Apr 6, 2009

Cookbooks vs. Cooking Blogs

by Ellen Wilson

Last time I stepped into the kitchen with a cookbook, I was at home with my mother, baking candy cane cookies for Christmas. On a daily basis, my recipe is generally coming from a bright laptop screen resting on the kitchen table, a safe distance from the counter covered with bowls of hardware-frying liquids. As laptops become a regular visitor to the kitchen, some have begun to wonder if cooking blogs are taking over cookbooks. For the college audience, cookbooks are another item to cram into an already overflowing apartment or condo. Blogs are no cost and you can find exactly what you need without flipping through hundreds of pages or searching the indexes. But swiping your finger over your mouse pad to keep your laptop from sleeping can not only make a mess of a fairly delicate machine but also doesn't hold the same thrill as turning the warped, stained pages of a old family cookbook.

When cooking with a blog, it's almost guaranteed that you'll have a picture to base your final product from. Most times, not only will you have a finished picture, but many bloggers post pictures of each step of the recipe. With the steps explained and demonstrated for you, it's simpler to follow a challenging recipe from beginning to end. However, if you discover a better technique or ingredient, it's difficult to make note of that on your computer screen. Unless you want to copy and past the article and then add notes to it in Microsoft Word or another word-processing program, you're stuck with just a web address and your memory. A partial solution for this is the comment section on the blog found on many blog or recipe sites. This user feedback offers helpful insights or alterations. A mediocre recipe can be altered and improved through the collective wisdom of the Internet community.

While your cookbook may only contain a few choice photos, it's your cookbook and the pages are open to doodles, notes, crossing out and altering. Not to mention that there is no risk of your recipe disappearing somewhere in the blogosphere. However, what you lose in flexibility, you gain in experience. Typically, a cookbook will contain the traditional recipes you and your family have been using for years. Or it might include recipes of a famous chef whom you can trust without having to check the ratings. You know your standard recipes and can flip to them easily. The overturned jar of rhubarb syrup won't cost you hundreds in repairs either. One avid baker, BYU student Eric Severson, sums up the debate with victories on both sides; "If I'm making an old favorite or a standard recipe, I'll use one of my books; I know where most of the recipes I want are, if I don't have them memorized by now. If I'm looking up something new, I probably use the internet to explore and get ideas." With all the benefits of each, there is no firm winner; blogs and books are best when used to supplement each other.

Some cooking blogs we suggest:

101 Cookbooks

Chocolate and Zucchini

The Crepes of Wrath

Dinner Tonight

I Shot the Chef

Kitchen Unplugged

The Kitchn

Nook and Pantry

Simply Recipes

Freeze It

by Ellen Wilson

Whether you're cooking for one and you always have leftovers spoiling in the fridge or if you're too busy to prepare a meal every night, learning how to properly freeze foods can save you both time and money. We've created an all-inclusive guide that takes you from general tips to freezing specific foods.

General Tips:
  • Organize your freezer so that you can use your space in the most efficient manner.
  • Use Ziploc bags to freeze liquids.
  • Clearly label everything you freeze with contents, amount, and date.
  • Filling the container can prevent freezer burn.
  • Freezing in serving-size portions is more convenient for cooking and the smaller portions thaw faster.
  • Dishes with milk and other dairy products do not freeze well. A good idea is to freeze just before you would add the dairy and add the dairy once you've defrosted your meal.
  • Frozen egg whites can be kept forever and are just as good thawed. Be sure to keep track of how many egg whites are in the container.
  • Caramelized onions can be frozen in ice cube trays or muffin tins and then put in a larger sealed container. That way you can take out smaller portions as needed. They will keep for several months unless they develop freezer burn.
  • When freezing bread, be sure it's in airtight wrapping or in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out. If moisture gets in the wrapping, the ice crystals may make your bread soggy when thawed.
  • Pre-cooked chicken can save a lot of time when cooking. Shredding the chicken before freezing helps decrease defrosting time later. Depending on your typical meals, freeze your chicken in various amounts in different containers so you always have the amount you need.
  • When freezing meat, it's best to keep it in its original wrapping, if possible. If you plan on keeping it in the freezer for a long time, wrap the store wrapping with addition freezer wrap (such as plastic wrap or aluminum foil) or put inside a freezer bag.
  • When freezing vegetables, choose vegetables at their peak flavor and texture. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly and trim away bad areas. Drain and chill food before packing into either freezer bags or freezer containers. Remove as much air as possible from the packaging. Most vegetables can be cooked with little or no thawing.
  • For cookies, you can freeze the dough in a container, individual balls, or a dough log. For cookie balls, roll the dough into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet until they are hard, or about an hour. You can then put all the balls into a freezer bag. For a dough log, roll the dough into a log, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper and freeze. When preparing, just cut slices of the log. Frozen dough can be cooked at the same temperature as fresh dough; just add a minute or two to the time.
  • For cakes, you can freeze baked cake rounds and thaw without detracting from taste or texture. Bake the cake as normal and let it cool completely. When completely cool, wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap and a thin layer of aluminum foil and store flat in the freezer. However, when defrosting, it's important to take the cake out the night before you want to use it and let it defrost slowly in the refrigerator. A cake left to defrost on the counter may end up mushy.
    Flavor may change when food is stored past the following time limits.
  • Raw steak or beef roast: 6-12 months
  • Raw pork chops or pork roast: 4-6 months
  • Raw chicken: 9 months
  • Cooked red meat: 2-3 months
  • Cooked chicken: 4 months
  • Chicken broth: 3 months
  • Lunch meats: 1-2 months
  • Raw fatty fish (salmon, tuna): 2-3 months
  • Raw lean fish (cod, bass): 6 months
  • Cooked fish: 4-6 months
  • Soup: 2-3 months
  • Pizza: 1-2 months
  • Hard cheeses (Parmesan, cheddar, etc): 6 months
  • Nuts: 2 months
  • Rice: 1 month
  • Tomato paste: 3 months
  • Unsalted butter: 6 months
  • Fruits and vegetables are good for up to one year, though taste and texture may start to deteriorate if freezer burnt.
  • The safest way to thaw food is in the refrigerator. Just remember to plan ahead because meat typically takes eight hours of refrigerated defrosting time per pound.
  • The microwave is the fasted method but because it starts the cooking process, it's necessary to begin cooking the food immediately after defrosting.
  • For meats or frozen soups, thawing in a bowl of water is also a method of defrosting. Seal the food in a watertight bag and immerse in a bowl of cold or lukewarm water. Change the water every 30 minutes but don't defrost for more than two hours or you might have bacterial growth on your food.

The Skyroom Restaurant

by Ellen Wilson

Located on the sixth floor of the Wilkinson Student Center, the Skyroom Restaurant offers the most visually stunning view on campus. With a lunch buffet served Monday-Friday, you can schedule lunch for a quick thirty minutes or a lingering hour and have the same gourmet food ready.

The buffet always includes one entrée and two pastas, or two entrées and one pasta, so there are always multiple main course options. In addition, the buffet includes two sauces, two soups, fresh rolls, carved meat, a full salad bar, prepared salads, seasonal fruit, and a variety of desserts. The buffet theme changes daily, so if you're craving Italian on Thursday, you can find several main Italian entrées, such as Chicken Parmesan, Fettuccine and other pasta options. Check their website to see the list of buffet menus.

If you're planning a wedding reception, schedule your meal at the Skyroom. Work with the Skyroom's wedding consultant to plan the meal, decorations, music and general atmosphere of your wedding reception or luncheon. See our feature article on Skyroom weddings for an example of what you could enjoy at your reception.

Apr 1, 2009

Spring Cleaning

by Ellen Wilson

The dust on your television is almost an inch think and you can't honestly remember what in is in that Tupperware staring at you from the back of the fridge: let's do some cleaning. Our opinion is that you should just tie back your hair in a bandana and roll up your sleeves in one, big heave-all but we recognize that you might not have an entire Saturday morning to dedicate to tidying up the place. We've divided your apartment, condo, or house into mini-cleaning groups that you can do one at a time or tackle all in one go.

General Tips:

  • Cut back on the clutter. If you haven't used it in months and it doesn't have any monetary or personal value, chuck it or donate it to charity.
  • Have an order of attack. Step back and look at the room and decide the process you'll take. It's a good idea to save vacuuming for after dusting and washing down the walls and baseboards. You might even want to start in a corner and work your way around the room.
The Refrigerator (yes, this gets it own group):
  • Empty each shelf and use disinfectant to wipe and clean the shelves.
  • Combine salsas, salad dressings, pasta sauce and similar condiments if you have multiple jars.
  • If you didn't make it yesterday or the day before, just throw it out.
  • Save jars and clean jars you've emptied. You can reuse these for leftovers, storing flour or sugar, or flower vases. However, don't save them if you don't have room. Take them to a recycle center instead.
  • Clear off the old wedding engagement photos and wipe down the outside and handle.
The Kitchen:
  • Replace your dirty, grey-tinted sponge with a new one. You might want to hang on to the old one to use in cleaning up the rest of the kitchen.
  • Clear off your counters and use bleach to wash them down.
  • Organize pans, lids, dishes, Tupperware, spices and other things that have turned into big, messy piles.
  • Wash all your dishtowels and potholders.
  • After you've finished cleaning all the counters and table, mop the floor.
The Living Room:
  • Dust. Dust everything. Get into the corners and on top of the shelves. Use cleaning products to clean and add a little shine after you've cleared off the filth.
  • Clean the windows and windowsills. See if you remember anything from your Biology course and identify a few of the bugs you're sure to find.
  • Clear off tables of clutter. Throw away or recycle old magazines and newspapers.
  • Vacuum. Pull out the future to get underneath and also be sure to remove cushions and vacuum under there. Collect all the change and buy yourself a popsicle afterwards.
The Bathroom:
  • Disinfect everything, even your toothbrush stand.
  • Empty drawers and check expiration dates on toiletries. Combine any multiples. Wash down the insides of drawers and cupboards.
  • Dust and clean around the lights and the mirror. Using cleaning supplies on the mirror and counter.
  • Tackle the shower. Take the curtain down and wash it if you can. Take the plastic liner outside to clean and disinfect it.
  • Clean and shine all the spouts and handles in your sink, shower, etc.
  • Sweep and mop the floor last.
The Bedroom:
  • Fold your clothes and make your bed.
  • Dust and clean the lights.
  • Clean off your desk and bookshelves. Dust and then use wood varnish to shine your furniture.
  • Vacuum. This includes moving the bed and all the stuff you have stowed underneath.
Enjoy the cleanliness! Your living space is sure to feel brighter and more comfortable. After the big clean, just do quick, 5 minute cleaning spurts to keep everything in order.

Kitchen Scale

By Ellen Wilson

Kitchen Scale

If you do more than just the average cooking and baking, a kitchen scale might be your next culinary purchase. Kitchen scales help to measure your ingredients more accurately, especially with chopped vegetables, or other odd-shaped items that don't fit well into measuring cups. Many times foreign recipes list their ingredients by weight, so if you're interested in using foreign recipes, such as trying out a soufflé from a French cookbook, a scale eliminates the task of converting weight to cups, tablespoons, etc. The scale we have pictured is an old-school spring scale but digital kitchen scales are available for more accurate readings. Some digital scales also have features such as zeroing out the weight of your container so you don't have to measure both separately. Purchase a scale in various types and colors at any kitchen supply store.

Taco Salad

Lunch of the MonthWhere:The Museum of Art Café

What: Taco Salad

Price: $3.79 (small), $5.69 (large) or $6.49 (MOA special with soup and bread)

Kidney beans, red onion, olives, tomatoes, red bell peppers, green peppers, corn, cheddar and tortilla chips with spicy taco dressing
The MOA Café's Taco Salad is a tasty blend of veggies, cheese and beans with the crunch of tortilla chips. The dressing provides just enough kick to keep you eating without having to take a break for your mouth to cool. Just like many of MOA Café's other meals, the Taco Salad takes a traditional favo
rite and makes it even better. Buy it à la carte or also get a soup and bread for $6.49. We recommend the Pumpkin Soup or Mexicali Tortilla soup.


Easter Eggs

By Ellen Wilson

The first step for the egg decorating process is to be sure that your eggs are hard-boiled. Either make sure the container you hard-boiled is marked or follow in Ramona Quimby's footsteps and crack one on the ol' noggin.
For your dye, we suggest purchasing a kit with color tablets and dissolving them in vinegar. After your dyes are prepared, try out one or a few of our following hints on how to decorate Easter eggs.

Dying with Crayons
1. Draw your design on the egg. Be sure that the crayon wax really sticks to the egg.
2. Dip the egg into a darker color. Leave it in the dye for at least three minutes or until it reaches the color you desire.
3. Allow the eggs to dry and preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.
4. When the eggs have dried, put them into the preheated oven for 5 minutes so that the crayon softens.
5. Wipe the crayon off the egg with a paper towel.
6. Dip the eggs into a lighter dye color, which will fill the areas where the crayon design was.
7. Allow to dry.

Polka Dot Eggs
1. Dye the egg in a lighter color, such as light pink or yellow.
2. Allow to dry.
3. Light a small candle, such as a birthday candle. Holding the egg in one hand, carefully allow the wax from the candle to drip onto the egg in a polka dot pattern. Be careful not to burn your fingers. Turn the egg slowly so that the dots can be more evenly spaced. Since you won't be able to wax the whole egg at once, do one side, allow to dry, and then the other.
4. Allow the wax to cool and harden.
5. Dye the egg in a darker color, complementary to your first.
6. Allow to dry.
7. Remove wax.

Rubber band Eggs
1. Start with dying your egg in a light color.
2. Allow to dry.
3. Wrap a few rubber bands around the egg and then dye the egg in another color that is slightly darker than the first. Leave the rubber bands on and allow to dry.
4. Wrap more rubber bands and dye in a dark color. Dry and then repeat this step as many times as you'd like.
5. Once the egg has dried completely, remove the rubber bands.

Sponge Painted Eggs
1. Cut a sponge into several smaller pieces.
2. Using simple watercolor paints (like a cheap set of Crayola paints), use the sponge to create a textured look on your egg. Do not rub the sponge, but just simply press lightly.
3. If you want to do more than one color, leave spaces between your sponge prints. Allow each color to dry completely before adding another color.

Using Pantyhose to Dye Eggs
1. Using old pantyhose, cut the legs into 6-inch sections. Tie a knot in one end, making it as close to the edge as possible.
2. Put a hard-boiled egg into the pantyhose holder. If you'd like, you can add plastic flowers, leaves, or confetti in to the holder to make decorations.
3. Tie a second knot at the top of the end. Tie this securely as possible to prevent your extra decorative items from slipping.
4. Place the egg and holder inside the cup of dye, allowing the extra pantyhose at the top to hang out so that you are able to easily remove the egg from the dye.
5. Allow to dry and then untie the knot and remove your egg.
Make sure to store your colored eggs in the refrigerator after dying.

BYU Mint Brownies

BYU Mint Brownies

PREP AND COOK: 90 min. COOL: 1 hr.

1 c. margarine
1/2 c. cocoa
2 Tbsp. honey
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts
12 oz. chocolate icing (Use your own icing recipe or purchase some chocolate fro
sting. You can also search the Internet for chocolate icing recipes.)

5 Tbsp. margarine
dash of salt
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. mint extract
1-2 drops green food coloring

1. Melt margarine and mix in cocoa. Allow to cool. Add honey, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Add nuts. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool.
2. Prepare mint icing: Soften margarine. Add salt, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Add mint extract and food coloring. Mix. Add milk gradually until the consistency is a little thinner than cake frosting.
3. Spread mint icing over brownies. Place brownies in the freezer for a short time to stiffen the icing. Remove from the freezer and carefully add a layer of chocolate icing.

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound fresh pumpkin (skinned, seeded, and diced)
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup whole milk
4 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons sour cream

In a large pot, combine onion, garlic, pumpkin pie spice, cayenne, stock, pumpkin and honey. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from pot and puree. Return to pot. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and cornstarch until smooth. Add to pot of soup, stirring constantly. Bring soup back to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. During this time, add the lemon juice and salt to taste. Garnish each serving with a dab of sour cream.