Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Microwave Rice

Cooking rice on a stove is not as easy as people would have you believe. If you set the heat too high, it can boil over, creating an awful mess. Leave it on the heat a little too long, and you end with rice bonded to your pan. Yet another mess! Too much water, end up with mush. Too little water, crunchy rice. Ick.

I have a confession. I'm a trained chef and even I have trouble getting rice right cooked on the stove (when I worked in restaurants, we steamed the rice in a big steamer which was nearly foolproof). A rice cooker does ok, but who needs another appliance cluttering up the counter? You have a microwave cluttering up your counter already and it happens to be a great rice cooker. Some people have no choice; a microwave is the only thing they have.

Rice is a staple, so having a good method for cooking it in the microwave would be nice, wouldn't it? There are a lot of bad microwave rice recipes out there. By bad, I mean, recipes that totally trash your microwave. I have done extensive testing of recipes and this one really works without creating a pool of starchy rice water in the bottom of your microwave.

Microwave Rice
(makes 3 cups, serves 4-6)

1 3/4 cup water or broth
1 cup rice (converted, jasmine, basmati, long-grain)

Place water and rice in a 4 cup microwaveable bowl or measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. The water should be boiling at this point, but not frothing and going over the sides. Microwave on low (20-30%) power for another 20 minutes. Nearly all the water should be absorbed at the end. Let stand for 5 minutes

On high powered microwaves, 30% is enough to cause boil-overs. Try 30% and if looks like it's going to blow, reduce power to 20%. If it doesn't boil at all in the first minute after you reduced the power, try 40%. The first time you try this, you'll want to keep an eye on it. Unfortunately, given the different power ratings on microwaves (anywhere from 500-1200 watts), it's impossible to give the perfect recipe for every microwave oven.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Knives - what you need to know

Good quality knives are one of the most important tools in your kitchen. They are an investment since a good knife will last for decades, and like most investments, they aren't inexpensive. You don't need to get the most expensive knife but you definitely don't want to get the cheapest knife! You don't need a whole knife block of them either. Get yourself a chef's knife and a paring knife. You'll want a serrated bread knife too but that isn't nearly as important as the first two.
My well-used knives: 10" Chef's, Santuko, paring

Chef's knives come in various sizes, the most common size is 8" to 10". Most people with small hands prefer the smaller size, but a lot of this depends on what you are used to handling. Another option, if a big knife scares you, is a Santoku. It's a Japanese knife with a blunted tip and a shorter blade. It's also an excellent all-purpose knife and it's a style that is now readily available. In either style, you want a knife that has an entirely steel blade. The more metal, the more durable it will be. Skip those plastic knives with a thin strip of metal embedded in the plastic. The handle should be comfortable in your hand. Different brands have different handles. You need to hold them to figure out what you like. I like my Wusthof. Ronnie likes the F.Dick knives. That doesn't mean you'll like either of these. Hold them and decide for yourself.  To hold a chef's knife correctly, choke up on the handle, putting your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other.  Don't put your index finger on the top along the blade; your hand will tire quickly with that grip.

Paring knives are small knives with a pointy tip. You should be able to pick one up cheaply. Many kitchen stores even give away paring knives when you purchase a decent chef's knife.

People often think that dull knives are safer than sharp knives. This is untrue. A dull knife is still absolutely capable of doing a lot of damage to your fingers. But, because it is dull, you need to push a  lot harder to get it to cut through food. This extra force makes it more dangerous. It can bounce off food when you least expect it, ending up in your hand. Sharp knives require almost no work to cut through food. No pushing, no whacking, no forcing. Keep your knives sharp and respect that they are sharp. You won't have to work as hard in the kitchen.

We recommend that you find someplace that will sharpen your knives. Our local hardware store sharpens knives, as does some of the supermarkets. You won't need to sharpen them often - maybe once or twice a year depending on how much you use your knife - but you'll be happy you did. It's also important to steel your knife, to keep the edge really sharp. Here's a short video from Alton Brown that distills steeling and sharpening down to its bare essentials.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Curry: tasty solution for turkey leftovers

Thanksgiving means turkey, and if you are lucky, you will find yourself with a bumper crop of leftover turkey. There will be turkey soup bubbling on stoves Friday and turkey sandwiches to last through the weekend. Here's a different spin on turkey leftovers - a curry. It's a great quick stew for using up all manner of leftover protein. If you don't have turkey, use cooked chicken, cooked shrimp, tofu, or a favorite in my house, leftover leg of lamb.

Quick Turkey Curry
recipe adapted from The Turkey Cookbook by Rick Rodgers
(4 servings)

3 tbl butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbl curry powder
2 tbl flour
1 1/2 cups Turkey Stock or Chicken Stock
3 cups turkey, chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 1 pound)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (nonfat, low-fat or full-fat)
3/4 cup frozen mango, thawed  and chopped (or 1 medium banana, cut into 1/2" slices)
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds (see Note)

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, apple, and garlic and cook until the onion is softened and just golden.

Sprinkle onions with curry powder and stir for 15 seconds.

Sprinkle onions with flour and cook for another minute.

Stir in broth, bring to a simmer and then cook on medium-low for 5 minutes.

Stir in turkey and salt. Cook for 5 minutes to reheat turkey.

Add yogurt and mango. Stir to combine and remove from heat. If you cook the yogurt too long, it will separate and you'll see little flecks of white. Your sauce won't be as smooth either but it's still perfectly fine to eat.

Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve over rice.

Note: to toast nuts put them on a cookie sheet and place in a preheated 300 degree oven for 5 minutes. Don't forget them - they burn quickly!


"As American as Apple Pie." Though apples aren't native to North America, they are certainly associated with the US. They were brought from the Old World to the US early in our history, but these trees didn't fare well here. Most of our apple varieties were actually bred here, making the apple truly American.

Apples are available year round now. US apples are put in cold storage in the fall and shipped out most of the year. And if that isn't enough apples for you, they are shipped from temperate regions in the Southern Hemisphere, such as New Zealand, in the northern spring.

The fact that apples are kept in cold storage is a clue to how you should store them once you get them home. They should be refrigerated to maintain their crisp texture. Unrefrigerated apples quickly turn mealy which is definitely not a good eating apple.

Many people are bewildered by the seemingly endless variety of apples available in your average US supermarket. Who can blame them? How do you pick an apple for a pie? To put in your lunch? To make pork and apples? Here's a list of the most widely known apple varieties, their characteristics, and best uses from the Apple Journal, a great site for all things apple.

Braeburn: an excellent eating and cooking apple with a nice sweet-tart flavor. It's a good keeper. Great for salads because it doesn't turn brown very quickly.

Cameo: like Braeburn, an excellent eating and cooking apple that doesn't brown quickly. It stores well and holds its shape when cooked. More sweet than tart; the balance of the two makes for a mild, tasty apple.

Cortland: a good fresh-eating apple but it doesn't store well, so get it in fall before it's been sitting in storage. Another apple that browns slowly, making it an excellent choice for salads.

Empire: a good all-purpose apple with a firm texture and sweet flavor. It stores fairly well.

Fuji: an exceptional apple both for its excellent mild flavor and its keeping qualities. Even Fuji's stored until into the spring are fine fresh eating apples.

Gala: a sweet, mild apple best for fresh-eating. Not a good keeper so enjoy while in season in the fall.

Golden Delicious: a mild eating apple, some would say kind of dull. Best in season, not out of storage. Good for cooking in pies or sauces.

Granny Smith: quite tart, very crisp and it holds up well in shipping and storage. More a cooking apple than a fresh-eating apple but if you like your apples tart, this is the apple for you.

Honeycrisp: the new apple on the block. Many consider this the best fresh-eating apple around and it often commands prices to match that popularity. Crisp, juicy and perfectly tart-sweet. Good cooking apple.

Jonagold: a good juicy eating apple with a complex flavor. Best in season.

Jonathon: excellent eating apple that keeps well. It does not hold its shape in cooking so best for sauce or fresh-eating. It is a 200 year old variety from New York state, making it truly American.

MacIntosh: A tangy spicy apple in season but their texture goes soft (though not necessarily mealy) in storage. Best eaten in season. Good for pies and sauce but doesn't hold its shape in cooking.

Red Delicious: the iconic-looking apple with shiny red skin. Unfortunately, its flavor doesn't live up to its name and it is often stored way too long.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Homemade Granola

Homemade granola is so much better than what you can buy in a box or from the bulk bins at the store.  You can control the sweetness, include the nuts and fruits you like (or not), and it's way less expensive, too!  Here is the recipe I make every few weeks.  I like it with yogurt or as a snack, but of course, you can eat it for breakfast with milk, too.

makes about 7 cups

3 cups rolled oats (get the organic oats at the grocery store bulk aisle)
2 cups nuts (I like slivered almonds, but I've made it with half almonds and half pecans, all pecans, or walnuts)
1/8 cup ground flax seed
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup dried fruit (brown or golden raisins, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, flax seed, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  In a measuring cup, pour in the oil and maple syrup.    Pour the liquid mixture into the dry and mix thoroughly.  Pour onto a half sheet pan or two smaller pans that have sides.  Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Add dried fruit and mix until evenly distributed.  Keep it in the refrigerator, so it stays fresh. Well, that's only if you don't snarf it down right away!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Excitement at School of Eating Good

As some of you may know, School of Eating Good is part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Our official name on Facebook is "Boulder, CO Food Revolution" and are very proud to be associated with Mr. Oliver's organization. If you are not on Facebook, you can see what the Food Revolution is about here. There are a number of thrusts to the Food Revolution, but it boils down to a simple message: improving the way we eat. There are groups dedicated to improving school lunches and getting sweetened milk out of schools, groups that promote sustainable agriculture, and, groups like School of Eating Good that are dedicated to improving how we eat by teaching people how to cook.

We are very excited because the home office asked us to write an article about who we are, what we do and our plans for the future. It is now up on the Food Revolution page with a picture of our smiling faces. We want to thank you, our readers, for giving us this opportunity. Traffic through our Facebook page was noticed by the Food Revolution and that's why we were asked to write the article. This can only be good for School of Eating Good as it is sure to generate even more traffic through our Facebook page and this blog. We love the fact that even more people will help us spread the message that cooking is great fun and the key to eating well and building connections between people!

If you support the mission of the Food Revolution, why don't you sign Jamie's Petition?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

My daughter loves everything pumpkin – pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin muffins, and especially pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  These are little cakey wonders, with a sweet, maple icing. The icing can be piped on (like in the picture above) or spread on the cookies after they cool.  Feel free to substitute chopped pecans for the chocolate chips and maybe put some in the icing, too.  But, first try them with chocolate chips and you’ll see why these are one of her favorites.

For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the icing:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a second large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar.  Use an electric mixer to beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla, then mix until well combined. Add half the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the other half and mix again. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 1-Tablespoon mounds, arranging them 2 inches apart.  Bake for 14 minutes, or until lightly browned at the edges.  Midway through baking, rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back.

While the cookies bake, in a medium bowl combine the butter and maple syrup. Use an electric mixer to beat until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.  Mix well. Add the powdered sugar and mix well, beating until fluffy. Set aside.

Once the cookies have baked, cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, either pipe or spread the frosting on them.  Makes about 50 cookies.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Easy Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of our favorite comfort foods. Nowadays, most of it comes out of a box, which is a bit sad since it's unbelievably easy to make it yourself. This recipe isn't the saucy variety but it is delicious and cheesy. You have to wait longer for it because it's baked but the actual work takes about 5 minutes.

Easy Mac & Cheese
(serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish; total cost is $4.10)

1 cup Elbow Macaroni
2 cups Shredded Jack, Colby Or Cheddar Cheese, about 8 oz
1 tsp Butter + some to grease the dish
½ cup Milk (skim, lowfat or whole milk; half & half or cream work too if you want it really rich)
1 large Egg , beaten
½ tsp Salt
1 pinch Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for 8 minutes. Drain well. Place in a buttered 4 cup baking dish or glass measure.

Add butter and mix to melt butter. Add 1 ½ cups cheese to macaroni and mix. Combine milk, egg, salt and pepper. Pour over macaroni. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until milk is absorbed and cheese is gooey.