Do I need a mini food-processor?

Part of being a KitchenNut is the thought that one must simply own each and every gadget – or find ways to convince yourself that you don’t need it. As my obsession [making smaller batches] within my obsession [baking] continues to grow, so does my brain thinking I need more mini-stuff. However, the whole point of smaller batch cooking and baking is to not waste so much food – and not so much money, of course.

Read More

Baking Soda versus Baking Powder

It took me forever to figure out the difference between baking soda and baking powder – and why on earth I had to stock them both in my kitchen (to be honest – I’m still working on the latter (I’ll post back with more info about that). Anyway, I finally figured out that the key point is that baking soda requires an acidic reaction in order for the leavening to work. I can finally remember this by “ssssoda” and “acccccid” (okay, go with me here – it’s the “s-sound” I’m trying to focus on). :)

Read More

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Flourless Cookie

Okay, so I really should think of a better name, but right now, my brain is a little preoccupied convincing the rest of me to not finish off the rest of the batch. :) As usual, I was craving something sweet and I really needed a cookie. So, I was flipping through my King Arthur Flour cook book in search for a good peanut butter recipe (something with protein, so I could pretend I was eating healthily), without graham crackers (for a bar cookie) or too many other ingredients. Although I was feeling a craving, I was definitely on the lazy side. And there it was. A four-ingredient cookie. However, I had to put my own twist to it, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun, right? (Of course, this was five minutes after I had just thrown away my last disaster – chocolate-mint spritz cookies. I’ll be refining that recipe later).

The cookie has peanut butter, egg, baking soda and butter. Yummy!! But, I have issues with peanut butter on the market today, because of all the trans fats (basically, the hydrogen that is injected into oils to make them semi-solids – which, coincidently, our bodies are virtually never able to full break them down – which is why obesity is on the rise – which is why I am an OCD chef. See? A method to my madness.) Moving on – ah, yes. Peanut butter. So, I discovered a few different brands that don’t have any trans fat, and not just this *none per serving. I like real stuff. Oh, and words I can pronounce. So, I absolutely love Trader Joe’s salted and roasted chunky PB along with Peanut Butter and Co. flavored spreads. So, I used my own little concotion and came up with an absolutely yummy recipe! Well, at least to me. But, this is coming from the home-chef who’s first recipe is named “Invention,” in which contained peanut butter, honey, sugar, and whatever else I had in the house. I used to dip apples in it. Thank goodness for Moms who capture these moments and save my seven-year old hand-written recipe in my scrapbook.

I think that lots of different-flavored PB’s would be great here. But, I really do suggest you stay away from any that have trans fats. PB & Co has some great flavors I think would be fun, including White Chocolate or Cinnamon Raisin Swirl . Of course, you could stick with plain ‘ol P.B. ;)

So, here’s how I made it:

1 1/2 cups (9.5 oz) Dark Chocolate Dreams P.B. spread
1 large egg, slightly cold*, slightly beaten
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Adjust baking racks in upper-middle and lower-middle in oven. Preheat oven to 375º. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.

2. Throw all ingredients into KA Mixer with paddle, or hand-mixer with beaters, and beat until thoroughly mixed. Dough will began to clump and pull from sides, and have a smooth texture.

3. Using a tablespoon measurement or cookie scoop measure out dough, and roll into balls. Place two inches apart on cookie sheets.

4. Bake 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Remove cookies and leave on sheets for two minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

5. Enjoy. Sharing Optional!

*I did the egg slightly cold, because I felt that room-temp would have made the dough too soft, but straight from the fridge would have coagulated the dough; so, I warmed it slightly in warm water (about 60 seconds), then used it. Perfect consistency!

P.S. The raw dough is super yummy!

It is what it is

The funny thing about food is that we want it to all taste the same. We bite into a new type apple (say, Honey Crisp) and say, “It doesn’t taste like the Granny Smith.” Of course it doesn’t. Because it’s a Honey Crisp apple. It’s funny to me that when some try new foods, they attempt to compare the flavor to other foods they’ve had. Unless the chef was trying to closely match the other recipe, why would it be the same? To me, the point of the food is to be enjoyed for what it is. Enjoy the flavor of the basil as it becomes sweeter over the Summer, enjoy the tomato sauce made with Spring tomatoes instead of Fall. So many flavors have something to offer if we would stop comparing and enjoy them for what they are.

What is fond? (AKA those stuck bits on your pan)

Today I had a lovely discussion with a friend of why you want stainless steel pots/pans [as opposed to non-stick]. In a word, fond. Fond=flavor, and we want lots and lots of flavor! The main reason I hear some K.I.T. (KitchenNuts-in-Training) aghast that I would suggest using SS is because they fear that “the food will stick!” That, my friend, is fond. That lovely, beautiful, yummy stuck on parts. :) And, in some cases, those stuck-on parts are a sign that A) your pan wasn’t hot enough when you laid the food down or B) you got a little too enthralled and moved the food around the pan, instead of letting it rest.

See, when you cook food on a SS pan, it gets nice and brown and crispy (mmmm – crispy!). When you cook food (chicken for example), it can only get slightly brown, but it never gets that nice crispy texture. Now, if we don’t have that nice, crispy texture, what on earth is encasing the yummy juicy flavor? Oh, nothing?? All the juices are running out of the chicken breast into the pan? Then, why are you using non-stick pans? Oh! Clean-up is easier?

Nay, I disagree! Which brings us back to fond – when you remove those nicely browned and crispy chicken breasts from the pan, rejoice for the fond left behind! For that is the beginnings of a fantastic sauce. Now is when your creativity comes in to make a lovely pan sauce for those yummy chickens. And, no–we don’t open a pouch of “McCormick’s au jus” and add water (ugh.). All you need is some acid: wine, dealcoholized wine, lemon or lime or orange juice (fresh-squeeze, of course!), or any sort of vinegar (apple cider, raspberry wine, balsalmic, etc.). Throw a tablespoon or two into the pan along with some chicken stock (again, homemade preferred) and bring to boil. Toss in a tablespoon of butter, freshly-ground pepper, sea salt. Once the butter melts, you’ve got an amazingly yummy sauce to pour of those nice, tender juicy chicken breasts. Oh, and the perk? The acid cleans up the pan lickety-split.

Wow. I’m hungry. So, back to the beginning – yah, we can’t do this with a non-stick pan. :)

I can, however, make some nice suggestions for pan sauces:

  • Orange juice with dried cranberries (such as Craisins®)
  • Balsamic vinegar with shallots
  • Apple Cider vinegar with dijon or whole grain mustard
  • Red wine with dried cherries

Get the picture? :D

Baking Substitutions

Oh, how I go nuts when I’m in the middle of a recipe just sure that I have a particular ingredient (besides, with my obsession of food storage, I always have loads of food storage!), only to find out half-way through that Oops! You thought wrong!

In the middle of making a wonderful citrus pound cake (yummy!), which calls for 6 oz. cake flour (about 1 1/2 cups), I only had 3.8 ounces. Poo. I rummaged through my walk-in food storage closet, the garage freezer and the indoor freezer wondering how I could be so careless! My new goal is to be much more conscientious of the gas my car uses, so I knew running to the store was out of the question. Well, I promptly threw in 2.2 ounces of AP unbleached flour. The results?

Yech! Yah, when the recipe calls for cake flour – they mean cake flour! So, imagine my annoyance when I remembered today that 7/8 cup AP flour + 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch = ~one cup of cake flour. But, a lesson learned will save me from another kitchen disaster. Besides, that’s one more kitchen ingredient I don’t have to stock up on!

Pressure Canning v. Boiling Water Canning

I’ve enjoyed my experiences of pressure canning , no doubt! Though I’ve heard that boiling water canning is much simpler, I have hesitated to give it a try. After making my delightful raspberry treats, I decided I needed some more goodies. So, my obsessive-compulsiveness kicked and I needed to try a many new jam recipes. :) I rounded up a bunch of pears at the store to begin my new recipes. While gathering the pear recipes, I found a wonderful apricot-honey jam recipe. Sounded great to me! Because of the high acidity rate (lots of lemon juice), I didn’t need to do it in a pressure canner and could proceed to a boiling water canner. Sounds easy, right? Aie, why do I take the hard road before the easy road?

As I don’t have a pot that works for a boiling water canner [er, not that I knew of at the time, at least], I decided to use my pressure canner instead. Not such a good idea. Pressure canners work to create pressure in order to bring the temp. above 212º F (boiling water temperature), which works great for low-acid products. However, the difference is that when a pressure canner is done cooking, it has a very long cool-down period, which is calculated into the time in the canning recipe. When you do the same in a boiling water canner, you remove the jars immediately after the cooking time, so the product doesn’t overcook. Can you imagine the danger ensuing? :D Currently, my new batch of apricot-honey butter is still sitting in the pressure canner (30 minutes and counting – should have been only ten). I’m sure it will still taste good, but I have certainly learned my lesson–the hard way, as usual.

Baked From Scratch