Cooking Great Meals In A Small Kitchen

Small simple kitchen - Cooking Great Meals In A Small KitchenIt can be a little perplexing to bake or cook in a small kitchen with limited space. Whether you’re in an apartment, condo, or just a house with a kitchen that isn’t quite as big as you’d like, cooking fantastic meals in a small kitchen is altogether possible.

How nice it would be, but you don’t need a big kitchen to make a big meal, no rather all you need is a little knowledge and creativity for working in a small kitchen with limited space.

Organizing Your Kitchen Space

The key to having a small kitchen with limited space, is organization. Keeping your limited space organized can actually give you more space to work with when preparing to cook or bake.

Organization can also save you money and a trip to the store. How so? Consider this. Say you’re making an “Apple Spiced Cake,” how many occasions have you opened the pantry to see if you have a certain spice, and it is no were to be found.

small kitchens

Image credit: Decoralia

As you need the spice, you end up going to the store to buy some more, only to find a week later the spice you we’re looking for hidden in the back of the pantry.

Cooking and baking in a limited space kitchen with organization can save you money.

Before you start cooking, pull out all the ingredients you’ll need for the meal, and keep them all on the counter in one place. Spreading out all over a small kitchen isn’t an option, so watch how much room you’re using for your ingredients. What ever you are done with, put it back right away.

Being organized before you start preparing food to eat, as well as while you are cooking will save you from becoming frustrated, because not knowing were items required for the meal preparation are could quit well discourage you from preparing meals.

Keep ion mind that small spaces and frustration are not a good combination.

Keeping your pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer, and any space where food is stored, is essential to cooking in a small kitchen.

Keeping Your Small Space Clean

To start, a clean kitchen means prepared meals without food-born infections. Since you have a small kitchen, why not make recipes that only require the use of one mixing bowl or one pot recipes.

The less cooking and baking utensils you can use, the more counter space available and less clean up.

washing dishes

Image credit: Food52

Instead of grabbing a new bowl, pot, or mixing utensil, try to use the ones that are already dirty.

While you’re waiting for something in the oven or on the stove, wash the cooking utensils, and the ones that you don’t need anymore, put them away, and the ones you will keep using, leave them on the counter out of the way.

Also while you are waiting, put away ingredients you are done using at that time, as well.

This will help free up space and create less work in cleaning up after the meal has been enjoyed.

One Cook Kitchens

Kitchens that are small, and don’t have enough elbow room, as they say, is really a one cook kitchen. The best idea in a small kitchen is to kick everyone out while you’re cooking.

If you barely have enough room to turn around while you’re cooking, you’ll need as much space as you can get. Don’t let anyone in your kitchen while you’re preparing the meal, unless you want someones help to chop vegetables or round up and put away no longer needed ingredients.

There’s never anything wrong with asking for a little help, but if someone just wants to chat while you’re cooking, they’ll probably just get in the way.

A Small Kitchen – Buffet Style Or Plate and Serve

plate and serve - small kitchenWith limited counter space, it’s probably not the best idea to have a buffet style meal.

If you don’t have room to chat with people while you’re cooking, you probably don’t have enough room for guests to line up and get their food.

If you have the counter space to plate the meal yourself for each guest, that’s probably your best bet.

Otherwise, you can always pass serving dishes at the table and store them on the counter for people to get second helpings if they want.

Wouldn’t you agree these are great suggestions to follow in every kitchen, small or big?

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Ingredients For Delicious Winter Salads

An younf woman eating a warm winter saladFood crops harvested in winter months with the use of hoop houses or hot houses (such as used in California, USA) and other methods that extend the natural growing season, and old-fashioned storage vegetables like cabbages and potatoes all mean that there are plenty of winter produce to choose from.

What winter produce that is available, is sufficient to enjoy delicious winter salads along with great homemade dressings and vinaigrette’s.

The different crops available in the winter months include among others:

Beets: Available in season from fall through spring in temperate climates, and those available during the summer months, are from storage.

Belgian Endive: This leafy green is forced to produce under artificial conditions, making them available year round. Their traditional season, as with all chicories, is late fall through winter.

When grown in open fields they are covered with sand for about 6 months to keep out the light. When grown in hot houses they are placed in darkness for 6 months before shipping to market for purchase.

Read more here about the endive (includes a recipe with video): Endive and Fruit Salad with Chicken

Broccoli: This and all other cruciferous vegetables can be grown year-round in temperate climates, but broccoli tastes best when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

salad plate with Warm Winter Salad with Apples Spinach Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Warm Winter Salad with Apples Spinach Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Brussels sprouts: These vegetables are part of the cabbage family.  They grow on stalks, and they last somewhat longer than when sold packaged or removed from their stalks.

Cabbage: This vegetable is crispy when raw with bitter flavor, though it mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked.

Sweet Potatoes: This root vegetable is often referred too or interchangeable with yams. The two vegetables are different though.

Most yams in the USA are sweet potatoes. Yams are dry and starchy, and grown mainly in Africa and Asia. They can weigh up too 100 pounds.

Sweet potatoes store very well and are available year round in warmer areas. Though their season is from late summer through winter.

Other vegetables available in fall to winter months include, radicchio, radishes, turnips, winter squash, rutabagas, parsnips, chard, collard greens, cress, spinach, kale, carrots, leeks, fennel, and celery among others.

There are also a verity of fruits in season during the winter months that you can enjoy in fruit salads, or as a snack. To view the available in season winter fruits link here: Fruits Info – Seasonal Fruits.

Salads To Enjoy In The Winter Months

Chilly temperatures, and dark winter days are traditionally suited to cheese, meat, and vegetable casseroles, including pastas. A salad filled with raw vegetables may not seem appealing in the cold winter.

But what if you could prepare a warm winter salad, like this one – Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts. This recipe is offered by a professional chef, author, recipe developer, educator and certified health coach at A Food Centric Life.

THE RECIPE

Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

1 large bunch of organic kale (Tuscan, Lacinato or Dinosaur)

a white salad plate with Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

Image Credit: A Food Centric Life

1 large shallot

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

Handful of dried cranberries

Small handful of chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (suggestion: infused balsamic fruit flavored variety like dark cherry)

Salt and pepper, to season

Bring a large pot (5 quart/liter) of water to a boil while you are trimming the kale leaves and slicing the shallot. Trim the ribs out of the center of the kale leaves, and then cut the leaves crosswise into ribbons. Slice the peeled shallot crosswise into thin rings.

When water boils, add 2 teaspoons salt, then drop the kale leaves into the water and cook for 2 minutes (called blanching). Drain well through a sieve and place kale on a clean kitchen towel. Alternatively you can steam your kale for 2-3 minutes, and then proceed with the recipe.

In a medium sauté or fry pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat until warm. Add the shallot rings, then the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until softened. Be careful not to let them burn. Add the cranberries, walnuts, and vinegar. Stir and cook for a minute, then add the cooked kale. Toss the kale ribbons to coat and warm, season up with salt and pepper, and then serve.

Make this a even more warm winter salad by either serving the warm salad as a side dish with roasted chicken, as Sally the author of “A Food Centric Life” explains, or as a foundation for roasted salmon. She also suggests placing the warm salad over a bed of quinoa for a vegetarian or vegan entree.

Sally says you can use a fruit flavored infused balsamic vinegar like dark cherry or fig when making the vinaigrette.

Another great warm winter salad you can enjoy is: Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

salad plate with Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet½ cup onion, diced

Red pepper flakes, to taste

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups sweet potatoes, diced

2 cups fresh shrimp

3 cups trimmed and coarsely chopped kale leaves

Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a a ceramic coated cast iron pan over medium heat, add olive oil.

Next add onions and red pepper flakes, and saute until onions are soft and browned.

Next add garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.

Next add sweet potato and cook until soft, about 10-15 minutes. If necessary add a 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to help cook the sweet potato.

Next add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they are pink in color.

Turn heat to low and add kale, stirring in until wilted.

Season to taste with salt and pepper (optional).

Plate and serve.

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How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

Collage of thai food - How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients Thai food is internationally famous. Thai cuisine is essentially a union of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai.

A prepared dinner table with a Thai meal placed on it, consists of a spicy or non-spicy soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables, and there could also be a spiced salad.

Thai food has evolved much like Indian food, meaning the cooks or chefs take great care so there is a harmony of flavors and textures with each individual dish. One dish must compliment the other dishes positioned at the dinner table.

What is needed in your kitchen to make a great Thai dish? You need to know the “Key Ingredients.”

Key Ingredients Needed To Prepare Thai Food

When you dicide to make a Thai dish, the following is what you should find in your refrigerator or pantry.

Banana Leaves

Fresh banana leaves are used to wrap steamed fish, giving them a herbaceous flavor. Thai people also use banana leaves as cooking vessels, folding them into a shape that will hold and cook the food, and as “to-go” containers.

Idea: How To Make Banana Leaf Bowls by: Escape To Paradise 

Lemongrass

You can buy lemongrass fresh in thick grassy bundles or minced or chopped in jars or possibly the freezer section of your favorite Asian market.

RecipeLemongrass Basil Thai Chicken

thai lime leaves

Thai Lime Leaves

Lime Leaves

The leaves are a glossy dark green color, and are used to flavor curries, soups, fish cakes and even teas for its fragrant herbal notes.

Thai Basil 

This variety of basil professes a subtle sweet anise flavor.

The leaves are dark green with purple stems.

If you are not able to find Thai basil at your favorite market, Holy basil will do.

Recipe: Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Fish Sauce 

In Thailand, fish sauce is called nam pla, which is prepared from salted fish. Fish sauce can be used as a condiment, which can be savory and a reddish-brown in color. Fish sauce is ubiquitous in Thai cooking.

Recipe: Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken – (recipe uses fish sauce)

Green Papaya Fruit

Image credit: Photo Elsoar

Green Papaya

The green papaya is foot ball shaped. It is a fruit that makes the spicy, crunchy salad, “som tum” sought after to calm a hungry stomach.

An unripe green mango can be used in place of the green papaya when unable to find it at the market.

Tamarind Puree

Bowl of Sour Curry Prawns with Cha-Om Omelette

Image credit: Pranees Thai Kitchen – Sour Curry Prawns with Cha-Om (using tamarind puree)

This puree is made from the fruit pods of the tamarind tree, and it is referred to as “sour tamarind soup base” or “nuoc me chua.”

When purchasing the tamarind puree, you can find it in sticky 14 ounce blocks. The thai use the puree, by diluting 1 ounce pureed pulp with 1/3 cup warm water, and then strained.

You can also buy it ready made and jarred with no need of diluting it. There is also a concentrated tamarind that is thick and molasses like. It also needs to be diluted.

The concentrated tamarind is said to have a sour taste that can be overpowering in Pad Thai.

Link here to learn how to make your own homemade tamarind puree by: Pranees Thai Kitchen

Recipe: Thai Food Soup: Gang Som Cha Om Kai  – by Joy’s Thai Food

Thai Chili Peppers

These peppers are small in shape, green and red in color, and fiery in taste. Though as spicy as the chili maybe, it is said the chili gives a subtle fruity flavor when used in Thai cooking. If Thai chilis are too much for your palate, you can use Serrano peppers instead.

Dried Shrimp

Small little dried shrimp add salty flavor to noodle dishes and salads. Dried shrimp can keep indefinitely in a cool dark place within an airtight container.

Having these key ingredients used in authentic Thai cooking in your pantry or refrigerator, will always be at your reach in a moments notice. If unable to find them at your favorite grocers, try looking for them in an Asian market.

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Alternative Ingredients For Making Crusts

Hand, apron, flour - Alternative Ingredients For Making Crusts

A recipe that requires a crust, has an important function, as it is the foundation to countless culinary and pastry dishes. The crust is a crucial structural aspect of the particular recipe you may be preparing. Crusts impart texture, either crispy, crunchy, or flaky depending on how you prepare the crust.

chicken pot pieCan you imagine making a tart, shortbread, pie, quiche, or pot pie devoid of a crust? And how would you eat a pizza without a crust? We can’t imagine. Maybe you would have a tomato-pepperoni soup?

Crusts are important to a tart, shortbread, pie, quiche, pot pie, or pizza.

What are some alternative ingredients to making these crusts?

We know that using cold butter in a pie crust when done right, can make for a flaky crust.

Did you know that coconut oil be an alternative to butter, doing the same thing? It is still a saturated fat like butter, but a shorter chain amino fatty acid, and has some extra nutrients over butter, like minerals, and has antibacterial substances.

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

This crust using coconut oil makes a delicious, flaky pastry just as well as butter.

3/4 cup solid coconut oil

2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 – 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Cut the coconut oil into the flour (the same you would do with cold cubed butter) and salt with pastry blender or two knives. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix well.

Roll out on floured board. Pastry is very tender and may be partially rolled around rolling pin for ease of picking up to place in pie pan (recipe from: Coconut Recipes).

How about this alternative for a quiche, rice crust.

Rice Crust
A rice crust is a great way to use up leftover rice, explains Erin McDowell at Food52. She says it’s an excellent option for savory pies, and this crust works especially well for quiches.

a woman making a rice crust in a pie dish

Image Credit: Food52

Erin explains to make a rice crust you simply mix cooled leftover steamed rice with egg whites and grated cheese, and press the mixture into a pie plate.

Par-bake the crust to help it set before filling and baking it. Watch your crust carefully to see how it browns, as you may need to lower the temperature from 425 degrees to 375 degrees if it browns too much in the early stages of baking.

How about this alternative for a pizza crust. It’s gluten-free and uses no yeast. The recipe idea is from – She Knows.

At She Knows, they say that in this recipe they used both almond and coconut flours, and the result was anything but boring. The pizza crust turned out soft, fluffy and delicious.

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

pizza on a table with a pizza cutter

Image credit: She Knows

1/2 cup tapioca flour (plus more for rolling the dough)

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup almond milk (warmed plain, or other nondairy milk)

2 whole large eggs (organic)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

To a large mixing bowl, add the almond flour, coconut flour, tapicoca flour, garlic powder and salt.

To the flour mixture, add the olive oil, the warmed nondairy milk and the eggs. Mix very well until the dough is soft and fluffy.

Turn the dough out onto a large surface lightly dusted with extra tapioca flour.

Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and can be rolled out.

Roll the dough out into the desired thickness but being careful to not make it too thin (or it will break).

Bake the pizza dough for about 15 minutes, until it’s firm and slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and set aside until ready to prepare your pizza.

A pizza crust traditionally is dough, but since the food revaluation started, people like yourself are looking for healthy alternatives to pizza crust. The pizza crust replacement (made from flour) is vegetable crusts, which are becoming more popular, and eating a pizza like this is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet.

How about this wonderful and tasty alternative for a shortbread or tart crust.

Peach and Cardamom Bakwell Tart

For the almond shortcrust pastry

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Peach and Cardamom Tart - Food Network uk

                                           Image credit: Food Network U.K.

1/4 cup almond flour

1/3 salted butter, frozen and grated

1 tbsp sugar

2 drops almond essence

1/4 teapoon organic cornflour

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

1-2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Extra flour to roll the pastry

For the peach jam filling

1 ripe peach

1/2 cup sugar

For the almond cake filling

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup almond flour

1/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup milk, full fat

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1-2 drops almond essence

1-2 ripe peaches, sliced to decorate

For the cardamom mascarpone cream

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

Tips For a Great Pie Crust

These are some reminders to making a great pie crust.

Chilling the dough after preparing it makes it easier to roll out and much less likely to stick. It also resolidifies the shortening, butter or coconut oil to ensure flakiness.

parchment and dried beans placed over crustWhen rolling out the chilled dough, roll from the center to the outside edge. Use just enough flour on the rolling surface and rolling pin to keep the dough form sticking.

To bake a “blind” a raw dough crust, first chill it for 20 minutes and then fit a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on the inside surface. Prick both the crust and the foil or paper, to allow steam to escape and keep the crust from developing a bubble.

Fill the foil with baker weights, or dried beans to help the crust keep its shape while it blind bakes (view our post here: Blind Baking).

To store up some labor in the freezer, Make several pie shells at a time and freeze them in airtight plastic bags. They’ll keep for 6 to 8 months.

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How To Use Avocados In Your Culinary Adventures

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.Avocados are a popular fruit, though used like a vegetable, can find its way into almost any dish. It just seems that when adding avocados to a culinary or baked good, the dish has been enriched. Like this one at Tracy’s Culinary Adventures – Fudgy Triple Chocolate Avocado Brownies, Bobby Flay‘s Crunchy Avocado Salad, or how about pairing avocado slices with grapefruit as in Simply RecipesGrapefruit Avocado Salad.

Avocados have a lot of descriptive words to explain its flavor. Such as a creamy, buttery, and smooth fruit, with distinctive colors like bright yellow and green. Their aroma can be described as floral, green, grassy, freshness, and earthy.

The texture of the fruit is a butter rich melt in your mouth taste and feeling.

How To Pit An Avocado

Pitting an avocado is not hard at all. As a matter of fact you can become a pro in no time once you know the technique.

Avocado Trivia

list with pictures of avocado varieties

Image Credit: 17 Park Side

Do all avocado varieties taste the same? What do you think, yes they do, or no they do not? If you decided on, “No they do not,” you are correct.

There are taste variations between the different varieties of avocados available for consumption.

Not only does the variety determine the taste but it is also affected by the season and how ripe the avocado well get.

It is recommended to taste test the avocados that come into season and are fully ripe, so that you can see which ones you prefer to use in your recipes.

The summer and Fall season avocado favorite among many individuals is the Hass, and the spring season avocado favorite is the Fuerte.

Just remember you can get these avocados out of season because of international trading of produce, but they will not taste the same as when having them in season.

Tips To Selecting A Ripe Avocado

The appearance of a ripe avocado will vary based on the avocado you are selecting.

The Hass variety is one of the creamiest, making it suitable for spreads, dips, and any recipe requiring mashed avocado. Other varieties are firmer and better when consumed in whole slices or chunks.

man shopping for produceThe way to tell if the avocado is ripe or not is to hold the avocado in one hand, and place the thumb of the other hand over the small stem, then gently try and see if you can move the stem.

If stem is firmly in place and cannot be easily removed, that is an indication that the avocado is still not ripe.

The fruit should be fairly heavy and free of blemishes.

To ripen an unripe avocado for use, place it on the counter at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. It would be best not to refrigerate it, as refrigeration halts the ripening process, so you should not store unripe avocados in the refrigerator unless they have already been cut open.

Avocados ripen after they are harvested and not on the tree. If you are picking an avocado off a tree, you should pick a large one with even, dark coloring and a firm texture. After picking it, you will need to let the fruit harden on the counter for 2 to 7 days before it will be ripe and be ready to eat.

If you do not plan to eat the avocado immediately, it is in your best interest to buy an avocado that is still unripened. A ripe avocado will usually only last for a few days in the refrigerator.

To speed up the ripening process, place the avocado in a brown bag with an apple or a banana. These two fruits will release a gas called ethylene, a chemical linked to the ripening process.

Here is our featured recipe using an avocado.

Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocado

1 avocado

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.1 lemon, juiced, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped onion, to taste

5 ounces cooked or canned wild tuna

2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Himalayan salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Cut the avocado in half and scoop the middle of both avocado halves into a bowl, leaving a shell of avocado flesh about ¼-inch thick on each half. Cut removed flesh into small chunks.

Add lemon juice and onion to the avocado in the bowl and mash together. Add tuna, avocado chunks, dill, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust if needed.

Fill avocado shells with tuna salad and serve.

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Baking Cookies Everyone Will Enjoy

Closeup of a tray of fresh baked cookies, Chocolate Chip, oatmeal raisin Chocolate and white chocolate chip cookies on baking sheet and parchment paper -Baking Cookies Everyone Will EnjoyMost everyone enjoys a good cookie. But if you were to take a poll, and ask people what is a good baked cookie for them? Some might say, a cookie that is thin and crispy, another may say, soft and chewy, and yet another, light and cakey.

Crisp and Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Image Credit: Thin & Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies by: Handle The Heat

Do you have cookie lovers in your home who may prefer a cookie that is made the way they like it, that is crispy, or chewy, and possibly light and cake like? We have the solution to please all cookie lovers in your life.

To get a Thin & CrispySoft & ChewyLight & Cakey cookie, you need to make a slight modification to the ingredients in the cookie recipe.

Let’s use a basic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. The following ingredients do not include the butter and sugar, as these ingredients are what determines what your cookies out come will be.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temperature

12 ounces chocolate baking chips

soft and chewy whole grain peanut butter cookie

Image Credit: Soft & Chewy Whole Grain Peanut Butter Cookies – by: An Oregon Cottage

If you want a Thin & Crispy cookie, you add this amount of butter, and sugar, with the addition of brown sugar.

2 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

If you want a Soft & Chewy cookie, you add this amount of butter, and sugar, with the addition of brown sugar.

2 sticks butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

soft and chewy whole grain peanut butter cookie

Image Credit: Soft & Chewy Whole Grain Peanut Butter Cookies – by: An Oregon Cottage

If you want a Light & Cakey cookie, you add this amount of butter, and sugar, with the addition of brown sugar.

Take note, that in this adjustment you use unsalted butter.

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

Baking Cookies 101

How does sugar effect cookies? To answer, we will share a little Cookie 101.  All sugars, either granulated, brown, powder or confectioners, have the ability to attract water. By doing so, sugars attraction of moisture helps keep it away from structure builders of the cookie, like the starch and proteins that are present in the flour and eggs.

The adjustment in the amount of sugar you do or do not put will determine the structure or substance of your baked cookies.

Another suggestion that will help to please your cookie lovers is using room temperature ingredients, particularly the butter and eggs.

How many recipes have you seen that call for room-temperature butter and eggs? Quite a few. Bon Appetit says that it’s a step you should not ignore, as many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made infinitely easier with gently warmed ingredients.

Is creaming the butter and sugar a big deal? Yes it is. Bon Appetit says, “Creaming together butter and sugar with a handheld or stand mixer, for example, should be done before the addition of wetter ingredients, like eggs. Why? The fat in butter holds air, and when whipped, expands. In the creaming process, sharp sugar granules slice through the butter, creating air pockets that ultimately give the pastry lift. Skip that step (or do it half-heartedly) and your end result will be dense and heavy (BonAppetit).

Here is Amanda Grant, editor of The Co-operative Food magazine to show us how to properly cream butter and sugar together.

Now you know how to make a cookie, that all cookie lovers in your life will go for. And you may just become, the Master Baker At Baking The Perfect Cookie.

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Enjoy Warm and Tasty Winter Vegetables

Enjoy Warm and Tasty Winter Vegetables

Just because the weather is cold shouldn’t keep you from enjoying in season fresh produce. Nature gives us a collection of its best winter vegetables that have proven to be flavorful. Winter root vegetables can contribute an interdependent, sweet flavor to a hearty winter soup recipe, like carrots, or sweet potatoes.

Roasting most winter vegetables brings out their best flavors. Even using complementary herbs and spices helps add some extra exceptional tastes.

Available In Season Winter Vegetables

Brussels sproutsAlthough Brussels sprouts are available year-round, their peak season is from September to February.

When looking to purchase them, remember to look for small firm sprouts with compact bright-green heads, and the smaller the head the sweeter the taste. Roasting Brussels sprouts lightly caramelizes their edges but keeps them tender inside.

To view a few recipes using Brussels sprouts one of the following links:

Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels sprouts and Bacon – includes a video

Warm Brussels sprouts and Dilled Potato Salad –  includes a video

Brown Butter and Brussels Sprout with Fennel

At All Recipes (allrecipes.com) they call Broccoli the star vegetable in stir-fries, soups, salads, and casseroles. Broccoli can be purchased year round. But when in season, as a winter vegetable when roasted retains its entire flavor and even gains deliciously crisp bits when.

preparing broccoli to eatWhen asked the question – How Do You Describe Broccoli? – to a community of online people at answers.com, one member answered saying, “Broccoli is good chopped into small pieces or cut into larger piece and cooked until tender.

It’s delicious to eat as it is when cooked naturally and also in recipes. The popular dish, broccoli and cheese is made with cooked, tender broccoli before draining and stirring in cheese until it melts and mixes in with the broccoli. You can also make cheese sauces, which you serve, poured over the broccoli on a plate. Either way it is cooked or served, broccoli is a favorite among vegetables and nutritionally powerful” (Answers).

To view a recipe using broccoli click here: Baked Garlic and Broccoli

The Sweet Potato is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the Convolvulaceae family. This species of plants are known commonly as the bindweed or morning glory family, which has more than 1,650 species of mostly herbaceous vines, but also trees, shrubs and herbs.

Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn SaladThe sweet potato is a starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous root. There are about 1,000 species of sweet potatoes, with some varieties sold at market for food, while others are not for consumption, as they are poisonous. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the common potato, though it is not part the nightshade family.

The website – “The Worlds Healthiest Foods” – has this to say about sweet potatoes when preparing to eat them, “It can be helpful to include some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals if you want to enjoy the full beta-carotene benefits of this root vegetable.

Recent research has shown that a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat per meal significantly increases our uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes. Of course, this minimal amount of fat can be very easy to include.

In our Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes recipe, for example, we include 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and with just this one tablespoon, each of our 4 servings for this delicious recipe provides 3.5 grams of fat (whfoods).

To view a few recipes using sweet potatoes click one of the following links:

Sweet Potato Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans

Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Baked Beets and Sweet Potato Chips

KaleKale is considered to be the most robust of the cabbage family. Its high nutritional worth and intense flavor make kale an exceptional addition too many vegetable recipes. At Mind Body Green, Alison Lewis makes note of kale as “the new beef,” “the queen of greens,” and “a nutritional powerhouse”(MBG).

To view a few recipes using kale click one of the following links:

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup

Moroccan Three Bean and Kale Soup

Red Kale Beets and Sweet Cilantro Vinaigrette

Leeks are winter root vegetable that looks much similar to onions, and to which they are also related. Their flavor is onion-like but much milder, mellower, and not overpowering, as onions sometimes can be.

The darker green parts have plenty of flavor. They can either be cooked longer then the root parts to tenderize them, or used when making homemade soup stock, like chicken broth base soup along with potatoes, carrots, and herbs.

They can also be eaten raw or joined with a salad of leafy greens to divulge a wonderful crisp crunchy flavor.

Link here for a recipe using leeks: Endive and Fruit Salad with Chicken –  includes a video

Turnips are a a round, light-colored root related to the mustard family. Though the vegetable is grown for its eatable root, the top green parts are also enjoyed in salads. Turnip greens are a common side dish in southeastern U.S. cooking, primarily during late fall and winter months.

Smaller leaves are preferred when boiling them in water, as the larger the leaf the stronger the flavor. However, if you find yourself cooking with larger turnip greens, any bitter taste can be reduced by pouring off the water from initial boiling and replacing it with fresh water.

The natural sweetness of Parsnips comes alive when they’re roasted and caramelized. The addition of fresh rosemary, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar makes a sweet, aromatic glaze. Roasted parsnips make a great side dish for pork tenderloin.

Link here for a recipe using parsnips :  Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels sprouts and Bacon

Belgian EndiveThe genuine Belgian endive is deeply rooted in its country of origin – Belgian, were it was discovered in 1830. This compact white colored small cylindrical shaped leaf vegetable with light green tips is a tangy, but tender and delicious vegetable.

Some cooks add the leafy vegetable to soups, while others use it in salads.

Link here for more about endives discovery and for a recipe: Endive and Fruit Salad with Chicken –  includes a video

Other winter vegetables that can still be found in your local market are…

Buttercup Squash – Collard Greens – Delicata Squash – Sweet Dumpling Squash – Winter Squash

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President’s Day – The Favorite Meals Of Washington and Lincoln

Presidents Day - The Favorite Meals Of Washington and Lincoln

George Washington was one of the only founding father of the United States to run an estate with financial success. He claimed several positions during his life time, which included among others, being a general, diplomat, farmer, distiller, and president of the United States of America.

He enjoyed many foods and drink, from porter made on the battlefield to cherries from his orchards at Mount Vernon.

He was one of the richest landowners in Virginia, and throughout the 13 colonies. And because of his wealth, he no doubt had  access to exquisite delicacies. But as we know from history, George Washington wore dentures, and he with out question, may have preferred to eat soft things, such as cornmealhoe cakes,” puddings and soups.

Hoe cakes were first called JohnnyCake, were as some say they were first called Shawnee Cakes after the Native American tribe in the Tennessee Valley (USA).

Cornbread Gospels cookbookpicture of Crescent DragonwagonCrescent Dragonwagon, who is a female cookbook writer, authored the cookbook, The Cornbread Gospels, which includes a recipe that Washington enjoyed.

Dragonwagon herself even lives in Virginia.  One of the recipes from her book is “George Washington’s Hoe Cakes.”

The Mount Vernon website writes that family members and visitors alike testified that hoe cakes were among George Washington’s favorite foods. He invariably ate them at breakfast, covered with butter and honey, along with hot tea.

The History Chef writes that according to his step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, George Washington liked to rise with the sun, read or write until seven a.m., then he would go downstairs for his favorite breakfast of three small hoe cakes  with butter and honey and three cups of tea without cream.

 

Hoecakes - image credit Harmonious Homestead

Hoecakes – Image credit : Harmonious Homestead

8 3/4 cups white cornmeal

1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

1 egg

Warm water

¼ teaspoon salt, optional

Honey and Butter for topping

In large container, mix together 4 cups white cornmeal, 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast, and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (probably 3 to 4 cups). Cover and set on the stove or counter overnight.

In the morning, gradually add remaining cornmeal, egg, and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (about 3 to 4 cups). Cover and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add cooking grease to a griddle or skillet and heat until water sprinkled into it will bead up.

Pour batter, by the spoonful, onto the hot griddle. (Note: Since the batter has a tendency to separate, you will need to stir it well before pouring each batch.) When the hoecake is brown on one side, turn it over and brown the other. Serve warm with butter and honey.

the book Lincolns Table A Presidents Culinary Journey from Cabin to CosmopolitanWhat was Abraham Lincoln’s favorite food? The book Lincoln’s Table, authored by Donna D. McCreary writes that Lincoln was fortunate to be part of a family that boasted of several good cooks.

She writes that his hearty appetite as a boy was satisfied by foods like wild game, pork, fish, vegetables and fruit grown on the family’s farm. She also notes he too enjoyed corn cakes. As an adult his palate was introduced to other favorites – oysters (Oyster Stew his favorite), pecan pie, and lemon cake.

Some sources say that President Lincoln did have two favorite dishes, Chicken Fricassee with Biscuits and Oyster Stew.

Here’s a recipe for Fricassee with Biscuits, courtesy of Elizabeth’s Daisies 

Fricassee with Biscuits, courtesy of Elizabeth's Daisies

Fricassee with Biscuits – Image Credit:  Elizabeth’s Daisies

4 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

1 chicken breast or 2 chicken thighs, skin removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced celery

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 small bay leaf

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons parsley

Combine the 2 1/4 teaspoons flour, salt, pepper, and thyme in bowl large enough to fit chicken. Coat chicken in flour mixture. In a small skillet, brown chicken in olive oil. Remove chicken and set aside. In same skillet saute the mushrooms, onion, and celery until crisp-tender. Return chicken to the pan. Add chicken broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

Place remaining flour mixture in a bowl, stir in milk until smooth. Stir into pan juices. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley.

Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut shortening with fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Pour milk into flour mixture while stirring with a fork. Mix in milk until dough is soft, moist, and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and toss with flour until no longer sticky. Roll dough out into a 1/2 inch think sheet and cut with floured biscuit or cookie cutter.

Place biscuits on non greased baking sheets and bake in a preheated oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

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The Go Green Initiative Starts In Your Home

The Go Green Initiative Starts In Your homeIn 2002 the “Go Green Initiative” was started in Pleasanton, California by Jill Buck. The program is all about environmental education and a stewardship program that is located in all 50 US states and in 13 other countries.

The goals of the initiative are to teach and help others learn to conserve and protect natural resources for future generations, and to protect human health through environmental stewardship. Their focus is on…

  1. Recycling and Waste
  2. Water
  3. Energy

What does it mean to “Go G.R.E.E.N.?”

Generate less waste

Recycle everything that cannot be reused

Educate the community on eco-friendly options

Evaluate the environmental impact of actions

Nourish discussions and activities that integrate environmental education into existing curriculum

children running at schoolThough the “Go Green Initiative” is all about helping schools create a campus-wide culture of conservation by teaching kids how to be environmental stewards, we all can contribute to the initiative, though we may not be in school.

Do you have school aged children, or grandchildren in your home? Why not set an example for them by getting involved with the Go Green Initiative, starting in your home. How? By using household cleaners that are earth friendly.

One of the goals of “The Go Green Foundation” is to educate young people about climate change, global warming the earth in a woman's hand with green grass and blue sky in the back groundcrisis and sustainable living practices (Go Green Foundation).

Let’s focus on the later, sustainable living practices.

Going green and using the power of all natural green products to clean your home, can help keep you and your family healthy, as well as keep the environment healthy. This is a great place to start, that is to initiate, and practice sustainable living at home.

Here are some great examples of all natural green products to clean house, that you can prepare at home in your very own kitchen.

Cleaning Wood Floors

1/2 cup white vinegar

3 drops orange oil

3 drops lemon oil

3 drops grapefruit oil

cleaning wood floors with earth friendly products2 drops tea tree oil

1 quart water

Put into a hand sprayer and apply to wood floor, and clean with a damp mop.

General Purpose Bathroom Cleaner

 General Purpose Bathroom Cleaner 1/2 cup baking soda

1/4 cup vinegar

3 drops tea tree oil

2 drops eucalyptus oil

1 drop thyme oil

 5 drops orange oil

5 drops lemon oil

Carpet Cleaner

8 ounces baking soda

5 drops grapefruit oil

 Mix ingredients in a jar, covered with a lid. Shake out on to carpet and vacuum up. It is also recommended for use in a steam cleaner when cleaning carpets.

Carpet Cleaner

cleaning the carpot with all natural earth friendly cleaners 8 ounces baking soda

5 drops grapefruit oil

Mix ingredients in a jar, covered with a lid. Shake out on to carpet and vacuum up. It is also recommended for use in a steam cleaner when cleaning carpets.

Bathroom Mold and Mildew Cleaner

 Bathroom Mold and Mildew Cleaner4 ounces water

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

3 drops lemon oil

1 drop clove oil

5 drops tea tree oil

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle, and spray onto tile and other surfaces that have mold or mildew, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing off.

Dish Washing Soap

 1/2 cup castile soap

1/2 cup vinegar

1 quart water

6 drops lemon oil

natural earth friendly dish soap2 drops geranium oil

3 drops tea tree oil

Mix in a soap dispenser, and add to dish water, and mix in.

Castile soap originating in the Castile region of Spain, is not the same as caster oil soap. Castile soap is made from 100% olive oil, were as caster oil soap, is made from the caster seed, and therefore is considered a vegetable based soap.

The More You Know

Old Farmers 2016 AlmanacYou will find Wikipedia and other sources referring to castile soap as a vegetable based soap made from 100% olive oil, when in fact olives are not a vegetable, but a fruit.

The natural all green recipes were adapted from the Herbal Remedies Magazine – published by Harris Farmers almanac.

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National Bicarbonate of Soda Day

Bicarbonate of Soda with a wooden spoon In the Food section of the New York Times, they printed an article in May of 2007 entitled, “Having a Snack? Make It a Holiday,” and in that article they wrote that December 31st is, “National Bicarbonate of Soda Day” (The New York Times).

That same article stated that the United States has over 175 days related to awareness of food and drink. According to The Wall Street Journal, none of the food days in the United States are federal holidays.

Since today has been dedicated to baking soda, another name for bicarbonate of soda, let’s examine the many uses for the fine white powder.

Baking soda used to keep fridge order freeThe Many Uses Of Bicarbonate of Soda

We all know the principle use for bicarbonate of soda, that is using for baking. Another is placing a 8 to 16 ounce box of it in the refrigerator to absorb odors, and is replace about every three months (be sure to discard in your garden or compost bind, and do not use for baking).

Like myself, many individuals will use baking soda in the laundry. We use an all natural laundry cleaner, or as it is said a “Green Product” along with the soda.

using baking soda in the wash

Image Credit: Butter Bin

About 1/2 cap full of liquid laundry detergent with 2 cap fulls of baking soda.

By using bicarbonate of soda as a detergent booster, you will use less detergent, and baking soda helps get your colored cloths brighter, and the whites even whiter.

sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and a toothbrushBefore tooth pasta was invented, bicarbonate of soda was the go to for cleaning a person’s teeth, and many still prefer using it today for such purposes.

Do you have a clogged sink? Either in the kitchen or bathroom? Pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Cover the drain tightly until bubbling stops and flush with hot water.

You could eliminate odors in your dishwasher by running a cycle without any dishes once a week with bicarbonate of soda in the soap dispenser and vinegar in the rinse-aid compartment, and shake a handful in the bottom of the dishwasher between loads, as it will reduce odors and act as an additional cleanser for the next wash.

Lemon slices with baking soda will get the stains out from the bottom of your coffee pot. When I worked as a waiter in Chula Vista, California, while living in Rosarito, Mexico – we would would put some ice in the bottom of the coffee pots with a few slices of lemon and 1/8 cup of baking soda. We hardly ever had to scrub the inside bottoms of the pots.

Sodium bicarbonate can also be sprinkled on carpets, and left left to sit for about 10 or 15 minutes, then vacuum as usual to help eliminate odors in the carpet, keeping the rooms order free. This can also work on your pets bedding and even the upholstery of your car. Soda Blasting 

Sodium bicarbonate can even be used to get greasy equipment cleaned like new (video demonstrates use).

If you live in an area were it snows, you can also use baking soda for deicing your walk ways. Just open a box, and sprinkle it over the snow or ice, and within about 5 minutes, your walk way is safer to walk on. 

Baking soda also helps for cleaning brass door knobs, window handles and ornaments. We even mixed vinegar with baking soda to remove hard water stains from the car wind shield, and windows on the home.

Common Toxic Chemicals

      Baking Soda Is Naturally Chemical Free

It may seem like a lot of baking soda to use, and it can be.

But consider, when buying baking soda in the bulk section of your store, it will only coast you around 25 to 35 cents a pound, and if you use about, say 3 or 4 pounds a week, that would cost you around $5.00 a month, compared to all the other products on the market that cost you even more.

Baking soda is an all natural and earth friendly cleaning agent.

The most popular brand that sells baking soda is “Arm and Hammer” and the name describes how powerful a household cleaner bicarbonate of soda can be, and no added non earth friendly chemicals.

There are many more uses for bicarbonate of soda around the home. How do you use it other than in baking? Tell us by leaving a comment below, we would all be glad to know.

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