Wednesday, October 5, 2016

EASY CROUTON CHICKEN


Hi all!! I received an interesting email the other day; one of my readers asked me why I don’t post any beef or fish recipes.



I admit; I don’t care for beef—I’ll consume it maybe 2 or 3 times a year, but that’s it. It’s not really all that healthy for us, for one thing, and I have always been very fond of cows (unfortunately, not eating beef is not going to keep them from being killed).



I don’t like fish all that much, either (well; shrimp, tuna and crab, yes), although shrimp and crab are entirely too expensive!  So, dear readers, I do apologize for a rather limited dinner menu; perhaps I shall start experimenting with pasta and tuna dishes in the very near future, so I will be able to offer more of a variety!!...but THANK YOU, EVERYONE, for sticking with me this long!!!



This chicken dinner I have for you this time is a breaded version—all you need is garlic & cheese croutons (or flavored breadcrumbs), honey-mustard dressing and orange juice.




Honey-mustard sauce is easy to prepare; I’ve included the recipe below if you don’t have any on hand....incidentally, with the sauce addition, I realize this recipe includes more than 5 ingredients!



INGREDIENTS:



·       ¾ cup of garlic & cheese croutons, crushed

·       ¾ cup of honey-mustard sauce

·       1 Tbsp. orange juice

·       2 boneless, skinless chicken breast-halves





HONEY MUSTARD SAUCE:



·       6 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

·        4 Tbsp mayonnaise

·        2 Tbsp honey

·        1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

·        Dash of garlic salt (or powder, if you don’t have any salt)



DIRECTIONS:



Crush croutons and place in a medium bowl.  Combine the Dijon, mayo, honey, cayenne and garlic salt in another medium-sized bowl.

Dip each breast in the honey-mustard mixture, then coat with the crumbs.





Bake at 350 degrees in an ungreased pan for about 30-40 minutes, or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.



This is a pretty tasty dish for such a simple one!! That’s why I love to experiment with as few ingredients as possible, and come up with interesting meals and sweets...I want to save you all time in the kitchen, so you can spend more time with family and/or doing other things (like subscribing to my blog!!)



ENJOY!!!




Bye for now,



Cynthia



LIFE IS SHORT, SO MAKE IT A SWEET ONE!!!

                                                                                  

Monday, October 3, 2016

NOW IS THE HOUR FOR FLOUR POWER: Measuring, Sifting, & More


Hello there--yes, another dry-ingredient tutorial, (lol)!! This time I’ll be covering flour, and all the super-fun things you can do with it!!

 


As much as I love to post recipes, I also enjoy from time to time, addressing specific food topics/ingredients, etc. I wanted to blog about flour this time around, as I had posted earlier about other dry ingredients, such as sugars, baking soda, and baking powder, and I realized that I had not yet given flour its fair share of attention...after all, it IS one of the main/most important ingredients in the world of baking!! So, let’s go......



HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR




Just pour it in the measuring cup up to the specified amount and dump it in the bowl.....NOT!



When you read most recipes (including mine, lol) you’ll often see things like “add flour to mixture,” or “gradually mix in the flour,” etc....which is what you should do; however, there are specific methods for measuring out the proper amount so your baked good comes out perfect!!



For starters, one cup of all-purpose flour weighs 4 ¼ ounces—scooping up the flour with the measuring cup and leveling it off comes to 6 ounces....if you spoon or pour the flour into the measuring cup and level it off: 41/4 ounces.



When you scoop the flour with the measuring cup, it packs the flour into the cup (much like brown sugar), actually giving you more than you need, and your recipe will result in a not-so-great dessert (too heavy, too thick, too dry, etc.).




SIFTING


Do I Have To Sift Flour? What Exactly Does That Do?


Sifting flour is merely a method for breaking up any clumps, and ‘ventilates’ the flour at the same time. When you sift flour, it makes it a lot lighter than unsifted, and much easier to combine other ingredients when making dough or a cake batter.

If a recipe calls for sifting flour with other dry ingredients, such as cocoa powder, this means that the sifting action helps to mix the two ‘powders’ together more effectively before adding other ingredients.

Years ago, the act of sifting flour used to be very necessary to ‘weed out’ any seeds or corn husks; however, nowadays the flour itself is refined enough that the act of sifting is pretty much uncalled for in our everyday baking projects.

Alternatively, when making delicate cakes such as sponge or angel food, etc., it is a great boon to sift the flour, as it will get rid of any clumps that might make the batter too heavy. If you are using old flour which has been sitting for a long time in the cupboard (tightly packed), it would be very beneficial to sift it before using to ensure that you’re not measuring out any ‘over-packed’ cups.




TYPES OF FLOUR

I’m not going to cover the whole range of flour here; only the more popularly-used ones.


ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR —This is a blend of soft and hard wheat flour. It has balanced levels of starch/protein content, making it the best choice for rolls, pastries and breads. Pre-sifted all-purpose flour has been crushed to a very fine texture, and is best used for pancakes, popovers, biscuits, etc.

BLEACHED FLOUR—This is white flour with higher gluten-producing potential than other flours; it is used mostly to bake bread.

BREAD FLOUR—This is a white, hard-wheat flour with a high gluten content used to make breads. It is also unbleached, and treated with ascorbic acid, which promotes yeast growth.

CAKE FLOUR—A finely-textured white flour made completely of soft wheat flour, with low protein content, thus making it the excellent choice for cakes. Perfect for delicate cakes such as angel food or sponge.

GLUTEN FLOUR—Strong white flour, with twice the strength of standard bread flour; it is used as an additive with other flours.

SELF-RISING FLOURA white, soft-wheat flour that includes baking powder and salt; no need to add other leaveners. However, this flour has a tendency to deteriorate quite easily, and should be used with a month or two of purchase. Best for quick breads and biscuits.


HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN—


CAKE FLOUR: Remove 2 tablespoons from one level cup of all-purpose flour, then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift well.


SELF-RISING FLOUR: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt to one cup of all-purpose flour.


BREAD FLOUR: Use 1 tbsp. extra all-purpose flour per one cup used. This is simplest way to use all-purpose flour in lieu of bread flour. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of bread flour, you can substitute 2 cups plus 2 tbsp. of all-purpose flour. Follow the rest of the recipe according to stated directions and instructions....


And that’s it for this time, folks!!


Cynthia


LIFE IS SHORT, SO MAKE IT A SWEET ONE!!!



Friday, September 30, 2016

WHY ARE THERE LUMPS IN MY BROWN SUGAR?...& OTHER QUESTIONS

Hello everyone!!

First off, I would very much like to thank my recent subscribers--I appreciate your involvement much more than you know!! And, as always, a big HELLO and thank you to my faithful continued subscribers!!! This blog is for YOU, and if you're not happy, then I'm not. Seriously.

Now, on to the lumps, and other things......


    What's up with those pesky lumps?


Brown sugar is basically white sugar with molasses added to it (dark brown sugar contains more; thus, the difference in color). Molasses is a result of the process of refining white sugar, where it is removed.

The molasses coats the sugar crystals; almost like a ‘paste’—that is why brown sugar can be tightly packed and holds its shape. When the sugar is over-exposed to air, the molasses thickens and sticks together—and that’s what produces the lumps.

However, brown sugar can also harden when forgotten and left unopened for a year or two (trust me; I know, lol!!), just in case that was your next question!!

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean its no good to use—sugar doesn’t expire (in my last post, I mentioned that you can safely soften brown sugar in the microwave before using)...but only soften the amount you need; not the entire package!!.



SO, EXACTLY HOW ARE LIGHT AND DARK BROWN SUGAR DIFFERENT?



Actually, the two are quite similar, and can oftentimes be used interchangeably. Dark brown sugar lends a slightly bitter molasses taste to gingerbread cakes and cookies; however, it also enhances the depth of flavor in chocolate cake.

Light brown sugar is better used for caramel sauce, peanut butter cookies, butterscotch pudding, etc.

sorry this photo is a little warped...like my brain!! lol



BAKING SODA?....OR BAKING POWDER?

   Have you ever wondered why some recipes call for both baking powder as well as soda? And exactly what is the difference?
 


WHAT DOES BAKING SODA DO?
Well, when you combine it with moisture and an acidic product (yeast, yogurt, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, lemon juice, etc.), it produces carbon dioxide to help make your baking goodies rise (recipes that call for baking soda also require an acidic ingredient).
When you combine the soda, acid and liquid, it produces carbon dioxide gas—(remember those school science projects?). But in this case, nothing explodes; the gas merely fizzes to help your creation fluff up.
But take care—this reaction happens as soon as it is combined with all the other ingredients—so you must place the creation in the oven immediately (well, within a couple minutes, or so), or else the carbon dioxide will dissolve and your baked goodie will be flat as a pancake—or close to it.
 
Baking soda + vinegar...pour vinegar first, then add the soda.....
Incidentally, this is the experiment I mentioned in my last post, and its alot more exciting than the baking powder one!!!! TRY IT--IT'S FUN!!!!




SO, WHAT DOES BAKING POWDER DO?
It also produces carbon dioxide; however it only requires heat in order to be activated. Baking powder contains baking soda, as well, so the mere addition of a liquid is enough to poof up your baking product...add the heat from the oven to it, and viola!!  Baking is not only a science, but a bit of magic, as well!

SO, WHY BOTH?
That’s why some recipes call for both soda and powder; there might be sufficient soda to offset the acid in a particular recipe, yet not quite enough to help puff up the batter. Actually, it really all depends on what you are baking—goodies like cakes and muffins always require both.
 

 
And there you have it!! Please send me any questions you may have, and I will answer as best as I can—this blog is for YOU, and I would love to have you involved in every way possible!!

Until next time,

Cynthia

LIFE IS SHORT, SO MAKE IT A SWEET ONE!!! (and keep those ingredients fresh!!!)
....and please don't forget to subscribe!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR BAKING SUPPLIES ARE FRESH


Hello there--welcome back!!

There’s nothing worse than being in the mood for something sweet, and excitedly whipping up a batch of cookies or an awesome cake you can’t wait to sink your teeth into...and finding out that the cookies taste a bit off, or the cake didn’t rise properly.


ALWAYS TEST YOUR INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE AS FRESH AS POSSIBLE!!



    I’m only going to be covering a few basic staples in this post—and no, I’m not referring to the metal ones used for paper (they always seem to maintain their nice, solid crunch, though!)—brown sugar, eggs, flour, butter and baking powder/soda.


   Naturally, dry, boxed ingredients tend to last a lot longer than liquid/fresh, but their shelf life is just as crucial when it comes to baking; more than you might realize.


And just how do you test them, you ask? Don’t merely go by the expiration date—that’s usually the ‘sell by’ date, which typically means the product is best if used before that particular date; for these baking basics, here’s a brief list of how to check if they’re past their prime or not:



FLOUR

To tell if your flour is fresh (I’m referring to all-purpose here), take a pinch and place it on your tongue—it should have a bit of flavor (if you’ve ever tasted raw dough it’s basically the same thing here). Spoiled flour will have a bit of tartness to it, and you may feel a slight zing on your tongue—don’t worry, it wont hurt!!

Most flour, if kept tightly sealed, should last up to about a year.





BAKING POWDER

Always check the sell-by date first, but just like flour, it will keep if stored in a cool, dry place and kept tightly sealed. To tell if it’s still strong and working properly, take a teaspoonful and place it in about 4 TB of hot water (do NOT stir). It should fizz and bubble immediately, but if it doesn’t, time to toss it and get another one.











    BAKING SODA

The test here is the same as for baking powder, but add about a quarter teaspoon of vinegar, as baking soda needs something acidic in order to react.










 BROWN SUGAR

Once opened, place into a Ziploc bag or other tightly sealed container to retain its freshness. Surprisingly, brown and granulated sugar don’t normally ‘expire’, but brown sugar will harden after awhile if left unused. To soften it, place in a microwave-safe bowl with a piece of fresh white bread, or a piece of apple, cover with plastic; heat about 15-30 seconds.  



EGGS

To test the freshness of your eggs, simply fill a large bowl with cold water, carefully place the eggs within, and wait and watch. If they sink to the bottom and lay on their sides, they are very fresh! If they sink to the bottom but turn upright, they are still good to use, but starting to lean towards egg heaven. If they float....throw them out!!!





 




BUTTER

Yes, butter can and does go bad. If exposed to too much heat and light for a long time, the oils in the butter will turn rancid (say, if left on the counter near the stove or toaster oven).  Heat and light both speed up the oxidation process; however, keeping it in the refrigerator will slow the procedure down.

When butter is bad, there will be a rather noticeable taste to it; it will taste sour, and most likely smell like it, too. It may also appear paler in color if it has gone off.



So, test away, everybody--better to be safe than sorry!!



See you next time,



Cynthia



LIFE IS SHORT, SO MAKE IT A SWEET ONE!!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

YELLOW-JELLO CAKE


Hello!!


I’ve got an interesting recipe for you today—the cake, itself, is not made out of jello, but the topping is; I just wanted to call it something memorable and interesting!



The recipe in question is from Food Hacks Daily—the article specifically states it is a frosting recipe, but, as it turns out, there’s a bit of ambiguity when it comes to the actual ingredients.


I was skeptical, at first—“frosting from jello mix?” But my curiosity overpowered me and I tried making it.


I tried the mixture three times. Not once did it bear any sort of resemblance to that of frosting. No such desired result was achieved in the least.



  The recipe, itself, calls for a packet of Jell-o, which leads one to wonder if     they are referring to pudding mix or gelatin, but the article specifically mentions gelatin and bright color, so I naturally assumed they meant Jell-o gelatin.


  The article shows pictures of an absolutely beautiful frosting but alas, I could not reproduce it (sad face), no matter how hard I tried. I followed the directions exactly, but could not seem to acquire the proper texture.


My ‘frosting’ came out rather watery; not at all like suitable frosting…but it tasted spectacular!!....but what would I do with it? I contemplated sticking it in the fridge to chill and hopefully set, but I had my yellow cake all baked and ready to top, and it looked rather forlorn….but, into the refrigerator went the mixture, as I was most anxious to see the results (if any).


After about an hour and a half (I watched a movie to get my mind off it and hopefully allow it to firm up), I took it out, gently swirled the bowl…..but no change. You have got to be kidding me! This is frosting???


So, what I eventually decided to do was poke holes in the cake (a boxed yellow cake mix) and just pour the gelatin mix over the whole thing; kind of like a poke cake—if I ruined the cake, oh well, but if it actually turned out to be edible, then I had a nice surprise on my hands.


So I slowly poured it over the top of the cake….and waited. I actually stood there staring at it, almost hoping it would magically transform into a beautiful dessert (lol)…


I carefully took a butter knife and cut a small piece from the corner….the mixture had saturated the top half of the cake, almost giving it a sponge-like texture…and it was pretty, too!! When I sampled it, it almost reminded me of strawberry shortcake, which I haven’t had in years. So, I decided to leave it as it was and call it a ‘glaze’ (incidentally, a lot of people actually use gelatin for making glazes, I discovered, when typing in ‘gelatin glaze’ on the computer afterwards--the only thing was, the majority of recipes that I found were for a clear, unflavored glaze for fruit dishes and such).



Now, this Food Hacks article is interesting, because at the bottom of the page, there are a couple of reader’s comments (well, now there are 3 including mine) that said they were confused about the Jell-o part, so that made me feel a bit better about my concoction.


But, anyway, here is the recipe (adapted from Food Hacks Daily):


INGREDIENTS:


·       3 oz. package of Jell-O, or other jello brand (I chose strawberry Jell-o gelatin mix)

·       2/3 cup white sugar

·       1 egg white

·       1 tsp. vanilla extract

·       ½ cup boiling water


NOTE: Do not worry about using a raw egg white in this recipe: the boiling water will kill off any bacteria.



DIRECTIONS:


By hand, mix all ingredients except the water in a medium mixing bowl. Add boiling water gradually, while stirring the entire contents on medium speed. After the water has been added, switch the speed to high and mix for 5 more minutes.


...So, boys and girls, this story actually has a happy ending!! What had seemed like a total disaster at first turned out to be a pretty tasty surprise; try it yourself; you’ll find it quite interesting!!




    ENJOY!!!


See you next time,

Cynthia


LIFE IS SHORT, SO MAKE IT A SWEET ONE!!!