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Grilling The Perfect Sausage

the perfect steak

When it comes to grilling delicious sausages, there are some rules that can help bring out the best in your experience. Following these simple steps will prep you for every sausage type that comes your way.

Cooking Techniques
Poach and Grill. Prepare your sausages over a medium heat. Do not boil! If you boil, you risk pushing out the essential juices and flavorful oils in the meat and spices. Poaching allows you to appropriately brown the exterior that develops great flavor, without overcooking.

Low and Slow. If you plan to move your sausages straight to the grill, use indirect heat. Doing so can deliver the attributes of pre-poaching with the deep caramelization that results from dry-heat roasting.

Cooking Temperatures
Sausage Temperature. The target cooked temperature is 160°. Any higher temperature will cause the fat inside the sausage to melt and drip out producing a dry, less tasty sausage. There should be no pink color in the sausage.

Carry-over Cooking. It’s best to remove the sausage from the grill at about 5° below the desired internal temperature. The heat that resides in the recently cooked item will continue to climb internally for a period of time after removing from the grill.

Benefits of Resting. Let all grilled items rest in a warm spot for at least 10 minutes. Resting allows the juices to redistribute through the cooked protein. This will result in a much more flavorful and moist end product.Johnsonville.com

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The Perfect Steak

the perfect steak

The Cut. The most tender, flavorful cuts come from the rib section and is called Ribeye. It is sold as bone-in or bone-less.

The Timing. For a gas grill, set controls to medium. For a charcoal grill make sure the coals are no longer flaming and are covered in a gray ash. A 1-inch-thick ribeye steak will need 9 to 14 minutes to cook and halfway through grilling should be turned over once.

Doneness. Insert an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the steak at its thickest point and wait 15 seconds. Cook steaks to a minimum temperature of 145°F (medium rare).

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Fuss-Free Festive Appetizers

Fuss-Free Appetizers

It is always fun to have drop-in visitors during the holidays. Perhaps someone is delivering a gift or stopping in while in town for the celebration. Be ready with some simple appetizers and munchies that take no preparation.

Pickles and olives. Putting together a simple relish tray is easy. Use a divided serving platter as a relish dish. Mix and match flavors for a snack that is as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.

Hummus. Set out a dish of hummus and pita wedges or crackers for an instant snack. For variety, check out flavored hummus—roasted red pepper or Tuscan herb, for instance.

Cheese. Keep a selection of cheeses on hand, including chunks, shreds, and cream cheese in a variety of flavors that can be served alone, as part of a finger food tray, or in a number of cold and warm appetizer recipes.

Salsa. Serve alone with chips or crackers. Or blend with cheeses or other ingredients for a more elaborate dish. Salsa is available in many flavors. Tips from Sabra Hummus.

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Fall Cooking with Beer

Beer

Take note all you beer lovers out there. Your favorite brew has a rich flavor which intensifies during cooking and adds a delicious extra something to fall foods like hearty stews, braised chicken, and soaked steaks. Just like wine, beer can be used in a number of ways and you can match the flavors in the beer to the ingredients in the recipe—or simply cook with what you like best.

Marinate. You can use hearty stout for meat marinades or in a slow-cooking stew. Stout has a bold taste ranging from sweet to sharp to bitter and can provide that extra zing to your favorite chili or barbeque sauce.

Glaze. After a few minutes of cooking, beer becomes a light glistening glaze for meats, fruits, and vegetables. Citrusy wheat beers have a sweet flavor, and provide a great balance with smoky meats, pork, seafood, or chicken.

Braise. Low and slow is the ticket for braising, and using a hearty brown ale as a simmering liquid will result in juicy, tender meat. A perfect fit for cool weather, it imparts a rich flavor and adds a velvety texture as well.

Batter. If you are looking for a batter for super fried perfection, try adding a bubbly beer like a light lager to the mix. The high level of carbonation in this beer is a natural for fried foods. It can also be added to other recipes to provide a beer flavor without overpowering the other ingredients.

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Get Cracking

Hard boiled eggs

Nutrient-rich and protein-packed, boiled eggs make a fantastic on-the-go snack. And what’s better—if you can boil water, you can boil an egg! Whether soft-, medium-, or hard-boiled is your preference, the perfect egg is only 5... or 8... or 10 minutes away.

Springtime—Easter season for many—is perhaps the favorite time of year for the egg. If the Easter Bunny will be making a visit to your home, get your pot ready to boil some eggs!

  1. Start with an empty pot, add your eggs in a single layer to avoid cracking, then fill with enough water to cover.
  2. Bring the water to a soft boil, then reduce to a simmer and start your timer. Follow these guidelines for the type of egg you’re desiring:
    Soft-boiled
    Soft, gooey yolk with a just-set white.
    5 minutes
    Medium-boiled
    Nearly set opaque yolk with a firm white.
    8 minutes
    Hard-boiled
    Firm, completely set yolk and white.
    10 minutes
  3. Once cooked, drain the eggs and run under cold water until they are cool to the touch.
  4. Peel and eat immediately or store in the fridge (peeled or in the shell) for later.
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The Granola Formula

Granola

Many packaged granolas are loaded with sugar, fat, and calories, but by making your own, you can turn out a healthy, energizing snack to keep you going through that afternoon lull. And what’s great about granola is that it doens’t require a recipe; merely a general formula for putting together tasty ingredients.

Oats. Old-fashioned oats are the base of your granola. Be sure to grab the right container at the store; quick-cooking oats are no substitute in this case and will result in a dry, grainy texture.

Sweetener. You will need some sweetness, which also serves to bind the granola together. Honey or pure maple syrup are great natural options, but refined sugar or brown sugar will work, too.

Fat. You’ll need some kind of fat to give the toasty crunch that you expect from granola. Vegetable oil, olive oil, and coconut oil (heated to liquid) all work splendidly.

Flavorings. Use liquid extracts such as vanilla or almond, or spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to flavor your granola without adding extra calories.

Nuts and seeds. Choose one kind of nut or a mixture of several types. Chop, halve, or leave them whole. But do keep in mind that while nuts have plenty of health benefits, they will quickly increase your calorie count, so use sparingly.

Add-ins. Here’s where you can get really creative. Coconut, dried fruits, chocolate chunks—the possibilities truly are endless. But like with the nuts, extra calories can quickly sneak into your healthy treat, so consider that with your choices.

Putting it together. Combine your selections for each category in the following recipe to make about 4 cups:

2 cups oats
1/4 cup sweetener
1/4 cup fat
1/4-1/2 teaspoon flavoring
1 cup nuts and seeds
1-2 cups add-ins
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, and other dry ingredients, including any spices. In a separate bowl, combine your fat of choice (in liquid form) and any liquid flavorings. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Spread on a large sheet pan and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Store cooled granola in an airtight container for several weeks. For easier snacking, package into 1/4-cup servings. Recipe from CompletelyDelicious.com.

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how to: Make No-Fail Fudge

No-Fail Fudge

A staple for the holiday dessert table is old-fashioned homemade fudge. The best part about fudge is how simple it is to make and in how many flavors.

Basic Fudge

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

Line a 9-inch square baking dish with plastic wrap; set aside. Combine the chocolate chips and condensed milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat while stirring until the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, butter, and salt until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Mix it up. Now that you have made basic fudge, use a combination of flavors and mix-ins to change it up a bit.

  • Add chopped nuts—pecans, walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts are all good choices.
  • Try another mix-in such as chopped candy or cookie pieces.
  • Experiment with different types and brands of chocolate; white chocolate is a blank canvas to take on other flavors—and colors!
  • Try mixing in peanut butter or peppermint extract and a drop or two of green food coloring.
  • Add ribbons of caramel or raspberry sauce before the fudge has set for a fancy treat.
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how to: Pickling

Pickling

Pickling goes far beyond the kosher dills on your local grocery store shelves. Just about anything can be pickled, and civilization has been doing so for food preservation for over 5,000 years. The preservation of foods by soaking in vinegar or salt brine comes down to food science, which varies for the two methods. A strong acid like vinegar kills harmful bacteria before the organisms have a chance to grow on the food. A salt brine encourages fermentation, during which good bacteria make the food less susceptible to harmful bacteria.

While shelf life is drastically decreased (1 month instead of 1 year), quick pickling at home is simpler than the traditional canning process. The word “pickle” usually implies cucumbers, but pickled cabbage (sauerkraut), onions, beets, and peppers are also commonplace. Feeling adventurous? Try pickling radishes, tomatoes, cauliflower, watermelon rind, and/or apples. Different vinegars will produce varying results—instead of the plain white, try vinegars such as balsamic, apple cider, rice wine, and red wine. Different spices will also change the flavor of your pickled fare.

Refrigerator pickling in 3 easy steps:

  1. Prepare your produce. Thoroughly wash and pat dry your produce. Some produce, such as cauliflower and cabbage, will benefit from a quick blanch, but many don’t require this step. Cut to desired size and place into wide-mouth mason jars.
  2. Make the brine. Combine 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar for each cup of vinegar and water. Add desired spices and simmer, stirring, until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Cool completely to keep foods crisp. For a sweeter brine, decrease the salt to 1 teaspoon and increase the sugar to ¼ cup for each cup of water and vinegar.
  3. Pack your jars. Divide produce among mason jars. Pour enough brine mixture to completely cover the contents of the jars, leaving about ½ inch at the top. Place the lids on the jars and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 1 month.
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how to: Enjoy Summer Produce Year-Round

Enjoy Summer Produce Year-Round

Summer is the perfect time to indulge in home-grown fruits and veggies from the farmer's market or from your own backyard garden. Freezing produce when it's perfectly ripe lets you enjoy your favorites at their best all year.

Prep work. For best results, choose fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness. Thoroughly wash and dry the produce and remove any ends, stems, cores, or pits as needed. Fruits don't require further preparation, but vegetables should be blanched to stop the ripening process, brighten the color, and reduce dirt and bacteria. Once cleaned, boil for 1 to 2 minutes in a large pot of water. Remove from the water and immediately shock in an ice water bath until completely cooled, then pat dry before freezing.

Choose your packaging. Choose airtight plastic, glass, or metal containers or plastic bags designed for storing frozen foods. Remove as much air as possible before sealing to ward off freezer burn. If you do a lot of freezing, you may want to purchase a vacuum sealer—you can find small ones for under $100.

Pack it in. There are two ways to pack your produce—solid-pack and loose-pack. For solid-pack, fill your container, seal it, and toss it in the freezer. Be sure to leave space at the top for food to expand as it freezes. For loose-pack, spread the produce in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze, then move the frozen pieces to a freezer-safe container. Loose-pack makes the produce easier to separate than solid-pack but takes more freezer space and time to prep for storage.

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how to: Cook Fish on the Grill

Cook Fish on the Grill

Nothing says summer like fish cooked over an open flame. But unless you’re cooking over a campfire, the grill is probably your go-to device for that irreplaceable smoky flavor. Here are some tips for making the perfect grilled fish:

Prepare the fish. A marinade will add flavor and keep it moist during grilling. Make one yourself with oil, acid, and herbs or buy a prepared marinade at the grocery store. Be careful not to let it soak for too long—the acid can actually cook the fish. Pat your fish dry and add salt and pepper before putting it on the grill.

Preheating is important. Put delicate fish on a cold grill and you’re destined for disaster. Make sure the grate is scorching hot before you even think about adding your fish. Scrape the grate clean and oil right before cooking to minimize sticking.

Choose the right fish. Some fish won’t hold up well to grilling. Choose a firm fillet or steak that has a higher fat content such as salmon, swordfish, mahi mahi, tuna, or bass. A skin-on cut will hold together better than a skinned fillet. If you prefer a leaner variety such as tilapia or halibut, use a cedar plank or specialty grill basket that will keep it from falling through the grate.

Let a cooking fish lie. Allow the fish to form a hearty crust before flipping to avoid sticking or falling apart. Carefully flip it once, then continue cooking the other side until done. When flipping fish, you may have more success if you flop it over to an empty cooking space rather than trying to lift it in the air, flip, and land it in the same spot.

On the flip side. Traditionally, skin-on fish has been grilled on the skin side first, but experts are now touting that beginning on the flesh side gives it a nicer crust with better grill marks and helps keep the fish together when flipping.

Are we there yet? Fish cooks very quickly at high heat, so watch it closely. Your fish is done when it is opaque and the thickest part flakes easily with a fork. To ensure even cooking, choose pieces that are the same thickness all the way through.

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how to: Make Homemade Mayonnaise

Make Homemade Mayonnaise

We just can’t get enough of this delicious, creamy condiment, an important ingredient in many of our favorite springtime salads. But you’ll never buy mayonnaise at the grocery store again once you know how simple it is to make at home.

A little chemistry. Mayonnaise is an emulsion in which two ingredients—oil and egg yolks—that normally wouldn’t mix (and stay mixed) are combined. Constantly stirring the yolks while slowly streaming in the oil creates a stable emulsion.

What you’ll need. Although mayonnaise can be whisked by hand, dust off your food processor or blender to make the process a whole lot easier. You’ll need 2 large egg yolks, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup vegetable or olive oil.

5 minutes or less. Begin by pulsing the egg yolks, mustard, and lemon juice in the food processor or blender until well combined. With the motor running, drizzle the oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Separation anxiety. If the oil separates from the mixture, then the emulsion has broken. To restore the creaminess, place 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water in a bowl and whisk in the broken mayonnaise until it becomes creamy. Continue whisking and add ¼ cup more oil to bring it back to the right consistency.

Kick it up a Notch. Simple add-ins can take your mayonnaise to a whole new level.

  • Add minced roasted garlic before blending for a tasty garlic aïoli.
  • Add minced roasted red pepper or chipotle pepper for a spicy kick.
  • Stir in a chopped fresh herb such as parsley, dill, or chives to give it a flavor boost.
  • Mix in prepared basil pesto for a tasty, Italian-inspired sandwich spread.
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how to: Be a Couponing Champion

Be a Couponing Champion

As the popularity of TV shows such as Extreme Couponing has increased, so has real-life extreme couponing. You don’t have to Dumpster dive for newspaper inserts or fill every nook and cranny in your house with stockpiled toiletries in order to be a couponing champion. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your coupons:

  • Organize. If you can’t remember where you put your coupons, or if you don’t have your coupons with you, then you can’t use them! Develop a filing system that works best for you, but be sure to arrange them so that you’ll use the ones that expire sooner first. Have your coupons on hand while you make your grocery list so you can pull out the ones you plan to use, but bring the others in case you need to use one for a sale-priced product that you weren’t expecting to buy.
  • Shop around. The best way to get the most out of your coupons is to find the lowest price to begin with. Take note of regular and sale prices on the items you buy most often at several stores. Don’t have the time to drive all over town? There are subscription-based websites that do the dirty work for you. And some stores will match a lower price advertised at another store, so keep your eye on the weekly ads.
  • Calculate. Buying the smallest size of an item that the coupon allows will often maximize your savings. Bring a calculator to help you figure the cost per unit and buy the size that gets you the best deal with the coupon you have.
  • Stock up. Most sales run on three- to six-month cycles, so stock up when prices are lowest. You don’t have to go overboard; start with a few items that you can conveniently store for three months in a closet or pantry.
  • Stack coupons. In many cases, stores will accept both a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon (think the printed coupons you get when you check out at Target) for the same item. This is essentially doubling your coupon’s value.
  • Be willing to substitute. Coupons for some brands are more abundant than others. Be willing to change brands or to substitute a similar product in order to benefit from coupons that you may have otherwise thrown out.
  • A little help from a friend. Ask your friends to save coupons for you that they aren’t using. This way, when products are on sale, you’ll have enough coupons to stock up when the price is best. Offer to trade coupons—if they need diapers and you need cat food, then you both benefit.

Stores in Iowa don’t offer double-coupon deals, and veteran couponers can spend as much time as they would at a full-time job each week to get the kinds of savings that we see on the TV shows. However, plenty of savings are available if you have a little time, organization savvy, some couponing know-how, and a sharp pair of scissors.

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how to: Make a Great Cup of Coffee

Make a Great Cup of Coffee

What’s more comforting in the dead of winter than a steaming-hot cup of coffee? And when the frigid winds are howling, who wants to leave the house to get one? Here are some pointers for making that great cup of joe in the comfort—and warmth—of your own home.

Do you grind? The first consideration is the beans. Whole beans ground just before brewing will result in the freshest cup of coffee, but if your kitchen lacks space for yet another gadget, preground beans will do just fine. Look for grounds in a vacuum-sealed package and store in a cool, dry place.

Bean me up. Ultimately the success of your coffee comes not from the coffee grinder but from the type of beans you use. The “roasts,” or variations in flavors, range from light to dark, with light having a softer flavor and dark having a robust flavor. In addition to the roast, there are different flavor profiles: nutty, spicy, fruity, for example. Select a bean that fits the flavor profile you prefer.

Brew it. The easiest, and most common, method for brewing your perfect cup is an automatic drip; hot water drips onto the coffee grounds and through a filter. If you prefer to take the brewing process into your own hands—and have more control of the water temperature and brewing time—try the French press. The gadget is easy to find, and it’s quick and easy to use. You just have to make sure that you use a coarse grind so that the grounds don’t pass through the filter and into your cup.

Fancy a cup? If a cup of black coffee doesn’t meet your description of midwinter bliss, start with an espresso machine to create the offerings on the menu at your local coffee shop. Next time try one of these:

  • Espresso: a highly-concentrated, bittersweet coffee.
  • Latte: one-third espresso and two-thirds heated milk with a dollop of foamed milk on top.
  • Mocha: one-half espresso with white, dark, or milk chocolate syrup, one-half heated milk, topped with foamed milk and a dollop of whipped cream.
  • Cappuccino: one-third espresso, one-third heated milk, and one-third foamed milk.
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how to: Easy Holiday Cleanup Tips

Easy Holiday Cleanup Tips

Holidays are a lot more fun when the memories are piling up—not the dishes. Here are some simple tips that will help you stay organized and let you enjoy the dinners more!

  • Cook your turkey in a bag. Not only will your turkey stay moist, but cleanup will be a breeze!
  • Line pans with foil. After boxing up the leftovers, pull the foil from the pan and toss it in the trash. That pan will only need a quick rinse before finding its way back into the cupboard.
  • Triple-line your trash cans. When you remove the first bag, a second one is ready to go.
  • Prepare foods ahead of time. Casseroles, gravy, desserts and some salads can be made one to two days before. Do it—and the dirty dishes used to make these dishes will be long gone.
  • Clean out and organize your refrigerator. If you start with a tidy space, putting the leftovers away will be a lot easier.
  • Soak your roasting pan immediately after removing the meat. The baked-on food will loosen while you enjoy your guests and the meal.
  • Have plenty of storage materials. Plan ahead and have foil, zip-lock bags and reusable containers on hand so you can package up the leftovers.
  • Consider buying some ready-made items. The containers are self-storing and disposable, and grocers and specialty shops offer a variety of appetizers, sides and sweets.
  • Casserole anyone? If you mix all the ingredients in the casserole dish itself you will have fewer bowls to wash.
  • Wash as you go. Fill your sink with hot, soapy water for mixing bowls and utensils used. Clean as you go and they will be ready if needed again.
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how to: Making a Basic Vinaigrette

Making a Basic Vinaigrette

The simplicity of a good vinaigrette is a thing of beauty. Grab a bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar, add a pinch of salt, and dull lettuce springs to life, veggies go from bland to bold, and meat finds a tangy marinade.

Vinaigrette may be easy to prepare, but there is a method to its magic. The keys to success start with good ingredients (since there are so few in the mix, it pays to reach for the top-shelf stuff) and end with emulsification, thoroughly blending the oils' fat molecules and the watery vinegar.

From there, you can flavor as you see fit. Additions can be as simple as a pinch of salt and pepper or as complex as a bit of honey, fresh herbs, or minced shallots. Follow these simple steps to create a foolproof vinaigrette at home–and feel free to improvise.

STEP 1: Build a Flavor Base
Start with finely chopped garlic, ginger, onion, shallot, herbs, or capers, and place in a bowl with honey, soy sauce or Dijon mustard (which will help with the emulsification). Season with salt and pepper.

STEP 2: Add an Acid
Vinaigrette gets its name from vinegar. Add red- or white-wine, balsamic, or cider vinegar as the next step. Lemon and lime juice can also do the trick too. Mix with the previous ingredients.

STEP 3: Whisk in Oil
Traditionally, vinaigrettes are 1 part acid and 3 parts oil, but you can also lighten it up with a 1-to-2 ratio. Experiment with a grassy extra-virgin olive oil for big flavor, or try vegetable, safflower, or light olive oil.

STEP 4: Success
Shake it in jar, whisk it in a bowl, or whir it up in a blender for a thicker result. When properly emulsified, ingredients are suspended throughout the mix. Store fresh-made vinaigrette in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

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how to: Cut Melons

how to cut melons

Tackling a large melon can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a few different methods to cut up melons, and below is a tried-and-true way to cut basic slices or small pieces of melon.

Step One. Always start by washing the rind. Even though you aren’t going to eat the peel, anything on the outside will end up inside as soon as you cut through it, and that’s not very appetizing. You can use water, soap and water, vinegar and water, or a fruit and veggie wash.

Step two. Take a large knife and cut off the two ends of the melon. Now you can stand it on one end without having it roll around while you continue with your cutting.

Step three. Cut the rind away from the melon in strips, curving your cuts to follow the curve of the fruit. After the initial trimming, go back over the melon and make sure any white or hard spots are removed.

Step four. Once all the rind has been removed, slice through the melon’s center. Lengthwise or crosswise, it doesn’t matter.

Step five. Scoop out seeds with a large spoon and discard.

Step six. Place each half cut-side down to again keep the melon steady and slice the melon into long wedges as thick or thin as you wish. You can stop at this point
or continue cutting the wedges into small pieces, depending on how you wish to serve the melon.

Other tips
• Melon is generally easier to cut when its cold, so store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

• A serrated knife works best for foods that are soft on the inside but tough on the outside like melons, tomatoes, and bread.

• With watermelon, cut along the dark stripes on the outside of the husk. This cuts the watermelon in a way that the seeds end up on the outside of the cut pieces, making them easier to remove.

• For quick and easy clean-up, place your cutting board inside of a plastic bag on the counter top. This way, all the mess will end up inside the bag as you cut and gut the melon. Just remove your cutting board and tie up the bag when finished.

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how to: Make Corn-on-the-Cob

how to make corn on the cob

If there’s one thing that says “summer,” it might just be fresh corn on the cob. There are several ways to prepare this treat, including boiling, microwaving, and grilling, all of which are easy and delicious.

Boiling

One of the most common choices is to boil the corn. Find a pot large enough to accommodate the ears, fill with water, and turn up the heat on the stove. Some like to dissolve salt in the water, while others add sugar. How much of either, if any, is completely to your taste. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, shuck the corn. Add ears to the boiling water and cover. Depending on how hard or soft you like your corn, you will cook it for 2 – 10 minutes. Remove corn from the water with tongs and allow to cool a little before handling. Dress your corn how you like: butter, salt, pepper, and other spices are all good choices.

Microwaving

If you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with a big pot of boiling water, microwaving is the way to go. Clean the corn, submerge completely in a bowl of water, and soak for at least half an hour. Remove from water and place on a microwave-safe plate.

The cooking time will vary depending on your microwave. If you’re cooking just a couple ears, it may only take 5 – 10 minutes, while several ears may take 12 – 14 minutes. Make sure to turn the plate and the ears halfway through cooking. Let the corn cool a bit before handling and eating.

Grilling
Pull off any loose silk or husk on the ears to prevent excessive burning once on the grill, but do not completely shuck the corn.

Submerse ears in water to provide extra moisture for cooking, soaking for at least 15 minutes to an hour. While the corn is soaking, prepare the grill. Once the grill is ready, remove the corn from water, place on grill, and cover.

Turn the corn every couple of minutes to prevent charring. The ears will turn black but don’t worry, they shouldn’t burn as they’ve been soaked in water. The absorbed water is steaming the corn inside the husks. Cook until evenly heated on all sides, which can take 8 – 15 minutes, or when husks are scorched and dry.

Remove the corn from the grill with tongs and husk the ears while wearing protection, like oven mitts. Once you’ve removed most of the silk, rinse the corn under warm running water, dress your corn with butter and spices and enjoy!

You can also completely shuck the corn before grilling. If using this method, only grill the ears for 5 – 7 minutes. Shucked ears can even be wrapped in tin foil and placed on the grill or put in the coals. This method will take about 10 minutes to cook the corn.

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how to: Make Lemonade

how to make lemonade

Making lemonade is a snap, right? Lemons, sugar, and water—nothing to it.
But do you know how to make those three ingredients turn into the perfect lemonade every time? Here’s a basic lemonade recipe plus variations to sweeten things up, add some spice, and bring an unexpected twist to your standard summertime beverage.

Basic Lemonade
Starting proportions: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 1 cup lemon juice (made by juicing 4 to 6 lemons; enough for 1 cup, or by using store-bought lemon juice). Note: Reduce the sugar or add more water if this is too sweet for your taste.

• Begin by making a simple syrup, which will disperse the sugar throughout the liquid instead of the sugar sinking to the bottom of the pitcher. To make the simple syrup, heat sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved.
• In a pitcher, combine the simple syrup and lemon juice.
• Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water; stir well. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
• Pour over ice to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Tips:
• Strain the homemade lemon juice if you don’t like pulp in your lemonade.
• Freeze some of your lemonade in ice cube trays and use instead of regular ice cubes to keep the lemonade from diluting.
• Try adding a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor even more.

Lemonade Variations
Vanilla Lemonade
Follow the Basic Lemonade recipe, but add 1 split vanilla bean while heating the sugar and water. Press the vanilla bean to get the flavor to escape while heating. Keep the bean in the mixture when you add cold water.

Grape Juice Lemonade
Add 2 cups of grape juice to your pitcher of lemonade for a fun twist.

Watermelon and Strawberry Lemonade
Add 8 cups cubed seeded watermelon, 1 cup fresh strawberries, halved, and the finished Basic Lemonade in a blender and blend until smooth.

Ginger Lemonade
Add 4 to 5 slices of fresh ginger root to the water and sugar when making the simple syrup. Remove the ginger before mixing the syrup with cold water.

Mint Lemonade
Add ½ cup (packed) chopped fresh mint leaves while making the simple syrup. Remove before mixing with cold water. Use whole mint leaves as a garnish.

Spiced Lemonade
Mix 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard with ½ cup lemonade and ½ cup spiced gin. Add 1 slice each of lemon, lime, orange, and cucumber, and 1 spring of fresh mint. Serve over ice. Makes one serving.

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how to: Make Pizza Dough

how to make pizza dough

Make your own pizza right at home! Not only is it satisfying, but you can customize the dough to make it exactly how you like it. Roll up your sleeves and get ready to learn the basics of making pizza dough.

The ingredients below are the basis for a standard crust. Experiment with the type of oil you use, and try adding herbs like basil, oregano, or rosemary into the mix.

1 package active dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (not hot)
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Step 1: The Yeast. Put the yeast in a small bowl and dissolve in warm water. You’ll know it’s working when you see it bubbling up. Leave to dissolve for 5 minutes. Make sure the water isn’t too hot, as high temperatures will kill the yeast.

Step 2: Mix it. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, oil, and yeast mixture. Stir until a ball forms, using more flour or water as needed to get a ball that holds together but is soft and sticky.

Step 3: Kneading the dough. On a floured surface, form the dough by folding it over onto itself, pressing down, and giving it a quarter turn. Do this several times.

Grab the left side of the dough with your left hand. Grab the right side with your right hand and gently stretch that part away from you. Push it down gently on the counter with your palm and pull it back to you and fold it on top of the rest of the dough. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat these steps, being careful not to tear the dough while your stretch it. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes or until it has a smooth and elastic texture.

Step 4: Wait. Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let it sit in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size. This may take one to two hours.

Step 5: Shape it. On a floured surface, shape the dough into the desired size and thickness, making sure the edges are a little thicker than the rest of the crust.

Step 6: Add Toppings and Bake. Sprinkle a little cornmeal onto your baking sheet or pizza stone. Transfer the shaped crust carefully to the sheet or stone and add the desired toppings. Bake in a preheated oven at 425º for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and any cheese topping is melted and lightly browned.

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how to: Poach an Egg

how to poach an egg

Don’t be afraid to poach an egg. Poaching eggs is one of the easiest, quickest, and lowest calorie ways of preparing eggs, as there is no added fat. They make great additions to salads or sandwiches, served over grits or hash, or just simply paired with toast and a little salt and pepper. A perfectly poached egg has firm, opaque (but not rubbery) white and a yolk that runs bright yellow when pierced.

Step 1. Heat 2 inches of water in a shallow saucepan or a straight-sided skillet until just before simmering. If the water begins to boil, reduce the heat until it is almost bubbling. At this point, you can add 1 – 2 teaspoons of vinegar to help the egg white congeal better. If you don’t like the taste, you can omit the vinegar.

Step 2. Break an egg into a small cup. With a spoon or spatula, make a whirlpool in the hot water. Slide the egg into the middle of the whirlpool with your other hand. The circular motion of the water will help the egg white hold together. You can also gently nudge the white back in toward the yolk.

Step 3. Turn off the heat. Cover the pan and let sit for 3 – 4 minutes, or until the egg white is cooked.

Step 4. Remove the egg from the pan with a slotted spoon and let it drain on a paper towel. If the egg sticks to the bottom of the pan, use a rubber spatula to gently release it before scooping out. Add to the top of toast, salt and pepper, and enjoy!

If you wish to serve your poached eggs at a later time, keep them in icy water in the fridge for up to two days, then reheat them by putting back into hot (but not boiling) water for 30 to 60 seconds.

Easy Street. Alternatively, the easiest way to poach eggs is with an egg poacher. Fill the bottom of the pan with ½ inch of water. Bring to a boil. Crack an egg into one of the egg cups. Place in the cup holder in the pan. Cover. Wait 3 – 4 minutes and remove from heat. Lift up the handle of the egg cup and slide the poached egg out onto a plate.

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how to: Make a Healthy Smoothie

how to make a healthy smoothie

Here are five tips to creating smoothies that are healthy, satisfying, and, of course, delicious.

USE FROZEN FRUIT. Not only will frozen fruit make your smoothies thick and frosty, but it is the most nutritious and cheapest way to go. Many assume fresh fruit is healthier, but because it is picked before it ripens, (so it doesn't rot before reaching store shelves), it isn't as fully enriched with all the nutrients nature provides. Frozen fruit is picked at the peak of freshness before it is frozen, helping to preserve its nutrients. Also, fresh fruit often costs more than its frozen counterpart. Compare the price per pound of your favorite fruit, both fresh and frozen, and see for yourself.

ADD PROTEIN. Whey protein is easy-to-digest and contains all the essential amino acids. Of course you can also use milk or yogurt: non-fat, low-fat, or full-fat, it's up to you and your dietary needs. Use almond milk or soy milk for a non-dairy alternative.

TRY COCONUT WATER. If your smoothie is too thick and needs some thinning, skip the sugary fruit juice and try adding coconut water, the liquid from young coconuts, which is rich in potassium and electrolytes.

THROW IN AN AVOCADO. Bananas are a common addition to smoothies because they add sweetness, body, and nutrients—but they're also high in sugar. Instead, toss in a quarter or half an avocado to get loads of potassium, B-complex vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. And while avocados are high in fat, they contain oleic and linoleic acids that are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing healthy HDL cholesterol.

POWER UP WITH "SUPER FOODS." Blueberries, citrus fruits, red or black grapes, kiwi fruit, and spinach: All of these foods contain potent antioxidants called phytochemicals, which have been shown to protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and offer protection against carcinogens. And don't be afraid to add the spinach. Many report that with everything else blended in, you won't even be able to taste a handful of fresh spinach leaves—but your body will thank you for the extra punch of nutrition!

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how to: Make a Clove Pomander

how to make caramel apples

Channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder to make this great-smelling hostess gift.

Pomanders have a beautiful citrus-spice smell and will not rot because
of the cloves inserted into the fruit.

A LASTING GIFT? Decide whether you want the pomander to last forever or just for the season. For the fruit to keep, the cloves must be stuck quite close together, without any large blank spots. If you strive for less-dense design, note that the pomander will only last through the holidays.

FOR 2 BALLS, YOU’LL NEED:
2 oranges (or try apples, lemons, or limes). Make sure the fruit is blemish- and cut- free.
Bamboo skewer
At least 1/4 cup of whole cloves
Spice mixture (see recipe)
4 feet of festive ribbon
SPICE MIXTURE RECIPE:
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons ground cloves
3 tablespoons ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons ground ginger
3 tablespoons orris root powder

MAKE MAGIC. Combine the spice mixture ingredients. Wash and dry oranges thoroughly. Feel free to mark your design with a Sharpie on the orange first. Use the skewer to poke several holes at a time, then stick the cloves, stem sides down, into the holes. You can also insert the cloves without using a skewer, but it is easier on the fingers to use the skewer. Roll cloved oranges in the spice mixture when completed and set in a cool, dry spot to dry. Drying takes at least 2 weeks. Once dried, tie a ribbon around the ball or stem for hanging or display a group of pomanders in a decorative bowl.

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how to: Make Caramel Apples

how to make caramel apples

Have some fun with the kids making these tasty treats.

Caramel apples are one of the quintessential fall treats. The sweetness of the caramel mixed with the crispness of the apple and the saltiness of the often-used toasted nuts all mix together for a unique, all-American taste.

HAPPY APPLES. When making caramel apples at home, you have some options for the caramel. Melt purchased caramel candies for dipping or make a homemade caramel from ingredients including brown sugar, butter, and vanilla. Homemade caramel generally results in a softer, creamier coating.

THE HOMEMADE WAY. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray. With a small knife, make a small slit in top of each apple. Insert an ice-pop stick 1 inch deep into each slit. In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups brown sugar and ½ cup water to a boil over high. Reduce to medium-high and simmer until caramel is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in ½ cup heavy cream. Be careful; mixture will be very hot and will foam up. Transfer to a bowl and let cool 5 minutes. This will make enough caramel for 6 apples.

THE FUN PART. Dip apples into caramel, swirling to coat. Dip into any extras you’ve prepared, such as toasted nuts, chopped oreos, sprinkles, and/or shredded toasted coconut. Be creative! Transfer to baking sheet. Remember, caramel apples are always best eaten the same day they are made!

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how to: Prep Tomatoes 3 Ways

how to prep tomatoes

Spend a little extra time with tomatoes to reduce liquid and do away with the chewy, sometimes bitter skin.

PEELING. Wash the tomato thoroughly and remove the stem. Using a paring knife, slice a very shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Prep a bowl of ice water. Place tomatoes in boiling water. Keep the fruit submerged until skin starts to curl (about 20–30 seconds). Transfer tomatoes immediately to the bowl of ice water. When cool, peel skin, beginning with your hands; remove the trickier parts with a paring knife.

SEEDING. Halve the peeled tomatoes side to side, not top to bottom. This keeps all the seeds inside. Now gently squeeze each tomato half so the seeds and excess liquid drip into a bowl. Another option is to use a small spoon or your finger to remove the seeds. The
latter method often helps retain the tomato’s shape. Strain out the seeds and use remaining tomato juice to enhance sauces, soups, and even beverages.

FILLETING. To create tomato “petals,” first quarter peeled tomatoes lengthwise. Hold one of the ends and cut out the seeds and inner core with a paring knife. Set the remnants aside for another use. The pretty petals can be used to create an elegant visual (under a scoop of cottage cheese, for instance) and are ready for dicing.

 

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how to: Grill Using the Direct or Indirect Method

how to grill

Choose the right grilling technique for the best tasting food!

DIRECT METHOD. The direct method is cooking food directly over an even heat source (either  gas or charcoal). Use this method for cooking any foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook, such as seafood, pork chops, boneless chicken breasts, burgers, and veggies. Always turn the food halfway through grilling time to expose both sides to the heat.

INDIRECT METHOD. For indirect grilling, foods are not cooked over a direct source of heat. For a charcoal grill, move the hot coals to one side of the grill or place them on opposite sides with a space in the middle. Put a drip pan on the other side or in the center between the coals. Place the food over the drip pan. Place the cover on the grill. For a gas grill, leave a side or center burner turned off after the grill preheats. Place the food over this burner. Place the cover on the grill. This method is great for foods that need to be cooked a long time, such as a whole turkey, ribs, and larger cuts of meat. Food does not need to be turned halfway through grilling time.

A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH. Try using a combination of both methods for some meats. For instance, a 1½-inch steak can be browned over direct heat for a short period of time and then moved to the indirect heat area to continue cooking internally without excessive browning around the edges.
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how to: Shop Farmers' Markets

how to shop farmers markets

EARLY BIRD. The best time to hit farmers’ markets is as soon as they open. Not only will you beat the crowds, you’ll also find the best produce and goods offered. If you can’t be there at the beginning, look for deals that are often made at the end of the day.

CHOOSE THE BEST. Select the exact produce you want—and make sure it’s the best in the bunch. A useful rule of thumb: Look for the vegetables and fruits with the most robust color. Especially with fruit, stay away from those with bruises or wilted leaves. For asparagus, choose firm stalks with tightly closed heads. Another tip: Ask if you can taste the produce before you purchase.

KNOW YOUR MONTHS. So you’re set to make Grandma’s famous strawberry shortcake but can’t find any strawberries because it’s early May. Check out this handy list from DesMoinesFarmersMarket.com to see what’s in season for the coming months.

farmers markets

 

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how to: Cook the Perfect Pasta

how to cook perfect pasta

Does your spaghetti always end up sticky? Try our foolproof method.

KNOW YOUR NOODLE. Pairing the right sauce with the right pasta can make or break your dish. A general rule is the thicker the sauce, the wider noodle you need to use. Choose sturdy tube and ridged pastas for chunky sauces. Use angel hair and other delicate strands with a light olive oil sauce. Ribbon pastas are perfect for creamy butter and hearty meat sauces. Baked pastas are a success with penne and ziti and other tube noodles. Shells, orecchiette, and other fun shapes capture thick, textured sauces (think macaroni and cheese) and are also nice in pasta salads.

COOK CORRECTLY. Start with 4 to 5 quarts of water per pound of pasta to ensure the noodles have plenty of room to move around. Be generous with the salt; 2 tablespoons per 4 to 5 quarts should be perfect. As soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta all at once and immediately stir it. This prevents any sticking and helps submerge any long strands. Occasionally stir the noodles as they cook. Always check the package; cooking times will vary. When the pasta is al dente (a bit firm to the bite), drain pasta in a colander. Once the pasta is in the colander, do not rinse it; simply shake the excess water off. Rinsing will remove the starchy coating on the pasta that helps the sauce adhere to the noodles. Add your perfectly cooked noodles to your sauce and eat up.

 

 

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how to: Make the Most of Your Leftovers

how to make the most of your leftovers

Reinvent last night’s dinner with these creative tips.

LOSE THE BORING. We’ve all choked down the chili for the third day in a row in order not to waste it. Go beyond blah leftovers and enjoy your meals! Most leftovers can be made into a delightful new dish. But if you are just tired of the dish and don’t want to see it again soon in any form, freeze it and reheat when you’re more in the mood.

Some ideas for adding new life to leftovers:

CHILI. Top baked potatoes, hot dogs, burgers, and even spaghetti with yesterday’s chili. Replace the meat sauce in lasagna with the spicy soup. Use chili to fill enchiladas. For a quick snack dip, heat one part chili with two parts cheese!

MASHED POTATOES. Make potato pancakes by adding 1 beaten egg and a little grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese to 2 cups mashed potatoes; form into patties and fry in vegetable oil. Save time when making a chowder by using leftover mashed instead of raw potatoes. 

CHICKEN. Last night’s chicken offers endless possibilities. Dice it up and add to macaroni and cheese for a protein kick. Shred what’s left and make quesadillas. Mix with a bit of mayo, halved grapes, a bit of celery, and walnuts for chicken salad. Throw it in with mixed veggies and cooked rice for an easy stir-fry. 

RICE. Rice pudding is a perfect use for leftover rice. For an easy entrée, saute it in a skillet with some eggs and leftover veggies for fried rice. Stuff hollowed-out green peppers with beans, cheese, and extra rice for a fun twist.

 

 

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how to: Make Risotto Like an Italian Grandmother

how to make risotto

A spectacular risotto takes time, but the result is so worth it!

TRADITION OF ITALY. Risotto is a traditional dish that originated in northern Italy
several centuries ago. The basic ingredients for risotto have remained unchanged: short-grain rice, hot stock, onion, butter, wine, and Parmesan cheese. Short-grain rice (such as Arborio) was introduced to Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING. The first thing to remember about risotto is that although preparation is time-consuming, the dish is worth the wait. A basic risotto recipe:

1/2 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups hot chicken stock
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Saute onion in 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil until translucent. Add the rice; stir to coat each grain. Cook about 1 minute. Add the wine. When the wine has evaporated, raise the heat and start gradually adding the hot chicken stock, about _ cup at a time. (Keep the stock simmering in a separate pan.) Stir gently and constantly; as it cooks, the rice will take on a creamy consistency as it begins to release its natural starches. Continue adding stock for 20 to 30 minutes.

The rice has completed cooking when the grains are tender but still firm to the bite. If you run out of stock, simply add hot water until the rice is finished cooking. The last step to basic risotto is to turn off the heat and mix in the remaining butter and the Parmesan cheese. A key secret: Eat right away because the rice tends to continue cooking.

ADD-INS. Because arborio rice easily absorbs flavors, ingredients such as seared scallops, sauteed wild mushrooms, cubed butternut squash, peas, asparagus, and shaved black
truffles are tasty additions. Stir any of these in with the butter and cheese and enjoy!

 

 

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how to: Make an Easy Gingerbread House

how to garnish beverages

Start a fun tradition with the kids. Just don’t sneak too many M&Ms!

GLUE IT. The first step is to make the glue for holding the gingerbread house together. Sift 5 cups powdered sugar into a bowl. Stir in 3 egg whites until the mixture is the consistency of peanut butter. The consistency is key. If it’s too thin, the candies will slide; too thick and the candy won’t stick.

CONSTRUCT IT. Once the glue is made, put the house together. Use graham crackers and let your imagination (and your helpers’ creativity) run wild. Simply spread the glue on the cracker edges to cement the sides together.

DECORATE IT. Buy a variety of small, colorful candies and place in different bowls. Now simply dip one side of each candy in the frosting glue and adhere it to the walls of your home. Encourage  creativity; the arch of a candy cane makes a fun door, and licorice can provide a cool roof.

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how to: Make an Easy Pie Crust

how to make an easy pie crust

Impress your guests with a homemade crust that’s literally easy as pie!

THE RECIPE.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½            teaspoons sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons milk

Put flour and sugar in a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie pan. Mix together in measuring cup vegetable oil and milk. Measure accurately. Mix liquid into flour/sugar mixture with a spoon. Pat in the pan and prick with a fork. Bake as usual for any recipe. Recipe from Shirley Arledge.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE. There are endless ways to make a piecrust. Don’t be afraid to explore additions and substitutions. A pinch of salt can enhance the flavor of the crust, and a little more sugar will make the crust even sweeter and aid in browning. For a healthful spin, try using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose white flour, or sprinkle a bit of wheat germ into the mixture. Pinches of autumn spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves can go a long way. Even a dash of bourbon or cold brewed coffee adds some zing.

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how to: Make a Marinade

how to make a marinade

GUIDELINES. A recipe for baked goods needs to be followed exactly. No ingredients can be added at the last minute, so everything needs to be just right before the treat goes into the oven. There are no such rules when it comes to making something like a marinade. There are only guidelines. If you always start with three main components, you’ll be on the right track.

THE TRIFECTA. Acid, oil, and seasonings should make up your basic marinade. Deciding what ingredients to use depends on the protein you’re preparing. For instance, red wine is often enjoyed with a New York strip, so why not make the acid base of your marinade a nice Merlot? Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, then consider how you want your meat seasoned. Garlic, onion, and ginger are classic, flavorful choices.

FIND INSPIRATION. Consider the theme of meal you’re preparing. Are you going south of the border? Get inspired by the pitcher of margaritas and use tequila, lime, and some cilantro. Chicken marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and rice vinegar will add some Asian flair to your night; served with rice and steamed veggies, it’s better than takeout.

OTHER ADDITIONS. Get creative after you’ve mastered the basics. Asparagus and broccoli taste even better in a mayonnaise-based marinade. Some chefs swear by the tenderizing effect of yogurt when cooking chicken and lamb. And don’t always rely on seasonings for flavor. Try flavored oils such as walnut and hazelnut for a layered taste.

EXTRA TIPS. Help the flavors of the marinade penetrate by pricking the meat deeply before soaking. If you want a hint of sweetness, add with caution—the sugar may burn faster than the meat can cook. In a hurry? Shorten the marinating time only if you cut the food into pieces. Red meat can stay in a marinade for up to two days, but be sure to place it in the refrigerator. One day, or 24 hours, in the refrigerator is a good amount of time for poultry. Between 30 minutes and two hours will do the trick for fish, vegetables, and other tender foods, but watch the time carefully. If they marinate much longer, they’ll go from tender to mushy.

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how to: Seed an Avocado

how to seed an avocado

DOWN THE MIDDLE. Using a large chef’s knife, cut avocado in half lengthwise. Twist the two halves in opposite directions to separate. Tap the knife firmly into the pit and turn like a doorknob to remove.

BEYOND GUACAMOLE. Avocado is so versatile! Arrange slices on top of burgers, potatoes, and egg sandwiches; dice up and add in to mac and cheese, fruit smoothies, or your favorite gazpacho.

 

 

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how to: Garnish Your Beverages

how to garnish beverages

Add some pizzazz to your glass to take the enjoyment of that refreshing beverage up a notch.

ICE CUBES. Add fresh blueberries, raspberries, and a fresh mint leaf to each section of an ice cube tray and fill with water. Freeze and let the fun begin! Also try food coloring, edible flowers, or a splash of vanilla. If you’re making punch for a party, freeze some of it as ice cubes and the punch won’t dilute. Ice cube trays come in all sorts of shapes these days. Have fun!

DECORATE THE RIM. Use a wedge of watermelon, mango, or even pineapple to add color and a sweet treat. Just slice a little slit into the piece of fruit and slip over the edge of the glass.

COAT THE RIM. Dip the rim of a glass in water or use a wedge of fruit to moisten the rim. Carefully dip in a shallow bowl of coarse sugar or salt. Use colored sugar to add some flair.

STICK IT. Skewer fruit on swizzle sticks. Get creative: Cut soft fruit such as honeydew with a small cookie cutter to make fun shapes. Use a veggie peeler to slice wide strips of fruit; weave accordion-style onto the sticks. Add a piece of fruit and mint leaf to the top of the stick. For savory or salty drinks like margaritas, play around with cucumbers, pearl onions, and cheese-stuffed olives for the same effect.

FOR SHAKES OR ICED COFFEE. Melt semisweet chocolate chips and place in a small plastic bag. Cut off a corner and pipe a thick, fun design on waxed paper. Let it stand until set and gently peel off. Top your drink with whipped cream and insert your chocolate creation. Or simply grate chocolate over whipped cream for a classic yet tasty treat.

 

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how to: Spring Clean Your Kitchen

spring clean your kitchen

It’s time to break out the bright yellow rubber gloves and attack our down-and- dirty-checklist.

THE OVEN. If you aren’t blessed with a self-cleaning oven, mix a paste of baking soda and water. Coat the inner walls with the paste and let stand overnight. In the morning use a plastic spatula to remove it (wearing your trusty gloves!).

MICROWAVE. If there are stubborn stains, try boiling a glass of water in the microwave. The steam should help loosen the stains.

LINENS. Add lemon slices to a large pot of water; bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, add your linens, and soak for an hour. Launder as usual!

THE PANTRY. Take everything out of the pantry, wipe down the shelves, and discard all products
that have expired.

CAST IRON SKILLETS. Use a soft sponge and coarse salt to scrub the skillet. The salt acts as a natural abrasive and lifts oil and bits of food. Rinse away salt and wipe dry.

THE SINK. Pour baking soda with warm water and lemon peel down your disposal to freshen the drain. Throw some ice cubes in there, too, and turn it on to help sharpen the blades.

THE FRIDGE. Wipe down shelves, discard old food, and replace your boxes of baking soda
in both the freezer and the fridge.

LOOK UP. See your ceiling? Yes, it’s time to wipe it clean. May as well do the walls, baseboards,
and moldings, too!

 

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how to: Keep Your Cutting Board At Its Best

keep your cutting board clean

A little extra care will help your wooden cutting board last.

CLEAN IT. When you’re ready to clean your wooden cutting board, wipe both sides down with a damp cloth and a mild antibacterial soap. Never submerge a cutting board in water because eventually it can crack and warp; also keep it out of the dishwasher. Rinse with hot water, wipe with a clean cloth, and allow it to dry in an upright position.

DEEP-CLEAN IT. Every three weeks give your wooden board a little extra love; sprinkle coarse salt over the surface of the board and rub the board with a halved lemon for about five minutes. Lemon is a natural astringent and sanitizer, so this method will take away any stains and leave a fresh, clean smell. Rinse with hot water for 15 seconds. Let dry in upright position. Undiluted white vinegar works, too. Just leave on overnight and rinse in the morning. 

MAINTAIN IT. If the board is made from butcher block, keep its finish looking great by oiling it. About once a month, heat a small amount of mineral oil in a pan and apply it to the wood with a lint-free cloth, moving with the grain of the wood. Reapply more after the wood soaks up the oil. Continue until the wood stops absorbing the oil, then wipe down any extra. Allow the board to dry overnight before using.

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how to: Organize the Fridge

how to organize the fridge

Keep food easy to find and at its freshest with these guidelines.

UPPER SHELF. This is the perfect spot for milk and juice. Try to keep the shorter items in front and the taller items in back.

MIDDLE SHELF. Keep small containers-salsa, butter, and soda, for instance-that you use more often here.

BOTTOM SHELF. Place leftovers, eggs, and packages of meat here. Keep
the meat on a baking sheet to catch any leaks.

CRISPERS. Veggies and fruits can lose moisture quickly, so store them here. Often fridges will come equipped with a cheese bin to keep the smells away from other foods.

DOOR SHELVES. Things that aren't going to spoil, such as mustard, ketchup, and jam, should go inside the door because this is the warmest part of the fridge.

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how to: Make Great Gravy

how to make good gravy

Turn meat and potatoes from subtle to sublime with our basic gravy recipe, tips, and more.

DYNAMIC DRIPPINGS. When roasting, add flavor to the drippings by setting the bird on cut-up carrots and onions in the roasting pan. Discard the veggies after cooking. If you haven’t had good luck getting enough drippings from the roasting, add a little chicken broth (or even apple cider) to the bottom of the pan. Some gravy recipes call for leaving the browned meat bits to add flavor; others say leave them out because they cause lumps. Choose the variation your family and guests like.

THE BASICS. When roasting is finished, pour the drippings into a large fat separator, then pour the fat into a glass measuring cup.

In a medium saucepan combine 1⁄4 cup of the fat (if there is no fat, use 1⁄4 cup melted unsalted butter instead) and 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour, stirring and pressing out lumps with a wooden spoon.

Over medium heat, slowly pour the drippings into the flour mixture, stirring constantly to keep it from lumping until it’s thick and bubbly. Cook and stir for one minute more, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

THIN GRAVY? If the gravy isn’t thick enough, simply add a thickener such as equal parts unsalted butter and flour or cornstarch and water. Add just 1 teaspoon at a time; no one wants jellylike gravy!

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF GRAVY. Shake up your gravy with these additions: 2 tablespoons brandy plus 1 tablespoon fresh herbs such as sage and/or thyme, or add a little lemon juice with roasted garlic.

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how to: Clean a Coffeemaker

how to clean a coffeemaker


Keep your coffee tasting great with monthly coffeemaker cleaning.

WHY? Over time, residue and hard-water deposits build up in coffeemakers, leaving your coffee tasting unpleasant. If you use your coffeemaker at least four times a week, clean it at least once a month for best-tasting results.

HOW? Mix together equal parts white vinegar and water. Fill the water reservoir with this combination and turn on the coffeemaker. Turn it off after it’s cycled several cups through and let the vinegar mixture sit for 45 minutes to an hour. Start the machine again to complete the cycle, discarding the vinegar mixture afterward. Run regular water through the coffeemaker a few times after this so the vinegar odor disappears. If the coffeemaker you are cleaning has not been cleaned on a regular basis, you may want to make another full pot of the same white vinegar and water solution and cycle it through again. Clean the carafe and filter basket in the top rack of a dishwasher.

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how to: Clean Your Greens

how to clean lettuce

 

Be health-minded. Before you start whipping up your summer salad, take a minute to properly wash your greens.

• The first step may seem obvious but is often overlooked: Wash your hands. Use warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Then clean your knives, cutting boards, counters, and plates with soap and water as well. Stay away from sponges; use clean cloth towels instead because sponges tend to stay wet and harbor the bad stuff like bacteria. But if you just love those sponges, be sure to stick them in the dishwasher when they start looking grim. 

• Now you can safely begin cleaning the lettuce. Start by removing the outer leaves. Using a cool stream of water, wash the produce with the spray nozzle on the faucet. Remove any dirt, sand, and potential bacteria by thoroughly cleaning the produce with your hands. Forget soap or any special solutions—cool water is perfect. 

• Wrap the lettuce in a damp paper towel and store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week, ideally in the veggie crisper. The FDA recommends keeping your refrigerator at 40°F or below.

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how to: Grill Less Tender Cuts of Steak

how to grill less tender cuts of steak


You don’t have to sacrifice flavor or tenderness by grilling less-expensive cuts of beef, says the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

1. Cook all beef cuts at low to medium temperature unless otherwise stated.
This ensures that the outside won’t char before the inside is properly cooked.

2. Less-tender beef steaks are best if cooked to medium (160°F) doneness or less. Use an instant-read thermometer.

3. Watch beef carefully during grilling. Grilling time can vary with the cut of beef, position on the grill, weather, temperature of the coals, and degree of doneness desired.

4. Determine doneness by making a small slit near the bone and checking color. Insert the thermometer horizontally.

5. Allow steaks to rest in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes for juices to set.

6. Marinating economically-priced tender steaks for flavor increases their
tenderness. Marinades are seasoned liquid mixtures that add flavor and in some cases, tenderize as well. They must contain an acidic ingredient or
natural tenderizing enzyme, such as lemon juice, yogurt, wine, or vinegar. —CM


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