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Overwhelmed by Zucchini? Here’s How to Freeze It

by Elizabeth Skipper July 23rd, 2014| Ask the Chef
zucchini-176880_640Zucchini season has begun.  Is there any way to freeze it for use in the winter? I know that I can pickle it, but I would prefer to have plain zucchini, which I can use in an assortment of dishes.

It's that time of year, when if your squash plants haven't been attacked by bugs, they're starting to produce in such quantities you'll soon be over-run. One to three plants are sufficient for most families, but sometimes it's hard to believe that and so we over-plant. Even if we don't, the kitchen counter starts to get buried, the neighbors are
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Make Your Own “Jello”, Only Better

by Elizabeth Skipper July 16th, 2014| Ask the Chef
file0001082961770I make most of my desserts from scratch:  cookies, cakes, pies, pudding.  However, I never have made gelatin from scratch. I always buy the flavored box mix.  Is it difficult to make homemade gelatin? I know that I can purchase plain gelatin but wasn’t sure how I would infuse flavors. Any suggestions?

For a minute there, I thought you were asking about making gelatin, not jelled desserts, from scratch. Then I realized you meant making a Jello equivalent, which is whole lot simpler! Making gelatin can be done, but it's a lengthy, somewhat messy, process. Making homemade Jello is easy.

Start
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Creaming Butter and Sugar: How Long Does It Take?

by Elizabeth Skipper July 9th, 2014| Ask the Chef
00019Almost all cookie recipes call for the butter and sugar to be creamed.  I have read that you should beat them for 3-5 minutes. Do I really need to beat the mixture for that long? The dough seems well combined in 30-60 seconds.

Creaming is a method used in making many kinds of cookies, cakes, and quick breads. It's more extensive than mixing, which is simply combining ingredients until they're well incorporated.

When softened butter is creamed with sugar, the individual grains of sugar are distributed throughout the fat and fluff up the mixture. It's obvious to think of air bubbles
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Real Whipped Cream: Keep It Real, Keep It Whipped

by Elizabeth Skipper July 2nd, 2014| Ask the Chef
whipped-cream-354174_640I saw a recipe that has whipped topping (non-dairy) with blueberries and strawberries to make a flag design.  I personally detest whipped topping.  However, I think that homemade whipped cream won’t hold up as well at a cookout.  Any suggestions on what I could use as a topping? The base of the dessert is a simple yellow cake.

I've seen this cake – didn't it originally come from an advertisement? It's perfect for any patriotic occasion, and with July 4th coming up, what a great dessert for a cookout. Of course, it's hot in July; and using whipped topping makes
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Keep Berries from Spoiling – With A Cookie Sheet

by Elizabeth Skipper June 25th, 2014| Ask the Chef
blueberries-269997_640I’m not sure if a chef is the best person to ask, but as you work with fresh ingredients, I thought I would ask.  How can I get soft berries, such as raspberries and blackberries to last longer than 24 hours.  It seems that they become mushy and moldy within a day of purchasing. Is there a way to store them that will allow them to last for a couple days more?

Fresh berries are particularly fragile and susceptible to spoilage. Rule # 1 is to never wash them before you're ready to use them. Any moisture will cause almost
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Pound Cake: A Pound of Everything?

by Elizabeth Skipper June 18th, 2014| Ask the Chef
cake-21422_1280I have heard that pound cake is named because it has a pound of sugar and a pound of butter.  In order to make a homemade pound cake, do I really need to use such great amounts?  (I am hoping to make one loaf pan.)

Pound cake is actually called that because it calls for a pound each of butter and sugar, but also a pound each of eggs and flour, for a total of four pounds in all. That makes enough batter to fill about two one-loaf pans.

It may be easier to think of this kind of cake in
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Turkey With What Sauce?

by Elizabeth Skipper June 11th, 2014| Ask the Chef
backdrop-22024_640Maybe once or twice a year I make a turkey or turkey breast, when it is not during the holiday season.  However, I am not able to find fresh or frozen cranberries to make cranberry sauce.  Is there another fruit I could use (and find easily) to make a different sauce that would complement the turkey?

It sounds as though you want to duplicate the Thanksgiving presentation of turkey as closely as possible, just at other times of the year. Interesting. I like to make turkey other times of the year, too, but I always prepare it differently from a
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Vinaigrette: Choose Your Ratio

by Elizabeth Skipper June 4th, 2014| Ask the Chef
file231299986691I know that there is a specific ratio for salad dressing.  I believe it is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. That seems like a heavy dressing.  I know I could just switch the ratio, but I was wondering, is there a reason why that is the typical ratio?

That ratio is often quoted, but really it should only be considered a starting point. There is no one "correct" ratio. That will depend on the vinegars and oils you use, the kinds of salad and salad dressing you're making, and your personal taste.

The most basic salad dressing is vinaigrette,
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Hot Dogs: Better With Cuts, or Without?

by Elizabeth Skipper May 28th, 2014| Ask the Chef
sausage-7245_640My father always makes cuts in hot dogs before grilling them.  As this is going to be first summer with my own place (and a grill!), I was wondering if I need to make cuts in the hot dogs?  My dad’s answer is, “It’s just how I cook them.”  Will making cuts improve the way they cook or taste?

This reminds me of the apocryphal story about the woman whose daughter asked her why she was cutting the end off the ham (or maybe it was leg of lamb) before roasting it. "Well, I've always done it that way. That's
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Pecan Pie — It’s Really A Custard

by Elizabeth Skipper May 21st, 2014| Ask the Chef
pies2Is there a specific ratio for eggs, corn syrup, and melted butter in pecan pie?  I have used the same recipe the last two times I made it, but the filling stayed runny.  I didn’t want to bake it any longer, as it would burn. I was thinking that I might need to use less of one of the liquid ingredients; my current recipe uses 3 eggs, 1 cup corn syrup, and 1/3 cup butter.  Do you have any advice?

There are specific ratios for the amount of liquid ingredients a certain number of eggs will set. When we learned
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Sunny Side Up, Coming Right Up

by Elizabeth Skipper May 14th, 2014| Ask the Chef
fried-eggs-337530_640I love ordering my eggs sunny side up at restaurants.  However, I don’t know how to cook that at home.  Is it something simple that I could do?  If so, can you explain?

Certainly you can. Why ever not? It is simple; however, there are a few things to keep in mind for successfully preparing sunny-side-up eggs.

First off, be sure your eggs are fresh. As eggs age, the dense layer of white which surrounds the yolk thins out and the yolk is no longer as centered as it is in a fresh egg. By three weeks, the yolk flattens out
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Subbing Brewed Espresso for Powder?

by Elizabeth Skipper May 7th, 2014| Ask the Chef
acrylic-76802_640I found a recipe for a mocha cake that requires the use of espresso powder.  I don’t own any and can’t imagine using it for anything else.  Could I possibly substitute brewed espresso and decrease a liquid (such as the milk or oil)?

Absolutely not. Baking is a precise science, and the liquids you mention aren't simply liquids. In the case of milk, it has properties such as flavor, fat, lactose (a kind of sugar), and proteins which will affect the outcome of the recipe. Oil in a cake provides lubrication, makes a cake moister and denser, and extends its
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