Archive for March, 2009

Tip #12: How to keep a fish grilled in a wire cooker from sticking.

We grill a lot. Something like 200 days a year. All through the winter in Michigan. I just shovel a path through the snow to the grill and fire it up.
We love to grill salmon and rainbow trout. Really just about anything that swims.
I have a 30-year-old wire fish cooker that works great. However, I have had to fix some of the welds after years of abuse on the grill.
But, how do you keep your wire fish basket from sticking to the wire?
Simple: Spray the top and bottom sections of the inside of the wire basket with non-stick vegetable cooking spray.
But where?
You’ll make a mess in the sink because the wire basket does not fit in the sink.
Paper on the floor? NO! (so said my wife).
Outside? Maybe, but on the grass?
Here’s the solution: Open your wire basket fish cooker and place it on the open door of your dishwasher (see photo) and spray away.
Neat, clean and no more sticking fish.
Works for asparagus, too!


Tip # 11: How to make cookbook ribbons

What the heck are cookbook ribbons? I first ran into cookbook ribbons when they came on our first copy of The Joy of Cooking (Photo 1). Two red ribbons were glued into the spine of the book and they were included so you could bookmark two recipes and find them easily. I loved the idea.
One day I was using one of my favorite cookbooks and making two recipes from it. I got very frustrated about losing my place as I went from recipe to recipe and back again.
Then the light bulb went on. Why not put cookbook ribbons in this book?
Gluing ribbons into the spine was not an option. So, I decided to add them to the back of the book. Here is how to do it step by step (this is more difficult to write out than actually do!):


  • One spool of 1/4-inch red ribbon. I got mine at Jo-Ann Fabrics. The spool holds 10 yards and the ribbon is made from 100% polyester. It works just fine.
  • Good quality packing tape
  • Scotch tape or you can use small pieces of packing tape
  • Scissors


Photo 2:
Cut two pieces of ribbon. To figure the length of the ribbon, open the back of the book and put about two inches of ribbon into the gutter of the book between the last page and the inside back cover. Holding the ribbon in place, run the ribbon down the top of the book to the front cover and slide the ribbon in between the front cover and the first page. Now run the ribbon diagonally to the lower left-hand corner of the book (the top of the book is up). Leave about two inches hanging out of the corner. Hold this spot on the ribbon and spool off enough ribbon to double the length. Cut the ribbon at that point. Hold the two ends together and cut this long length into two equal pieces.
Photo 3:
Using a small piece of Scotch tape or small pieces of packing tape, stick the end of the one of the pieces of ribbon two inches into the gutter of the cookbook (from the top) with the tail of the ribbon extending out the top. Repeat with the second piece of ribbon. Make sure that the two pieces of ribbon are slightly separated so both of them are secured by the tape in the next step. The reason for using the small pieces of tape is to keep the ribbons in place while you tape them down in the next step.
Photo 4:
Using a three-inch to three-and-one-half inch long piece of packing tape, tape down the two ribbons. The packing tape should be placed down on the last page of the book first, pressed down on that page over the ribbons, pressed tight against the gutter and then up and over to the inside back cover of the book. Half of the packing tape width should be on one side of the ribbon and half on the other. You can see the shinny tape on both sides of the tape in this photo (4). Be sure to keep the tape inside the top edge of the cookbook. You do not want the tape sticking out the top of the book. Also, make sure the tape is long enough so it extends about an inch beyond the ends of the ribbons.
Photo 5:
Now, take the ribbons and run them over the top of the book and between the front cover and page one of the book, running the ribbons diagonally to the bottom left-hand corner of the book. Grab the ribbons at about 2 inched from the corner of the book. Trim the ends of the ribbons on a slight diagonal as shown in the photo.
Photo 6:
This is how the book looks with the ribbons placed on two different recipes.

All of my favorite cookbooks have ribbons.

Moist and Tasty Bran Muffins

Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 12 muffins. Published May 1, 2007.

No, that title is not an oxymoron. How can a BRAN muffin be both moist and tasty you ask? Let me explain…
…I have fallen in love with muffins. They are relatively easy to make and very forgiving. Yea, I still measure everything exactly (it is baking after all). But my guess is that if you just threw these together without weighing everything, they would still come out delicious.
I have made lots of muffins in my day and most of the bran muffins have been more like hockey pucks until now. This recipe delivers a bran muffin that is low in fat, moist, and tasty — all at the same time. And they said it couldn’t be done.
I made a few alterations to the basic Cook’s Illustrated (CI) recipe and I think I improved on it just a bit.
The ordinal recipe avoided using wheat bran and wheat germ to avoid a trip to the health food store. Well, I have both of those things on hand for bread baking so I added both to the recipe.
CI used 2-1/4 cups of All Bran Original cereal and took half of the All Bran “noodles” for a ride in a food processor until they were finely ground. I eliminated that step and substituted one cup of wheat bran and 1/2 cup of toasted wheat germ.
To make sure that the wheat bran did not dry out the muffins, I added one-half cup of buttermilk. To compensate of the buttermilk, I added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the dry mixture.
The result is a moist, tasty (the buttermilk), delicious bran muffin with raisins. This may be one of the best muffins I have ever tasted.

Recipe follows.
Moist and Tasty Bran Muffins

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Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Makes 8 shortcakes

My family loves strawberry shortcake.  In fact, my eldest son request this dessert for his birthday instead of cake.
I have made several types of shortcake which are basically a sweet biscuit.  But, I thought what about a flaky sweet biscuit?  And then I remembered the flaky blueberry scone (here).  What if we eliminated the blueberries and added sugar to the square and roll that up?  Should work.
Boy, did it work.  This is the best shortcake I have ever tasted.  Sweet and flaky.  Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  A great combination.  Great by themselves.
But, add strawberries, ice cream and whipped cream  and you have one outstanding dessert.   One that is as near to perfection as you can get.

Recipe follows.
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Pecan Pancakes

Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florance

Makes 16 pancakes

These pancakes are really, really good. My family loves pancakes and I am always looking for new recipes to try. Usually these attempts are not much to write home about.
But these are different.
The thing that attracted me to these pancakes is that they include ground pecans in the batter. What an interesting idea. I wondered if the pecans would add flavor or texture. Answer: BOTH.
Here again these pancakes call for buttermilk which gives them a great tangy flavor and fluffy texture.
These are easy to make. Give them a try. Delicious.

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