So here’s the gods honest truth: I used to boil the ever-loving crap out of eggs. To be fair, Easter was about the only time we ever boiled them growing up. After we’d dyed them, peeled them to reveal the tie-dyed ellipses beneath, and mixed the yolks with a generous amount of mustard and Miracle Whip (an ingredient I’ll defend to the death when making Deviled Eggs), the gray-green, sulfury halo around the yolks didn’t really seem to matter much.
On the rare occasions that I ate straight-up, un-deviled hard boiled eggs, I only ate the whites. And small wonder! I was, however, flummoxed: how come the yolks in some store-bought eggs looked so, well, appetizing? I decided to actually look up a recipe, and what do you know: other people have already figured this out. But since I was TWENTY-NINE before I actually learned to do this right, I thought you guys might want some tips too. The big secret? Hard boiled eggs don’t actually need to boil for more than a moment.
I realize that I’m a month or two late for the PUMPKIN-EVERYTHING craze that annually arrives in September, but I finally gathered the time, the initiative, and the pumpkins to try my hand at making my own pumpkin puree. I’ve always been a big fan of Libby’s, but I’m pretty pleased with both the results and the ease of making this myself. Right after Halloween, it’s easy to find pumpkins for just a couple dollars, so it’s a great time of year to stock up for all your coming holiday desserts, as it freezes wonderfully.
And it’s sooooo easy. I urge you to give it a try for your own pumpkin recipes this year! Here’s how it’s done:
1. Select 1-2 small-ish pumpkins, or as many as you want to make in one batch. You can definitely puree pumpkins of any size, but they flavor and texture will be better from smaller pumpkins. These are often sold as “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins”.
I write this post on behalf of the baked potato. Of that simple, humble item that too often only finds itself offered as a side dish on restaurant menus, sandwiched on the side-dish-health-o-meter between the french fries and the steamed broccoli. And most of us just take the plunge and go with the fries – or is that just me?
A couple months ago, while trying to develop some easy, fairly-healthy meal options that also allowed me to keep the oven on for an hour in an effort to ward off Midwestern winter, I made baked potatoes for dinner one night. Not as a side, but as the whole damn meal. And you know what? It was AMAZING. Why was this not part of my regular meal routine? It is now, by the way: I’ve repeated this tasty dinner several times since the inaugural attempt, and I’ve learned a lot about baking a delightful potato in the meantime.
For the first several years of my training as a cake decorator, I used an icing composed primarily of Crisco and powdered sugar. And I’ve gotta admit, for someone decorating 1-2 practice cakes (and in later years, simply styrofoam cake forms) every month, there was nothing better: it’s snow white, doesn’t take long to bring to room temperature, holds it’s shape and consistency even as it gets warm in the piping bag, and seemingly never spoils.
That icing served me well for a long time. But as I grew older I started to grow wary of the mysterious ingredients in Crisco, and the gritty texture of the powdered sugar irritated me more and more. I started to think perhaps it was time to up my game in the icing department. And it only took a teensy bit of digging around the cake-baking community to know that I needed to learn, above all other things, the art of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
And boy am I glad I did. Each batch I make reaffirms my obsession with this icing: impossibly smooth and creamy, light and airy, shiny and stable, and delicately sweet. It freezes well, so it can be made in large batches even if you only have a small cake to bake. Because the sugar is dissolved, there is no grittiness whatsoever. It’s stable once applied, gives strength to your cakes, and is gorgeous enough to be used as an outer icing with no need for fondant. Plus, it can be adapted to just about any flavor you want.
I’ve now used this buttercream for two wedding cakes, a birthday cake, cookie icing, cupcake icing, and dinner party cakes. It’s extremely versatile and soooo tasty.
So today, I want to share it with you. And it’s not scary! Though it is a bit time-consuming, it’s pretty straight-forward to make. So let’s dive in and make some SMBC!
I don’t have a rice cooker. I also don’t let that stop me from making fluffy mounds of rice. And since I appear to be in the mood for cooking dishes that work nicely with this versatile grain, I thought I’d tell you how I go about making a batch of rice quickly, easily, and without anything you don’t already have.
Rice, as you know, starts as solid grains with the potential to develop into light, airy morsels of goodness when cooked well. The internet seems to be full of horror stories about rice cooking that turn these grains into batches of starchy paste or edible kernels still solid in the middle and decidedly un-fluffy, and rice cookers are offered as the suggestion for remedying these problems. I learned to cook rice, from my mom, with nothing more than a pot and a lid, and I’ve always been pleased with the result. Plus, the method is really easy: in fact, the hardest part is leaving it alone so the rice can do its job.
I can’t really express in words how much I love pizza. The enormous quantities of free pizza I ate at college events (and, let’s be honest, continue to eat at college events) has never quelled my craving for crispy pizza crust topped with any manner of sauces, cheeses, meats, pineapple, spinach… gaaaah. I really love pizza.
And I really love that I can make it at home. No, I don’t have a 900°F pizza oven. And yes, I do have a pizza stone. But! I didn’t until only a couple years ago, and though I really love my pizza stone, I’m here to tell you that you can cook beautiful, crispy-bottomed, bubbly-topped pizza at home TONIGHT with no pizza stone.
Butternut Squash is a rather new ingredient in my culinary arsenal. Having really discovered its magic last fall when I cooked up a giant bath of Butternut Squash Soup, I’ve since been quite fascinated it. Harvested in mid- to late-fall, these squash can store unrefrigerated for months, which makes them an ideal winter staple.
I’ve seen this squash for sale in the produce section, pre-peeled and cubed. Like most pre-cut fruits and vegetables, it is wildly more expensive to buy it that way than to buy the squash whole. Plus, it requires refrigeration and will quickly go bad if not used. But it doesn’t take long to go from a whole squash to a beautiful mound of orange cubes ready for cooking, and without much special equipment. You can totally do this.
And I’ve loved sharing these stories with you. But every once in a while, I am reminded that not everyone is learning the same things at the same time that I am. On one of my earliest posts, someone asked for clarification on how to separate an egg. Other readers have asked for advice topics ranging from tempering chocolate to selecting produce, from substituting ingredients to finding equivalents in other countries.
I don’t profess to be a master of all kitchen knowledge, but in a lifetime of baking and cooking, I’ve picked up quite a few tips and tricks that I now take for granted when I step into the kitchen to start a project. Why should I keep them all to myself?
So without further ado, I am pleased to introduce How To’sdays! Each How To’sday post (which I’ll publish only on Tuesdays, for obvious puntabulous reasons) will be just what it sounds like: a How-To tutorial of some little kitchen tip that may make your life easier, more delicious, or more manageable.