Friday, December 30, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, December 30, 2011: Black-Eyed Peas for Luck!

A Little Luck for the New Year!

New Years is just around the corner and if you believe that Black-Eyed Peas are good luck when eaten for New Years here is a delicious recipe that will bring lots of luck to you and your guests, Brown Rice and Black-Eyed Pea Salad.

Good Luck in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, December 29, 2011: Legume tips

Why Legumes?

Why should you eat more legumes? Numerous studies show the positive affects of beans and other legumes on ones health. They are a good source of protein for those following non-meat diets but their nutritional value goes further than that. Here are a couple of articles expounding the benefits of legumes, Beans: Fabulous Health Benefits, Weight Management and Nutrition at Very Low Cost and Legume Consumption offers powerful protection against cancer.

Ok, so I have you sold on legumes but now you can find the ones your recipe calls for. Consider these ways to incorporate more legumes into your meals and snacks:
  • Prepare soups, stews and casseroles that feature legumes.
  • Use pureed beans as the basis for dips and spreads.
  • Add chickpeas or black beans to salads. If you typically buy a salad at work and no beans are available, bring your own from home in a small container.
  • Snack on a handful of soy nuts rather than on chips or crackers.
If you can't find a particular type of legume in the store, you can easily substitute one type of legume for another. For example, pinto and black beans are good substitutes for red kidney beans. And cannellini, lima beans and navy beans are easily interchangeable. Experiment with what types of legumes you like best in your recipes to make your meals and snacks both nutritious and interesting.
Just one delicate issue to discuss when talking about legumes, gas! Beans and other legumes can lead to the formation of intestinal gas. Here are several ways to reduce the flatulence-inducing quality of legumes:
  • Change the water several times during soaking. Don't use the soaking water to cook the beans. The water will have absorbed some of the gas-producing indigestible sugars.
  • Try using canned beans — the canning process eliminates some of the gas-producing sugars.
  • Simmer beans slowly until they are tender. This makes them easier to digest.
  • Try digestive aids, such as Beano, when eating legume dishes to help reduce the amount of gas they produce.
As you add more beans and legumes to your diet, be sure to drink enough water and exercise regularly to help your gastrointestinal system handle the increase in dietary fiber.
Tomorrow I will give you a recipe for good luck in the New Year!
Information retrieved from: and

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, December 28, 2011; Cooking Legumes

To Soak or Not to Soak

It has been widely believed for years that most legumes need to be soaked before cooking. Lentils, split peas (not technically a legume) and black-eyed peas do not require soaking. While  soaking is a safe bet for making cooking legumes a little easier, it is not a requirement.

If you should choose to cook the legumes without soaking it is important to clean and rinse the legumes before cooking. Place legumes in a pot and cover with enough unsalted water to reach 2 inches above the legumes. Bring to a boil and reduce to a mild simmer and cook until desired doneness is reached. Legumes will expand so monitor the water level, adding more if necessary.

If you do choose to soak the legumes before cooking them there are several methods including the all important gas-free soak! Here are tips for soaking and cooking legumes:

Preparing legumes

Dried beans and legumes, with the exceptions of black-eyed peas and lentils, require soaking in room-temperature water, a step that rehydrates them for more even cooking. Before soaking, pick through the beans, discarding any discolored or shriveled ones or any foreign matter. Depending on how much time you have, choose one of the following soaking methods:
  • Slow soak. In a stockpot, cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
  • Hot soak. In a stockpot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover tightly and set aside at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
  • Quick soak. In a stockpot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Boil 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Gas-free soak. In a stockpot, place 1 pound of beans in 10 or more cups of boiling water. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Then cover and set aside overnight. The next day 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars that cause gas will have dissolved into the soaking water.

Cooking tips

After soaking, rinse beans and add to a stockpot. Cover the beans with three times their volume of water. Add herbs or spices as desired. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender. The cooking time depends on the type of bean, but start checking after 45 minutes. Add more water if the beans become uncovered. Other tips:
  • Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they can make the beans tough and slow the cooking process.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
  • To freeze cooked beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze.
  • One pound of dried beans yields about 5 or 6 cups cooked beans. A 15-ounce can of beans equals about 1 1/2 cups cooked beans, drained.
Adapted from:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, December 27,2011; Legumes

Good Luck Beans

With New Years nearing I started thinking about Black Eyed Peas. I usually follow the widely held tradition of making the legumes for New Years for good luck. Whether they actually bring you good luck or not they are good for you so why not make them just in case.

When I searched for information on legumes, I found an extensive amount from the Mayo Clinic. You know if this prestigious institution has detailed information on legumes they must be good for you.

Here is some information adapted from the clinic's website,

Legumes — a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.

Type of legumes

Many supermarkets and food stores stock a wide variety of legumes — both dried and canned. Below are several of the more common types and their typical uses.
Adzuki beans - Also known as field peas or red oriental beans. Use in Soups, sweet bean paste, and Japanese and Chinese dishes.

Anasazi beans - Also known as Jacob's cattle beans. Use in soups and Southwestern dishes; can be used in recipes that call for pinto beans.

Black beans - Also known as turtle beans. Use in soups, stews, rice dishes and Latin American cuisines.

Black-eyed peas - Also known as cowpeas. Use in salads, casseroles, fritters and Southern dishes.

Chickpeas - Also known as garbanzo or ceci beans. Use in casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup, and Spanish and Indian dishes.

Edamame - Also known as green soybeans. Use in snacks, salads, casseroles and rice dishes.

Fava beans - Also known as broad or horse beans. Use in stews and side dishes.

Lentils. Use in soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes.

Lima beans - Also known as butter or Madagascar beans. Use in succotash, casseroles, soups and salads.

Red kidney beans. Use in stews, salads, chili and rice dishes.

Soy nuts - Also known as roasted soybeans or soya beans. Use in snacks or garnish for salads.

As previously mentioned, most of these legumes can be purchased canned or dry in your local supermarket. Tomorrow I will have information on cooking dry legumes should you choose to go that route. The benefit of cooking them yourself is you have the ability to choose the doneness of the legume.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, December 23, 2011; Holiday Spirits

Just Around the Corner!

Just one more day to get some gifts together and if you don't have the time you might consider giving New Year gifts! 

Here are two more gift ideas from Gourmet Live. Both would be appropriate for New Year gifts. The brightened spirits will need to be started soon if you want them ready to give for New Years.

Brightened Spirits: Wine is a lovely holiday gift, but home-infused alcohol is much more personal and distinctive—and it’s incredibly easy to stir up.

Here’s How: In a large glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, combine a 750-milliliter bottle of alcohol with 2 to 3 cups of chopped fruits or vegetables. Some great combinations: tequila with jalapeños; vodka with pineapple; gin with berries; and rum with oranges and cloves. Cover and let sit for 7 to 10 days in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator, then strain out the solids and return the alcohol to its original bottle or another decorative bottle and add a personalized label.

Nuts with a Kick: Spiced nuts are perfect for nibbling on between meals, and the right combination of spices gives them a seasonal twist.

Here’s How: Toss plain unsalted nuts (one kind or a combination) with sugar, a pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little water (just enough to make the dry spices stick to the nuts). Spread the mixture out on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan and toast in a 350°F oven until golden and aromatic, about 7 to 9 minutes. Use any baking spices you like—pumpkin pie spice is wonderful with pecans or hazelnuts, and cayenne pepper adds a kick to any nut mix. When the nuts have cooled completely, put them in a jar with a tight-fitting lid or a pretty, parchment paper-lined box.

Have a very Merry Christmas, I hope to see you back here on Monday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, December 22, 2011: Bark Candy

No Time? Make Something Quick!

Have you been out shopping the last few days? Everyone is in a hurry, even me. It is down to the last few days and if you want something fast and homemade to give as a gift, make bark candy or scented sachets. 

Here are a couple more ideas from Gourmet Live, get creative!

Nut Bark: Nix pricey store-bought peppermint or nut bark and make your own in less than 30 minutes.

Here’s How: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat about 2 cups chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white) in 30-second increments, stirring between each heating, until completely melted. Pour the chocolate onto a parchment paper–lined, rimmed sheet pan. (For added flair, microwave two colors of chocolate in separate bowls and swirl them together in the sheet pan.) Sprinkle the melted chocolate with toppings such as crushed candy canes, sprinkles, chopped nuts, candied fruit, and toffee bits. Cool in the refrigerator until firm, then break into medium-size pieces and package in a decorative tin or small box

Scented Sachets: For a gift that keeps on giving, make potpourri sachets, which add a delicate scent to drawers and closets.

Here’s How: Tie whole spices, such as cardamom pods, broken cinnamon sticks, cloves, juniper berries, allspice, bay leaves, coriander, and star anise, in a cloth bundle with a ribbon, or sew them into a dainty pouch.

Enjoy the gift giving!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 Truffles and Candles

Romantic Food

Chocolate is probably the most romantic food gift there is. The next two gifts I am going to share with you could be paired with a nice bottle of champagne for a romantic holiday gift basket. Truffles, candles and champagne, what could be better?

Again these gift ideas are from the Gourmet Live app for iPhone and iPad:

Chocolate Truffles: Candy is ever-present during the holidays, so try a treat that will stand out: homemade chocolate truffles, which are much easier to prepare than you might think
Here’s How: Make chocolate ganache—simply two parts bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate with one part heavy cream. Heat the cream, then pour it over the chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes; stir to combine until completely melted. Let the mixture cool, then roll into 1-inch balls and coat with cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, or chopped nuts. For an even more impressive version try Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Truffles or Dulche De Leche and Nut Butter Truffles.
Cinnamon Candles: Forget cloying scented candles and create your own subtle cinnamon votives.

Here’s How: Glue cinnamon sticks vertically around the outside of glass votives, then tie a colorful ribbon around the sticks. The votives look festive and, when lit, emit a mild cinnamon scent that won’t clash with culinary aromas.

If you want a truffle recipe that is a little less involved, check out this recipe for Dark Chocolate Truffles.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, December 20, 2011; Food Gifts

Give the Gift of Food!

The holidays usually find most of us either hosting or attending gatherings from small to large. As guests, it is always appropriate to take the host a small personal gift. As the host it is always nice to send your guests home with a nice parting gift. Food gifts are always nice and well appreciated, especially if you are known for your cooking abilities.

The rest of this week I will be sharing some simple ideas that can be made and packaged for your host or guests. These ideas are from Gourmet Live, the new app for iPhone and iPad.

The first idea I really like because the holidays often find us overflowing with good food and this gift can be made long after the holidays are over.

Cake Mix: Instead of baking a cake for your holiday hosts, make them a mix! This way, you’ll share a favorite sweet with them without making them feel obligated to serve it that day.

Here’s How: Choose a favorite cake, muffin, biscuit, or cookie recipe and pour the dry ingredients (in layers for an attractive presentation) into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Use a pretty ribbon to tie a tag to the jar with a list of wet ingredients and baking instructions.

I especially like this idea for granola, your hosts or guest will have fond memories of you the next morning!

Signature Granola: Give harried hosts homemade granola and save them from having to make a fancy breakfast the morning after preparing a big dinner.

Here’s How: In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, bits of dried fruits, seeds, and nuts with a touch of cinnamon and a pinch of salt (optional), vegetable oil (about 1 teaspoon per cup of dry ingredients), plus the sweetener of your choice, such as brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Make your own creative mix or follow a recipe like Maple Apricot Granola. Pour the mixture onto a parchment paper–lined, rimmed sheet pan and toast at 350°F; for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place the cooled finished product in Mason jars or cellophane bags, and gussy them up with festive ribbons or bows.

One of my favorite mixes in a jar that I have used many times is Friendship Brownies. If you don't have a favorite recipe to use this one, it will please the recipient.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, December 16, 2011; No-Bake Cookies

No Oven? No-Bake

When I was a child there always seemed to be enough ingredients in the house to make a quick batch of no-bake cookies. My dad's favorite was a cookie called Missouri Mud cookies. No-bake cookies are definitely in a category of their own. They can be somewhere between a cookie and candy.

No-bake cookies can be bar cookies, dropped cookies or formed cookies. Most of the no-bake cookies I am aware of need some amount of refrigeration as well.

One of the most popular no-bake cookies is the Rice Krispie cookie, a mixture of cooked marshmallow and crispy rice cereal. Additional ingredients like chocolate chips or sprinkles can make these cookies a festive treat at the holiday.

If you are a chocolate and peanut butter fan I would recommend trying these Missouri Mud cookies which I originally made from a neighborhood fundraising cookbook.

I hope you have at least one batch of cookies to make this weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, December 15, 2011: Rolled Cookies

The Jewel of the Holiday

No other cookies lends itself to decorating like the rolled cookie does. Rolled cookies are made from a dough that is firm enough to be rolled out to a defined thickness and then cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. The dough holds its shape during baking. The cookies are usually decorated in some way after baking.

The most popular rolled cookie is the sugar cookies because it is delicious and the perfect palate for decorating. Another popular rolled cookie is gingerbread, a perennial favorite. Cookie cutters come in a daunting number of shapes. You can find a cookie cutter for almost any holiday or special occasion.

Decorating rolled cookies can be as simple as sprinkling with sugar or as elaborate as drawing or painting designs on them with icing. Many edible decorations are available for cookies including edible metallic dusts and glitter. Try cutting holes in your rolled cookies and sprinkling crushed colored hard candies like Lifesavers in the holes before baking, the result will be a stain glass cookie. Royal icing is a very versatile decorating ingredient when making rolled cookies, it can be used to glue cookies together or thinned, colored and spread on cookies. It is also very good for adhering other decorating ingredients to your cookies like sprinkles, etc.

Rolled cookies make a very entertaining project for children's parties. Cookies and ingredients can be made ahead so children can decorate them as they desire. Decorated rolled cookies also make wonderful decorations for the home or tree.

Have some fun, decorate some beautiful holiday cookies!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, December 14, 2011: Formed Cookies

Any Shape or Form

Formed cookies are cookies that are usually a firm, short, or refrigerated dough that has enough structure to form into a shape. They may be rolled into a log, refrigerated and then sliced off to be cooked or they may be rolled into balls or other shapes and baked as is or pressed flat before baking. Formed cookies can also be baked in a form or may have designs pressed into them before they are baked.

One of the most popular formed cookies are Scottish shortbread. Which as its name implies originated in Scotland and defended from a Scottish bread that was twiced baked. The bread contained yeast but the yeast was eventually replaced by butter. Shortbread has three ingredients, 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour. Salt has become common in most shortbread recipes and powdered sugar can often be used as part of the sugar.

Because of the method used in making formed cookies they are usually consistent in shape and size.

My favorite shortbread recipe comes from one of my most cherished cookbooks, Rosie's All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Baked No Hold Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, December 13, 2011; Bar Cookies

Raising the Bar!

Cookies have existed since the documentation of baking began and are descendants of the cake. What makes cookies different from cakes is the absence of water or a high moisture content ingredient.  A high ratio of moisture in a batter forms the air bubbles that create the crumb of a cake. These air bubbles are absent in cookies.

Some cookies have traveled farther down the chain of evolution than others. Bar cookies are probably the most direct defendant of their ancestor the cake. Bar cookies can be pressed, poured or layered into a baking pan and baked then cut into small individual servings.

Bar cookies can be a shortbread crust with a softer filling on top in the example of lemon bars. Nuts and dried fruit are often popular ingredients in bar cookies as well as grains like oatmeal and flaxseed. Ingredients are layered to give the bar a nice chewy crust with a rich fruit filling on top and then often topped with a streusel type topping. Batter type bar cookies are also very popular, the most popular of all is the brownie. Brownies can be in a variety of flavors with chocolate being the most popular by far, they can be chewy, gooey or cake type.

Bar cookies probably allow for the greatest amount of creativity in ingredients as long as the basic ingredients of fat, flour, eggs and sugar are present. Chocolate brownies are my favorite and here is a simple tip for making them holiday festive:

  • Using your favorite chocolate brownie recipe or a box mix. Make the batter as directed. Spread half of the batter in a pan lined with greased foil. Cover the batter with a layer of York Peppermint Patties leaving a small amount of space between each one. Spread the remaining half of the batter over the peppermint patties and bake as directed. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Lift the brownies out of the pan with the foil and place on a cutting board. With holiday shaped cookie cutters cut out brownies to reveal the peppermint layer.  Decorate with icing and holiday sprinkles.
If you are just in the mood for some rich and delicious brownies, here is my favorite recipe for Candy Top Brownies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, December 12, 2011; Cookies

Quintessential Christmas!

What other food says Christmas like cookies. It is obvious when you look at the December editions of most major food publications. Almost every one of them runs multiple cookie recipes for their December issues. After all, cookies can be simple or elaborately decorated, one recipe can make a variety of designs, rolled cookies for example can be cut into different shapes and each one decorated differently. Decorations range from simple icing to edible jewel like decorations.

This week I am going to discus the various types of cookies and possibly share a few of my favorite recipes along the way. The following are the most common types of cookies made in the home kitchen.

Drop - a soft batter that is dropped onto a baking sheet and baked. The cookie usually bakes into a moist soft cookie.

Bar - a batter that is baked in a large baking pan and then cut into individual size servings.

Rolled - a stiff or refrigerated dough that is rolled out to a defined thickness and cookies are cut from the dough

Formed - a stiff or refrigerated dough that is formed into a shape usually by hand and baked.

Composed - cookies that are baked and then combined with a filling or coating to create the final product.

Refrigerator is sometimes referred to as type of cookie but it is actually a process in producing a dough that can be used in the types of cookies that require a firm dough. Mixing dough can soften the ingredients to the point that they cannot be formed properly. Refrigerating the dough firms the ingredients to where they can be rolled out or formed into the desired shapes.

Tomorrow I will discuss bar cookies and share one of my favorite recipes with you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, December 9, 2011; Marshmallows

Soft, Fluffy and Good For You?

Marshmallows, good for you? Well not the modern version, but marshmallows most likely originated in ancient Egypt as a candy made from the extraction of the Marshmallow plant root. The confections is said to have been useful in the treatment of sore throats.

The French later began using the extract to make a confection that more closely resembles the modern marshmallow. The French version whipped the marshmallow sap until it became fluffy and then sweetened it. The process was very labor intensive and in the late 1900s they devised a way around the method by substituting egg whites or gelatin and modified corn syrup. The confection is called guimauve.

The development that made modern marshmallows so readily available was the invention of the extruding equipment by Alex Doumak in 1948. It gave us the cylindrical version we eat today. Most of the commercially produced brands in the US are manufactured by Kraft Foods and Doumak, Inc. in partnership.

In the last few years artisanal marshmallows have made a surge in popularity. You might think the process is difficult but it is not. Here is a recipe adapted from Martha Stewart:

Nightscotman's Strawberry Marshmallows

4 envelopes gelatin
1/2 cups strawberry puree
1-1/4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp orange flower water (optional)
powdered sugar and potato starch or rice flour for dusting 

Line a sheet pan with a 1′′ rim with aluminum foil. coat the foil with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the strawberry puree, orange flower water (if using) and 1/2 cup of the water. Sprinkle the gelatin over this mixture to soften (aka bloom).

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, remaining 3/4 cup water and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 F).

With the mixer at full speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Be careful as the mixture is very liquid and hot at this point and some may splash out of the bowl - use a splash guard if you have one. whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 8-10 minutes. pour mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth with an oiled offset spatula so that itʼs level with the top of the rim (it wonʼt completely fill the pan). Allow the mixture to sit, uncovered at room temp for 10 to 12 hours.

Mix equal parts powdered sugar and potato starch and sift generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn it out onto a cutting board or counter, peel off foil and dust with more sugar/starch mixture. Slice with a thin-bladed oiled knife or oiled cookie cutters (pizza cutter works even better). Dip all cut edges in sugar/ starch mixture and shake off excess. Marshmallows will keep several weeks at room temp in an air-tight container.

Variation - Chocolate Marshmallows:
Replace strawberry puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of cocoa dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water in a separate bowl. Soften gelatin in an additional 1/4 cup cold water in mixing bowl. Add cocoa mixture to mixing bowl and proceed with recipe as above. This will produce a marshmallow with a strong chocolate flavor, but somewhat denser than the strawberry version. To get a lighter texture as well as a lighter chocolate flavor, reduce cocoa to 1/4 cup.

Variation - Vanilla Marshmallows:
Replace strawberry puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 3/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or the seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans.

Flavor Variations Ideas:
raspberry passion fruit pumpkin cranberry orange lychee
Liquid Flavorings lemon essential oil orange peppermint cardamom honey coffee

tangerine (using the juice in place of water) pomegranate 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, December 8, 2011; Fudge

Oh Fudge!

Can I just say I love fudge. If it is good, I don't care how it was made. There are several ways to make fudge and it is really your own preference as to which method to use. I have a couple of very simple recipes that produce a nice creamy fudge and are simple to make. On top of being easy the recipes make enough to have some to enjoy yourself and to gift to friends for a special occasion.

The history of fudge is unclear but most agree that it was definitely an American creation. It is thought to have originated in the late 1800s in Baltimore. As the story goes a candy maker was making caramel and fudged on some of the ingredients and the result was Fudge! By definition fudge is a crystaline candy and getting just the right size of crystal is key to getting a smooth creamy fudge.

Fudge is usually comprised of sugar, butter, some form of milk and flavorings. The ingredients are usually boiled to just the right consistency and then beaten to develop the crystals necessary for achieving the perfect texture and structure. I will admit that while I am tempted to try some exotic flavors from time to time, I have two standing favorites, chocolate and peanut butter. Both of which I have simple and delicious recipes for.

I just posted the recipe for my 5-pound fudge on yesterday and today I am going to give you the recipe for Grandma"s Peanut Butter Fudge which I found on years ago and have been making every since. Again it is one of the more simple methods for making fudge but it makes a deliciously creamy fudge and enough to make nice gifts.  Here is the recipe:

Grandma’s Peanut Butter Fudge
Original Recipe Yield 1 - 9x13 dish

4 cups white sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup butter
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
  1. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish and set aside. Butter a 3 quart saucepan.
  2. Place buttered saucepan over medium heat, and combine sugar, evaporated milk and 1 cup butter within. Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees F (112 to 116 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water and placed on a flat surface.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and marshmallow creme. Beat vigorously until smooth. Pour quickly into prepared baking dish. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.
To finish out the week I am going to discuss homemade marshmallows. While general thought to be difficult to make I think they are simple and will have most of your friends impressed!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, December 7, 2011; Brittle

Sweet, Crunchy, Salty!

Who doesn't love the combination of sweet and salty with a lot of crunch? Nut brittles are the perfect confection to satisfy that taste. The cooking process to make nut brittle by nature involves the caramelization of sugar and roasting of nuts with the saltiness of the baking soda used to foam them and give you the trifecta!

Nut brittles are so popular in the United States and more prevalent than any where else that they are now believed by most to be of American origin, not true; however, we may have perfected them. History tells us the nut brittles may have been the first candy. While sugar coated nuts and fruits are some of the first recorded candies eaten by man and most likely for digestive reasons the modern nut brittle has little resemblance to it's ancient ancestor. Advances in technology including the refining of sugar and the common use of fire for cooking are two important developments that have allowed us to easily produce nut brittles.

Nut brittles usually contain one or more varieties of nuts, the most popular being peanut. In addition to nuts you will often see other ingredients such as coconut. The important thing to remember when adding ingredients is that if the ingredient is added in the beginning of the process is needs to be sturdy enough to hold up the the very high heat involved in making the candy. Other less stable ingredients can be stirred in at the end when the butter and vanilla are added. I like to add some candied ginger to my peanut brittle at this point.

Brittles make very good holiday gifts as they store easily in airtight containers and will last without refrigeration for several weeks. We all know how scarce refrigerator space can be during the holidays.
Here is my favorite recipe that was handed down to me by a friend several years ago. It is easy and makes a considerable amount of brittle:

Candy Lovers Brittle
3 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
3 cups raw spanish or virginia peanuts skins on
1 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
In a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook the sugar, corn syrup and water to 280°F. on a candy thermometer (soft crack stage). Gradually stir in peanuts so mixture continues to boil. Continue cooking without stirring to 300°F. (hard crack stage). Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, at once stir in baking soda and salt. Pour onto two large buttered cookie sheets, allowing brittle to spread itself. Cool. Break into pieces. 
Yield 2 ½ pounds

Now you have two items to put in your holiday treat packages and by the end of the week you will have more, see you back here tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, December 6, 2011; Chocolate Truffles

No Dog or Pig Needed

Yes the chocolate truffle is named after the truffle fungus and they are often priced nearly as high as their namesake but you don't need a well trained animal to sniff them out.  The deliciously rich and smooth confection was created in France in the late 1800's and gained wider popularity when a version was introduced in Britain in the early 1900's. The British version is still being made from the original recipe and is still sold today. The American version of the confection which resembles the pointed half of an egg was developed by San Francisco chocolatier Joseph Schmidt in the 1980's. The are now three types of chocolate truffles, European, Swiss and American. 

The price of commercially produced chocolate truffles is most likely because of the quality of the ingredients used or the exclusivity of the manufacturer. It is not because of any great difficulty in making them. The simplest version and the one I am going to give you today is the Swiss version. It is basically a hard ganache containing chocolate and heavy cream. The ratio of chocolate to cream is approximately 2:1. The cream is just brought to a boil and then poured over the chopped chocolate and allowed to sit for about a minute to soften the chocolate. It is then whisked to a creamy consistency and allowed to cool until firm. The ganache is then scooped out in equal portions and formed into balls. The balls can be dipped in tempered chocolate, cocoa powder or finely chopped nuts. That is the basic recipe.

Now if you want something more special you can add to the ganache mixture. Maybe you want to add and additional flavor like mint. or raspberry? All you need to do is add a little extract to the ganache mixture while whisking the chocolate and cream. You can also stir chopped nuts or candies into the mixture to give it more texture. To cover the truffles you can use tempered chocolate if you are comfortable tempering chocolate. You can also buy a higher quality coating chocolate, but I prefer the tempered chocolate as the coating chocolate has wax in it. Truffles can be rolled directly in cocoa or nuts or they can be dipped in melted chocolate and then in the cocoa or nuts to give them a nice snap when you bite into them.

Chocolate truffles make a perfect holiday gift. They are delicious and beautiful and are easily packaged in pretty holiday wrapping.  Don't be daunted by these wonderful treats. Have some fun and experiment with them. Here is a simple recipe for them:

1 lb. dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream, scalded
cocoa powder

Pour scalded cream over chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Stir until smooth and chill. Form into balls and roll in cocoa powder.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, December 5, 2011; Candy

What Could Be Sweeter

Who doesn't have a favorite candy? While candy is eaten year round, there is no time like the holidays to talk about the confection. There are a variety of candies that have become synonymous with the holidays, the candy cane or anything peppermint is probably the most celebrated. Making candy at home can be a fun and rewarding project and the results make excellent holiday gifts.

Where did candy originate? Well as far back as ancient man people were eating honey to satisfy their sweet tooth. Later fruits and nuts were dipped in honey, becoming possibly the first composed candy. Many of the ingredients used in candy including sugar and chocolate were at one time to expensive for anyone other than the wealthiest to afford. As sugar became more readily available and affordable, hard candies started to become prevalent. Then as chocolates prices started to come down it was added to the candy making process. Further development of technology which allowed preservation of candies made from dairy products allowed softer candies to become widely available.

This week I am going to discuss my favorite varieties of candies to make and give you some of my best recipes for gift giving. 

I will discuss truffles, marshmallows, brittles and my most favorite, fudge. All of these involve simple basic ingredients and procedures and can be beautifully packaged for holiday gift giving. After all you can give a sweeter gift than candy!

Tomorrow I will discuss the process of making truffles, don't miss it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, December 2, 2011; Poaching

To Poach

Today I am going to discuss the last of the seven classic French cooking methods, Poaching. When I am done discussing poaching I am going to give you the recipe for Roast Prime Rib of Beef that has become a Christmas tradition at our house and uses the the roasting method.


Poaching can be described as boiled without boiling. It refers to the gentle, slow cooking that requires the piece to be completely covered by a hot liquid. The goal of poaching is to tenderize a tough piece of meat, or to use liquid to impart flavor to an ingredient during cooking. It is also used to hydrate certain dry ingredients that require liquid for cooking such as rice and pasta.

Traditionally, poaching starts with a cold liquid and the liquid is brought to the desired temperature as quickly as possible. The poaching liquid is normally flavored by aromates. The liquid is brought to a temperature that can gently cook the piece, but the one constant is that the liquid is never brought above the boiling point during the cooking process. However, the poaching liquid itself can be brought to a boil before the product is added.

The poaching process is categorized as follows:

Type: expansion, starting in a cold liquid. Concentration, starting in a hot liquid.
Humidity: humid
Color: white

The Poaching Process

  • Prepare the piece. 
  • Prepare the liquid for cooking.
  • Immerse the piece and cook.
  • Remove from liquid and keep covered.
  • Finish the sauce.

Poached foods can be served hot or cold, and are usually served with a sauce, either covered by the sauce or if whole, the sauce can also be served in a sauce boat.

  • Meat or poultry
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Grains
  • Pasta
So now you know about the seven classic French cooking methods, give them all a try.

Roast Prime Rib of Beef
Serves 10 to 12

Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Kitchen Bouquet
1 tablespoon dry Colman's mustard
1 8- to 9-pound beef rib roast , bone in
1 cup peeled and sliced (⅛ inch thick) yellow onion

Rub the seasonings on the roast in the order listed. Pack the sliced onion on the roast. Place the roast on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 450°F. oven 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. and roast 1 hour more. Reduce the oven to 300°F. and roast about 1 hour more, or until the beef registers 115°F. for rare in the center when tested with a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven and allow to stand 15 minutes in a warm place. Slice and serve immediately with Wine Sauce for Beef

Wine Sauce for Beef
Makes about 2 cups

2 ½ cups beef stock or broth
½ cup dry red wine
Salt to taste

Bring the beef stock or broth and wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 2 cups. Add any pan drippings from the rib roast to the sauce. Strain the sauce and skim off as much fat as possible. Add salt to fast. Serve with roast beef.

Poaching adapted from: Cuisine Foundations, The Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu. Publisher, Delmar Cengage Learning.

Roast Beef Recipe adapted from: The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas, Jeff Smith. Publisher, William Morrow and Company.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, December 1, 2011; Braising and Deep Frying

Braising and Deep Frying

Braising is becoming a very popular method of cooking as the trend to use more parts of the animal have become favored. Braising is a great way to cook the tougher cuts of meat, it not only imparts more flavor but results in a very tender finished product. Deep frying on the other hand is less in favor because of the negative health aspects of eating fried food, ignoring of course the recent trend for all things comfort.


Braising is defined as slowly cooking a large piece in a liquid over low consistent heat in a covered cooking vessel with an aromatic garnish. The finished goals of braising are to transform the connective tissues of tougher cuts of meat into gelatin, and to impart a particular flavor to the product.

The braising process is categorized as follows:

Type: mixed
Humidity: humid
Color: white or brown, depending on the searing of the product

The Braising Process

  • Marinate larger pieces in either a raw or cooked marinade.
  • Prepare the piece by larding and, if needed, tying with butcher's twine.
  • Season and sear the piece white or brown.
  • Deglaze and add the liquid just to the height of the solids.
  • Cover, seal, and cook slowly in a medium oven. If available, use an extra deep pan with a tight cover.
  • Remove the product and strain cooking liquid through a large strainer.
  • Finish the sauce.

A braise is served with its sauce, without the aromatic garnish, and is finished with a glaze to give it a glossy finish.


This technique is usually applied to large pieces of meat from older animals that require longer cooking times. These pieces should be seared before the liquid is added. This technique can also be applied to the whole fish and some vegetables, however, they would not require searing as a first. step.


Deep-frying describes the cooking of a tender piece in a large amount of hot fat or oil. The goal of deep-frying is the formation of a crust. The interior of the piece however should be moist and not oily. There are six types of fat or oil to choose from depending on what is being cooked: melted butter, lard or pork fat, beef or veal fat, goose or poultry fat, coco oil, and vegetable oil.

The deep-frying process is categorized as follows:

Type: concentration
Humidity: dry
Color: brown

The Deep-Frying Process
  • Prepare the piece by seasoning or marinating, breading or coating in batter.
  • Cook
  • Drain on paper.
  • Season while hot, serve immediately.

Deep-fried pieces are traditionally served with an emulsion sauce, served on the side, never on the pieces.


Deep-frying can be applied to small pieces that are plain or have been dredged, breaded, or battered:
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Beignets
Tomorrow I will discuss the last classic cooking method, poaching and give you and excellent recipe using one of the methods. Use it for the holidays, it is perfect for a major celebration.

Adapted from Cuisine Foundations, The Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu. Publisher, Delmar Cengage Learning.