Cooking

Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Cinnamon Sticky Buns

What could be better than a warm sticky bun?  These are even better with the addition of plenty of nuts and cinnamon. I like this recipe because they are rich, soft and not too sweet. The rolls are full of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and topped with a lovely later of soft caramel. They aren’t hard to make, although they look tricky. While the recipe makes 12 rolls you can make them bigger, or smaller, to suit your taste.

I like them just the way they are. You can top with a powdered sugar frosting, if you prefer.

 Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Dough:
1/3 c. milk
¼ c. sugar
½ t. salt
¼ c. butter
¼ c. warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 egg
2 ½ c. flour
Topping:
¼ c. butter, softened
¼ c. brown sugar
½ c. pecan or walnut halves – I use a little more, maybe 2/3 cup
Filling:
¼ c. soft butter
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. raisins, optional
1 t. cinnamon

In small pan heat milk until bubbles just form around edges. Remove from heat; stir in sugar, salt and butter. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water in medium bowl and stir in milk mixture, egg and 2 cups of the flour. Mix by hand until dough leaves sides of the bowl. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed. Lightly oil dough in bowl and cover with a towel allowing to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1 ½ hours. Meanwhile, make topping. Cream together butter and brown sugar and spread on bottom and sides of 9×9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle with nuts and set aside.
Punch down dough and roll into a 16×12- inch rectangle. Spread with the softened butter, sprinkle on the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Roll up from long side. Cut crosswise into 12 pieces. Hint: Using a knife tends to flatten the rolls. Instead use a piece of thread, string or even dental floss. Slide piece of string under dough where you wish to slice. Holding string ends above roll cross the ends over each other and pull outward. String will cut through easily. Repeat with remaining rolls. Place in prepared pan and cover with cloth, allowing to rise until doubled, 1- 1 ½ hours.
Bake 25-30 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Invert onto board and let stand 1 minute. Remove pan. Serve warm. Makes 12.

Storing Vegetables

Sweet Potatoes

I want to do what I can to help us all get through this. Since we all may have limited access to fresh fruits and veggies it is more important than ever to not waste what we have. Storing veggies properly can help to have them around longer.

Some veggies last longer than others in storage. Five of the best for long term storage are potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, winter squash and cabbage. When kept properly, you can hold them for weeks, and in some cases months. The thing is, they have different needs.

There was a reason that people had root cellars. They helped people living in cold climates get through winter. Since most of us don’t have root cellars anymore, we have to do the best with what storage we have in our homes.

Potatoes

Potatoes need a combination of a cool and moist environment. They keep best around 40-50 degrees which can best be achieved in a cellar. I know plenty of people who keep them in the fridge. Refrigerators are a little too cool for potatoes. They’ll look fine, but tend to get dark when you cook them. Edible, but not pretty. It’s because when potatoes are stored too cool they get sweeter- the increased sugar causes darkening- sugar burns. If you have your spuds in the fridge all hope is not lost. Take them out and keep them at  normal room temps for a week and they should be fine.

Because potatoes give off ethylene gas they will cause other fruits and veggies to ripen too quickly so store them by themselves.  You can keep them in a bin, but make sure there is some ventilation. Excess moisture will also cause them to rot or sprout. A box with a few vent holes on the top is perfect. You can also keep them in paper bags. Avoid keeping them in plastic bags with no ventilation- that will also cause them to rot.  For short-term storage it does not matter that much- but for longer- term follow the guidelines discussed here. An outside basement wall will be cooler than the rest of the basement. It could be an option.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes actually do well and room temperatures. Don’t store them in the fridge. If you store a box of them together try to put some newspapers or straw between layers, to provide air circulation. One year, when I grew a lot of sweet potatoes, I stored them in crates by my furnace. This gave them the warmest spot in the basement. Had sweet potatoes until Spring that year.

Onions

Onions like cool and dry surroundings to hold up best. Unlike potatoes which like cool, moist conditions, onions will start to get moldy or sprout if the air in too wet. Ideal temperatures are around 40-50 degrees. Most basements have areas that are close to cool enough during cold weather. You can just hang the onions in the mesh bags they often come in however, if there is one bad onion in the bag the whole bunch may follow.  You can use old pantyhose to keep them apart and last even longer. Just take the leg of old pantyhose and drop in an onion. Tie a knot in the hose and add another onion. Continue until you run out of onions- or hose. Hang up somewhere cool and dry. When you need an onion just snip the pantyhose and remove. Onions stored this way can easily be stored for several months.

Winter Squash

Winter squash do well in cool, but not cold conditions. Store in the basement, or an unheated room. Check at least once a week for signs of spoilage. They should keep for months. I still have butternut squash in an unheated bedroom. Will be using them soon, but they have held up well since last fall.

Cabbage

Cabbage will do fine in cool- 40-50 degrees- for a pretty long time. You can also store them in the fridge. At room temps, they will still keep for a while, but will not last as long as if they are kept cooler. Cabbages stored cool can be kept for months with little change.

Storing Other Veggies

So how do we keep other veggies longer? It can be tricky. Some veggies, like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers keep best in cool temps, about 50 degrees. That is tricky to do in most homes. I store my tomatoes at room temperature usually, except in hot summer weather, when my kitchen is too warm. I store peppers and cukes in my fridge. Not, ideal, but better than room temp. Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, eggplant all go in the fridge for long term storage at home.

Lettuce and Leafy Greens

Leafy greens all go in the fridge. The cool temps are ideal for them. The villain in the fridge is high humidity. Lettuce and other greens have often been sprayed with water in the produce department. You come home from the store and toss the plastic produce bag of lettuce in the fridge. The excess water in the bag is going to cause those greens to get moldy pretty quickly. Get the lettuce or other greens out of the plastic bag and shake off excess water. You can place a paper towel in a fresh bag and return them to the fridge. Ideally, store lettuce and other leafy greens in fabric bags! Think of a kitchen towel- a non-terry towel. Linen towels work great. Two of those towels, sewn together on three sides- open at one short side, make a great bag for storing greens. You can just use some twine to tie it shut. You will be surprised at how much longer they keep fresh that way.

Root Vegetables

Other root veggies, like beets, turnips and rutabagas can be stored in a cool room ( 40-50 degrees), but if you have to choose between 60 degrees and the fridge- store in the fridge.

Final Thoughts

Most other veggies are best stored in the fridge for long term. We just don’t have root cellars around anymore. If you have to choose between too warm or too cold- choose too cold. Also, once you have cut or sliced a veggie, the leftovers go in the fridge. Same for cooked veggies. Once they have been cooked, then they need to be kept in the fridge- or frozen.

Russian Tea Biscuits

Russian Tea Biscuits

Russian tea biscuits are like a kind of cookie. A magical cookie, filled with jam and raisins and nuts. The are crispy, tender and rich. They also are not all that sweet, which appeals to me. You can serve them as a dessert, but also serve them with breakfast or brunch. And of course, with your tea or coffee.

I can remember the first time I ever had a Russian tea biscuit. It was at the Cedar-Lee theater. I guess you could say I got my love for foreign films and Russian pastry at the same place. I found a recipe in my mother’s recipe collection. I tried them and they were pretty close to the ones at the Cedar-Lee. I did tweak that recipe a bit.

My only regret was not having raspberry jam. That is my favorite. The swirl of red in the biscuits is very pretty. I used what I had- apricot- and am happy with them. Not as colorful, but very tasty, all the same.

Here is the recipe. I think you might want to try these with that next cup of tea.

Russian Tea Biscuits

3½ c. flour

½ c. sugar

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

¼ t. salt

1 c. butter, softened

2 eggs, separated

½ c. orange juice

1 1/3 c. preserves, (strawberry, raspberry, plum or apricot are favorites)

1 c. chopped walnuts

1 c. raisins, dark or golden

1 t. cinnamon

3 T. sugar

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and cut in butter until mixture is the size of peas. Stir in egg yolks and orange juice. Knead until dough is well blended. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out a piece of dough 1/4 -inch thick into an 8×10-inch rectangle. Spread with 1/3 c. of the preserves and sprinkle with 1/4 c. each of the raisins and nuts. Roll up jelly roll fashion and set, seam side down, on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Beat egg whites until foamy and brush on dough. Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on dough. Bake in a 350-degee oven for 25-35 minutes, or until golden. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. They can be golden, but a little under baked in the middle. Slice while warm into 6 pieces for each roll. Makes 24.

Biscuits right out of the oven. You want to get them a nice golden brown. The cracks on top are normal and not a problem.
Slice while still warm

Homemade Pita Bread

Pita dough rising

Pita bread is easy to make and so tasty. It is also fun to watch the bread puff up as it bakes.

One of my favorite memories from cooking camp involves pita bread. We were making it in camp that day. Two little boys sat in front of the oven, watching the bread puff up. They were so excited. This is a fun bread to make with kids.

Although the recipe calls for placing the rolled out dough directly on the oven rack, I sometimes place the dough on baking sheets in the oven. Just a little easier and neater. I put the pans in the oven to heat up before using.

If the pita doesn’t puff up, it will still taste wonderful. For better success, make nice smooth balls of dough. The more careful you are when rolling out the dough- the better your odds of a good puff. Roll pretty thin, use enough flour on the board, and try not to tear the dough when rolling out.

You can add some whole wheat flour, if you like. The dough pictured is a mix. I added about 2 cups of whole wheat flour to the dough, in place of some of the white flour.

Pita Bread

 4 ½- 4 ¾ c. flour, you can use some whole wheat flour

1 pkt. Active dry yeast

1 ½ t. sugar

1 ½ t. salt

1 ¾ c. water

2 T. oil

In large bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with other dry ingredients. Heat water and oil to 120-130 degrees (warm) and add to flour mixture in bowl beating until smooth. Beat three minutes then begin stirring in enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover dough with plastic wrap and then a towel and let rest on board 20 minutes. Punch dough down and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a smooth ball and place on board, allowing space in between. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Roll dough balls into circles. Place 3 circles at a time directly on oven rack. They will puff up and brown in about three minutes. Remove to rack to cool and repeat with remaining dough. Makes 12.

Fresh baked pita bread

Pantry Inventory and Expiration Dates

Freshly Canned Chick Peas

Part of the challenge of living off of just the food you already have- is knowing what food you actually have. I think I have a pretty good idea already. I inventory my pantry every year. I also have a freezer that needs to be manually defrosted a couple of times a year. That really helps me to stay on top of what I have and what I don’t have.

Even then, I sometimes get a surprise or two. I went through my pantry recently to do an inventory. I am sure there was a reason I bought garbanzo bean/fava bean flour. I don’t recall it at the moment, but there it was in my cupboard. It has now been moved to the front and will be used in some dish in the near future. Or perhaps a friend who uses it will speak up and take it off my hands. I also found a big jar of almond butter that had been forgotten. Score!

I started keeping “like” things together in my pantry. Canned fruits and jams together, condiments and olives in another area. Baking supplies all roughly in the same area. Helps to find things, but also to keep an eye on what you have plenty of, and what you need.

Expiration Dates

When you do an inventory, be sure to look at expiration dates. Move the older food to the front of the cupboard, so it will be used first. Expiration dates on canned goods are not the indicator of whether the food is still OK to eat. It will just let you know which can of black beans is older. A lot of factors will determine if the food is still safe.

First, the expiration dates on canned goods are kind of meaningless. Canned goods last for years and years (if properly stored). When manufacturers put dates on canned goods, they use dates that are well before when the food might go bad.

Second, how the cans were stored is a much bigger factor in whether the food inside is still safe to eat. Cans stored in a damp basement, or a too hot garage are not going to last as long as canned goods stored in a cool, dry place. Rust on the outside of a can is a warning sign that the can has not been properly stored or is too old. Obviously, bulging cans should be disposed of.

Third, the food may still be safe to eat, but quality goes down over time. Think of expiration dates on cans, not so much as a date for when the food is unsafe, but a time when the food may start to lose some of its flavor and color. You can safely eat the can of peaches that “expired” six months ago, but they would be a little better looking if eaten sooner. Use common sense when deciding which foods are still good. No one wants to toss out food that is still safe to eat, but don’t take unnecessary risks, either.

Taking Stock

Last year I had to replace my refrigerator. I cleaned out both the fridge the freezer while waiting for my new fridge to arrive. When I was cleaning out my freezer, I found a lot of ginger root. A whole lot of ginger root. Seems about every time I would go to the Asian grocery store, I bought more. Don’t get me wrong. I love ginger and use it frequently. But this was well over a pound of ginger. I haven’t bought any ginger all year- and I have used up quite a bit of my stash.

Dairy and Eggs

For products like dairy and eggs, expiration dates are helpful, but you do have a little wiggle room. Milk should be good at least a few days after the sell by date. Cheeses can also be good long past the dates on them. Once a package of cheese is open, it will spoil faster. With cheese, look for signs of spoilage, like mold. On hard cheeses, you can cut off mold and use the rest of the cheese. With soft cheese, once you see mold- it can be deeper into the cheese than is visible with the naked eye. It’s not a good idea to eat soft cheeses that have mold on them, even after cutting off visible mold. Cream cheese should be fine, even weeks after the expiration date. Same for yogurt, sour cream and kefir. How they were stored makes a difference. A colder fridge, just above freezing, is best to keep dairy products safe longer. Look before you eat. Check for signs of spoilage like off odor and mold. Keep the most perishable foods further back the fridge to keep them from being exposed to warmer air every time the door is opened.

Eggs are generally good for several weeks after you purchase them. Don’t store them on the door- it exposes them to warm air when the door is opened, shortening their life. From USDA Webite “Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the “pack date” (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). This number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365. When a “sell-by” date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 30 days from the date of pack.”

You can do the “float test” with raw eggs, to see where you stand. Put cold water in a bowl. Place an egg in the bowl of water. If the egg sinks, and rests on the bottom, it is safe to eat. An egg that sinks, but is on its side, rather than resting on the bottom, is going bad soon. An egg that floats should be tossed. Use or freeze any eggs that are not resting completely on the bottom.

Yesterday I posted about freezing foods. Some dairy products and eggs can be frozen, if need be.

It’s a good idea to take stock, every now and then. Do an inventory of what is in your cupboards and in the freezer and fridge. It will help to reduce food waste in the long run. Use what you can, and donate what you won’t. If some things need to get tossed, then toss them. I hate food waste, but don’t want anyone to get sick from eating food that has been around too long.

Tomorrow- hints on making fresh produce last longer- and how to store them for a longer life. Stay strong.

Rich and Chewy Brownies

Rich and Chewy Brownies

In case you need some baking therapy.

Brownies have been around for almost 100 years. The story about the creation of brownies, is that they  were an accident. A woman was making a chocolate cake. She couldn’t find her recipe, so she made the cake as best she could from memory. The cake didn’t rise- and brownies were invented.

What a happy accident that was for the rest of us.

There are a lot of versions of brownies around. Some are more like a chocolate cake, just a little denser. Others are moist, and so dense they are almost fudge like.

I have a lot of brownie recipes. This is one of my favorites. If you make them, you will understand why. They are soft, rich and a little chewy. They can be serves plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or frosted.

Rich and Chewy Brownies

3 sticks butter, melted and cooled

3 c. sugar

1 T. vanilla

6 large eggs

1½ c. flour

1 c. cocoa

1 t. baking powder

1 t. cinnamon

1 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch pan. Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and stir into batter. Stir in chocolate chips and spread batter in prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until brownies pull away from sides of pan. Cool brownies completely in pan, on a rack and cover with foil. Let stand 6 hours before serving. Makes 24.

To serve, you can leave them plain, dust with powdered sugar, or frost. Here is a great frosting recipe for these brownies.

Easy Chocolate Butter Cream

6 T. butter, softened

1/3 – 3/4 c. cocoa, depending on how dark you want your frosting.

2 2/3 c. powdered sugar

1/3 c. milk

1 t. vanilla

Cream butter. Combine cocoa and sugar. Beat cocoa mixture in alternately with the milk until frosting is spreading consistency. Beat in vanilla. You may need an additional tablespoon of milk. Makes about 2 cups.

Foods You Can Freeze

Waffles

There are several reasons we freeze foods. Safety is probably the biggest one. Frozen foods last a lot longer than most foods that aren’t frozen. Convenience is another reason. You can make a big batch of soup or chili, then freeze some to eat later. Freezing can also reduce food waste, by allowing you to keep something to use later, that might otherwise go bad before you can use it. I think right now, we all need to do what we can to not waste food!

People always seem surprised at some of the foods that I freeze. I’ve been getting more questions lately, so I made a list of some things you can freeze- but maybe didn’t know you can freeze.

If you find something in the frozen food section at the store remember- if they can freeze it- you can freeze it. Part of my pantry challenge is to eat foods I already have, without going to the grocery store. My frozen foods are what really make this easier. Besides the typical meats and veggies, I have some fun ingredients to work with in my freezer. I can also extend the life of some of my foods by freezing them.

So here is a quick list that I came up with, in no particular order.

1. Eggs: While they keep for a pretty long time you can find yourself with more eggs than you can use. Crack the eggs and place them in ice cube trays or small containers- and freeze. No special instructions. Some people prefer to add a tablespoon of water to each egg. I have tried with and without water and both seemed fine. You can also freeze the yolks and whites separately. Add a little water to yolks when freezing them on their own. Don’t freeze eggs in their shells.

2. Avocados: This really prompted a lot of feedback. I posted a recipe for guacamole once and mentioned that you could freeze avocados. I got a lot of response to that. Most people said they never even considered freezing avocados. They freeze great. Frozen avocados work best used in dips and smoothies later. Don’t expect to slice them to top your salad after they were frozen, but they mash up great and would still work on toast. Just cut in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh. Dip in lemon juice and place in a freezer bag. Squeeze out any air and seal. You can also just mash them up before freezing. The lemon juice keeps their color better. You could use lime juice, if you like.

3. Pasta and Rice: Decided to lump these together since the information for both is about the same. Easiest way is to just freeze the pasta or rice in portion sized baggies. Thaw in fridge or microwave when ready to use. This is a great way to eat more brown rice, at least it works for me. Rice takes 15-20 minutes to cook. Brown rice takes double that amount of time, at least. I cook up a big batch of brown rice, portion it out and freeze it. Now I can grab a baggie whenever I want. Same for pasta. Not so much the time it takes to cook as getting out that water and getting it boiling. Or sometimes I just cook too much pasta. Freezing the extra means I can have pasta when ever I want.

4. Milk: There are some problems with freezing milk. It will separate so it won’t be quite like the fresh stuff you pour on your cereal, but milk that was frozen is perfect for baking and cooking. I don’t drink much milk. This way, rather than tossing milk, I can freeze the extra and use it for cooking later on. Also easier than me trying to keep milk on hand, when I rarely drink it.

5. Whole Grains/ Whole Grain Flours: This isn’t so much about whether you can freeze them, but rather, why you should. All whole grains contain the germ and bran, which contain fat. Over time, they can become rancid. Don’t panic, doesn’t happen all that quickly, but if whole grains are stored in a hot kitchen they will develop an off taste. Also depends on how much you buy and how quickly you go through it. The last few bags of brown rice I brought suggested refrigerating after opening the package. If you don’t have the freezer space- store them as cool and dry as you can and don’t buy more that you can use in 6-9 months, or so.

6. Cheeses: Yes, you can freeze cheese. Harder cheeses seem to hold up better. There will be textural changes, more noticeable in soft cheeses. If you have more cheese than you can use, freezing will extend its shelf life.

7. Crackers: Some of you are wondering- why freeze crackers? The answer – to keep them fresh and crisp long past the expiration date. I was at a bakery outlet store one time and one of the employees shared that tip with me. There was a great sale on crackers but I was worried they would get stale. She told me to freeze them, in the package. She also said to leave them in the package until they came up to room temp, when I wanted to use them. I left one pack out and froze the rest. Several months later opened the pack I had left out of the freezer- the crackers were stale. All of the packs I had frozen stayed crisp.

8. Cheesecake:  Not sure why so many people ask me about cheesecake. Does Sara Lee sound familiar?  Yes, you can freeze cheesecake. I like to freeze slices on a baking sheet, then wrap in plastic wrap after they are frozen solid. Defrost with the wrapping loosened, but still on. Best defrosted in the fridge for a few hours.

9. Grapes : A lot of people don’t realize that grapes can be frozen. In fact, frozen grapes are one of my favorite hot weather snack foods. Grapes, like berries, can be frozen by just placing clean fruit on a baking sheet until they are solid. Then transfer to a freezer container or freezer bag. You can eat them right out of the freezer- or use them in cooking. I often make cobbler out of frozen grapes.

10. Baked Goods: Most baked goods freeze great. Cookies, cakes, pies. I prefer to freeze pies unbaked- then bake when ready to use. Again, think about some of the stuff you see in the freezer section at the store. I like to take my cookie dough and shape it into balls. Freeze the balls of dough on a baking sheet- then transfer to a freezer bag. When I need a few cookies I take them right out of the freezer- place on a baking sheet and bake- just add a few minutes to the baking time.

11. Soups, T.V.Dinners etc: Freezing meals is one of the best ways to use your freezer. For one thing, you can freeze stuff before you get sick of it. I know you LOVE your  chili- but do you really want to eat it all week? I bet not. By freezing it in portions that are practical for you and your family, you can have chili when you want, without having to make a fresh batch every time. Again, if Stouffer’s can freeze it, you can freeze it. Mac and cheese, stuffed peppers, sliced turkey with gravy and mashed potatoes. Have fun with it. A lot of people save take out containers and use those. You can also buy containers that are used over and over- so the cost  isn’t so much over time. I make big batches of vegetable soup- then puree it. I freeze it in both pint and quart containers. Great for a quick lunch or if friends stop by. It can be eaten as is, or you can add rice or pasta- you already have some in the freezer!! I will sometimes use this soup as a of pasta sauce.

12. Breakfast Foods: Really this is a continuation of number 11. You can freeze waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, smoothies etc. Makes breakfast time a little easier and you will probably like your waffles better than most of what you can buy at the store. Will save you a lot of money, too.

!3. Lemons and Limes: If you are like me, I prefer to have fresh lemons and limes on hand for drinks and cooking. However, they can go bad before I get to using them. I hate to find a fuzzy lemon at the bottom of the fridge. You can freeze them a couple of different ways, depending on how you want to use them later. For adding to drinks later, just cut the fruit in wedges or slices. Place on a small tray and pop in the freezer until solid. Once frozen, remove the fruit from the tray and place in a freezer bag or container. Now they are easy to grab right out of the freezer to add to your favorite beverage. For use in cooking, I zest the fruit and place the zest in a freezer container. Then I juice the fruit and pour the juice in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I can pop out the lemon or lime juice cubes and place in a freezer bag or container. Now, when I want lemon or lime juice for a recipe, I just grab a cube or two.

Some Extra Freezing Info

When it comes to vegetables a general rule is that if it is a vegetable that you cook- then it is a vegetable you can freeze. Works most of the time- we don’t normally cook lettuce and it doesn’t freeze well.   Most vegetable are blanched before freezing- that means placed in boiling water, then put in ice water, drained then frozen. This stops certain enzymes from working and keeps the veggies tasting fresher. Some veggies, like onions or peppers- don’t need blanching. You just cut them up- place on a baking sheet and place in freezer until solid, then transfer to a freezer container or bag.

Most fruits don’t get blanched- just washed, cut up if bigger fruits, and frozen. Some in syrup and some frozen “dry”.

High salt foods are not great for freezing. Think about it, we use  salt to melt ice. Salty foods, like cured meats, don’t freeze well and will get an off flavor if frozen too long. Freeze them if you must- but use as soon as you can, within a few months, for best flavor.

Corned Beef on Rye Salad

Corned Beef on Rye Salad

If you have leftover corned beef, you might want to try using it in a salad. This recipe came about when I had some corned beef that I was planning on using in a sandwich. But I was more in the mood for a salad. Since I also had some lovely salad greens,  I decided to combine them in one dish.

The end result was very tasty.

I prepped my greens, then topped them with the corned beef and Swiss cheese. I made croutons out of the rye bread and dressed the salad with homemade thousand island dressing. A nice Russian dressing would have worked, too. Perhaps, even a simple oil and vinegar dressing. The thousand island dressing made it like a Reuben sandwich, minus the sauerkraut.

Corned Beef on Rye Salad

6-8 c. mixed salad greens, washed and dried off

6 oz. corned beef, cut in bite sized pieces

4 oz. cubed Swiss cheese

2  slices rye bread, toasted and cubed

4 T. Thousand island dressing- recipe follows

Place greens in a bowl. Top with the meat, cheese, rye bread and drizzle with the dressing. Serves 2.

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

Combine equal amounts of mayo, ketchup and sweet pickle relish. Stir to combine. I like to add capers sometimes, too. Store unused portion in the fridge.

Ingredient Substitutions

Finished Aquafaba Pie

In light of current situations, I have decided to start a series of posts to help during this stressful time. I have lived out of my pantry before. I did it the whole month of January this year, and I have gone as long as 3 months without going to the store. I am starting today with a list of ingredient substitutions, but will be adding more in the days ahead. I hope this can help people get through, without stressing out quite as much.

Feel free to ask for help with other questions you might have and I will try to answer them as best I can.

Did you ever find yourself in the middle of cooking, only to find you are missing an ingredient? Maybe its a baking ingredient that you don’t use that often, so you don’t keep on hand.

Cake flour is a good example. I don’t have that many recipes that call for cake flour, so I don’t keep it on hand. I don’t need to really. Did you know you can easily make your own cake flour? There are a couple of ways to “make” cake flour when needed.

Cake flour isn’t the only ingredient you can make at home. You might be surprised at some of the substitutes you have around already. There are lots of ways you can make what you need, or find something that will work just as well.  Here is a collection of some substitute solutions I have accumulated over time. Helpful for the next time you reach for something only to find you are out of it.

Cake Flour

Rather than keeping cake flour on hand, you can add lib in a pinch. There are 2 ways to substitute.
For each cup of cake flour you can measure 1 cup of regular all purpose flour and then just remove 2 table spoonfuls of the flour.

Some recipes also call to remove the 2 table spoons of regular flour and replace them with 2 tablespoon of cornstarch. I’ve tried both methods in baking and have had fine results either way. It is important that you measure the flour correctly to begin with. Flour should always be spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled off with a knife.
For a larger amount:
7 cups flour
1 c. cornstarch
Sift together and store until ready to use.

Self-Rising Flour

8 c. flour
5 T. Baking powder
2 T. sugar
1 T. salt
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Keeps for several months.

Cornstarch

To replace 1 tablespoon of cornstarch you could use:

2 tablespoons flour or 1 tablespoon arrowroot or 4 teaspoons quick cooking tapioca or 1 tablespoon potato starch

Light Brown Sugar

Combine 1 cup white sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses. Note: for dark brown sugar increase molasses to 3 tablespoons.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 c. dry non-fat milk
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. boiling water
3 T. butter or margarine melted and hot

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Can be stored in the fridge and used within 3 days. This is the same as 1 14 oz. can.

Baking Powder

To replace 1 teaspoon you could use  1/3 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pie Crust Mix

5 1/3 c. flour
1 T. salt
2 1/3 c. shortening, butter or lard

Sift together flour and salt, and then cut in shortening to resemble coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. To use lightly measure 1 1/3 c. mix into a small bowl. Begin adding cold water 1 tablespoon at a time, using about 4-5 table spoons all together. After each addition of water toss mixture with a fork and start to press it together. As soon as dough will hold together without being sticky, wrap in plastic wrap and chill about an hour. This will make 1 crust and an entire batch will make about 6 crusts.

Biscuit Mix (like Bisquick)

8 c. flour
1 c. powdered milk
1 c. powdered buttermilk
1/4 c. baking powder
1 T. salt
1 ½ c. shortening*

In large bowl combine dry ingredients and mix well. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Store in a tightly closed container and use in 1-2 months. Makes 10 cups.

* You can use butter or coconut oil in place of the shortening- but store mix in the fridge.

Biscuit Mix 2

10 c. flour
½ c. sugar
1/3 c. baking powder
1 T. salt
2 c. shortening

Mix dry ingredients well. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container and use within 3 months. Makes 13 cups.

Aquafaba 

Aquafaba is a meringue substitute, using the liquid from a can of garbanzo beans instead of egg whites. Handy for people allergic to eggs and for vegans, too. Not sure who figured this one out, but it is a fun and tasty substitute.

liquid from a can of garbanzo beans

2-3 t. cream of tartar

sugar to taste- granulated or powdered

1 t. vanilla  – or other flavoring- optional

In mixing bowl, place liquid and cream of tartar and beat until mixture looks foamy and thick. Sweeten with sugar, a few tablespoons at a time until desired sweetness is achieved. The longer you whip, the better this works. Whip for at least 10 minutes. Add flavoring, if using.  You can also add food coloring, if you like. Makes about 2 cups. Store in fridge. For best results, place finished aquafaba in a strainer and prop over a bowl until you are ready to use it. It seems to hold up better this way. Any liquid that forms, will drip off into the bowl below.

Taco Seasoning

4 t. onion powder
3 t. chili powder
1 t. cornstarch
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. cumin
½ t. oregano
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

Mix and store in a cool, dry place. This is the same as 1 packet of taco seasoning mix.

Homemade “Corn” Syrup

2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Water
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
dash of salt

Combine all in a large, heavy stainless steel pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover with lid for 3 to 4 minutes to get the sugar crystals off the sides of the pan.

Uncover and cook to softball stage, 238 to 240 degree’s F. or when a small amount is dropped into cold water and does not hold its shape; stir constantly. Cook for another minute.

Cool and store in covered jar at room temperature, will keep well for 2 months at room temperature.

For dark corn syrup add 1/4 cup molasses

Chocolate Substitutions

To substitute cocoa for unsweetened chocolate in a recipe combine 3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tablespoon of fat.

Unsweetened chocolate can be turned into semi sweet chocolate by adding 1 tablespoon of sugar to each melted ounce. Three ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 3 tablespoons of sugar will equal 4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate.

Corned Beef Quesadillas

Corned Beef and Spinach Quesadilla

For those of you with leftover corned beef, you might want to try making corned beef quesadillas. You could use a number of fillings, including perhaps, a Reuben quesadilla.

I used a combination of cheese, corned beef, caramelized onion and spinach. It came out so tasty.

The quesadilla make a great lunch dish- maybe served with a salad. You can also serve them as appetizers or a fun snack.

Make sure any fillings are not too wet- they will cause the tortilla to be soggy, instead of crisp. I like to cook most of  my veggies first, to wilt them down and remove some moisture. I also drain any veggies that are really wet.

Cheese can be sliced thin, or shredded. Corned beef should also be in thin slices or shredded.

You have options for how you want to cook your quesadillas. You can cook in a little oil, in a skillet, cooking until golden brown on both sides. You can brush them with oil and bake in the oven. You can also grill them. The important thing is to get them crisp. No microwave cooking for this recipe.

Don’t be afraid to be a little creative. You can serve them as is, or with a dipping sauce on the side.

Corned Beef Quesadillas

4 large flour tortillas- 8-inch or larger

8 oz. corned beef, sliced thin or shredded

1½ c. shredded cheese or 6 oz. sliced cheese- I used sharp cheddar

12 oz.  fresh spinach, cooked down in a little oil or 10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

2 medium onions, sliced thin and cooked in oil or butter until wilted down and golden- season with salt and pepper

Whole grain mustard, optional

Mayo- mustard

Oil for frying or brushing the tortilla before grilling

Get all your ingredients prepped before starting. If baking in the oven- have oven preheated to 425 degrees. Place tortilla on a work surface and brush with mustard and mayo, if you are using them. Place 2 oz. of corned beef on the tortilla. Keep all the ingredients on one half of the tortilla, since you will be folding it in half. The mayo and mustard can be spread over the whole tortilla. Top the corned beef with ¼ of the cheese, spinach, pepper and onions. Fold in half, set aside. Repeat with remaining ingredients. You will have 4 tortillas, filled and folded in half. Cook one of several different ways. I heated a skillet, added oil, and cooked the quesadillas until golden brown on both sides. You can place them on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until crisp and golden. You can also brush the outsides of the quesadillas with a little oil and grill, turning until golden on both sides. Cut in wedges to serve. Makes 4.