When I think of harvest, I think of food. Do you remember the scene in the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” where everything is edible? Well, that is what I think of when I think of heaven. There is such a variety of flavors on earth, I am sure that heaven will be even more extraordinary.
I love to experiment in the kitchen. I seldom follow any recipe exactly, although Solomon is right, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV) See if you want to try these cooking tips:
1. Make it more chocolatey. Next time you make your favorite peanut butter or oatmeal cookie recipe, replace one tablespoon of flour with cocoa. If you like the flavor, you can replace twenty-five percent of the flour with cocoa. Remember, cocoa does not contain sugar, so the cookies will not be sweeter, though they will have more chocolate flavor.
2. Reduce the calories. You can cut the fat content of your creamy soups by eliminating all the half-and-half or cream with this tip. Replace whatever amount of those ingredients your recipe calls for with either low fat or non-fat cottage cheese, whipping it in a blender until smooth. Stir the mixture into your soup when you would normally add the cream. You will love the consistency without the calories.
3. Wrap potatoes in bacon. After scrubbing your potatoes, wrap each one individually with thin slices of bacon, then encase it in foil. Bake as you would normally. The bacon will flavor your potato while creating bacon bits to sprinkle on top. Save on your energy bill by baking your potatoes in a crock-pot.
4. Adjust your baking times. If you use the convection feature in your oven, things will cook faster. (You may not notice this with cookies, because they bake quickly, so you are opening the oven every 8-12 minutes.) Potatoes may be ready ten minutes earlier.
5. Remove the gas from your beans. In my part of the country, we eat bowls of pinto beans and cornbread as a favorite winter meal. Remove the gravel from dried beans by rinsing them in a colander, then soak them overnight. The next morning, rinse the beans again, then cover them with an inch of water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Place the colander in the sink and drain away the water, rinse the beans and bring them back to a boil again. Drain rinse about three times or until you see only a small amount of foam. (The foam causes stomach gas.)
Now you are ready to add your both and seasonings. Bring the beans to a boil again, then simmer on low heat until they are your favorite thickness. If you leave the kitchen, be sure to cover them with a lid, since beans that boil dry are a disaster. I like my beans thick, so I set an alarm to check on them every ten minutes when they are simmering without a lid. I also plunge a potato masher into the pot a few times once they are done.
When I don’t have a ham bone to add, I will use the cheapest cut of pork chops or thick-sliced bacon. I love to use Cavender’s No Salt All-Purpose Greek Seasoning, along with onion, garlic powder, basil, and beef bouillon. Sometimes I may add barbeque or picante sauce, depending on how I want to use the leftovers.
6. Stop scrubbing the pans. When you have a cooked-on mess to clean, add enough hot water to cover the area and a dryer sheet like Snuggle or Bounce (it can be one already used in the dryer). Let them soak while you clean the kitchen. The sheet will loosen the residue.
7. Save money on your ground beef. Often hamburger meat is more expensive than rump roast or boneless chuck roast. Most butchers will grind the roast into hamburger as a courtesy. It will be better quality and less expensive. Divide it into freezer bags marked with the date.
8. Add flavor. The secret to most cooking is seasoning your broth. I love to simmer carrot peelings, celery leaves, bones, and bay leaves for an hour. Strain away the ingredients and you are ready to start. I often add bouillon cubes, so I don’t use any extra salt. Even garlic salt or onion salt can be too much. If I’m making one and a half cups of this broth to inject in a turkey, I’ll add three cubes of chicken or turkey bullion, a tablespoon of basil, and Cavender’s Greek seasoning, plus two teaspoons garlic and onion powders, and a teaspoon each of sage, thyme, rosemary, and poultry seasoning. After simmering an hour or more, I add a stick of butter.
9. Roast your turkey breast side down. If you carve your turkey at the dining table, then read no farther. However, if you arrange slices on a platter and you want the juiciest, most flavorful turkey, inject your turkey with whatever is your preference. There are commercially prepared products you can use. Some people like more sage, garlic, or lemon pepper than I do. I take the broth described above and pour it through a tea strainer (I’ve discovered that the herbs clog most syringes), saving the broth and the seasoning.
Before injecting the turkey, remove the neck and the bag containing the gizzard and liver and the plastic or metal holding the legs together. Be especially generous when injecting the legs, thighs, and breasts. Coat the skin lightly with olive oil and rub the saved herbs in the cavity.
Browning your turkey before roasting will make the skin hold in all the moisture, so there will be no need to baste. Basting actually dries out the meat because it cools the oven and your bird, so you have to cook it longer. Place the bird in the roasting pan breast-side up, with no lid or aluminum foil. If using a foil pan, reinforce the bottom with a cookie sheet. Cook at 450º for about 15 minutes, checking to see if it is almost tan.
Since the breasts are always the driest part, inverting the bird sends all those great juices to marinate them. Take the turkey out of the roasting pan and flip it breast-side down, cooking uncovered ten minutes until the top is slightly brown.
Remove the turkey from the oven one more time and reduce the temperature to 325º. Create a foil tent or use a lid to cover the bird. This link gives cooking times for regular and convection ovens. Cooking time will be shorter because you’ve already cooked the bird for almost thirty minutes and your oven will be hotter than 325º for a few minutes. If your turkey weighs about twelve pounds, I would check it an hour earlier than the cooking guide suggests. If you have an eighteen-pound turkey, I would only check it thirty minutes early. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a knife or fork, and if the juices are clear, it’s ready. Always let the meat rest outside the oven before carving, since as it cools it will absorb more of the juices. Save some of the broth in the pan to cover the meat if you reheat it later. The rest is for your dressing.
If you want my recipe for the best Southern cornbread dressing (it uses beaten egg whites) or my “Friendship Lasagna” (makes enough for 50 so you can have several containers in the freezer for a friend in crisis, etc.), email me at awomantrustingGod@gmail.com.
Please share your cooking tips in the comments.
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