Tuesday, September 30, 2008

open dating

Okay, stop it, stop it right now. No, this has nothing to do with THAT. geesh...

This here's all about being sure you have fresh staples on hand for when you need them. Have you ever had to scrape away at the inside of a baking powder can to get enough for your recipe? Do you have spices from early in the Bush Administration...the FIRST Bush Administration? (I've seen Cream of Tartar with a "Vote for Nixon" sticker on it). Does the inside of that jar of alfredo in the fridge look more like Angora than Asiago?

Open Dating is our simple little way to keep tabs on a number of items throughout our kitchen. As soon as new container is opened, and we know we won't be using it all, we immediately write the open date on the lid or label. That way, we always have an idea of freshness.

Enter the Sharpie. Buy these things by the case, they are useful EVERYWHERE.

While super-duper-economy-sized spices sounds like a great monetary value, they'll soon lose culinary value if not use in a timely manner.

...speaking of using things in a timely manner... here's a great hint for those open jars of stuff that also happen to be freezer friendly - like the alfredo, applesauce, or marinara.

Get yourself a couple of ice cube trays. They don't need to be expensive -the dollar store variety will do just fine. Measure your leftovers into the trays - I found mine usually held about 2 tablespoons, but you can measure yours up ahead of time. Stack in the freezer and let freeze overnight. (if you have concerns about the foods picking up odors, you can cover with freezer wrap prior to freezing).

Once frozen hard, remove them to a zipper top plastic bag, label (with the Sharpie of course!) and store.

Little cubes of juice are great in the summer in ice tea - they don't water it down.

Little cubes of pasta sauce (any flavor) are good for single servings, or adding to another recipe.

Little cubes of applesauce -well they can be used in baking... but that's another post for another day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

who's who in the kitchen

Neither one of us just started cooking one day - each one of us was taught and influenced by a variety of experiences, and we still continue to learn, taking ideas from one cookbook or chef or restaurant and incorporating it into what works for us. Wherever possible we will try to cite our original inspiration, and we have links to some of our favorite cooking blogs and shows. Many of these people have influenced not only our cooking, but also our food photography and presentation. We hope to make them proud by our efforts here.

Regina, Reg, Reege, Mommy

First Cooking Memories: Baking Christmas Cookies with the family

Cooking Influences: Mom's Italian influenced cuisine, four years of living and eating in Japan, many hours of FoodTV, and being able to bounce ideas off of Matt, who will then put them to the test.
Favorite Go-To Recipe:
Meatloaf or Lazy Lasagna (both recipes to be shared later)

Favorite Herb/Spice: OOh - a toughie. Much depends on what I am cooking. I like my herbs fresh from the garden when possible - basil, oregano, chives, nira (garlic chive), parsley - and a dash of cinnamon makes anything comforting. And although I don't cook with it much - I LOVE wasabi!!!

"If I were on a deserted island with one food it would be..." Another toughie - but it would probably be cheese.

Name: Matt, Chooch, Daddy

First Cooking Memories: November '72... standing on a chair in the kitchen, with an apron wrapped around my chest, making molasses bar cookies (future post) with Grandma "Little Grandma" Spahn as Mom and Dad bring my new baby sister home from the hospital.

Cooking Influences: Mom (of course), my older sisters, Little Grandma, any chef who had a cooking show on PBS, most chefs on Food Network, especially Alton Brown (sorry, I'm a kitchen geek, too).

Favorite Go-To Recipe:
Good Eats Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese (with slight variations)

Favorite Herb/Spice: Does a blend count? While I like fresh basil and parsley, I like to reach for my rendition of a classic Louisiana Seasoning. Mine involves cutting WAY back on the salt, and boosting the paprika.

"If I were on a deserted island with one food it would be..." a good loaf of bread.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

sunday morning waffles

We have a Sunday morning tradition around our house. We sleep in (the only day we REALLY get to), Munchkin watches PBS, Regina reads the paper (cover-to-cover), and I make waffles.

But not just waffles... my special waffles.

Years ago, I found a basic waffle recipe, and I've been tweaking ever since. Here we go...

Daddy's Special Waffles
(make 3-4 full waffles)

1-1/2 C all-purpose (AP) flour ( I prefer unbleached, unbromated)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted but not hot.
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (use the real stuff)
1-1/4 C (10 oz.) milk (I use 2% 'cuz it's on hand)
  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour the melted butter into a medium mixing bowl (an 8-cup Pyrex measuring bowl works great because you can melt the butter in it to start.) Whisk the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly beaten. CAUTION: Be sure the melted butter is not too hot, we don't want the eggs to cook... yet.
  3. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla.
  4. Drizzle in the milk and whisk until combined.
  5. Add the dry mixture, all at once, to the wet mixture*, and stir to combine, but don't over beat. Really, don't worry about the lumps... they cook out.
  6. Set aside for a few minute to prep the waffle iron. The rest will let the baking powder start to do it's thang.
  7. Plug your waffle iron to preheat it. Set it at the brown-ness level of your choice. Frankly, these things only need two settings: off and full-on.
  8. Check you iron's owner's manual (you still have it, right? right?) to determine the batter-capacity. Ours holds one cup of batter, so to make it easier, we employ our 1/4 C. ladle (also great for pouring pancakes and ladling, well, ladley things).
  9. When the iron tells you it's ready, and most models will, load it up and clamp down the lid and wait for "all done" signal, be it ding, buzz or blink.
  10. Remove the waffley goodness to a place and ship it IMMEDIATELY to the table... or feel the wrath of a little boy who LOVES his waffles. If you decide to make a bunch and serve them all at once, just place the waffles on a wire rack, nestled in a 1/2 sheet pan, cover the lot with aluminum foil in a pre-heated 200°F oven.
*Yes, I know, I know, most recipes like this use the 'muffin method', where the wet is added to the dry. I choose the reverse because at 7AM on a Sunday morning, I'd rather shake out dry than scrape out wet.

Serving Variations
'Round these parts, we're partial to butter and good maple syrup. Notice I said 'good maple syrup', you know the REAL stuff. Yes, earlier in life I was smitten with the curvy temptress in brown glass with her sugary sweet goodness, but have since seen the errors of my ways. I'm a real maple syrup guy now, be it medium or dark amber grade.

Of course, when the blueberries are fresh and readily available at the local Farmers' Market (anyone need to buy a good farmer?), then the toppings go in this order: butter, blueberries, syrup, whipped cream (sorry, too early in the day to whip it myself so I use the canned stuff) and then, for a bit of flair, a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar (bam?)

Leftovers (you're kidding me, right?!?)
As I said before, Boomper loves waffles, so we always try to freeze a few from each batch. Wrap them tightly with plastic wrap (Press 'n Seal freezer wrap works great for this) and store in a freezer zip top bag. Don't worry about how long they'll last in the freezer... they won't last that long.

So, did you get all of that? I hope you like 'em!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

hi there.

For any of you that read Regina's blog or Matt's blog, you've probably gotten the idea that we both like to eat... sometimes too much...and that Matt especially likes to cook, although Regina knows her way around the kitchen, too. Our meals are often a collaboration of ideas and effort, sometimes including child-wrangling duties to give the other person room to work, and we love to test the results.

Working full time, commuting, and sometimes cooking on the fly has led to some favorite recipes, fortuitous accidents, and short cuts that have been sanity savers at times.

"Any ideas for dinner?" Yes, we have a few. Join us as we combine efforts here to share this with you.