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Category — tips

Tip Tuesday

Ever since I began cooking for myself … some 40+ years ago, I have made poached eggs the exact same way. I fill a small saucepan with water, bring it to a boil, add a pinch of salt and maybe a splash of vinegar, crack in the egg and simmer for exactly three minutes. This produces the perfect, fully cooked whites with a runny yolk egg, every single time, guaranteed.

In the last month or so, I’ve done it differently and now this is the only way I’ll cook a poached egg.

First, let me say, I love poached eggs. For breakfast, or on top of an open sandwich for lunch, or atop pho for dinner. Nothing is better than a perfect poached egg. The thing I’ve never liked about making it at home was cleaning the saucepan. There was always stuck egg white on the water line that wasn’t exactly easy to clean off.

With the new and improved way, there is nothing stuck, no need to do more than a quick soapy wipe, rinse, and dry. Now, I use a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup, a splash of vinegar, and the microwave.

Adding vinegar to the poaching water makes for faster coagulation of the egg whites. It also helps make the whites more tender by reducing the strength of the egg protein bonds. With the vinegar, the proteins unravel and loosely bond back together as they cook.

You will need to experiment a bit to find out exactly how long it takes to poach an egg to your perfection in your microwave. I have an 800-watt microwave and it takes about 70 seconds to have an egg with a runny yolk and set whites. I’ve also had success cooking for 1 minute and simply leaving the egg in the hot water for another 20 or 30 seconds while I prepare the English muffin or toast. Always drain on a paper towel before transferring to a muffin. No one likes soggy bread!

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September 27, 2022   No Comments

Tip Tuesday

Season and Clean Your Grill Grates

Season your grates with half an onion

This works because onions contain sulfur compounds which is why you cry when cutting them. When heated, these compounds react with the bare metal to form a hard, non-stick sulfide layer.

Preheat the grill as hot as it will get.

Poke an onion half with a grilling fork and rub the onion vigorously along the grates. Apply some aggressive pressure.

Go over the grates several times. This will deliver non-stick grilling and easier release of grill debris and carbon.

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September 13, 2022   No Comments

Tip Tuesday

Today’s tips are all about making the most fabulous at-home grilled burger possible. Later this week, I’ll share the burgers I made for Marissa and Jeff while in Chicago last month. The Illinois grilling season is quickly coming to a close, but here in Arizona, it lasts all year long. Chef John Ash was a frequent guest chef at Les Gourmettes Cooking School and one of my favorite teachers. All of the tips/secrets come from him.

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September 6, 2022   No Comments

Tip Tuesday

Today we have some baking tips. As you may recall, I hate to bake but sometimes it winds up being a necessity.

For more intense chocolate flavor in chocolate-based recipes, substitute 1/3 to 1/2 cocoa powder for 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour that is called for in the recipe.

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August 30, 2022   No Comments

Tip Tuesday

A new feature here is Tip Tuesday. There is already of TIP INDEX of tips I’ve previously shared over there on the left side of the page. We’ll be adding to it on Tuesdays.

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August 23, 2022   No Comments

new and improved

On September 16, 2009, when this blog was one-month-old, I posted a recipe for Zucchini Nut Bread. Today I’m posting an updated version. There were three large zucchini in the market box I purchased a week ago. I haven’t been inspired to use them until now. I found a recipe from the website Kitchn which used a few techniques I wanted to try on quick bread.

A quick note before I continue. I doubled the recipe, so the instructions tell you that the recipe makes four mini loaves but you’ll see that I end up with eight. That is why.

The first technique was to squeeze the moisture out of the grated zucchini. This is not a new technique, I’ve used it before, for example in this Zucchini Crostini recipe. I’d never thought to use the technique for a quick bread, but it makes perfect sense. It results in a lighter, less dense, less heavy bread. Below is a photo of how much liquid I removed, plus what was left in the wet towel.

Next, was the idea of replacing the usual cinnamon in zucchini bread with lemon zest. Less wintery, more spring and summery. You had me at Lemon!

Lastly, lay the bread on its side when cooling. The thought here is that the bottom of the loaf is the hottest part, so exposing it to more air (instead of trapping that heat between the rack and the counter -creating an unwanted steaming action) helps prevent the bottom of the loaf from becoming soggy. Brilliant! And it works!

If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see that I cooled one loaf with the bottom on the rack. It’s true, the bottom crust was not as crisp as on the others. This recipe is a winner all around. Oh and that Zucchini Crostini is a keeper too. Be sure to bookmark them both for when you have a plethora of zucchini this summer.

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April 8, 2020   2 Comments

talk, talk, talk

I have so much to tell you about this simple brown, dump, and walk-away turkey chili recipe. It’s so easy that I shouldn’t have anything to share, but somehow…

The first thing is these chips! They are so good that I am never buying them again. I’ve made the chili twice a week and I’ve gone through two bags of these devilishly yummy chips. Five pounds on the hips later and nope, I’m done with them! So take that, Tostitos Hint of Jalapeño.

Next is this cheese. I hope that all Trader Joe’s lovers, like myself, know about TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar. It is the bomb! It makes me unsatisfied with plain old cheddar now. There is just something about this cheddar-Parm combo that makes me happy. The texture isn’t great for slicing, it is a bit crumbly, but I don’t care, I use it on Harmony Boards anyhow just to spread the love.

Now for an explanation as to why I used a slow cooker instead of my Instant Pot for this chili. Laziness is the simple reason. Both my slow cooker and Instant Pot are in this cupboard on the left in my garage. The day before I made the recipe for the first time, I’d bought a bunch of wood for Harmony Boards. The sanded, branded and oiled boards that are ready to go are in the rolling bin to the right. The new wood is stacked against the bin and is blocking half of the cupboard. The Instant Pot is behind that locked door on the right and the slow cooker is behind the unblocked door on the left. That’s the reason. You could easily use an Instant Pot for this recipe and cut out the step of browning the meat in a skillet and brown it directly in the pot.

Lastly, I want to share a “Grandma Tip” that I’ve always assumed everyone knows and uses. And that is when you use canned food, such as the diced tomatoes used here, and you have a liquid that is also added to the dish, such as the water in this recipe, you pour the liquid into the empty can to wash out the can and get every little bit of the food out. You do that, right? If you don’t then your grandma or mom messed up. You need to do that. And in the case of this recipe which uses two cans of tomatoes, you add the water to one of the cans and then pour it into the other can to wash it out and then pour it into the slow cooker.

See, I had a bunch to share! Now on to this delicious recipe! I love it because the addition of tortilla chips at the end gives it a hint of tamale taste. YUM!

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June 3, 2019   5 Comments

Espresso Martini

We’ve been celebrating my mother-in-law, Patricia Hopkins, and her upcoming 92nd birthday all weekend long. She, along with her oldest son, my brother-in-law, Roger, and his daughter, my niece, Megan, flew in on Thursday. Mom’s birthday isn’t until the 13th, but this was the weekend that worked best for everyone’s schedule. Marissa is also in town, making it doubly special.

On Saturday afternoon, Megan was craving an espresso martini. She’d asked my nephew, Brandon, to make one for her a while back in Chicago and was disappointed when he didn’t create it for her. Brandon fancies himself as quite the mixologist, rightfully so. You may remember one of his creations that I just had to reproduce when I returned home from a trip to the windy city.

Anyhow, after I put together the makings for the espresso martini, Megan and Marissa felt the need to taunt Brandon on Instagram.

I put together a trio of Harmony Boards for our appetizers last night. I found the cute little pumpkin-shaped boards at Michael’s a couple of weeks ago. They were on clearance for 70% off!

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November 5, 2018   No Comments

this and that

Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.

– Anthony Bourdain.

Photo courtesy of griffithimaging.com

I want to give you a heads-up; next week I’ll be posting all about the wedding I helped with over Mother’s Day weekend. It’s been nearly 4 weeks since I last mentioned it in THIS post. That is because I was so much “at the moment” and honestly too busy, to take photos of the food or the gorgeous setting and set-up. That’s a good thing in the scheme of it all, but not a good thing when you need photos to blog about!

Thankfully, the wonderful wedding photographer, Jen Griffith of Griffith Imaging, sent me photos to share. So please come back on Monday to see all the beauty that was Cody and Chanté Howard’s wedding weekend.

Today, I want to share a great cooking tip that I thought most people knew about, but realized I might be wrong in that thinking when I found out my own kids didn’t know it … and they used to live with me.

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June 15, 2018   1 Comment

So much to love at Trader Joe’s

Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me about my favorite products at Trader Joe’s.

A much simpler question would be to ask what products I don’t like.

From the moment you walk in the door, the beautiful variety of fresh flowers, potted plants, and seasonal items awaken your senses. They are there for the taking, at prices that make them irresistible.

It sets the pace for the rest of the shopping experience. For me, that experience is quality items and deals that only Costco can compete with. The difference between the two is the variety – Trader Joe’s wins on that front. Then there’s the quantity. I don’t always want to buy a 5-pound bag of pine nuts, sometimes an 8-ounce package does the trick.

I’ll take you on my tour of “My Favorite Things – Trader Joe’s Edition” the same way I walk through the store when I’m actually shopping. The fresh produce and cheese/deli cases are next to the flowers.

I won’t buy Belgian endive anywhere else and I use it all the time for appetizers.

These are the teeny tiny potatoes I use for my Caesar Dip. Love them!

I can’t begin to tell you how many boxes of their basil I’ve bought over the years. You can buy regular, organic, or even a potted plant of basil.

Speaking of options, when I posted this recipe, the TJ’s in my area weren’t carrying shishito peppers, now they are!  On to the cheese…

I prefer white cheddar. The selection is great  – and I’ve tried them all. By far, the best is Trader Joe’s very own Unexpected Cheddar. You can always find it at the ready at my house.

Fontina, Mozzarella, Iberico, Manchego and Chevre are my other must-haves.

Where else can you find so many choices of smoked salmon?

… and prosciutto?

Pancetta is hard to find… except at Trader Joe’s. This cubed pancetta is always in my refrigerator!

There are more varieties of hummus than you could try in a month!

Across from the produce is the bread. I don’t usually have bread in the house. I only buy it when I need it for a recipe. The three types I usually end up with are the baguettes and Challah.

And during the holidays, I always need buttery brioche.

If it’s a crazy day and I don’t have time to make either lunch or dinner, the Field Fresh Chopped Salad or the Veggie Wrap is my go-to.

We’ll turn the corner and get my “only buy at Trader Joe’s” items found in the dairy case. Butter and heavy cream.

Only one time (during the holidays a few years back) did I run into a situation where the store was out of their “pink lid” heavy cream. I had heart palpitations and ended up driving to the next closest store because I will NOT buy it elsewhere.

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November 7, 2017   1 Comment