Helpful Hints

Dec 8, 2014

How To Freeze Pecan Balls

Guess what? There is no difference between frozen and freshly made pecan balls. I tested them myself and asked two other people to do a blind taste test and no one could tell the difference. This is good news because anything you can make ahead for the holidays is helpful. I’m sure there is more than one way to freeze these delicate Christmas snowball cookies but here is how I did mine:

  1. Once they were completely cool and after the second roll in powdered sugar I gently placed them in a freezer bag so they were not touching.
  2. I removed as much air as possible from the bag and placed them gently in the freezer.
  3. To thaw I let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then brought them to room temperature.
  4. Then I gently rolled them in powdered sugar again to freshen them up.

So there it is. This is how you can freeze your homemade pecan balls and have extra time for…. making more! To make these super easy Christmas cookies, click here for the recipe.  – Jenny Jones

Nov 9, 2014

The Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Are you making candied yams this Thanksgiving? Guess what? Candied yams are not yams. They are sweet potatoes! Check this out:

1) This is a sweet potato…

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam

2) And this is a sweet potato…

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam-1

3) THIS  is a Yam…

 shutterstock_148491962-1

 

1) The yellow sweet potato, the one commonly called sweet potato, has a thicker skin and firm yellow flesh that’s a bit drier and starchier than the orange one.

2) The orange sweet potato, also called “red garnet” and “jewel,” has a softer skin and a deep orange flesh that when cooked, becomes very soft, almost like mashed potatoes. Plus they are sweeter than the yellow ones. These deeper colored sweet potatoes have more vitamin A than carrots.

3) Yams, which have a black bark-like skin, are native to Africa and Asia and I doubt if you could even find one here in the U.S.

There’s so much confusion about the difference between a yam and a sweet potato. That’s because the USDA labeled the orange ones “yams” to differentiate the two main varieties of sweet potatoes but the truth is, sweet potatoes and real yams are not even related. Most of us have never even eaten a yam.

So the bottom line is… unless the Supreme Court intervenes, we will continue to call the yellow ones sweet potatoes and the orange ones yams. It’s just simpler. The good news is they are interchangeable in most recipes, even candied yams. Besides vitamin A, these vegetables have lots of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin E so try to cook with them all year. I use the yellow ones for sweet potato fries and with my roasted vegetables and the orange ones for baking my sweet potato chocolate cake.

Well, this is good information but it doesn’t really change anything, does it? Happy Thanksgiving!

Aug 23, 2014

Parchment Paper vs. Wax Paper

Are parchment paper and wax paper the same?

My response… Parchment paper and wax paper are very different. Wax paper is actually coated with wax and not intended for use in the oven. The wax would probably melt in there anyway and wind up on your food. It’s good to use for messy work like rolling dough and breading or you can sift dry ingredients on it to save washing a bowl. Parchment paper is grease and moisture-resistant and is made for use in the oven, perfect for lining pans and baking sheets for easy removal. If your parchment paper sticks, it’s likely an inferior quality paper. The only brand I use is Reynolds and it never sticks.

Aug 12, 2014

How To Measure Ingredients

Professional bakers generally weigh ingredients but I don’t consider that practical so I do what I think most of us do, which is use measuring cups and spoons. Measuring liquids is pretty simple and requires a glass or plastic cup with markings that should be viewed at eye level, but dry ingredients are where recipes are affected the most. The proper way to measure flour is to first stir the flour in its container in case it has settled too much and become compacted. Then you are supposed to spoon it into your dry (stackable) measuring cup. Since I bake so much I keep my flour in a covered container but I always stir it first before measuring. My method is “dip and level” meaning that after I stir the flour around in the container, I dip my measuring cup into the  flour, do not tap or shake the cup, and then I level off the top with a knife. I dip and level with sugar also but it does not tend to settle as much as flour. With small dry ingredients like spices, baking powder, etc. I just dip in the measuring spoon, scoop it up and then level off with a knife. I think most failures in baking happen by not stirring and aerating the flour first.

Here’s some advice I have based on some mistakes I have made:

1) Never measure liquid things like vanilla or oil in a measuring spoon over the bowl you’re working in – it can easily spill over into your bowl and there’s no way to fix it.

2) Never break an egg directly into a batter but always into a small bowl or cup first. You’d be surprised how often you’ll find a piece of egg shell.

3) When baking with cocoa powder sift it together with the other dry ingredients because it’s not always easy to incorporate it later.

I also found a couple of helpful links below…

http://allrecipes.com/video/30/how-to-measure-ingredients/detail.aspx

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/measuring-101/

Mar 24, 2014

My ribs are NOT spicy hot.

Best Oven Bbq Ribs Recipe

My fall-off-the-bone ribs are NOT spicy hot. This recipe has been really popular but having an international following has brought on some new challenges. I’m hearing, “I made your fall-off-the-bone ribs and they did fall off the bone but they were so spicy hot we couldn’t eat them.” It turns out that spices are not the same all over the world and the different labeling in some countries has caused my delicious ribs to be too hot to eat. But I don’t like spicy foods and my ribs are not supposed to be hot, so I am here to clarify the confusion for my international visitors.

My rub and sauce recipes call for Chili Powder but I think some people are using Chili Pepper which is not the same thing. Not at all.  Chili Powder is a mixture of spices and peppers and is a bit spicy but not anywhere near hot. That’s why I use 2 teaspoons in my rub and my sauce. But 2 teaspoons of Ground Chili Pepper, which is pure cayenne pepper, will bring tears to your eyes!

As if that’s not enough, the terms “chili” and “chile” are often used interchangeably but they don’t always mean the same thing. Chili powder is usually a blend of spices and it not considered hot, while Chile powder most often refers to pure ground spicy hot chiles. Since every country is different, the only way to tell is to READ THE INGREDIENT LABEL and DO NOT USE pure ground cayenne red chili pepper.

Pepper_Image_02

The recipes I post are all the things I make for myself and I do not like hot & spicy foods so I hope this helps everyone from Malaysia to Australia to Belgium enjoy these delicious fall-off-the-bone, NOT SPICY HOT ribs. And my thanks to Lee and Alissa who took time to let me know. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Jan 28, 2014

How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

How To Make Hard Boiled Eggs Easy To Peel

I make a lot of hard boiled eggs.  A lot. There are some in my fridge right now… perfect, easy to peel, no green ring, hard boiled eggs for snacking, breakfast, deviled eggs, and egg salad. I’ve learned a few things about how to make foolproof hard boiled eggs so here’s what I know…

1) Really fresh eggs will be harder to peel so use your older eggs for boiling.

2) Place eggs in a pot and cover completely with cold water.

3) Do not crowd too many eggs in the pot or they may not cook.

4) If you see a stream of bubbles coming out of an egg in the cold water that means it’s cracked. Remove the cracked egg and save it for cooking.

5) Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the water. If you don’t have baking soda, use salt.

6) Bring the water to a full, rolling boil.

7) Cover the pot and turn off the heat, leaving the pot on the warm burner.

8) Set a timer for 17 minutes. Prepare a bowl of ice water.

10) After 17 minutes remove the eggs from the hot water using a slotted spoon and place them in the ice water for 2 minutes. They will still be warm inside after two minutes.

11) Serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

11) Freshly boiled, warm eggs will be easier to peel than cold ones.

12) Peeling them under running water makes peeling easier.

13) Start to peel at the fat end of the egg for easier peeling.

So that’s all I know about making perfect hard-boiled eggs. Now here is why I eat them: Eggs are a great source of….

~Protein, B vitamins, and minerals.

~Choline, which reduces inflammation, protects against breast cancer, and supports brain health.

~Lutein and Zeaxanthin to ward off macular degeneration.

~Sulphur for shiny hair, strong nails, and glowing skin.

~New research tells us that egg yolks contain dietary cholesterol but they do not raise blood cholesterol. For the latest research on eggs from Prevention Magazine, click here.

So that’s everything I know about making perfect, easy to peel, no green ring hard boiled eggs. Now here’s as quiz: Q: Why do brown eggs cost more than white ones? A: Because the hens are bigger and it costs more to feed them. Nutritionally, there is no difference.

Nov 24, 2013

Make Ahead Gravy (and it’s low fat!)

gravy

Who wants to make gravy at the last minute? Not me! I love to cook a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner with mashed potatoes but I’m starting my gravy today. It’s one less thing to deal with on Thursday. Here’s how I do it: I picked up a package of turkey wings this morning and roasted them in the oven. I just rubbed them with oil, salt & pepper and put them on a baking sheet, roasting for an hour at 375 degrees. Now I’m using them to make stock. I put the wings and every bit of their drippings into a big pot of water along with some onion, carrot, celery, parsnip, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. I will cook it down for 2-3 hours, let it cool, and refrigerate. (The meat from the wings makes a terrific sandwich).

Once the stock cools overnight, I skim off and discard the fat off the top and now I have a delicious roasted turkey stock, ready and waiting in the fridge, to use in my stuffing and to make gravy the day before. Any leftover stock… either becomes soup or I freeze it in ice cube trays for other cooking.

Use this with your own gravy recipe or try mine…

2 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups turkey stock

1. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.

2. Slowly whisk in the stock, stirring constantly until it’s smooth. Cook for 10-15 minutes.

3. Let it cool and refrigerate.

4. DAY OF: Just heat up your gravy and once your turkey is done, pour the drippings into a glass measuring cup and let them stand until they separate (I use a separating cup). Pour off and discard the fat and add the dark particles left on the bottom to your gravy. Taste for salt.

This makes a delicious, low fat gravy with no last minute stress. And for a lighter dessert, try my Lightened Pumpkin Cheesecake. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sep 12, 2013

Broccoli: Eat it or Wear it?

Fresh green vegetable, isolated over white

Luckily, green goes with my hazel eyes. We already know that eating broccoli is one of the healthiest things you can do, especially when it comes to protection against cancer, but how about wearing it? Researchers at the University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University are testing to see if rubbing it on your skin may reduce the risk of skin cancer. The key ingredient is sulforaphane, which prevents the growth of cancer cells. The researchers will be testing a broccoli solution on skin to see if it works.

It could happen. But until it’s proven, don’t go to the beach with a bag of broccoli unless you plan to eat it. Continue using sunscreen and eating your broccoli. Imagine if they start selling broccoli sunscreen? What would they call it? Broc of Olay… La Roche-Brocay… Broccer-tone… Agreeno…  Broc-o-gena… Broccoli Boat… Any other suggestions?

Aug 19, 2013

How To Keep Cookies Crisp

To keep crisp cookies crisp all you need is a stapler, a coffee filter, some baking soda, and an air-tight container. I can explain. The baking soda absorbs moisture and the coffee filter is made of a porous material full of tiny holes that lets the air  circulate easily and allows the baking soda to absorb any moisture.

How to Keep Cookies CrispPut about 1/3 cup of fresh baking soda into a coffee filter and staple it closed with two staples, allowing the open edge to get as much air as possible. Stapling the baking soda inside the filter keeps it from spilling onto the cookies. A couple of staples is all you need. Also, make sure the freshly baked cookies are completely cooled before storing.

How to Store Crispy CookiesPlace the stapled coffee filter in an air-tight container (in any position, upright or laying down) with your cookies and you will find them just as crispy the next day. Here are some other tips for keeping cookies crisp:

  • Cool cookies completely before storing.
  • Do not store soft cookies together with crispy cookies.
  • Glass containers are good for storing crispy cookies.
  • Do not store in plastic bags but use a covered container.
  • Refrigerating cookies will help keep them crisp.
  • If you freeze cookies they will be crispy if you eat them frozen.
  • Cookies that have softened will be never become crispy when stored no matter what tricks you use.
  • Cookies can be re-crisped in a 300 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes.
Jul 28, 2013

Avocado Cookies??

avocado

Did you know you can substitute avocado for some of the butter in cookies? Not all – but some – and it’s a good thing. This simple change eliminates some of the saturated fat in favor of the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind.   You won’t taste the difference although your cookies might be a little green. But if they’re chocolate cookies, who’s gonna know? You can swap up to half of the butter in a cookie recipe with mashed avocado. This simple change will reduce the fat content and calories and you’ll still get the creaminess of butter and the fatty taste.

You would substitute an equal amount of mashed avocado for butter but since it doesn’t melt the same way, it won’t coat your dry ingredients the same. For that reason you need to increase your wet ingredients a little to compensate. To test it out, start slowly, like 2 tablespoons of avocado for 2 tablespoons of butter. Anytime I can reduce any of the butter in baking, I’m on it! – Jenny Jones