How to Cook Dried Butter Beans or Lima Beans

May 31, 2013 by  
Filed under How To, Vegetables

Butter Beans

These are easy, but time consuming. They need to be soaked overnight or started a few hours early, so allow plenty of time. I like these with cornbread for lunch. [Read the rest of this entry…]

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How to Make Competition Worthy Barbecue Ribs

May 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Grilling and BBQ, How To, Meats

By Bill Anderson

Great barbecue recipes are hard to come by. Most recipes and books leave out important information like times and temperatures. That’s because so much depends on your cooking conditions. But if you know the basics and what to look for, this shouldn’t be a problem. [Read the rest of this entry…]

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How to Cook a Whole Corned Beef Brisket

May 29, 2013 by  
Filed under How To, Meats

Cooking a corned beef brisket sounds intimidating, but it really is not. The instructions below are for cooking on the stove top, but you can also cook corned beef brisket in the crock pot or roaster, or covered with water as below in the oven at 325 for approximately 1 hour per pound. When cooking in the oven, use a tight fitting lid, or seal it with aluminum foil.

Cooked corned beef, eaten on St. Patrick's Day...

Cooked corned beef, sliced across the grain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My recipe starts with an already corned beef that includes the spice packet. If there isn’t a spice packet, don’t worry, just ignore it and continue on.

Stove top method to cook a whole corned beef brisket:

1 corned beef brisket
spice packet that comes in the brisket

1. The brisket comes already brined and ready to cook. You need to rinse the brine off, then place the brisket in a large heavy pot. Add the spice packet that came with the brisket, and cover it with water.
2. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 3 – 5 hours, depending on the size of your brisket. (Refer to the package label.)
3. When done the brisket will be tender and will have shrunk a bit. Remove the brisket from the water and place on a cutting board and allow to rest a few minutes. If you are not planning to eat it until later, allow it to cool before slicing.
4. To slice the corned beef brisket correctly you need to locate the direction of the grain. Look for the long strands of meat. If you slice so that these strands stay long, your brisket will be tough to chew. Instead slice across the grain so that the strands are cut very short. This will result in a tender slice of corned beef.

When the beef is done, throw in some potatoes and carrots, or cabbage. This is a fine meal any night of the week. Don’t forget the Reuben sandwich the next day.



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How to Make Incredible Pan Sauces

May 29, 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.

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.”

English: Fond left in a white enamel pot after...

The fond left in the pan after cooking is the flavor for delicious pan sauces. Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 deglazing liquid 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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Cooking with Tomatoes

May 27, 2013 by  
Filed under How To, Tips

Oh, the joy of summer: a vine ripe tomato. Roasting or grilling tomatoes concentrates their flavor for a rich taste. Try these tips when cooking with tomatoes

  • To peel: Immerse tomatoes about 30 seconds in boiling water; remove and place immediately in cold water. Remove the stem, and the skin will slip right off.
  • To seed: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half, using your fingers to remove seeds.
  • Tomato Shells: Cut a 1/2 inch slice off the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulp being careful not to pierce the shell.
  • Roast: Preheat oven to 450° F. Halve tomatoes crosswise. Place halves, cut side down, on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Roast until lightly browned, about 20 minutes; cool.
  • Grill: Cut tomatoes in half. Brush cut surfaces with Oil or dressing made with oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt, fresh ground pepper and basil. Place cut side up on aluminum foil or greased grill over hot coals about 10 minutes. Do not turn.
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Basic Crepe Batter – Tips and Tricks to Get the Perfect Crepe Batter Every Time

May 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, How To


Crepe (Photo credit: David Ascher)

As a child I was always barely waiting for my mother to make crepes and eat them filled with home made sour cherry preserves! Back then is when I learned how easy it actually is to make the crepe batter whether you are mixing it by hand or using a food processor or blender. Just follow a few basic guidelines and you’ll always have perfect crepe batter!

Making the crepe batter requires a different technique based on the tools you have at hand to make it. If you have a blender or food processor you can just put all the ingredients together and mix until you get a smooth consistency. If you mix it by hand using a whisk start by beating the eggs then add a bit of flour and milk at a time. Sifting the flour will also help avoiding the flour to clump up but if you don’t have access to a sifter just add the flour one tablespoon at a time and try to spread it all over the batter surface rather than dumping it all in one place. Doing it this way is a bit more tedious but it will ensure that your final batter will be smooth and free of flour clumps.

Consistency wise, I prefer having the batter a bit thicker when using a spreader tool on a heavy cast iron crepe pan or an electric crepe maker, or runny if I use a light pan and spread the batter by tilting the pan. The best consistency is achieved when you poor the batter from a ladle 8 to 10 inches above the batter into the rest of the batter and it forms a continuous stream which does not splash when falling in the rest of the batter. Also you have to keep in mind that if you are refrigerating the batter for a couple hours to leave the flour absorb all the liquid, you will end up with a thicker batter. To compensate for this I usually check the consistency before cooking the crepes and add more milk to achieve the desired consistency.

The basic ingredients and quantities for the basic crepe batter are as follows:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste

This will create a thicker batter best suited for use with a spreader. Add about 1/2 cup of milk for a thinner batter that will easily spread by tilting the crepe pan.

This batter will work for both sweet and savory crepes but if you want to make just sweet crepes you can add a bit of sugar and vanilla for more flavor!

Bon apetit!

Do you love crepes? So does the author who blogs about them and electric crepe maker machines at

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How to Make Waffles- with Recipes

May 5, 2012 by  
Filed under How To

Making Waffles

By Diane Watkins

A well made waffle is a breakfast delight. Follow these tips to learn how to make waffles perfectly every time, then try out some of our variations of waffle recipes. First, read the directions that came with your waffle maker. The correct temperature setting is important. If the baker is too cold the waffles will stick or appear spotted. When too hot, the waffle will brown too quickly and the inside will not be cooked. You want them just right. Perfect waffles for breakfast can set you up for the day ahead like nothing else.

Brussels Waffle (known in the USA as Belgian W...

Brussels Waffle (known in the USA as Belgian Waffle) with Strawberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preheat the waffle maker until the correct temperature is obtained, approximately 5- 8 minutes. Chocolate Waffles and Gingerbread Waffles need a slightly cooler waffle iron than plain waffles.

Pour the batter onto the pre-heated waffle iron using a ladle or pitcher. Pour batter into the center of the grid to about an inch from the outside edge. The batter will expand as it cooks and fill the grid.

If your waffles stick, the waffle iron may not be hot enough or the recipe may need more fat. Follow your waffle makers instructions about seasoning the waffle iron before the first use. An improperly seasoned waffle iron may cause sticking as well. It should not be necessary to grease the iron, the batter should have enough fat to prevent sticking.
Plain Waffles
Makes 4 waffles:

1 1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, separated
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted shortening

1. Pre-heat the waffle maker.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together.
3. Beat the egg white until stiff but not dry.
4. Beat the egg yolk, add milk and melted shortening; pour into the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated.
5. Fold in the whipped egg white.
6. Bake 4 to 5 minutes in a hot waffle maker.
7. Serve hot with melted butter, syrup, honey or other toppings.

Pecan Waffles:

Add ½ cup chopped pecans. Serve with ice cream and butterscotch sauce.
Orange Waffles:

Substitute 1/3 cup of orange juice and 2/3 cup of milk for the milk. Add 2 teaspoons of grated orange zest. Serve with melted butter, syrup, or powdered sugar.
Chocolate Waffles

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
4 tablespoons shortening
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1. Preheat waffle maker to a light setting- slightly cooler than for regular waffles.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together.
3. Melt together the chocolate and shortening.
4. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.
5. Beat the egg yolks. Add the milk, mix well, and pour into the flour mixture, then add the melted chocolate and shortening. Stir all together until just mixed. Do not over mix.
6. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
7. Bake 4 to 5 minutes in waffle maker set to a light setting.
8. Serve hot with whipped cream or ice cream.

Gingerbread Waffles

½ cup molasses
6 Tablespoons shortening
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk

1. Preheat waffle maker to a light setting- slightly cooler than for regular waffles.
2. Combine molasses and shortening in saucepan, heat to boiling point, then cool.
3. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ginger, and sugar together.
4. Beat the eggs, add the milk and cooled molasses mixture. Pour into the flour and stir just until moist.
5. Bake about 5 minutes in a waffle maker set on a light setting.
6. Serve with whipped cream, hard sauce, or stewed apples and bacon.

Apple Waffles

2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg, separated
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons melted shortening
1 ½ cup pared and diced apples

1. Pre-heat the waffle maker.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar together.
3. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.
4. Beat the egg yolks, add milk and melted shortening; pour into the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated.
5. Fold in the whipped egg white.
6. Fold in the diced apples.
7. Bake 4 to 5 minutes in a hot waffle maker.
8. Excellent served with sausages.

Blueberry Waffles

2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon sugar, divided
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg, separated
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons melted shortening
1 cup blueberries

1. Pre-heat the waffle maker.
2. Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with the blueberries, set aside.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar together.
4. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.
5. Beat the egg yolks, add milk and melted shortening; pour into the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated.
6. Fold in the whipped egg white.
7. Fold in the blueberries.
8. Bake 4 to 5 minutes in a hot waffle maker.

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Six Tips for Cooking the Perfect Pancakes

May 5, 2012 by  
Filed under How To, z1

by Terry Telford

Pancakes are the staple of a delicious breakfast and the highlight of a casual brunch. But for many weekend chefs, the first pancake inevitably ends up in the trash can or the belly of the family pet. So what’s the secret to perfect pancakes? How can you master the art of cooking right from the very first pancake? Here are a few of the most frequent pitfalls of the pancake artist:

Strawberry on Pancake

Strawberry on Pancake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* Leaving lumps in the batter. Although many people feel that good pancake batter should be lumpy and uneven, many chefs actually encourage cooks to completely mix the batter until it’s the consistency of rich cream. This allows the gluten to be released from the flour. For best results, whisk the batter thoroughly for several minutes to allow air into the mixture.

* Cooking right away. It’s hard to wait for breakfast, especially when it’s something as delicious as pancakes. But batter needs some time to set – at least one hour minimum, but three hours is ideal. This allows the starch to grow and expand and air bubbles to release. For lighter, fluffier pancakes, mix your batter and then cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap and let it sit for a few hours in the fridge.

* Using a pan that is not properly seasoned. For best pancake results, start with a flat non-stick frying pan. Season the pan with a bit of vegetable oil first by heating the pan and then roll up some paper towel and carefully rub the oil into every inch of the heated pan. Leave the pan to cool down and then remove the unused oil. While not everyone can devote an entire fry pan just to pancakes, you’ll find the most success if you never wash a seasoned pan. Instead, wipe it down after cooking with a wet cloth.

* Using a pan that is either too cold or too hot. Stove temperatures vary, so there is no “perfect” setting to make pancakes. Ideally, the frying pan should be so hot that it almost smokes. But if it’s giving off plumes of bluish smoke, then it’s too hot and your pancakes will burn. If you’re not sure if your pan is ready for cooking, throw on a few drops of water. If the water instantly evaporates on contact, your pan is too hot. If the water sits for awhile and takes its time to boil, then you need to turn up the temperature a few notches. You’ll know the pan is the right temperature when the water droplets sizzle on contact and then evaporate after a few seconds.

* Pouring too much batter. Most amateur pancake chefs make the crucial mistake of overdoing it on the batter for the first pancake. This usually results in a thick, oily cake that is burned on the outside and raw in the middle. For thin crepe-style pancakes, use just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan by turning the pan in circles. For thicker pancakes, use about half a ladle or about two or three tablespoons.

* Flipping the pancake too soon. Once you’ve poured the batter, let the pancake set for a few seconds, or until small bubbles start to form on the surface and the edges begin to look solid. Then take a spatula and gently jostle the ends of the pancake before shaking the pan to jar the cake loose. Firmly place the spatula under the entire pancake and then flip it in one quick motion. Stack pancakes on top of each other to keep them from cooling down too quickly while you continue cooking.

Follow these tips and your first pancake will wow your guests and loved ones – instead of your dog.

Terry Telford is the publisher of Kingston East News and an avid promoter of Kingston Ontario. He highly recommends the fine dining experience at Bistro Stefan.

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Make-Ahead Buttermilk Pancakes

How to Make Waffles

How to Make Crepes

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How to Make Sweet Potato Fries

April 24, 2012 by  
Filed under How To

Sweet potatoes are now listed as a super food. These southern favorites are high in fiber, vitamins A, B6 and C, potassium, manganese and complex carbohydrates.  The extra fiber means that they don’t affect your blood sugar the way that white potatoes do. (Assuming, of course, that you aren’t loading them up with sugar.) Try these baked sweet potato fries with salt and pepper or be adventurous and try them with garlic powder, cinnamon, or your favorite seasoning mix. Sprinkle the seasoning on the pan to prevent the fries from sticking.  While the amount listed may seem like a lot, a good bit of it will be left behind on the pan.

Picture of fries made from sweet potatoes.

Picture of fries made from sweet potatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe

4 Sweet potatoes, cut into wedges

2 Tablespoons olive oil or canola oil

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon crushed black pepper

Large sheet pan

Oven, preheated to 425 degrees F.


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the salt and pepper over the sheet pan.

Toss the sweet potato wedges in the olive oil to coat.

Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Turn them once so that a little of the seasoning sticks to all sides. The majority of the salt and pepper should remain on the pan, creating a barrier to sticking.

Bake the sweet potatoes for 40 minutes, turning the fries halfway through the cooking time. The fries are done when they are brown and crispy on the outside and soft in the center. Large wedges may take longer.

For more information on sweet potatoes, visit: Know Your Ingredients- Sweet Potatoes. Also check out other ways to make sweet potatoes on the Sweet Potatoes Recipes page.

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Cookie Decorating 101

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, How To, z1

by: Mimi Cummins
Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies. Well that’s a tall order because there are as many ways to decorate cookies as there are cookies! Here are a few guidelines for novices and experienced bakers alike to help you generate your own ideas for cooking decorating.


Cookies can be decorated before baking with materials that withstand the heat of baking. Some things that you can place on your cookies before baking are:

  • colored sugars or natural sugars such as pearl sugar
  • jimmies, non-pareils, silver and gold drag, and other sprinkles
  • raisins and dried fruits such as cranberries
  • nuts

These items can be placed on top of almost any cookie to dress it up a bit and give it a more festive appearance.

Paint a Masterpiece

You can also paint your cookies before baking them. Make an edible food paint out of an egg yolk mixed with a few drops of food coloring and paint the cookies with a clean paintbrush. The paint will dry while baking and give the cookie a colorful, glazed appearance. This is a fun activity for kids!

A bit of Trompe L’oeil

The folks at Better Homes and Gardens have a creative recipe for Colored Cream Dough which is a dough of frosting consistency that can be piped onto cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a writing or star tip, and then baked. The result is a cookie that looks like it has been frosted but the frosting is baked on and hard.


Decorating cookies after baking them requires that you apply some kind of liquid-based substance that will adhere to the baked cookie, or that will act as a glue to attach other items. Usually, this takes the form of frosting, icing, or melted chocolate.

Frosting vs. Icing

There is a big difference between frosting and icing. Frosting is thick and holds shapes like rosettes and shells like those you see piped around the edges of a birthday cake. It remains soft to the touch and has a creamy texture, and most people think it tastes better because of the creamy buttery flavor.

Icing, on the other hand, is a thinner, more liquid substance, and as it dries it thins out, becomes very smooth across the surface of your cookie, and hardens. This is the icing to use for the most beautiful, professional results.

Working with Frosting

You can use frosting in two ways. One way is to simply use a knife or rubber spatula to spread the frosting across the whole surface of your cookie. The other way is to place the frosting in a pastry or decorating bag fitted with a small tip and piping out thin lines or rosettes of icing onto the cookie.

Either way, once the frosting has been applied to the cookie you can then further embellish it by using colored sugars, non-pareils, or any of the decorating items mentioned in the Decorating Before Baking section above. has a delicious recipe for Buttercream Frosting at See detailed instructions on piping frosting from Better Homes and Gardens.

Working with Icing

Icing is a little more difficult to work with but its smooth surface produces the most beautiful results! Icing should always be piped onto a cookie because it will run off the edges if spread with a knife. Once iced you can apply silver drag饳, or other sprinkles just as mentioned with the frosting above, before it hardens. has an excellent recipe for Royal Icing at Better Homes and Gardens also a recipe for Powdered Sugar Icing ( ) that dries less hard than Royal Icing and has a shiny surface. Martha Stewart’s website features an excellent article on how to pipe icing onto cookies for professional-looking results.

Melted Chocolate

Just about any cookie can be embellished simply by dipping it in chocolate or drizzling chocolate over it. You can even dress up the everyday chocolate chip cookie for gift-giving or serving at parties. Melting chocolate is a simple process, but a few rules must be followed in order to make it a success. For Easter, try using white chocolate tinted in pastel shades with food coloring. Use the gel, paste or powdered kind of food color, because the liquid drops may make the chocolate seize up.

What You Need

You can either use chocolate chips or baking chocolate (the kind that comes in 1-ounce squares) and the same process applies whether you use dark chocolate or white chocolate. A small amount of shortening should be added at the ratio of 2 tablespoons shortening for 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped up baking chocolate.

Double Boiler

Place chocolate and shortening in the top half of a double boiler or in a metal bowl that has been placed on top of a saucepan filled with hot water. The water must be very hot, but not boiling, because the steam generated by boiling water could get moisture into the melting chocolate which makes it curdle.

Allow the chocolate to melt over the hot water and stir it occasionally until it has achieved a liquid consistency.


Place your chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it on medium power for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving 20 seconds, stir again. Keep doing this until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove it from the microwave and stir it until completely melted.


Dip one end of your cookie, or half the cookie, or even the whole cookie into the melted chocolate. Set the cookie on a wire rack to let the chocolate harden. If you wish, you can sprinkle chopped nuts, coconut, or non-pareils over the melted chocolate before it hardens.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate ...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scrape melted chocolate into a ziplock baggie. With a sharp scissors, snip off a very small corner of the baggie. Drizzle top of cookies with zig-zags of melted chocolate. Cool until chocolate is set.

Using these simple techniques will help you produce a variety of beautiful-looking cookies at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Copyright 2004 Mimi Cummins. All Rights Reserved.

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About The Author

Mimi Cummins is co-author of the book “Christmas Cookies Are for Giving: Recipes, Stories, and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts.” This book, “enthusiastically recommended” by Midwest Book Review, is full of baking tips and hints, including nearly 50 recipes each with a full-color photo. For more information visit or order here.

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