Archive for Cooking Stuff

Camping Food Ideas

Recently we went camping.  Every time we camp I strive to put food on the table that is more than just hot dogs and hamburgers so it usually involves a fair amount of prep work before we go.

We have a camp stove and I highly recommend it.  If you don’t have one and you plan on doing any car camping, this is *the* stove.  Easy to light, heats a pot of water quickly (good for doing dishes!) and folds fairly compactly.  The only drawback is that it is made to use disposable cylinders.  You can, however, buy an attachment to use refillable cylinders.

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It’s all about pasta sauce baby!

We eat a fair amount of pasta in our house. With a 2 yr old and a 5 yr old, it's one thing that is guaranteed to get eaten. For some reason I can't remember, the sauce I make has been named "Super Sauce". I may have done that in a desperate attempt to convince my 2 yr old it was FUN to eat.

This sauce is full of cooking tips so I figured I could sell the whole farm and give away everything right here, right now. Grab your pencils (or just hit the print icon, whatever)!

And beware – this is not a good recipe for a first-time cook. It's more of an intermediate level recipe just because I don't mention quantities.

You need:
– mushrooms
– onion
– carrots (yes, carrots)
– tomatoes (canned, fresh, whole, crushed – your choice – I use canned, crushed)
– ground meat
– whatever else you want
– herbs (think: basil, oregano, thyme)
– sugar
– olive oil

Note: I'm specifically vague on quantities here because I change how much I use. For instance, today I used 1/4 of a Spanish onion. Last time I made the sauce I used 3/4 of an onion. Or maybe it was a whole onion….I eyeball this stuff.

Let's get started with the mushrooms.
Use fresh ones if you can. Cut them up any which way you like. Put them aside.
Cooking Tip: To prevent drying out, store mushrooms in a paper bag, in your refrigerator, preferably in a produce compartment that has moisture control. If you aren't going to use your mushrooms for a few days, try running the paper bag (with the mushrooms already in it) under running water. Now, before you go and try this, let me describe it further. I turn the tap on so the water is only coming out in a dribble. I grab my bag of mushrooms and pass them under the running water. That's it. Don't hold the bag under the stream of water for too long or you'll just end up with a soggy mess.

Yes, carrot. I put carrots in my sauce because a) I was taught to do that by an Italian friend and I figure, if this has been passed along in his family (his Nonna taught him to do it), then it should go in my recipe repertoire too; and b) it's another chance to get my kids to eat vegetables.
Grab your carrot(s). Peel them. Grate them. I use the smallest hole on my grater. Feel free to mix it up a bit and use any size you want. Just keep it consistently sized. Don't get all creative and grate them different sizes. They won't cook evenly and you'll end up with some carrot mush and crunchy pieces. Or maybe you like it that way. Either way, put your carrots aside when you're done with them.

Peel it. Cut it up. Put it aside.

Heat approx. 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot.
Add onions. Let them cook until they start to appear translucent.
Add carrot. Let them cook together until they start to get a little soft.
Add mushrooms. Let everything cook until the mushrooms start to lose their liquid and they become soft.
Add ground meat. Let everything cook until there isn't any pink left in any of the meat. If there's liquid in the bottom of your pot, keep the simmer going until that liquid evaporates. If that takes too long, drain the liquid and move on to the next step.
Cooking Tip: If you're a die hard ground beef eater, try substituting ground turkey or chicken. There's very little difference in taste and it's nice to have variety. There are a whole bunch of nutritional reasons why ground turkey/chicken is better than beef but I'm not going to go into that here. Oh yeah, and they're about the same price as extra-lean ground beef (which is more expensive than regular ground beef but it's what you should be eating anyway).
Add tomatoes.
Add herbs. I use oregano, basil and thyme.
Add sugar. Yes, sugar. Approx. 1 teaspoon but after you add it, taste it. I never used to add sugar to my sauce and then I saw Michael Bonacini put sugar in his sauce and he said something along the lines of "no sauce is complete without it". Sure enough, a little sugar smoothes out the sauce.
Let sauce simmer for 20 or 30 mins in a covered pot.
Cook pasta, ladle sauce over cooked pasta (whole wheat pasta, of course) and voila – dinner!

Extra sauce may be frozen in a zip-loc bag indefinitely.
Note: this recipe has not been tested as it is written and so if you try it and it is a complete mess, well…sorry about that.

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Perfect Pancakes

If you're a bit of a perfectionist like myself, and you enjoy making pancakes, then this is the tip for you!

Use a turkey baster to put pancake batter in your pan.
You will end up with the most perfectly sized and shaped pancakes possible. Of course, it doesn't work so well if you're using a whole grain recipe that contains something like oats in it. They tend to clog up the baster.

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Cooking Tip #1

I've amassed a fair number of cooking tips and thought I would share them with you so that if you should ever find yourself in a cooking situation, you can use them.

Without further fanfare, here is Cooking Tip #1.

How to easily fill Manicotti/Canneloni/any type of pasta you wish to fill:

1) Use a pastry/piping bag. If you have one of these in your box of kitchen tools, you know how to use it. If you don't, go to the next suggestion.


2) Use a ziploc style bag. Scoop your filling into the ziploc bag, smush out all of the air and seal it up. Move all (or as much as possible) of the filling down to the bottom of the bag. Snip off a very small bit of one corner of the bag. Remember: less is more. You can always cut a bigger hole. You can't make the hole smaller. Once you've trimmed your hole, squeeze the filling out of the hole and into your pasta. You may have to twist the bag to get some good pressure going on the filling. The more pressure you can exert by twisting the bag, the less you will have to exert using your hands.

Voila! Easily filled pasta.

Thrilling, isn't it? Bet you can't wait for tip #2!

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