Monday, September 29, 2008

Poaching Eggs

Fox went out on a chilly night ...

Poaching eggs is a long time tradition with foxes, but it's also a tradition with the French. Of course, we're talking about two different kinds of poaching, here. Foxes trespass to steal eggs. Some of the French may have done this, too, but mostly they boiled the ones they got legally. Then again, maybe they poached the eggs they poached.

You know, my neighbor keeps chickens. Hmmm ...

When I first tried poaching eggs, the water was too hot, I overcooked them, and there was little to no egg white still attached to the yolk. They were pretty awful. It made me wonder what the heck people were thinking when they first cracked an egg into boiling water, or why they'd ever want to do it again.

Fortunately I didn't listen to myself. Since then, I've learned a better way to poach eggs that yields a light texture and creamy flavor that's as perfect on toast as it is in Eggs Benedict.

When poaching eggs, the fresher the egg, the better. The whites in older eggs spread out too much in the water. Adding vinegar to the water helps firm the white up faster. Adding salt to the water thins the egg white, but I still do it. I think it gives it better flavor. You can poach eggs up to a day in advance, if you want. It can save you time if you've got a lot of food to cook, and people to feed.


6 eggs
2 1/2 to 3 quarts water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

Bring the water, vinegar, and salt to a boil in a large pot. Reduce to a light simmer. Fill another large bowl with ice water.

Break one egg at a time into the water, holding it as close as you can to the water before opening and letting the egg slide into the pot. If you're worried about burning yourself, crack the egg into a small cup and then slide the egg into the water. (I prefer the former method, but the picture didn't turn out. Sorry.) You should be able to do several eggs at a time, but don't overload the pot. Try and drop the eggs over places where the water is lightly bubbling so that it doesn't go into the pot too fast.

As soon as the eggs are in the water, and the whites are starting to firm up, gently drag a large slotted spoon over the bottom of the pan to move the eggs around slightly, keeping them from sticking to the bottom.

After 3 to 4 minutes of cooking, the eggs can be removed with a slotted spoon. To check the eggs, lift them out of the simmering water and press the whites gently with your fingertip. The whites should be set, but the yolks soft to the touch.

As soon as the egg is done, gently transfer it to the ice water to stop the cooking process, and wash off the vinegar.
Once the eggs are cold, remove them from the ice water and remove any ugly hanging bits with a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears. Place them in a bowl of fresh cold water and refrigerate until you're ready to use them.

If you want to serve them cold, remove them from the water and drain them well on a paper towel. If you want to eat them hot, place them in a strainer and lower them into boiling water for about a minute. Remove, drain well, and serve immediately.

Poached eggs are great so don't be nervous either poaching them, or eating them. Just don't poach them before you poach them.

Erm ... you know what I mean.

Title picture by Steve Woods
Other pictures by Writer Girl!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hollandaise Sauce

“It's 'Hollandaise Sauce,' honey. Not 'Holiday's Sauce.'” I told her with a smile. “Here. Try some.”

My daughter blew on the spoon so she wouldn't burn her mouth, just like I taught her. “Mmmm!” she said. “That's good!”

Now, I'm sure there are many of you that just gasped. (I could feel the air intake from here.) That's okay. I understand your concern. For those who don't know, I had given my daughter a spoonful of what amounts to butter and thick, but still runny, eggs yolks. I can't say that I don't completely share your concern. Anytime you consume raw eggs there is a small (very small) chance that you will get food poisoning. I will contend that eggs cooked in the manner aren't entirely raw, but I'll also admit that the sauce doesn't get to temperature that will kill salmonella bacteria, either.

Let me stress that I don't use eggs like this very often. Let me also stress that you need to be careful whenever eating raw eggs. Some people say you shouldn't eat them at all. Make sure you're using the freshest eggs possible (like I did) to minimize the risk even further. Because of this risk, I recommend consuming it the day you make it.(1)

Okay, now that the obligatory health warnings are over, let's discuss hollandaise.

Hollandaise sauce is one of the “mother sauces.” It's great on it's own, but can also be used as a base to make other sauces. Add a little white wine vineagar, onions, and tarragon and it becomes a bearnaise. Add some tomatoes to the bearnaise and it becomes a choron. There's plenty more variations, I'm sure. Maybe you know a few to share with us.

Normally hollandaise sauce is made with clarified butter. I've tried a couple variations and I prefer those made with regular old unclarified whole butter. Supposedly this makes the sauce a little thinner, but I've never had that problem. Unclarified butter definitely gives it a creamier taste.


4 eggs
1 tablespoon of lemon juice(2)
1 tablespoon of water
2 sticks (8 oz.) of butter, broken into about 8 peices
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper(3)

Separate the eggs. Put the whites in a good zipper lock sandwich bag and freeze them to use later in a meringue or something. Put the yolks, lemon juice, and water in a small sauce pan.

Beat the mixture over (mostly) low heat, for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs start to thicken a little. (Please don't laugh at my dirty stovetop. Better yet, tell me how to get that crud around the back burner off too stove.)

The secret, here, is getting the right temperate, and constant stirring. You want the mixture to get hot, but if it gets too close to a boil, you'll get scrambled eggs. If the temperature is too low, it'll start to get foamy, and you want to avoid that as well. You'll get volume, but the mixture will stay too thin and the emulsion you're making will separate. Make sure you get the the whisk into the “corners” of the saucepan. If the eggs want to scramble, this is where it will start. You'll know it ready for the next step when you start seeing the bottom of the pan between strokes.

Start adding the butter, piece buy piece, whisking each piece in completely before moving on to the next. Keep the temperature very low when you add the butter, maybe even taking off the heat for just a moment as you add each piece. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the pepper and whisk it in, as well.

Don't whisk too quickly! We don't want to add air (remember the whole “destroy the emulsion” thing?). We just want it nicely incorporated.

The sauce should be creamy, smooth, but somewhat thin at this point. Turn the heat up very slightly, and continue whisking until the sauce thickens enough to stick to a wooden spoon, and not run right off. Be patient. It will take several minutes for this to happen.

Don't let it get too hot, or the emulsion will break down. If you start seeing an oily residue around the edges of the pan, pull it off the heat, add another tablespoon of water and keep whisking, returning it to the heat and hoping for the best. If you're careful about keeping the heat low in the first place, you won't have this problem.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly. Place plastic wrap over the sauce to keep a skin from forming before you're ready to serve.

Hollandaise sauce is great served with with cooked vegetables, chicken, fish, or eggs.

Pictures by my daughter, Writer Girl!

(1) If you don't want to use raw eggs, you can make a “mock” hollandaise sauce by combining 1/3 cup of sour cream, 1/4 cup of commercial mayonnaise or salad dressing, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of yellow prepared mustard. Cook and stir over medium heat until hot and creamy. It won't give you the luscious creaminess and mouth feel of regular hollandaise, but it will do in a pinch.

(2) If you want to leave out the lemon juice, you can replace it with another tablespoon of water. I prefer it with the lemon juice.

(3) Most recipes I've seen call for ground white pepper, so you don't see black flecks of pepper in the sauce. I prefer the more intense flavor of black pepper, and don't mind the few flecks. You can also add a dash of cayenne pepper if want, but I leave it out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to Separate Eggs

Many recipes call for separating eggs. Once you've done it, separating the yolks from the whites seems easy. The first time, though, can be daunting.

The first recipe I ever tried to make from a book was a cheese soufflé, and it called for separating the eggs. I think I was twelve. I was overly ambitious as a kid, what can I say?

At first I wondered, “What in heaven's name are you talking about, 'separating eggs?'” Separate them from what? The shell? After reading the rest of the recipe I got the idea. “Oh! Separate the yolk from the white! How the heck do I do that?”

My mom wasn't home so I called a neighbor, who was kind enough to come over an show me. I think the real reason she came over was to make sure I wasn't destroying the kitchen. She was my mom's friend, after all.

One problem with separating eggs is you don't always need both the whites and yolks in the same recipe. You could just throw the unused part out, but you don't have to. Egg whites freeze quite well for use in meringues and such, later on. Oddly enough, egg whites that have been frozen, and then thawed, whip up better than fresh ones.

The yolks are another story. They've got too much fat in them to freeze well and can easily freezer burn. Bacteria grows in them pretty easily, too, unless you can get the temperature below -20 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan to keep the yolks, put them in the refrigerator under a layer of cold water. You can pour off the water before you use them. Even then, egg yolks won't keep beyond a couple of days. Unless I'm planning on using them by the next day, I either fry them up as a snack or throw them out. Salmonella is not your friend.

To separate the egg yolk from the white, crack the egg on the counter and open it over a bowl, keeping one half upright to hold the yolk. Let the white spill out into the bowl.

Gently pour the yolk into the other half, letting more of the white drop in the bowl as you transfer the yolk back and forth between the two halves. Don't do this more than a couple of times or you'll probably break the yolk. I think it's better to let a little of the white stay with the yolk than to let any yolk get into the whites. Even a drop of egg yolk in the egg whites will stop a meringue from whipping up nicely.

Pour the egg yolks into a separate bowl when you're done, and move on to the next egg.

If that seems a bit complicated, you can just pour the egg into your hand, catching the yolk and letting the whites run between your fingers. I prefer separating the eggs by pouring them between the egg shell halves, though. It's less messy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brownies with Toasted Macadamia Nuts

Last Sunday I made brownies. From scratch. Really. They were very, very good. Monday, when I came home from work, they were all gone. Well, all but one. My wife made the kids (and herself) save at least one for me. When I told my wife I had decided to blog about them, she commented, “I liked those brownies. They were really good.” I guess that's why I don't have any pictures of them.

Confession time (again), I am not a brownie fan. At least I wasn't until Sunday. When I was a kid, my mom made brownies. They were hard blocks of stale, brownish, gritty cake like stuff that had more in common with hardened drywall paste than food. They were topped by a layer mini-marshmallows (which I hate) and a thick layer of solidified, too sweet, icing. I suppose they tasted a little like chocolate. It was all I could to gag them down and drown the flavor with a glass of milk.

Unfortunately, eating them this way would only cause Mom to think, “Oh, he must like them,” and then guilt me into having another. It's the only time in my life I can think of where I didn't want to eat something my mom had baked. “Uh ... no thanks, Mom. Can I just have a peanut butter sandwich?”

After I got married, my wife introduced me to brownies in a box. Store bought brownie mixes were actually a bit better than my mom's nearly inedible ones. At least they were softer. Still, for the life of me I didn't know why anyone would want to eat a brownie instead of, well, a peanut butter sandwich.

Until last Sunday.

These brownies were good. Very good. Good enough that, even though they require a bit more work than I normally like, I just might make them again. They were soft, chewy, sweet, rich, and chocolaty.Not too fudgey, not too cakey. The toasted macadamia nuts added a mild nuttiness, offsetting the sweetness, and a nice crunch.

In the words of Baby Bear, “They were just right.” Now I like brownies. These brownies, anyway.

The original recipe came from Cook's Illustrated. It looked interesting and I wanted to try it. When it came to actually making it, though, I realized that I didn't have the exact ingredients in my pantry. I'd have to improvise a little. For example, I didn't have any walnuts or pecans, traditional fair for brownies, so I toasted some macadamia nuts, instead. I also didn't have unsweetened baking chocolate. I had the semi-sweet kind so, I'd have to reduce the sugar.

Take note that this recipe calls for cake flour, not all-purpose flour. You can use all-purpose flour if you want to, but Erika Bruce of Cooks Illustrated says it will turn out gritty because of the extra gluten. Remembering the horrible texture of my mom's brownies, I'm inclined to believe her.


1 cup macadamia nuts
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes my oven about ten minutes, even though it thinks its ready in five. Just like me, I think its getting older.

While you're waiting for the oven to heat up, cut a piece of aluminum foil about 18 inches long and fit lengthwise into a 9” x 13” baking pan. (I use a Pyrex one.) Press the foil into the corners of the pan to make it as flat against the pan as you can. Let the foil stick out over the edges so they can act like handles, later. Cut another piece of foil about 14 inch long and place it in the pan, perpendicular to the first piece. Again, let the excess foil hang over the edge. If using very wide foil, you may want to fold it over a bit, first, to give a more even fit. Spray the inside of the foil covered pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.

Once the oven comes up to temperature, spread the macadamia nuts out in a single layer on a large cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until toasty brown. Set aside to cool, but leave the oven turned on.

Using a whisk and a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan nearly halfway with water. Put it on the stove and heat on high until it just begins to simmer, and then reduce to medium-low to keep it going. Place a large heatproof bowl over the pan to create a makeshift double boiler. You're going to use this bowl to mix up all of the batter, eventually, so make sure it's big enough. I used a medium sized wok I have, and it was barely big enough.

Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add it to the bowl. Once they're about half-way melted add the chocolate pieces. Stir gently, but constantly, to melt the chocolate. Don't let it burn. When it's completely smooth, remove the bowl from the heat and gradually whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Whisk each one into the chocolate mixture completely before adding the next one.

Whisk in the vanilla. Yes, one tablespoon is a lot, but it's not a typo. This recipe is chocolaty tough. It can take it.

Add the flour mixture in two or three batches, folding it gently into the chocolate until you get a completely incorporated and smooth batter.

As an added bonus, with all this whisking and folding, your hands and arms will get a good work out. Maybe you should use a different arm for each step, just for balance.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Use the spatula to make sure it gets into the corners and smooth the surface a bit.

Chop the toasted nuts and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter. Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and bake until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come back with just a few crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. If you wait until it's it comes out clean, you'll overcook the batter and the brownies will be dry.

Remove the pan and place it on a wire rack (pan and all) to cool to about room temperature, about an hour or so. You can turn the oven off now, by the way.

Life the brownies out of the pan using the overhanging foil. Cut them into 2 inch squares and serve with a cold glass of milk.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You love me! You really love me!

Wow! I got an award from Nazarina at Giddy Gastronome! Her posts always make me smile (and drool) so the feeling is definitely mutual.

In a gastronomical way. I know how some of you guys think. Sheesh!

Anyway, thanks Nazarina! I'm really flattered. If you haven't visited her food blog, you really should.

In the spirit of the award, I think I'll pass it along to a few of my other favorite food bloggers, as well (in no particular order).

Fran's House of Ayurveda
Columbus Foodie
Mark's Black Pot
Anne's Food
The Food Geek
Kalyn's Kitchen
Chez Pim

If you're not on the list, don't feel bad. I love you, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What Knives Do You Need?

The most essential piece of kitchen equipment is the knife. Actually, it's a toss up between knives and fire. You could tear food apart with your fingers, or leave it whole to cook it, but who'd want to? Then again, some things are great eaten raw. I don't want to do either of them all the time.

Just as with other equipment, buy a few knives at first, and then add to them as the need arises. Fortunately, you won't need all that many. Buy the best knives you can afford but, if you can, test them out first. Most kitchen specialty shops will let you do this.

Keeping your knives sharp is important, too. A sharp knife if much safer than a dull one. Dull knives can slip and cut you fingers. Sharp knives do what you want them to. They cut the food. They'll only cut you if you're careless.

Most serrated knives can't be sharpened, but straight edge knives can. Buy a good knife sharpener and use it or, if you're willing to practice a little, a sharpening steel.

Every year or two you'll want to send your knives out to a professional to hone them. These days it can be hard to find a “knife sharpener” under that name, though. Look for companies that sharpen lawn mower blades and such, and you'll be fine.

Store you knives in a knife block or use a wall-mounted magnetic strip. Keeping knives in drawers, without special knife holders, is the fastest way to make them dull. Your fingers will also thank you.

With knives more than any other tool, price isn't an indication of reliability. You can spend over $400.00 for a hand-forged chef's knife if you want to, but why? Perfectly good ones are available for much less.

Ceramic knives look cool, and I know people who swear by them. I've never tried them out so I can't say. Two things that turn me off of them are that you can't sharpen them yourself (in most cases you have to mail them back to the manufacturer) and the hefty price tag.

Chef's Knife

The first knife you'll want to spend money on is a chef's knife. They're normally sold in 8” or 9” lengths, but I've seen longer ones. I prefer the 8” knife.

Oddly enough, I've got three of them. And I only paid money for one.

My wife and I received an 8” Cutlery World chef's knife as a wedding present 18 years ago, and it's going strong. To this day I think it's the best wedding gift we received. I also got an 8” serrated knife as part of an inexpensive knife set made by Regent Sheffield. These aren't the best knives, but they fit my budget at the time I bought them.

The third one is a Slitzer. I got it for listening to a sales presentation on fire and smoke alarms. Slitzers are German designs, manufactured in China. It's becoming my new favorite. It's heavy enough to stand up to tough jobs, and incredibly sharp. It retails for about $20.00 and outperforms many of the more expensive knives I've tried out in specialty shops.

Both my Slitzer and Cutlery World knives have wooden handles, so they don't get washed with the regular dishes. Instead, I clean them by hand, dry then thoroughly, and put them away as soon as I'm done using them.

The next kind of knife you buy depends on what kinds of cooking you like to do most.

Serrated Knife

I prefer a 4” serrated knife to the 3” ones. These are great for making short work of veggies like tomatoes or peppers (firm skins, soft insides). To be honest, I find myself reaching for my steak knives for this kind of work more often than I do my 4” serrated one.

Paring Knife

Here my feelings are reversed. I like a short 3” paring knife more than the longer 4” ones. These are useful for fine work such as peeling (or 'paring') fruit, coring apples, and the like. They're also great for making decorative vegetable cuts.

Bread Knife

A large, flat serrated blade ranging from 8 1/2” to 9” or so are wonderful if you're cutting your own bread. A good one will cleanly cut through crusts and leave more delicate crumbs undamaged. (In this case “crumb” refers to the insides of the bread, not the dried crumbly variety.) You can see mine in use making Tomato Peanut-Butter Canapes.

Carving Knife

If you like roasts of any variety, a carving knife is best. You probably guessed that from the name, though. Ranging between 8” and 9” they have a thin, flexible blade, with slight curve upward, toward the tip. With practice, you can achieve quite thin slices of meat using this kind of knife.

Fillet Knife

A thinner, and more flexible cousin to the carving knife, a fillet knife is good for just what it says it is, filleting stuff. I use them to deal with smaller cuts of meat, poultry, or fish – anywhere a carving knife is too heavy, or too large, for the job. I turn to my fillet knife anytime I need to butterfly a chicken breast or cut a pocket into a pork chop.

Cutting Boards

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk a little about cutting boards. Wooden boards are said to be kinder than plastic ones to your knives. I've got one of each, though. The point of having them both is to eliminate the potential for contaminating cooked foods with raw foods. I use the plastic one for raw meats, and the wooden one for vegetables. Clean then thoroughly after each use to keep down bacteria growth. Salmonella is not your friend.

If you think I missed anything, let me know. Then again, maybe you've got other ideas about which knives are best for what job. I'm always up for suggestions.

Picture by Chris Howell

Monday, September 8, 2008

Five Flours

Because I think it's easier to use flour than whole grains for baking, my wife and I have decided to store flour instead of grain when it comes to putting together our one years worth of food storage. That's not to say we don't store grain. Rice is wonderful and I ain't doin' without it in my pantry. We've just decided to forgo the huge bags of storage wheat.

When it comes to flour, there are more varieties than you can shake spoon at. However, there are five main kinds of flour that are available in most grocery stores. Each one is a little different.

All-Purpose White Flour

A staple of the kitchen, all-purpose white flour is used for all kinds of things. Breads, pasta, pastries, batters, and as a thickening agent. Sometimes you'll find it mixed with leavening agents and sold as self-rising flour, but don't buy it that way unless the recipe specifically asks for it. It's available in both bleached, and unbleached, varieties.

Whole-Wheat Flour

I'm not sure why this gets thought of as an alternative to white flour. Didn't it come first? I love whole-wheat flour. It provides a mildly nutty flavor, but can produce a heavier result in most breads. Because it contains fat from the wheat germ, it can go rancid and must be stored carefully. Some people suggest that you store it in the refrigerator.

Bread Flour

Bread flour is the high-gluten version of all-purpose flour. Because of it's higher gluten content, it's said to be better for baking breads. I've never used it. Instead I buy all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat flour) and add wheat gluten when I bake bread. It comes in both white and whole-wheat varieties.


Most people don't think of flour when they think cornstarch, but that's what it is. This very finely ground flour from corn is normally used for thickening liquids. It's best to mix it with a little cold water to form a thin paste before using it this way, to avoid lumps. It can also be used medicinally in lieu of baby powder. In fact, most baby powder is just perfumed cornstarch.

Cornmeal (Polenta)

I had someone tell me that cornmeal was a grain, once. I don't think so. It might have started like as a grain but it's left that world behind. Cornmeal is ground to varying degrees of coarseness. It's a common ingredient in Southwestern and Italian cooking.

Picture by Stefano Barni

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How to Store Flour

My wife and I have been working on our food storage. For years, the Prophets and other LDS Church leaders have told us to gather and maintain a years supply of food, in case of emergencies. It started as two years, but I guess they realized that most of us are still too wicked and slothful to do that. So, they toned it back to a year.

My wife and I are nowhere near being done.

We've started though, and that's meant learning how to do it. We still haven't figured it out, but we're getting better at it. Mostly we're getting better at dealing with food storage because of things we've learned from Simply Living Smart, a website dedicated to food storage. They've got some amazing resources there, so I recommend you check them out.

The biggest question for us has been, how do you store flour? Can you even do it for a year? I've found a lot of conflicting research. Some people say that you can keep white flour for up to six months. Whole wheat flour goes rancid after two. Others say it's much longer than that. My own accidental experience tells me that if you store it properly, you can get away with a full year.

Bingo. One years worth of flour.

Okay, John. What about storage wheat? That was all the craze 'back in the day,' right? You get storage wheat, and a wheat grinder.

If you really want to do that, be my guest. Grinding wheat into flour, electrically or by hand, just doesn't appeal to me. What can I say? I'm still wicked and slothful. (Normally I prefer to think of it as knowing my limits than admitting it's a character flaw.)

So, we've decided to go with flour, instead of grain, for storing wheat.

Keep in mind that we're not talking about getting a years supply of food together and then letting it sit in the basement for a year. We're going to be using it throughout the year, replacing things as we use them and rotating the stock.

There are a few issues with storing flour, including the issue of nutritional value. Grains ground into flour lose some of there nutrients over time. It turns out that wheat flour keeps it's nutritional elements intact a lot longer than was previously thought. If you're still worried about it, take a multivitamin.

The other two major issues are bugs and rancidity. Wheat flour has a small amount of fat in it from the wheat germ. Just like other fats, it can go rancid. All wheat has weevil and other bugs in them. Mostly eggs. Other bugs can get into the paper containers you normally buy the stuff in pretty easily, too.

It turns out that you can take three simple steps to eradicate these little monsters, and keep the fat in the wheat germ from going rancid before you use it.

  1. Freeze the flour.
  2. Add dried bay leaves
  3. Store in an airtight container.
  4. Keep the containers in a cool, dry, place.

To freeze flour, transfer it into small, zip-lock type plastic freezer bags, and put it in your freezer overnight. The cold should kill any living bugs and muck with most of the eggs. The zip-lock bag is to keep the moisture out.

Adding a few dried bay leaves to the flour can help cut down on bugs, as well. Most of insects don't like it and I've been told it's actually poisonous to weevil larvae. Just make sure you take the bay leaves out of the flour before you cook with it. I learned this lesson after making a wonderful loaf of bay flavored bread in my bread maker one day.

Make sure your storage containers are airtight. This helps avoid rancidity and creates yet another hostile environment for the bugs. Some people even suggest putting oxygen trapping chem packs in with the flour, but I'm not sure it's necessary. We've chosen to use 20 gallon storage buckets with air tight gamma lids.

How many times have you heard the mantra of the pantry, “Keep it in a cool, dry, place?” Same story, here. Light and heat contribute to fat rancidity and stale food. Avoid those as much as possible.

Here comes the disclaimer. Please keep in mind that I'm not a food scientist, nutritionalist, or otherwise licensed food service worker. I've had no formal training in this. All of this is based on the research I've done, mixed with my own experience. Take my advice for what it is, the friendly kind, not the professional kind. Don't sue me if this doesn't work for you.

Picture by Melanie Martinelli

Thai Peanut Sauce

Peanut Butter month may have come to a close, but I want to give you a peanut flavored encore, Thai Peanut Sauce.

Mostly because I made some the other day and thought I'd blog about it.

I first learned this recipe from booklet called Thai and More, published the people at Cooking Class magazine. At least I think it's a magazine. I varied it slightly because I didn't have quite all the ingredients at hand. I think it worked out better this way, though. It had intense coconut and peanut flavor, and wasn't too hot so my kids could still enjoy it.

And enjoy it they did. I used this sauce to top a tofu and veggie stir fry last Sunday. It was such a hit that by the time I thought about taking a picture to share with you, the only thing left was an empty pan and a bit of rice.


2 teaspoon peanut oil (vegetable oil will do in a pinch)
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup coconut milk (or 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon coconut extract)
2 teaspoons lime juice

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add peanut butter, brown sugar, fish sauce, chili powder, and black pepper. Stir until smooth and well blended. Slowly add the coconut milk (or regular milk and coconut extract) and stir until well blended. Continue stirring until it starts bubbling a bit.

The sauce should be pretty thick at his point. If you want it a little thicker, stir 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 or 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the sauce. Cook and stir about one or two minutes more until thickened.

Stir in lime juice and mix into stir fried veggies, tofu, sauteed chicken, or whatever else you can think of.

If you want to make this in advance, to have on hand whenever you're ready, stop before adding the coconut milk, let cool, and refrigerate. It will last up to a week in a cool fridge.

Picture by Kasia Franc.