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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:02 pm

Whipped Topping Substitute

I am not able to eat commercially prepared whipped topping products but have no problem with whipped cream. Is there an easy way to figure out how much cream to whip to equal the amount of topping that comes in commercial cartons? For instance, when a recipe calls for an 8-ounce container of whipped topping, how much whipping cream should I whip instead? —C.C., Sheridan, Wyoming

In most recipes, whipped cream may be used instead of whipped topping. But you should be aware that there may be some differences in texture and stability, which could result in minor changes in the end product. When substituting, keep in mind that whipping cream doubles once it is whipped. If a recipe calls for an 8-ounce carton of whipped topping, whip 1-1/2 cups of whipping cream, which will yield 3 cups.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:03 pm

Drained Canned Beans

Many recipes call for canned beans that have been rinsed and drained, but also list water as an ingredient. Why can't the liquid in the can be used as part of this water? —D.G., Chula Vista, California

Canned beans are rinsed and drained to remove extra salt used in the canning process. If you choose to use the bean liquid, both the amount of salt and water in the recipe will need to be reduced.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:03 pm

Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Is it okay to replace white vinegar with cider vinegar when making bread-and-butter pickles? Thanks for your help. —K.F., Lisle, Illinois

Vinegar provides the tart puckery flavor in pickles, but it also acts as an important preservative. You can replace white vinegar with cider vinegar in pickling recipes, as long as the cider vinegar has a 5% (50 grains) acidity level. Look for this on the label. If you are unsure of the acidity percentage in cider vinegar, do not use it. Because apple cider vinegar has a somewhat mellower flavor than pungent white vinegar, it might slightly change the flavor of your pickles. And while white vinegar is colorless, the golden brown cider vinegar may yield pickles with a slightly darker color.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:04 pm

Banana Cake Cure

Every time I bake a banana cake from scratch, it falls in the center when it cools. The recipe I have calls for two 8-inch round baking pans, but I prefer to bake the cake in a 13-inch x 9-inch x 2-inch pan. Could that cause the cake to fall? —K.F., Vanderbilt, Michigan

Actually, there are a number of things that could cause your banana cake to fall. But baking it in the larger pan instead of two smaller ones is most likely not the problem. Be sure to check your oven temperature for accuracy by using an oven thermometer. An oven that is too cold (isn't heating to the proper temperature called for in the recipe) can cause cakes to fall. And don't open the oven door during the first 15 minutes of baking. After this, open the oven door gently to avoid sudden movement or temperature changes that could cause the cake to fall. Cakes that are under-baked can also fall. A cake should be baked until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean…and is firm to the touch when lightly pressed. It is also possible that the recipe you are using has an imbalance of ingredients. Too much liquid, leavening or sugar, as well as too little flour, can all cause cakes to fall.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:05 pm

Mom's Dash

My mother was a great cook and passed down many of her favorite recipes to me. But some call for a "pinch" of this and a "dash" of that. What did she mean by a "pinch" and a "dash?" I'd love to make one of Mom's recipes and have it taste just like hers did. —S.M., Green Bay, Wisconsin

Traditionally, a pinch is thought to be the amount of a dry ingredient that can be held between your thumb and forefinger. A dash is a very small amount of seasoning added with a quick downward stroke of the hand. If your mother truly meant a pinch or a dash of an ingredient, she used somewhere between 1/16 and a scant 1/8 teaspoon. It sounds like you might have to experiment with amounts to get the same delicious results she did.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:05 pm

Boiling Corn on the Cob

For years I've been boiling fresh corn on the cob, but I'm never sure how long to cook it. How long do you suggest? —M.B. Apollo Beach, Florida

To boil fresh corn on the cob, first remove the husks and silk. Then place the cobs in a kettle of unsalted boiling water. Cover the pan and return it to a boil. Cook the corn for 3-5 minutes or until tender. The exact cooking time will depend on the type of corn you buy and its maturity. Very fresh corn or super-sweet varieties may require a shorter cooking time while older corn may require a longer one.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:07 pm

Chopping Raisins

Do you have any easy suggestions for preventing raisins from sticking to the knife when chopping? —B.M., Marthasville, Missouri

There are several things that you can try to make the task of chopping raisins easier. Freezing raisins before chopping them can be helpful. Or dip your knife (or scissors) frequently in hot water while cutting. Or toss raisins in a small amount of vegetable oil (1 teaspoon vegetable oil for 1 cup fruit), then chop them.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:14 pm

Chocolate Candy

When a recipe calls for melted milk chocolate candy bars for dipping candy centers, can I use milk chocolate chips with the same results? They are quite a bit cheaper, but I don't want to waste my time if it won't work. —M.K., Sedalia, Kentucky

Milk chocolate chips can be substituted for milk chocolate candy bars with similar results. If melting the chocolate for dipping, use 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon shortening for every 6 ounces of chocolate called for in your recipe. Simply microwave the chocolate chips and shortening, uncovered, in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power for 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Chocolate chips are formulated to withstand heat and hold their shape in baked goods, so they will keep their shape until stirred.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:15 pm

Lemon Curd

I have a recipe for lemon cream cake that calls for lemon curd filling. What is lemon curd? I can't find it anywhere and no one seems to know what it is. Can you help me out? —I.W., Somerset, Kentucky

Popular in England, lemon curd is a soft custard that's often used as a tart filling. It's made from lemon juice, sugar, eggs and butter. The flavor and texture are similar to lemon meringue pie filling. The simple ingredients are cooked together until they become thickened. After the mixture has cooled, it can be used as a filling for baked desserts or as a spread for scones, biscuits or other baked goods. Commercially prepared lemon curd is available in larger grocery stores alongside the jams and jellies or with the baking supplies. If you cannot find lemon curd, or would just like to try making it yourself, here is one of my favorite recipes:

Lemon Curd 3 eggs 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons) 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel In a heavy saucepan, beat eggs and sugar. Stir in lemon juice, butter and lemon peel. Cook and stir over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until mixture is thickened and reaches 160°. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 1-2/3 cups.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:16 pm

Shortening Substitute

Can I substitute butter for shortening in a cookie recipe? If so, do I use the same amount? Thanks for your help! —J.G., Quanah, Texas

Butter can be substituted for shortening in equal amounts. However, there will be differences in your cookies. Besides having a rich buttery flavor, cookies made with all butter will spread more and have a darker color. If your cookies are spreading too much, keep the dough very cold, be sure the baking pans are cool and keep the oven temperature slightly higher than usual. You could also use a small amount of shortening in place of some of the butter to help the cookies keep their shape.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:32 pm

Softened Ice Cream

Could you please tell me how to soften ice cream? —L.G., Wiscasset, Maine

Ice cream is often softened before being used in recipes or when it is too hard to scoop for eating. To soften in the refrigerator, transfer ice cream from the freezer to the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before using. Or let it stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Hard ice cream can also be softened in the microwave at 30% power for about 30 seconds.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:33 pm

Advantages of Brining

I've seen a few recipes lately that call for brining poultry or meats. What exactly is brining and what are its advantages? —M.K., Brookfield, Wisconsin

Brining means to soak meat in a solution of water and salt. A brine can be flavored with sugars, juices or seasonings. Kosher salt, table salt or even sea salt can be used in the brining solution. Brining is a way to help tenderize lean meats such as poultry—or fish or seafood—because lean meats can easily dry out when cooked.

Soaking the meats in a brining solution helps ensure moist, juicy cooked meat. It's best to use natural meats—those that have not been injected with a salt solution—for brining. Check the label on the package…or ask your butcher for clarification if you're not sure which meats are natural at your grocery store. The salt-water solution increases the juiciness of the meat by loosening the protein structure. This in turn allows extra water and flavors to be trapped by the protein during the brining process…and the moisture and flavor are retained during the cooking process, making the meat delightfully juicy and tender. Here are some guidelines for brining times: whole turkey, up to 24 hours; large whole chicken, 3-4 hours; pork chops, 4 hours; shrimp, 30 minutes; and thin fish, 10 minutes.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:34 pm

Finding the Right Flour

I've asked several women this question and no one seems to know the answer. When a recipe calls for flour but doesn't specify self-rising or all-purpose flour, how do you know which one to use? —L.C., East Bernstadt, Kentucky

Generally, recipes that call for flour are referring to all-purpose flour.


Last edited by justmecookin on Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:08 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:35 pm

Chiffon Cakes

A few co-workers and I would like to know what makes a cake chiffon. —L.J., Warrenton, Missouri

Chiffon cakes are moist, light and airy, with a springy texture similar to a sponge cake and the rich flavor of a butter cake. Although prepared similarly to a butter cake, a chiffon cake uses oil instead of butter. The dry ingredients are mixed together. Then, the oil, egg yolks, water and any flavorings are added. Whipped egg whites, used for leavening, are beaten until stiff, then folded into the batter.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:38 pm

Spaetzle

I have a recipe that calls for spaetzle. I've never heard of it, and none of the stores in my area carry it. Where can I find it? —M.D., Phoenix, Arizona

Spaetzle is a German noodle or dumpling made of flour, eggs, water or milk, salt and sometimes a little nutmeg. The dough is either firm enough to roll out and cut into narrow strips…or soft enough to force through a colander or spaetzle maker. The dough is then boiled in water or broth for a very short time before being tossed with butter or used in soups or other side or main dishes. Basil Spaetzle Recipe I have added below. If you prefer a plain spaetzle, just eliminate the basil.

Basil Spaetzle
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
3 teaspoons salt, divided
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cold water
4 quarts water
2 tablespoons butter

In a bowl, combine flour, basil and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in eggs and cold water; mix until dough is smooth. In a large kettle, bring water and remaining salt to a boil; reduce heat. With a rubber spatula, press dough through a colander into simmering water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring gently so spaetzle do not stick together. Drain; toss with butter. Makes 6-8 servings.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:39 pm

Sticky Banana Pudding

Whenever I make banana pudding, it sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns. Am I using too much heat, or is my saucepan too thin? —T.S. Lake Charles, Louisiana

Pudding, whether made from a mix or from scratch, can stick to the pan and burn when the heat is too high and a thin saucepan is used. Avoid scorched pudding by using a heavy-bottomed saucepan or double boiler and moderate heat. Stirring constantly with a large heat-proof rubber spatula will also help reduce chances of burned pudding.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:40 pm

Half-and-Half Substitute

When a recipe calls for half-and-half cream, what can you use in place of it if you don't keep half-and-half cream on hand? —S.H., Clear Spring, Maryland

For dishes that are cooked or baked, you may substitute 4-1/2 teaspoons melted butter plus enough whole milk to equal 1 cup. One cup of evaporated milk may also be substituted for each cup of half-and-half cream

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:41 pm

Reheated Pot Roast

When I first make beef pot roast, it is tender and juicy. After it is refrigerated then reheated, it tends to be dry and tough. What am I doing wrong? —Q.K., Lakeland, Florida

The different types of roasts used to make pot roast are usually tougher cuts of meat. But when properly cooked, they become tender and juicy. Cooking them with moist heat for several hours at a low heat on top of the stove or in the oven at 325° can yield tender roasts. When I heat up leftover pot roast, I slice the meat and place it in a baking dish. Then I pour the leftover pan juices over the meat, adding extra beef broth if needed to cover. I cover the pan and bake at 325° only until heated through. This helps retain moisture without overcooking or drying out the meat.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:42 pm

Goulash vs. Stew

What is the difference between goulash and stew? I thought goulash did not have any vegetables except potatoes, whereas stew had many vegetables. —M.V., South Bend, Indiana

Any dish prepared by stewing—simmering food in liquid for a long period of time in a covered pot—can be considered stew. Stew most often refers to a main dish that contains meat, vegetables and a thick broth made from the stewing juices. Goulash is a kind of stew, usually a Hungarian stew, made with meat and vegetables and seasoned with paprika.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:44 pm

Hard-Cooked Eggs

It seems that no matter how I hard-cook eggs, they are always difficult to peel. Any suggestions? —D.P., Denver, Colorado

Very fresh eggs can be difficult to peel. The American Egg Board recommends storing eggs in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days before cooking them. To hard-cook large eggs, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Put a lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Immediately rinse with cold water and cover with ice water until completely cool. This will prevent a dark ring from forming on the surface of the yolks. After cooking, crackle the shells all over before peeling by gently tapping on the kitchen counter. Eggshells will usually come off more easily and without tearing into the whites when they are in smaller pieces, rather than bigger ones.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:46 pm

Freezing Garlic

What can I do with fresh garlic cloves that are left over from a recipe? Can I freeze them? —C.C., Winston Salem, North Carolina

You can store whole or partial garlic bulbs in a cool dry dark place in a well-ventilated container, like a mesh bag, for up to 2 months. Leaving the cloves on the bulb with the papery skin attached will help prevent them from drying out. I don't recommend freezing fresh garlic cloves, and I don't suggest storing them in the refrigerator since they have a tendency to sprout. Sprouted garlic can have a bitter flavor.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:46 pm

Chocolate Candy

When a recipe calls for melted milk chocolate candy bars for dipping candy centers, can I use milk chocolate chips with the same results? They are quite a bit cheaper, but I don't want to waste my time if it won't work. —M.K., Sedalia, Kentucky

Milk chocolate chips can be substituted for milk chocolate candy bars with similar results. If melting the chocolate for dipping, use 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon shortening for every 6 ounces of chocolate called for in your recipe. Simply microwave the chocolate chips and shortening, uncovered, in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power for 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Chocolate chips are formulated to withstand heat and hold their shape in baked goods, so they will keep their shape until stirred.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:47 pm

Oil Explanation

Will you explain the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil? —P.G., Killeen, Texas

With all of the different olive oils on grocery store shelves today, choosing one can be confusing. But it may help to know that olive oils are graded according to acidity. Extra-virgin olive oil is the top grade and is extremely low in acidity (1%). It is produced by the first crushing and pressing of tree-ripened olives and has a deep color and intense olive flavor. Virgin olive oil also comes from the first pressing of olives but has a slightly higher acidity (2%), lighter color and less fruity flavor. Both of these oils are best used in dishes where their stronger flavors can be appreciated.

Bottles simply labeled olive oil (previously called pure olive oil) contain oil with up to 3% acidity. It is usually a blend of refined olive oil and virgin or extra-virgin oil. It has a light color and mild flavor. You will likely find bottles labeled light olive oil on the market, too. The word "light" refers to the color and flavor of the oil, not its calorie content. Light olive oil also contains up to 3% acidity. It has gone through a fine filtration process, giving it a very mild flavor and light color. This oil is perfect for cooking and baking.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:48 pm

Cake Beating

When trying a new cake recipe and it doesn't specify "beat well" or "beat just until blended," which is the best method to use? —F.P., Newark, New York

As a general rule, cake ingredients can be beaten well until the dry ingredients are added. For example, butter and sugar are creamed and then eggs are beaten in. Once the dry ingredients are added to this mixture, the ingredients should be beaten just until blended. At this point, beating the ingredients too much could give the cake a tough texture.

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Re: Questions and Answers

Post  justmecookin on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:48 pm

Converted White Rice

What is converted white rice? Is it regular long grain rice or instant long grain rice? —A.F. Lecanto, Florida

Converted white rice is neither regular long grain rice nor instant long grain rice. Also called parboiled rice, converted rice is the unhulled grain that has been steam-pressured before milling. This process retains nutrients and makes fluffy separated grains of cooked rice. Converted rice takes slightly longer to cook than regular long grain rice.

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