Monday
Aug012011

Blueberry Maple Syrup

Are you running out of ideas on how to use those fresh-picked blueberries? Here is a quick and delicious syrup recipe that can be used for a ton of things like pancakes and french toast, ice cream, and pound cake and cheese cake topping.  The uses are limitless.
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup maple syrup (Grade B)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 strip lemon zest
In a medium saucepan add blueberries, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon stick, vanilla and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer over low heat cooking about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Strain blueberries or leave them in for a chunky blueberry tastebud explosion.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
Monday
Jul252011

Self-Rising Flour

 

What is self-rising flour?
Self-rising flour is flour with leavening agents already incorporated which will give your end product a lighter, softer texture.  This type of flour is generally used for preparing scones, biscuits, muffins, etc.

 

Have you ever run out of self-rising flour or needed it and decided to skip the recipe because you were out. Well, since self-rising flour is not used as frequently as all purpose flour, instead of purchasing a 5 lb. bag, here is a quick remedy/recipe for self-rising flour that yields 1 cup.  Simply double or triple the recipe for your desired needs.

 

1 cup minus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Thoroughly sift together all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Yields: 1 cup

Wednesday
Apr132011

The Potato: Earthy Goodness

Potatoes fall into two categories: Starchy & Waxy

Starchy potatoes are best used for baking.  Russets are starchy potatoes and have more starch than moisture, therefore they absorb more liquid creating a fluffy texture when cooked.  They are excellent as baked or as au gratin, whereby the potato absorbs the liquid and thickens the cream of the au gratin.

Waxy potatoes are best used for boiling.  Red potatoes, which are waxy,  have more moisture than starch therefore they hold their shape much better.  Excellent for potato salads or for oven roasting.   

Here is a quick-glance potato legend:

Yellow (such as Yukon Gold): These are all-purpose potatoes and are best for frying, steaming, boiling, baking, roasting and mashing.

Red:  Best for au gratin, boiling, steaming and scalloped.

Russet (high starch): Best for mashing, boiling and baking.

White (low starch): Best for roasting, mashing, steaming, boiling and au gratin

Fingerling: This low starch potato is named as a result of being finger shaped.  Best baked, roasted or boiled.

Blue or Purple: This medium starch potato can be used for baking, boiling and steaming.

Potatoes are delicious, nutritious and versatile but they are also a bit tempermental.  So the next time you grab a bag of taters from your grocer, please remember:

  • Store in a cool, dark and well ventilated place.
  • Do not place in refrigerator.  Cold temps convert the starch to sugar resulting in a sweet taste and unpleasant color.
  • Paper bags and plastic bags with perforations are the best bets to extend the shelf life....the taters need to breath and have air circulating around them.
  • Do not wash until you are ready to use as moisture promotes spoilage.  

And before I forget......

Ever wonder about those green potatoes that you see in the grocer or that you have sitting in your bin at home.  The green that you see is a build-up of a chemical called Solanine which is the direct result of a potato being exposed to too much light.  Solanine will give your potatoes a bitter taste and can also cause illness if eaten in large quantities.

If you have potatoes that are green, simply cut away all of the skin before using.  And if your potatoes are sprouting, they are trying to grow which means that the current storage conditions are not ideal. Move potatoes to a cool, dark and dry location which will slow the sprouting.  For those potatoes that have already sprouted, simply cut away the sprouts before using and all is good.  

 

Monday
Mar282011

Poultry Seasoning

Poultry seasoning can be found in practically every grocery store.  The next time you run out, no need to go running to your local store.  It's quite easy to make your own:

Combine and blend the following ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container.  You now have poultry seasoning whenever it's needed:

  • 2 Tablespoons rubbed sage
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon dried savory
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

 

Thursday
Mar032011

Pure Vanilla Extract

Pure Vanilla Extract is very expensive but OHH so delicious. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron.  One reason pure vanilla carries such a hefty price tag is due to the labor intensive hand-pollination and hand-harvesting required to produce the final product.  Even after harvesting, there is at least another 6 months of manual labor where the beans are soaked in hot water and allowed to sweat on flats in the sun before preparing them for a slow fermentation period. 

Vanilla, only harvested once a year, is the fruit of an orchid plant which grows in the form of a bean pod.  It can take up to 3 years from the time of planting before the orchid plant begins to produce.  Most of the worlds vanilla is grown mainly in 4 countries: Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti.  Limited amounts of vanilla are also grown in Jamaica, Uganda, Costa Rica and India.

Did you know that vanilla comes in something other than liquid form?  Vanilla is also available in paste and powder form packing an even more intense flavor punch.  My favorite is Vanilla Paste (and yes, a little goes a long, long way).  The paste has a consistency between molasses and syrup and holds hundreds of vanilla seeds in suspension which gives your final product an intense vanilla deliciousness (both aroma & taste), in addition to a gourmet appearance.  When you open a bottle of vanilla bean paste, the vanilla scent permeates the entire room and causes your mouth to water and your mind to drift into dessert land (not a bad place to drift off to, right?).

If you would like to dabble into pure vanilla deliciousness, I recommend Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste (shown).  Nielsen Massey also sells some of the very best Vanilla Extract.  These items are available at:  Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table.  They can also be purchased online at Amazon and www.kingarthurflour.com.  

For those DIYers out there, I have a quick recipe for making homemade Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract:

DIY - Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

6-8 Madagascar Vanilla Beans split lengthwise (or any vanilla bean that is available in your area)

½ cup Bourbon, high grade

1 ½ cups Vodka, high grade (if using flavored, vanilla would be best)

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid that is tall enough to accommodate all of the vanilla beans.  Vanilla beans should be completely covered by the alcohol.  Store in a dark, cool location out of direct heat and light for a minimum of one month (however, the longer the curing period, the better).  The mixture will become amber after day 2 or 3.  Shake jar every few days to distribute the vanilla seeds throughout the mixture.  Once you begin using the extract, replenish with more vanilla beans and alcohol to maintain your supply. 

Routinely check the vanilla beans to ensure they maintain a strong vanilla scent.  If you detect that a bean(s) no longer has a strong vanilla fragrance, discard and replace with a fresh, split vanilla bean.