Back to…Cooking School: Roast Chicken 101 (Recipe: Lemon & Oregano Roast Chicken)

Autumn is my favorite time to get busy in the kitchen. I gain tremendous satisfaction from roasting juicy whole poultry, cracking open enormous pumpkins to turn into pies, whipping together smooth root vegetable purees and peeling apples by the bushel.

Not only is the weather cooler, allowing for more hearty dinner fare, but the return of familiar fall rhythms lend themselves well to meals that require a bit of love – and lengthier cooking times.

For the longest time, roast chicken was the only meat my pre-schooler ate – and that was conditional to it having no skin. As you can imagine, I had time to perfect the art of roasting a whole chicken. I avoid purchasing BBQ chickens from supermarkets and fast food chains if at all possible, for health reasons (especially after seeing Food.Inc.), and instead roast an organic, free-range bird that will nourish the whole family.

Roasting a whole chicken is simple: there are no fancy knife cuts to attempt or finicky prep required to get it in the oven. Still, there are a few tricks to getting the most out of your investment. And if you’ve ever purchased a free-range hen, I think you will agree that it’s an investment. [Read more…]

Back to…Cooking School: Easy & Flavorful Compound Butters (vlog)

Can I get a high five? It’s the long weekend! This has been an intense week for me and I am ready to relax, head to a lake with some friends and enjoy summer’s last fling. Cheesecake is on the menu, as is steak, with plenty of this grilled corn & avocado salad (my latest obsession).

Speaking of steak, I thought I’d share with you my favorite and oh-so-simple way to enjoy it. You already know how to grill the perfect steak, so why not learn how to mix up a succulent flavored butter to top your beef? I’ve even cooked up a how-to video to inspire you to try ‘compound butter’.

Believe it or not, when I was in culinary school we devoted an entire day to compound butter, butter creamed with various flavorings and aromatics, rolled in a log, and chilled until needed to jazz up a sauce, steak or vegetable. The devotion we showed to this condiment no doubt stemmed from the long-term love affair between classic French cooking and that highly-esteemed stick of dairy.

It’s a brilliant idea, really. Chop herbs, crush garlic and grind pepper into a slab of soft butter, freeze it in a log, and slice off a round as needed. Voila, an instant burst of flavor – and moisture – for a bowl of tired left-over pasta, a dried-out grilled chicken breast, or one of the many other uses listed below. [Read more…]

Back to…Cooking School: Working with Fresh Herbs

Today in cooking school we’ll be looking at herbs and how to cut them. Fresh herbs can add bursts of flavor that no dried herb can emulate. At our house we grow them all summer long, picking off what we need for each dish, making pesto and preserving them for use during the winter.

I’ve noticed, though, that when working with fresh herbs, some people get stuck on how exactly to go about using them. It’s like you’ve handed them this plant that has no real instructions. Instead of working with the fruit or roots of the plant, they’re now focused on leaves, and they’ve probably never used them before.

So, let’s break it down. Let’s go over a few techniques for chopping herbs to add to your dishes, as well as how we can save any extra herbs for use later on. [Read more…]

Yogurt Unplugged (almost)

Written by Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn.

Iam a sucker for kitchen catalogs, those gorgeous, glossy advertisements that come in the mail. They do a wonderful job of tempting me, but when I’m done drooling, usually I just pitch the catalog without placing an order and without longing regret.

How am I able to turn my back so resolutely on those fabulous tools, gadgets, and machines that promise to pluck the last olive from the jar, take out strawberry hulls with ease, and make baby food at the press of a button?

I’ve learned a valuable secret. When you buy a single purpose gadget, you not only have to pay for it, you also have to store it. Most of us don’t have kitchens as big as a barn in which to store gadgets. It’s much tidier (and cheaper) to only invest in good quality tools that serve a multitude of purposes. A set of sharp knives will take the place of hundreds of kitchen gizmos and a solid set of pans will be in use years after you’ve put that hinged omelet pan in the garage sale.

One small appliance that falls in that category for me is a yogurt maker. If you have one and you love it, super, you need read no further. But if you have always wanted to try making yogurt, but didn’t want to buy a machine, read on. [Read more…]

20 Simple & Practical Kitchen Hacks for Everyday Cooks

We all strive to improve our efficiency and frugality in the kitchen for obvious reasons; time and money are valuable!  Both attributes can be learned over time, yet often a helpful tip at just the right moment can be more useful than months -or even years- of experience.

Here are twenty of my favorite kitchen hacks, shortcuts and secrets. They will save you money, time, and wits.

Gleaned from many years in the professional cooking industry and passed along from fellow chefs and home cooks alike, they are 100% applicable for everyday cooks–and I use all of them as I cook daily for my family.

I hope you can put a few of them to good use and help simplify your cooking and baking.

[Read more…]