The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

March 19, 2014

Cheryle Finley: Avoid repeating common kitchen mistakes

CARTHAGE, Mo. — How many of us can say we've never made a mistake in the kitchen? I'm betting there aren't too many. We might say it, but is it true? We sometimes may not even know we are making a mistake by simply cooking the way we always have. Here are some mistakes busy cooks often make, courtesy of Oprah.com.

Have you ever cranked up the heat in the oven to higher than 400 degrees to speed up roasting vegetables or cooking meat? Your food will usually end up charred on the outside and a raw on the inside if you try this. Cutting the veggies into smaller pieces will help them cook faster at a lower temperature. Or simply give them the necessary amount of time to cook properly at the right temperature.

Last week's column had a recipe for homemade biscuits, which requires cutting the butter into the flour mixture. Instead of using a pastry blender or two knives to karate chop the butter into the dry ingredients, use a grater to make small pieces of butter that easily blend in.

Got a skillet or heavy pan you are preheating? Don't blast it with high heat. Instead, use low to medium heat. It will take a little longer but will evenly heat the bottom of the pan. Using only high heat makes only the center of the pan hot. And remember to preheat the pan before adding the oil, then preheat the oil before adding the meat.

I doubt there's anyone who hasn't opened the oven door during baking to check on the progress of the food. Know that each peek lowers the oven heat at least 25 degrees and adds up to 10 minutes to the baking time. That should make us think twice before pulling open that oven door. The website's suggestion was to use a thermometer with a display outside the oven, but that doesn't work when you are baking a cake and really need to poke it with your finger or a toothpick. The other suggestion was to keep your oven door clean so you can see in and not have to open the door. I think it might be easier to put the food in early and allow for peeking time. The same don't-peek principle applies to that slow cooker Ñ opening the lid during cooking can add another 30 minutes to the cooking time. So open the lid sparingly.

A common mistake when seasoning food is to add salt at the end of cooking time. The best rule? Add a little salt with each new ingredient you add. Exceptions? Logic tells us not to add more salt if cooking bacon, ham or other salty foods.

Last but not least, don't pour all that pasta-cooking water down the drain. Save a cup or two. When the pasta is sauced, add the water. The starch in the water will help the sauce stick to the noodles. This water is also perfect for thinning a sauce. I hope these tips help us avoid common mistakes.

My daughter, Sarah, had been looking for the as-seen-on-TV Perfect Bacon Bowl. My grandson, Atlas, and I snagged a box of them at Walgreens and immediately set about making our own bacon bowls. There are two bowls that can be used to cook in the oven, toaster oven or microwave The box shows pictures of bacon bowls filled with macaroni and cheese, fixed like a bunless hamburger, and as a BLT with lettuce and tomato piled in. There's also a picture of a bacon bowl for desserts, filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate and nuts. To make the bowl, the directions call for two full pieces of bacon and one piece cut in half. The half strips are put across the top of the bowl, and the full pieces are wrapped around the outside edge. I had regular bacon and thick-cut bacon. Later, I wished I had opened the thick-cut instead of the regular. I think a little thicker bacon would have made a better bowl, but Atlas thought it turned out just fine. It didn't last long, but neither does bacon cooked flat, so maybe the bacon bowl was actually better than the normal presentation. There is a grease-collecting channel and a pouring spout, which are nice for removing the grease. Also included are instructions for making a bread bowl with a golf ball-size piece of dough, which can be used for dips, soups and chili. The bacon bowl is a novel idea and was fun for Atlas, but I'm not sure it's as good an idea as a bread bowl or taco salad bowl.

Did you fix a little too much corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day? If so, southernfood.com has three recipes that are perfect for the leftover beef. The chowder recipe makes good use of the leftover vegetables, too. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!

 

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