Maybe you already cook a bunch of meals and freeze them for the week ahead -- at this new place in Yuma AZ, you can skip the shopping and prep, and just assemble! Especially good idea this time of year when nobody wants to stand over a stove.
Bouillon Both the cubes and the instant are often little more than salt and some flavorings, with only some color added to distinguish one variety from another. I often use the instant in place of salt to add some extra flavor to homemade soup or stew. Knorr’s is a good brand that has much better flavor than most others and even some tiny parsley flakes. (You may need to look for it in the imported foods aisle.)
Soup base This is a product that has been used for years by professional chefs, and only recently available at regular grocery stores in small enough quantities to be practical for the average home cook. This isn’t powdered or granulated like bouillon is, it’s more like the consistency of the paste used for kiddie crafts. This is usually made from actual meat, and so the flavor is much better than even good instant bouillon. This is reflected in the price, which is several times more than the same quantity of the granulated stuff.
Gravy mixes In most cases these aren’t much more than finely-powdered bouillon with some food starch for thickener. If convenience is your only concern, go for the canned stuff, which tastes better. The cost is another thing entirely. Gravy in the envelope costs far too much for me, and so if I need some gravy for something, say, the last round of turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving, I cheat by using either granulated bouillon or soup base. You can really only get away with this if you’re using it right on meat. I wouldn’t try it on potatoes, it’s really not good enough to stand alone.
Sneaky Turkey Gravy
2-4 T flour 2-4 T butter or margarine 2 cups water 1 tsp each beef and chicken bouillon granules Onion and /or garlic powder to taste
In 2 cup glass measuring cup, microwave butter and flour 30 seconds on High. With fork or wire whisk, stir until smooth. Gradually add water to the 2 cup mark on your measuring cup. Microwave in two minute increments, stirring well each time, until gravy is the consistency you like. Note: use the larger amounts of flour and butter for added thickness and richness.
I've been disappointed in cake mixes lately. It seems that they come out too thin when you follow the package directions. So I tried using a smaller pan, which helped some. I think they really have less stuff in the box than they used to, but one of my local grocers had cake mixes on sale, so we bought a bunch of them.
I discovered a little trick which I know works with chocolate cake, and I'm going to try it with modifications on other flavors.
What I did was this: I added 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons baking cocoa, an extra egg, and half a cup of sugar. The result was truly amazing! A tall, fluffy, moist cake. What this amounts to really, is adding a package of pudding as they require for their pound cake mixes that often show up on the box somewhere. I was not inclined to drive into town for a silly box of pudding ;>)
Good thing, really, it worked out very well! I bet that's what they really add when they say "pudding in the mix." Just some cornstarch -- they make you add the extra egg. (Cake mixes without "pudding in the mix" only call for two eggs.) H'mmm...
Plain white bread is not all that hard to make. This is the main recipe I use, since it only makes
one loaf or a dozen rolls. It's easy to use this simple recipe as a springboard for other kinds of
breads or rolls, with added ingredients, which I'll outline below.
Basic White Bread
1 pkg dry yeast
1 Tbl sugar
1 1/4 cup water (at 105-115 degrees)
2 Tbl oil
3 1/2 to 4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Dissolve yeast in water, add sugar, and allow to proof for 15 mins to an hour. Stir in oil and 3
cups of the flour and the salt. Add more flour until mixture "cleans" the bowl. Turn out onto
floured board and knead for 3-5 mins. Put dough into greased bowl and allow to rise until
double in bulk, about an hour if you're using quick-rise yeast.
Shape into loaf or rolls, using loaf pan or 9x13 inch cake pan for rolls, and let rise again, until doubled. Bake in preheated oven at 375
degrees for about 25 mins.
Substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose to make wheat bread. you
can add 1/2 cup sunflower kernels or 1/2 cup of uncooked whole-grain cereal for variety.
Substitute 1/2 cup of rye flour for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to make rye bread. Add 1 Tbl
caraway seeds, if desired.
Grind 1 cup oatmeal in the blender (measure before grinding) and substitute for 1 cup of the
For spicy rolls that don't require buttering, melt 4 Tbls (1/2 a stick) butter or margarine in the
baking pan, and sprinkle 1/2 a capful Mrs.Dash and 1/2 tsp seasoned salt over the butter
before you add the rolls.
It's best to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water. If you don't have one, sprinkle a few drops of the water on your wrist and if it's comfortably warm, you're probably close enough. I microwave the water for about 30 seconds in a glass measuring cup, but the time will vary according to the temperature of the water coming out of the faucet.
If you live in a hot climate as I do, store your yeast in the refrigerator. High temps above 85 degrees or so for a long period of time can kill yeast. That's the reason for the "proofing" stage in the recipe -- to make sure your yeast is alive and kicking!
Ever had a pasta salad at a restaurant or elsewhere that seems not to taste like anything much?
A big mistake people make when they're cooking the pasta is in forgetting to season it. You really do need that salt in the cooking water ;>) Depending on what kind of salad I'm making, I add a little garlic or onion powder, Mrs.Dash or freshly-ground pepper to the drained pasta while it's still hot, as well. This also helps soak up any water that didn't drain away.
If you're using a salad dressing as opposed to mayonnaise, try adding half the dressing while the pasta cools. This won't work with mayonnaise, since the heat of the dish will curdle your mayo, but it's a good idea otherwise, especially if you're making your salad the night before. Save the other half of the dressing to add just before serving.
Pasta tends to suck up and cancel out dressings, and that extra bit of attention can make a world of difference!
I'm pleased to report our experiment with cooking kale, rather than just using it as garnish, was an overwhelming success. My thanks to the kind soul at eGullett who suggested the recipe, and the people of Portugal. Why Portugal? Because caldo verde is apparently the national dish, much as fish and chips is (or at least was) the national dish of England.
I used it for our annual St. Patrick's Day pig-out. My husband hates green jello, or jello of any kind, for that matter, and we'd about had it with the cream cheese-and-olive horses doovers. ;>)
Of course I had to tweak the basic recipe. I added spinach and fresh basil, and used pepperoni, because out here in the desert you don't find Portugese sausage in your local Albertson's. It was great stuff, though! An absolute keeper. We're going to share some with our buddy Lock Mackay, who'd live on soup if you let him.