans
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth* see tips
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ red pepper, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
About 1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning, divided
1 smoked ham hock
2 cups Minute rice (dry)

All you need to do:

Pick over the dry beans to remove any stones or other debris.

Place the beans in a medium bowl and cover with water. Water level should be about 2 inches above beans. Soak overnight.

Drain beans and put into a crockpot.

Add remaining ingredients except for rice.

Cook on high for about 5 hours.

Remove the ham hock. You can take the meat off the bone and chop it and add it back in… I did not.

Add dry rice and stir well. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes.

OR … cook the rice separately in the microwave or on the stovetop and serve separately. If serving the rice separately… remember to cut the chicken stick back to 2 ½ cups in the beginning.

Adjust the seasoning by adding some more Cajun seasoning… to taste.

Serve hot.

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Salts - Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Table Salt and More


Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Table Salt… salt from in the ground.. salt from the sea… iodized salt… pickling salt.. popcorn salt… rock salt… a dizzyingly array of choices… who knew?

Okay… I did know there were different types of salt… of course we always had table salt… we always had that Morton round blue box of iodized salt…. and my Dad always put rock salt down on the sidewalk in the winter… and I knew that soft pretzels and bagels had a different, coarser salt on them… but more than that?... I guess I never thought about it.

My Mother always used Table Salt in cooking, just as my Grandmothers had…

We used to watch cooking shows and peruse cookbooks and magazines for recipes together… and I can honestly say I do not recall ever coming across chefs using kosher or sea salt…. they may have.. but I don’t remember it.. and certainly we didn’t use it.

I few years ago I started noticing chefs on the Food Network talking about sea salt and kosher salt… and now it seems .. more often than not… they’re using them instead of table salt. So curiosity got the better of me and I went to investigate. I figured I would share…

History

Salt has always been a valuable commodity.... its mining and uses date back thousands of years. It was so valuable that in early Rome times, soldiers were paid with salt (and we complain about our pay today).. It has been used through the ages to preserve or cure meats and fish, as well as, seasoning foods.

Salt

As you may recall from your school days… salt is sodium chloride… all salt is sodium chloride plus additives… ultimately it comes from the sea. We mine for salt in the ground… which has been deposited there from ancient seas… or.. we mine it directly from the sea through an evaporation process.

Different types of salt are created by how they are refined … there are differences in taste and texture.

Table Salt


Table salt is refined salt. The granules are fine. It is primarily made up of sodium chloride, about 99%. Iodine can be added to make Iodized Table Salt, which was done for health reasons … for the prevention of hypothyroidism.


Sea Salt


Sea salt can either be refined or coarse. As the name implies, it is taken from the sea and extracted by an evaporation process. Sea salt is made up of about 98% sodium chloride with trace minerals, such as iron, making up the additional 2%.


There is some debate about whether or not sea salt is more flavorful than Table Salt.

Coarse sea salt is often used when a salt crust is made on food.

Fine Sea Salt is pictured. Notice there isn't a lot of difference between Table Salt and fine Sea Salt... but Sea Salt is slightly coarser.

Kosher Salt


Kosher salt is a coarse, unrefined salt that doesn’t have additives. The name Kosher Salt implies that it somehow is related to Jewish food laws… which it is not.

Kosher salt has large crystals which give it larger surface areas that can absorb moisture better than other salts. This makes it excellent for curing meats. It is used in making Kosher meats. Kosher Salt does not have iodine added.

Kosher Salt dissolves more slowly than Sea Salt. It also tends to be cheaper than Sea Salt due to the differences in preparation process.

Popcorn and Nut Salt

Popcorn and Nut Salt is superfine and has flake like crystals that cling to every kernel. Popcorn salt comes in various flavors. There are numerous brands and they can be found both online and in stores.

Pretzel and Bagel Salt

This salt is a bright white large grained salt that will not melt easily. It is ideal for soft pretzels, salt bagels, focaccia and salted bread sticks. Numerous brands are available and can be purchased online or in stores.

Summary



The real differences between Table Salt, Sea Salt and Kosher Salt are in taste, texture and processing… and the fact that Kosher Salt does not have additives.

The texture differences are obvious and have obvious benefits with certain foods.

The processing differences we discussed and preferences are just that… preferences… up to each individual.

The taste differences are .. in my opinion… only slight. After having used both Kosher and Sea Salts myself… I can see advantages in using them instead of Table Salt in some cooking.

I do like using it when salting foods I’m grilling, roasting or forming a salt crust… I like the way the salt is coarser and randomly pops over the food rather than having the finer Table Salt stick to the entire surface…. but that too… is a personal preference.

If I’m adding salt to something like stew, Table Salt is fine… it really wouldn’t matter what I used, it will dissolve during the cooking process anyway.

Bottom line… probably a refined salt (Sea or Table) and a coarse salt (Kosher or Sea) will do the home cook fine. If you don’t care about additives or if you absolutely want them… will help you make the decision to choose between them.

As for the Popcorn, Nut and Pretzel Salts… I’d recommend them if you are making these foods.

While Table Salt will work on popcorn… the superfine texture of the specialty salts will definitely be better.

As for salt on Pretzels … Pretzel Salts are specifically processed for this purpose… they are compact crystals that may look like Kosher Salt but they are not… the compact crystals dissolve quicker in your mouth than the larger single crystal Kosher Salt and therefore will have a different taste…. they are also processed not to melt at higher temperatures and will stick better to the pretzels..

So if you intend to make pretzels… I’d recommend you splurge on the Pretzel Salt… if you look online you can find cheaper ones… but even the more expensive ones aren’t too bad.. in my opinion consider the amount of work you invest in making them.. why cheap out on the salt?

I hope I’ve helped take the mystery out of the different salts.

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Liquid Measure Equivalents in Cooking


Sometimes you just need to know just how many pints in a quart… we all have momentary lapses… or how maybe you need to know how many tablespoons are in ½ cup… whatever the reason, it’s always good to have an Equivalent Chart around to help you.

This Equivalents Chart for Liquid Measures also comes in handy when adjusting recipes to increase or decrease the amount of servings. The easiest way to adjust a recipe is to break down the ingredient amounts to basic units first before increasing or decreasing them. Remember to keep the ratios the same… if you divide one in half.. do the same to the others… or if you double one, double them all….

After you’ve done the math… the next step is to convert it into the largest units of measure to make the actual measuring of ingredients the easiest.

TIP

Bookmark this post or this blog to come back to it whenever you need to use one of the many resources here. You will find this chart also on one of the pages at the top of this blog.

I hope you find this helpful!






Liquid Measure Equivalents in Cooking Chart


fl oz = fluid ounces
tbsp = tablespoon
tsp = teaspoon
pt = pint
qt = quart
gal = gallon

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Recipe: Custard Filling for Fruit Tarts and Pies


This quick little recipe for Custard Filling for Fruit Tarts and Pies is really simple to make. You can use it in pastry pie shells as well as, graham cracker and shortbread crusts that you make or buy. Simply allow it to cool a little, spread it in the crust and pile on the fruit…. perfect for a quick throw together dessert.

TIPS


As you can see from the picture I didn’t fill the crust with custard… my intent was to use a lot of fruit since it was so abundant when I made the pie. If you prefer more custard and less fruit, simply double the recipe.



I use whole milk for this recipe, I would recommend you stick to whole milk, but if you do use a lower fat milk, don’t go lower than 2%.. otherwise the thickness and creaminess of the filling won’t be as good.

Use a good quality vanilla extract for the best flavor.

This is one recipe that’s good to bookmark… comes in handy when you want to make a quick dessert.






Recipe: Custard Filling for Fruit Tarts and Pies

All you need:

2 Tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

All you need to do:

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and sugar using a wire whisk to completely mix the two.

In a small saucepan, add the sugar mixture, milk and salt, mix well with a wire whisk.

Add the beaten egg yolks and mix well with a wire whisk.

Heat the mixture over medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not leave unattended and make sure you whisk constantly. It will thicken quickly.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

Scoop custard into a heat proof bowl and allow to cool before spreading in a crust.

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How to Make Cinnamon Sugar


Cinnamon Sugar is a handy little mixture that I sprinkle on foods like French Toast, fruits, toppings, whipped cream, desserts and I even sprinkle it on buttered toast… just to name a few things I use it on. It’s also great as a quick little addition to some recipes… my recent post for Perfect Peach Cobbler had it in there.

You can buy it already mixed … you find it in the spice section of the grocery store… I bought it originally… until I had one of those “duh” moments as I was getting ready to throw it in the cart… why am I doing this??? … did I even look at the price??... when I thought about how little it would cost to make it… I decided I was nuts for buying it… I can make my own.

When I list it in a recipe.. I usually list in the TIPS section how to make it.. but it suddenly occurred to me that it might be helpful to list it on its own so you can readily find it and make it when you may want to add it to one of your own recipes…. so here it is…

First, a few of tips…

TIPS

I keep some of the cinnamon sugar mixture in an air-tight jar with a wide enough opening to fit a measuring spoon so it’s easy to use when I need to measure out what I need. I also keep some in a small jar that has a top suitable for sprinkling.

When one of my spice jars is empty, I wash it out and use it for spice mixes that I make or sugar mixes like this one that I want to sprinkle. If you do this.. make sure the jar is completely dry before filling it. You can also purchase empty jars with “sprinkle-friendly” tops at kitchen stores.

Use a wire whisk to mix the sugar and cinnamon, it will evenly mix the two together.

I made ½ cup batches of sugar…. I used ½ cup sugar (8 Tablespoons) and 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (8 teaspoons)… see my pages for the Dry Measure Equivalents in Cooking chart for help in converting tablespoons and teaspoons to easier larger measures. Page links are at the top of this blog.... or click this link to get to the original post with the Dry Measure Equivalents Chart in it.

Use a funnel to make it easier to get the sugar into the smaller jar.

I hope you find this helpful!






Recipe: Cinnamon Sugar

All you need:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Small clean air-tight jar(s)

All you need to do:

Decide how many times you want to multiply this basic recipe to fill your little jar(s).




In a small bowl…mix the sugar and cinnamon using a wire whisk.









When completely mixed, fill your jar(s) and store them in a cool dark place.






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Recipe: Oven Baked BBQ Country Style Pork Ribs


This tasty little recipe for Country Style Pork Ribs is perfect for summer night meals. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to grill…. so oven baking is a perfect alternative. Serve it with a bun or on a plate… with fresh corn and potatoes… maybe some coleslaw… a perfect meal for sure!

It is easy but not quick… although you can make it in two parts to make it more “weeknight friendly”.

TIPS

I boil the ribs for an hour then bake them… if you don’t have that kind of time… boil them one night and store them in the fridge… then the next night all you have to do is bake them… literally … all you have to do slather (don’t you love that word?) them in your favorite BBQ sauce and bake them… nothing else.. that simple…. how great is that??

Use a foil lined pan and clean up is a snap.. just the kind of clean up for a busy night!

These are great for parties… prepare them by boiling them then pop them in the oven an hour before you need to serve them…

If you haven’t tried my BBQ Sauce (it’s a Neely recipe)… definitely try it… it’s one fabulous sauce..

If you use store bought sauce… you will need almost a complete bottle… for 6-8 ribs. Serve the ribs with extra sauce at the table.

I used boneless ribs.. you can use ribs on the bone if you want.

I wouldn’t recommend skipping the boiling.. it makes them very tender and it also infuses the light garlic flavor into the meat.

Try it … you’ll like it!






Recipe: Oven Baked BBQ Country Style Pork Ribs

All you need:

Country Style Pork Ribs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
Your favorite BBQ Sauce, homemade or store bought

All you need to do:

Place the ribs in a large pot and cover with water (about an inch above the meat). Add the garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the meat with tongs to a foil covered baking pan.

Pour a good amount of BBQ sauce over the ribs. Cover with foil.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour. Turn the ribs over and pour more BBQ sauce on them after 30 minutes.

After baking a total of 1 hour, remove to a platter. Drizzle a little more BBQ sauce on them if needed and serve.

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Recipe: Perfect Peach Cobbler


This Peach Cobbler recipe is a favorite… it’s quick, easy and fool proof… yes… I said fool proof… totally and absolutely foolproof…

In the south, Peach Cobbler is a staple in almost every household… and however many households there are .. there are Cobbler recipes… with peaches so abundant this time of year.. I thought it a perfect time to post this fabulous recipe..

I adapted it slightly from a Paula Deen recipe… I halved the recipe so it would be 4 servings not 8… her recipe calls for self rising flour.. I used all purpose flour and made my own self rising flour. I also added cinnamon sugar to both the batter and the peaches…. but otherwise the recipe is hers… and it is definitely a keeper…

TIPS

The recipe is written calling for 2 cups peeled and sliced peaches… if you don’t have terrific fresh ones.. you can use frozen.. get the frozen ones that are flash frozen and not with any sugar..

If you decide to use self rising flour… omit the baking powder and salt.

This recipe is fool proof if you follow it exactly… pour the batter over the melted butter, and then carefully spoon the cooked peaches over the batter… DO NOT STIR… if you stir it .. it will fail… the reason it’s fool proof is that during baking, the weight of the fruit makes the peach slices sink and the batter rise above it and form a perfect crust.

Mix the batter well… use a wire whisk… I found that works the best …

Use the butter in this recipe.. it really makes a huge difference.. margarine just isn’t as good.

I have a cinnamon sugar mix …. you can make your own … just mix 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl…. I multiply it out to make enough to store and use periodically….store it in an airtight container to use as needed… it’s great on French Toast.

This makes 4 servings. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Try this.. you won’t believe how easy and good it is!






Recipe: Perfect Peach Cobbler

All you need:

2 cups peeled and sliced peaches
1 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar, divided
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium pot, combine the peaches, water, ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Put the butter in a 1 ½ quart baking dish.

Place in the oven and let the butter melt. Keep an eye on it otherwise the butter will brown.. mine did brown slightly, which is okay .. but you don’t want a burned taste and that can happen quickly.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and set aside.

In a bowl combine the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a wire whisk.. whisk the flour mixture completely … you want the baking powder to be as evenly dispersed as possible.

Continue whisking as you pour a steady stream of milk into the flour mixture. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps… make sure the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter over the melted butter, some butter will rise to the top.. that’s okay.
Carefully spoon the peaches over the batter… DO NOT STIR.

Gently pour the peach syrup from the pot over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. (I baked mine for 35 minutes).

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What is Self Rising Flour?


Have you ever had a recipe that called for self rising flour and you wondered just what it was? Well wonder no more…. this post should clear up any mystery about it.

The short answer to the question is it is a commercially prepared flour with leavening agents (baking powder and salt) already mixed into it.

Many recipes specifically call for self rising flour… it is readily available in supermarkets… but is it worth the extra purchase of yet another type of flour?

Some cooks/bakers will insist the answer to that question is a yes…. honestly… I’m not so sure I agree. Self rising flour tends to be more expensive and not by just a little bit… up to 50% more… that’s a lot … over the course of a year it can substantially add to your food budget… and it is not really necessary… you can make it yourself… but more on that in a bit.

So why buy it? The commercially prepared self rising flour has a more even distribution of the leavening ingredients and makes for a consistent even rise in baked goods. However, you can duplicate that… keep reading…

The Downside to Buying It

Besides the added expense when purchasing it… you also can’t control the ingredients.

Did you know some baking powders contain aluminum? Aluminum in the baking powder can affect the taste of your baked good by giving it a bitter taste. Aluminum-Free baking powders are readily available, I happen to use Argo, but there are numerous other brands available.

If you do purchase a self rising flour, be sure to read the label for a list of ingredients. For example, Pillsbury’s Self Rising Flour lists baking powder (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate) among the ingredients.

History

Self rising flour was developed by Henry Jones, a baker from Bristol, England, and patented in 1845. Today, most major flour companies carry a self rising flour in their product line.

How to Make it Yourself

Mix together:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Tips for Making It:

The recipe breaks it down to the basic unit amount… double or triple the recipe as needed… store in an air tight glass jar or container until you’re ready to use it again … it should keep for months.

One of the perks to buying a commercially prepared self rising flour is that the baking powder is evenly distributed throughout the flour. So if you’re making it yourself you want to be sure you mix it as evenly as possible…. I recommend that you mix it thoroughly using a wire whisk or some sources recommend you sift the ingredients together.

Tips When Using it:

If you substitute self rising flour in a recipe that calls for all purpose flour, be sure to adjust the amount of baking powder and salt in the recipe. If you add too much baking powder your baked good can come out with a tinny taste.

I hope this has been helpful.

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Recipe: Chicken Cacciatore


Chicken Cacciatore is such a great dish… hearty and delicious… great for the family… and special enough for company… what more could you ask for?

Chicken Cacciatore is chicken in a Hunter’s Sauce… I find it interesting that different countries have similar dishes … this dish is from Italy… and is almost identical to the German version of Chicken Cutlets in a Hunter’s Sauce… the spices are slightly different… and a few different ingredients… but the overall flavors though are close… both recipes are delicious.

TIPS

I used canned tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano… I still did added dried basil and oregano to the dish… if you use plain canned tomatoes… increase the dried herbs slightly to compensate.

I used thick boneless skinless chicken breasts… many recipes use whole breasts, thighs or legs with skin on… you certainly can use them.. but the dish will be greasier.

The recipe calls for dry white wine.. I use a sauvignon blanc… you can use whatever you like… or you can leave it out… the dish is cooked for over 30 minutes after the addition of the wine so the alcohol is mostly cooked off… leaving a pleasant light flavor… if you are trying to avoid using alcohol in cooking.. you can try using a non-sweet grape juice or some people suggest apple juice in place of the wine(although I have never used either).. . or simply omit it altogether.

As you can see from the picture I used more sliced mushrooms than the recipe calls for.. we love mushrooms… and I needed to use them up… so I added more… which brings me to an important tip.. don’t be afraid to alter recipes to your own tastes… if you really like mushrooms, by all means add more.

The onion and pepper are ‘rough” chopped… this is a hunter’s dish so you don’t have to be very precise as to shape of the dice.

Make sure you drain the capers before adding them in, do not add the liquid they come in. For information on what are capers... click here.

I don’t list quantities for the salt and pepper …. I use a sprinkling in the flour to season it… and I also adjust the seasoning when I taste the sauce… adjust it to your tastes.

I served this with buttered noodles and green beans… this recipe will serve 4.






Recipe: Chicken Cacciatore

All you need:

4 thick boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Sprinkling of salt and pepper
About 3+ tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pkg. (8 oz.) mushrooms, sliced
¾ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons capers (drained)
¾ cup chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz.) Hunts Diced Tomatoes with Basil Garlic and Oregano (do not drain)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or to taste)
2 teaspoons dried basil
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

All you need to do:

In a small shallow bowl, mix the flour and garlic powder. Add a sprinkling of salt and black pepper and mix.

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.

In a large heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.

Add the chicken to the skillet sauté the chicken until it is brown on both sides, about 5 minutes a side.

Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil, just enough to coat the skillet.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and peppers.

Add the garlic on top of the onions and peppers, so the garlic doesn’t brown. add the sliced mushrooms. Sauté until the onions are translucent and mushrooms are soft.
(about 7 minutes).

Add the wine and simmer for about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, capers, chicken broth, oregano and basil.

Add the chicken back to the pan and bring to a low simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken once.

Please note: thinner chicken breasts or thighs will need less cook time.

Remove the chicken to a platter. Simmer sauce for a few minutes if it needs to thicken a bit.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with hot buttered noodles.

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So Just What are Capers?


Numerous recipes list capers as an ingredient … but many cooks eliminate it because they simply aren’t familiar with what they are or don’t know what to expect them to taste like. So just what are capers?

The short answer is they are the unripened flower buds of a prickly plant called Capparis spinosa, which grows in the Mediterranean and parts of Asia.

They range in size from tiny green pea-like to a larger green olive-like size.

Commonly you see them as the smaller version in tall skinny jars in the by the olives or imported section in the grocery store. The picture above is one commonly found in grocery stores and imported from Spain.

Store them in a cool dry place and refrigerate them after opening.

Capers are hand-picked then pickled in vinegar, wine, brine or salt. This process brings out the lemony flavor of them. The salty, sour flavor can really add a wonderful layer of flavor to a dish.

Unless otherwise noted in the recipe, you can safely assume you are to drain them before adding them to your dish.

You will find them frequently on the ingredient list of Italian and Spanish recipes, as well as, others. They are added to sauces, salads, vegetables and entrées.

One of my favorite restaurants serves a terrific German Schnitzel topped with capers sautéed in butter… it truly adds to the flavor of the Schnitzel.

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Dry Measure Equivalents in Cooking


I have this handy dandy little chart I’d like to share with you… it gives you Dry Measure Equivalents in Cooking….

I am constantly altering recipes to fit the number of servings I need…. a lot of recipes start out being servings for 3, 4 or even 6… well… we’re two of us.. and while we love leftovers… we don’t want them from every meal… so I do a little arithmetic and alter the recipes…

If you follow this blog… you know I make most of my own seasoning blends… Taco, Fajita, Chili and Cajun Seasoning… to name a few…. those start out small… and I increase the quantities to make up enough to fill small jars… so they’re ready to go whenever I need them…

The Equivalents chart makes things a lot easier … I just multiply out the quantities to however many times the recipe I want….then I convert them to the larger measures to make measuring a snap and I’m done in minutes…

I put this chart on one of my “pages” at the top of the blog … so you can easily use this reference whenever you need it… just put me on your favorites and when you want to use the chart…pop back!

I hope you find this helpful!






Some Common Dry Measure Equivalents in Cooking are:




These are two additional common terms of dry measure used in cooking:

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