Tag Archives: recipe reviews

Gentle Reader Questions Answered: Mailbag Time!

Gentle Readers, having just attended another fabulous At-Home (veggie chili edition), The Practical Cook is inspired and ready for a slew of new posts in 2012. However, we must tend to the end of year business, so let’s close out with answers to a few lingering questions, and a share on some suggestions received.

Smile, You've Got Simplified French Toast

Smile, You've Got Simplified French Toast

Without further delay, Gentle Readers, take it away:

1. Brussels Sprouts Recipe for Haters. Lots of feedback on this one, including a great reader picture of the little veggie that could. Both RockStar and Tri-Awesome (photo credit) added a bit of chopped shallot to this recipe, an addition I’ll make the next go round. Tri-Awesome also swapped in pancetta for bacon, the recipe will flex to meet you! And they ate them, and they liked them. Resolve to try some new veggies people, give them a chance.

Brussels Sprouts for Haters, as Made by a Gentle Reader!

Brussels Sprouts for Haters, as Made by a Gentle Reader!

2. Pork Chops. My friend Blended Familia asked for guidance beyond Shake-N-Bake. A few things there, first being, you can re-create the texture with bread crumbs and dried herbs (thyme, sage, black pepper come to mind). Second, depending on the thickness of the chop, pan-fry or roast and use a fruit conserve as the topping. If you’ve got an interesting jam in your fridge, that will do it, mix it with something spicy for kick, or balsamic for balance. Simplicity and avoid overcooking: that’s the key with pork chops. Will do a full blog on chops in 2012.

Awesome preserves from my cousin (thank you). You'll see these in the test kitchen soon.

Awesome preserves from my cousin (thank you). You'll see these in the test kitchen soon.

3. Fave Ingredient of 2011. This question comes from CptCranky. The answer is bacon. A review of the tapes indicates a borderline obsession with the pig, but having just read this awesome NYT article on Southern Farming, I am justified. For the veggies out there, one can often sub Parmesan if you need salt, pecans if you need crunch, or a rich olive oil or butter if you need tasty fat.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

Looking forward to lots more Q and A in the new year. Keep those questions and photos coming. I’ll be here cooking, researching, and chasing you down to photograph your food. What has been your favorite ingredient of 2011?

Send questions, answers, deep thoughts, and blog requests for 2012 to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, New Year’s Resolutions: In the Kitchen and Beyond!

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Kitchen Philosophy

Questions from Readers: Can this (insert noun) be saved?

Gentle readers, if you haven’t noticed, the Practical Cook is a fan of the advice columns of old. From Miss Manners to Dear Abby to LHJ, she devoured and enjoyed them. And now, thanks to the internet, the Practical Cook can follow in those hallowed footsteps. Here are 3 reader questions, complete with spiffy monikers, just like when newspapers and magazines were printed.

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Dear Practical Cook,
So today, I made “easy applesauce muffins.” They are really, really easy. I cut the butter by two tablespoons to see if they would taste the same, and they do—except now they stick to the paper wrapping and leave much of themselves behind. Do you think I should add back the butter? Spraying Pam on paper baking cups seems ridiculous. 

Perplexed

Cool the muffins in the tin for a few minutes.

Cool the muffins in the tin for a few minutes.

Dear Perplexed,
First, I would suggest sharing the recipe with me because I do adore an easy muffin (see All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins and Raisin Bran Muffins). But that solves my problem more than yours. There are three ways to approach this problem:

1. Don’t use paper liners at all, just spray the muffin tin. I’ve done this before with stickier recipes with great success.
2. Use foil liners. These are also better for the sticky.
3. Let the muffins sit in the tin for a few minutes, then let cool on a rack before you attempt to peel them. Even when I cut the fat in a muffin recipe, this seems to be the key, a bit of time. Cooling off yields more muffin in mouth than on liner.

Good luck, and send us a picture (and, er, a muffin),
The Practical Cook

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Dear Practical Cook,
I just made your Salmon Cakes, using dried bread crumbs, and they kept falling apart! The crumbs were delicious, but I’d like a whole cake. What’s your prescription for success?

Doctor Particular

Crispy Salmon Cakes

Crispy Salmon Cakes

What’s up Doc?
Oh, I’ve waited years to say that. First, make sure that you’re adding enough moisture for the dried bread crumbs. The ratios should work, but feel free to add a bit more moisture if you have exceptionally thirsty crumbs: a smidge more mayo and mustard, even an additional egg if you’d like. Second, this is a hands-on food. You’ll need to press the cakes together and give them a chance to set. Third, size matters. If you make them as thin as pancakes, you’ll have trouble flipping them.

Keep up the practice!
The Practical Cook

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Dear Practical Cook,
Help! I’m making the Rustic Chard Tart, and I don’t know if I can eat the stems of the chard. Do I chop or discard? Call back fast, I’m making it now.

Blended Familia

Hello, My Beautiful Tart!

Hello, My Beautiful Tart!

Dear BF,
Great question! Chard stems (especially rainbow) are beautiful and delicious. Chop and discard just an inch or so, and then dice the rest into bite-sized pieces and continue with the recipe.

Enjoy!
The Practical Cook (exchange via vmail)

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Thanks for the great questions, keep them coming! Do you have a question? Pose it here or send a Tweet. You could earn a nickname and an answer in a future edition of Questions from Readers!

Send your successes, questions, and confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today! Thank to everyone for helping to earn our very own name: facebook.com/practicalcook)

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On deck tomorrow, Extremely Practical Slaw, or Punting! with Cabbage.

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?

Readers Review the Practical Cook’s Recipes: 1st Edition

One of the highlights of being the Practical Cook—taking a look into kitchens around the world, learning more about how you, gentle readers, are cooking. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to share some of your challenges and your successes. In this premiere edition of Readers Review, we’ll look at three successes and one commercial.

Clearly, no one in the sound of my virtual voice follows directions exactly—and that is awesome. Love the creativity out there! True story, the Practical Cook’s Mom (aka, PCM) once handed the Practical Cook a recipe that she had clipped from the newspaper with her changes noted at the top. It was an entirely different recipe. The Practical Cook must paraphrase Hank Williams Jr. here and say “leave me alone I’m just carrying on an old family tradition.”

Success with the Recipes!

Several of you enjoyed the Rustic Tart Recipe, including Blended Familia, who made a version with chorizo and butternut squash. Looking good!

Rustic Tart with Chorizo and Butternut Squash

Rustic Tart with Chorizo and Butternut Squash

From Miss Clairol, we have a riff on the Great Tuna Salad Experiment Recipe. Just like PCM, liberties were taken with this recipe. The idea of pan-seared tuna on greens is there, but surf-n-turf style, using Montreal steak seasoning, salt and pepper, Parmesan, and croutons dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, served alongside some asparagus sauteed in butter. Well, at least two ingredients were the same, so let’s claim victory! Here’s a look:

Surf-n-Turf Tuna on a Bed of Greens

Surf-n-Turf Tuna on a Bed of Greens

Furthermore, success can be claimed on the All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins (twice made for school snack, the last time in quadruplicate). This is what 40 muffins look like (the 41st was requisitioned and divided for Quality Control and Crowd Control).

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

Because there was so much volume, requiring 6 cups of something flour-esque, I was able to sub half of it: 2 cups almond meal, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. We played “guess the secret ingredient” during the class, and they got sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries, but not one person guessed whole wheat, applesauce, or flax seed meal. Score! One student insisted it was a doughnut, failing to notice I reduced the sugar from 2 cups to 1.5 cups.

Blueberries Cover All Sins (and Whole Grains)

Blueberries Cover All Sins (and Whole Grains)

Another excellent amendment was made to the Banana Bread Recipe—mini chocolate chips. If you’re a choco-banana fan (hello Chunky Monkey), take this idea and run with it! Thanks to KAD for that one.

The Commercial

Quaker Oats Guy vs. Scott's Porage Oats Guy: KO in the first round!

Quaker Oats Guy

Last, but far from least, a fantastic follow up to the surprisingly popular One Ingredient, Three Ways: Oatmeal Edition. So many of you wrote with flavor combos and ideas, there will be a sequel. In the meantime, please enjoy the ultimate nexus of food and marketing, an ad campaign by Scott’s Porage Oats. Special shout-out to the Kilted Vegan for sharing that with us (and for providing me with an opportunity to create and use that moniker).

Seriously, we’d have no problem selling oats in America if we ran ads like that. Quaker Oats Guy vs. Scott’s Porage Oats Guy: KO in the first round!

And that brings us back to Sunday’s Weekly Menus. Some time between losing my mind decorating that Carrot Cake and setting up a treasure hunt, I’ll share next week’s plan. I can already tell you that Wednesday I’ll be serving something purple. More on that later.

Keep the reader reviews coming in, and we’ll keep the test kitchens open: practicalcook at gmail dot com

Twitter: practicalcook

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table