Category: Food

Got Broiler Pan?

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For some of us, one of the most useful tools is not the standard equipment it should be with a new range. (I have no idea why, either.) What is that useful piece of equipment?

A broiler pan.

Yep, a two piece granite ware pan that is used under the broiler.

Before you click on past this post, give me a few minutes. Please. 🙂

That extremely useful and easy to maintain pan is perfect for cooking bacon in the oven – no need for fancy wire racks for your baking sheets. Simply put your bacon on the insert over the base pan and put all in the oven. The grease melts into the bottom pan, making clean up a breeze and your bacon is perfectly cooked WITHOUT swimming in bacon fat.

I use mine to roast pork shoulder steaks. Makes the process easy and the clean up a breeze.

Clean Up?

I spray both pieces with cooking spray – this way things don’t stick and clean up is a breeze. You can line the bottom pan with aluminum foil, but you might also need to wash the pan after you remove the foil.

The pierced top section is also sprayed so the foods won’t stick. This really helps with clean up, too.

Uses?

As I’ve said, I roast bacon on the pan, but I also cook steaks, chicken and vegetables on it too. The pierced top section is great not only to allow fats to drip off, but air to circulate.

Broiling is a good function as well. 😉 Read your oven’s user guide and your recipe to be sure you know what to watch for and don’t leave your broiler unattended.

Need One?

Not sure where yours is or you need a new one? Go to Amazon.com and put “broiler pan” in the search box. Bypass the disposable ones – they are a waste of money and not geared toward heavy usage. The rest of the options should run around $25.00. Mine is granite ware and I love it – easy to use, easy to clean.

The top section can come in a variety of forms; holes, slats, combination. Look carefully and think about cleanup. The slats are a lot easier to deal with than the holes and they provide better drainage.

Make sure the pan has a deep bottom section – this will catch a lot of fat or dripping without spilling in the oven.

Note, I do not use the broiler pan to roast a whole chicken. That requires a different type of pan.

Dig out your pan, or get a brand new one, and see what you can do with it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it has become one of your favorite tools in your kitchen.

Categories: Cooking Food

Recipe Collections

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A few days ago a friend and I were talking about one of the items she had in a holiday meal. One of her youngsters was watching one of her youngsters inhale Grandmother’s rolls and said, “Mom, you’ll have to teach me how to make that.”

As we chatted, we both acknowledged that many of our favorite recipes came not just from our mothers, but our grand – and great-grand – mothers. Handed down over generations and updated as needed based on what was available.

A while back, I wrote about creating a cookbook to collect and hand down family favorites. My friend remarked that that was a project she wanted to embark on this year.

While I love perusing cookery sites and magazines, not to mention cookbooks, I think the hand made route is perfect. You can put in not just the recipe, but recollections, pictures, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Why not include family photographs along with the instructions?

One other thing I think invaluable is the How To section. Every good recipe explains how to actually create the dish, but sometimes they lack that bit of … … … instruction that gives the maker the information that will result in success. (Not everyone is a master cook, and sometimes you need some directions to go with the <cough> directions.) 🙂

Years ago I was stunned to discover that Julia Child had created what amounts to a How To book for herself. It was a collection of quick recipes and notes she needed to make everyday things. Gathered in a binder it was handy on a shelf in her kitchen.

One of the country’s most revered cookery teachers had a cheat sheet in her kitchen. Makes perfect sense to me!

Each stove and each oven is a different animal, so it is a good idea to keep notes about the quirks. If you are one of us who needs a reminder about how long to boil an egg – why not just make a note and put it where you can find it, rather than dig out the phone, laptop, book or whatever and browse the Internet?

How many of us remember Grandma making something and not using measuring spoons? Grandma knew how to measure using the palm of her hand.

By the way, “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom” is available if you are interested. I perused it at my local library, but Amazon has it as well.

If you are thinking about creating your own recipe collection – either for yourself or to pass down – take some time to sketch out what you would like the final book to be.

Not just recipes, but How To’s and such.

Then, as the year progresses, make notes about what you have made and add it to the recipes for the book. Why not include some pictures?

I’d bet you could have quite a collection ready for next Holiday Season. And someone will be speechless to have received it.

NOTES:

There are several types of recipe software available – some at nominal cost. I prefer to use this type of tool rather than a word processor because the software has tools to make the creation easy, organized and simple. You can also get nutritional information, should you want to (and why not?)

If you decide to go the paper route, you can pick up blank books pretty much anywhere. Many of the ones I’ve seen come with divider and pre-printed pages.

Whichever way you choose, good luck, have fun and enjoy the process. There is a lot of great food out there!

Categories: Cooking Food Gifting Musings

Meal Planning Made Easier

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For lots of people planning meals is part headache and part budget killer. For folks who are on a special diet, or want to lose weight, meal planning can be a hurdle. Folks who are bored with the Tried And True and would like to add some variety to their meals can be frustrated with all the various options available.

It doesn’t have to be that way – for any of these folks.

eMeals provides weekly inspiration for dinner, makes sticking to diets and eating healthy exceedingly easy, and pays for itself several times over.

There are lots of options and flexibility is built in. Are you a Vegan? Paleo? Gluten Free? Prefer Crock Pot to regular cooking? Budget friendly? Want to take advantage of grocery pick up services? Looking for fast and healthy recipes? eMeals has you covered.

Save some money, save some time, get inspired.

Try eMeals Free for 14 Days see what they have to offer. If you would like to make grocery shopping even easier, check out the following links.

Try eMeals plus grocery delivery with Shipt

Try eMeals plus grocery delivery with Amazon Fresh

Try eMeals plus grocery pickup with Walmart

Try eMeals plus grocery delivery with Instacart

As you contemplate your 2019 resolutions, remember that one good way to help you achieve your goals is to use the tools that work. Give it a try and see what happens!


Categories: Cooking Food

Foods for Thought

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As you start thinking about your Holiday Meal(s)…

Entertaining With Beth has some great ideas not only for a Holiday Brunch, but menu items for the Big Meal.  Beth has also included some great foodie inspired gift ideas.  Just sayin’.

Oh Yum with Anna Olson has an item by item collection of recipes that could inspire your menu.

America’s Test Kitchen has brought some amazing dessert items to the table.  Million Dollar Shortbread to name but one.  By the way, if you have a Roku device the channel is FREE.  Check it out!

The Domestic Geek put together a fantastic holiday menu that is worth taking a look at.  She not only covers a variety of options, but tackles the fix-its sometimes necessary when things get a bit out of control.

These are my go to resources for ideas.  I hope they are helpful for you, too.

Categories: Food

Holiday Goodies

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I’ve been contemplating some holiday goodies lately.  I don’t do a large scale bake-a-thon because I don’t need to be eating that much sugar. 

Yeah, I know, but it sounds good, right?  🙂

Midnight Bliss Cake

One item has been returning to my mind: the Midnight Bliss Cake that Kraft and Bakers One introduced us to years ago.

Check out the recipe here:  Bakers One Bowl Midnight Bliss Cake.  I like to play with flavors, so I’m contemplating replacing the chocolate bits with Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips.

This cake is an easy to prepare show stopper that can be baked in smaller bundt pans to be wrapped and gifted.  It is moist, however, so be thoughtful of the amount of time between creation and gifting.  Wouldn’t want the cake to be stale when first bite is taken.

Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake

The cocoa cinnamon pound cake is another easy to do showstopper recipe that I was first introduced to by Hershey.    It has a rich flavor with a touch of cinnamon that is different. 

Check out this recipe from Cooks.com:  Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake.  It is also one that can be made in smaller pans for gifting.

I hope you check out these two recipes and enjoy both.  They are great additions to a dessert table, pot luck, holiday fare or for gifting.

Categories: Cooking Food Gifting

Simple Luxuries

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As you no doubt can imagine, I love a good cup of coffee.  I’m a bit particular about it, in fact.  I also enjoy a good cup of hot tea.

Sometimes, however, I want something to go with the beverage.  Something a bit … extravagant.

I love a good scone.  Cookies are nice, cupcakes and doughnuts are fine – sometimes even preferred.  But there are times when I want a good scone.

A few years back I came across a scone mix that was so simple, so easy – and so flavorful – that I thought it couldn’t possibly be good.  I was wrong.

Sticky Fingers Bakeries produces a scone mix in a variety of flavors that ticks so many boxes I don’t mind the $ I pay for them.  You literally add water, shape as you desire and bake.  That is it.

If you can make drop biscuits or drop cookies, this mix is for you.

I just got my order from Amazon and I am debating which to try first: pumpkin cranberry, raspberry white chocolate or peppermint chocolate chip.  They are all new to me.  I love their blueberry, but there is a list of flavors that are sure to appeal to just about anyone.

No, they are not cheap and they are hard to get.  Because they use only the best ingredients, some flavors are not available year round (grab the pumpkin quick) and because they are limited the price point can be a bit high.

But a good scone with a good cup of coffee or tea?

Heaven!

Categories: Cooking Food Musings

Breakfast. Easy. Anytime.

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I love breakfast.  Anytime.  Anyplace.

I’m also the occasional lazy cook.  <shrug>

I developed this…process over time and it seems to work no matter what I use.

Potatoes

Hash browns are pretty iconic.  They are also pretty interchangeable.  Potatoes are potatoes pretty much any way you prepare them.  For ease and budget reasons, I keep tater tots in my freezer.  Years ago I discovered that if you wanted some really radical hash browns without the work, let some tater tots defrost a bit before you put them in a hot skillet with a little bit of oil or butter.  Smash em and let them brown.  Crispy, crunchy and everything a hash brown aspires to be.

The only thing easier is to put them in the oven.  Hmmm.

Step One

Set your oven to preheat at the temperature on the package of tater tots you are using.  Usually this is 350 degrees, but it could be a bit higher.  Line a baking tray with foil and put the required amount of tater tots on the tray.  Once the oven is hot enough, put the tray into the oven and set your timer for 1/2 of the recommended cooking time.

Bacon

In my house, the breakfast meat of choice is bacon.  I like ham or sausage occasionally, but not enough to hassle with it at home.

Step Two

If you are cooking bacon from a raw state, you might want to put this in before – or with – the potatoes.  Check out this article from AllRecipes for more information.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get out your broiler pan.  Why a broiler pan?  It allows air flow around the bacon and the dripping falls into the bottom of the pan allowing easier clean up and a lot less mess.  Don’t forget to line the bottom of your broiler pan with foil.  Save yourself work!

Lay the bacon side by side on the pan.  You don’t need to put a lot of room between slices if you have a smaller pan or a lot of bacon, or both.  Try not to overlap the slices.

Put the bacon into the oven for at least 10 but up to 20 minutes.  Watch carefully because it can go from perfect to perfectly inedible in a flash.

NOTE:  You can put the tater tots and bacon into the oven at the same time and temperature, but be mindful that you will need to adjust cooking times for both.  I’d suggest using the 350 degree temp for both which will allow you a bit more time.

Waffles, Pancakes, French Toast

Remember I said to set the timer for 1/2 of the recommended cooking time for the tater tots?  Frozen breakfast breads like waffles, pancakes, etc. can be heated to a perfect state in the oven.

Biscuits may take longer, but any frozen waffle, pancake or french toast strip can be put on the baking tray in that last 10 minutes and reheated.

Step Three

When the timer goes off, put the breakfast bread of choice on the baking tray alongside the tater tots and return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time for the tots.  Check your bacon – if it is done to your liking, remove it and set it aside to cool.  If not, leave it in the oven for a few minutes more.

Keep an eye on the bread items because they will heat FAST and get crunchy before you know it.  Not a problem if you like your french toast or waffles in that state, but not really great for pancakes.

The last ten minutes are important.  You will want to watch to be sure nothing gets overdone.  This means you may be pulling things out before that 10 minutes are up.

Eggs

While your oven is taking care of the majority of breakfast, you can spend a few minutes cooking your eggs.  Or not.  Your choice.

Finale!

When all the component parts are cooked to your preference, turn off the oven, set the baking tray aside and dish up.  If you used foil to line your pans, most of your clean up is also done.  If you use precooked bacon, the cooking time will be seriously reduced – I usually add it onto the pan along with the waffles.

Notes

You can always precook a batch of waffles, french toast or pancakes and freeze them.  I often buy a large quantity of tater tots to be used for a variety of meals, but you can also buy premade hash brown patties.  I don’t recommend putting the shredded or home style versions in the oven as they are made more for cooking in a pan rather than on a sheet pan.

Ham and sausage are always options.  Try them in the oven and see what happens.  Of course, you could also cook them on the stove top while the rest is in the oven.

You might also find that my timing is off for your oven.  It happens.  The first couple of times you try this – and you know you will – make notes about what you tried and how it worked.

Categories: Food

Fall Dinner

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Looking for something a little different?  This is an old recipe that I’ve used many times over the years.  It is a slightly different take on dinner that is easy to prepare, works well with a side salad and simple dessert and can easily be used for Company.

Broccoli Beef Squares

Course Main Course
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 c Broccoli — Chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 c cheddar cheese — Shredded
  • 1/3 c onion — chopped
  • 4 ounce mushroom pieces
  • 2 c Bisquick® baking mix
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese — grated
  • 1 Dash pepper
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Fresh Broccoli – steam until almost tender. Drain.
  3. Brown ground beef; drain. Stir in the onion, mushrooms and 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar.
  4. Mix baking mix, water and the remaining cheddar cheese until soft dough forms; beat vigorously 20 strokes.
  5. Pat dough in greased 13/x/9 pan with floured hands, pressing dough 1/2 inch up sides.
  6. spread meat mixture over dough; sprinkle with broccoli . Mix remaining ingredients, pour over broccoli.
  7. Bake uncovered until golden brown and knife inseerted near center comes out clean – 25-30 minutes

Recipe Notes

1 10 ounce package frozen broccoli, thawed and drained, can be substituted. Do not cook.

Categories: Cooking Food

Pantry Patrol

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Getting the pantry, freezer, fridge and stash under control.

I admit it.  My kitchen is a mess.

No, I don’t mean the unwashed dishes, I mean the mess of a collection of food items that I have no real understanding what I own.

I am a big proponent of a pantry.  A well stocked pantry allows lots of meals to be made without a last minute trip to the store, or in some cases, fast food drive through.  We won’t discuss food delivery.

To clarify:  “Pantry” includes the contents of the fridge, freezer, cabinet and anyplace else you stash food items.

My pantry has gotten a bit out of hand lately <cough> and it is time for me to take a few minutes to determine what I have, what I need and what can be tossed.

I don’t buy a lot of things in bulk, but there are a few items that always hit that list.  Because I like to cook ahead, I look for chicken breasts, ground meats and a roast or two.

If I made my own stock, I would be looking for bone in items – chicken wings, for example – that would be used to make stock or broth.

Pasta is another item that I like to have a variety of.  Dried pasta, that is.  Why?  Pasta dishes are quick, easy and inexpensive. 

Did You Know: Pasta shapes were designed for different sauces.  Some collect sauce either on or in the shape, while others allow for the right amount of sauce to collect on the shape.

I like to have a selection of ‘cream of’ soups on hand, too.  While mushroom may be the ‘go to’ item, I look for chicken, broccoli, celery and pretty much any other cream soup flavor.  I use them in sauces and casseroles to add flavor and enhance creamy textures.

The price range on these soups can be broad, but I have found that, for the most part, store brand and low fat versions work just fine. 

I like to keep evaporated milk on hand, too.  It is a great tool when cooking and a lot cheaper than using bottled milk.  The ratio is 1 to 1 (or 1/2 cup evaporated milk to 1/2 cup water) and even the non fat versions add a richness to the dish that you don’t usually get with just plain milk.

Cheese is a staple in my house.  I love a variety of types and flavors and use them in a variety of dishes.

At the end of the month, if there are left overs hiding in the fridge, they make a fantastic Clean Out The Fridge Mac & Cheese.  🙂

Bread is an item that is totally dependent on my mood.  I either eat a lot of it, or not much.  I like to have a good Toasting bread on hand.  I love a good sourdough, too.  Tortillas (flour and corn) can be great in wraps, tacos, and quesadillas.

If you have never explored the bread aisle or the bakery aisle in your store, you are missing out.

Because I don’t cook for a crowd, I don’t stock a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I stock a lot of frozen fruits and vegetables.  I do have fresh tomatoes on hand and I will pick up salad makings when I’m in the mood, but for the sides to main dishes or additives to casseroles, frozen is my choice.  Except for green beans.  I really prefer a canned green bean.  <shrug>

Why frozen over fresh?

I hate waste and I know that it is most likely that I won’t be cooking and eating fresh fast enough to avoid overripe produce.  There is also the uncertainty factor of knowing just how long the fresh produce has been on a truck or in a warehouse before it gets to the store.  Frozen is flash frozen as soon as it is picked – at the peak of its flavor and ripeness – and the cost is lower.

Now, if you have been reading this and thinking about your own kitchen, keep in mind that my situation is a little different in that (a) I don’t have kids and (b) I don’t cook for a lot of people so (c) my needs are different.

At the moment, my slow cooker is busy making dinner and I’m gathering my list to determine what my next shopping trip needs to include.  Chaos averted!

Categories: Cooking Food

Taste Testing

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We are creatures of habit. 

This was brought to my attention several years ago when I purchased my first Kindle.  I discovered that when I walked into a book store, I automatically went to the same sections.  I was looking for works by favorite authors or in favorite genres, ignoring pretty much the rest of the shop.

Believe it or not, the Kindle gave me access to parts of the store I would never have ventured into and, as a result, I discovered authors and genres that I came to enjoy as much, or more, than my tried and trues.

I’m coming to believe that many of us approach our food choices in much the same way.

I’ve been a fan of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country for years.  Both the shows and the magazines, usually include a segment that is the taste test.

Professional and amateur cooks and eaters try a specific food in different brands to determine which is preferred and if it is necessary, or worth, spending $$$ for high end brands.

The results are interesting and the instruction (or back story) of the food is quite educational and helpful.

I recently discovered a BBC production, Eat Well For Less?, that focuses on addressing large food bills by looking at alternatives.  Before you freak out, no they do not always promote the less expensive items.

What I am discovering is that many of us are attracted to what appear to be sales offers, specials, specific brands, and are willing to pay a premium amount for them.  Even when it might not be a good idea.

A recent show had a couple who discovered that their favorite tea, the brand they thought was best, didn’t taste as good as they thought once the fancy label had been removed.  In fact, the one they preferred, tasted better and cost less.

What I find interesting is the thought that because we get into these shopping ruts, we might be doing the exact same thing as the couple with the tea. 

What would happen if we got together with a group of friends and put on a taste test?

Something as simple as an agreement for each couple to split the bill for the test items and have a sample party.

It could be a simple test of a variety of snacks, drinks (soda, coffee, and the like) and such or a broader check of a meal.  When you head off to the store, a selection would be purchased from the higher to lower price points.

The products would have to be blind packaged (put into plain containers with simple labels) and someone could be the designated data keeper.

If nothing else, is would be a great conversation starter. 

If you would like more information on this process, check the links in the text above.  Some, or all, of the programs can be found on YouTube, so you can see what they are up to and how you might construct your own tasting party.

Let me know what happens!

Categories: Cooking Food Musings

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