I lost my cookbook momentum with the arrival of my sister and my adorable little nephews. For the three days of weekend, there was a katamari ball of sticky little boys rolling about the house. I got to tell my sister about the cookbook project, and I cooked a little for her. To my delight, she had never eaten barley as a rice substitute, and even more to my delight, she liked it so much that she asked how to cook it. No higher form of flattery can come from my sister.
I also won over my mother with some pink veggie balls. My mother likes her slabs of meat. She is a genius with gravy. What she taught me was the foundation for this book. But she frequently declines to venture outside of her comfort zone. She ate these bizzare balls, though, even though they were vegetarian, and even though they contained lots of beet. And she liked them. Woot!
My sister's family left behind a little viral gift, so I've spent the past days dealing with a sick baby instead of writing. And Saturday's flight is looming large. Time to put it into high gear.
Anyway, before the loss of momentum, I was churning through the book, cross-referencing the recipes, and filling in the gaps that were unearthed in the process. The following are a couple of the new additions, and some sections which were heavily reworked an/or filled out.
Croutons are small bits of bread that go on top of salad. Croutons are another way that you can use up leftover stale bread, but you can also make them with fresh bread.
There are any number of ways to make croutons. You can cut or tear buttered toast into small pieces. You can cut or tear fresh bread, and then bake or broil it on a cookie sheet. You can even stir-fry cubes of bread in a little butter or oil. Croutons can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and spice mixes. You can even use chunks of bread in a salad without toasting them at all.
Technically, since they are a part of a plant, all fruits are vegetables. But sweet fruit that require no cooking tend to be put into their own category. Fruits low in calories. Sweet fruits are high in sugar, but are also high in fiber, which slows the body's absorption of the sugar. This makes fruit an ideal snack food. Whole fruit stacks up especially well against fruit juice, because a large glass of fruit juice contains all of the sugar of several pieces of fruit, and none (or negligibly little of) the fiber.
Some fruits will continue to ripen after they are picked. These fruits may be kept at room temperature until they are ready to eat. Once they are ripe, they can be moved into the refrigerator to store for a few more days at peak ripeness – with some exceptions. These fruits can be left to ripen on the counter:
Banana (Do not refrigerate – the fruit will turn black!)
Tomatoes (Tomatoes can be refrigerated, but their flavor will diminish.)
To hasten ripening, fruit can be left in a paper bag on the counter. To further hasten ripening, put a banana in the bag.
The following fruits stop ripening when they are picked, and should be put in the refrigerator at once:
Apples (Apples can be stored for months in the refrigerator, so stock up when they are in season!)
Blueberries (You can also wash and then freeze blueberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Cranberries (You can also wash and then freeze cranberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Raspberries (You can also wash and then freeze raspberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Blackberries (You can also wash and then freeze blackberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Apples and berries are good fruits to stock up on while they are in season, because apples can be refrigerated for months at a time, and berries can be frozen for use in Berry Sauce (15.12), Smoothies (2.02), Pancakes (2.06), Oatmeal (2.04), or other recipes such as pies or jelly.
Dried fruit is just as good for you as fresh fruit, and has the advantage of a long shelf-life. Try dried fruit in Grains with Nuts, Seeds, or Dried Fruit (6.05); or for breakfast, in Yogurt (2.01), Smoothie (2.02), Cold Cereal (2.03), or Oatmeal (2.04). Dried fruit is also great in desserts like Fruity Bread Pudding (16.06), Energy Bars (16.02), and Oatmeal Cookies (16.01). Fresh fruit works well in most of these recipes, too.
3.00 Store-Bought Bread
Bread has many uses beyond the sandwich. In addition to fresh bread, stale bread also has many uses, from French toast to breadcrumbs. This section gives examples of recipes which call for store-bought bread as the main ingredient. Other bread recipes can be found elsewhere in this book: Dessert Bread Pudding (16.05), Breakfast Bread Pudding (2.07), and Cinnamon Toast (16.03), French Toast (2.08), and Croutons (13.11).
Most breads are made from wheat flour. Wheat flour comes in two varieties: white, and whole wheat. White flour and whole wheat flour are made from the same plant, but in white flour, the outer portion of the grain has been stripped off. This gives white flour a longer shelf life, but unfortunately also removes more than half of the nutrients that are found in whole wheat. So, white bread contains a lot of empty calories. Use whole wheat bread when possible.
One slice of sandwich bread torn or cut up makes roughly one cup. One loaf of sandwich bread will usually have16 or more slices, not including the heels. One slice of bread (or one hamburger or one hotdog bun) makes between ¼ and ½ cup of bread crumbs.
3.01 Storing Bread, and Keeping Bread Fresh
Bread gets stale when it is exposed to the air, so the best way to prevent bread from getting stale is to keep it sealed in a plastic bag. It is fine to keep bread stored at room temperature. However, sealed bread will get moldy after a few days or a week. If you aren't likely to eat the whole loaf in time, you can store it in the refrigerator.
Did you know that sliced bread freezes nicely? Buy more than you need when it’s on sale, and put the extra away in the freezer. Frozen slices can be thawed in the microwave, or put directly into the toaster. Frozen bread must be thawed by heating it, however. Bread thawed in the refrigerator or on the counter will likely be ruined by the ice crystals that then melt and get the bread wet.
3.02 Making Stale Bread On Purpose
Many recipes call for stale bread: Croutons (13.11), French Toast (2.08), Dessert Bread Pudding (16.05), Bread Crumbs (3.03), Stuffing (3.07), etc. To make stale bread, leave slices of bread on the counter overnight without any sort of airtight covering. You can put them in a paper bag if you prefer.
To make stale bread in a hurry, put the bread on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for a half hour.
If your recipe calls for cubes or torn-up pieces of stale bread, you may find that it is easier to cut or tear the bread before it has gone stale.
Stale bread can be frozen until you need it. This is particularly useful for Thanksgiving stuffing, which is a hassle to make if you leave the bread-chopping until the last minute. Save up heels of bread as you finish eating loaves of bread, dice them at once, and store them in a bag in the freezer. Then when you need them, the stale chopped bread will be ready to grab and use. You can toss them right into your recipe without thawing.
3.03 Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs are an ingredient used in various recipes, such as “breaded” meats, and in Balls, Patties, and Loaves (12.00). If you don't want to buy bread crumbs,you can make your own by crumbling or chopping stale or toasted bread.
Some kinds of bread make better bread crumbs than others. Ironically, the easiest bread to make bread crumbs from is exactly the sort that you wouldn't want to eat any other way: cheap, mass-produced white bread. Whole grain breads and artisanal breads have a tendency to become rock-hard when stale. These can be grated to produce bread crumbs, but white bread becomes so delicate that it can be crushed into crumbs in your hands.
One slice of bread (or one hamburger or one hotdog bun) makes between ¼ and ½ cup of bread crumbs.
6.00 Whole Grains
Far too much of the typical Western diet is made up of “refined” grains. Refined grains are grains which have had the outer portion of the seed-hull removed. This makes the result white: white bread (made from wheat) and white rice being the most common. Traditionally, this was done to make the grain and flour last longer on the shelf. Whole grains go rancid faster. However, most of the nutrients and most of the fiber are contained in the brown outer layer of the grain. The “white” versions are pure carbohydrates, which are high in calories, and which break down into sugars quickly during digestion.
Whole wheat flour and brown rice are far superior foods. And there are quite a few other whole grains that are just as good for you: barley, oats, rye, wheat berries, and millet are just some of the grains available. Whole grains should be stored in the freezer if you don't plan on cooking them within a few weeks of purchase.
Whole grain flours are used in any number of recipes, but this section deals with whole boiled grains. For recipes that use flour, see Pancakes (2.06), Gravy (15.02), and Oatmeal Cookies (16.01). See Pasta (14.00) for recipes that use pasta made from whole wheat.
Lastly, if you prefer the taste of white rice, you can use the recipes here to cook white rice, too.
15.14 Cream Sauce
This sauce is the primary ingredient in Fettuccini Alfredo (14.03), but it can also be used as a sauce for meat or fish, or with Creamy Grains (6.06). Use this sauce in moderation, because it is high in calories and fat!
2 tbsp butter
1 cup cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the cream, turn up the heat a little, and boil, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. This will thicken the sauce. Stir in the cheese. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.