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Are you a busy person who just never got around to learning the basics of cooking? We built startcooking.com just for you. You'll learn how to make quick and tasty meals, plus learn the basic cooking skills you'll need. Get ready to start cooking!



Published: Wed, 06 Dec 2006 09:00:00 -0500

Copyright: ℗ & © 2012 Kathy Maister
 



Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 07:00:00 -0500

In the movie Ratatouille, the little chef Remy rejoiced in discovering the pleasures of combining certain foods to maximize their flavors. He would have certainly done his happy dance after trying this Pear and Blue Cheese Salad! When brought together on one plate, the five simple ingredients used in this recipe create an explosion of taste and texture that put it in my top five list of the best salads ever! As true with many salads, you can adjust the amounts according to your tastes. To make enough for two people, I’m using:3 ounces of salad greens1 pear3 ounces of blue cheese1/4 cup of pecans2 Tablespoons of salad dressingYou can choose your favorite variety of pears, just make sure that it is really (really!) ripe. I used Stilton blue cheese. There are many varieties of blue cheese available at the grocery store, all with a slightly different flavor; some much stronger than others. The price of blue cheese can vary dramatically depending on where it is from.  If in doubt as to which one to buy, ask the person in charge of the cheese counter to explain them. They may even offer you a taste test!Whole pecans look nice on the plate, but you can use chopped pecans as well.A simple vinaigrette salad dressing is all you need for this salad. You can make it yourself or buy your favorite brand.Slice the pear in half and remove the core. I used a small paring knife and a melon baller to remove the core.Once the core is removed, you can cut the pear into slices or chunks. To add a bit of a fancy touch to the look, I cut the pear into slices, leaving 1/4 inch at the top uncut. You can then fan the pear out on the plate.Assemble the salad right on the individual serving plate. Start with the lettuce, then add the pears. Crumble the blue cheese and dot it around the plate, then sprinkle on the pecans. Finally, drizzle on some salad dressing. You can serve this salad with some crusty bread and a glass of wine.Lunch is ready!Enjoy! Recipe: Pear and Blue Cheese Salad serves 2 3 ounces of salad greens 1 pear 3 ounces of blue cheese 1/4 cup of pecans 2 tablespoons of salad dressing Wash the lettuce and arrange it on two plates.Cut the pear in half and remove the core. Cut it into slices or chunks and put 1/2 on each plate.Trim the rind off the blue cheese, divide it in half and crumble it onto the plates.Garnish the salads with pecans.Add dressing as desired. [...]



Chocolate Fudge Pie

Thu, 30 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0500

This decadently rich chocolate pie recipe has an ingredient that that is going to surprise many of you! When I told my trainer, Mr. Strong......about this pie, he was extremely skeptical because that surprise ingredient is “silken tofu”. Having never tried tofu, Mr Strong had no idea what to expect and was very hesitant to give it a try. When he tasted it and then asked how to make it, I knew we had a winning dessert!Tofu comes in different consistencies. If you have never bought tofu before, it is essential for this recipe to buy the “silken” tofu (which is also used to make delicious smoothies!) Look for the word “silken” on the packaging.The filling for this pie is all made in a blender. You will need:16 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted1/3 cup of coffee liqueur (Khalua) or strong black coffee) 1 block of silken tofu 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 1 tablespoon of honeyYou will also need a 9-inch graham cracker pie crust (or 8-10 mini size) which you can make yourself or buy pre-made. I recommend using semi-sweet chocolate chips, although you could use just about any chocolate you prefer. The chips are more economical than buying a premium chocolate bar. (Use semi-sweet chocolate or a combination of bitter sweet (4 ounces) and semi-sweet (12 ounces).Put the chocolate bits into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate, for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Give it a stir. If it’s not smooth and melted, zap it again, in 15 second increments, until it’s completely melted.Meanwhile, cut out a small corner of the silken tofu container and drain off the excess fluid - only about 2-3 Tablespoons.Measure out the coffee liqueur (Khalua), honey and the vanilla.Now, put the tofu, coffee liqueur, vanilla extract and honey into a blender:Mix this all together on medium speed for about 20 secondsAdd the melted chocolate…to the blender…and mix that in as well, on medium, for an additional 30 seconds.With a silicone spatula, scrape down the insides of the blender.And give it one more whirl, on medium for about 20 seconds, until everything is totally blended and smooth.Pour the chocolate mixture into a 9-inch graham cracker crust...or 8-10 mini crusts.Put the pie (or mini pies!) in the refrigerator for about 1-to-2 hours to set.A tart pan with a removable bottom also works beautifully with this recipe.Pour the filling into the prepared crust.And refrigerate the tart until it’s firm. Serving the PieIf you have made a nine inch pie using a pre-made or home made crust, then just start slicing.  If you used the mini crusts you can gently remove these tarts from the tin.  For those that made a crust from scratch and use a tart pan with removable sides, balance the tart on a large can. The rim drops down very easily.Then just put it on a serving dish and dig in!  (You can also top this pie with some whipped cream if like!)Of course you could always just forget about a crust and pour this fudgy filling straight into a beautiful stemmed glass and eat it as is!Enjoy! Recipe: Chocolate Pie Recipe serves 8 16 ounces of chocolate chips - semi-sweet 1/3 cup of coffee liqueur 1 block of silken tofu 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract1 tablespoon of honey 1 Graham Cracker pie crust - 9-inch Melt chocolate in a microwave safe dish.In a blender combine the chocolate, coffee liqueur, tofu, vanilla extract, and honey; mix on medium until smooth, about 20 seconds.Add the melted chocolate and mix for another 30 seconds. Scrape down the inside of the blender with a silicone spatula. Mix for another 20 seconds.Pour filling into graham cracker pie crust and refrigerate about 1-2 hours or until firm.8-10 ServingsInspiration:Edward Heller [...]



Rice Salad Plate

Mon, 27 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0500

I discovered this wonderful dish when it was served to me on a Finn Air flight. I loved it so much I developed my own interpretation!This rice salad is garnished with mandarin oranges and pecans, and is served with hard cooked eggs, herring (from a jar) or salmon, and rye crackers or bread with butter. It is a fabulous lunch or a light supper. This dish requires very little cooking, and it can all be done in advance. For 4-6 servings you will need about 3 cups of cooked rice and 4-6 hard cooked eggs.(You can make your own rice or you can use any leftover plain white rice you might have from an Indian or Chinese take-out meal that you had the day before.)Make the dressing for the rice first.Combine: ½ cup plain yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)2 tablespoons of rice vinegar1 tablespoon of olive oil1 tablespoon of dried dillRice Vinegar has a very mild flavor. You could use plain white vinegar, but I would definitely use less. (Maybe only 2 teaspoons!)Add the rice to the dressing, then add:3 tablespoons of chopped parsley 3 tablespoons of chopped green onionAnd a sprinkle of salt and pepperThis all can get done in advance.When you are ready to serve your rice salad, be sure to assemble each plate in the kitchen, and present the plate as a done deal. Don’t put all the separate bits into serving dishes and let everyone help themselves. Each plate should have lots of eye appeal!Put a spoonful of rice on the plate.Garnish with some drained, cold, mandarin oranges and some pecans.Cut the hard cooked egg into wedges and add to the plate.Drain the herring from the jar and add that too!Use some of the leftover parsley for extra garnish.I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!Cheers! Recipe: Rice salad plate serves 4 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt (I use Greek yoghurt)2 tablespoons of rice vinegar 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 tablespoon of dried dill 3 cups of cooked rice 3 tablespoons of parsley - chopped3 tablespoons of green onions - chopped1 dash of salt and pepper 6 eggs - hard cooked1 jar of herring (small)1 can of mandarin oranges - drained 1/2 cup of pecans 8 rye crackers In a large bowl make dressing by combining yogurt, rice vinegar, olive oil, and dried dill; mix well.Add rice, parsley, and green onion to the dressing and mix to combine; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serveWhen you are ready to serve your rice salad, assemble each plate individually.Put a spoonful of rice on the plate.Cut the hard cooked egg into wedges and add to the plate.Drain the herring and add to plates.Garnish with some cold, mandarin oranges and some pecans.Serve with rye crackers or rye bread and butter. [...]



Ploughman's Lunch

Thu, 23 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0500

Cold plates from around the world make a great lunch or light supper. Many require little or no cooking.  In fact you can put together a delicious Cold Mediterranean Plate with all store bought ingredients like hummus, stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, olives and some pita bread.One of my favorite cold plates is the English “Ploughman’s Lunch.” Many years ago, my English husband introduced me to a this delicious meal along with a “Shandy” (1/2 beer and 1/2 lemonade) to wash it all down.The great thing about a Ploughman’s lunch is that is takes less than 10 minutes to prepare!It consists of a bit of mixed salad, crusty bread and butter, a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, and Branston pickle, which is a sort of relish or chutney. Many Americans have never heard of Branston pickle. But if you look in the international section of the grocery store I’ll bet you’ll find it, nestled between the “mushy peas” and PG Tips tea.Branston Pickle was first introduced in 1922 by Cross and Blackwell, in England of course. The actual recipe is still a secret! It has this really unique spicy, sweet, tangy flavor, that when combined with cheddar cheese and bread, you have yourself a little bit of heaven. You can vary proportions to your taste.  Substitutes are allowed but watch out if you have any English people at your meal!When I serve this at home, the only difference is that I usually stick to just the lemonade to wash it down. Otherwise, a siesta would be on the menu as well!Cheers!P.S. Be sure to also check out my recipe for  Cold Rice Salad Plate.  Everyone loves the unique blend of flavors in this recipe! Recipe: Ploughman's lunch serves 2 4 leaves of lettuce - washed1 tomato 1/2 cucumber 1/4 cup of salad dressing 4 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese 4 tablespoons of Branston pickle 1/2 loaf of (crusty) bread and butter Salad:Cut lettuce into bite size pieces, tomato cut into wedges, sliced cucumber. Drizzle salad dressing on top.Add wedge of cheddar cheese, Branston pickle and crusty bread and butter. [...]



How to Cut a Pineapple

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0500

You can buy either whole pineapples or pre-cut fresh pineapples in the produce section of the grocery store. In my grocery store it costs almost $2 more to buy the precut pineapple.

The mighty pineapple is really easy to slice, as long as you have a big sharp knife.

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Start by removing the top

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Then the bottom

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With the pineapple sitting firmly on the cutting board, start slicing off the outer layer of skin.

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Then cut it into slices.

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Trim out the very center as it tends to be very tough to chew.

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The juicy, sweet, and tangy flavor makes it a great addition to fruit salads or fruit kabobs.

If you are making a gelatin fruit salad (Jell-O!) you have to use canned pineapple. The natural enzymes in fresh (and frozen) pineapple do not allow the gelatin to set.

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Be sure to buy pineapples that have crisp green leaves and feels uniformly soft to the touch. Specific soft spots means the pineapple has started to go off.

Pineapples do not continue to ripen, or get any sweeter off the vine. Uncut, kept at room temperature, the acidity levels will decrease.

Be sure to wrap up leftovers tightly in plastic wrap. They should last about 3 days in the refrigerator.

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Pasta Sauce - Marinara

Mon, 13 Aug 2012 08:00:00 -0500

This is a very basic (and quick!) tomato sauce that takes very little time to cook and can be made ahead of time and frozen. It can be used with any pasta dish or in lasagna. You will need the following ingredients to make this Marinara Sauce recipe:Two 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes in juice1 bunch of Fresh basil½ cup extra-virgin Olive oil2 small onions, finely chopped4 garlic cloves, finely chopped1 teaspoon dried oregano1 teaspoon sugarsalt and freshly ground black pepperBe sure to get both the onion and garlic chopped before you turn on the stove.You’ll need about 1 cup of finely chopped onions for this recipe. Two small or one medium onion should do the trick.Peel and mince 4 cloves of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic, but it does get cooked, so it’s not going to be too strong.Fresh basil is essential for this recipe. Nowadays, most grocery store carry fresh basil year-round. You can wash it the same way you wash lettuce. Pull the leaves off the stem and throw the stems away.Put the basil and the canned tomatoes, with their juice, in a blender and puree everything until almost smooth. Set the tomato-basil puree aside.(As I filled the blender I thought, YIKES, this is way too full! With my hand pressed firmly on the lid of the blender I pressed the puree button. I was very lucky that my kitchen did not end up covered in tomato sauce. Next time I would puree this mixture in two batches!)Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.That does sound like a ton of oil, but believe me it works. It gives the sauce a full, rich flavor.Add the onions and garlic and cook until very tender, about 12 minutes.The onions should not get browned. This is what they should look like after 12 minutes.Stir in the tomatoes and basil that you pureed in the blender and 1 teaspoon of oregano plus 1 teaspoon of sugar. (Don’t skip the sugar. It helps balance the acid in the tomatoes.)Bring the sauce to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. This will take about 10 minutes.Give the sauce a taste. You may need to add about ½ -1 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh pepper. The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. If you are storing it for future use, cool the sauce, then cover and refrigerate it. Gently re-heat sauce over medium heat before using it. If you are going to be freezing this sauce, use small containers that would be enough for 1-2 serving. Be sure to spray your plastic containers with cooking spray first so they don’t get stained by the tomato sauce.(For more basic pasta sauce recipes, be sure to check out my Tomato Sauce Video or my Turkey Sausage Sauce photo-tutorial.)Turkey Sausage SauceEnjoy! Recipe: Pasta sauce: Marinara serves 6 2 cans of whole tomatoes (in juice)1 cup of fresh basil leaves2 small onions - finally chopped4 teaspoons of garlic - finely chopped1 teaspoon of dried oregano 1 teaspoon of sugar 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil 1 dash of salt 1 dash of black pepper Puree (in a food processor or blender) the basil and canned tomatoes until almost smooth. Set asideChop the onion and garlic and set aside. Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until very tender, about 12 minutes.Stir in the tomatoes and basil from the blender and 1 teaspoon of oregano plus 1 teaspoon of sugar.Bring the sauce to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. This will take about 10 minutes.Season with salt and pepper to tasteAdapted from: Giada de Laurentiis [...]



How to: Tomatoes

Thu, 09 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0500

Today's tomato round-up not only includes How to Peel and Seed a Tomato, but also: How to Buy and Store Fresh Tomatoes How to Peel and Seed A Tomato How to Freeze Tomatoes Buying the Best Canned Tomatoes And finally Links to Great Tomato RecipesHow to Buy and Store Tomatoes When you pick up a good tomato, it should feel heavy for its size and have a distinct tomato-y smell. It should have a little "give" when you feel it, but not be mushy, and the skin should not be bruised or have blemishes or cracks. The best place to get tomatoes is in your own backyard vegetable garden or from a local farmer's market. Tomatoes in the grocery store are often picked before they're ready, artificially ripened, and not as flavorful as the locally grown fresh varieties. Canned tomatoes can often be better than the tomatoes in the grocery store. Do not refrigerate tomatoes, because their texture will change; they'll become mealy. Instead, store them on your counter top in a cool, dry spot, stem side down. Don't stack them on top of each other, because they'll tend to make each other mushy. Store them in a single layer. There are roughly three types of tomatoes generally found at the grocery store. 1. Slicing tomatoes: One popular kind is the beefsteak tomato. It is grown for fresh use, and it yields large slices perfect for sandwiches! Look for the sign or the label on the tomato itself. 2. Paste/Canning tomatoes: These are often smaller and more oblong-shaped than slicing tomatoes. They tend to be meatier and have fewer seeds - perfect for making sauces with creamy texture and lots of flavor, or canning for the long winter! One popular variety is the Roma tomato. These are also known as "plum tomatoes." 3. Tiny ones: Cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes are the most popular. These are great for adding tomato flavor to dishes without any of the moisture associated with the cut fruit — perfect for pasta salads or green salads! In the summertime, especially at Farmer's Markets, there are of course, many more varieties of tomatoes available. Here's a great website with a description and photos of dozens of tomatoes.How to Peel and Seed a TomatoSome of you might be thinking - "why do I ever need to peel and seed a tomato?"It can be a matter of preference but, generally speaking, for recipes with quick cooking times it is best to peel the tomatoes. Recipes that call for a long simmering time usually do not have you peel the tomatoes. In my Guacamole recipe I do not peel the tomato but I do seed it as all those extra seeds (and juice) really throw off the texture and can make it watery.Start by cutting an X in the bottom of the tomato with a very sharp knife. You want to just pierce the skin.If you are peeling just one or two (or three!) tomatoes put them in a heat-proof (Pyrex) bowl big enough so that when you add the water they will be totally covered.Pour BOILING water over the tomato(es.)Within about 10-15 seconds, the skin will have burst. (There are some who say to leave the tomato in the water for 3-to-4 minutes. WRONG! You do not want the tomato to cook and get mushy.)Remove the tomato from the water with a pair of tongs.You can also do this in a pot of boiling water, using tongs to add and remove the tomato from the pot.Prepare an ice-bath, which is just a bowl of water with ice cubes in it.Using tongs, drop the tomato into the ice bath.This cools off the tomato and stops the cooking process. Remove the tomato from the ice bath and the skin now just slips off... ...and the tomato is all peeled.To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half with the blade of the knife parallel to the stem.You can gently squeeze the tomato to remove the seeds, or just ease them out with your finger.Once tomatoes are peeled and seeded they can get added to salads, dips, sauces, cold soups, etc.The longest part of the entire process of peeli[...]



Spaghetti Squash

Thu, 02 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0500

There are many varieties of squash available at the grocery store and farm stands.  Spaghetti squash, also know as calabash squash or vegetable spaghetti, is really quite unique because when cooked looks like thin translucent strands of thin spaghetti. It has a mild, delicate flavor somewhat like that of yellow summer squash and watery texture.Spaghetti squash has a rounded shape and can vary in weight and size. The ones I bought weighed almost four pounds and were about 9 inches long.When you buy spaghetti squash, it should have a nice lemon yellow color. If it is green it means that it is under ripe. Washing and Cleaning Spaghetti SquashBegin by washing the squash with a vegetable brush under running water.Dry it well so that it does not slip when you are cutting into the squash.To cut spaghetti squash you need a big, heavy kitchen knife. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.Cutting the squash is the most difficult part of preparing the squash! It is like making that first cut into a melon, which can be tricky if you are not using a knife that can handle the task.Once open, you can see there are seeds and stringy bits that need to get removed. (Just like with butternut squash or pumpkins.)Using a spoon, scrape away the seeds and stringy bits…. …until the inside is clean.Cooking Spaghetti SquashI’m going to show you how to roast spaghetti squash in the oven and also how to cook it in the microwave. Normally these two cooking methods provide very different results. Roasting vegetables often makes them crispy and brings out their natural sweetness. Surprisingly enough, there is virtually no difference in the taste or texture when spaghetti squash is cooked in the oven vs. the microwave!Oven Method:Preheat the oven to 400º F ( = 200º C = gas mark 6-moderately hot.)Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on cut side of the squash and rub it around with your fingers.Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.Place the squash, cut side down in an oven-proof dish.Depending on the size of your squash, it will take approximately 35-45 minutes to get tender.Microwave Method:Place the squash in a microwave-safe dish……cut side down.Cover the dish with plastic wrap……being sure to leave a steam vent.Cook the squash on high for approximately 7-10 minutes - depending on the size of your squash and how powerful your microwave is. If you do not have an automatic turntable in your microwave, give the dish a turn every 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.Remove the plastic wrap with a pair of tongs and be very careful of the built up steam.Note: I do not recommend cooking the squash WHOLE in the microwave. Some recipes have you pierce the whole squash about 20 or 30 times with a knife (so the squash does not explode in the microwave). Then stick it in the microwave whole. It is very difficult to cut and remove the seeds and stringy bits from a steaming hot squash.How to Make the Squash Look Like SpaghettiOnce you have removed the squash from the oven or microwave, check to see if it is cooked by sticking a knife into it. The knife should slide in easily. If you have over cooked the squash it will taste fine but the texture will be creamy and you will not be able to make the spaghetti like strands.Flip the squash over with a spatula so that the cut side is facing up. (Be careful as it will be very hot!)The above photo is of the oven roasted squashUsing a dinner fork, scrape the flesh of the squash….…moving gently around the shell….…fluffing up the strands of squash.Turning the squash into spaghetti strands takes about 10 seconds!You can then serve the squash as is or remove it to a serving plate. It will be very hot so hold the squash in a dish cloth so you don’t burn your hand.The above photo is of the microwave cooked squashDecision time! What do I now do with this [...]



Chocolate Cheese Cake Pie

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

This no-bake Chocolate Cheese Cake Pie is a perfect recipe for the beginner cook!All it takes is just 5 ingredients:12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped1 1/2 cups ofheavy cream1/4 cup of dark corn syrup8 ounces of cream cheese, softened1 9-inch crumb crustThe hardest part is that before you get to dig in, the pie has to set (get firm) in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving it!***There are many pre-made crumb pie crusts available at the grocery store, including ones made from graham crackers or from chocolate wafers.If you are up to making your own crumb pie crust, all the better! I have done a photo-tutorial on How to Make a Graham Cracker Pie Crust. You can choose which crumb crust you would prefer, depending on your cooking skill level.***Start by finely chopping 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. (A serrated edge knife actually works the best for chopping both chocolate and nuts.) Put the chocolate into a heat-proof glass bowl or a metal bowl.Now measure out 1/2 cup of the heavy cream (the remaining cup is going to get whipped!) and 1/4 cup (which is 4 tablespoons) of corn syrup. You can buy either light or dark corn syrup. In this recipe I am using the dark (which has a more robust flavor), but you can use the light if that’s what you have on hand. For those of you who live in parts of the world where corn syrup is not readily available, there is a fabulous description of liquid sweeteners and the appropriate substitutions at Cooks’ Thesaurus. Add the cream to the finely chopped chocolate……and the corn syrup.These three ingredients need to get melted together on top of simmering water. In a medium sauce pan, bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer. (A simmer is when you see small bubbles on the bottom of the pan.)Set the chocolate mixture on top of the simmering water. The water itself should not be touching the bottom of the bowl that the chocolate mixture is in.Give the chocolate an occasional stir.Do not remove it from the stove until the chocolate is totally melted. This will take only a few minutes at most.Remove the chocolate from the stove and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes.***In a another bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream……until stiff peaks are formed. (For a quick review on whipping cream, check out my post on How to Make Whipped Cream)Set the bowl of whipped cream aside for just a moment. With your electric hand mixer, beat in the softened cream cheese to the cooled melted chocolate mixture.Using a rubber spatula (not the electric hand mixer!), the whipped cream needs to get folded into the chocolate mixture. This lightens the chocolate mixture resulting in the perfect taste and texture for the final pie.Folding is a technical cooking term that means to combine generally a lighter ingredient (the whipped cream) into a heavier ingredient (the chocolate mixture) by first placing the lighter mixture on top of the heavier mixture. Then vertically cutting through both ingredients in the center of the bowl, across the bottom and back up the side, across the top and …well that just sounds way more complicated than it is! Check out this video at Expert Village on How to Fold!By the time you have finished folding all the ingredients will have a uniform look.The filling is now ready to pour into the prepared pie shell.This pie will take a good 3-4 hours minimum to set in the refrigerator. Once it does, it will develop a perfect “Cheese Cake” consistency, which no one can resist!Enjoy! Recipe: Chocolate Cheese Cake Pie serves 8 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate - chopped1 1/2 cups of heavy cream 1/4 cup of dark corn syrup 8 ounces of cream cheese - softened1 pie crust (9 inch crumb crust) In a heat-proof bowl, combine the finely chopped chocolate, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, an[...]



Rice Salad-Curried with Fruit

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

This cold curried- rice salad is great to serve year-round as a side dish. It’s perfect to serve with Chicken Cutlets (video), or quiche (video), and asparagus for brunch, lunch or dinner. And it’s great on a buffet table!Start by cooking the rice (video) according to the directions on the box of rice. It is important that the rice be cold when you mix everything together otherwise the rice will clump together. If you spread the cooked rice out on a plate it will cool down faster.Next make the dressing by combining:1/3 cup of vegetable oil1/3 cup of white vinegar1 Tablespoon of sugar2 Teaspoons of curry powder1/2 teaspoon of salt1/8 teaspoon of black pepperI have used the same measuring cup for the oil and vinegar and I am going to mix the dressing ingredients together in my measuring cup.It will look like this (below) when it is all blended together.Set the dressing aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.You will need:1/2 cup of cheese, grated1 carrot, grated1 apple, diced1 red pepper, diced3 Tablespoons of parsley, chopped1/3 cup of raisinsShred the cheese and the carrot. Dice a red (or green) pepper by first removing the core and seeds. (There is a wonderful illustration of this in my Vegetable and Dip video). Then cut the pepper into strips and start dicing.For the apple, remove the core (video) and dice that as well.Remove the stems from the parsley and chop it up. Now all the ingredients have been prepared.Put everything in a large bowl and... ... mix everything together.Be sure to refrigerate this rice salad until you are ready to eat it. Enjoy! Recipe: Rice Salad-Curried and with Fruit serves 8 3 cups of cooked rice - cold 1/3 cup of vegetable oil 1/3 cup of white vinegar 1 tablespoon of sugar 2 teaspoons of curry powder 1/2 teaspoon of salt 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper 1/2 cup of cheese - grated1 carrot - grated1 apple - diced1 red bell pepper - diced3 tablespoons of parsley - chopped 1/3 cup of raisins Cook the rice according to the directions on the package.Whisk together vegetable oil, white vinegar, sugar, curry powder, salt and black pepper and set aside.In a large bowl combine COLD rice with grated cheese and carrot, diced apple, diced green pepper, chopped parsley and raisins.Pour dressing on top and gently mix everything together.Refrigerate until ready to serve. [...]



How to: Zucchini

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

It happens each year around the same time. Summer heat arrives and then – bam! – a bushel of zucchini lands on your doorstep, courtesy of a neighbor trying to offload their backyard bounty. Or, maybe zucchini is just one of those vegetables you have no idea how to cook.Well, the good news is, you don’t even have to cook it; it’s great raw in many dishes. And because it kind of has a split personality, you can use it in everything from stir-fries to cupcakes.Is Zucchini a Fruit or a Vegetable?Bright green zucchini squash is part of the gourd family. Along with its yellow cousin, the summer squash, it is considered both a fruit and a vegetable. The fact that zucchini contains seeds makes it a fruit, but it is used as a vegetable in most recipes. How to Buy and Prepare ZucchiniLook for zucchini that’s about 4-6 inches long, and looks firm and shiny with no breaks or cracks. Large, older fruit will be tough and bitter; the best way to use very large zucchini is in zucchini bread. It can be kept in the fridge for up to one week. When you’re ready to use it, wash the zucchini, then slice both ends off. If the skin of the zucchini has been waxed (to extend its shelf-life), peel the skin, but leave the skin on if it’s unwaxed. Larger zucchini should be peeled first because the skin can be bitter. Golden zucchini blossoms, the flowers on the zucchini plant (pictured below), are also edible. They can be battered and deep-fried, baked, stuffed or used as a garnish for high-class dining!Zucchini is Good For You, Too!Zucchini is a great source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. It’s high in water content, has only 20 calories per cup and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.Try Zucchini Raw or in These Recipes Shred or grate raw zucchini into salads, or cut it into spears for vegetable platters. Grill it: Slice zucchini lengthwise, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle both sides with whatever fresh or dried herbs suit your fancy and some salt and pepper to taste. Grill outside on your barbecue or indoors on a grill pan for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp-tender. Chilled Zucchini Soup is the perfect starter for a hot summer night or an afternoon brunch. Make it ahead of time and dish it up right before serving.  The Italian version of an omelet, this Zucchini Frittata is simple to prepare and versatile. It can be eaten hot or cold, taken to picnics, packed for lunches or served as an appetizer at your next brunch. Here's a super side dish: Sauteed Zucchini with Spinach and Basil Pesto. Whether you make or buy pesto, it’s great on just about any summer vegetable. This is also a good idea for your South Beach Diet friends! This link has lots of other recipe ideas for zucchini. Here's a kid-friendly recipe for Broiled Zucchini with Cheese. It’s got only three ingredients, and it will use up a lot of extra zucchini! A staff favorite from Food & Wine, Farfalle with Yogurt and Zucchini calls for just 5 ingredients, plus nutmeg. This fast bow tie pasta meal is made with yogurt, instead of cream, for a unique taste sensation. Remember the movie Ratatouille, where Chef Gusteau says, "Anyone can cook"? Well you can, too! One-Pan Ratatouille is as easy as it sounds! Bursting with flavor and color, this dish gets its beauty from both green and yellow squash, red, yellow and orange peppers, red tomatoes and green basil. Serve over pasta, tear open a loaf of rustic Italian bread and serve with a bottle of Chianti. Your company will love it! This Zucchini Bread Recipe makes two large loaves or 24 muffins to eat or freeze.  You can't get much easier than this, and your kitchen will smell sweet and spicy!Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes are so moist, you don't need frosting. Scatter a few[...]



How to Cook Corn on the Cob

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

One of my favorite vegetables, fresh corn on the cob, is in season in the USA from May to September.When buying corn, the husks (outer green covering) should be bright green and fit snugly around the ear of corn. The kernels should be in tight rows right to the tip of the ear of corn, and be plump and milky (if you accidently pop one!). While in the grocery store, it is perfectly acceptable to peel back the outer green husk to check and see if the corn looks OK. You should peel the husk off the corn just before you cook it. To do so, peel back the husk, hold the peeled ear of corn in one hand, the husk and stalk in the other and then snap off the stalk.To remove the “silk” (the white hairy threads just under the husk) wet a paper towel and wipe down the corn – from the tip to the stalk end. Be sure to totally remove all the silk as it is really not pleasant to serve corn on the cob with the silky threads still attached.Once the husk and silk have been removed from the corn, it is officially “shucked”.I am going to show you three ways to cook corn on the cob:In the microwaveOn the stove top starting with cold waterOn the stove top starting with boiling waterYou can also cook corn in a pressure cooker which is quick and (many people tell me) quite simple to do, but I still have yet to buy a pressure cooker.Note:  Be sure to have a look in the comment section below as many experienced cooks have added some great suggestions on how they cook corn.Method 1: Cooking Corn in the MicrowaveCooking corn in the microwave is my preferred method. I am not too fond of pots of boiling water heating up my kitchen on a hot summer day.This method is good when you are cooking only 2 or 3 ears of corn. If you are cooking more, you should choose one of the other cooking methods or do it in batches in the microwave.Place the corn in a microwave safe dish and add about 2 Tablespoons of water to the dish.Cover the dish with plastic wrap, making sure to leave a small opening (a steam vent) in the corner to let the steam escape.Microwave the corn on high for 4-to-6 minutes - depending on the strength of your microwave.Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the corn. There will be a lot of very hot steam escaping, so you probably should use a pair of tongs to remove the plastic wrap.Method 2: Cooking Corn on the Stovetop Starting with Cold WaterPlace the shucked corn in a large pot. Cover it with COLD tap water. Cover the pot and set it on the stove. Bring the pot to a boil. Once the pot has reached a boil, the corn is cooked.Method 3: Cooking Corn on the Stovetop Starting with Boiling WaterFill a large pot half way with COLD water.  There should be enough water in the pot so that when you add the corn, it is covered with water but not overflowing.Bring the pot of COLD water to a boil. Using a pair of tongs, carefully drop each ear of corn into the pot.Cover the pot and return the water to a boil.Boil the corn for 5-7 minutes or until done.Cooking Corn Do’s and Don’t’s:How do I know when it’s cooked?The cooking times listed above are general cooking times. Some people eat corn raw, and some dunk it in boiling water for 30 seconds to just heat it slightly. The simplest answer is to taste the corn to see if it cooked to your liking. Over-cooked corn does become really tough and it is also pretty rough on the digestive track!Should I add Salt or Sugar to the cooking water?Corn is naturally sweet. Some people add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to the cooking water to sweeten it even more. That’s totally up to you!Salt, on the other hand, should not be added to the cooking water as it will toughen the corn. Sprinkle it on after the corn is cooked.Ice Bath:When blanching vegetables, like asparagu[...]



Guy Kawasaki's Famous Teriyaki Sauce with Grilled Chicken

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

DiggRedditA huge welcome to Guy Kawasaki who has shared with me his world famous recipe for teriyaki sauce, which I have turned into a video. This blogpost contains not only the script-recipe of his video but also a description of how to use his sauce to make Teriyaki Grilled Chicken.Cheers!Kathy*** Script of Guy's video:Welcome to startcooking.com…I'm Guy Kawasaki here to make my famous teriyaki sauce!All it takes is six ingredients - pureed in a blender:green onionssoy sauce gingerjalapeno peppersan orangeand some sugar Start with half a hand of ginger. You can peel it if you want to, but you don't have to. Just be sure to give it a rough chop.Cut two jalapenos in half remove the seeds and chop them up.Trim the root ends off half a bunch of green onions and chop them up as well.Peel an orange. But just half is needed for this recipe.Measure out 1 cup of soy sauce and 1 cup of sugarNow add everything to the blender. Cover it and let her RIP. Keep blending on high speed until everything is liquefied.This is a great barbeque marinade for about 2 and 1/2 pounds of beef or chicken.Oh and it's got be charcoal. Gas is for wimps!Enjoy!***Thanks Guy, this is a fantastic recipe! Now for the Grilled Chicken!Guy told me that from this point on, he "boils the chicken in the sauce on top of the stove, for 15 minutes - then finishes cooking it on a charcoal BBQ just to get the BBQ look". As many of you know, I live in a condo in the middle of Boston and have never fired up an outdoor barbeque in my life. Consequently, I'm going to show you how to do this indoors! (At the bottom of this post I have listed several links to some really great barbeque sites and recipes!)Everyone should first take a look at my video on Grilled Chicken Indoors.I'm going to be following that cooking procedure, but instead of a dry spice rub on the chicken, I'm using Guy Kawasaki's Famous Teriyaki Sauce to marinate the chicken first.For the "indoor" version of this Teriyaki Grilled Chicken, I'm using boneless, skinless chicken breasts.You can marinate your chicken for up to 24 hours in this marinade. Be sure to use a glass or plastic dish or a plastic bag, and not a metal dish for marinating.Remove the chicken from the marinade……and place on a plate. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.Put the remaining marinade in a medium size pan.Bring the marinade to a boil.Oops! This pan is way too small! As the marinade comes to a boil it will spill right out of this pan. I'm pouring this into a deeper sauce pan!That's much better. The marinade needs to get boiled for 15 minutes to kill off any of the raw chicken bacteria. If it gets too thick, add 2-3 Tablespoons of water and continue cooking.Strain the marinade through a fine sieve. For those that want a bit more teriyaki sauce on their chicken, this is going to be delicious drizzled on top of the chicken.Cooking the Chicken:Non-stick pans are great in that it is not necessary to add any oil to the pan when cooking the chicken.Be sure to follow my instructions in the Grilled Chicken video on preheating the pan. When grilling or frying you do not want to over-crowd the pan. You may have to cook the chicken in two batches. The sugar in the marinade is making this chicken develop really lovely grill marks on both sides.Depending on how thick your chicken breasts are you will need to cook them about 3-5 minutes on each side.Enjoy!Here are the links on Barbecue-ing that I promised you:Emily Chapelle has done a great post here at startcooking.com called A Beginners Guide to Barbeque!Jennifer Iserloh over at Skinny Chef has a great selection of Skinny Marinades!Steven Raichlen, is a barbecue guru, with a show, cookbooks, etc. He has a site called Barbecue Bible: h[...]



Hot Peppers and How to Handle Them

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

This post is mostly about working with jalapeño peppers.  Be sure to check out all of my other posts on chili peppers!How Hot Is It?: Startcooking.com's Chili Chart with videoChili Peppers (Video)How To: ChiliesJalapenos Stuffed with Sausage10 Ways to Use Chili Peppers*****Hot peppers can add a delightful zing to lots of different dishes. There are many varieties available at your grocery store. Not only do they come in different sizes, colors and shape, but they all pack a different punch!  Heat index is the official term for judging how hot a chili pepper is.Today, I’m going to be working with just jalapeño peppers. These are mid-range in the heat index. The safety precautions I’m going to talk about apply to the handling of all hot peppers.Jalapeño peppers are (obviously) spelled with a “j”, but pronounced as an “h.” They can be purchased fresh in the produce department, or in cans and jars in the dry goods aisle. Bottled or canned jalapenos are pickled, which means they are preserved in a vinegar mixture. The added vinegar in the peppers will alter the taste slightly. Nevertheless they are still a great substitute if the fresh ones are not available. If a recipe calls for a pepper to be seeded, this just means you have to remove the seeds and veins. While it is actually the seeds and the veins that cause all the heat, the oils in the peppers can irritate your skin. Some people (including me!) always wear rubber gloves when seeding and chopping hot peppers.To remove the seeds and veins, cut the pepper in half with a paring knife. Then just cut away the veins and the seeds. A very clever way to remove the seeds is with a melon baller. (A melon baller has several other uses in addition to make melon balls. It is also great at removing an apple core!   Who knew?After cutting the chili in half, hold the stem end down, and roll the melon baller from the tip back to the stem end. The veins and seeds all come out in one swift motion. You can then cut the peppers into thin strips or a fine “dice” (small 1/8 inch bits.)Or use them to make some Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage.When you are finished, always wash your hands well with soap and water. After touching a jalapeno, be careful not to touch or rub your eyes, (or stick your fingers in your mouth or up your nose.) The oils will really burn!By the way, if you eat a really hot chili and it’s burning the inside of your mouth, don’t gulp down water!!!! The best way to ease the symptoms is to drink milk or eat yogurt. Dairy products contain a substance which disrupts the burning. All water does is to spread the oils around your mouth — which sure isn’t going to help.Incidentally, red jalapeño peppers are the same as the green ones, except they are left on the vine longer to ripen. They are sweeter but, surprisingly, not hotter than the green ones. Cheers!PSOops!  Almost forgot to mention bell peppers.These peppers have a wonderful taste and texture but are not hot.  They are great eaten raw in salads or on a platter with other cut veggies and some dip.Cook up some rice, brown some ground beef and in just a few more short steps you can have Stuffed Peppers for dinner tonight!Enjoy! [...]



10 Meal Salads

Mon, 02 Jul 2012 07:00:00 -0500

Summer is here and that means barbecues, parties and ball games. So who wants to be slaving over a hot stove while the rest of the world is having fun in the sun?Chicken and Wild Rice Salad (video) But, alas, your family has to eat. Telling them that salad is on the menu will probably elicit cold stares. The meat-and-potatoes camp will surely mutiny when faced with a pile of rabbit food. That’s why we’re talking about hearty, satisfying (and meaty) meal salads. These make-ahead salads are easy to prepare and will get you out of a steamy kitchen at the hottest time of the day. Presto, Dinner is Served! Even without a recipe, you can create your own meal salad by adding some of the following ingredients to a bed of lettuce and other vegetables. Leftover pasta, rice or couscous can also be the basis of a meal salad.Protein sources like marinated grilled chicken breasts, strips of lean flank steak or low-fat cubed deli ham can really jazz things up. Hard-boiled eggs, cheese and even tofu can add considerable amounts of protein to a main dish salad. Fish and seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, crabmeat, scallops and fresh grilled tuna will turn a plain salad into a classy dinner that you'll be proud to serve to guests. Good carbohydrates include lots of colorful vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grain breads and pastas. Save time and buy your favorite bottled dressing or save money and with just a few ingredients, you can make your own! Buy a big loaf of whole-grain bread or delicious focaccia and you have a complete and balanced meal on every plate! Meal Salad RecipesOne of the most popular salads is Chicken Caesar Salad, and it’s also easy and inexpensive to make. Serve this with a big loaf of crusty French bread and a plate of ripe heirloom tomatoes on the side. Short on time? Buy a rotisserie chicken and a good bottle of Caesar dressing, and you're good to go! Get your omega-3 quota with Grilled Scallops over Mixed Greens and Herb Salad. (FYI: Cooking  Scallops  video)  This recipe is quick to make and will really impress your guests. Substitute cooked shrimp or salmon if you prefer. Pretty on the plate too! Another salad with lots of eye appeal is Salad Nicoise (shown above).  You can make a beautiful arrangement of vegetables, tuna, olives and hard-boiled eggs and take a picture before you eat it. And with only five ingredients, you can afford to make your own Vinaigrette Salad Dressing. Make your own Taco Salad -pictured above! There are tons of twists on this salad, including this one that can be set up buffet style. Invite the neighbors over and let the kids help themselves! Just about everything, including the ground beef, can be chopped, sliced or made ahead and assembled just before dinner. Serve with a big bowl of chips and a side of salsa.This Grilled Steak Salad is so quick and easy, your guests will think you've been busy all day! You can grill the meat in advance on a grill pan and let it chill until ready to serve or arrange it when it's done marinating. The meat is so tender and tasty, you'll forget it's a salad!Just because you're a vegetarian doesn't mean you can't sit with the meat lovers! This Chilled Tofu Salad with Miso-Ginger Vinaigrette has plenty of taste and pizzaz. Rich in protein, this salad takes roughly 20 minutes to make, including the dressing. Serve with a side of crispy chow mein noodles.Potato salad does not have to be weighted down with a mayonnaise dressing.  This red bliss potato salad with l[...]



10 Twists on the Classic Burger

Thu, 28 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500

We recently celebrated National hamburger month, the weather is great, and we're grilling like mad! Once you've bought or thawed some ground beef (go for the kind with 20 per cent fat), make up some delicious hamburger patties! Even if you’ve got a super recipe for hamburger patties, it’s nice to go beyond the basic cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, or pattie-lettuce-and-tomato combination. Try some of these variations on the classic burger.Instead of topping your burger with goodies, try stuffing it! This deceptively easy technique will definitely wow your friends and make you look like a gourmet chef. Try a blue cheese burger filled with a seasoned cream cheese/blue cheese mixture (If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, replace it with feta) or whip up a caprese-filled version. If you have forgotten what caprese is, check out number 12 on this list of simple appetizers. Sliders (mini burgers) are everyone's favorite way to indulge in a decadent two bite burger. Chipotle mayonnaise kicks up the heat with Bobby Flay's recipe, Noble Pig does them on a sheet pan, and Macheesmo's Veggie Slider will please all the non-meat eaters in the crowd!If you are feeling a bit adventurous, check out Gourmet's 12 Best Burgers.  Sophisticated palates will not be disappointed!These pepperoni burgers have real pepperoni mixed into the beef! Make it a pizza burger by topping with marinara sauce instead of ketchup, and adding a slice of mozzarella cheese while the patty is still hot. Delicious!Try these Tex-Mex cheeseburgers. The meat is loaded with flavor (and cheese!) and the recipe includes a delicious green chili pepper sauce.Grill some southwest-style chili burgers and top them with pepper jack cheese, avocado slices, and jalapeño peppers.Look no further when trying to please a finicky 3 year old, Giada de Laurentiis makes a Mini Meatball Sandie that kids absolutely love.  Top a burger with roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and fresh mint for a Greek twist on the classic.Mix teriyaki sauce (and some water chestnuts) into your meat before cooking your hamburgers for a sandwich with Asian flair.At your next barbecue have a tray of toppings for your guest to add to their own burgers.  Caramelized onions, crispy bacon, sliced pineapple, and sauteed mushrooms are always a bit hit! If there aren’t enough ideas here to whet your appetite, take a look at this alphabetical list of 100 ways to build a burger. And if 100 still isn’t enough for you, this list one-ups the previous list with 101 burger builders. However you top your burgers, enjoy! [...]



Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Thu, 21 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500

Bottled vinaigrette salad dressing is great to have on hand to add to a vegetable salad, pasta salad or even for marinating chicken. But knowing how to make your own vinaigrette is a lot less complicated than you would think.At its most basic level, vinaigrette is just a combination of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Adding mustard is the secret ingredient that will help bind (emulsify) everything together.To make a basic vinaigrette you need to combine:1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard¼ cup of vinegar1/8 teaspoon of saltA few grinds of fresh pepperMix these four ingredients together and then slowly add:¾ cup of olive oilThis will make enough for about 6 servings of salad dressing. As long as you haven’t added any fresh herbs, it should keep for about 3 weeks, stored in a jar in the refrigerator. (You will need to give it a good shake before you use it!)The EquipmentAs a first step, you have to decide how you want to go about blending these ingredients together. You could use a bowl and a whisk, a jar, or a blender.The (clean!) jar method is probably the simplest. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a jar and just shake it up. Add the oil in 3 stages and shake it well after each addition. This will help it stay blended together.The blender method is basically the same. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in the blender and mix it up really well. Then drizzle in the oil in a slow steady stream. You can remove the inner plug on the blender cover to drizzle in the oil. Some blenders will “spit” back at you when you remove the inner plug. You may have to hold your other hand over the hole leaving just a tiny space open to drizzle in the oil.If you are making vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk, you need to make sure the bowl doesn’t slide all over the counter top while you are slowly adding the oil.  Unless you have three hands, the solution is to make a collar for the bowl out of a dish towel. Fold a damp dish towel into a log and then into a circle. Sit the bowl on the top of the circle to hold it steady. Now one hand can hold the whisk while the other hand drizzles in the oil!The IngredientsThe Mustard: use a nice - preferably French - mustard. A grainy mustard would work just fine as well. (Bright yellow mustard, which is great on Hot Dogs, would work but not taste as good as a French mustard.)The Vinegar: Red wine vinegar would be the classic choice. You could also try fruit vinegars or herb-infused vinegar. White vinegar would give your vinaigrette too harsh of a flavor. Malt vinegar is never used for a vinaigrette. You can substitute lemon, lime or orange juice for the vinegar.The Oil: Olive oil would be the preferred choice.Many people add shallots, dried or fresh herbs, and even poppy seeds to their vinaigrette. Just remember that if you have added shallots or fresh herbs your vinaigrette should be used with in a few days of making it. Cheers! Recipe: Vinaigrette salad dressing serves 6 1/4 cup of vinegar 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard 1/8 teaspoon of salt 2 grinds of fresh pepper 3/4 cup of olive oil Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper; then slowly whisk the oil. [...]



Pasta with Lemon and Garlic

Mon, 18 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500

One of my favorite ways to serve pasta is with olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic and lemons — and, of course, fresh parsley — which I put on just about everything!You should always have a few boxes of pasta in the cupboard. It keeps for a long time, and is always good for an emergency meal when you can't think of anything else to make!Stock up on pasta when it goes on sale and buy all different shapes and sizes. Be sure to always have some olive oil on hand as well.For this recipe you really need to use fresh garlic and fresh lemons and fresh parsley. Garlic powder, dried parsley and lemon juice from a jar just won't cut it in this recipe.Start cooking your pasta according to the directions on the package.While the pasta is cooking you need to do 5 things: Mince the garlic Grate the parmesan cheese Remove the zest from the lemon (see below) Juice the lemon (video) Chop the parsley Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic.Grate about 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.Wash 2 lemons. Before juicing the lemons, we need to remove tiny shreds off the peel of the lemon. This is known as lemon zest. You can use a grater or a knife and just cut the zest into really tiny bits.Be sure to only use the yellow part of the lemon peel. The white part tastes bitter.Now juice the lemon. We actually need 4 Tablespoons of lemon juice.Then chop about 1/2 cup of fresh parsley.Once the pasta is cooked, remove one cup of the cooking water.Then drain the pasta.(After we add the other ingredients, the pasta may be too dry. You can add some of the cooking water to help moisten it.)Using the pot you cooked the pasta in, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil.Add the garlic to the oil and fry it, until you can smell it cooking, about 15 seconds.Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and zest to the pot.Then add the pasta to the garlic and oil.Add the chopped parsley.With a pair of tongs or two spoons toss everything together. If it seems too dry, pour on some of the reserved pasta water.Serve with lots of parmesan cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper. And of course, garnish with fresh chopped parsley!Enjoy! Recipe: Pasta with lemon and garlic serves 6 1 pound of pasta 2 teaspoons of garlic - minced 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese - grated 1/2 cup of parsley - chopped4 tablespoons of lemon juice 2 teaspoons of lemon zest 3 tablespoons of olive oil 1 dash of salt and pepper Cook pasta according to the directions on the package.While the pasta is cooking you need to do 5 things:Mince the GarlicGrate the parmesan cheeseZest the lemonJuice the lemonChop the parsleyOnce the pasta is cooked, remove one cup of the cooking water and set aside. Then drain the pasta.Using the pot you cooked the pasta in, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil.Add the garlic to the oil and fry it, until you can smell it cooking, about 15 seconds.Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and zest to the pot.Then add the pasta to the garlic and oil.Add the chopped parsley.With a pair of tongs or two spoons toss everything together. If it seems too dry, pour on some of the reserved pasta water.Serve with lots of parmesan cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley! [...]



Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500

HOT! HOT! HOT! Well maybe not! You can actually control the amount of heat in this recipe for Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Sausage in two ways:The type of sausage you chooseHow you clean the peppersYou need just four ingredients needed to make this recipe: 1 and 1/2 pounds of jalapeno peppers (about 18 small to medium)8 ounces of cream cheese, softened1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese1 pound of sausageStart by softening the cream cheese. Just take it out of the refrigerator, open the wrapping, and let it sit on the counter while you cook the sausage. It will soften on its own!I chose HOT Italian sausage to make this recipe. It ended up with quite a kick! Choosing sweet Italian sausage or pork sausage would definitely have decreased the amount of heat. Buy whatever sausage you prefer, depending on YOUR taste or that of the people invited to your party. ***Let's startcooking!With a sharp knife, slice through the casing of the sausage.Remove the skin and add the sausage to a large frying pan that has been pre-heated on medium-high heat.The sausage needs to get broken up into bits and cooked completely.One way to break the sausage apart is with a spatula (shown above), but it does not do a great job at breaking apart the meat as it cooks. You could try using a fork (shown below) which works a bit better……or a potato masher (below), which actually works the best!Once the meat is cooked put it into a bowl lined with paper towels.Once all the fat has drained from the cooked sausage, which will only take a minute or so, remove the paper towels and throw them away.Add the softened cream cheese and the grated Parmesan cheese.This needs to get totally mixed together.If the cream cheese is not soft it will make mixing quite difficult.It should end up looking like the photo below.Now for the peppers!(Please take a moment to review my photo-tutorial on Handling Hot Peppers.)Wash the jalapenos and cut them in half with a sharp knife. OK! We’re now ready for the second way to control the heat of your final dish – cleaning the inside of the peppers.The outside flesh of the peppers contain a lot of flavor. Most of the “heat” is contained in the internal seeds and the membrane that they are attached to. So, we’re going to remove the seeds and membrane with a knife ……or a spoon or melon baler.Even the slightest bit of that white membrane will give these Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos quite a kick!Fill each jalapeño half with about 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons of filling. A small pepper will require less filling.Some of the filled peppers may tip over in the oven. To prevent this, you can “snuggle” or “nestle” them together on the baking sheet. (Be sure to use a baking sheet with sides!)Bake them in a pre-heated 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes.You can see how some of the larger ones sort of toppled over. Next time, I am going to try to get smaller jalapeños and be sure to nestle them together on the baking tray so they will remain upright.I left the top stem on some of them just for presentation purposes. However, be warned. You don’t eat the stem! (Warn your guests.)Enjoy! Recipe: Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage serves 16 1 pound of ground Italian sausage - hot or sweet1 package of cream cheese (8 ounce) - softened1 cup of grated parmesan cheese 1 1/2 pounds of fresh jalapeno peppers Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C)Cook sausage in a frying pan until no longer pink and totally cooked through. Drain grease.Wash t[...]



How to Make Iced Tea

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500

Betcha didn't know that June is National Iced Tea Month.Well, now you do, and there’s no better beverage to enjoy on a hot summer day! The way the story goes, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner, attended America’s first World’s Fair in St. Louis. He had planned to give out free samples of his hot tea, but it was such a warm day that no one was interested! So, he threw in some ice and offered his beverage “on the rocks.” The treat was so refreshing, he quickly had a long line of people waiting to taste it. There are many ways to make iced tea, and countless variations on the basic recipe. If you haven’t tried iced tea before, maybe one of these variations will pique your curiosity. And if you’re not a fan of iced tea, it’s worth trying a new version – there’s probably one out there that suits you. The basic method for making iced tea is:Boil water (the amount depends on how much tea you’re making!)Steep tea (loose or bagged, whatever flavor you like)Strain the tea if you used loose leaves, or remove the tea bags.Add sugar to taste. Some people prefer unsweetened, and some people use up to 2 cups of sugar for a 2 quart pitcher. It depends on personal taste.Cool. Some people refrigerate it, others pour it over ice (which also dilutes it a bit), and some people mix it with ice water. Serve and enjoy.Sounds simple (and vague) enough, right? Right! Anyone can make iced tea and its variations:For a true Southern Iced Tea, read this entertaining recipe by Lemon Tartlet. She adds a bit of baking soda to the water before boiling. This cuts down on bitterness from accidental over-steeping and reduces cloudiness in the tea.There's a step-by-step guide to making Lemon Iced Tea (with photos) at Cooking For Engineers. Poppytalk gives us the easiest method of all. Brew loose tea in a special pitcher that has a removable diffuser, remove the diffuser, and refrigerate. No sugar, no flavoring, just pure iced tea!Tea Party Girl, an advocate of loose leaf teas, gives us a simple method for making loose-leaf iced tea, which ends up costing pennies per pitcher.But if you’re a tea bag person, you can try CFWhitney’s mother-in-law’s tried and true tea bag method.Thai iced tea is made from a specially flavored tea and is absolutely delicious. Try topping it with coconut milk or sweetened condensed milk for another twist on this Asian favorite!If you’re into more exotic iced teas, try tea sangria, which has fruit mixed into it. Rhubarb iced tea sounds amazing – it calls for rhubarb stalks to be boiled before adding tea and sugar. Ginger peach iced tea is one of many delicious-sounding iced tea recipesWhether you brew for 3 minutes or overnight in the fridge, prefer a simple black tea or a raspberry herbal, enjoy your iced tea this summer!Tip: You may have heard of “sun tea”, which is made by starting with room-temperature water and tea bags in a jar, then brewing the tea by placing the jar in a sunny spot for a few hours. This method, however is not recommended.  Bacteria can develop in the tea and it can become a potential health risk. Sorry! [...]



Avocado Soup

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500

Cold soups are perfect to serve on hot summer nights. This one requires no cooking at all! Everything just gets put into a blender and mixed together really well, until it is smooth. I saw this recipe in Gourmet magazine, and thought it would be a perfect startcooking recipe. All you need to make this soup is:1 English cucumber1 avocado2 green onions1/4 cup of fresh mint1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt or sour cream (See Note at bottom of post)1 1/2 cups of waterStart by dicing 1/3 of the cucumber and chopping into chunks the remaining 2/3 of the cucumber.The chunks are going to be put in the blender and the diced cucumber is for the garnish.The remaining ingredients just need to be chopped up a bit before they get added to the blender.If you are unsure how to cut avocados check out my blog on Avocados.Measure 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or yogurt) and 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Add the water and buttermilk to the blender.Start by blending everything on a low speed at first, then increase it just a bit. Everything needs to get totally chopped up and then made really smooth. This will take about 2 minutes of blending.You can chill this soup for up to 3 hours before serving, and then garnish it with the diced cucumbers just before serving.This soup is a beautiful color and the cucumbers add a wonderful crunch!* Note:I discovered one BIG problem with this recipe after I made it. What the heck do I tell a novice cook to do with the leftover buttermilk? In retrospect I should have suggested using yogurt or sour cream instead. Either would work beautifully for this recipe, and there are a lot of things you could do with leftover sour cream/yogurt.If you are going to use buttermilk, you could always drink the leftovers??? (Has anyone seen “White Christmas”? Isn’t that what they were drinking before singing “Count Your Blessings”?)Anyhow, I’m asking all my experienced cooks to toss in some EASY suggestions on what to make with leftover buttermilk!Thanks and I hope you enjoy the soup!Kathy Recipe: Avocado Soup serves 4 1 English cucumber 1 avocado 2 green onions 1/4 cup of fresh mint 1/2 cup of buttermilk 1 1/2 cups of cold water Wash and trim the ends off the cucumber. (It is not necessary to peel the cucumber) Cut the cucumber into thirds. Chop 2/3 and dice 1/3. (The diced cucumber will be used for garnish)Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit and the skin.Chop the green onion into 1 inch pieces.Add the chopped cucumber, avocado, green onions and mint to the blender. Pour in the buttermilk and water. (Plain yogurt or sour cream may be substituted for the buttermilk.)Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper Chill for up to 3 hours before servingGarnish with diced cucumber Adapted from: Gourmet [...]



Tex-Mex Roundup

Thu, 31 May 2012 07:00:00 -0500

As I look through my collection of videos and blog posts, I realized that I have developed quite a collection of Tex-Mex recipes and tips. It’s really not too surprising, given the popularity of these foods. In point of fact, Sante Fe Chili was my very first video.This popular recipe takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and, as I say in the video, will feed an army, or just you with lots of leftovers!  (My niece Sara has turned this recipe, with just a few modifications, into her signature dish!)After the preparation, it does take 2 hours to cook, so I decided to add a quick cooking chili to the collection. 2 Alarm Chili packs a punch if you use all the red pepper contained in the spice packet.It’s a wonderful kit which contains 7 different spices needed to make the chili. If your spice collection is limited, this is definitely the way to go!It’s not surprising that 7 Layer Dip is one of my most popular videos.In my video, I walk you through preparing all 7 layers, step by step. Party anyone?Fresh avocados really add so much life to 7 layer dip. Anyone needing a primer on avocados can check out my very detailed video and post on everything you need to know about handling fresh avocados.From there making your own guacamole is a breeze.Be sure to use ripe avocados for your guacamole. You may have to buy them several days ahead and put them in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process.Some people like an extra bit of “heat” in there guacamole. Fresh jalapeno peppers are a perfect for that. If you are unsure about handling hot peppers, go take a look at both my post and video for some great tips!Salsa comes in a ton of different flavors and can be eaten in lots of different ways besides with corn chips. Baked Cod with Salsa takes about 2 minutes to prepare and no time to cook. This makes a great dinner for you or to serve to company. Add some rice or mashed potato and some steamed asparagus or broccoli and dinner is complete!Baked potato with salsa is one of my personal favorites. I cook the potato in the microwave and in less than 10 minutes, dinner’s ready.(Non-fat Greek yogurt has the consistency of sour cream and it tastes great on a baked potato!)I’ve done two Quesadilla posts: Quesadillas with Tomatoes and Black Olives, and Quesadillas Salmon and Cream Cheese.Sunday brunch can be very special with these quesadillas that are filled with herbed cream cheese spread and diced salmon.When planning your next party, why not start with Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage.Then serve either  Taco Salad  ...Or Tex-Mex Cheeseburgers (video)  with a super easy summer Bean Salad Tex-Mex StyleClick on the recipe index at the top to the page to discover even more fabulous recipes!Cheers,Kathy [...]



Stir-fry Seasonings

Thu, 24 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500

There are certain food combinations that always work together: salt and pepper, peanut butter & jelly, hot dogs & baked beans, fish & chips, gin & tonic just to name a few. Spices and seasonings work that way too. Nothing goes better with apple pie than cinnamon and nutmeg.Stir fry recipes have their own unique set of seasoning ingredients. Some may be more familiar to you than others. In my Chicken & Broccoli stir fry video, I used soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and sesame oil as the four basic ingredients. Here is a very brief introduction to these ingredients.Soy SauceSoy sauce is a dark, intensely flavored, salty sauce used for flavoring a lot of different foods. Soup, sauces, meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, you name it, and soy sauce works with them all. Different brands may be saltier than others. You often see it as a table condiment at Asian restaurants.Oyster SauceGuess what it’s made from? You’re right! Oysters! Plus a lot of other ingredients (like soy sauce, salt, water, possibly MSG and cornstarch) depending on the brand you buy. It’s dark brown in color and very thick. It will not pour out of the jar - you need a spoon to scoop it out. It has a wonderful rich flavor that is not at all fishy. Oyster sauce helps to thicken the sauce in Stir Fries. Chili PasteChili paste (not to be confused with chili oil, chili powder, or chili sauce), is made with red chilies, fava beans, flour, and (sometimes) garlic. Different brands have different levels of "heat", so be careful! If you like foods to be hot and spicy, this is the ingredient for you. Add a small amount at a time until you figure out what you like.Sesame OilSesame oil has a very strong flavor and fragrance. It is often used as a flavor enhancer rather than for frying. You can buy a light colored sesame oil that has a less intense flavor than the dark sesame oil.Lydia from the Perfect Pantry refers to soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil as the "Cantonese 3-2-1 Trinity, as her basic stir-fry sauce". Buying the "Trinity", at a minimum, is a wise choice if you plan on doing stir fry.Cheers! [...]



Canned Tomatoes and Sauce

Mon, 21 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500

My grocery store has one whole aisle dedicated to different types of canned tomatoes and tomato-based sauces. There are just so many choices, it can be immobilizing! Hopefully I can help demystify just a few of the choices.Most of us at some point or another have bought a jar of spaghetti sauce and ketchup. These items can be found in almost everyone’s kitchen. Pizza sauce and salsa are fast becoming staples as well.Pizza sauce has a consistency similar to ketchup, but has a lot more Italian spices added to it. The “squirt bottle” in this photo can be stored after opening, in the refrigerator, for up to four weeks. That’s great if you are making single servings of things like English Muffin Pizzas, and only use a little at a time. Salsa has chunky bits of vegetables/fruit in it, some varieties being chunkier than others. Salsa can also be purchased with different levels of “heat”. Check the label. It will tell you if it’s mild, medium, or hot. As wonderful as salsa is with corn chips, there is a lot more you can do with salsa. It’s great on top of a baked potato as well as a topping for fish.Using Canned TomatoesIt wasn’t until I started making my own spaghetti sauce that I realized there was a huge difference in taste between home-made and store-bought spaghetti sauce. You really will impress your guests if you make your own. They will be able to tell.My Marinara Sauce, and my Turkey-Sausage Pasta Sauce, both have canned tomatoes as one of their ingredients. There are a lot of different canned tomatoes to choose from. Whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce and tomato paste, are just four of the main types of tomatoes you can get in a can.  One more thing…not all brands taste the same!  If a particular brand tastes too acidic or too sweet, try another brand!  (For a review of different brands of canned tomatoes, click here.) (Tomato puree is another form of tomatoes you can buy in a can. They are not in the photo because I didn’t have any in the cupboard when I wrote this post!)All of these different varieties can be purchased with added spices, like garlic, basil and oregano.Whole tomatoes are just that. You can buy them peeled or unpeeled. They usually come packed in tomato juice. They are used for sauces, chili, soups, and stews.Marinara Sauce IngredientsCrushed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes) are the whole tomato cut up. Sometimes extra juice has been added to the can. They too are used for sauces, soups, and stews. Your recipe will indicate which to buy. The tastes are very similar, it’s the texture that is clearly different.Turkey Sausage Sauce Ingredients: Including Tomato Paste and Crushed TomatoesTomato puree and tomato sauce have been cooked and strained. Puree is thicker than tomato sauce. I drew my finger through the tomato sauce on the dish in the picture below just to give you a sense of how thick it is. Use this for seasoning, flavor, and/or as a base for other sauces.Tomato paste is made from tomatoes that have been cooked for several hours and then strained. It is used to intensify the tomato flavor in anything that it is added to.You can buy it in a can or a tube. This tube says “double concentrate” which means it has an even stronger flavor than regular tomato paste.The tube of tomato paste can cost at least 3 times more than a can of tomat[...]



How to: Strawberries

Thu, 17 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500

Strawberries, once just a summertime treat, are now available year round. Especially tasty are the locally grown ones that are now showing up at farmers’ markets. Always choose strawberries that are plump, firm and glossy. Wash them just before using them.I always wash my supermarket strawberries, in a colander, under a gentle spray of running water.  Or you can swish the strawberries around in a bowl with cool tap water.(Actually my old friend Roger never washed strawberries. He felt it washed away the flavor. But then again he lived in the south of France and only bought them from the local farmer who grew them organically.) Once washed, spread the strawberries out on a clean dish towel to dry.To “hull” a strawberry means to remove the green leafy top and the tiny stalk. If you plan on hulling tons of strawberries, you may want to buy a strawberry huller.  But a small paring knife works very well for hulling a quart or two.Start by grasping the green top……and just trim out that tiny stem. Or you could just slice off the whole top with a small paring knife.Just pulling off the green leafy top (as shown below) is NOT enough. You need to remove that tiny bit of white, hard stem as well.To store strawberries, place them in a single layer in a moisture-proof plastic container that has a tight fitting lid. Lay a paper towel on top of the strawberries and then put the lid on the container. When you put them in the refrigerator, store them with the lid side down in the refrigerator.Stored this way they should stay fresh for at least 2-3 days.************Recipes to die for:Strawberries dipped in Chocolate from startcooking.comStrawberries Romanoff –Strawberries soaked in orange juice/curacao/cointreau and served with Whipped CreamStrawberry Short Cake – a classic that everybody loves! [...]



Pasta Sauce - Italian Turkey Sausage

Thu, 10 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500

Italian turkey sausage is great in this tasty sauce! It has a lower fat content then regular sausage; consequently it’s a bit healthier.If you like a bit of sausage in your lasagna, this sauce recipe is perfect!To make this sauce you will need:2 tablespoons of olive oil1 cup of chopped yellow onion2 garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 pounds of sweet or hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes in tomato puree 1 (6-ounce) can of tomato paste 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley 1 teaspoon of dried basil1 teaspoon of dried oregano½ teaspoon of sugar1 ½ teaspoons of salt ½ teaspoon of pepperIt’s a really good habit to get all your ingredients prepared before you turn on the stove. It makes the cooking process go much more smoothly. That means you need to:Chop the onionMince the garlicChop the parsleyRemove the casings (that’s the really thin skin) from the sausageOpen the cans of tomatoes and tomato pasteMeasure the spicesNow we are ready to start cooking!Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet or frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. “Until translucent” is a typical term used to describe cooking onions. Raw onions are fairly opaque. As you start to cook them, they slowly reach a point where they become almost see-through. They have not turned brown, and are not supposed to for this recipe.Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, or until you can smell the garlic cooking.Add the sausage to the onions and garlic. I like to use a combination of both hot and sweet sausage. We need to cook it over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. This is just like browning ground beef.Because this Italian turkey sausage has a lower fat content then regular Italian sausage, there will be very little fat to drain off. (If I were using regular sausage, I would definitely drain off the fat before adding the remaining ingredients.)Now add the remaining ingredients:1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 teaspoon dried basil1 teaspoon dried oregano½ teaspoon sugar1 ½ teaspoons salt ½ teaspoon pepperSimmer the sauce, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until it has thickened. This turns into a really thick sauce which is great over any pasta. Enjoy! Recipe: Pasta sauce: Italian turkey sausage serves 6 2 tablespoons of olive oil 1 cup of yellow onions - chopped2 teaspoons of garlic - minced1 1/2 pounds of Italian turkey sausage - casings removed 1/3 cup of fresh parsley - chopped6 ounces of tomato paste 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes (in tomato puree)1 teaspoon of dried basil 1/2 teaspoon of sugar 1 dash of salt 1 dash of ground black pepper 1 teaspoon of dried oregano Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet or frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent.Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, or until you can smell the garlic cooking.Add the sausage to the onions and garlic. Cook it over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Then add the remaining ingredients.[...]



A Guide to Green Beans

Mon, 07 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500

Green beans are one of those vegetables that are available year round at the grocery store. Make sure you buy ones that have a nice bright color and are free of blemishes.

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With just a sprinkle of salt and two minutes in the microwave, you’ve got a fresh vegetable for dinner. Given they cook so quickly, make only enough for what you are going to eat for dinner tonight.

About 24 (four inch long) green beans will be enough for two servings.

The first thing you have to do is “top and tail” the beans. That’s the official term used to nip the tips off each end of the beans.

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You can line them up and with a knife cut the ends off. As long as the beans are young and fresh, they should not be stringy. If they are stringy you will need to nip the ends off, one at a time, with your fingers. This same technique is used when making snow peas as well.

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Sort of drag the tip off, pulling any of the stringy bit off as you go.

Rinse the beans in a colander.

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Put them in a microwave safe dish. Add about 2 Tablespoons of water.

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Cover the beans with plastic wrap leaving a small corner open.

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If you seal them completely, the plastic wrap will almost shrink-wrap itself to the beans. This makes it a lot harder to remove the plastic wrap and much more likely you will get burned by the trapped steam.

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Some people serve green beans with lashings of butter, or with almonds. I prefer them just with salt and sometimes a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cheers!

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How to Make Pizza

Thu, 03 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500

For beginner cooks with hectic schedules, Do-It-Yourself pizza is a quick and tasty weeknight dinner solution. In the time that it takes to have pizza delivered, you can actually make your own!All you have to do is create the basic elements:a doughy crusttomato sauceshredded cheeseand whatever toppings you like. The nice thing about DIY pizza is that you can have fun personalizing it. You can incorporate your favorite flavors and textures, or whatever happens to be in the fridge. There’s no fixed recipe to follow! Let’s get started.First, the crust!Ready-made crust: The bread section of the grocery store typically offers several brands of ready-made crusts that you simply top with whatever you like and bake according to the instructions. Some of these crusts even come with a package of tomato sauce! They’re usually sold in rounds that make enough for several people.In addition to ready-made crusts, there are several different types of "breads" that will work as a pizza crust. In the photo below there a some great choices for a quick pizza crust including focaccia, crumpets, English muffins, pita bread and tortilla wraps. (Keep reading for the recipes using these various breads as a pizza crust!).Tortillas (wraps) If you like thin-crust pizza, you can’t get thinner than this! It’s a good idea to pre-heat the tortilla in a toaster oven or regular oven at 350F just for a few minutes to make it a bit more solid, then turn the oven up to 450F. Put the wrap(s) on a foil or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Tortillas are the base for Humbecue Pizzas -- dressed with hummus, barbecue sauce, spinach, ham and feta cheese. Photo courtesy of Jenn at Eating Bender.Then add whatever sauce, cheese and toppings you like. Go easy on toppings so that the whole thing doesn’t get soggy. Put the tortilla in the oven for 10 minutes and check to see when it’s done – the edge of the tortilla should become brown and crispy. Here’s a recipe for Humbecue Tortilla Pizzas, which are made with hummus, barbecue sauce, spinach, ham and feta cheese.Pita breadPita bread is another great option for those who like thin, crispy pizzas. There’s no need to toast the pita before putting on the toppings; follow the same baking directions as with the tortilla pizza. Here, plain old pita gets dressed up with Italian sausage, peppers and carrots. Photo courtesy of Cookthink.comThis Pita Pizza (shown above) topped with Italian sausage, peppers and carrots looks simple and scrumptious.Focaccia breadFor a more substantial crust, use focaccia bread, which is often sold in big rectangular pieces. When it comes to baking the pizza, preheat the oven to 450F and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.English Muffins Here at startcooking.com we have already posted a video on English Muffin Pizzas, which are topped with tomato sauce, ground beef and cheese. These mini pizzas are irresistible, and if you don’t have any ground beef on hand, you can make them with tuna.Crumpets: If you would prefer to substitute crumpets for English muffins, go right ahead, old chap!Bagels and baguette A lot of bagel shops now have bagel pizzas. Making your own is easy as long as you have the necessary ingredients on hand! Buy your bagels ahead of time and store them (sliced!) in the freezer. Bagels freeze be[...]



How to Load a Dishwasher

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 06:00:00 -0500

The first three apartments I lived in had no dishwasher — except for me, that is. For that matter, none of my early apartments had kitchen windows either. I really felt like I had arrived by the time I owned my first dishwasher. Of course, saving quarters for the communal laundry machine in my apartment building went on for many more years to come! If you have a dishwasher, I don't need to tell you how wonderful they are!However, it surprises some people to discover that there is a right and a wrong way to load a dishwasher. Do it wrong and you'll end up with dishes not getting washed properly and possibly even breaking a few in the process. Loading a dishwasher is easy as long as you follow a few simple rules: First, quickly rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher in order to remove big chunks of food. Dishwashers can choke up unless you pay attention to this, and paying for a plumbers' visit to unclog them can be expensive. No need to fuss too much with this step (let the dishwasher do the washing!) but don't leave it out. Next, be sure to put glassware, coffee cups and plastic containers on the top rack, which was designed to hold them. If you have a lot of glasses that need washing, you may be tempted to put them on the bottom rack, but there is a higher probability that they will break there. Since it's generally hotter on the bottom than it is on the top, even dishwasher-safe plastic containers may melt on the bottom rack. Proceed with caution. Plates, bowls, and anything that needs a stronger wash put on the bottom rack. Did you know that the top and bottom racks often have a different amount of water pressure? Who knew? You obviously need to exert less energy washing a water glass than a plate with dried-up tomato sauce on it! Naturally, silverware and utensils go in the special holder. Some people clump spoons together, forks together, and knives together. Others say, no, "nesting" the utensils means they don't get cleaned properly — mix them up. Be warned: how one does or does not put silverware in the dishwasher can break up a beautiful friendship or marriage! It's important, in my view, to put sharp, pointed things (like knives and forks) pointing downward. (There is nothing worse than being impaled by utensils while loading - or unloading - the dishwasher!) You should never put your good knives in the dishwasher. Something that big and that sharp just should not go in there — and it's easy to wash good knives by hand. Small, inexpensive paring knives are often dishwasher-safe. Always empty the bottom rack first. The glasses and cups on the top rack will often drip as you are unloading them (so many seem to have those little crevices on the bottom that accumulate water.) You won't get the plates on the bottom all wet if you have already unloaded them first. Never turn the dishwasher on and then go to bed. You never know when there could be a leak or a problem with your dishwasher! Turn it on after dinner so that it has finished running before you go to bed. (That's actually a tip from most fire safety experts.) Many people don't turn it on until every square inch of space is filled, but [...]



Fettuccine Alfredo

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 06:00:00 -0500

Once you try this recipe, you will never buy pre-made Alfredo sauce again! It is totally decadent and off the charts delicious - full of so much flavor and richness that you totally need to spend extra time on the treadmill after eating this Fettuccine Alfredo!To make Fettuccine Alfredo, you will first have to know how to cook the pasta. For a quick review, check out my “How to Cook Pasta” video.In addition to the 1 pound (450g.) of dried fettuccine, the only other ingredients needed to make this recipe are:8 Tablespoons (113 g.) of unsalted butter1 cup (235 g.) of heavy cream1 cup (120 g.) of freshly grated Parmesan cheeseFollow the directions on the back of the package of pasta that you bought and be sure to add plenty of salt to the cooking water.While the pasta is cooking, grate the parmesan cheese......measure out the heavy cream and cut the butter into tablespoon size chunks (to make it easier to melt.)When the pasta is cooked, pour it into a colander and let the water drain off.While the pasta is draining, over low heat, melt the butter in the same pot you cooked the pasta in.Return the drained pasta to the pot with the melted butter.Add the cream….…and the grated parmesan cheese.Toss everything together over low heat until the pasta is coated with the cream, butter and the cheese.Add some freshly ground pepper. (You can use white pepper if you have it but black pepper is fine to use as well.)Give the Fettuccine Alfredo a taste to see if it needs salt. Some brands of Parmesan cheese are saltier than others, so give it a taste before automatically adding in the salt.That’s it! Time to enjoy! Recipe: Fettuccine Alfredo serves 4 1 pound of dried pasta 8 tablespoons of butter - unsalted1 cup of heavy cream 1 cup of parmesan cheese - freshly grated1 dash of salt and pepper (adjust to taste) Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.While the pasta is draining, melt the butter in the same pot you cooked the pasta in. Return the pasta to the pot and add the cream and the parmesan cheese.Toss over low heat until the pasta is coated.Season the pasta with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.Adapted from: Joy of Cooking [...]