DUCKY’S WINNING QUESTION
(Just a note before we start, we went ahead and answered everyone's questions, so this will be a long cozy read, so pour a drink or grab a cup of tea and prepare to be erudited.)
We go on road trips quite a lot and pack our own food to save money but crackers and summer sausage get stale (pun intended) after a few days, not to mention not so healthy. What are some suggestions for lunches that are healthy, require minimal refrigeration (i.e. coldness of a cooler or motel fridge), and can mix-and-match so it won't be boring as we'll eat the same thing several days in a row? NOTE: I don't do deli meat or cheese.Thanks and I like the blog a lot!
PS. Even if you don't pick my question, can you do a future blog on road trip food?
Well, we did pick your question and will answer it now! BUT that doesn’t mean that we won’t someday do an extended disco street version post on “Food for the Road.” In the meantime, we did a bit of brainstorming to come up with some suggestions for you.
We figured the best way to share was to provide a list of sorts, but one for everyone and not just the non-deli folks, something that covers all of the food groups to help provide a more balanced road food diet.
GRAINS – crackers, rice cakes, sesame sticks, pretzels, rice crackers, cereals. Pita is pretty hardy and will hold up well for making quick, easy-to-fill sandwiches.
FRUITS – apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and strawberries when in season are the best fresh fruits. There are also plenty of dried fruits available that make a sweet alternative to candy.
VEGGIES – baby carrots are great for nibbling, but a bag of shredded carrots will add a nice crunch to any pita sandwich. Celery slices, pepper strips, snap peas, and grape tomatoes also need minimal to no cooling.
PROTEINS – hummus, peanut butter, assorted nuts, beef jerky, and “canned” tuna or chicken. The latter two come in foil packets that you can mix on the spot with packets of mayo and/or relish and no refrigeration is needed beforehand.
DAIRY – for those who DO eat cheese, you can get string cheese or pre-cubed cheeses for bite-sized snacks and they keep well in a cooler or small hotel fridge.
COMBOS -- shredded carrots with hummus in a pita; mixed cut veggies with packet salad dressing in a pita; peanut butter and apple slices (you can get squeezable and individual peanut butter servings now too); trail mix with any combination of dried fruits, nuts, sesame sticks, pretzels, rice crackers, or cereals.
PACKING SUGGESTIONS – stick some bottles of water (wide mouth bottles are best) in the freezer and then use them in your cooler. Not only do they serve as a cooling source, but they double as drinking water throughout your trip. On the way home, if you still need to keep food cold but don’t have access to a freezer, buy some bagged ice to refill your bottles and there you go!
Wrapping food in newspaper will also help keep it cold because dry newspaper acts as an insulator (so this works best if there is no lose ice or water in your cooler). Keep food that doesn’t need to be kept cold in a separate storage container so don’t use up your cooling space.
Pre-chopping and portioning food beforehand, then storing in baggies, will make it easy to nosh while on the road. If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are tons of ready-to-buy, pre-portioned snacks out there, everything from fruits and veggies to crackers and cookies.
And next time you’re out for fast food, stock up on condiments like mayo, mustard, ketchup, salad dressings, salt and pepper and don't forget to pack a bag with utensils, plates, napkins, and plastic bags that can be used for car trash.
THE OTHER CULINARY QUERIES
There were a lot of good questions and we had fun coming up with answers for them all. If you ever have any question, don't forget you can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be happy to answer anything whenever!
My cake decorating teacher says I must sift my powdered sugar before making buttercream icing or risk a nervous breakdown or something similarly tragic. Is she right? If so, are there any electric sifters on the market you recommend? My hand is getting really tired.
We’ve found that if we use a powerful mixer, like a Kitchen Aid, then we don’t need to sift at all. We go sift-less all the time and the world has not ended nor has the sky fallen. Alternatively, if you use powder sugar that is very fresh and don’t pack it down when you measure it, you should be fine.
To find the freshest powdered sugar on the grocer’s shelf, don’t be afraid to feel out the bags… the “fluffier” they feel, the fresher they tend to be. If you have a kitchen scale, we recommend using that to measure your powder sugar (we use a 60 sugar/40 fat ratio for making a simple icing).
If you feel guilty about not sifting, though, there are alternatives to the manual sifter. (1) Get a small wire colander and shake…the colander…with the powder sugar. For some examples see http://www.shopwiki.com/8%22+Wire+Mesh+Colander%2FStrainer. (2) If you like cool kitchen gadgets then check out a battery powered sifter, http://www.kitchenkrafts.com/product.asp?pn=BE0140&bhcd2=1254229026 (this is the first link that came up when we Googled, but it looks like there are quite a few options out there).
Hi Culinary Creative!
I am a simple girl at heart but I am sometimes tempted by all the cool kitchen gadgets out there. What are a few of your favorites?
K2 – I have a couple I can’t live without. First, if there was ever a house fire, my priority list goes (1) cats, (2) photos, and (3) baking scale. I love my baking scale because measuring by weight is the most consistent way to do it, manufactured measuring cups are not necessarily all the same. Second, my Eggsact Eggtimer – you pop this baby in the pot of boiling water with your eggs and it has an indicator to tell you when they are done to the degree you want them to be done. And finally, my whisks…I have six. Especially when making sauces, they are the best way to blend anything.
Wendi – I often look through the gadget aisle and have been really tempted, but have a hard time buying something that’s only for a single function, so I usually keep walking (as hard as it is sometimes). So my favorite gadgets are (1) my Kitchen Aid stand mixer… I love it… its blue, and pretty, and multifunctional. It’s good for everything from mixing up bread dough to making fluffy potatoes to whipping up smooth cake frosting. (2) My oven thermometer, I LOVE this thing. Just because your dial says you’re at 350˚ doesn’t always mean it is. This has saved many a cookie! (3) My Silpat. I love baking on this, cookies don’t stick, and it cleans up very quickly, and easily!!!
I’m almost finished reading Julie & Julia. Julia Childs, and the French for that matter, loved butter. Maybe they still do. What are The Culinary Creative’s favorite uses of butter in excessive proportions?
BAKING! Croissants, danishes, and shortdough cookies call for what some (us) might call excessive proportions of butter, but butter is where the best flavor comes from. Make a muffin using shortening instead of butter and you will literally taste the difference. Butter is fat and fat has flavor which is why fatty foods tend to be so tempting. And, although not excessive, adding that little extra fat into savory foods (fish, creamy sauces), also adds that little bump of yum!!!
We have two questions for the culinary creative team.
My question is this – I have a great recipe for Thanksgiving dressing which includes cornbread, sausage and pecans. The recipe also calls for sherry. I don’t really have any other recipes to use up my sherry after Thanksgiving and the dressing recipe is just a once a year sort of thing. What are some good recipes that include sherry and highlight its flavor?
Why that sounds like a truly fabulous Thanksgiving dressing. As for your sherry, we would suggest checking out Asian recipes because many include the use of sherry. K2’s favorite is Japanese Soup (recipe not available because K2 can’t currently find her cookbook, but will try to track it down). There’s also a pretty cool website that we came across that has a ton of recipes, http://fooddownunder.com/. Go to the bottom and type in “sherry,” you’ll find yourself using up the extra in no time.
My husband’s question -- how long should ground beef be aged before using it in chili?
As a now-wise, former culinary student once found out (the hard way), beef should NEVER be aged before being used in chili…not without disastrous results. But as experience is the best teacher, it was a lesson well-learned and worthy of sharing -- if it smells bad, DON'T use it.
What's the difference between baking soda and baking powder and is there a difference in the brands you find in the supermarket?
Okay, this is going to get techy because it’s really a techy question.
Baking soda is a chemical, sodium bicarbonate, and when moisture and an acid are present, the soda releases carbon dioxide gas which leavens your product. Soda is used in recipes where the product is baked at once, otherwise the gases escape and the leavening power is lost.
Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda plus an acid, and also contains starch which prevents lumping and brings the leavening power down to a standard level. Since it doesn’t depend on the presence of an acid in a recipe, baking powder is more versatile.
So if you’re baking a cake, the recipe will call for both baking soda and baking powder because you want your cake to have some lift to it, makes it fluffy and light, whereas for cookies you would only use a baking powder because you’re not necessarily looking for a big lift. Since there isn’t any baking soda in it (which requires immediate baking), you can store cookie dough in the refrigerator or freezer to use days later, can’t do that with cake batter.
As far as brands go, we’ve never noticed a difference between them and always use the store brand for general baking purposes.
Quesadilla makers? Really? Please explain why they exist.
There are two reasons why quesadilla makers exist … (1) because there are people out there who need every kitchen gadget known to man and MUST have one of these, simply because they exist, and (2) because some people feel so uncomfortable in the kitchen, that they don’t realize that they can simply take two tortillas, some filling, put it in a pan, simply flip over, then cut. We feel badly for these people. If you are one of these people… lets talk… or just buy yourself a quesadilla maker, http://www.amazon.com/Santa-Fe-QM2SFR-Quesadilla-Maker/dp/B00006BSX0.
I’m planning a large family reunion of sorts next summer and want to serve cheesecake after dinner. Dinner will be informal and outside under a tent. The cheesecakes will be served indoors. Is there a way I can make several cheesecakes ahead of time and then freeze or refrigerate them before serving them at the event? What do you recommend?
The beauty of cheesecake is that it does freeze very well and is actually easier to cut when its semi-frozen (as long as you use a warm knife). We think you can easily bake the cheesecakes several days in advance, wrap and freeze them, and then depending on the size, would take them out about an hour to 2 hours before you plan to serve them (though keep them somewhere cool, like not on top of the stove or oven).
And for our final culinary question submission, check out TCC's Fun Food Facts!
Thanks again all. This was a blast. Will be doing more in the months to come so stay tuned and have a great night!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
DUCKY’S WINNING QUESTION
Saturday, September 26, 2009
We know, we know, sending things in the mail...snail mail...is SO old-fashioned, but don't you love getting something in the mail that isn't a bill for a change? We always keep a stack of postcards handy for when we want to send a quick thank you to someone, or just let someone we haven't talked to in a while know that we've been thinking of them. It costs less than a regular card or letter and, to us, is much more personal than email.
Staring into a full recycle bin one day, we realized that we had a lot of food boxes and thought, hmmm, why not make our own postcards? It's simple and easy to do.
First things first, save your boxes...food boxes, snack boxes, beer or beverage boxes...as long as it's pretty sturdy, it will work.
Standard postcards are 4 x 6" in size. We suggest using either the glass from a frameless frame or a picture mat with a 4 x 6" opening to trace with because that way you get to see what you're cutting out (p.s. the mat in the photo is NOT 4 x 6", but the only one on hand to show you what we mean).
Take the glass (or mat) and trace out the image you want on the card.
To cut the cards out, you can either use a fancy Fiskar (if you have one) or just your favorite pair of scissors.
And voila! Recyled postcards! Fun, different, unique, and homemade. And, for Ducky Nguyen, the winner of the first Culinary Creative Question Contest, an excellent prize. We'll be sending her a set of homemade cards with the postcard stamps to mail them too!
We want to thank everyone who submitted questions, lots of good things to think about. We'll be posting answers for each of them along with the one for Ducky's about...well, you'll just have to stay posted until Wednesday to find out. :)
Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
What better way to honor somebody on their birthday than by dedicating a blog post to them? Really, there is no better way!
Today is Michele’s birthday. If you don’t know who Michele is, you will, she will be doing some guest blogging in the near future (how’s that for a tease?).
So in honor of Michele, and her love of chocolate, we are posting an amazing cookie recipe that comes from, of all people, Martha Stewart…although, we’ve changed it up a bit (because, really, we want to be better than Martha! Some might even argue that we ARE better than Martha… who are we to disagree?).
Be ready to break out the milk, because these cookies are truly intense with chocolate flavor!
Double Chocolate Cookies:
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package milk chocolate chips (we used mini Hershey kisses)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until almost melted; do not overheat.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In (yet) another bowl, mix eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Mix in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool on sheets 10 minutes; with a thin metal spatula, transfer to racks to cool completely.
If you want to see Martha’s original recipe, because you’re into her for some strange reason, go to the following link: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/deliciously-outrageous-chocolate-cookies
And for those who have read until the very end, you’re in for a treat! We are hosting our very first (but hopefully not last) contest. It’s easy. We want your questions -- questions about recipes, kitchen gadgets, food processes, in fact we’ll take any question that’s even semi food-related. The winning question will be featured – and answered – on September 30. Please have your submissions to us by 11:59 pm on Saturday, September 26.
And the prize you ask? Check back on Sunday and we’ll let you know.
Please send your questions to email@example.com and make sure you include your name, so we know who you are! Thanks and good luck!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
It's true, pita can be made at home! This is a great basic recipe that you can add any number of things to -- fresh herbs, dried herbs, garlic, etc. Also, using different flours or flour combinations will yield different textures and flavors. We encourage trying. The best part about this pita recipe is that its quick (well, not including all of the rising), easy, and uses so few ingredients that it makes for a perfect experimental baking recipe! Try it out, let us know what variations you come up with!
3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1 packet active dry yeast
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tbsp olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening
1. Follow the instructions on the packet to active the yeast.
2. Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar.
3. Add the olive oil and 1-1/4 cup water and stir together in a stand mixer using a dough hook (start low and work up to medium)* until the ingredients form a ball.
NOTE: The dough shouldn't stick to the sides of the bowl and there shouldn't be any extra flour in the bowl -- IF the dough is sticking to the bowl, add small amounts of flour until a ball has formed; IF there is flour in the bottom of the bowl, add a small stream of water, until the ball forms.
4. Once all of the ingredients form a ball, continue mixing until your dough has a little bit of stretch to it.
(notice how the dough looks like it has torn, keep mixing)
(notice how this dough is stretching a little without tearing,this is what you're going for)
5. When you are done kneading the dough you'll place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. First form the dough into a ball and roll it around in the bowl so that it gets a light coat of oil on all sides.
6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
8. Divide the dough into 8 pieces (we managed to get 9 pieces... bonus!) and roll each piece into a ball.
9. Cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it'll be easier to shape.
10. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you don't have a stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven, this will end up being your baking surface.**
11. After the dough has relaxed, sprinkle a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the dough balls on it. Sprinkle some flour on top and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5-10 minutes before trying again.
12. Open the oven and place as many rolled pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy in about 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3-5 minutes.
13. Remove pita from oven and you are ready to go! Serve them with your favorite spread or dip, or cut them in half for sandwich pockets, or just eat them as is. Very tasty and your guests will be VERY impressed that you made them from scatch!
Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.
Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a floured work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes, until it stretches, and doesn't tear (see above pictures).
** If you don't want to heat up your oven for the pita, we experimented and found that the pita can also be made in a pan, on top of the stove. Pre-heat your pan, and place a flattened dough round into it. Cover and 'bake' as above.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Here at the Culinary Creative, we believe in instructional blogs. And while other blogs might be afraid to show you how it gets done, we like to push those boundaries. So for those of you who have never witnessed, but always wondered, what really happens to children's birthday cakes, here a tale of sugar and destruction to satify your morbid curiosity.
Step 2: Present the sugary concoction to a "Birthday Party" (hereforto referred to as the BP) for evaluation.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Honey Ricotta Cinnamon Cheesecake
8 ounces purchased biscotti
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (12-ounce) container fresh whole milk ricotta, drained
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom or clover honey
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil.
Finely grind the biscotti in a food processor. In a bowl, mix the crumbs with the melted butter, until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.
Blend, in a mixer on medium speed, the ricotta, cream cheese and sugar, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping down the sides of the work bowl. Blend in the honey, orange zest, and cinnamon. Add the eggs one at a time, until completely integrated into the mixture.
Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold).
Transfer the cake to a rack and cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
This recipe came out better than we had even dared hope for. Don't be nervous with the amount of onion and rosemary that is used in the marinade, when the lamb comes off the grill, the flavors have mellowed to where they compliment each bite, and do not overpower the meat. The yogurt should have it's own post, but because it is complimenting the lamb, we posted the recipes together. We could just sit down with a big bowl of the finished yogurt, eat, and be VERY happy girls!!
Skewered Lamb with Coriander Yogurt
2 lbs chunked lean boneless lamb
1 large onion, grated (in food processor)
5 rosemary sprigs
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Spring of rosemary for garnish
Lemon wedges, grilled until marked
2/3 cup thick natural yogurt (Greek yogurt)
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp onion, grated
1. Mix yogurt, mint, coriander, and onion, set aside.
2. Mix grated onion, herbs, lemon rind and juice, sugar and oil, pour over lamb in a large bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
3. Drain the meat and thread onto skewers.
4. Arrange on a grill rack and cook on preheated grill for about 10 minutes until browned, turning occasionally.
5. Transfer to a plate and garnish with rosemary.
6. Serve with grilled lemon wedges and coriander yogurt.
**Thanks Richard P. for the incredibly inappropriate title for this post!!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Roasted Potato Slices with a Rosemary-Garlic Crust (serves 4)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 large Russet potatoes
Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups fresh artisan bread crumbs
½ cup firmly packed grated Parmesan cheese (Reggiano Parmesano)
1 large egg white, beaten until foamy
1. Take day-old artisan bread and tear into bite-sized pieces.
2. Process in a blender or food processor until finely ground (or as finely ground as possible).
3. Store any extra crumbs in a zippered bag in the fridge up to 4 days.
1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the unpeeled whole potatoes until just tender when pierced with a small knife (about 25 minutes).
2. Drain and let cool, then refrigerate until cold, at least 2-3 hours or up to 1 day.
3. Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise into slices about ½ inch thick; use the center slices from each potato (about 3-4 slices).
4. Pre-heat over to 400˚ and generously spray a large baking sheet.
5. In a heavy frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
6. Add minced rosemary and garlic, cover and cook until the garlic is softened but not brown (about 1 minute).
7. Stir in the mustard, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp of pepper, remove from heat.
8. Add the breadcrumbs and toss until evenly coated, then stir in cheese.
9. Arrange the potato slices on a work surface and brush the tops generously with egg white.
10. Spread 1 tbsp of crumb mixture on each slice, press to adhere and cover evenly.
11. Place the slices, coated side down, on baking sheet.
12. Brush the uncoated side with egg white, spread the remaining crumb mixture on the slices and press to adhere.
13. Bake the potato slices until coating on the bottom is crusty (about 8 minutes).
14. Carefully slide a thin metal spatula under each slice and turn it over.
15. Bake until brown on the second side (about 5 minutes longer).
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The thing we love about salad is that there are really endless combinations you can put together, but you'd be surprised at how challenging it can be to come with something new and exciting. That's why we were really pleased with our final selection for the Anniversary Dinner -- Late Summer Salad.
Late Summer Salad
Green leaf lettuce
Organic radishes, thinly sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced
Fresh watermelon, from the Farmer's Market
Fresh figs, pulled from the tree and halved
Parmesan crisps -- we used a mix of Reggiano Parmesan and Kraft shaker parmesan, drop a small handful in a heated pan over medium heat, when it starts to bubble a bit, flip it over, cook for a minute or two more then remove from pan, let cool then quarter.
Fig vinaigrette -- blended with a whisk, fig vinegar (very sweet), lemon olive oil, a smidge of Dijon mustard, and salt and fresh cracked black pepper, about 50/50 on the oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
It was a nice blend of salty and sweet, and the contrast of the red veggie on the green lettuce made it visually appealing as well. People were surprised by the addition of watermelon, but it made a tasty addition to the dish, so it was a welcomed addition.