Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book: The American Century Cookbook

The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century by Jean Anderson

This is not just a cookbook. It contains history of food as well as little back stories or tidbits on recipes and products since the 1900's. All that and then some really great recipes too. I got it at a thrift store and it is one that I am thankful I have in my kitchen

Friday, August 15, 2008

Easy Buttermilk Pie

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (there is now powdered buttermilk on the market and I love having it around so easy to use and not having to worry about buying a quart and then not knowing what to do with the rest)
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 pre-made store-bought (9-inch) deep dish pie crust or homemade (this is one thing I am not good at - pie crusts)

Optional for Garnish
Whipped cream
Berries - strawberries or raspberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Place the chocolate chips in a sauce pan or double boiler and melt over low heat, stirring constantly. (I melt them in the microwave - 30 to 40 seconds,stir and go again for 30 to 40 seconds until melted)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt until well combined. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the sugar mixture and mix with an electric hand mixer or whisk vigorously. With a rubber spatula, stir the melted chocolate into the batter.

Pour batter into the pie crust; you might have about 1 cup of left-over batter if you don't use a deep dish pie crust.* Place pie in oven on middle rack. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until the pie is crisp on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a bit of moist chocolate on it.

Remove from oven and cool completely. Let stand at least 1 hour before serving. If not eating immediately, refrigerate pie. This pie can be served warm or chilled. Garnish with whipped cream & berries just before serving if desired.

*take the 1 cup left and pour into a custard cup and bake for about 30 minutes -- always nice treat saved for later

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book: The New Book of Table Settings

The New Book of Table Settings: Creative Ideas for the Way We Gather Today
by Chris Bryant, Paige Gilchrist

I really liked this book. It wasn't the usual highly formal table decorating that I have seen in other books. This gives fresh ideas that create a very unique look with things that you can get easily or have right in your home.

The book covers the basics: Table setting 101, Dinnerware, glasses and flatware where the author encourages you to mix and match freely and I just love that concept. Table coverings and napkin and then flowers and centerpieces. The book gives charts and quick glance tips

And then the food and how to make the table about the food. Such as if you were going to have a taco buffet -- using terracotta planter saucers for all the toppings.

The next section and biggest part of the book is really is about decorating table for different occasions and seasons. Two of my favorite ideas were turnip candles on a little holder made of nails and raffia that would be wonderful for a fall table giving it that harvest and rustic look. And then ice luminary with cold-weather greens and berries for a winter table.

This book had quick glance tips, lists and step-by-step instructions for some projects. It is a book that I wouldn't mind having on my bookshelf.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lemon Bars

A friend recently introduced me to the Smitten Kitchen and I have quite a few recipes bookmarked to try.

The only thing I would change is cutting the baking time for the crust. It was over cooked by the time the lemon filling set. The crust came out a little too hard which made it difficult to cut through. But the filling came out quite good.

Lemon bar recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

I made the thick version although mine don't look quite as thick as hers which is probably again altitude. I did grease my pan because I always do as I found when cooking in high altitude it is a MUST.

They were so good! The lemon bars are tart but the crust is sweet so it is best of both worlds.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Make Washing Dishes Fun

....okay not exactly Fun but easier

1. Prep work -- Make it easier on yourself by doing as much as you can while you cook and then scraping and soaking so that you can get through them faster
2. Turn on Music
3. Listen to Podcasts -- don't have an ipod - burn podcasts to cd and pop it in a cd player
4. Listen to books on cd (remember the library has many so it won't even cost you anything but the trip to the library -- most library's have websites too so you can put things on hold so just have to run in and pick up)
5. Talk on the phone -- bluetooth capabilities with a cellphone make this easier
6. It is a good time to just have a conversation with someone in the household...I often talk to Master while taking care of dishes after dinner. If you have kids recruit them to dry while you wash and have a conversation
7. Have dessert after dishes as a "reward" for doing dishes or ask your owner if you can have a "reward" of free time after washing dishes -- use it for a bubble bath or 30 minutes of reading a book. Knowing there is a cookie at the end of a task that is not liked helps get through it.

Really nothing will make this job it so fun that we forget it is washing dishes but maybe some of these suggestions will help make it not as painful to go through.

Anyone else have tips on how to make washing dishes a little bit easier?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Back to the Basics: Hand Washing Dishes

Wash While Cooking -- While cooking wash as many dishes as you go, of course there are last minute things that won't be possible to wash but at least give them a scrap and get some water into them to soak while you have dinner.

Scrape and Stack -- To ready things for washing and to avoid dirtying your the water for washing right away, begin by scraping the dishes of excess food. Stack the dishes in preparation for washing. Food that is stuck on may need to be soaked first before washing. I use one of these little handy plastic scrapers. (I got it our local kitchen specialty shop in the mall for 95 cents. But here is one that is similar. They are also great at getting gummy labels off such as price tags on the glass of picture frames.)

Stack similar dishes with each other and in the order they will be washed. Such as glasses, cups, silverware and then plates, bowls, serving dishes and finally pots and pans. You are placing them from lightly soiled to heavily soiled and those soaking.

Prepare the area and water for washing dishes -- After dinner, make sure you start by cleaning area - the sink where they will be washed, the sink that they are rinsed (if you have a double sink), the dishrack and mat under it all should be clean. If you don't have a dishrack just place a thick dish towel down to catch drips.

Gather clean a dishcloth, sponge, bottle brushes or anything else that you use when washing the dishes. Then fill the sink 2/3 with with water. Make sure it is hot. I think I read in Home Comforts that the water should be hot enough that your hands are slightly uncomfortable if you were to leave your hands in the water. Wearing gloves will help you deal with the heat of the water as well protect your skin. Add your suds at anytime when filling your sink.

Washing Dishes -- As I stated in scrapping and stacking, start washing the lightly soiled items first. Usually this includes flatware, glasses and cups. By doing in order from lightly soiled to heavily soiled it helps keep your water fresh longer. Put a few dishes into the water at time so that they have some time soaking while washing another dish. Now move on to the washing the plates, bowls and serving dishes. Keep an eye out for when you should change the dish washing water. Usually I change mine right before starting the next group of dirty dishes which is pots and pans. If I had them soaking, draining the sink to prepare it with new water also allows me to scrap any more bits of food down the garbage disposal before starting to refill with clean water.

Scrub all dishes with slight pressure under the water. Food lifts off easier if you wash them under the water. Life them out to check if they are clean every so often. To find out of your dishes are clean you will need to touch them as well as look at them. When you touch them you are more likely to catch residue or oiliness. Also as soon as your water feels oily, looks unclean or doesn't have suds - drain and refill.

Rinse dishes -- If you have a double sink, use it to rinse the dishes. If you don't a double sink, then you can use a dish pan filled with hot water to rinse/dip your dishes clean. Hot water rinse not only gets suds off but kills microorganisms/bacteria and speeds drying. Rinse dishes before they have a chance to dry after washing.

Hand Dry Dishes or Air Dry Dishes - When hand drying dishes use a fresh clean towel and change the towel when it becomes damp or soiled. You might go through several towels in hand drying dishes. You should never use the towel for your hands or to wipe counters off and then go back to drying dishes. Use the fresh clean towel only for drying the dishes. Towel dry until the dish feels dry and shows no spots or lint.

Draining is important for air drying dishes. You don't want water trapped under a cup or bowl as it can cause bacteria to grow. So makes sure that all your dishes are tilted slightly so that water is not trapped under them or doesn't pool in them also.

Put away dishes and clean supplies and area -- Put dishes away as soon as possible as leaving them out puts them at risk of dust, germs and breakage. Wipe down the sink and dish rack/drainer. Wash and dry the dishpan. Make sure to remove rags, dish cloths, or sponges from the kitchen area as someone might be tempted to use them and they need to be replaced. I leave them in a laundry room to air dry or throw them directly into the washer.

Now you can go and relax!


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