Monthly Archives: November 2012

Margie’s 2¢

I love Christmas time. Some people get really hung up with the commercial part of the holiday, but not me. I love being with my family at a special time of the year for Christians (regardless of whether the date is accurate or not). I also love the sights, sounds, and feeling of family during this time. Share your Christmas preparation with us. The above post is a reblog from my mother’s blog.

Fatal Kitchen Accident & A Miracle on Thanksgiving

Do you know when accidents happen? Well, I’m going to guess that they most likely happen when you have a deadline and are trying to meet it while multitasking. I was trying to get ready to meet my parents for Thanksgiving dinner, and I was responsible for the bread, homemade dessert, and sweet tea. I had already baked several loafs of bread, so I wasn’t a stranger to the process; however, knowledge of science would have been helpful and would have saved me from this fatal error.

The product that is frequently used to make bread dough rise is yeast. The yeast used is “active” yeast, which means that it is alive. What I didn’t realize is that there is a reason why the liquid mixture you add yeast to is supposed to be at least 110 degrees but not higher than 130. A simple error–a shortcut–could cost you the life of your yeast. In this case, it was temperature. The liquid was approximately 160 degrees, and high temperatures are “fatal” to yeast. My dough didn’t rise. I was quite upset. I was hoping to take home made bread for us to have with our meal. Without checking everything out, I decided to try to “fix it.” Some people say that once the error is made there is nothing that can be done to fix it, but I did.

Miracle Bread

This is my miracle. I dissolved another packet of yeast into water110 degrees. Nothing was happening. A layer of frothy bubbles foams on top of the water when the yeast begins reacting, so I increased the temperature to 115 degrees. I didn’t notice as much frothiness as previously, but I thought, heck, may as well go for it. I placed the dough back in the stand mixer and pulled it apart in several places. I poured the water in and began kneading again. Once it was worked in, I went through the whole process again putting it in a warm oven to rise. It did rise, just not as much as usual.

A quick ending? Fresh bread was still on our table for Thanksgiving. The flavor was still good. The difference was it was a bit more dense because of the extra kneading. I didn’t realize you could kill yeast. I mean…does it have a little yeast heartbeat? How can you kill yeast?!! Apparently, by heating it above 130 degrees or baking your bread at too high a temperature. There you have it. My fatal accident turned miracle. Ultimately–my Thanksgiving Chemistry lesson on Yeast.

Did anything crazy happen in your kitchen this year? Leave us a comment.

My Delicious & Delightful Deviled Egg Secret

I reluctantly reveal my secret to the “perfect deviled egg”. Reluctantly because I hate to shatter my daughter’s image of the eggs. My secret is, let an egg be an egg. One thing is for sure, we tend to add too much to our food. Sometimes I want simple favors. For example, another item on our menu was potatoes. Not potato salad. Not potatoes Au Gratin,  just boiled potatoes with the option to add sour cream, butter, cheese, etc. I chose potatoes with salt and pepper. I just wanted to taste the potato. So the same theory went into my deviled eggs. Egg yolks with a few white mashed, add mayo, mustard,  garlic powder, kosher salt & pepper to taste and a sprinkle of paprika . No pickle relish. OK, so that isn’t totally letting an egg be an egg, but the egg was the star of the favor. Now, what really made the eggs taste so special was presentation, with a sprig of dill from my herb garden. Presentation, presentation, presentation. Taste is such an individual thing. For me, at this time in my life,  less is more. If you enjoyed an array of special family favorites, please share a few of your favorites with us.

Eggceptional, Eggcellent, Eggemplary!!

I just had to write this post to honor my mother! She is THE QUEEN of deviled eggs! Actually, she’s the queen of a lot of things, but today, I’ll brag about the eggs that I just could have eaten ALL of! But I didn’t!

Shear eggstacy!!

Isn’t this deviled egg beautiful? She really went all out on presentation of these eggs, too. As I was thinking of how I wished I had more of the eggs to eat, I began to thing of how “egg” could alter all of the words that I would use to describe her eggs.

She is now an author on my blog, so maybe I can talk her into writing a blog post about what she does to make her eggs so good. I’m telling you they had the perfect spice. There wasn’t anything making them sweet or sour. You could really enjoy the egg! Nothing was overpowering the flavor. So, if you had eggs on your Thanksgiving holiday, I hate to tell you, the one’s I ate were better. 😉

What a beautiful dish of yumminess!

What’s for Dinner on Turkey Day?

Knowing that tomorrow will be busy with fun and family, I decided to go ahead and make my Thanksgiving post TODAY! I think it is funny that the world adopted the turkey for Thanksgiving. It’s truly amazing how long that particular tradition has been around and is even celebrated across cultures. There are some of us though who have veered a little away from traditional on the menu. So, my question to you is, “What are you having for dinner?” 

My family is having grilled ribeye steaks, pea salad, fresh baked bread, deviled eggs, maybe a potato dish of some sort, chocolate delight, toll house pie, and good ole’ southern tea. I’m sure the day will still involve vegging on the couch watching Paula Deen make sinful recipes, and there must be that couple of hour span of time when all is heard through the house is the varying sounds of people snoring.

Regardless of what is on your table tomorrow, I am sure the sentiments will be the same. WE ARE THANKFUL! I know that I personally have so much to be thankful for, and this year, part of that thanks will include the addition to our table–my son, Eli. We will miss the presence of my brother, but I am sure he will be giving thanks with his new family. He will be thought of–maybe even reminisced about. I may even be able to get a funny jab in there that he would appreciate if he was here. We are very thankful that he has a wonderful woman in his life. We are grateful to her for showing him love and kindness–it is all we have wanted for him for a long time.

So from my family to yours, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day! May I remind you that on Friday, you may engage in some festive Black Friday shopping. Don’t let all that you celebrated on Thursday be forgotten on Friday. Be kind, generous, and thoughtful to others.

It’s Not You, It’s Me…Trading Up

It really isn’t the Sunbeam‘s fault. It’s an excellent mixer! I have to say I have only one gripe about it. The beaters are difficult to remove.

Vintage Sunbeam Mixmaster Pro

I end up getting more ingredients all over the kitchen trying to take them off than I do when I turn it on full blast. The other issue with the mixer isn’t really a gripe. It’s more of an evolutionary issue. I use Cook’s Illustrated recipes–almost exclusively now. They are constantly updating recipes as they test them and find ways to perfect a recipe, and they test equipment to determine which equipment will yield the home cook the best results. Well, sorry Sunbeam.

Mixers now have the planetary action when mixing, and they are one beater machines. Mixer manufacturers also have been making improvements to attachments such as the flat paddle, something that wasn’t included with the Sunbeam. Also, the Sunbeam didn’t come with a whisk attachment. I hate to say it, even though I’m fairly new to the cooking/baking scene, I have outgrown this mixer. I bought a Cuisinart 5.5 Stand Mixer. It was on top of the Cook’s Illustrated product test for stand mixers.

What really pushed me completely to the Cuisinart over the KitchenAid were the reviews on the Cuisinart on Amazon.com. Many of the reviews were raving of how it handled yeast and cookie dough. They were very impressed with the five (5) year motor warranty (I was, too). One gentleman actually dropped his on it’s head (you know what I mean), and it never mixed a beat (haha). He updated his review over the course of several years and the mixer was still performing with excellence even given his accident.

Cuisinart 5.5 Stand Mixer

The new mixer is pretty sweet. Beautiful, I would say. I would even describe the older Sunbeam as beautiful. I love the vintage look. I felt like it was Christmas opening this mixer up. It was so easy to assemble and use. I have made three (3) loaves of bread with it (2 batches). It made the process very easy.

My First Shot at Homemade Bread – Home run!!

I enjoyed baking the bread so much I am going to get a Cottage Foods license to be able to bake bread and sell it locally. There’s just something about being able to share something you baked yourself with others. I also will most likely be baking bread for Christmas. I think the fact that I do not dread having to make more loaves is a great testimony for the Cuisinart. The Sunbeam did make the baking process easier, but there were little things that were frustrating. I haven’t encountered the first frustration, yet. I am very excited about the prospects of selling my own creations.

So again, it’s not that the Sunbeam was a bad machine, it’s just that I didn’t enjoy using it. I actually “enjoy” using the Cuisinart. I guess if I am considering using it for business purposes, it’s a good thing that I enjoy it. I feel like it will be a reliable tool. I will treat it well, keep it clean, and in good repair. Who knows what future opportunities will arise out of this venture. I am anticipating and hopeful.

It’s Not Easy Being Cheesy…

My first cheesecake attempt

Apparently, it isn’t easy cooking cheesy either. For the record, the cheesecake had a good flavor which was really the only thing it had going for it. Well, that and the fact that New York style cheesecake is my husband’s favorite, so I got lots of brownie points there.

The things that went wrong:

From looking at it, you can see the top cracked. It was only the top, and the cracks weren’t as bad once it cooled off. The edges burned. The crust burned; therefore, it didn’t even transfer with the cake, which was fine in my husband’s mind, but if I go to the trouble of making a gram cracker crust, then I expect to be able to enjoy it with my cake.

What could have corrected the problems:

After some research (and wonderful info learned through ATK Cooking School), I overcooked (and maybe over beat) the cake. It’s most likely just the overcooking part because I used a dark cookie sheet under it to catch any of the filling if it spilled (as per the recipe), so aluminum pans (or lighter pans) would not have cooked the cake as fast. I think this is the reason it was split and why the crust burned-well, that and the fact that the recipe calls for the rack to be in the lower middle position. So, if the dark pan is drawing more heat and the cake is lower than middle, then it seems logical that I would have needed to check it sooner. Well, you live and learn. I’m not totally sure about the burning on the edges. It didn’t taste or smell burned, surprisingly. When I cook it again correcting these errors, then I will see if it still burns the edges. I’m hoping not.

The consistency of the cake, to me, seemed a little chalky; however, my mother says it was the best cheesecake she’s ever had (and she’s a straight shooter). Perhaps the next time I will get a more solid, creamy consistency. The recipe called for a flat paddle, and the mixer I was using didn’t have one, so I had to use regular beaters. I read comments online that over-beating can cause both this and the cracks in the top. Since then, I have purchased a new mixer with the flat paddle attachment. I don’t know if over-beating REALLY occurred, but if it did, I should be able to correct that on my mix go around. Wish me luck!

Leaving a Legacy

Great Grandma’s Homemade Dressing

In the past, my mother wasn’t very sentimental. I recall learning that she had donated a lot of my and my brother’s things, and I was upset–not because they were mine (ok, maybe because they were mine), but instead, because I valued what she, or another special someone, had given me.

Well, time has passed, and mom is a little more sentimental than she used to be. She now has black and white and other vintage pictures around her home of her family from years past. She has passed on to me a few items that she made by hand. Now that I am home with my little one and learning all of the joys of being a mother, she is sharing some of our family’s amazing recipes also. Note: most of these recipes aren’t in writing (or they were and when I was a teenager, I thought I would do her a favor and write them in a recipe book for her. I saw no need for the tsp, tb, c, etc that littered the pages either, so I left them off.) Uh…yeah! So the recipes she passes along to me are from her memory.

Great Grandma’s Dressing – Isn’t it beautiful?

My family has a lot of great recipes, but everyone knows this dressing. Every year, there are requests for it. For years now, I have wanted to learn to cook it and carry on the tradition of making it for family gatherings. Finally, mom and I got on the phone and hashed out the very rough recipe (not written down). She had me send her video of the consistency of the dressing on her cell phone, and she would tell me to add more chicken stock. It was a very enjoyable experience. It was part of her legacy (whether she realizes it or not). She is passing on to me a great number of things (not materialistic items). Fortunately, some of the family recipes are part of that legacy. Pictured here is baked chicken with great-grandma’s homemade dressing and giblet gravy with a side of salad (that one lone olive killed my photo–so I ate it ;).

Oh What a Dilly…

I have encountered some of the most amazing potatoes. They are small. They are called Melissa’s Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes.

Dilly Potato Salad with Roasted Hen, Asparagus in light butter, and fresh, local grown tomatoes

I just tried them out one day because I thought they were cute (yeah, I know…what’s the connection). I made potato salad with them. The dish was my own creation–just a play on the traditional potato salad. I left out the relish and added parsley. I boiled the potatoes until they were beginning to get soft. I added mayo, salt, pepper, mustard and stirred them vigorously to cause some to mash a bit. The final result was really almost perfection for me. The potatoes were so buttery in consistency. I got LOTS of compliments on the dish.

When I try a dish and it isn’t what I would totally want it to be, it will bug me until I get it right. I mentioned this to my America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School instructor (Cali Rich), and she responded back to me with the name Dilly Potato Salad because my next attempt would be to omit the parsley and add dill (the herb). I did just that, and wow! I was completely happy with it. My husband kept making comments on how good it was over and over. I was very pleased! Posted is the picture of our meal with the Dilly Potato Salad.

Say CHEESE!

It seems that I am on a “food” run lately. Maybe it’s because I have been organizing my kitchen, or maybe I’m organizing my kitchen because I have found that I love to cook. Ok, so that question will not be answered today. I am a little behind in writing, so I am going to try to be a bit brief to get all of my posts in.

Cheesy Burger Bake – my own creation

I love mac-n-cheese, and I love ground beef freshly browned. Add them together with some tomato sauce and basil, and you get Cheesy Burger Melt. This isn’t really mac-n-cheese. It’s macaroni elbows layered with browned ground beef, tomato sauce, dried basil, cheese (3 layers). I baked it for approximately 30 minutes or until the cheese was the desired brownness.

The verdict? It looked good. Smelled good. Should have sat longer to cut into a wedge for serving (but we were eating late). In my opinion, the plain tomato sauce (store brand) lacked the flavor of others I have used. There was nothing really spectacular about it. I think it would have been better if I had used ground Italian sausage. My husband says it was better after being refrigerated a couple of days. Another suggestion might be to have continued on with the hamburger them and added bacon for added flavor and perhaps a shot of mustard for a little kick. I’ll have to try that out one day and update this post.

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