No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

December 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Desserts


These cookies are also called Top of the Stove Cookies. They can be a little tricky to make, but they are excellent when done correctly.
These cookies make a great Christmas Cookie. If you like making cookie baskets for presents,
I highly recommend that you add this cookie to your bundle.


2 quart Saucepan
Mixing bowl
wooden spoon
1 Cup Measure
1/2 Cup Measure
Tablespoon Measure
Teaspoon Measure
Wax Paper
2 regular silverware spoons
a timer. (Digital is preferred)

Oatmeal cookies with a touch of unsweetened co...

No bake oatmeal cookie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4 Tablespoons Bakers Cocoa
2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine
3 cups Oatmeal (1 Minute Oatmeal is fine, Quaker Rolled Oats is Preferred)
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Flavoring

***Before you do anything. Place 2 sheets of wax paper down on a table.***

1. Take the mixing bowl and combine Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, and Vanilla Flavoring. Set Aside.

2. Take the Large Saucepan and mix the sugar, Cocoa, Butter, Milk, and a dash of salt into it.

3. Place the saucepan with the ingredients on the stove and heat the mixture on high heat. Stir until the butter has completely melted.

4. Allow mixture to come to a boil that cannot be stirred down. (This Is Important!).  Time the mixture at a rolling boil for 1 minute! No Longer!

5. Remove from heat and stir in the oatmeal, peanut butter and vanilla from the bowl.

6. Once mixed in, the mixture will feel a bit stiff. QUICKLY spoon out into 1 teaspoon size dollops onto the wax paper.

7. Let cool until firm

This recipe takes precise timing and speed. If it comes out gooey, you started timing the 1 minute too soon. If it comes out really crumbly, you started the 1 minute too late, or you weren’t quick enough on spooning it out onto the wax paper. When done properly, the cookies will be firm and chocolaty.

Add 1 cap full of almond flavoring for an Almond Joy experience.
Replace Regular cocoa for Dark Chocolate Cocoa for deeper dark chocolate flavor.
Use crunchy peanut butter in place of creamy for different texture
For a more gooey cookie, reduce boiling time by 10 seconds.

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How to Make Incredible Pan Sauces

December 9, 2013 by  
Filed under How To, Meats, Tips

How to Make Incredible Pan Sauces

By: The Reluctant Gourmet

If you want to elevate your cooking skills to a new level and add a whole lot more to your gastronomy repertoire, learn how to make a simple pan sauce. With this technique in your cooking bag of tricks, you can turn a simple pan-fried steak into a mouth-watering meal, a plain boneless chicken breast into a delicious feast, or a modest pork chop into a scrumptious banquet. Ok, maybe I’m stretching a bit but check this out.

Deglazing the pan with apple cider

Deglazing the pan with apple cider (Photo credit: ilovebutter)

Restaurants chefs use this technique all the time. Basically, they cook something in a sauté pan over pretty high heat until it’s done and leaves a bunch of brown caramelize bits of “stuff”in the pan. You look at this “stuff” in the pan and say to yourself, “Now how am I going to clean this ‘stuff’ off the pan? What a mess! I wish I had used a non stick pan.”

The “stuff” has a name, it’s called “fond” and you want that “fond” stuck to your pan because it is packed with incredible flavors. It’s also easy to remove by adding a little liquid to the pan and using a wooden spoon to dissolve it. This is called deglazing and can be done with wine, brandy, fortified wines, stock, cider, fruit juices or most typically a combination of two. Just be careful if you use wine to remove the pan from the heat so the alcohol doesn’t ignite and blow up in your face. I’ve spoken with chefs who have seen this happen.

The next steps are to continue to cook the liquid in the pan until it is reduced by half and finish by adding several pats of butter to thicken and enhance the flavor of the sauce. If you ever knew how much butter professional chefs use in restaurants to “enhance” flavor, you would be amazed. I sometimes think they make their dishes too rich because I get that uncomfortable “too full” feeling later on, but then again, it’s so good while you’re dining. Now those are just the basics.

To create more complexity to the sauce you’ll want to add some aromatics like garlic or shallots for a subtle but additional layer of flavor. Then you might want to add some additional ingredients such as mushrooms, mustards, chutneys, herbs and/or spices to give even more complexity and flavor.

For more information on making classic and quick pan sauces at home including what kind of pan to use, how much deglazingliquid to use and two example recipes for the same sauce, one classic and the other quick, go to

About the author: G. Stephen Jones, The Reluctant Gourmet, created a web site back in 1997 as a hobby to assist other novice cooks who may find the art of cooking a little daunting. As an ex-Wall Street broker and Stay-at-Home Dad, I try to explore cooking from a different perspective. Visit for more tips, techniques and recipes.

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How to Make an Omelet

December 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Eggs

By Diane Watkins

Eggs are wonderfully nutritious foods.  Now that doctors have decided its ok to eat them again, its time to revive the omelet.

The Hardware:

You will need a heavy skillet with curved sides.  A thin pan will not properly hold the heat and will tend to burn the omelet.  An 6 inch skillet is a good size for a 2 egg omelet, an 8 inch skillet for 3 or 4 eggs.  You will find that it will work best if you use your omelet skillet only for omelets.

If possible, clean the skillet by wiping it with a cloth.  This will allow a thin layer of grease to remain on the skillet and season it to prevent sticking next time the skillet is used.  Whenever possible avoid using detergents, they should not be necessary.

If the filling from your omelet should melt onto the skillet and stick, clean this with a sprinkle of salt and wipe with a paper towel.

Heat the skillet slowly so that the heat is evenly distributed.  A heavy skillet will aid in heat distribution as well and retain the heat.  Place the skillet onto a medium –medium low heat and allow to heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the skillet is hot enough to sizzle butter without browning it.

Omelet med ristede jordskokker og rosmarin

Omelet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making a Basic Omelet

Choose good quality, fresh eggs.  The omelet will only be as good as your eggs.  Break the eggs into a bowl, being careful to avoid getting any shell into the eggs.  Beat the eggs with a fork just enough to combine the whites and yolks.  Do not use a beater.

2 or 3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon butter
desired filling ingredients

  1. Heat the pan slowly over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.  Test the pan by dropping ½ teaspoon butter into the pan.  If the butter sizzles immediately without browning, then the pan is ready.  If the butter blackens, the pan is too hot.  Remove the pan from the heat for a minute and wipe the burned butter out of the pan with a paper towel.
  2. When the pan is hot, stir the water, eggs, and salt together just enough to break the eggs and mix the whites and yolks.
  3. Place a teaspoon of butter into the pan.  Hold the with your left hand and pour the eggs into the pan.  (Reverse if you are left handed.)  Continue to stir the eggs in the pan with your right hand, while tilting the pan with your left.  This allows all of the moisture to run to the sides.  You want to gently lift and push the eggs on the sides and allow the eggs to run under the set eggs, but don’t break up the eggs.  Within a few seconds the eggs will be set and shiny.  Stop stirring!
  4. Place your desired filling into the center of the omlet.  Cook for  minute.  Flip half  the omlet over onto the other half and slide the omelet onto a warm plate.  If you cannot achieve flipping half the omlet, you can fold the omelet into thirds.
  5. The eggs should be eaten immediately while still moist and soft.  If you need to hold the omelet while the rest of the family’s are cooked, place them onto a large heated ovenproof platter and put into a heated 250 degree oven.  If you like your omelets dryer, place under the broiler for 30 seconds.


For a Fluffy Omelet

Separate 3 or 4 eggs.  Beat the yolks with a tablespoon of milk and add ½ teaspoon of salt.  Beat the whites until stiff, but not dry.  Fold the whites into the yolks.  Start the omelet in a hot buttered skillet, but finish it in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes.  Serve immediately

Variations and Filling Ingredients

Herb Omelet

Chop 1 tablespoon each of fresh chives, parsley and chervil finely.  Stir herbs into the eggs before cooking.  Or use ½ teaspoon each of the dried variety, but add spark to the flavor by adding 2 tablespoons chopped fresh spinach leaves.


Cheese:  Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons desired cheese into the center in step 4.

Ham:  Add ¼ cup finely chopped ham with or without the cheese.

Country Omelet:  Fill with finely chopped onion, green pepper, celery, and tomato with 2 tablespoons of meat (ham, salami, or sausage)

Just about anything you can imagine can be put into an omelet.  Don’t add too much filling, put some on top if you want more.  Enjoy!

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Candied Orange Peel Recipe, A Traditional Southern Favorite

December 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Desserts

By Diane Watkins

Candied Orange Peel is a traditional Southern favorite.  Generations of cooks have created many recipes to use all of the available food- including the peelings.  Luckily for us, as the peel is one of the most flavorful parts of the orange.

Boiling the peel three times removes the bitter flavor from the peel.  If you have scraped ALL of the white away in step 1, you can skip the repeated boilings, as the bitterness comes from the white pith.  I choose to boil the peels once, then scrape the pith away with a spoon and boil again.  The boiling softens the pith and makes it easy to remove, but the peel is more fragile at this stage, so be careful not to tear it.

Candied orange peel, shot in Syracuse, Sicily....

Candied orange peel, shot in Syracuse, Sicily. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, October 17, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This candy is delicious served alone.  But try it used as a garnish on chocolate puddings or mousse, or chopped fine and used as a flavoring accent.  I like to add a little chopped orange peel to my tea ball before brewing for a nice orange flavored tea.

This recipe can be used with other citrus peel as well.  Consider using grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, lime, tangelos, or any mixture of these.


Candied Orange Peel

Peel of 5 oranges
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
3 cusp sugar
1  cup water

  1. Quarter and peel the oranges.  Scrape all of the white pith from the peel and discard.  Cut the remaining peel into thin strips.
  2. Place the orange peel into a saucepan and cover well with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain and repeat two more times.
  3. In a heavy saucepan, bring 2 ½ cups sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup water to a boil over low heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved, then cook for 20 minutes.  Periodically wash down any sugar crystals that may form on the side of the saucepan with a wet brush or a fork covered with a wet towel.
  4. Add peel to syrup and simmer for 15 minutes more.  Stir to prevent sticking.  Syrup should be mostly absorbed by the peel.  Be careful to avoid burning.
  5. Line a large tray or cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.
  6. Remove peel from syrup and drain, roll in remaining sugar and place onto lined cookie sheet.  Leave peel to dry overnight, then store in an airtight container.
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Gingerbread Houses – Step-by-Step

December 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Desserts, Holidays, How To

by Alison Anton

There’s no better way to spark up the holiday cheer than to create a gingerbread house with the whole family. My mom, brother and I made these every year that I can remember as a child. My mom would make the dough from her old authentic German recipe handed down from her mom’s mom, and we’d cut out the patterns, assemble the house, frost it and adorn it from top to bottom.

Things have changed a little bit since then… I adapted the dough so that it is easier to work with, and I always make sure to use all-natural ingredients and candies that have no high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or food colorings. I also incorporate dried fruits, nuts and seeds (a phenomenon that would not have occurred in the home-designs of the 70’s). Goji berries and banana chips were definitely the favorites this year!

Since the icing has to hold all the candies in place throughout the weeks before Christmas, it uses about one ton of powdered sugar that allows the icing to get rock-hard within about 30-45 minutes of being exposed to the air. I generally do not recommend powdered sugar since it is goes through such a vigorous refinement process, but for such a specific purpose, I just don’t see any way around it.

Plan to set aside at least 3 hours for making your gingerbread houses, from start to finish. The dough and frosting can be made several days in advance (see storage techniques below). The dough or baked cookies can be frozen for several months until ready to use.


Enjoy and have a very merry Christmas!

RECIPE: Gingerbread Houses – Baking, Assembling and Decorating
Yield: 1 large house (House A) OR 2 medium houses (House B) and 1 small house (House C)

This recipe makes a crisp cookie that can withstand the test of being frosted, adorned with candies and oogled over for weeks during the holiday season. The extra dough can be rolled and cut out into ginger people, but know that the cookies will be a touch harder than a typical gingerbread cookie.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups organic soft brown sugar
1 cup light organic sugar
1/4 cup molasses or sorghum syrup
4 eggs
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon allspice
1/2 cup light organic sugar

Gingerbread house ready to be assembled. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MAKING THE DOUGH: Blend the butter with the sugars and molasses in an electric mixer on medium speed until light and creamy (put the molasses into the mixer before turning it on or you will have molasses everywhere but in the dough). Add in the eggs and blend another 1-2 minutes.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and gradually add them into the mixer, scraping down the sides until incorporated. The dough will be slightly crumbly.

Remove the dough to a large bowl or a flat work surface. Bring the dough together with your hands, working it until the dough forms a smooth mass that holds together easily. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30-60 minutes before rolling.

ROLLING: Divide the dough into five pieces. Roll each piece out on a flat, floured work surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out the patterns for the house using the templates. Work quickly, as the dough is easier to cut and shape while it is still cool. Using a pastry or pizza spatula, carefully lift the pieces onto sheet pans lined with a baking liner or parchment paper (or double up two sheet pans) to keep the cookies from burning.

BAKING: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake 10 minutes, until golden, rotating the cookies halfway through baking. Cool on the pan for 1-2 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack to cool completely before assembling.

SUGAR GLUE: Heat the 1/2 cup sugar in a medium sauté pan over medium heat until it bubbles and turns a very dark brown, 8-12 minutes.

ASSEMBLING: Have ready a sturdy surface on which to place your house (inverted sheet pan, wooden or plastic cutting board, sturdy cake board, etc.)

Prepare the sugar glue, keeping it on low heat while working so that it doesn’t harden up.

Have ready a house side panel and a front or back panel. Place them together to get an idea of how they will fit. Dip the edges that will come together into the sugar glue and very quickly hold them together, assembling them at the proper angle. It should hold within 10-20 seconds. Adhere the back panel and the other side panel in the same fashion.

To assemble the roof, very quickly drizzle the sugar glue onto the top edges of one side of the house. Place one of the roof cutouts on top of the house, letting it adhere to the glue. Repeat for the other roof cutout. Drizzle glue along the top of the roof where the two panels come together.

Assemble the chimney by dipping the edges of the pieces into the glue and holding them to the roof. Assemble the door, leaving it slightly ajar. You can do the same for window panels, if desired.

Royal Icing
Yield: for 1 large house (House A) OR 2 medium houses (House B) and 1 small house (House C)
This icing gets rock-hard in order to keep the candies on top of the house and to hold throughout the weeks before Christmas. If you plan to decorate a snow-drifted yard with your house, make a double batch of the icing. This recipe uses raw egg whites, but if you are hesitant, they can be substituted with meringue powder for the same affect (use recipe from any packaged meringue powder).
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound organic powdered sugar, sifted or whirled in a food processor

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until the frosting stands in firm peaks and is stiff enough to hold a sharp line when cut through with a knife.

STORAGE: Place a piece of plastic wrap over the frosting so that the plastic is in direct contact with the frosting. Wrap the bowl in plastic and store refrigerated for up to 2 days.
While working, keep the bowl of frosting covered with a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Once spread onto the house and exposed to the air, it will harden up within 15-25 minutes. Decorate one panel at a time and work quickly!

Decorating Ideas:
Nuts and seeds
Dried fruits
Chocolate dipped dried fruits
Candied ginger slices
Banana chips
Pretzel fences
Panda brand red licorice
Shredded coconut for icicles and frosty trees
Ice cream cone trees

About the Author:

I am a Certified Nutritional Chef, food writer and culinary instructor through Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Northern California. I teach cooking and nutrition classes through the Whole Foods Market Salud Cooking School and write a monthly eLetter, also entitled Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking, to a wide audience.

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