Saturday, December 31, 2016

Be Your Most Adventurous Self This New Year

What advice can be given to home chefs and bakers on this New Year's Eve?. Be bold. Be daring in the New Year! Broaden your culinary horizons. I know I will and it's going to be a wild, fun trip into the culinary unknown.

This is the year to be bold. Experiment. The worst thing that can happen is that the dish doesn;t come out well. Then tweak it. Don't be afraid. Dare. If you want to try meringues , then do so. Yearning to make that pineapple upside down cake or Dr. Pepper ribs, then do it. If there's a cuisine that you've longed to study in a cooking class , then go for the classes. They're not only informational, they're fun and you'll meet like-minded home chefs that will be instant friends. Turn your kitchen into a lap where you can mix and match different and diverse flavors. Who knows? You make come up with the next hit fo the new year.

The same ideology applies to gadgets too. If you want a mandoline, then buy it. A fryer? Or that frying pan that can cook and bake anything. Definitely add them to your arsenal of kitchen tools. Invest in meat and candy thermometers. These are must haves in any kitchen. They'll even inspire you to try bigger roasts and different forms of candy.If you want that cotton candy machine, go for it. It's not just as a fun party treat, Use it to decorate cakes and cupcakes. Try to make a bacon flavored one  to test your limits.Get the apparatuses to cure bacon at home or create  kimchee  and  sauerkraut. Have your significant other build a smokehouse or curing room for your foray into cold cuts.

The New Year is your oyster. Crack it open. Serve it with hot sauce or baked spinach. Turn it into your signature dish!

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Year To Fly

Every home chef needs to grow. I know I do and that will be one of my many New Year's resolutions . What will I do? What will I try?

Thanks to a new oven, I will be baking a lot. I've already baked Ghiradelli's Double Chocolate Brownies.They came out a little too gooey , so hopefully with more practice I'll be baking much more firmer ones. With baking comes decorating so I am definitely going to be honing my icing - hello again buttercream - along with practicing rose and leaf skills. Savory baking is also going to be high on my list. I want to experiment with strata, and rediscover the luscious leeks on toast ( double yum) and my Swabian zweibelkugen or onion pie (again double yum) a dense quiche like confection, rich with eggs, cream and onions. Homemade pizza will also be making quite a few appearances as well.

Another must is rediscovering roasts, hams, chickens, turkeys and London broils. It's going to be wonderful, with crunchy, crisp skins and slices of tender meat.There will also be sides  that will be cooked ( and all of these will be shown as Foodie Pantry how tos).I want to relearn how to make scalloped potatoes and baked Mac with bacon.As with cuisines, since French and Filipino are going to be big this upcoming year I want to expand into that, especially in creating the perfect crepe.

Every home chef and baker should resolve to expand their culinary arsenal.I know I will.I get to grow which makes for a better cook - or so I hope!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Be The Adventurer

One of the best resolution a home chef or home baker can make for the New Year is to be more adventurous. It's time to learn new techniques or try new ingedients. It's a fun learning experience that has some tasty rewards.

One of the best experience for any home chef is signing up for any kind of cooking or baking classes. It pays to learn from experts. They can show you how to expertly hold knives or use a sous-vide.They can introduce you to such sophisticated cuisines as French and Vietnamese or how to make a pizza or expertly frost a cake.

Make 2017 the year you try new one ingredients. Experiment. Go to Asian markets to sample exotic spices. Taste a fish, poultry or any type of exotic red meat .Go for emu or bison.Or go healthy. Go vegan.It's not only healthy but also tests your creativity as a cook.

This new year be adventurous.Be brave.Be curious. All this will make you grow as a home chef and baker.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Food Trends For The New Year

We all want 2016 to end.Foodwise, it was an OK year.Cheetohs may have made a comeback , thanks to a certain presidential candidate but that's it.What trends will bloom in the new year?

The New York Times Food section wondered this too in today's issue.Kim Severson, a regular contributor, wrote about trends of past years.1997 brought us the exotic wrap, now a staple of delis and luncheon platters every where.2006 brought us the uboquituous olive bar that is a supermarket must
2002 ushered in bubble teas while we have 2008 to thank for the rebirth of kale.Macaroons and whoopie pies were the it girls of 2011.

Trends used to take two to three months to percolate back in the late Nineties.Social media now can birth a trend and grow it overnight. Every December food wonks and PR firms throw out foods and see if they stick. 2017 is promising to see an interest in such diverse cuisines as French and Filipino. Natural grains such teff and sorghum may be in every baked good from cupcakes to breads. Egg yolks ,long under fire for being bad for you, is now going to be a top ingredient.Not surprisingly, hemp is also going to be hot.

What else will be the most trendiest food this year?It could come from any foodie. It could be hemp crepes or a Filipino egg dish. Any guess is a good one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Technical Difficulties

The pantry is having technical difficulties tonight.
Hopefully we'll be back tomorrow night!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best Christmas Gifts

What does a foodie and home chef  want  for Christmas? Anything that deals with food and the kitchen. Well, I don't know about any of you out there but I got my wish in the form of a madeleine pan and n eight piece glass baking set. It has definitely set the juices flowing again.

As you can see I received the much-coveted madeleine pan. I love madeleines and have been dying to bake them for a long time. Now with a tin and working oven I am definitely going to try my hand at this. These cake-like cookies are a bit labor intensive. but worth it the work, The recipe requires melted butter to be gently folded in along with freshly grated lemon zest. Baked madeleines are then dusted with granulated sugar while still warm. There are recipes for lavender infused ones and chocolate. The first is made with lavender infused honey while the chocolate ones are more like miniature baked cakes.Once I master the original recipe I'd like to move on to the espresso ones with espresso  icing. There is even a  savory madeleine recipe that involves  Parmesan cheese and rosemary or chives. These would be perfect for a brunch or an afternoon snack, along with being a bread for salad Nicoise.

My second gift is an eight piece bake set from Anchor-Hocking. This is exciting too because there's a wide range of dishes and treats I can bake. The larger casserole dish has got me thinking and researching chili bakes, those yummy yummy combos of chili and cornbread. They're kind of like a Southwestern shepherd's pie.but with the extra zing of chili powder. There is a covered  smaller sized dish for smaller bakes , such as bread puddings or strata,I am looking forward to making pies and quiches with homemade crusts too,.I've just found an easy quiche crust recipe that calls for olive oil, flour and cold water. Another recipe I 'd love to tackle is deep dish pizza, layered with mozzarella and veggies.I could also make a childhood favorite, Crazy Crust Pizza using Bisquick. The set also comes with two ramekins for custard or possibly for melting butter or margarine in the microwave. There are all sorts of possibilities with this amazing set and I;'m looking forward to trying out  scores of great recipes.

I've got my Christmas dishes and am chomping at the bit to try them out. I can't wait to tackle the complicated but oh so delcious madeleine recipes and the other baking recipes with my new Anchor Hocking set. It's going to be a fun winter ahead, as I try all sorts of new dishes in my cozy kitchen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Merry Christmas and Happy Happy Hannukah

To all my readers around the world have a Merry and food filled Christmas and Happy Happy Hannukah!!!

Enjoy these festive and ancient holidays with the best of friends and best of families

My newest feline foodie , Sunshine aka Sunny,

Friday, December 23, 2016

That Last Minute Frenzy.

The best part of Christmas is the array of dishes and drinks. The worst part is that last minute race to get everything.One of the best moves to alleviate this is to make a list of what's needed. It saves on getting doubles or forgetting a vital ingredient or component of dinner.

Tomorrow is going to be one of the busiest time of year.The roads are going to be clogged. The supermarkets are going to be jammed with home chefs and bakers looking for everything from cloves to colored sugar. It's going to be a mess, What can help anyone is making a list of what's needed. Check to see if you have all the ingredients necessary to create a holiday dinner.Also remember to stock up on the items that you know will go fast. This usually means soda, rolls, olives, and cheese. If you have to go to the store, remember that stores can run out , and the holiday weekend can interfere with deliveries. If that's the case settles for substitutes, like the generic brands. Don't go on a multi store mission.Again the main thoroughfares are not going to be the best, Stay put. Most big supermarkets like Stop and Shop and Acme have enough variety that you can find substitutes.

Another way to deal with that last minute frenzy is think outside the box. Dollar stores can provide you with everything from mints to tablecloths. They're great places to stock up on plastic cups and glasses  along with centerpieces and favors.Any dollar store has salad tongs, meat forks and a whole slew of kitchen tools to facilitate prep time. Also pick up dishwashing soap there too for all that washing up afterwards.If you run out of something during cooking or baking ,don't despair. Do what home chefs and bakers have done for centuries - borrow. If you run out of anything, then rely on friends, family and/or neighbors to supply you with any ingredient.Payback could be a cup of whatever was borrowed. An even better return is a meal in or a plate of cookies.If you can;t borrow - innovate. . Honey can be used for sugar. Nutmeg can be a sub for cinnamon. Create a new dish using what you have in the house.You may surprise yourself  along with family and guests.

Don't be swept away in the last minute holiday frenzy. Do what you can to avoid it It'll make for two days of easy cooking and baking..

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gingerbread House 101

Everyone wants to make a gingerbread house for Christmas. However, it's one of the hardest baked projects to make and even experienced home bakers may balk at baking it. There is one solution - the pre fab kind .That's the one I bought at my local Walgreen's. Was it simple? I 'll let the pictures tell the story
The brand was Walgreen's on brand Savor The Season, costing only a mere $6.99. It looked easy to do, with six pre stamped pieces and an assembly tray.See below.
The house pieces are first put in the four canals or channels. This provides support something a homebaked gingerbread house doesn't have. Icing has to be applied around the pieces edges, acting as a mortar.

This has to be kneaded for two to three minutes to give it a good adhesion to the gingerbread. This is where it gets hairy and the swearing starts. The icing is kind of like a tasteless royal  icing and all that manipulation does nothing.It does come with two kinds of decorating tips, one for outlining the other for creating those snowy mounds dripping off the roof. Except the icing really drips off the roof and onto the assembly tray,It also drips down the windows and doors, giving the house a bizarre Salvador Dali effect. 

See? It only gets worse.

The roof is only slightly better. The decorations are made from Sprees, or Pucker up, peppermint discs, candy beads, and gumdrops. Unfortunately, this went on to the second problem.
The candy proved to be too heavy for the icing and fell off.The box's picture  show cheery red and green decorations, perfectly applied. Yeah, right.They had to be applied a second and third time , thanks to a heavy blob of icing and laying the candy flat against the gingerbread. Luckily it more or less worked out.

It looks cute even though the windowsills are a bit wonky. If I have to make another one, I will decorate first and then assemble.

So how would I rate this?Interesting but frustrating. To any
one getting this kit, decorate the sides and roof first, let the decorations  settle and then glue together, 

All I can say is just get it. It may turn out fairy tale perfect. It may turn out to be a salute to surrealism.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Tasty Holiday Issue

The New York Times has given us some great holiday recipes and today is yet another issue of yummy Christmas and Hannukah dishes. It's a wide variety of different flavors and textures. along with a vast array of diverse ingredients. Best of all any of these can be a holiday tradition made year after year.

One of the best articles is by Food regular , Julia Moskin, She wrote about that rich , eggy dense pudding - flan. Her recipe is the perfect recipe.It is a smooth textured one  with the zing of lemon added. Cinnamon can be subbed in for the lemon, for a Northern Spanish twist. One of the most disconcerting aspects of the dessert is the caramel topping. This is usually a burnt sugar ,made with just sugar melted in a heavy saucepan. Home chefs attempting this should try a "wet" caramel, with water mixed in with the sugar.It will finish off the flan with that burnt umber syrup.What can go before the flan is Dave Tanis of A City Kitchen 's column.It is a classic French dish that also has bouquet garni and carrots.Horseradish can be slathered on them for a sharp contrast.

Hannukah is also celebrated, thanks to Melissa Clark's olive oil challah recipe. along with Joan Nathan's article on latkes..The first celebrates the miracle of the oil thanks to the addition of this classic ingredient.It is a braided bread that can also be repurposed for French toast and bread puddings. Challah dough is one of the easiest doughs to work with for home chefs. If you want the most traditional dish, then think latkes.Joan Nathan wrote about them in her article. These are not exactly the classic ones, thanks to Chef Daniel Rose.They're made with clarified butter along with being transformed into one big , crispy pancake as opposed to a slew of tiny little pancakes.Onions are also added for an earthy sweetness.It's fried in grapeseed oil and served with creme fraiche and an apple compote instead of the usual sour cream and apple sauce.It can also be used a a based for Eggs Benedict too.

These recipes will make Christmas and Hannukah more memorable. They're classics updated for a better , more enhanced taste. Make anyone part of the holiday cooking tradition.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sweet Homemade Treats

One of the best gifts any home baker or candy maker can give is one or more of their on creations. Everyone loves basket filled with homemade cookies or a tin of freshly made peanut brittle or fudge. Even better is a gingerbread house that's not only a fun nibble but a beautiful decoration.The best part is that treat making is relatively easy and not that labor intensive.

If you  have no time but still want to give a yummy gift then go to your local Walgreen's. They are selling Savor The Season Gingerbread House Kits.

It has everything, including already filled frosting tubes along with candy beads and Smarties along with peppermint discs for decoration. The house itself is a "prefab" already baked and cut out.It can be created in six easy steps. Walgreen's also sells gingerbread villages that are also easy to construct. It's three small homes along with a church. You can also create your own by using a mix.Cookies are another big treat . Make a few different kinds like the classic chocolate chip and shortbread along with decorated sugar cookies.Customize them with the recipient's name and even a cookie portrait. Sprinkle holiday candies like Hershey's mint Kisses or M&Ms for an added fancy treat.

Candy also is a treat. Homemade is even better..Many home chefs balk at the idea of making candy , afraid of either getting bad results or burned. Acquiring a candy thermometer helps.It can tell you exactly what temperature the mixture is . As for bad results, look for a clear, crisp day with no humidity. Moisture in the air has a definite and negative effect on candy's texture, creating a very soft texture when hard is desired. Simple candy recipes like fudge
is a great and yummy gift.For a quicker cook, use the microwave. A simple one calls for chocolate chips, and condensed milk. Add nuts such as walnuts and pecans  for texture or mint or brandy for an added boost of flavor.Peanut brittle is one of the simplest and most delicious to make.It's just sugar, butter,baking soda, and nuts cooked together to form a rich syrup. Vary it by subbing in other nuts such as walnuts or Macadamia nuts.Omit the nuts and you have toffee.

Homemade sweet treats are the best gifts in the world. It shows your love as well as your love of baking and candy making. Make a basket of any of these goodies for a wonderful Christmas memory.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Make The Ordinary Extraordinary

With the holidays coming up many home chefs feel too tired to cook this week, many home chefs are taking it easy this week. Meals will be simple, with home chefs saving the more elaborate fare for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yet those simple meals can be made with an easy flourish. It's not even labor intensive. It's just simple food with a few extras.

One of the easiest meals to make is soup. Canned soup is nice.It's easy to heat up and serve. What makes it even better is serving hot rolls with it along with a salad. Some stores such as Acme have in store baked biscuits. These can be turned into, hot just from the oven ones simply by covering them with a wet paper towel and popping them into the microwave for thirty seconds.. This gives them a tender moist crumb along with being perfect for a pat of butter.They go great with any kind of soup from tomato to any cream. A soup that 's quick to make but has a true homemade taste is Bear Creek.It's just adding water to a powdered mix and stirring for fifteen minutes. They have great flavors like potato and cheddar beef along with an instant chili.If you;re still craving true homemade think frittata. This is the omelet's Italian cousin and can be made into a delicate crepelike concoction. Home chefs can add fancy extras such as pancetta or even truffles. Serve with a light Reisling for even more luxury.

Even the simplest of desserts can be turned into something extraordinary too. By no everyone is sick of all those holiday cookies.Try a store-bought angel food cake, such as the loaf ones from Stop & Shop. Pair it with sliced strawberries which can be bought fresh and whipped cream. Sliced peaches can also be used too..It's a nice, refreshing break from all those heavy holiday fruitcakes and desserts, almost like a return to summer.Another simple extravagance is sherbert in citrus. This is te time for oranges. Why not scoop them out and replace with layers of  unseeded orange slices and orange sherbert. The same can be done with lemons and limes too.Just remember to remove the seeds before preparing. Even though it is chilly out, a simple dish of vanilla ice cream can be a treat. Top it with one of Smucker's rich fudge or salted caramel toppings. These can be warmed in the microwave for a warm gooey treat.An even more luxurious treat is drizzling a good brandy over the scoops.It's a nice way to unwind after a hectic day of shopping or work.

Make the simple luxurious just by adding little extras to your meals and desserts. It makes for easy but lush eating. Perfect for this time of year.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Fun Snowy Day In The Kitchen

A snowy day means a lot of fun to kids. It's a day out sledding down hills and making snow angels.It also can be a fun day inside, teaching the kids how to make everything from haute cuisine to fast food favorites.

Before you do anything, make sure you have all the ingredients. It's no fun running out of milk or flour and either braving the weather to go to the store or heading over to the neighbors with an empty measuring cup.If you're making any kind of dough, then have a five-pound sack of flour. Also have other essentials on hand too. Get extra eggs, cheese and tomatoes. Make sure the pantry is stocked with pizza and tomato sauces along with packets of easy to make sauces such as Hollandaise. Also, make sure you have enough milk. You'll need it for both cooking and making hot chocolate. The cooking fun can start with breakfast. French toast is an easy cook and can be made with any kind of bread, from challah  for a rich , chewy slice or whole wheat for a somewhat healthy start the day nosh. Older kids can even make it themselves. Younger home chefs can learn how to make maple butter - an easy mix of maple syrup and butter. You can add pumpkin pie spice for a zippier flavor. Kids can have fun with making omelets, adding favorites such as pepperoni and cheese for added taste.Breakfast sandwiches are also fun and kids can have a ball creating their own combos.

For the more sophisticated little gourmands, introduce them to Eggs Benedict This can be made not only for breakfast but also for lunch and even dinner.Again it's an easy cook that even six year olds can do. Depending upon their skill level, they can toast the Engish muffins or poach the eggs. Packaged Hollandaise sauce is a cinch to make.It's just adding melted butter and then stirring until well mixed. Those English muffins can also make neat pizzas too. Who doesn't love a personalized pizza dripping with tangy sauce and gooey ,mozzarella cheese. Load on your favorite toppings, from black olives to mushrooms to even salami. Stock up on several packages of English muffins because no one can stop at just one mini pie. For a more of a challenge, try tacos Kids not only love eating these , they also love making these as well. Again they can learn safe chopping techniques as they cut up the tomatoes and lettuce to cooking the meat fillings. Other fun Mexican  style treats are guacamole and salsa which again any baby novice chef can whip up. A snowy day also calls for spaghetti and meatballs. They're easy to make, especially the meatballs. It's the perfect time to introduce them to family recipes along with the enjoyment of making a satisfying meal.

A snowy day means fun , especially in the kitchen, Show the kids how to make favorite recipes to while away the hours. They'll enjoy not only cooking but making delicious dishes too.

Friday, December 16, 2016

That Holiday Baking Guilt

Yes, it's that time of the year when all home chefs are expected to magically transform into bakers. That's great if they have a lot of time along with having a knack for turning their kitchen into a Keebler tree. As for the rest of us? Uh oh, here comes that holiday baking guilt.

We all feel that our families deserve the best especially around the holidays. We want them to have the best presents, the best Christmas meal, the best time ever.In other words, a nearly impossible experience only exacerbated by giving them store-bought cookies to go with that Christmas morning hot cocoa or leaving Oreos out for Santa. There are a couple of solutions here. One is the classic  Pillsbury Slice and Bakes which gives the same homemade taste without all that work. As we can all attest the chocolate chip ones taste exactly like the Toll House recipe.The chocolate is gooey, even hours out of the oven and the cookie itself has rich brown sugar taste.There is also their sugar cookie flavor which is perfect if you have little artists who love to decorate. The snaps can even be turned into sandwich cookies thanks to the addition of a super easy cream cheese filling. It's just the cheese (or Neuchatel if you want to go fancy ) confectioner's sugar and a small drop of vanilla. Roll in red and green colored sugar for a fun holiday look.

Of course the second, easiest of the easiest holiday cookie solutions is bakery cookies. Some, such as the century old B&W Bakery in Hackensack, New Jersey have an amazing array of recipes that have been passed down from the bakery's original German owners. What I love about them is that they don;t follow trends. You're not going to see anise curry cupcakes or pistachio basil macarons. These are just simple butter stars and plain almond macarons.
You can see just how home made looking the butter stars are, with just a drop of green or red sugar in the middle, affixed with a simple egg white wash or glue. They are mouthfuls of pure butter and sugar, light, crisp and delicate. B&W's macarons' are the perfect holiday cookie, too. These bite size rounds have just the right amount of sweet chewiness with the perfectly laid back taste of almonds - and nothing else. I don;t feel guilty when I serve these to family and friends as a holiday treat.To me they're a holiday tradition, Also, with the cookies already taken care of, I can concentrate on wrapping and cleaning,No guilt there, just relief that I have more time freed up.

If you;re too busy to bake, don't. There are a few alternatives to scratch cookies, from Pillsbury to your favorite local bakery.Everyone can still have tasty sweet treats and be happy. No need to suffer any regret from not making the perfect cookie.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Easy Breakfast Dinner

One of the most fun and easiest suppers to make is breakfast for dinner. It's a fun way of having all those yummy morning treats like eggs done anyway or French toast. A tasty one that's a crowd pleaser here in New Jersey is the classic pork roll or Taylor ham with soft boiled eggs. It's an easy cook for both novices and experienced chefs.

Before cooking the pork roll remember to make four slits at the edges, usually at the compass points , north east south and west. They cook up better and don't resemble sombreros Or Mexican hats as I used to call them).

They're supposed to be cooked in a minimum of butter or margarine, but I've always loved them swimming in a molten puddle of either one. It's good to fry the eggs in afterward.

I've opted for sunny side up or fried. The yolks are perfectly runny , making a delicious part of a trio of them, Taylor ham and white bread. This last you can use any brand but I prefer Pepperidge Farm. It has a sweetness and chewiness that works well with the other two textures. Pork roll also tastes good with fluffy scrambled eggs too or it can be cut up into omelets.  The choice is yours.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Recipes Of The Year

The New York Times Food section has comes out with their recipes of the year. One of the most favorite and famous was Sam Sifton's Mississippi Roast. This was a vastly popular one, consisting of pot roast, a stick of butter and ranch dressing.. It's a great mid-winter dish, especially paired with egg noodles or homemade dumplings. A variation on that was a plain pot roast, using the beef cut for pot eu feu.Again this is a great chilly day meal.

Another fave was Middle Eastern Herb and Garlic Chicken.It's garlicky and lemony with the right amount of spice. Chicken also stars in an enchilada recipe with a tangy salsa verde.Creamy corn pasta with basil also using fresh corn and scallion. Fresh from the stand corn is recommended but since's it's December, use the frozen stuff.Use orechette or farfalle for the pasta.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Easy Meals For The Pre Holidays

The pre-holiday time can be crazy. It's a time of non-stop shopping or house cleaning. It's when  you're too tired to even chew, let alone cook. What to do?

I'll be honest I head to Acme or Stop and Shop.It's just easier. Look at what I got at my local Acme today.

It's their brand of gravy which tastes exactly like homemade.I paired it with their fresh from the bird slices of turkey

The meat was tender and juicy ,with a nice salty, crisp skin attached ,  tasting as if it came out of my new oven itself. I paired the two over slices of Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread.Yummmy!!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Pantry Is Open!!!!

I am more than happy to announce that Foodie Pantry has reopened!This will be a new era thanks to the new Frigidaire stove below:

This renaissance period means more pictures of different dishes being prepared, definitely more baked goods and decorating . Of course, there will be the same cookbook and product reviews as well as the usual Wednesday and Thursday Times food section analysis. It wouldn;t be Foodie Pantry without all that. Hopefully, there will be more celebrity chef and food entrepreneur interviews as well as reviews of cooking shows and cooking channels.

Welcome back!