5 More Tips You Should Know

A few weeks ago I posted a list of simple, yet beneficial tips that are a “must” in the kitchen.  With finals just around the corner, I haven’t been able to cook as much as I would like to, so I figured I’d share a few more things you should know to ensure efficiency every time you are working your magic in the kitchen.

1. Do NOT Rinse Your Cooked Pasta

This is something that I feel like everyone has done at some point in their life.  After boiling a big pot of pasta, I know that it is almost human nature to want to just rinse it under some water after draining it into a colander.  By doing this, you are actually rinsing off all of the starches that we LOVE, leaving your pasta with less texture and nutrients.  If you are faced with the issue of pasta sticking together when left in the colander, try tossing it in some olive oil.  This will solve your problem and still leave your pasta tasting delicious.

2. Overcooking is Most Definitely the BIGGEST Cooking Mistake

BURNT FOOD IS NOT GOOD, but overcooked, tough food is also pretty terrible.  Overcooking vegetables makes them mushy, flavorless, and dull… overcooking meats makes them tough, dry, and chalky… overcooking grains makes them soggy and flimsy… None of this sounds appetizing, so it is essential that you learn to take food off the heat slightly before it is fully done and allow it to finish cooking simply by the internal temperature.  Also, do not be afraid to utilize a thermometer.  Yes these bulky things can be slightly off, but they will help you out much more than if you were to just “guess” whether or not your food is done.

3. Season Season Season

If your food tastes simply OK… it most likely needs some sort of seasoning.  A pinch of salt can go a very long way when it comes to making an OK dish, a great dish.  Yes, over salty food is not good, but under salted is even worse in my opinion.  If you have added your salt and the dish still seems a tad bland, try a splash of vinegar or something acidic to try and liven up your flavor.  You can also use acids, such as lemon, to help counteract any unwanted sweetness you may come across while cooking.  If food feels dry or sticky, you can also add a drizzle of olive oil.

4. Avoid Regular Large Onions

These big onions have a place in recipes such as stews, soups, roasts, etc., but they are unwelcome in more delicate and flavorful meals.  Onions have an extremely prominent flavor that can easily overpower any recipe, if not utilized correctly.  This is why I recommend sticking with smaller, lighter onions, such as shallots and leeks, to help enhance the dish, while also giving the other ingredients a chance to show their flavor.  Shallots have a sweeter, more delicate flavor, which is why they are one of my favorite ingredients to cook with when I come across a recipe that requires an onion.

5. Fruit Should NOT Be Stored in the Fridge

Most fruits are not intended to be stored in a cold environment, which is why you need to KEEP THEM OUT OF THE FRIDGE.  Most people believe that by doing this, they are prolonging their shelf life, but this is not the case.  Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, should always be stored in the fridge; however, fruits like bananas, oranges, apples, uncut pineapple, and pears, should not.  Refrigerators actually dull the flavor of most produce, leaving them bland.  Extremely hot climates are an exception to this rule.

These are only a few more of the essential things one should know to ensure “optimal performance” in the kitchen.  I’ll be sure to post another 5 soon to help you all out. 🙂  Keep cooking and I have more recipes coming your way within the next week!

 

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Shrimp Scampi Linguini

Seafood is my weakness.  Especially as the weather begins to warm up, there is nothing like digging my fork into a juicy piece of grilled salmon or dipping a steamed clam into some melted butter before popping it into my mouth.  Although seafood tends to scare many people off, whether it be due to the “oceany” smell, texture, etc., it is one of those categories of food where I believe that if it is cooked properly utilizing a delicious recipe, anyone can be won over.  The recipe I am about to share with you, is for a type of seafood that I can eat endlessly without ever getting tired of it.  Shrimp.  Shrimp is delicious no matter how it is prepared.  I personally love cold shrimp simply dipped in cocktail sauce; however, this recipe spices things up a bit.  In my opinion, everything is better when paired with some delicious pasta… so let’s get started because I’m starving!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound linguini
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus a tad more for drizzling
  • 2 shallots, finely diced (if shallots are unavailable, about 1 tablespoon of a finely diced sweet onion will do)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

Alright, so you are going to want to start by throwing a pot of water on the stove to get boiling for your pasta.  When the water comes to a boil, add several tablespoons of salt and your pasta.  Stir to ensure all of the pasta separates, cover, and cook for about 6-8 minutes until the pasta is not 100% done.  Drain pasta and set aside.

In a large skillet on the stove, melt two tablespoons of butter in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.Once combined together, saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots are clear.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.  Season your raw shrimp with salt and pepper and then add them to the skillet.  Cook the shrimp until they have curled slightly and turned pink.  This should take approximately 2-5 minutes.  Try your best not to overcook your shrimp, for they will become extremely chewy and rubbery.  Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside while keeping it warm.

To the skillet, add the white wine and lemon juice.  Once this reaches a boil, add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the chopped fresh parsley and cooked pasta.  Stir well to combine and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a tad more olive oil over the top and serve immediately!

As you can see, this recipe is quite simple.  There are hardly any ingredients or steps to follow, making this a recipe that ANYONE is capable of doing.  I also recommend serving this dinner with a nice side of garlic bread.  The two pair perfectly!  As I said before, I am a huge seafood fan, whereas a few of my housemates are not.  However, with some encouragement, I was able to convince them to give it a shot AND THEY LOVED IT.  This just goes to show that if something is cooked properly and seasoned well, it is very possibly to sway ones opinion, especially when it comes to seafood.  This recipe serves about 4-6 people, so don’t forget to double/half the ingredients if you are planning on serving a larger/smaller group of people!  Or just make all of it for yourself and have enough food to eat for a week, I support it because I know that I would do the same! 🙂

With that being said, I realize we are in college and on a budget, but this dinner was a cheap and affordable way to spice up my house’s dinner menu.  Also, if you enjoy this recipe and are interested in making more food from the ocean, stay tuned!  I’m planning on grilling up some salmon this week and I have a recipe that you will be SURE to love.

5 Kitchen Tips You Should Know

I haven’t been cooking too much lately, so I figured I’d change things up a bit and share with you all some awesome kitchen tips you definitely want to know.  What I find beneficial about this list of 5, is that there is a partial focus on how to keep foods fresher, longer.  As a college student on a budget, food going sour or bad is a waste of money; however, it can be easily avoided.  Several of these others tips are wonderful tools to help you remain efficient in the kitchen!

1. Use Tongs

Tongs are the universal tool of the kitchen.  Yes, a spatula is great for flat foods, such as pancakes and eggs, but tongs are much easier way to pick up other foods.  Tongs also give you much more control and a smaller chance of dropping your food across the kitchen floor.  Also, if you have non-stick cookware, I recommend using tongs with nylon tips to avoid scratching your pans.  Always go with the 12 inch tongs as well.  This long utensil keeps you far away from the heat and gives you sturdier control when picking up larger foods.

2. Store Everything in Tupperware

As a college student, Tupperware will save your life.  We all spend our limited amount of money on food, so for it to go bad before we are done utilizing as much as we can, is such a waste.  Tupperware gives berries, salad greens, and cut produce, a much longer life due to it’s air tight seal.  Don’t be afraid to also store your dinner leftovers in these containers as well.  If you make too much, pop it in a container and you’ll have a fresh and delicious meal waiting for you another day.  These containers are also reusable and therefore more Eco-friendly, which is ALWAYS a plus.

3. If You Own a Knife, Use It

Many people underestimate the versatility of an everyday kitchen knife.  In particular, I want to focus on garlic.  Pretty much all delicious recipes use garlic, so it is essential to know the proper way to mince and dice this tiny clove.  Many use a garlic press, however I find that to be a waste of time AND garlic.  Yes it seems easy, but half the time you are wasting some of your garlic as it gets stuck in the press.  A technique I prefer to utilize, is simply smashing the unpeeled clove with the flat side of your knife.  This will force the skin to slide off easily and then you can easily mince it up.

4. Keep Separate Cutting Boards for Different Foods

Certain foods, such as onions and garlic, have a very potent/prominent smell.  Many don’t realize how easy it is for these flavors to be permanently absorbed into a cutting board.  This being said, I find it very beneficial to have at least two different cutting boards to ensure that these flavors aren’t being spread around in an unwanted manner.  No one wants onion flavored fruits and cheeses all the time!  Also, having a separate board with a small lip around the sides, is good for cutting meats to ensure the juices and blood don’t pour off the board onto your counter tops.  This can also help prevent cross contamination.

5. Herbs Should Be Fresh and Green

With the exception of a few certain that are intended to be dry, such as bay leaves and oregano, herbs should be fresh, green, and beautiful.  Herbs are always better and more flavorful when they are bright and fresh.  Although they don’t last too long in the fridge, the result in flavor is most definitely worth it.  I always recommend using fresh chives, parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill, etc.  These herbs add brightness and a stronger depth of flavor to each of your recipes.  Yes, dried herbs are still delicious, but they do not have a long shelf life and also lack the flavor that most recipes call for.

If you were planning on using dried herbs, another tip would be to put the herbs in the palm of your hand and rub them between your fingers as you add them to your recipe.  This helps release the oils from the dried herbs, giving them more flavor.

 

Artichoke and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

My all time FAVORITE food is a mushroom.  I know a lot of you are probably like “ewwww, gross, fungus”, but NO you are wrong.  Mushrooms are a gift from the gods and for those of you who are mushroom fans, this is a recipe that you will be sure to love.  Another food that takes a close second to mushrooms, are artichokes.  Who doesn’t love a delicious cheesy artichoke dip?  This recipe basically takes mushroom caps and stuffs them with a cheesy artichoke mixture and then bakes them to perfection.  Although it may seem complicated, this recipe requires hardly any ingredients and steps to prepare.  Before you know it, you’ll be pulling these guys out of the oven and popping ’em into your mouth.  Let’s get started!

Ingredients:

  • 24 large white mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cans sliced or quartered artichoke hearts
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (or about 1 tsp jarred minced garlic)
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • Handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tub shredded Asiago cheese, 8 ounces (or shredded mozzarella)

Directions:

First start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.  You’re going to want to brush the dirt off of the mushrooms.  You can do this simply by taking a damp paper towel and gently wiping them off.  After they are cleaned, carefully pop the stems out of each cap, creating a cavity that will hold your artichoke mixture.  Place the caps in a large bowl and drizzle in your olive oil to evenly coat the mushrooms, and then scatter them round-side-up onto a cookie sheet.  Roast these guys for about 10 minutes.  After you pull them out, season the caps with salt and pepper and flip over.  Place the pan aside while you prepare the stuffing.

Drain your cans of artichokes and then chop them into smaller pieces to make them easier to eat and easier to fit into the caps.  Using the same bowl as before, toss the artichokes with a drizzle of olive oil, garlic, thyme, grated Parmesan cheese, and parsley.  One the mixture is evenly incorporated, generously fill the mushroom caps, mounding the filling up.  Top the artichoke mixtures with the shredded Asiago/mozzarella cheese.  Return the pan to the oven and cook the mushrooms for another 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the filling has set.  As soon as they look beautiful and gooey, pull them out and set aside to cool only for a minute or so.  Once they reach the temperature where they won’t burn your tongue off, they are all set and ready to eat.

These stuffed mushrooms are such a wonderful appetizer for any meal, party, holiday, etc.  It helps that they are also extremely easy to make.  Even if you aren’t a huge mushroom fan, I highly suggest giving them a shot.  Another great thing about these little guys, is that they heat up incredibly!  I know that the idea of re-heating a stuffed mushroom sounds a bit odd, but trust me.. if you have any leftovers, just throw them on a pan and bake them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees or even simply throw them in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Either way comes out equally delicious.   This recipe has always proven to be a crowd favorite for me and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!