Can I bake more than one sheet of cookies at a time?

longhall writes : Can I bake more than one sheet of cookies at a time?

Chef writes : Most definitely! I do it all the time! Simply adjust your oven racks so that they are the upper-middle and lower-middle locations, pre-heat your oven appropriately, then when it comes time to rotate your cookie sheets, simply rotate them as usual (side-to-side), but also switch the shelves they are on! You should do this about one minute past the half-way mark. You may experience with different recipes that this isn’t so successful as with others. For very delicate cookies that depend a great deal on browning (sugar cookies), the top or bottom may brown more evenly than the other – but, if these are only for family enjoyment, you will enjoy no matter what! :) Happy baking!

For more detail, see Rotate Those Sheets! and Ignore the Beep!

Why should I toast my nuts?

Sometimes you don’t. In my recent travels, I was given a bag of nuts and dried fruit. Yummy! I only recently discovered that I really actually like nuts! My memories go back to sitting next to Dad in “his chair” as I would eagerly help him crack the shells and pass him the freshly-exposed nuts as he would munch away. I never cared for them, only the attention. Over the last year, though, I’ve really been enjoying a variety of walnuts, pecans and almonds in many recipes! So, when I dug into the bag of dried fruit and nuts, I couldn’t imagine that I wouldn’t enjoy it at all? The nuts were awful.

As I pondered this, I thought comparatively to why I would like nuts at home and not elsewhere? Could it be quality? Perhaps, but to me, these nuts lacked flavor. Aha! I always toast my nuts first. I had read somewhere at somepoint that roasting [in the oven] or toasting [in a dry skillet on the stovetop] brings out the flavor in the nuts. For me, that’s how I always prepare them at home. No wonder these bagged nuts were awful—they were raw!

I toast nuts before using them at all–right before, though, mind you. To top pancakes, as a cake decoration, an accessory on a salad. All of them should be roasted or toasted! To roast in the oven, simply pre-heat your oven to 350º and place the nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheat. Roast for five minutes, or so, until slightly browned. As garlic, you will smell when they are done. To toast on the stove top, place skillet on medium heat and add nuts to dry skilled. Flipping nuts often, toast for five minutes.

The flavor difference you receive from the raw nut to the toasted nut is amazing. It takes your chocolate-pecan cake from homemade to “where did you buy this??” You’ll be the hit of your town!! :) While we’re at it – I suggest buying your nuts whole (shelled, but whole) instead of already chopped into pieces. Once chopped, they’ve already started to lose their natural oils and can go stale quite quickly. In fact, all nuts should be stored in the freezer for prolonged life.

So, next time you feel like a nut – toast it.

Read the labels of ingredients, please

A dear friend and I decided to pick up a few items at the store. As we’re walking down the aisle, she mentions that she needs to buy sour cream. The first comment out of my mouth was, buy “Daisy Light” (as I know she always buys the light version of those things). Of course, she asked why? What better time for a KitchenNut lesson to ensue!! As we trudged down the aisles, I began picking up products and showing the labels to her, reading them carefully and comparing. The red flags are any products with corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and basically any words you can’t pronounce.

As we began with butter (she wanted to get “spreadable butter,” something easier to spread on toast), I grabbed the Land o’ Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil, my personal favorite. My friend suggested the LOL Butter Light. When I compared the labels with her, look what we found!

Butter

  • LOL Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil :: Sweet Cream, Canola Oil, Salt, Vitamin A, Palimate.
  • LOL Light Butter with Canola Oil :: Water*, Butter (Cream, Salt), Canola Oil*, Buttermilk*, Food Starch – Modified*, Tapioca Maltodextrin*, Contains less than 2% of Salt, Vegetable Mono And Diglycerides*, Lactic Acid*, Natural Flavor*, Potassium Sorbate* (Preservative), Sodium Benzoate* (Preservative), Xanthan Gum*, Vitamin A Palmitate*, Beta Carotene* (Color). *Ingredients Not Found In Butter.

Sour Cream

  • Daisy Light :: Grade A Cultured Cream, Skim Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate
  • Store brand :: sorry, I didn’t have the strength to copy it down. It was well over twelve ingredients with lots of words I had never heard – until we moved on to other culprits in the grocery store.

Ketchup

As I shove down this aisle, my friend knows what I’m up to announces, “Don’t bother! They all have corn syrup!”

  • Hunts :: Tomatoes – corn syrup –
  • Heinz :: Tomatoes – corn syrup –
  • Frank’s :: Tomatoes – corn syrup –
  • Heinz Organic :: Tomatoes – real sugar – (no corn syrup to be found!!)

We continued on with an eye on labels and learned many, many things. First, brand name really means nothing, in the end. Sometimes the off-brand has better ingredients in it, other times the brand-name will take all. In the end, it’s a balance of what is important to you. But, I can only suggest to take a little time and do some research. If you’re heart is into it, notify the companies and give them a heart-felt thank you for omitting corn syrup (such as Heinz), or let a company know that you choose to no longer purchase their product because of the ingredients. Happy label sleuthing!

More details: You Get What You Pay For

Grilling 101

Ah, Spring is upon us! And, if you’re like me, you’re looking for any excuse to get into the outdoors and out of the stuffy house! Plus, the idea of cranking the oven to 450º to cook a piece of meat is borderline insanity! Very few days during the Summer do I not use the grill, for one thing or another–desserts, sides, main courses – everything tastes better on the grill! But, I thought of a few tips that can help kickstart your grilling season, so we can avoid as much burnt bits as possible!

  • Room Temperature :: Just like the notes about how important it is to bring ingredients to room temperature before baking, it’s just as imperative with items you plan to grill—including meat! Now, I don’t mean for you to leave your meat on the counter overnight or while you’re at work! Just for a simple hour. Pull the meat out of the fridge, give it a rubdown with canola oil, then sprinkle on your favorite spices. For me, nothing beats kosher salt (and lots of it!) and some fresh-ground pepper. Using your hands, press the seasonings into the meat, then wrap well in saran wrap and set-aside. I suggest allowing the meat to rest on a cutting board or plate, to collect any juices.
  • Heat! :: Just as your oven needs to be hot, so does the gas grill! Yes, fire is hot, but the entire grill needs time to get very, very hot before you lay the meat on it. Approximately fifteen minutes or more [not less!] before you’re ready to grill the meat (or dessert, or other goodies), fire up the grill on high heat, put the lid down, and walk away. With the lid down, it is like an oven, gathering the heat and ready to cook at a much better pace without toughening the dish.
  • Don’t cut! :: I cringe when I see large grilling tongs or a grilling spatula with a serated edge, intending the griller to slice up that piece of meat. Ahhhh! That’s the fastest way to ruin your perfectly seasoned meat on your perfectly hot grill! See don’t stick a fork in it for more detail. In fact, the best way to test meat is to touch it. Ahem. I do suggest removing it from the grill temporarily while you do this. If it feels super tender (aka, mushy), it’s rare! Sligtly-so, medium-rare. If it has no spring at all, I hope you like well-done! :)
  • Don’t rotate :: I think a lot of grillers think that picking up the meat and moving it around gives the impression that they are master grillers. Actually, not true at all! It is best to allow the meat to cook on one side, then switch to the other. The beautiful sear you get (the crusty edge on the outside) is lost when the meat is handled too much, resulting in a tough cut.
  • Let it rest :: Although that morsel of meat looks very appetizing when pulling it off the grill, a very crucial point is to allow the meat to rest for five to ten minutes on a plate/cutting board, covered loosely with foil. If you dive into the meat too soon, you’ll lose all that juiciness (read flavor)! If allowed to rest a few minutes, the meat will re-absorb the juice and giving you a reward for all your hard work!

In the end, my husband says it best – it always tastes better when grilled! Happy grilling!

Baked From Scratch