May 30, 2007

My Favorite Summer Dessert

In the summer I love to grill up fruit for dessert when we have friends over for a bbq on the back patio. It’s a quick and easy way to present a dessert that is both tasty and satisfying.

Try grilling up some fruit at your next bbq. Serve the grilled fruit with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for some whipped cream.

Summertime Grilled Fruit
3 firm but ripe nectarines, halved, pitted
3 firm but ripe purple/black plums, halved, pitted
3 firm but ripe red plums, halved, pitted
3 peaches, halved
6 metal skewers or thick wooden skewers soaked in water 30 minutes
3-4 tablespoons sugar
3 T. melted butter

Prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat). Thread 1 piece of each fruit on each of 6 skewers so that the cut sides line up and lay flat. Sprinkle the butter and sugar over the cut sides of the fruit. Let stand until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. Place the fruit skewers on the grill cut side down. Grill the fruit until it is heated through and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Transfer 1 fruit skewer to each plate and serve.

May 29, 2007

Alcohol Substitutions and Cooking Tips

I apologize for not updating recently. I had surgery about two weeks ago and I’m finally back to almost 100%.

Today I’m going to be talking about using alcohol to cook with. Enjoy.

There are a vast number of wonderful recipes which use some form of alcohol as an ingredient in sauces, marinades or as a main flavor ingredient. What do you do when you don't have that particular liquor or you will be serving children at dinner or you do not partake of any alcoholic beverages? In many cases, you can make some non-alcoholic substitutions. In order to be successful, you'll need to be armed with information and background on why the alcohol is used and the flavor goal of the recipe.

In general, the main reason any alcoholic beverage is used in a recipe is to impart flavor. After all, the finest extracts with the most intense flavors are alcohol-based, particularly vanilla.

Fermentation intensifies and concentrates fruit essence into liqueurs, cordials, brandies and wines. Other foodstuffs are distilled into potent liquors specifically to boggle the senses but still appeal to the palate. Many object to the alcohol content, but it is a completely natural by-product which happens daily in nature, even within the human body. In many recipes, the alcohol is an essential component to achieve a desired chemical reaction in a dish. Alcohol causes many foods to release flavors that cannot be experienced without the alcohol interaction. Beer contains yeast which leavens breads and batters. Some alcoholic beverages can help break down tough fibers via marinades. Other dishes use alcoholic content to provide entertainment, such as flambes and flaming dishes. Wine and Kirsch were originally added to fondue because the alcohol lowers the boiling point of the cheese which helps prevent curdling. In the case of leavened goods, there is no ready substitute for beer. Instead, choose a different recipe which uses another leavener such as yeast, baking powder or baking soda. For marinades, acidic fruits will usually do the trick. For flambes and flamed dishes, you're out of luck if you don't use the alcohol. For flavoring alone, you will often have a number of substitution options.

Alcohol burn-off depends on cooking methods
Does the alcohol burn off?
Alcohol not only evaporates without heat, but the majority also burns off during the cooking process. How much remains in the dish depends on the cooking method and amount of cooking time. Those bourbon-soaked fruitcakes would have to turn into bricks before the alcohol evaporates. A bottle of Guinness in a long-simmered stew is not going to leave a significantly measurable alcohol residue, but will add a rich, robust flavor. A quick flambe may not burn off all the alcohol, whereas a wine reduction sauce will leave little if any alcohol content. Heat and time are the keys. Obviously, uncooked foods with alcohol will retain the most alcohol. An alcohol burn-off chart has been compiled by the U.S.

Department of Agriculture with information on how much alcohol remains in your food with specific cooking methods. Keep in mind that this is the percentage of alcohol remaining of the original addition. If you are not a math whiz, the calculations might confuse you. For example, take a liquor that is 100-proof. This means it is 50 percent alcohol by volume. So a baked and/or simmered dish with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of 100-proof liquor cooked for 1 hour will have 12.5 percent alcohol content remaining, about 1/4 ounce. Divide that by the amount of servings, and the quantity goes down proportionately (.0625 ounces per each of 4 servings). With liquors and liqueurs (even lower proof), seldom is more than 1/4 cup used in a recipe so as not to overpower the dish. (For reference, a standard shot or jigger of liquor at most bars contains about 1-1/2 ounces, but can range from 1 to 2 ounces.) The same dish with 10-proof wine, or 5 percent alcohol by content, would end up with less than 2 percent alcohol content remaining after baking or simmering for 1 hour. Non-alcoholic beverages by U.S. law contain less than 1 percent alcohol. Longer cooking and/or higher heat gets rid of even more alcohol. If you're worried about legalities, long cooking should do the trick. Always inform your guests when you are cooking with alcohol in case they have allergies or health problems.

Cooking with alcohol tips and hints
You'll have to use your own judgement on substituting for alcohol in recipes. Sweet recipes will require different substitutions than savory. Amounts will also make a difference. You wouldn't want to use a quarter cup of almond extract to replace the same amount of Amaretto liqueur. And remember, the final product will not be how the original cook intended, but it should still be tasty.

· Look at the main ingredients of your recipe. Usually the main liquid ingredient can be extended to cover a small amount of required alcoholic ingredient.
· If the amount is less than a tablespoon, it can probably be omitted although flavor will be lost.
· Any variety of juices and/or tomato juice can often be substituted in marinades.
· Non-alcoholic wine or wine vinegar can be substituted for wine.

Add a bit of honey or sugar to emulate sweeter wines.
· Extracts, flavorings, syrups, and juices can be substituted for flavor-based liquors and liqueurs. They will usually need to be diluted.
· Use non-alcoholic wines over cooking wine or sherry. It should be drinkable. The cooking wines and sherries are loaded with sodium which detracts from flavor and adds a salty flavor to the food.
· To help burn off more alcohol and reduce potential injuries when using it for flamed dishes, be sure to warm the liquor before adding to the hot (the food must also be hot!), and use a long match or lighter to ignite it. Always tilt the pan away from you when igniting. The liquor should be added very last possible moment and lit as quickly as possible to avoid the liquor soaking into the food. Let the alcohol burn off enough so the flavor does not overpower the dish.
· Tomato sauce or juice combined with Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce can work as a substitute for many robust liquors.
· Frozen desserts and high alcohol-content liquor do not mix well since the alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature. You may end up with runny ice cream or sorbet.
· When using milk or cream in a sauce containing alcohol, be sure to burn off the alcohol before adding the cream or the sauce may curdle.
· If the alcoholic ingredient in the recipe is intended to be the main flavor and you must avoid alcohol, find another recipe. It just won't taste the same.

May 14, 2007

Cooking with Flowers

Yes, those flowers look beautiful as garnishes, but what do they taste like?

Bean blossoms have a sweet, beany flavor. Nasturtiums have a wonderfully peppery flavor similar to watercress and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers. Borage tastes like cucumber, and miniature pansies have a mild wintergreen taste. Violets, roses and lavender lend a sweet flavor to salads or desserts. Bright yellow calendulas are an economic alternative to expensive saffron, though not quite as pungent. Other flowers may have a spicy or peppermint flavor. When in doubt, taste, but first be sure it's not poisonous.

Edible flowers tips and hints
Edible flowers as a garnish make any dish look special on your table, but be sure the flavor of the flower compliments the dish.

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Here are a few ideas to beautify your recipes and perk up your taste buds:

• Place a colorful gladiolus or hibiscus flower (remove the stamen and pistil) in a clear glass bowl and fill with your favorite dip.

• Sprinkle edible flowers in your green salads for a splash of color and taste.

• Freeze whole small flowers into ice rings or cubes for a pretty addition to punches and other beverages.

• Use in flavored oils, vinaigrettes, jellies, and marinades.

• One of the most popular uses is candied or crystalized flowers, used to decorate cakes and fine candies.

• Asthmatics or others who suffer allergic reactions to composite-type flowers (calendula, chicory, chrysanthemum, daisy, English daisy, and marigold) should be on alert for possible allergic reaction.

• Never use non-edible flowers as a garnish. You must assume that if guests find a flower on a plate of food, they will think it edible.

• Use flowers sparingly in your recipes, particularly if you are not accustomed to eating them. Too much of a pretty thing can lead to digestive problems.

• If you are prone to allergies, introduce flowers in small amounts so you can judge their effect. Some have a much more pronounced flavor than others, so you'll need to judge accordingly.

• The leaves of some flowers also have culinary uses, but be sure to check a trusted food reference source before experimenting. This helpful edible flowers chart links to full color photos, plus includes info on scientific name, pertinent warnings, and flavor comparisons.

• Peruse this plant toxicity list for further reference.

May 11, 2007

Beer in the Rear Chicken

I’ve got a great summer treat this Friday!

Have you ever had Beer in the Rear Chicken? Well, if you have not, it’s time to try something new. It’s makes a fun picnic recipe that everyone will enjoy. And the best's a waaay country recipe. I bet you won't see this on the menu at a fancy city resturant.

I even have a beer can holder for the chicken my mother bought my brothers and I for Christmas that works great. You can purchase these at many kitchen places, but my came from Bass Pro Shop.

Beer in the Rear Chicken
By Lane

1 (3-pound) chicken
Olive OilSeasoned salt, Lawry’s is what I use 1 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper1 (12-ounce) can beer, whatever will do1 sprig Rosemary
1 spring Thyme

If you are using a charcoal grill, get coals ready.

Wash the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Coat the chicken in olive oil, wash hands. Place all seasonings in bowl and stir around. Coat the chicken with the seasonings and be sure to really rub the seasonings into the meat, wash hands.

Pop open the beer, take a drink…then insert the thyme and rosemary spring into the beer can. Place the beer can into the cavity of the chicken. Place on grill and cook for about 48 minutes (Be safe and use an instant read thermometer. Turn the chicken around if necessary.

May 8, 2007

Roman Style Chicken

I have been watching a lot of Everyday Italian on the Food Network lately because of Giada’s wonderful recipes and I came across this hearty dish about a month ago.

Roman Style Chicken is full of many of my favorite things…tomatoes, prosciutto, garlic, capers and lots of wonderful herbs.

Try serving this the next day over a bed of angle hair pasta. Also, this recipe calls for white wine. When cooking with wine it's a good rule of thumb to only use wine you would want to drink. If you don't like the taste of the wine, you won't like it in your cooking either.

I’ve been asked a lot of questions lately about many of my recipes that include what some call “out of the ordinary ingredients.” So, I’m going to include the description of some of the ingredients that might be called in to question.

Prosciutto: is the Italian word for ham, used in English to refer to dry-cured ham. You can find prosciutto in the deli isle in your local grocery store.

Capers: is a biennial spiny shrub that bears rounded, rather fleshy leaves and big white to pinkish-white flowers. A caper is also the pickled bud of this plant. The bush is native to the Mediterranean region, growing wild on walls or in rocky coastal areas throughout. The plant is best known for the edible bud and fruit which are usually consumed pickled.

Roman Style Chicken
By Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup olive oil 1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

May 7, 2007


Paula Deen News...

Birmingham, AL (April 27, 2007)--Paula Deen, whose southern charm is as irresistible as her fried chicken, is cooking up something new for her fans to crave. Teaming up with Hoffman Media, the publisher of her magazine, Paula is kicking off a national tour this summer. Paula Deen Live, which will begin in early June and go through September, will be visiting Shreveport, Charlotte, Nashville, Dallas, and Atlanta.

The concept for the tour stemmed from Paula Deen’s hugely successful Cooking Schools, which she began in 2004. When tickets went on sale for all 52 classes in 2006, they sold out in less than two weeks. “That’s why we partnered with Hoffman Media to offer Paula Deen Live,” said Theresa Luckey, Paula’s executive assistant. “We are able to offer larger venues with better price points so that anyone who is a fan of Paula’s can come and see her.”

Each two hour show will feature Paula cooking up some of her down-home favorites, sharing tips, and answering fans’ questions. Paula hopes the tour will encourage families to get back in to the kitchen and around the table, where she says her family shared some of their favorite memories.

“People need to get on back to the kitchen,” said Paula. “I’m gonna show you how we do it at my house. I’ll tell you what I cook and share the secrets to making it good. But the most important thing I want folks to realize is that the memories are what matter. Families get to know each other through cooking a meal together, and then sitting down and lickin’ their plates clean. Now that’s comfort food.”

Paula’s magazine, cookbooks, and specialty products will be on sale at the event, along with an assortment of tour branded items. Tickets for the show range from $45 to $65 and can be purchased by calling your local Ticketmaster office or logging on to For dates and more information about the tour, log on to Tickets on sale now.

Now, for one of my favorite Paula recipes....her fried chicken. I'm pulling this from my old recipe archives. If you haven't tried this recipe before, you are missing out! Perfect meal for a summer picnic.

Southern Fried Chicken
by Paula Deen

3 eggs
1/3 cup water
About 1 cup hot red pepper sauce (recommended: Texas Pete)
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pepper
House seasoning, recipe follows
1 (1 to 2 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into pieces
Oil, for frying, preferably peanut oil

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs with the water. Add enough hot sauce so the egg mixture is bright orange. In another bowl, combine the flour and pepper. Season the chicken with the house seasoning. Dip the seasoned chicken in the egg, and then coat well in the flour mixture. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a deep pot. Do not fill the pot more than 1/2 full with oil.Fry the chicken in the oil until brown and crisp. Dark meat takes longer then white meat. It should take dark meat about 13 to 14 minutes, white meat around 8 to 10 minutes.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

May 1, 2007

Recipe Mania

A friend recently emailed me requesting a recipe for a spicy pork marinade. She'd been to a restaurant and enjoyed the pork chops created with this recipe and wanted to duplicate it at home. Using the handful of recipe search sites on the Internet I found one that looked like a winner and sent it off to her.

For some reason, this exercise made me wonder just how many recipes there are in the world. The Internet alone must have archives of thousands if not millions. In addition, there are millions more in cookbooks, newspaper food columns and agricultural association brochures. This in turn made me wonder just how many of these recipes are unique and that's what led me to write this article.

It's said there are no new recipes anymore. New cookbooks contain reworkings of previously published recipes from cookbooks that contain adapted recipes from previously published recipes and so on. A subtle change here or there, a pinch of this instead of a half teaspoon of that and EUREKA, you've developed a new recipe.

Recipes themselves are copyright free meaning you may copy the list of ingredients in any way you want. It's the recipe name and instructions that are subject to copyright law so be sure if you switch a recipe to use as your own, you make significant changes in these areas.

If new cookbooks contain hashed over versions of old recipes, why are they so popular?

I call this phenomenon, recipe mania. Recipe or cookbook collecting is the American homemaker's number one hobby according to Avis Hulvey, editor of Cook's Notebook. I believe it, although I’m not a homemaker I have around 300 some cookbooks that I have acquired through the years. There appears to be some weird force that compels normally sensible people to feel they "must have" every published recipe in their kitchen or they'll expose themselves to culinary illiteracy. The irony is that even if we live significantly longer than average, we’ll still never have time to make all the recipes.

So getting back to that spicy pork marinade, what would I have done? I probably have the recipe right under my nose in my own obsessive collection of cookbooks and recipe literature. Finding a basic marinade recipe and adding a couple of chopped jalapeno’s or chili powder sounds reasonable to me.

The first point to remember when altering recipes is that all changes are experiments. The results could be a masterpiece or an inedible disaster. There lies the fun in adapting or altering recipes not to mention satisfying creative impulses. You become a culinary pioneer or mock food scientist in your quest to develop something new.

Until next time…keep your hands floured and your ovens warm!

Oatmeal Pudding Cookies
from Becky Spencer of Stotts City

1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 package of instant vanilla or butterscotch pudding (I use sugar free)
2 eggs
3 ½ cups of quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup of raisins

Mix flour with baking soda. Combine butter, both sugars, and pudding mix in a large bowl; beat until smooth and creamy. Bet in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and then stir in oats and raisins. (Batter will be stiff) Drop onto a ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.