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29 January 2015

Milestones

Ah, January.  New year, new paths.  And, it seems like (to me anyway) that January is a big month for celebrating work anniversaries and retirements.  I have no scientific reason for this, other than my cake orders for this month always seem to reflect it.

January 2015 has been no different, as proven by the following cakes.

27 January 2015

Pasta Sauce Problem


I love homemade pasta sauce - red sauce, cream sauce, cheese sauce, I enjoy them all.  But, sometimes when I make homemade sauces they tend to thicken up more than I'd like.  The answer - add a splash of the pasta water to the sauce.  It will help thin the sauce down without watering it down; the pasta water contains some starch from the cooked pasta and, hopefully, a little salt.  (You do salt your pasta water, right?  It is the only chance you have to season the pasta.)

I usually add a 1/4 cup or so at a time until I reach the consistency I'm looking for.

Mmm...tasty!


20 January 2015

Cast Iron Care


Do you own cast iron cookware?  I do, but must admit, until recently I haven't used it much.  Mostly because I'm afraid of messing it up/not cleaning it properly/not being able to get it re-seasoned.  But, there comes a point when you just have to take the leap...so, I've done it.  I've been cooking more with cast iron.  And...I'm a fan.

So, exactly how do you care for cast iron?  Like most things, you'll find all kinds of advice out there, but here's a few good guidelines:
  • Season it when you purchase it.  Yes, I know it says "pre-seasoned," but a little extra won't hurt.  To season, rub a little oil (use a neutral oil - i.e. vegetable, canola, or even shortening) onto the pan, then heat the pan up, either on the stove top or in the oven, until it's super hot; allow to cool.  Repeat a few times, and voila...you've seasoned your pan.
  • Clean it after each use.  This may mean simply wiping with a wet towel, but don't be afraid to use a little soap and water to scrub away any gunk.  Dry it immediately after washing!
  • Re-season it.  See above.
  • Use it.  The more you use your cast iron, the better it will be!
  • Water is it's enemy.  Don't let your cast iron stay wet.  That means, don't let it sit in the sink while you eat dinner, and dry it immediately after cleaning.  Since you should be in the habit of re-seasoning your pan after each use anyway, pop it in a hot oven to make sure all the water evaporates, let it cool, then season.
Mmm...tasty!



15 January 2015

December Delights

Yes, I know it's January.

Yes, I know it's the middle of January, but, hey, that doesn't mean we can't still enjoy the Christmas-y confection eye-candy.  (Although, I'll admit, most of these photos are a bit blah...the short days really wreak havoc on my photographing "skills.")

13 January 2015

Frozen Pie


I'm not sure how this ever happens, but I've occasionally heard of people having leftover pie.  The question:  can you freeze pie?

The answer:  It depends on the pie.  Cream based pies don't freeze well - they will likely separate when defrosted.  But fruit, pumpkin, and nut pies usually freeze just fine.  Freezing in slices isn't the best route to go though; you're better off to leave the pie whole or in as large a wedge as possible (the less filling exposed, the better).  Wrap the pie in plastic wrap, then place in an airtight container or resealable bag and freeze for up to 6 weeks.  Let the pie thaw in the fridge before serving.

Mmm...tasty!


06 January 2015

Slim Down Those Sweets


With the New Year settling in, you may be thinking of making some changes to help you clean up your diet, shed some calories, or get in shape.  If so, consider using fruit and/or veggie purees in some of your baked goods - just keep in mind that they make desserts denser, so try a 25% to 50% trade to find the right ratio.

Some options to try:
  • Applesauce - works well in muffins and cakes; use an equal amount to replace some of the butter, oil, or shortening.
  • Canned Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Puree - substitute in a 1 to 1 ratio in spice bread/cakes or chocolate desserts; also try adding a can of pumpkin to a brownie mix in place of the oil and eggs.
  • Prunes or Dates - try adding to gingerbread and brownies; blend a half cup with six tablespoons of water until smooth, then use the puree to replace an equal amount of fat
  • Bananas - try subbing half the amount of the oil called for the same amount of mashed banana; avoid adding bananas to anything you don't want to taste vaguely fruity.
Mmm...tasty!