Friday, December 24, 2010

Sift Without a Sifter?

Dear Aunt Sally Good Food, 

I don't have a flour sifter. Is there a way to sift flour without one? Thank you! 


Dear Lisa,

You're in luck! You don't need a sifter. Recent improvement in flour production have eliminated the need to pre-sift four.  Simply stir up the flour with a spoon, then gently pour it into your measuring cup. Do not pack. Level the surface and you're done!

If you need to sift several dry ingredients together, simply place all dry ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine. A wire whisk makes easy work of this.

Remember, the most important thing is to not pack it down.

Culinarily yours,

Aunt Sally

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fudging on Fudge?

Dear Aunt Sally Good Food,

Here is a question. This holiday season, I have tried some new fudge recipes. I follow the instructions but when I try to cut the fudge it is not solid enough to cut even when it sits over night in the refrigerator or put it in the freezer. What I am I doing wrong Aunt Sally? 

Frustrated dessert maker - Dallas

Dear Frustrated,

The culprit could be the recipes or you might not be following them as closely as you think.

A definition first.  Real fudge is not the candy made with marshmallow creme and chocolate.  That might be tasty, but it is not fudge. Real fudge is a form of fondant or crystalline candy. It is the formation of fine crystals that gives fudge its creamy texture. This is where science comes in.

Crystalline candy depends on perfect timing and exact ingredients.  Substituting, say, brown sugar for white sugar will add too much moisture, since brown sugar contains more water. Corn syrup acts as a crystal inhibitor, slowing down the crystallization process.  Leaving it out will upset the crystallization process. Adding too much alcohol can disturb the process, too. Beating the fudge before it cools, or beating with an electric mixer, will make large crystals resulting in grainy fudge that never sets. Use a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease instead. Check temperatures with a thermometer. For more detailed information, check out San Francisco's Exploratorium. 

Meanwhile, try the recipe for the prize winning fudge you see above. That picture was taken moments after winning a ribbon at The State Fair of Texas. The recipe is from the Joy of Cooking.

Tastefully yours,

Aunt Sally

Fudge Cockaigne (from Joy of Cooking)

Bring to a boil in a large heavy pan:
1 cup minus 1-tablespoon milk
Remove from heat and stir until dissolved:
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 ounces grated unsweetened chocolate
Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes until the steam washes down from the sides of the pan any crystals which may have formed.

Uncover, reduce heat and cook without stirring to the soft-ball stage, 234º.

Remove from heat without jostling or stirring. Cool the candy to 110º. You may hasten this process by placing the hot pan in a larger pan of cold water until the bottom of the pan has cooled.

4 tablespoons butter

Beat fudge partially.  Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla

Then beat until it begins to lose its sheen.

Pour the fudge into a buttered pan. Cut into squares before it hardens.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Crustless Pumpkin Pie?

Dear Aunt Sally Good Food,

I'm sure you're the right friend for this question!

Can I make pumpkin pie filling and just bake it in a pan like brownies instead of baking it in a crust? It's for a holiday party so I don't have time for a practice run... 


Dear Erica,

Sure. It's basically a pumpkin custard. Be sure to butter the inside of the pan so the pumpkin custard will come out.

It will cook more evenly if you put the pumpkin custard pan inside another pan. Fill the outer pan with hot water so that the water comes up to the height of the custard inside the inner pan. If it's not exactly the same height, it'll be fine, but get as close as possible. The hot water acts as a buffer, ensuring even heating of the custard. Follow your pie recipe for the time and temperature.

Have fun cooking!

Aunt Sally

Send Your Holiday Cooking Questions

Do you have holiday cooking questions? Send them my way and I'll answer them on the blog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Next Food Network Star Audition - 2010


Yessiree. I'm auditioning again.

This very fruitcake won a ribbon at the Texas State Fair!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Common Threads, Labor and Watermelon Rind Preserves

Chai Spiced Watermelon Rind Preserves with quilting fabric

Waxahachie, TX

Labor Day last week was one of those early fall days when the sunshine sparkles and the wind cools. I spent it in Waxahachie, Texas, a charming small town just south of Dallas.

Downtown Waxahachie’s century old buildings house shops and restaurants. Just outside the town square is Common Threads Quilting, a store specializing in nineteenth century reproduction fabric.  I went to pick up some quilting supplies to make my first quilt.

Being in the play, Quilters, has made me think about how our great grandmothers lived. Their greatest capital was hard work. They took scraps of scraps and turned them into practical artistry.

Watermelon rind preserves are like that too. The pale green rind we throw away today was a treasure to our ancestors. Virtually tasteless, watermelon rind absorbs the flavor in which it is cooked. It becomes a blank canvas for creativity.

Last year, I won a ribbon at the State Fair of Texas for Watermelon Rind Preserves. Long a holiday tradition in our family, the recipe has been handed down for at least three generations. They were special because we knew how much labor was involved in the making. Watermelon rind preserves are tempting on ice cream, on freshly baked biscuits or straight from the jar.

I just won another ribbon for these preserves. This year, I made Chai Spiced Watermelon Rind Preserves. Chai spice blend is hard to describe, but never forgotten. The blend of cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cloves and cardamom is both exotic and familiar. 

After visiting the quilt shop, I took a stroll through Getzendaner Memorial Park. I brought a jar of preserves, hoping to find the right spot to photograph them.  A log had fallen conveniently into a ray of sunshine.  Perfect!

Fabric scraps, watermelon rind and a fallen dead log. Buried within all these seemingly worthless discards lies buried treasure. Labor is the key to unlock their practical artistry.  

Chai Spiced Watermelon Rind Preserves

Rind of watermelon

For each pound rind:
1 cup water
1 pound sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
12 whole cloves, (or enough for two per jar)
6 green cardamon pods (or enough for one per jar)
6 cinnamon sticks (or enough for one per jar)
6 thin slices ginger, (or enough for one per jar)
6 black peppercorns, (or enough for one per jar)

Remove soft flesh and dark green skin from watermelon.  Chop watermelon rind into cubes. (One-half to one inch. Depending on your preference.)

Weigh rind.  Soak rind in alum water, using 2 teaspoons alum to one-quart water. Make enough alum water to cover rind. Soak one hour. 

Drain, cover in ice water. Soak another hour. Drain.

Place in large pot. Cover with fresh water. Boil 1½ hours. Drain again.

Place required amount of sugar and water in clean pot.  Cook 5 minutes to make a syrup.

Add melon rind, and cook until tender.  Add vanilla extract.

Pack into sterilized jars. Divide spices evenly among jars.  Process in hot water bath, 10 minutes for ½ pints, 15 minutes for pints.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Oven Has A 'Tude

After searching for over a YEAR, I finally found a replacement coil for my oven!!! My very, very favoritest electrician, Chris Martinez, just installed it!! Woot! Woot!! Yeah, that's right. My oven is making a cool dude face cuz Mr. Oven is so hot! I see the future and there are cookies in it!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shakespeare, Roosters and Prairie Womenfolk

Me backstage gettin' all Shakespeare-y

You caught me. I’ve been a bad girl. I haven’t been writing much, have I? Well, there’s a very good excuse. I’ve been cast in several plays back-to-back.

First, there was Shakespeare Dallas’ production of Cymbeline. I played Helen, lady in waiting to Princess Imogen (Jo Schellenberg). Me? Playing the part of a subservient lady in waiting? Now, THAT’S acting. Jo kept us well supplied with beef jerky backstage. It’s the perfect snack for actors; it’s high protein and doesn’t spill on our costumes.

Shakespeare Dallas is more of a family than an acting company. We had plenty of cast party suppers. Yeah. I know. I should have gotten recipes and taken pictures. My bad. Then again, the actors' recipes were probably closely guarded secrets. Chris Hury, who played Posthumous Leonatis, made wild boar empanadas and deer sausage for the cast parties.  There’s something about a man who hunts his own food that makes it a little intimidating to ask for a recipe. Intriguing, but intimidating.

Hat played by esteemed character actor, Brewster the Rooster
Then, in Art Centre Theatre’s production of Hello Dolly, I played blind-date-from-hell, Ernestina Money. Oh, the torture I inflicted on poor Horace Vandergelder (Doug Johnson). There are a lot of poultry references in the Harmonia Garden scene, so I made a rooster hat to wear.  Yep. A rooster hat.  Ladies of the Belle Epoche era put a lot of bird parts on their hats. Fashion. Humph. Go figure.  Brewster the Hat Rooster and the intoxicating scent of the nearby fried chicken restaurant left me craving chicken every night.

So, what on earth have I been cooking? Not much really. With such a busy schedule, I resorted to packaged pimento cheese spread. Don’t hate me. OK. OK. OK.  I promise I’ll do better next time. Off to the Dallas Farmers Market to stock up on produce.

Now, I’m in rehearsals for the musical, Quilters. It’s about living on the prairie in the 1800’s – from a female point of view. It’s made me curious to explore the food made by these strong, resourceful women. Perhaps a big pot of Cowboy Beans is in order. That’s how a food blogger should act.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What is this thing?

What is this thing? It was in the Easter candy section of CVS Pharmacy.  It must be something Easter-y, but what? The Blue Easter Earless Bunny Blob? The Easter Biomorphic Ooze?  The Easter Cushy Iceberg? The Easter Crazed Evil Eyed Godzilla?

Here's a closer view. The Easter Marshmallow Laura Palmer?

I bit the darn thing. It tasted kinda, sorta reminiscent of blueberry flavoring with extra chewy undertones.

Can you tell what it is?  Whatever it is, Happy Blue Bunny Biomorphic Oozy Iceberg Godzilla Day. May it be filled with extra chewiness.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alder Smoked Golden Trout

Dear Auntie,  

I bet you do a mighty fine fish, what's your very favorite way to do fish?


Dear Lisa,

Ages ago, my friend, Shelley, came over for lunch. I took a golden trout, stuffed it with fennel, scallops, balsamic vinegar, then smoked it over alderwood. Nummers!



Alder Smoked Golden Trout

1 whole golden trout   
¼ cup fennel chopped fine
¼ cup shallot chopped fine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar, reduced 1 Tbsp*
1 tsp thyme   
¼ lb bay scallops   
salt & pepper to taste   

Debone fish, and butterfly. (You fishmonger can do this for you.)

Place vinegar in saucepan with the sprig of fresh thyme.  Reduce to 1 tablespoon.  Remove thyme.  Brush inside of fish with reduction. 

Mix fennel, shallot, scallops, salt and pepper.  Place in cavity of fish.  Skewer opening of fish and lace together with butcher’s twine.  Place fish in stove top smoker with alder chips.  Smoke according to manufacturer's directions until internal temperature reaches 140º. Remove from heat. Let rest 5 minutes (Carry over heat will raise the temperature to 145º.) 

Remove skewers and twine and serve.  Makes 2 -3 servings. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Election Day

I remember as a child, my Dad taking me with him to vote. Imagine my surprise when Mom was there as an election worker! I thought Mom must be the most wonderful woman in the world. She helped elect a President!! Wow. That impression has never changed. :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ain't No Sunshine

It's a rainy day in Dallas. Here's a little homemade video from yours truly. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Onion Marmalade

What's that?! Onion Marmalade?!

Yes. Onion Marmalade.

We often think of marmalade as a sweet citrus spread. Actually, marmalade refers to its preparation method. Bits of rind are embedded in clear jelly. In this case, the jelly is tart and savory.

Use this as a spread for sandwiches or as an accompaniment to meats. This is the spread used in the charcuterie plate.

Onion Marmalade

1 tablespoon butter
3 medium yellow onions, sliced
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
pinch each: allspice, clove, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and salt

Melt butter in large skillet over medium low heat. Add onions.  Cover and cook until onions are translucent, but not brown.  Uncover. Add remaining ingredients. Stir.  Cook, uncovered, until thickened.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Charcuterie Plate, Sighing and Almost

Recently, I auditioned for a nationally televised cooking show. (I'm under contract to keep my trap shut as to the name of said show.) For the audition, each of us had to bring a dish that exemplified our cooking skill. I brought a charcuterie plate.

"Charcuterie" comes from the French word for pork butcher. A charcuterie plate is a dish of selected meat items with accompaniments. It demonstrates the chef's skill in preparing meat.  What better dish to bring to this audition?

Going clockwise from the top left, the items in my charcuterie plate were Chicken Liver Pate Mousse with Onion Marmalade, Creole Mustard in Citrus Bowl, Pink Pickled Egg with Pink Peppercorns and 18 - Month Aged Cheese, Cactus Pickles, Baguette.  I made everything in the photo except the glass jar and cutting board.

Yeah.  I seriously considered making the cutting board, too. (Who you callin' obsessive???)

At the audition, the chef who tasted my dish loved it! They gave me a callback! However, they never called again. Almost, but not quite. *Sigh*  Their loss is your gain, my friends. I'll be posting recipes for your culinary enjoyment.  Nyah. So there, Ms. Casting Director.

Maybe I should have made the cutting board, after all. Drat.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cooking Pizza In the Fireplace

Check it out!! Make it and Mend it published my article.