Vegetables and Fruits

BUYING FRESH VEGETABLE

Artichokes:

  • Look for compact, tightly closed heads with green, clean-looking leaves. Avoid those with leaves that are brown or separated.

Asparagus:

  • Stalks should be tender and firm; tips should be close and compact. Choose the stalks with very little white; they are more tender. Use asparagus soon because it toughens quickly.

Beans, Snap:

  • Those with small seeds inside the pod are best. Avoid beans with dry-looking pods.

Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower

  • Flower clusters on broccoli and cauliflower should be tight and close together. Brussels sprouts should be firm and compact. Smudge, dirty spots may indicate pests or disease.

Cabbage and Head Lettuce:

  • Choose heads that are heavy for their size. Avoid cabbage with worm holes and lettuce with discoloration or soft rot.

Cucumbers:

  • Choose long, slender cucumbers for best quality. May be dark or medium green, but yellow ones are undesirable

Mushrooms:

  • Caps should be closed around the stems. Avoid black or brown gills.

Peas and Lima Beans:

  • Select pods that are well-filled but not bulging. Avoid dried, spotted, yellow or limp pods.

BUYING FRESH FRUIT

Bananas:

  • Skin should be free of bruises and black or brown spots. Purchase them slightly green and allow them to ripen at room temperature.

Berries:

  • Select plump, solid berries with good color. Avoid stained containers which indicate wet or leaky berries. Berries with clinging caps, such as blackberries and raspberries, may be unripe. Strawberries without caps may be overripe.

Melons:

  • In cantaloupes, thick, close netting on the rind indicates best quality. Cantaloupes are ripe when the stem scar is smooth and the space between the netting is yellow or yellow-green. They are best when fully ripe with fruity odor.
  • Honey dews are ripe when rind has creamy to yellowish color and velvety texture. Immature honeydews are whitish-green.
  • Ripe watermelons have some yellow color on one side. If melons are white or pale green on one side, they are not ripe.

Oranges, Grapefruit and Lemons:

  • Choose those heavy for their size. Smoother, thinner skins usually indicate more juice. Most skin markings do not affect quality. Oranges with a slight greenish tinge may be just as ripe as fully colored ones. Light or greenish-yellow lemons are more tart than deep yellow ones. Avoid citrus fruits showing withered, sunken or soft areas.

Baking Desserts

PERFECT COOKIES

Cookie dough that must be rolled is much easier to handle after it has been refrigerated for 10 to 30 minutes. This keeps the dough from sticking, even though it may be soft. If not done, the soft dough may require more flour,  and too much flour makes cookies hard and brittle. Place on a floured board only as much dough as can be easily managed. Flour the rolling pin slightly and roll lightly to desired thickness. Cut shapes close together and add trimmings to dough that needs to be rolled. Place pans or sheets in upper third of oven. Watch cookies carefully while baking in order to avoid burned edges. When sprinkling sugar on cookies, try putting it into a salt shaker in order to save time.

PERFECT PIES

  • Pie crust will be better and easier to make if all the ingredients are cool.
  • The lower crust should be placed in the pan so that it covers the surface smoothly. Air pockets beneath the surface will push the crust out of shage while baking.
  • Folding the top crust over the lower crust before crimping will keep juices in the pie.
  • When making custard pie, bake at a high temperature for about 10 minutes to prevent a soggy crust. The finish baking at a low temperature.
  • When making cream pie, sprinkle crust with powdered sugar in order to prevent it from becoming soggy.

PERFECT CAKES

  • Fill cake pans two-thirds full and spread batter into corners and sides, leaving a slight hollow in the center.
  • Cake is done when it shrinks from the sides of the pan or if it springs back when touched lightly with he finger.
  • After removing a cake from the oven, place it on a rack for about 5 minute. Then, the sides should be loosened and the cake turned out on a rack in order to finish cooling.
  • Do no frost cakes until thoroughly cool.
  • Icing will remain where you put is if you sprinkle cake with powdered sugar first.

TIME & TEMPERATURE CHART

DESSERT                                  TIME                    TEMPERATURE

butter cake, layer…………………..20 – 40 min. …………….380° – 400°

butter cake, loaf ……………………40 – 60 min. …………….360° – 400°

cake, angel …………………………..50 – 60 min. …………….300° – 360°

cake, fruit …………………………………3 – 4 hrs. …………….275° – 325°

cake, sponge ………………………..40 – 60 min. …………….300° – 350°

cookies, molasses ………………….18 – 20 min. …………….350° – 375°

cookies, thin …………………………10 – 12 min. …………….380° – 390°

cream puffs …………………………..45 – 60 min. ……………300° – 350°

meringue ……………………………..40 – 60 min. ……………250° – 300°

pie crust ………………………………20 – 40 min. …………..400° – 500°

Baking Breads

HINTS FOR BAKING BREADS:

  • kneading dough for 30 seconds after mixing improves the texture of baking powder biscuits.
  • Instead of shortening, use cooking or salad oil in waffles and hot cakes.
  • When bread is baking, a small dishof water in the oven will help keep the crust from hardening.
  • Dip a spoon in hot water to measure shortening, butter, etc., and the fat will slip out more easily.
  • Small amounts of leftover corn may be added to pancake batter for variety.
  • To make bread crumbs, use the fine cutter of a food grinder and ties a large paper bag over the spout in order to prevent flying crumbs.
  • When you are doing and sort of baking, you get a better result if you remember to preheat your cookie sheet, muffin tins or cake pans.

3 RULES FOR USE OF LEAVENING AGENTS:

  1. In simple flour mixtures, use 2 teaspoons baking powder to leaven 1 cup flour. Reduce this amount 1⁄2 teaspoon for each egg used.
  2. To 1 teaspoon soda, use 2 1⁄4 teaspoons cream of tartar, 2 cups freshly soured milk, or 1 cup molasses.
  3. To substitute soda and an acid for baking powder, divide the amount of baking powder by 4. Take that as your measure and add acid according to rule 2.

PROPORTIONS OF BAKING POWDER TO FLOUR:

  • Biscuits…………………………to 1 cup flour use 1 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder
  • Cake with oil…………………. to 1 cup flour use 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Muffins………………………….to 1 cup flour use 1 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
  • Popovers……………………….to 1 cup flour use 1 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder
  • Waffles…………………………..to 1 cup flour use 1 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder

PROPORTIONS OF LIQUID TO FLOUR:

  • Pour batter………………………to 1 cup liquid use 1 cup flour
  • drop batter………………………to 1 cup liquid use 2 to 2 1⁄2  cups flour
  • soft dough………………………..to 1 cup liquid use 3 to 3 1⁄2 cups flour
  • stiff dough………………………..to 1 cup liquid use 4 cups flour

TIME & TEMPERATURE CHART:

Breads                    Minutes                              Temperature

biscuits……………..12 – 15………………………..400° – 500°

cornbread…………25 – 30………………………..400° – 425°

gingerbread……….40 – 50………………………..350° – 370°

loaf……………………50 – 60……………………….350° – 400°

nut bread……………50 – 75………………………………- 350°

popovers……………30 – 40……………………….425° – 450°

rolls…………………..20 – 30……………………….400° – 450°

Herbs and Spices

DRIED VS. FRESH. While dried herbs are convenient, they don’t generally have the same purity of flavor as fresh herbs. Ensure dried herbs are still fresh by checking if they are green and not faded. Crush a few leaves to see if the aroma is still strong. Always store them in an air-tight container away from light and heat.

BASIL:

  • Sweet, warm flavor with an aromatic odor. Use whole or ground. Good with lamb, fish, roast, stews, beef, vegetables, dressing and omelets.

BAY LEAVES:

  • Pungent flavor. Use whole leaf but remove before serving. Good in vegetable dishes, seafood, stews and pickles.

CARAWAY:

  • Spicy taste and aromatic smell. Use in cakes, breads, soups, cheese and sauerkraut.

CELERY SEED:

  • Strong taste which resembles the vegetable. Can be used sparingly in pickles and chutney, meat and fish dishes, salads, bread, marinades, dressings and dips.

CHIVES:

  • Sweet, mild flavor like that of onion. Excellent in salads, fish, soups and potatoes.

CILANTRO:

  • Use fresh. Excellent in salads, fish, chicken, rice, beans and Mexican dishes.

CINNAMON:

  • Sweet, pungent flavor. Widely used in many sweet baked goods, chocolate dishes, cheesecakes, pickles, chutneys and hot drinks.

CORIANDER:

  • Mild, sweet, orange flavor,  available whole or ground. Common in curry powders and pickling spice and also used in chutney, meat dishes, casseroles, Greek-style dished, apple pies and baked goods.

CURRY POWDER:

  • Spices are combined to proper proportions to give a distinct flavor to meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.

DILL:

  • Both seeds and leaves are flavorful. Leaves may be used as a garnish or cooked with fish, soup, dressings, potatoes, and beans. Leaves or the whole plant may be used to flavor pickles.

FENNEL:

  • Sweet, hot flavor. Both seeds and leaves are used. Use in small quantities in pies and baked goods. Leaves can be boiled with fish.

GINGER:

  • A pungent root. This aromatic spice is sold fresh, dried or ground. Use in pickles, preserves, cakes, cookies, soups and meat dishes.

MARJORAM:

  • May be used both dried or green. Use to flavor fish, poultry, omelets, lamb, stew, stuffing and tomato juice.

MINT:

  • Aromatic with a cool flavor. Excellent in beverages, fish, lamb, cheese, soup, peas, carrots, and fruit desserts.

NUTMEG:

  • Whole or ground. Used in chicken and cream soups, cheese dishes, fish cakes, and with chicken and veal. Excellent in custards, milk puddings, pies and cakes.

OREGANO:

  • Strong, aromatic odor. Use whole or ground in tomato juice, fish, eggs, pizza, omelets, chili, stew, gravy, poultry and vegetables.

PAPRIKA:

  • A bright red pepper, this spice is used in meat, vegetables and soups or as a garnish for potatoes, salads, or eggs.

PARSLEY:

  • Best when used fresh, but can be used dried as a garnish or as a seasoning. Try in fish, omelets, soup, meat, stuffing and mixed greens.

ROSEMARY:

  • Very aromatic. Can be used fresh or dried. Season fish, stuffing, beef, lamb, poultry, onions, eggs, bread and potatoes. Great in dressings.

SAFFRON:

  • Aromatic, slightly bitter taste. Only a pinch needed to flavor and color dishes such as bouillabaisse, chicken soup, rice, paella, fish sauces, buns and cakes. Very ecpensive, so where a touch of color is needed, use turmeric instead, but he flavor with not be the same.

SAGE:

  • Use fresh or dried. The flowers are sometimes used in salads. May be used in tomato juice, fish, omelets, beef, poultry, stuffing, cheese spreads and breads.

TARRAGON:

  • Leaves have a pungent, hot taste. Use to flavor sauces, salads, fish, poultry, tomatoes, eggs, green beans, carrots and dressings.

THYME:

  • Sprinkle leaves on fish or poultry before broiling or baking. Throw a few sprigs directly on coals shortly before meat is finished grilling.

TURMERIC:

  • Aromatic, slightly bitter flavor. Should be used sparingly in curry powder and relishes, and to color cakes and rice dishes.

NOTE: Use 3 times more fresh herbs if substituting fresh for dried.

Pantry Basics

A WELL-STOCKED PANTRY provides all the makings for a good meal. With the right ingredients, you can quickly create a variety of satisfying, delicious meals for family and guests. Keeping these items in stock also means voiding extra trips to the grocery store, saving you time and money. Although everyone’s pantry is different, there are basic items you should always have. Add other items according to your family’s needs. For example while some families consider chips, cereals and snacks as a must-have, others can’t be without feta cheese and imported olives. Use these basic pantry suggestions as a handy reference list when creating your grocer list. Don’t forget to refrigerated items like milk, eggs, cheese and butter.

STAPLES:

  • Baker’s chocolate
  • Baking powder
  • Baking  soda
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)
  • Chocolate chips
  • Cocoa powder
  • Cornmeal
  • Cornstarch
  • Crackers
  • Flour
  • Honey
  • Ketchup
  • Lemon juice
  • Mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)
  • Oatmeal
  • Oil (olive, canola, vegetable)
  • Pancake mix
  • Pancake syrup
  • Peanut butter
  • Shortening
  • Sugar (granulated, brown, powdered
  • Vinegar

 

PACKAGED/CANNED FOODS :

  • Beans (canned, dry)
  • Broth (beef, chicken)
  • Cake mixes with frosting
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned mushrooms
  • Canned soup
  • Canned tomato paste & sauce
  • Canned tuna & chicken
  • Cereal
  • Dried soup mix
  • Gelatin (flavored or plain
  • Gravies
  • Jarred Salsa
  • Milk (evaporated, sweetened condensed)
  • Non-fat dry milk
  • Pastas
  • Rice (brown, white)
  • Spaghetti sause

SPICES/SEASONINGS:

  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Bouillon cubes (beef, chicken)
  • Chives
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Mustard (dried, prepared)
  • Garlic (powder, salt)
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion (powder, salt)
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Vanilla
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Yeast

Additional Items:

Note: the items below are healthful to keep on hand, but will not keep a very long time, so consider how much you stock.

  • Flax Seed (milled)
  • Wheat (raw or toasted)
  • Wheat Germ (raw of toasted)

Cooking Terms

Au gratin:

  • Topped with crumbs and/or cheese and browned in oven or under broiler.

Au jus:

  • Served in it’s own juices.

Bisque:

  • A Thick cream soup.

Blanch:

  • To immerse in rapidly boiling water and allow to cook slightly.

Cream:

  • To soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it at room temperature. Butter and sugar are often creamed together, making a smooth, soft paste.

Crimp:

  • To seal the edges of a two-crust pie either by pinching them at intervals with the fingers or by pressing them together with the times of a fork.

Crudites:

  • An assortment of raw vegetables (i.e. carrots, broccoli, celery, mushrooms) that is served as an hors d’oeuvre, often accompanied by a dip.

Degrease:

  • To remove fat from the surface of stews, soups or stock. Usually cooled in the refrigerator so that fat harden and is easily removed.

Dredge:

  • To coat lightly with flour, cornmeal, etc.

Entree:

  • The main course.

Fold:

  • To incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance without releasing air bubbles. A spatula is used to gently bring part of the mixture from the bottom of the bowl to the top. The process is repeated, while slowly rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.

Glaze:

  • To cover with a glossy coating, such as a melted and somewhat diluted jelly for fruit desserts.

Julienne:

  • To cut or slice vegetables, fruits or cheeses into match-shaped slivers.

Marinate:

  • To allow food to stand in a liquid in order to tenderize or to add flavor.

Meuniére:

  • Dredged with flour and sautéed in butter.

Mince:

  • To chop food into very small pieces.

Parboil:

  • To boil until partially cooked; to blanch (see Blanch above). Usually final cooking in a seasoned sauce follows this procedure.

Pare:

  • To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.

Poach:

  • To cook gently in hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.

Purée:

  • To mash foods by hand by rubbing through a sieve of food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor until perfectly smooth.

Refresh:

  • To run cold water over food that has been parboiled (see Parboil above) in order to stop the cooking process quickly.

Sauteé:

  • To cook and/or brown food in a small quantity of hot shortening.

Scald:

  • To heat to just below the boiling point, when tiny bubbles appear at the edge of the saucepan.

Simmer:

  • To cook in liquid just below the boiling point. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.

Steep:

  • T let food stand in hot liquid in order to extract or to enhance flavor, like tea in hot water or poached fruit in syrup.

Toss:

  • To combine ingredients with a repeated lifting motion.

Whip:

  • To beat rapidly in order to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.

Seasoning Cast Iron

Seasoned Cast Iron can be considered the “grandfather” to today’s “non-stick” cookware.

Cast Iron Cookware must be seasoned properly and it will last a life-time.

New Pans:

  1. Heat the oven to 250° – 300°
  2. Coat the pan with lard or bacon grease. Don’t use a liquid vegetable oil because it will leave a sticky surface and the pan will not be properly seasoned.
  3. Put the pan in the oven. In 15 minutes, remove the pan & pour out any excess grease. Place the pan back in the oven and bake for 2 hours.

Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will help create a stronger “seasoning” bond.

Also, when you put the pan in service, it is recommended to use it initially for foods high in fat, such as bacon or foods cooked with fat, because the grease from these foods will help strengthen the seasoning.

Pans needing Re-Seasoning:

If the pan was not seasoned properly or a portion of the seasoning wore off and food sticks to the surface or there is rust, then it should be properly cleaned and re-seasoned.

  1. Remove any food residue by cleaning the pan thoroughly with hot water and a scouring pad. I understand that heating the pan first to a temperature that is still safe to touch helps open the pores of the metal and makes it easier to clean.
  2. Dry the pan immediately with dish towel or paper towel.
  3. Season the pan as outlined above.

Caring for Cast Iron Cookware:

Seasoning a cast iron pan is a natural way of creating non-stick cookware. And, as like you cook and clean the modern non-stick cookware with special care to avoid scratching the surface, your cast iron cookware wants some special attention too.

  • Clean the cookware while it is still hot by rinsing with hot water and scraping when necessary. Do not use a scouring pad or soap (detergent), as they will break down the pan’s seasoning.
  • Never store food in the cast iron pan as the acid in the food will breakdown the seasoning, and the food will take on a metallic flavor.
  • Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off, especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust. Should rust appear, the pan should be re-seasoned.

When you purchase cast iron cookware, they are medium gray in color, but after usage, they start turning darker. (pans will eventually become very black in color.) This is normal and should be expected.