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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kitchen Tip – Covering A Pie

Here’s one way to cover a pie for transportation or storage to keep things off of it and out of it without ruining the top of it.  This is especially useful for pies with soft-ish tops that plastic wrap or aluminum foil would stick to and mar.

This was a cream cheese type pie and I didn’t want the top spoiled, but I needed to refrigerate it overnight (as I recall).

I took some plastic wrap and formed it into a loose ball and placed it in the center of the pie.  Then I gently wrapped another piece over the entire pie.  The ball in the center created a dome effect.  This might not work with meringue or whipped cream toppings.  However, whipped cream topping could probably be reworked in the middle.  Use your discretion.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kitchen Happenings – The New Stovetop

Ok, so this post is almost a year late, but last year for our anniversary my husband kindly replaced the old stovetop in my kitchen! :-)  The old one was not doing the job well.  I had about 2 and a half working burners/eyes – one didn’t work at all, two were slow or temperamental and one worked well.  So, you can see that it was a blessing to have a new one!

Here is a picture of my mom cooking on my old stovetop.  You can get a pretty good idea of the lay out.  Notice that I had all small burners, or eyes.  I couldn’t even use a large frying pan or pot due to the size of them.  The whole stove was rather small.  It was probably a mobile home model.

The new stovetop came from Home Depot.

In order to get it in Peter had to enlarge the opening slightly.

It took a lot of monkeyfuss, as my Gramma would have called it, but he finally got it in and quite even.  It was a challenge doing to lower work through those drawer openings!

Ta-da!  A beautiful new stovetop that not only works, but also has extra room, takes larger pans and has knobs that correspond with the locations of the respective burners, or eyes.  (By the way, check out that cool wood handle he made to replace an old plastic one that broke.  This lid belonged to my mom first and he fixed it over 4 years ago, but it’s still holing in there!  Great idea.)

And, the first person to cook on the new stovetop…..

Was Peter! :-)  This wasn’t calculated on his part, but he installed in on a Saturday and since he cooks breakfast on Sunday mornings (his idea), he ended up using it first.  Obviously he wasn’t too sad about that!  haha :-)

It has been a real blessing to me and was a great gift.  Thank you, hon’!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kitchen Tip – Putting A Cheesecake On A Plate

Putting a cheesecake on a plate without removing it from the bottom of the pan is perilous because it wants to slip all over the place or even go skidding off.  But, who wants to try to move a cheesecake from the bottom of the spring form pan to a plate?  Maybe a professional, but I’m not one and probably most of my readers aren’t either.  There may be a trick that makes it easy.  I don’t know it yet.  But, I do know a trick that will help keep the cheesecake from sliding around so much and yet you can leave it on the bottom piece of the pan.  Here is what I did, with tolerable results.  (I still recommend using caution when moving it or transporting it.)

(This was taken after the cheesecake was removed.)

I tore a piece of bread in half and put it under the pan to fill the area where it didn’t sit down into the bottom of the plate.  Then I mashed it down onto the bread as well as I could.

A stickier type of bread, or perhaps a thin layer on jelly on each side might make this method work even better.

This is how it looked after the cheesecake was completely removed from it.  Sorry I don’t have a picture with the cheesecake on the plate, or at least I don’t know where the picture is.  (If you could see my photo collection you would consider that last part an understatement. ;-)   )

Friday, September 2, 2011

Freezing Food for Easy Use --- and to Save Money

Since I usually am only cooking for two people these days, but sometimes for 4 or 6 or more, it is good to have a flexible method for freezing some food.  It occurred to me that it would be handy to freeze things like they do for commercial frozen food where you can reach in the bag and grab just what you want, or measure out the exact amount you need.  It also means you don’t have to take the time to thaw a large quantity when you are only going to need a couple of servings.  So, I started working on it and found some things that freeze well this way and work for my cooking habits.

The first step is to lay the food your planning to freeze out on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper.  You may skip the paper, but it will be harder to get them off.

[At right is a tray of kielbasa type sausages which we buy in quantity at Costco (a membership warehouse).  These can go straight from the freezer to the frying pan or into water to boil.  Cook over medium heat till heated through.  Raw sausages will take longer to cook than pre-cooked.]

Step Two – Place the trays in your freezer (in such a way that they won’t fall out when you open the door), and leave them there till the food is frozen solid enough to be moved to bags without fusing together again. 

Step Three – Move the food to plastic zip freezer bags marked with the content and date and store in the freezer.

Since the food is loose and not all stuck together you can take out as much as you need at a time.  This really works well for certain foods and makes a healthy “fast food” “repertoire” for you to choose from.

Here are baby carrots that I froze this way.  They may freeze from raw OK, but to speed up cooking I put as many as I want to freeze into a 2 qt. pot and almost cover them with water.  Then I bring them to a boil and turn off the burner allowing the carrots to sit in the water till they cool enough to handle.  This will partially cook them, but they will still be pretty firm.  I spread them on the lined cookie sheet, freeze them and later break them apart and put them into the freezer bag.  (I also save the broth from cooking them to drink as it contains added nutrients over plain water.  You could also use it for soup base.) 

To use these I usually add them to a dish of food that I’m cooking towards the end of the cooking time.  By the time they are thawed and the dish is done the carrots are done too.  For firmer carrots, add them closer to the end.  For softer, add them earlier.


You can freeze serving-size strips of raw meat (pre-cut, or cut by you) also by laying them close together, but not touching, on the sheets.  Once they are frozen and bagged they can be used without pre-thawing them as they will cook quite fast.  You can remove just the number you need for the meal without thawing a whole steak or roast.

Individual pieces of raw chicken can also be frozen this way for quicker thawing or immediate use in stews and such.  (Do not try to bake it without thawing it first.)


  Lastly, you can freeze broth for future use by pouring it in muffin tins and freezing it (don’t use the waxed paper for this).  It is important to freeze till they are solid!  Once they are frozen solid remove by popping them out of the cups one at a time.  Only run them under water (on the bottom of the pan) if necessary, being careful to only do one cup at a time and having your hand there to catch the frozen “cubes”.  Place them in the bag and return to the freezer as quickly as possible to avoid them melting and sticking together. 

You can either do an approximate measure or you can use an actual measuring cup to measure the broth the same way every time so you have an exact idea of how much broth is in each “cube”.  You can thaw and add this to recipes or add it directly to soups, stews, etc. when you need more liquid.  It is very handy, and it means you can buy broth in larger quantities and not have to worry about using it up before it spoils.  Or you can use up your homemade broth without it spoiling.  (Homemade broths can be used to make gravy as well, though I don’t recommend this with the store bought broths since they usually lack flavor in my opinion.)