Thursday, January 26, 2012

All The Right Tools

Part of what makes a good meal "great" or even the presentation being "something special" is the use of good tools...and not just good tools, but the right tools.  Several years ago, when I first moved away from home my grandmother sent me a box.  That box was chock full of everything that I needed to make good food, the right way. 

I literally thought that I had hit either the jackpot or an early Christmas.  There was everything in there from a new set of mixing bowls, to measuring spoons, mixing spoons, (spoons that I'd had never even heard of...) you name it!  At the time, there were items that I was not familiar with using and didn't really see the purpose in actually "needing" and now I know why!  Having come from a large family, raised one of her own and now passing on these skills to her grandchildren, she knew that part of what it took to make good food, the right way (meaning food that would taste good and you could be proud of) meant initially, first and foremost, having the right tools.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions, am I suggesting to rush out to BedBathandBeyond and max out your credit cards on kitchen equipment?  Absolutely not.  I know that being a good chef or a home cook for that matter means evolving.  It means, growing in your journey.  It means learning what works, and what does not, how to please the one that you love around you, and most of all pleasing yourself.  In fact, with the right tools at your access, I bet you'd be surprise what you can produce.  So with that I want to start with a list of items that I consider "must haves" to have at your disposal to put out a "quality meal".  (*Note: I use the term "quality" lightly...)  And now, here goes!  I suggest some of the right tools that you should have in your arsenal of "this-is-my-attempt-at-making-some-really-good-food-that-people-what-to-eat-and-that-I-could-be-proud-of" as the following:

*a fancy glass or plastic juice or ice tea pitcher
* syrup dispenser
* a microplane zester/grater
* a good set of glass or metal mixing bowls
(from very small to fairly large)
*a four set of small white ramekins
*a four set of small blue or clear glass ramekins
* a nice set of plates (2 to 4 individual plates should do
two if you only plan to cook for you and one other person
four if you anticipate entertaining)
*good measuring cups
*good measuring spoons
* bamboo cooking utensils
* a good set of pots and pans, all sizes
* a hand-held sifter

A couple of other additional items that I think are great to have handy for meal presentation are:

*a lemon
* fresh strawberries
* fresh mint

Just a couple of things for you to throw in your basket the next time you're at the grocery store ;-)

For a full list of links where you could get these items click on the links below. 

mixing bowls here and here
hand sifter (they call this one a "double strainer" but it's good to use for dusting things like confectioner's sugar, etc.)

Till next time,
Happy Cooking!
Chemeeka (a.k.a. Bakie:-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chocolate for Breakfast

As we all know, Valentine's Day is coming.  And when I hear Valentine's Day, three words come to mind....chocolate, chocolate, Chocolate!  So, if you insist..since it is on the calendar as "Chocolate..." I mean..ahem.. "Love Day," I guess I will go ahead and make sure that I have a chocolatey recipe ready for me the one I love (hehe :-)

If you'd like to join me, this recipe is really easy and really, really, good (and not too sweet either ;-).  Here it is:

Chocolate-filled Orange Crepes (for you and the one you love!)
5 ounce box cook & serve chocolate pudding
3 cups of milk
2 cups of complete pancake and waffle mix
1 3/4 to 2 cups of water
1 orange
1 scrambled egg per person (optional)
2 strawberries to garnish
confectioner's sugar

Directions: Using a medium saucepan, follow the instructions for your cook & serve chocolate pudding.  Cook and mix until just slightly thick and then remove saucepan from heat and let set aside to cool (only to room temperature!) and thicken.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your complete pancake and waffle mix with one and three quarters cup of water.  (Now, you want this pancake batter to be thin, because we're going to be making my version of crepes so, not to thick.  But it's up to you to gauge when your mix is thin enough.  Complete pancake mixes vary).  If necessary, add water to your pancake batter until your mix appears to be thin & runny.  Zest the peel of one medium-sized orange and add to your "crepe" mixture. 

Heat a large skillet or fry pan on medium high.  Once warm, oil the bottom with a pat a unsalted butter and spread around.  Pour one fifth of your batter (should be a circle about seven inches in diameter) in the center of the pan.  Cook on one side until bubbles begin to form around the edge and the center of your crepe.  Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown.  Repeat this step for the next crepe until you have made all of your batter.  Remove crepes to a plate to cool until you are ready to fill with your chocolate filling. 

With the back of a spatula, spread generous amounts of chocolate pudding starting in the center of each crepe.  Stop filling about half and inch from the edge and then roll.  Repeat. And top each set of crepes with some dusting of the confectioner's sugar and a strawberry.  If desired, serve with a side of sausage or scrambled eggs.  Delicious!

This recipe is sure to be a treat any day but especially on Valentine's Day!