We’ve Been Hacked!

The other day I tried to add a new post on this blog, only to discover that it had been hacked. What I have since learned is that WordPress is vulnerable to hacking and malware–something that I did not know when I came over from Blogger.

Since I’m not keen on hackers I’m migrating this blog back to Blogger. While some may argue that it’s not as good as WordPress, it has one distinct advantage. It’s secure.

This blog will remain on WordPress until July 5. Meantime I have the new Blogger edition up, so if you’d like to subscribe, (your option, of course), there is a link to allow you to do so. I’m using my old URL, www.mytimelesscuisine.com,  for the new host, but it will eventually switch over to rosiesrivetingrecipes.com.

Sorry for the interruption, and I’ll see you at the new home for Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. 

 

Let’s Keep It Clean

I once heard a report that said most American home kitchens would fail if a health inspector came calling. Either we’ve gotten lazy, or our mothers simply didn’t teach us how to keep our kitchens clean. A clean kitchen is vital for good health since many so-called cases of “stomach flu” aren’t the flu at all, but foodborne illnesses.

Keeping your kitchen clean and healthy would include doing the following…

• Washing your hands thoroughly with soap, preferably an antibacterial soap, before handling any foods, and rewashing them as you go, especially after handling raw meat.

• Keep kitchen surfaces clean. Wipe down your stove and all your counter tops down each and every time you wash the dishes.  Wipe up splashes and spills as soon as they happen. Those disposable disinfectant cloths can come in very handy.

• Clean up as you go. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes we need to be reminded. Those dirty dishes, cooking utensils and pots and pans left all day, or all night, in the kitchen sink are a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella, and did you know that salmonella can become airborne?

• Use a dishrag, instead of a sponge, for washing dishes, and launder your dishrags frequently.

• The best way to defrost meats is overnight in the refrigerator, but in the real world that’s not always possible. If you have to defrost something in a hurry the best way go is to either defrost it in a sink full of hot water, or on the countertop, covered.  Remember what I said about salmonella being airborne?  I can’t think of a better way to invite a foodborne illness than to leave uncovered meat to defrost on a countertop next to a sink full of dirty dishes.

• Use plastic cutting boards. I have two cutting boards. One is used exclusively for cutting meats, the other for cutting vegetables. Wash your cutting boards thoroughly, with hot water, after each use. Never ever use a wooden cutting board for cutting anything but bread.

• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Remember the food temperature danger zone is between 40º F and 140º F.  Foods kept in this temperature zone for more than 4 hours should be disposed of.

• Keep foods in the refrigerator covered, and clean up spills and messes in the refrigerator immediately.  Again, those disposable disinfectant wipes can do wonders.

• Store cleaning products away from food to prevent cross-contamination.  I keep all my cleaning products underneath the kitchen sink.

• Use plastic trash bags to line your kitchen wastebasket.  If your kitchen wastebasket is small enough you can save money by using plastic grocery bags instead.

Let’s keep it clean, folks.

GM

When in Doubt Throw It Out

Most of our mothers taught us to check the food before we prepare it. A slimy texture, an off color, or a bad odor is an indicator that the food has either spoiled, or has begun to spoil.

Food spoilage is caused by bacteria. As we learned in our grade school science classes, bacteria are single-celled organisms that find many of our favorite foods just as yummy as we do. In fact, they like our food so much that they decide to take up residence. They reproduce, form colonies, and as they eat, grow and eliminate body waste, they begin to break the foods down, or decompose them. This is what causes the sliminess, the mushiness, and the bad smell.

There seems to be some debate among the experts as to whether or not eating spoiled food will make you sick. While the bacterias that cause the food spoilage itself may not make us sick, it’s a safe bet that if those bacteria are present then the pathogens that do cause food-borne illnesses are probably in the mix as well. And since most of us don’t have microscopes in our kitchens, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

While we may not be able to prevent all spoilage, we can take steps to slow it down. One of the easiest is to pay attention to the “sell by” dates on the package of meat or fish, and be sure to either cook or freeze these items by that sell by date. Whenever I buy meat on the sell by date I don’t bother freezing it. I make it a point of cooking it the same day.

As soon as I remove uncooked meat or fish from the package I take a good whiff. If I detect any kind of a foul odor I immediately throw it out.  Washing or cooking the meat simply may not destroy the pathogens that cause food-borne illnesses. Yes, it’s a bummer when you have to waste an expensive piece of meat or fish, but which is more costly? The price of the meat, or cost of the emergency room bill?

It’s simple, really. Keep cold foods cold. Take fresh foods, especially meat and fish, straight home from the grocery store and freeze or refrigerate them promptly. That means when you’re out running errands, you leave your food shopping for last. Sure, we all want to conserve time and gasoline, but if you’re meeting a friend for lunch, have a doctor’s appointment, or need to pick up your kids from soccer practice, be sure to get it all done before you stop at the grocery store.

I also have a three-day rule. After three days in the refrigerator I either cook it or freeze it. Same with leftovers. I either freeze them or toss them out after three days. I know this may seem wasteful to some, but it simply isn’t worth taking the chance of contracting food poisoning.

Food safety is something I just don’t compromise on. It’s like Mother said, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

My tip for the day.

GM

Rosie’s Recipe — Refrigerated Bread Pudding

I hate sounding like a food snob, but there are a few foods out there that I honestly try to avoid whenever possible. One is prepackaged white bread. I never buy it. No, I’m not into gluten free. The reason I don’t buy white bread is because the experts all say it has little, if any, nutritional value, and I much prefer the taste of whole wheat or multi-grain breads. So imagine my surprise when I came upon a half consumed loaf of generic white bread stashed in the back of my freezer. It had been left by out of town friends who had visited a few months before. They didn’t like wheat bread and wanted to have some white bread on hand.

At the time this happened I was testing recipes for Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, so I defrosted it and used in some of the recipes. Four slices went into this classic that your grandmothers may have made, and it was delicious. One nice thing about many of these historic dessert recipes is that they’re sweet, but not too sugar-laden.

Enjoy.

GM

 

REFRIGERATOR BREAD PUDDING

  • 1 envelope plain gelatin
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup light or dark corn syrup or 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 slices white bread (2 ½ cups cubed)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • nutmeg, if desired

Soften gelatin in ¼ cup cold milk. Scald remaining milk with corn syrup (or sugar) and salt in double boiler. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove crusts and cut slices of bread into cubes. Pour hot milk slowly over beaten eggs, stirring constantly. Return to double boiler. Add bread cubes and cook until custard consistency, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and beat with rotary beater until frothy. Turn into one large (or individual molds) that have been rinsed in cold water first. Chill. When firm, un-mold and serve with cream or any sauce. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Modern adaptation: Be careful not boil the milk. The beaten eggs can be slowly added to the milk mixture in the double boiler, stirring constantly as directed in the original recipe, until they are well blended. To give the pudding a bolder flavor add ¼ teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ nutmeg with the vanilla. The pudding can also be poured into ramekins and served with whipped cream, cinnamon, or nutmeg on top, as suggested in the original recipe.

Cooking from Scratch vs “Cheating”

I love cooking and baking. I truly do. If I had the time, I’d probably prepare everything from scratch, just like Grandma did. However, we live in different times. In Grandma’s day, men were providers and women were homemakers. Nowadays many women either don’t have a husband to provide for them, or the economic reality is that she has to work outside the home too just to make ends meet. It’s not that we’ve become lazy or slovenly in the kitchen. The fact of the matter is that many of us simply don’t have the time, or the stamina, to come home from a long day’s work and then prepare a meal completely from scratch.

I learned how to cook from my mother. She was a homemaker, but she also had a busy social life with her bridge clubs, volunteering, and so forth. However, TV dinners and fast food were considered a treat as most nights my mother cooked dinner for us. She mostly cooked from scratch, but she also “cheated” a little. She used frozen vegetables, or a can of Campbell’s soup for her sauces, or a packaged scalloped potato mix, but even with all this “cheating,” her meals were always wonderful. My mother also used cake mixes and pudding mixes for her desserts, however her famous German chocolate cake was made from scratch, but it was only baked for special occasions.

I do much the same as my mother did. I too buy frozen vegetables, and I’ll sometimes use canned soups or sauce mixes or the occasional boxed scalloped potato mix. It not only saves time, it also helps prevent spoilage. I simply don’t have the time to go to the grocery store everyday for fresh fruits and veggies.

I do, however, have draw the line somewhere. Hamburger Helper? No no!  I had to eat that stuff when I was in college and didn’t have time to cook.  Ramen soup is another college staple food I’m totally burned out on, although I have a fantastic recipe for a cabbage salad with ramen soup. That’s the only time I use it anymore.

My point is this–if you have the time to cook everything from scratch that’s terrific, but if you don’t, it’s okay. This isn’t Master Chef. It’s your kitchen and you have a life outside of it.

My thought for the day.

GM

Yes You Can Can

U.S. Government Poster to Promote Home Canning

Just like in Rosie’s day, home canning can help save money and make food stretch further. Whether it’s food grown in your home garden, or fresh fruits on sale at your local supermarket, home canning can be a lot of fun, as well as a nice family activity.

Canning may seem mysterious or intimidating at first, but there really isn’t that much to it. First, you’ll need to invest in a few basic supplies to get started–a canner, which is a large, over-sized stockpot with a special rack inside, a jar lifter, and a set of masonry jars, all of which can be found at Ace Hardware. You’ll also need some canning pectin, which is available at your local supermarket, and you simply follow the recipes inside the pectin box. What can be a little daunting, especially to a beginner, is how to get started. This is how I do it.

  1. I begin by filling my canner with water, placing the rack inside, and turning the burner on medium-high. (If for some reason your canner does not have a rack, place a folded tea towel on the bottom of the canner before filling it with water.) The canner uses a lot of water, and it may take as long as forty-five minutes to an hour, perhaps longer, before it reaches the boiling point. You’ll need to fill your canner with enough water to cover the tops of your jars by at least one inch. Water gets heavy, so I use a water pitcher to fill mine.

2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Wash your jars, caps and rings. Place the jars on a cookie sheet in the oven, and drop the caps and rings in a saucepan filled with water. Heat the water until it begins to boil, and then turn the heat down to low.

4. Prepare your fruit as directed by the recipes inside the pectin box. Do not deviate from the recipe. Once you’ve filled your jars wipe away any excess that may have dripped on the top of the jar. Place a cap on the top and make sure the ring secure. Then, using the jar lifter, gently place the jar inside the canner, once the water has begun to boil. Once all the jars are filled and inside the canner, cover it with the lid. Make sure your rack is on the bottom of the canner and never place a jar directly on the bottom of the canner. I leave my cans in the canner for thirty minutes and do not lift the lid during the cooking process.

5. Once you have finished cooking your jars carefully remove them from the canner using the jar lifter. As your jars begin to cool you’ll hear some funny sounds. That means the caps sealing. To test the caps press your finger down on the center. If the cap doesn’t move then it’s sealed. But if the cap does move it means that for some reason it didn’t seal properly. It happens, so simply place that jar in the refrigerator once it’s completely cooled and use the contents promptly.

6. DO NOT try to lift the canner until it has completely cooled. A full canner will be extremely heavy, so you may need to bail out some of the water with a pitcher before lifting.

There are plenty of videos on YouTube that can give also you a crash course in home canning. Your community college or other community centers may also offer canning classes.

Have fun.

GM

Breaking Free of a Culinary Rut

I don’t know exactly how or when it happened. It was such an insidious thing that crept up on me so slowly that I wasn’t even aware it was happening until it was nearly too late.

I started cooking when I was eight years old. My mother, and her mother before her, were pretty darn good cooks. My mother began passing her cooking skills on to me at a young age, and I found I really enjoyed cooking and baking. By the time I was in high school, I was doing my fair share of the family meal planning and the cooking.

My dad was also a good cook. He could open the refrigerator, grab whatever he’d find, throw it all together, and come up with a pretty good dish. Both of my older brothers have this ability as well. If there’s a gene for good cooking I think my entire family had it.

My mother always insisted that we all sit down at the dinner table together and share a meal as a family. It was a good rule, and I think if more families followed it today the world would be a much better place, but I digress. My mother made a number of delicious dishes which she frequently served–lasagna, beef stroganoff, tacos, and pork chops, just to mention a few. She also searched through the women’s section of the newspaper every Wednesday for new recipes to try. Everything was wonderful, with only one exception. Her fried chicken wasn’t all that great. She would put a light coat of flour on the chicken, lightly brown it in a very small amount of oil, and then bake it in the oven. (Sorry Mom, but that’s not fried chicken!) So, with the exception of the fried chicken, I learned how to create many wonderful meals, all from her. Then I went off to college, and that’s when the bad thing began to happen.

As soon as I got my first college apartment I started buying frozen pizza, ramen soup and hamburger helper. And while I would still occasionally make the beef stroganoff, I was fixing the frozen pizza or the hamburger helper far too often. I rationalized it by “being too busy” to really cook, but in hindsight I now realize I was allowing myself to become lazy in the kitchen. One college boyfriend was a bright light in that he too was an excellent cook, and I learned some good cooking tips from him, but alas, he didn’t want to make a long-term commitment.

After college my lazy cooking habits continued, and again I rationalized them by being too busy, or having too many leftovers to deal with. I’ve been married twice, but neither spouse was a food aficionado. (That should have been my first clue.) One could have lived very happily on peanut butter sandwiches and shredded wheat cereal, while the other’s favorite restaurants were McDonald’s and Chinese buffets. There was no real incentive for me to cook for either of them. Neither had any appreciation for a good, home cooked meal made from scratch, and since there were no children from either marriage the laziness continued. Other bad habits emerged, such as eating out far too frequently, and bringing home take-out meals.

Thankfully, it all changed after going through a midlife career change. I started doing historic presentations for schools and associations. One was about the WWII home front, and that was when I published, Anna’s Kitchen: a Compilation of Historic WWII Ration Recipes. I also tried some of the recipes at home, and while tasty, none included french fries, so my husband, as usual, wasn’t impressed. Once again I lost my motivation for cooking or trying new recipes.

I’m not saying I divorced my husband entirely because of his total lack of enthusiasm over my burgeoning writing career. (I was also writing historical children’s novels at the time.) I’ll just say that once he left I flourished as an author, and I eventually started up my own publishing business. I also wanted to do a major revision of Anna’s Kitchen, but first things first. I wanted to test most, if not all, of the recipes. Finally, I had a culinary lifeline. It was the perfect incentive to not only start cooking real food again, but to learn and grow and to create new dishes. It was like being reborn. I also have a completely new circle of supportive friends who genuinely love my cooking, In fact, some of them can’t get enough of it. It’s nice to finally feel appreciated for my culinary efforts.

So I’m now in a much better place. And who knows. Maybe someday I’ll finally learn how to make fried chicken.

GM

It’s All About Baby Steps

If you’ve ever seen the TV show, Worst Cooks in America, on Food Network, then you probably feel for the contestants. I know I do. It’s so obvious that they lack both the skills and the self-confidence to prepare the dishes they’re being challenged to make. I’ve been cooking for most of my life, and some of the dishes I’ve seen on that show would be a bit challenging for me as well. What’s even worse is they take away their recipes and the notes they take from the chef’s demos. I know, it’s just a TV show produced for entertainment purposes, but that said, this is not how you should teach people to cook.

Cooking, like any other skill, takes time to master, and if you’re teaching someone how to cook you start them out with the very basics. When I first started learning how to cook no one expected me to prepare chicken cordon bleu. They expected me to make french toast.

I started out learning how to cook bacon, and to make scrambled eggs and the aforementioned french toast. Then I learned how to make hash browns. Yes, there is a pattern here. Traditional American breakfast foods are some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them the good place to start teaching a novice how to cook. And since it’s hard to mess up scrambled eggs, their confidence starts to build. Beginners can start learning basic knife skills by learning how to prepare salads. I’m no Hamburger Helper fan, but it’s a good place to start teaching a beginner how to follow a recipe, and since it’s a prepackaged kit it too is hard to go wrong, so the novice’s self confidence keeps building. From there they can start to learn more complex recipes–beef stew, chili con carne, beef stroganoff, and so on.

The same approach applies when teaching someone how to bake. My mother started me with cake mixes and canned icing. From there I worked my way up to the cookie recipes on the back of the chocolate chip packages. Then I learned how to make casseroles.

It’s all about baby steps. Some will have more of a natural talent than others, and those who demonstrate a particularly strong talent or desire for cooking or baking may end up becoming professional chefs, although most won’t take it that far. This is true of most things in life. Cooking, however, is a life skill, so we all need to be taught the basics, such as learning how to make scrambled eggs or beef stew.

My thought for the day.

GM