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Food How To

How to Make Homemade Marshmallows (step by step with photos)

How to make homemade marshmallowsP

These are easier than you think.

And the possibilities are endless. Try your favorite extracts (coconut marshmallows?!), or food coloring to match your party, or covering them in chocolate. Once you make them, it’s hard to remember why you went so long without trying your hand at these.

Step one:

Prepare the pan. Grease well (cooking spray, butter or vegetable shortening) and then cover in powdered sugar.

How to Make Homemade Marshmallows (step by step with photos)

Step two:

In the bowl of a stand mixer add 3 1/2 packets of gelatin to 1/2 cup ice cold water. Let stand while you prepare the sugar.

How to make homemade marshmallows2Step three:

In a pan over medium heat add 2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1/2 cup water. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to high, allow to boil until the mixture has reached 240 on a candy thermometer.

How to Make Homemade Marshmallows (step by step with photos)

Step four:

Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour the hot sugar into the gelatin mixture. Once all the sugar has been added, raise speed to high. Beat on high until light and fluffy and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.

How to Make Homemade Marshmallows (step by step with photos)

 Step five:

In a medium bowl, add the egg whites and salt. Beat with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites and vanilla into the marshmallows.

How to Make Homemade Marshmallows (step by step with photos)Step six:

Pour marshmallows into prepared pan. Smooth into an even layer, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

How to Make Homemade Marshmallows (step by step with photos)

 Step seven:

Allow to sit at room temperature until set, about 3 hours. Invert pan on a flat surface, slice into squares.

How to make homemade marshmallows8

To make beer marshmallows, check out Chocolate Stout Covered Beer Marshmallows.

Beer Brat Carbonara Pasta

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces gaunciale or 6 strips thick sliced bacon
  • 1 sweet white onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 tbs olive oil, plus 2 tbs, divided
  • 6 bratwurst (raw)
  • 12 ounces brown ale
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh grated Pecornio or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 4 large eggs

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, cook the gaunciale (or bacon). Remove from pan, chop. Pour off about half the pork fat, leaving about 2 tbs still in the pan. Add 1 tbs olive oil and onions, cook over medium heat until the onions start to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes. Remove onions from pan, set aside.
  2. Increase heat to medium high, add the bratwurst, cooking until browned on both sides. Add the beer and reduce heat to medium low, simmering until the bratwurst are cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Slice into rings.
  3. While the bratwurst are cooking, cook the spaghetti in lightly salted boiling water until al dente, drain and return to pot.
  4. Add sliced brats, chopped gauncaile (or bacon), caramelized onions, tomatoes, cheese, salt, pepper and remaining 2 tbs olive oil to the spaghetti, toss to combine.
  5. One at a time poach the eggs in simmering water until the whites have set but the yolks are still runny.
  6. Divide the pasta between 4 bowls, top with poached eggs. Serve immediately.
https://domesticfits.com/make-homemade-marshmallows/

 

Easy Homemade Sandwich Bread

We do this resolution thing every year, and although I love a good goal setting exercise, we can tend to favor resolutions that are a bit self-deprecating. Maybe you don’t need to hate yourself of that credit card debt or those extra pounds. Maybe our resolutions should be about learning something new, tapping into those great talents we already have and exploring them. Or expanding on interests we already have.

I want to make more food from scratch. I’m already a person who eats very little processed food, but sandwich bread is something I’ve always bought from the store. I buy good bread, but there is always a long list of ingredients most of which I’m not completely sure what it is and one of which may or may not be made from human hair (so gross).

A few weeks ago I started to make my own from scratch. As part of my Sunday routine (a day I’m almost always in the kitchen anyway) it’s become easy, simple, even second nature. It’s also infinitely better tasting and a fraction the price.

And I know all the ingredients, it’s a win all the way around.

 

How to make easy homemade sandwich breadP

 

Step one: 

Add the flour, yeast and sugar to a stand mixer (sugar feeds yeast so add it to make sure your yeast is nice and active).

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread

 

Step Two:

Add the milk and water to a microwave safe bowl and heat to 120 to 130 degrees on a cooking thermoeter. This is for Rapid Rise yeast. If you use regular Dry Active yeast, just heat it to 110 (the package will say what temperature is best for the yeast you’re using). Add the warm liquid to the stand mixer and mix on high. once most of the flour has been moistened, add the oil and the salt.

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread2

 

Step three:

Beat on high until the dough has started to gather around the hook and is no longer sticky, this will take about 8 minutes.

It will look like this for a while:

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread3

Keep mixing until it looks like this:

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread4

 

Step Five:

Add to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to sit in a warm room until doubled in size, about an hour.

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread5

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread6

 

Step Six:

Knead a few times on a lightly floured surface. Form into a long rectangle (you want the width of the rectangle to be about the length of your loaf pan.)

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread7

 

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread8

 

Step Seven:

Preheat your oven to 350.

Roll the rectangle into a log and add to your loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise until about doubles in size.

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread9

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread10

 

Step Eight:

Brush with melted butter and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread11

 

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread12

 

Salted Beer Caramel Corn

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup corn kernels
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbs light corn syrup
  • ½ cup imperial stout, plus 2 tbs, divided
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250.
  2. Place the corn kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold the top over. Place in the microwave (long side down), microwave on high for 4 minutes. When the popping starts to slow to about one pop per one second, remove from microwave. Measure out 7 cups of popcorn (if there is less than 7 cups, pop additional kernels in the same manner, if there are more than 7 cups, reserve the remaining popped corn for another use).
  3. Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray.
  4. Add the corn kernels to the baking sheet in an even layer, place in the oven until the caramel sauce is ready.
  5. Add the brown sugar, light corn syrup, ½ cup stout and butter to a saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, stop stirring. Allow to boil for 7 minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat, immediately stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons stout.
  6. Spray a silicon spatula with cooking spray (except the handle).
  7. Gently pour the caramel sauce over the corn, stirring to coat.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes at 250, stir, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and spread evenly onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper, sprinkle immediately with salt. Allow to cool, until hardened. Store in an air-tight container.
https://domesticfits.com/easy-homemade-sandwich-bread/

Adapted from King Arthur Flour Classic Sandwich Bread Recipe

How to make easy homemade sandwich bread13

Pasta Cavatelli: Homemade Pasta Without A Pasta Roller

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Machine

I love hearing other peoples Culinary Bucket Lists. It’s always a really interesting mix of classic recipes, mastering techniques, and difficult dishes. I love that, it shows range.

But seriously people, start crossing some of this stuff off. You can do it. Just jump right in, and do it.

This is a great recipe for everyone that has "Make Pasta From Scratch" on your list because you don’t need any fancy equiptment. Just some flour, water and a knife.

You’ve go this.

I’m going to be honest with you, this is a bit labor intensive. But you can finally draw that satisfying line though the item that’s been taunting you on your bucket list for years. You can finally say things like, "This one time, while I was making pasta from scratch…" and "Well, when I make my pasta…"

It’ll be fun.

Homemade Cavatelli Pasta

2 cups All Purpose flour

1 cup Semolina flour

½ tsp salt

1 cup warm water

 

1. Add both kinds of flour and salt to a flat surface, mix to combine.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller

2. Make a well in the middle and add the water.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller2

3. Stir the liquid and the flour together until combined. Then knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller3

4. Cut into 4 pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller4

5. One at at time, take a piece of dough and form into a long log about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller5 How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller6

6. Cut off about 1/4 inch slice and place in front of you. It should be about the size of a dime.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller7

 

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller8

7. Place a bench knife (I use this one, I love it), or the dull side of a butter knife, on the far side of the dough circle, pull towards you smearing the dough against the counter. The dough should curl up over the knife.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller9

8. It should look like a little canoe.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller10

10. Place on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with flour until ready to use. Basically, if you mound them on top of each other, they’ll stick.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller11

11. Cook immediately in lightly salted water until al dente or allow to dry and store in an air tight container.

How To Make Pasta Without A Pasta Roller12

 

 

Look at you, you homemade pasta maker.

I’m so impressed with your mad skills.

 

 

How To: Make Goat Cheese & A Food Photo Tip

 

Let’s skip right to the photography tip, shall we? I’m pretty excited about it.

See this dish of homemade goat cheese, it’s a little less than full:

Homemade Goat Cheese

The best "filler" for a partially filled bowl is a potato. For several reasons.

First, they’re cheap and you probably already have them.

Homemade Goat Cheese3

Second, they can be cut any shape you need. And re-cut if necessary. They also lift out of the bowl cleanly (unlike a paper towel I’ve seen recommended).

Third, they don’t float if you need to use them in a bowl of soup.

Homemade Goat Cheese4

Just place your potato at the bottom of the bowl, fill and you are ready to shoot.

Homemade Goat Cheese5

See, it looks full. You’d never guess it was chocked full of Idaho’s finest.

Homemade Goat Cheese6

This is also a GREAT way to make sure that the soup garnishes "float" on top of the soup bowl. I tried an upside down ramekin for the below shot, but it kept floating, and it was too tall, and since I (obviously) wasn’t able to cut it to shape, I had to overfill the bowl.

Which I later spilled when I went to move it from photo land, to eating land.

Butternut Bisque pomegranate Goat Cheese

 But the idea was good. And the next time I went to shoot some soup, I decided to use a potato cut to shape, and fancied myself a genius. Look how the good stuff just "magically" floats on top. Patiently waiting for it’s photo to be taken.

Chicken-Enchilada-Soup4P

 

So. You might not have a complete obsession with photographing food. You might just be here for the recipe. I guess we can talk about that, It turns out making your own goat cheese is really easy, and really good.

SO easy, in fact, that you should try it, it’s almost fail safe.

If you’ve made ricotta (you totally should), you pretty much have already made the cow version of goat cheese, the process is the same.

Homemade Goat Cheese7

 

Hey, look how full that bowl is.

Foolproof Beer Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs Butter, softened (or melted)
  • 2 tbs Flour
  • 1 tbs Cornstarch
  • 1 cup beer (wheat beer, blonde ale, pale ale, pilsner)
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda, do not use pre shredded
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar, do not use pre shredded
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Process on high until very well blended, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Transfer contents to a saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk rapidly and continuously until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. If small bits of cheese solids remain, blend until smooth with a hand blender.
  5. Serve warm.
https://domesticfits.com/how-to-make-goat-cheese-a-food-photo-tip/

 

 

 

How To: Make Candied Bacon

Before we get started on the essential skill of making your very own batch of candied bacon, I need to pause to tell you some amazing news:

I signed a cookbook deal last week.

And so begins the frantic, not enough time, spending to much money on groceries, stress, lack of sleep that has nothing to do with my toddler, phase of my life. The book is focused on cooking with craft beer, the subject of my other blog, The Beeroness, from which the book truly sprang.

Even with all the warnings from those who have gone before me, all the friends I have who have written cookbooks, novels, non-fiction research books, I am thrilled. Even though I realize that writing a book is light years more work and far less money than anyone ever thinks, I’ll never stop being grateful for being given this opportunity.

Now all I have to do is write it.

So for now, lets make some candied bacon.

First, what do you DO with candied bacon? The better questions is, what wouldn’t you do with candied bacon?

For starters, here are some fabulous ideas:

Candied bacon topped brownies (just sprinkle on top of your favorite brownies before baking)

Candied bacon & Vanilla ice cream

Candied bacon sprinkled on maple doughnuts

Candied bacon mixed into your favorite pancake batter

Candied bacon waffles

Candied bacon on salad (for real)

Candied bacon chocolate chip cookies

Candied Bacon sprinkled on a chocolate tart

It’s endless.

 

Ingredients:

12 strips of bacon

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Sprinkle one side of the strips of bacon with brown sugar.

Press it into the bacon well.

Place the bacon, sugar side down, on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. You are going to want to cover the baking sheet with a Silpat or aluminum foil, the drippings will burn and be difficult to clean.

Top the other side of the bacon (the side facing up) with more brown sugar and press into the bacon.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Using a pair of tongs, turn each slice and continue to bake until a dark brown and cooked through.

Bacon will not crisp in the oven. Bacon will not get crispy until it cools and the sugar has hardened.

Allow bacon to cool, chop and use in all sorts of amazing ways.

 

How To: Make Corn Tortillas From Scratch

Homemade corn tortillas are one of the perfect food trifectas: easy, cheap & delicious.

SO much better than anything you have ever found at on a store shelf, takes about 5 minutes, and only a few cents each.

This needs to be added to your "To Make" list. Right now.

Check out the step by step guest post I did for Andrew of Eating Rules, and sign up for the pledge if you get a chance!

 

Get the recipe here!

Homemade Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Dip Plus How To: Roast Garlic & How To: Caramelize Onions

One big food blogger secret is that we rarely make recipes more than once. It’s true. And sad. It’s this constant race to provide new, fun, exciting, creative content for you that leaves us little time to revisit those recipes that we love. Of course, there are always those few recipes that we will make all the time, for the rest of our lives even if it means missing an opportunity to create a new post. This is one of those recipes for me. All I want to do now is make it all over again and add bacon and parmesean cheese. 

So addictive, creamy and delicious. 

It’s a simple recipe with only a few ingredients. It isn’t hard to make but it does take time to develop the flavors, time that is well worth it. I’m moving myself and my family away from process’s foods as much as I can, a little at a time and this is my way of having that onion dip that everyone’s mom used to make with the instant soup mix packet, but with loads more flavor and no mysterious chemicals. 

Also, I’m going to show you the right way to cut an onion. 

And how to roast garlic. 

Two skills that I hope stick with you for the rest of your life. My kitchen would be a much different place without onions and roasted garlic. 

Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Dip

1 whole white onion (I used a Walla Walla Sweet onion)

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbs, divided

1 large head of garlic

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/4 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

How to cut an onion:

Cut the onion in quarters. 

With the tip of the knife close to the center, make vertical cuts all the across the onion, about 1/4 inch apart.

Then cut the onion in the other direction, cutting across the cuts you just made. 

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. The key to caramelizing onions, and not BROWNING them, is: low and slow. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmery, then reduce the heat to low and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally until the onions are soft and have turned an amber color. You want them to have that amber color or the sugars in the onion haven’t been caramelized yet and the flavors are not developed. This will take between 30 and 40 minutes, but you only have to stir occasionally so it isn’t a lot of work.

 How to roast garlic:

This is very easy and gives you the most incredible tasting stuff. If you haven’t roasted a head of garlic yet, you should. 

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut the top off of the head of garlic. 

Place on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil. 

Fold the foil up over the garlic into a tight packet. Place in a baking dish (I use a muffin tin) and place in the oven. 

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft and starting to turn an amber color.

Once you have brought out those incredible flavors in your garlic and your onions, break out the food processor. 

Add the softened cream cheese, sour cream, onions and squeeze the garlic head until the soft cloves pop out and add them to the food processor as well. 

Process until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

So simple, so good. 

Next time, I’m gonna try it with bacon and Parmesan cheese. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Printable: Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Dip

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How To: Roll Cut and Stuff Pork Loin

This isn’t a recipe. Not really. It’s how to actually cut this sucker so you can stuff food inside of it. 

What you’ll need:

1.5 lb pork loin

Sharp knife

Kitchen twine

Whatever you are going to stuff your pork with

Bread crumbs

Baking dish



Preheat oven to 375. 

Place your pork loin on a cutting surface. This is a basic diagram of where you will be cutting. 

Start cutting closest to the cutting board, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the bottom of the loin

Don’t cut through, stop with about 1/2 inch to go. Then open the loin like a book that you are about 3/4 of the way through, with more pages on the left than the right. 

Make your final cut, bisecting the thicker side of the loin.

 Open the final flap. 

I like to trim off the uneven front and back, making it cleaner and easy to stuff

Stuff your pork with your stuffing. Need some suggestions? I’m here to help you. 

Here is a gorgeous loin from the beautiful and fabulous Elizabeth of Guilty Kitchen. Click on her pork loin picture to take you to her recipe, featuring bacon, feta and spinach. 

Here is another one from Bellalimento, featuring spinach, sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms, click on the picture for the recipe.

OK, now that we are back from those gorgeous blogs, we can continue. 

fill your open pork loin with your desired filling, leaving about 1/2 inch on all sides. 

My filling is just a simple olive oil, garlic, spinach, gorgonzola and bread crumbs. 

Starting at the side closest to you, roll the pork tightly. 

Once that is rolled, cut about 2 feet of kitchen twine. 

Tie one end of the twine tightly around one end of the loin. 

Place the long end of the twine about two inches down the top, center of the loin. Securing the two inch line in place with your thumb, bring the rest of the twine underneath the loin. 

Bring the kitchen twine back underneath the twine elbow you just created and pull tightly. 

Continue this process two of three more times down the length of the loin until you reach the end. Secure tightly at the far end. 

Roll the loin in bread crumbs and bake at for 30-40 minutes of until the internal temp is about 160. You still want a slight hint of pink in the center of the loin. 

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How To: Pair Wine and Food

A few weeks ago I got an email from a wonder man I had met at IFBC in November. He works withDon Sebastiani & Son's Wine Company, and asked if he could send over a shipment of wine along with perfectly paired recipes.

First, who says no to that?

Secondly, I realized how little I actually know about food and wine parring. This was more than an opportunity for free wine, this was an opportunity for a free education.

Learning not just how to pair wine, but why. What the flavors do to each other and how the wrong pairing can change the dish you took so much time making. 

I spent a week with these wines, cooking and pairing. Some of the recipes I followed nearly exactly (a very rare occurrence in my life) and some I changed completely while still keeping the integrity of the pairing. By the end of the week I was able to see that wine is not just something to drink with your meal, but wine functions as an additional ingredient to your dish. 

Wine changes the way your food tastes. This can be a great thing, making the flavors more intense, brighter and more delicious. This can also be a terrible thing, making the spicy flavors hotter than you want, bringing out flavors you never intended to highlight. What you drink with your meal alters the experience you have, knowing how to do it correctly gives you the control. 

After I knew the basics of food and wine pairing, I began to see not only the importance of it but how easy it can be. I was already pairing food and drinks without realizing it, wanting a cup of coffee with my chocolate cake and a lemony iced tea with my Caesar salad. The principals are the same. 

This week I’ll be posting the food and wine pairings, as well as why these foods are paired. Each of the dishes featured in the photos in this post will be discussed. Stick around and we will all get a crash course in food and wine pairings, but first, here are the Rules:

Rule one: Acid needs acid

Any food with a high acid level, or something you just want to squeeze a lemon onto, is perfect match for high acid wine. If you are serving Chicken Picatta, or pasta with tomato sauce, opt for a Barolo, Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti. Serving a high acid wine with a meal like this, and you will bring out the citrus notes of your food. 

 

Rule Two: Tannins Need Fat 

First of all, what IS a tannin? Tannins are the astringent component in red wine that give it structure. This is what can cause that bitter, pucker feeling in the back of your throat. This needs fat for balance, fat will soften the tannins and bring a smoother feel. Serve a bold Cabernet with a nice fatty piece of Prime Rib. 

 

Rule Three: Fish Goes with Acid, Not With Tannins

We have all heard the old rule of: White Wine for White Meat, Red Wine for Red Meat. The reason for that is acid and tannins, not color. If you are serving fish, think of the wine like a you would a squeeze of lemon on top (high acid wine) rather than a sprinkle of cheese (tannin heavy red wine).  

 

Rule Four: Pair Wine With Dominant Flavor, Not Necessarily The Meat

This is another reason to ignore the old rule White for White, Red for Red. Just because you have pork on your plate, doesn’t mean that is the flavor that will stick around. Is that pork being served in a robust red sauce? Or is that beef being served with a creamy lemon sauce? If the sauce on your plate is the dominant flavor, pair to that, not the meat.


Rule Five: Spice Needs Sugar

This is the best example of wine paring going awry. Serving a super spicy dish with a high alcohol, tannin heavy wine with will set your guests on fire. Two great elements producing a catastrophe combination when mixed.  Alcohol intensifies the heat. If however, you cooked a dish that is much more mellow that you have intended, pair with one of those high tannin, high alcohol wines to crank up the heat. But, for the most part, you want to stick with a sweeter, low alcohol wine. Even if you don’t like sweeter wines, you will be surprised at how those sugars are altered with introduction of the heat. Try a Gewürztraminer or a Riesling.

Rule Six: Sweet Needs Sweeter

You want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert. Even if you are not drawn to the sweeter wines, taking a sip of a rich, sweet port before, and after, a bit of a dense fudgy cake completely transforms the flavors of both elements.

Candy Cane Whipped Cream & The Importance of Fundamentals


Tater walked at 6 months. Bullshit, right? Actually, it’s true. Although you fully have the right to be skeptical because most babies are barley holding their heads up and don’t even have the concept of standing yet.

For those of you who haven’t been through the: "Watching your offspring launch themselves from one object to another, resulting in scary bruises and traumatic screams" phase of your life, here is what typical babies do:

5-6 months: Can probably roll over in both directions

6-7 months: Tries to get up on knees in crawling position

7-8 months: Makes first attempt at crawling

8-9 months: Starts to crawl, possible attempts at pulling self up on furniture

10-11 months: Pulls self up onto furniture, possibly takes steps while holding furniture

11-12 months: Takes first steps

12-14 months: Becomes a full times walker

Not so much in our house.

Tater literally tried to run before she ever crawled. Here is a video on You Tube of Tater taking steps at six months:

Tater Taking Steps At 6 Months

Just past her first Thanksgiving, not even 8 months old yet, she was walking around like she owned the joint. Watch this video of Tater Walking:

Tater Walking

(And please ignore my, "Talking to my infant" voice. Or better yet, turn the sound off. Yikes!)

THIS baby, whom I was still buying 3 month clothes for was walking all over the place in a way that made strangers gasp and pull out their video phones:

Was I proud? Of course. But I was also worried. Not to mention the fact that my 6 month old had denied me at least HALF of her baby-hood by deciding to become a toddler half a year early.

More than anything else, I have a little glimpse into the developing psyche of my tiny daughter. She is fiercely independent, motivated, headstrong, and completely refusing to learn things in a traditional fashion.

"Crawling? That won’t get me anywhere. I want to walk, so why don’t I just do that instead of wasting my time on the floor?"

Of course, I’m pretty sure I know where she gets that from, Mr. Fits and I were both "Non-Traditional" learners and in spite of the fact that we both score shockingly high on IQ tests, we struggled in school. A lot. Both of us spent our entire childhoods thinking we where stupid because our brains processed information differently and that tended to earn us lower marks on standardized tests.

I felt this way when I threw myself into photography. I wanted to be good at it from the beginning, so frustrated with myself for not being able to produce the images that I saw seasoned veterans shooting. Why didn’t I get it?! What was wrong with me?! I needed to understand the basics, let myself learn a little at a time, before I would be where I wanted to be. And, to be honest, I still get frustrated with myself for not being a better photographer, even though I have only had my DSLR for about 7 months.

Will Tater struggle to run before she can crawl in every area of her life?

Although the world is changing, and other learning styles are being foster, I still worry about her. Fundamentals are important. You have to learn the basics in order to have an anchor for the rest of the information.

Cooking is no exception. No one has ever just walked into a kitchen and made a perfect souffle without first learning how to cream butter and sugar, read a recipe, or sift flour.

Even if you have mastered some pretty complicated recipes, going back to the basics will only improve your cooking.

My favorite fundemental is whipped cream. Something our Grandmother made without a thought was replaced by a blue and white tub full of chemicals that we find in the freezer section. Whipped cream is easy to make and so impressive. Especially when you flavor it with candy canes.


Candy Cane Whipped Cream

4 standard size candy canes, unwrapped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup powdered sugar

You will also need:

A piece of parchment paper, about 2 feet long

A mesh strainer

a large ziplock type bag

a candy cane pounder of some sort: rolling pin, frying pan, rubber mallet

Place your unwrapped candy canes in the zip lock bag. Place the zip lock bag on top of the parchment paper and smash the candy canes with your rolling pin until they have mostly turned to powder. 

Position your mesh strainer over your parchment paper. Pour the contents of your candy cane bag into the strainer.

Sift until the candy cane powder is on the paper and candy cane chunks are in the strainer. Save the chucks to add to your favorite cookie, chocolate cake or brownie recipe. 

form the paper into a funnel to pour the powder into a small cup. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer add your chilled heavy cream, powdered sugar and 2 tbs of the candy cane powder. You can add more powder for a more intense candy cane flavor or save the rest for another recipe. 

Whip on high until stiff peaks form. About 4 minutes. 


Printable: Candy Cane Whipped Cream

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How To: Make Bacon (or Vegan) Tortillas


Every time that Mr. Fits, Tater and I are all home, lucky enough to wake up with no place to go, I make breakfast. I love this ritual, and I hope that it continues well into my old, old age (I do plan on living past 100, cooking the entire way, aided by a Rascal Scooter if necessary). Most of these breakfast involve bacon. For the past few months I have been saving the rendered bacon fat by pouring it through a mesh strainer into a small container and storing it in the fridge, waiting for brilliance to strike. I found the homemade tortilla recipe of the fabulous Rick Bayless (who is on my "Culinary Crush" list) and the bacon finally had a grand purpose.  If you are kosher, vegetarian or watching your saturated fat intake, or just crazy enough not to like bacon, you can use vegetable shortening, Smart Balance Light (it’s actually vegan), butter or oil.  Although the flavor won’t be the same if you use another fat and you will have to watch the ratios since these fats all behave differently. But if you can, save bacon drippings and try the bacon flavored tortillas, so incredible.

Bacon Fat Flour Tortillas

(Adapted From Rick Bayless)

Makes 12 tortillas

INGREDIENTS

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling the tortillas

5 tablespoons of fat (bacon fat, vegetable shortening, etc)

3/4 teaspoon salt

about 3/4 cup very warm tap water

DIRECTIONS

As I mentioned previously, save your bacon grease by pouring it through a fine mesh strainer into a container with a tight lid (just pour the next round on the top of the previous) and keeping it in the fridge. This stuff is liquid gold, don’t pour it down the drain.

1.   Combine the flour and fat (I used 5 tbs bacon fat) in a large mixing bowl, working in the fat with your fingers, until completely incorporated.

2. Dissolve the salt in the water, pour about 2/3 cup of it over the dry ingredients and immediately work it in with a fork.

The dough will be in large clumps rather than a homogeneous mass.

If all the dry ingredients haven’t been dampened, add the rest of the liquid (plus a little more, if necessary).

3. Scoop the dough onto your floured work surface

and knead until smooth.

It should be medium-stiff consistency — definitely not firm, but not quite as soft as most bread dough either. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

4.   Rest the dough.  Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a ball.  Set them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes (to make the dough less springy, easier to roll).

5.  You can either press your tortillas using a tortilla press lined with parchment paper to prevent sticking, which I used

or you can roll them with a rolling pin using this method:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into an even 7-inch circle:  Flatten a ball of dough, flour it, then roll forward and back across it; rotate a sixth of a turn and roll forward and back again; continue rotating and rolling until you reach a 7-inch circle, lightly flouring the tortilla and work surface from time to time.

Make sure the tortillas are very thin, almost thinner than you think they should be.

6. Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  

Lay the tortilla on the hot griddle (you should hear a faint sizzle and see an almost immediate bubbling across the surface).

After 30 to 45 seconds, when there are browned splotches underneath, flip it over. You will know it is time to flip when the edges look dry and lighter in color.  Bake 30 to 45 seconds more, until the other side is browned; don’t overbake the tortilla or it will become crisp.  Remove and wrap in a cloth napkin placed in a tortilla warmer.  Roll or press and then griddle-bake the remaining tortillas in the same manner and stacking them one on top of the other.

How To: Make Homemade Pumpkin Pie From Scratch

I took Tater to the pumpkin patch. A huge gigantic pumpkin patch that had the size and personality of a country fair.

She approched the task of picking out her very first pumpkin with abnormal amount of seriousness. After wandering the rows of pumpkins, she decide on a small pie pumpkin, perfect for her little fingers to carry.  once the perfect little pumpkin had been picked out, she wouldn’t let it out of her sight.

When she climbed to the top of a super high hay stack, she took it with her.

When she meet a goat at the petting zoo that she decide was just a "Doggie" she had it with her.

And she let that doggie know that it was not HIS pumpkin, it was hers.

And when we walked to lunch, she carried it.

And still, that little pumpkin is in her outside toy box, surviving relatively well. I didn’t make pie out of it, settle down. I just wish she hadn’t chosen to fall in love with something so perishable.

First question that needs to be answers when talking about scratch pumpkin pie making is: 

What pumpkins can be used? Can you make pie out of those Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins you buy your kids at the grocery store? What is a PIE pumpkin?

First, you can eat any variety of pumpkin, all are squash and all are edible (DO NOT confuse pie pumpkins with gourds, those are not edible) but not all pumpkins were made to be eaten as pie, so the variety you use will affect your results.

Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins have been breed for decades for qualities that have nothing to do with taste. Although still technically edible, the flavors are not taken into account when breeding. Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are now breed for thick skin that can hold up to carving, as well as a heartiness to survive after being carved, and set outside with a candle stuck in it’s guts.

A pie pumpkin is small, like the one that tater picked out, too small to carve. They are also know as Sugar Pie, Northern Pie or New England Sugar. Most grocery stores will sell pie pumpkins towards the end of October, through November, just ask your produce guy.

Usually, one pumpkin is enough to make a pie.

Preheat your oven to 400.

First, remove the stem. Use a butter knife that you don’t care about too much (it may get bent) and run it around the edge of the stem to loosen it up then pry it off with the butter knife.

Then cut it in half down the middle, right through where that stem used to be.

Then scoop out all the guts, seeds and strings.

Then put the pumpkin, cut side down, on a baking sheet covered in tin foil. Make sure the baking dish has sides, the pumpkin may leak while roasting. Cover with foil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until a fork slides into the skin of your pumpkin easily.

Scoop out the inside flesh of the pumpkin with a spoon.

If your pumpkin flesh is watery, place on a stack of 5-8 paper towels, top with more paper towels and allow to drain for about 5 minutes. For a smoother texture, puree in a food processor for about 3 minutes.

Chocolate Mint Stout Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chocolate stout, or chocolate mint stout
  • 7 ounces of 60% dark chocolate with peppermint oil (such as Dark Chocolate Mint from Green & Blacks), broken into chunks
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar

Directions

  1. In a pot over medium high heat, add the cream, milk, mint leaves cream and stout. Bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat, remove and discard mint leaves, and stir in the chocolate until melted.
  2. In a separate bowl, add the egg yolks and the sugar, whisk until well combined. Slowly add the chocolate milk, whisking continually, until about 1/2 the mixture has been added to the egg yolks. Add the egg yolk mixture back into pot, whisk until well combined. Return pot to heat and bring to a mild simmer.
  3. Refrigerator until chilled, about 3 hours.
  4. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufactures directions. Chill until firm.
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How To: Make Vanilla Pastry Cream, and What To Do With It

I’m going to push you one step further with your cake baking. You know that yummy cream that is inside doughnuts, the center of cream puffs and even the filling for that fantastic bakery fresh cakes? That’s pastry cream. And it’s easy to make. Even if you aren’t quite ready to give up the box cake mix, take the leap in dressing it up, super fancy, to make all those cake calories totally worth it. Pastry cream brings your cake way past the next level on to the "Did you really make this? Really? It’s amazing" level that you may have doubted you would ever reach. But you will. I believe in you.

Stop filling your cakes with frosting. Frosting is for the outside of the cake. Pastry cream is delicious and you should put this on your cake bakin' TO DO list. It’s easy, you’ll thank me with a big slice of yummy cake.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs, plus one extra yolk

2 tbs flour

2 tsp vanilla extract

Step One:

In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring the cream to a slight simmer, removing from heat when bubbles start to form around the edges. You don’t want to boil you cream, just heat it.

Step Two:

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs and yolk, and flour until well combined and slightly frothy.

 

Step Three:

While continuing to whisk the egg mixture, add the cream about 1 tbs at a time. This is called tempering and basically, it’s a way to avoid turning your pastry cream into scrambled eggs. Once your have added about half the cream a tbs at a time, pour the rest in slowly and whisk until well combined.

Step Four:

Return the pastry cream to the stove and stir over medium heat until it comes to a low simmer. Continue to whisk until thickened, between 5 and 10 minutes. The cream should leave a track when you drag the whisk through it.

Step Five:

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. This needs to cool before putting into a piping bag, a cake or your mouth. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface of the cream. This will avoid that gross skin that used to grow on top of the homemade pudding your grandma used to make when it sat in the fridge too long.

For the raspberries, I put the pastry cream into a piping bag and piped them into the middle of raspberries. As if I needed another reason to eat raspberries. Or pastry cream.

This makes 2 cups, enough to fill between two layers. The cake I made last week was three layers of white cake so I doubled the recipe.

How To: Make Stuffed Cupcakes

If you are a cupcake person, learning to stuff them is just an essential skill. Really, ESSENTIAL. Slight exaggerations aside, stuffing cupcakes brings them to the next level, adding another flavor, another texture and another dimension.

I’m going to highlight three common cupcake stuffin' techniques today, each one  has advantages and it will largely depend on what you are stuffing with to decide which one to go with.

The first method is to stuff pre-cooking. This only works with a filling that can be baked. I use this a lot to stuff cupcakes with cheesecake. Yep, cheesecake stuffed cupcakes.

First, you will need your two components, the cupcake batter and the filling batter (like cheesecake, or cookie dough). These can be the same flavor of different flavors. For my Key LIme Pie cupcakes, I used a white cake batter and a key lime cheesecake batter.

First, fill your cupcakes only half way full

Using a spoon, make a well in the middle but pushing the batter up onto the sides of the cupcake papers.

Fill the well with about 1 tbs of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake until the cupcake batter is done, the cheesecake filling will cook at about the same rate. You want to make sure not to over cook your cupcake batter. 

The second method is to bake the cupcakes and fill them later. Once your cupcakes have baked and cooled, you can create a hole in the middle in two ways.

The first way is to use a paring knife to remove a cone shaped section of the middle of the cupcake.

Don’t remove the bottom of the cupcake.

The second method of stuffing pre-cooked cupcakes if to smash a hole in the middle with the handle of a wooden spoon.

This does create a denseness at the bottom of the cupcake, but that can work to your advantage if you are using a particularly moist filling, like jam.

Use a piping bag to fill the hole that you have created in your cupcake. If you don’t have a piping bag, you should get one, but in the mean time use a Ziplock bag with a bit of the bottom corner cut off.

Then, just frost as usual. I used chocolate ganache to frost these, but this also makes for a great filling.

Enjoy!

Do you have a How To that you want to see? Email it tome at jackie@domesticfits.com or leave it on my Facebook wall at:

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How To: Make Sushi

Sushi making is an art. A beautiful, delicious art. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that one little post will ever get anyone near the magic that happens behind a real sushi counter, but I WILL tell you that making a simple roll is easy enough to do at home. If you dare.

Make The Rice

Sushi rice isn’t like your every day rice and isn’t cooked the same way. The cooking method is different, and it is finished with a shot of sake (optional) and a vinegar dressing.

Ingredients:

3 cups of short grain sushi or calrose rice

lots of water

1 shot of sake (totally optional)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tbs sugar

Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with cold tap water.

Swirl with your hands to remove any debris.

Drain the water off, using your hand to keep the rice in the bowl

Repeat two more times. By the third time, the water should be much less cloudy.

Put rice in a colander and allow to drain and dry, about 30 minutes.

Now here is where things get a little wierd. By all accounts, in my previous rice-cookin past, the ratio is 1 part rice to 2 parts water, right? Well, not in sushi land. Put your 3 cups of rice in a large sauce pan and cover with 3 cups of water. Yep, thats 1 part to 1 part. Don’t worry, it all works out.

Bring to a boil over high heat.

Cover and allow to boil over high heat (resist the urge to turn the heat down) for three minutes.

Then turn the heat to medium and cook for an an additional 5 minutes (I sure hope you have a kitchen timer).

Then turn the heat to low and cook for another 8 minutes.

There should be no visible water left. If you have a shot of Sake, drizzle it over the rice at this point. If you don’t have any Sake, don’t worry about. Remove from heat.

Cover with a towel or a cheese cloth, put the lid back on and allow to rest for ten minutes.

While your rice is cooking, make the dressing. Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir until dissolved and allow to cool.

Once the rice has rested, transfer to a large, flat bottom bowl.

Pour the dressing over the rice.

Stir the rice with a wooden spoon to distribute the dressing evenly, while fanning with a fan to cool. If you don’t have a fan a piece of cardboard will work just fine.

Repeat until rice is at body temperature.

Make The Roll 

First, lets talk about fish. For this post I made two kinds of sushi, a basic Ahi Tuna Roll and a Spicy Crab roll. You can fill your sushi with just about anything you want, including other types of meat and vegetables. If you want to use raw fish, buy the best stuff you can find, really, this is no place to bargain shop. Go to the best fish market in your town and asked what they have that is Sashimi grade and of that, what is the freshest and highest quality. Don’t go in with your heart set on a certain kind of fish, you may not get the best quality. If you really want Ahi, but they just had a beautiful Yellow Tail come in, get that. You don’t need a lot, I was able to make 5 rolls from less than a half a pound of Ahi.

Cut your fish into long thin strips, the width of about your pinky. If you don’t have a long enough piece of fish to cover the entire length of the roll, you can use segments.

You’ll will need sheets of Nori and a bamboo rolling mat. Most large chain grocery stores carry both of those in their Asian sections. You can also try your local Japanese markets.

For the smaller, basic Ahi roll, use one sheet of Nori, cut in half width-wise.

Place this on your bamboo rolling mat.

You will NEED a small bowl of cold water. This is so that the very sticky rice doesn’t stick to your fingers. Dip your fingers, as needed, into the water and transfer enough rice to make a thin layer of rice over the sheet of Nori while leaving a small blank margin along all sides.

Place your thin strips of fish in the center. I also placed a long thin strip of cucumber for a little crunch.

Roll away from you, using the mat as a guide. Apply firm pressure to shape the roll.

While the roll is still in the bamboo mat, form into a square with firm pressure.

For the Spicy Crab FIlling:

This is much more accessible and easier to find in most of the United States, regardless of how far you are from the ocean.

This is a basic spicy crab recipe, with sour cream as a substitute for the more commonly used mayonaise. If you want to use mayo, it will work just fine as well. I just have a very strong aversion to mayo in general, store bough being at the top of my hit list.

1 six ounce can of lump crab meat, or claw meat (please don’t use the fake stuff Krab just doesn’t taste the same)

2 tbs of sour cream

1 tsp Nanami Togarashi (Don’t be scared, most grocery stores have it in the Asian section)

Pinch of salt

Squeeze the crab meat to remove as much water as you can. This will help your filling to stay together and not become a soupy mess.

Add the sour cream, nanami and salt and stir to combine.

Use a full sheet of Nori for this roll, but use the same steps as with the Ahi roll.

I used a thin strip of cucumber for this roll as well. Just because I had it already cut and I wanted to add a little crunch.

Roll the same as before, but there is no need to make the larger rolls square.

Use a very sharp knife to cut the rolls, you may need to run the knife under hot water in between cuts.

Whats up with Wasabi?? There are two kinds that are pretty readily available at most grocery stores. The squeeze tube kind and the powder kind that you mix with water. I find the squeeze tube kind to have an odd, over powering taste. I very much prefer the powder kind.

You now know how to make sushi. Go impress your friends.

Do you have a How To that you want to see? Email it to jackie@domesticfits.com or leave it on my Facebook wall at:

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How To: Make The Perfect Pie Crust

I have a mild obsession with pie dough. Once I started to make (and modify) Cook’s Illustrated’s Foolproof Pie Dough in 2007, I realized that it is not only about a million times better than store bought crust, it takes about 8 minutes of active time. There is no downside. If you have never made pie dough, do it. Seriously, seriously, DO IT. If you are going to go through all of the trouble to make a pie, don’t even think about debasing it with a store bought crust.

I started writing for Honest Cooking this week. My first article is about the science behind pie dough. How the exact same ingredients can give you such different results and how I pledge my baking allegiance to Foolproof pie dough. For that article I wrote about the Cooks Illustrated version. For this post, I will give you my slight variation on that recipe.

  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 10 tbs butter (1 stick, plus 2 tbs), cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Step one:
Combine 2 cups of flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse a few times until its combined. Add the butter and the shortening and process until it forms a ball around the blade, about 2 minutes.

Step two:
Add the remaining flour and process until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

Step Three:
Move to a bowl and add the water and the vodka, combine with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Combining the liquid in the food process will destroy the effects of the vodka, and your hands may warm the fats too much. The dough will be very moist, but if it is too moist to stay together, add a little more flour.

Step Four:
Split into two equal sized portions and form into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill until very firm, about two hours. Because this dough is so soft, it is very important for the pie dough to be very cold and very firm.

Step five:
On a very well floured surface, place one of the disks, add flour to the top of the disk as well.

Roll out into an even thickness. Marble rolling pins are very cold and don’t disrupt the fat inside the dough, making them an excellent choice for rolling pie dough. When you place your dough in the fridge to chill, add your marble rolling pin as well, allowing it to chill.

Step six:
This recipe is very soft and will fall apart while being rolled. Although some people like to use the rolling pin to assist with moving the dough from rolling surface to pie pan, it tends to fall apart too easily with this method. The easiest way is to fold the dough circle in half, then in half again, forming a triangle.

Place the point of the triangle in the center of the pie plate and unfold the dough.

Trim the dough, leaving a half-inch overhang past the edge of the pie pan. Form a fluted edge around the top of the pie crust.

Baking:
If you want to bake this before it’s filled, prick several holes in the bottom with a fork. Line the inside with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 375.

This crust can also be filled and baked immediately, whichever your recipe calls for.

How To: Make Round Meatballs

I got a request last week (yay!)  for a How To post about round meatballs. Most pan fried meatballs have the same issue, flat on three sides, in a pyramid shape, as opposed to the pretty round ones.

There are three methods to making meatballs round, but all start the same way.

Mix up your favorite meatball recipe making sure to use a binding agent (such as bread crumbs, oatmeal or even rice). For this post, I used the following:

2 cups lean ground beef

3/4 cup sweet italian sausage, casing removed

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 egg

Mix it up really well (your hands work best for this) and use a small cookie scoop to grab a meatball sized portion.

This will allow you to have uniformly sized meatballs.

Roll them in your hands to make them as round as possible.

This is where the methods will deviate.

Method 1

The first method is to boil them. This will give you perfectly round meatballs without much fuss. Just drop your meatballs in a pot of boiling liquid. You can use the sauce you intent to serve them with, water or broth and cook until the internal temp reaches 165 or until, well, they are cooked when you break them open (about 6-10 minutes depending on size)

This method works great to give you really pretty and uniform meatballs, as well as infusing liquid to make them juicy. As for me, I like the caramelized char of a pan fried meatball, so I’d take a misshapen one over a boiled one any day, but if looks are what you are going for, boiling is a great options

Method 2

Baking. Some people swear by this method and love the way the meatballs taste after baking. Next to boiling, it is a really healthy method, saving the calories of the oil in pan frying. Heat your oven to 350, place your meatballs on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for about 15-18 minutes. I baked half of my meatballs, and pan fried the rest. The baked meatballs did still have a slight flat spot where they sat on the pan but the flavor was great. They did lack that browning on the outside that I love.

Method 3

Chill then pan fry. Place the meatballs on a plate and chill in the fridge for at least two hours. You want to be able to brown the outside before the inside knows whats going on and has a chance to sag. Heat 2 tbs of oil in a pan until it is very hot and almost smoking. Get your meatballs out of the fridge and place them in the hot pan. Grab the handle of the pan and pull it back and forth over the burner so that your meatballs never have a chance to settle.

Cook for about 5-8 minutes, make sure that the meatballs are cooked through before serving. I just broke one open but you can also break out the thermometer and make sure the temp is at least 165.

Here are the final product of Method 2 (baking) and Method 3 (chill then pan fry).

Method 2 is on the left and Method 3 is on the right.

Of all the methods, chilling and pan frying was my favorite. They aren’t as perfectly formed as boiled ones,but that browning taste that I love came through beautifully. Another factor to keep in mind is that lean meat cooks better, while fattier meat may leave empty pockets where the fat has melted, making your meatballs misshapen.

If you have a request for How To Mondays, you can email it to me at jackie@domesticfits.com or leave it on my Facebook wall at

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How To: Roast a Chicken

I can’t stop thinking about chicken. Not any chicken,the Foster Farms Chicken Cooking Contest. I am Semi-Finalist for California. Of course I’m excited, giddy even. But I am also so dang nervous. In only 11 days (11DAYS!!) I go to San Diego to compete. Last weekend the Washington Semi-Finalists competed and the winners were:

Tina Hoban, Bellingham – Chicken with Cherry Tapenade over Creamy Pancetta Polenta

and

Rebecca Spence, Vancouver – Crispy Orange Chicken with Fennel, Avocado and Orange Salad

Seriously, how yum do those sound? But more immediate is that fact that in order to even GET to compete with those two in Napa in September, I have to beat out the following recipes:

Jennifer Daskevich, Los Angeles – Chicken and Quinoa with Figs, Spinach and Mint

Jamie Brown-Miller, Napa – Olive & Lemon Poached Tuscan Chicken on Grilled Pitas with Spinach Spread

Roxanne Chan, Albany – Asian Braised Chicken Thighs with Soybean Salad

Pascal Vignau, Encinitas – Pretzel Chicken Tenders

*Nervous*

But after reading those, I’m also hungry. I hope that I at least get offered a taste, because I’ll take it. Or maybe two.

Most people don’t do much bird roastin' outside of late November. Probably because an entire day of roasting a turkey, and an entire night of dishes is something most people don’t welcome more than once a year, although neither of these take place when roasting a little chicken for only a few people, I think the scars of Thanksgiving clean up run deep. Let me give you my arguments for why you should roast a chicken at least once a month:

1. It’s cheap. Really. The last time I bought a roasting chicken I got it in a Los Angeles grocery store for $5, and it feed 4 people.

2. It’s easy, the step by step will show you that.

3. Homemade broth is delicious. Just take whatever is left of that chicken, put it in a big stock pot, cover it with water and allow to simmer for 2-4 hours. Strain out all the solid parts (use a colander lined with cheese cloth) and freeze one cup at a time in Tupperware (I’ve even been known to use zip lock bags) and defrost as needed. That alone will get you $5 worth of chicken broth.

4. It’s yummy AND healthy. Yummy, healthy and cheap is the trifecta when it comes to cooking for your family.

How to Roast a Chicken

5lb Chicken

1 tbs, plus 1 tsp salt

1 head of garlic

1 large carrot

1/2 stick of butter, softened

1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tsp fresh sage, chopped

1 tsp black pepper

2 cups of chicken broth

2 cups of apple juice

Preheat the oven to 425

Step one:

Defrost the chicken. It’s safest to do this by leaving it in the fridge for a few days. Although I don’t recommend it (unsafe food handling an all) some people run frozen meat under warm water.

Step two:

Take the gross insides out. You can save them to make broth, if you want, or just toss them to the dog (my dog, who eats raw garlic and sticks, politely declined).

Step three:

Rinse it off and pat it dry. Seems weird, since you want a juicy bird, but this is how to get crispy skin.

Step four:

Salt the inside of the bird with about 1 tbs of salt. Then cut the top of the garlic (exposing the cloves, just cut it’s head off), chop the carrot, and put both the garlic (sans top) and the carrot inside the bird.

Step five:

In a food processor, add the butter, sage, 1 tsp salt, and the pepper. Blend it up.

Step Six:

Loosen the skin on the breast of the chicken by sliding your hands between the skin and the meat.

Then cover it with the herb butter you just made. Smear it all over the chicken, with your hands, and get it under the skin as well.

Tie the chicken feet together so it keeps it’s shape

Step seven:

Place it in a roasting pan, in the roasting rack. Under the chicken, pour 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of apple juice, but make sure the liquid doesn’t touch the chicken. Replenish the liquid when the pan starts to dry out. As the liquid evaporates, it steams the chicken, adding moisture and flavor.

Step eight:

Cook in the 425 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temp is about 165 (it will continue to cook another 5-10 degrees once removed from the oven). Bast with pan juices as necessary. Allow to rest 5 minutes before carving.

Step nine:

Feed it to people you love. Pretend like roasting a chicken is lots of hard work. People will be very impressed that you do it so often.