Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Make Banana Pudding Without a Double Boiler

Instant pudding mix cannot match the flavor of real banana pudding made with a homemade custard in a double boiler on the stove. A double boiler is a cooking vessel with two components. The bottom holds boiling water while you put the ingredients for cooking in the top. Since the ingredients are not in direct contact with the heat source from the stove, they are less likely to burn or curdle. When making the cooked pudding base for homemade banana pudding, slow even heating is crucial to keep the mixture from scorching, but you can replicate a double boiler for making banana pudding with items already in your kitchen.

  • Fill a cooking pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Place the metal bowl on top of the cooking pot without the bottom of the bowl touching the simmering water inside the pot. This bowl and pot arrangement is a homemade version of a double boiler.
  • Whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and egg yolks in the bowl.
  • Stir in the milk and cook the pudding mixture in the bowl for 15 to 20 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir the mixture occasionally during cooking.
  • Remove the bowl from the cooking pot with simmering water and add the vanilla and optional banana extract to the pudding mixture.
  • Cool the pudding to room temperature.
  • Cover the bottom of the baking dish with one third of the pudding.
  • Top the pudding with one third of the sliced bananas and a layer of 12 vanilla cookies.
  • Repeat the layers two more times, ending with a top layer of 12 vanilla cookies.
  • Top the banana pudding with whipped cream, if desired.
  • Chill the pudding in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving or serve at room temperature.

How to Make Pudding With Almond Milk

For individuals living a dairy-free lifestyle, almond milk makes a wonderful substitute for cow's milk. It can be used to replace cow's milk cup-for-cup in virtually any recipe, except for puddings. Making pudding with almond milk is not impossible; all that's needed is the correct ratio of thickener to liquid in order to make the pudding come out right. Cooking pudding the old-fashioned way is the best bet for a delicious outcome, as almond milk cannot be used in instant pudding mixes.

Step 1Almond milk has no saturated fat, which is why it creates thin pudding if it is used as a substitute for traditional cow's milk.
Choosing the right thickening agent will give your pudding the correct consistency. There are a few thickening agents to choose from depending on preference and dietary needs.
Cornstarch is a typical thickening ingredient used in pudding recipes. However, if you are unable to eat corn or corn products, you can use tapioca starch or arrowroot powder instead.

Step 2In a medium-sized saucepan, heat almond milk until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan.

Step 3For butterscotch pudding, first combine all dry ingredients.
Add just enough almond milk to make a thick paste and set aside.
Heat remaining almond milk in medium saucepan until boiling.

Step 4Whisk dry ingredients into the milk.
Constant whisking will help give your pudding a smooth consistency.
For butterscotch pudding, remove milk from heat, add in thick paste mixture and whisk until it is completely dissolved.

Step 5Bring the whole mixture to a simmer while constantly whisking.
Cook until the mixture is thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.

Step 6Remove the mixture from the heat.
If making vanilla or rice pudding, skip to step 9.

Step 7If using bar chocolate instead of powdered cocoa, add it to the hot mixture at this time.
Whisk slowly and evenly to melt chocolate. If you need to, return the saucepan to the stove top to melt the chocolate, but do not boil.
Once chocolate is incorporated, skip to step 9.

Step 8For butterscotch pudding, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Pour 3 to 4 tbsp. of the hot mixture into the lightly beaten egg yolks and whisk together.
Pour the egg mixture back into the pudding and return to a boil, whisking constantly until at your desired thickness.
Remove from the heat.
Step 9Stir in vanilla extract and butter, margarine or butter substitute.
For rice pudding, stir in cooked jasmine rice.

Step 10Pour pudding into 8 small serving bowls.  
Step 11Cover the top of bowls with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until cooled and set. This should take about 1 hour.

How to Cook a Hot Dog in a Microwave

A popular favorite for cookouts and tailgating, hot dogs are an American classic no matter your regional preference for toppings. When you only need to make one or two hot dogs at a time, microwave cooking is much faster and convenient than preheating a grill or boiling water on the stove. Hot dogs are pre-cooked, but despite a popular myth, they should be cooked before eating because they can develop the harmful bacterium Listeria monocytogenes after packaging.

Step 1Place the hot dog, wrapped in a paper towel, on a small microwave-safe plate on the rotating plate inside the microwave. Wrapping the hot dog prevents a possible mess should it burst.

Step 2Set the microwave to its "defrost," "low" or Power 3 setting. Microwave in 30-second increments to thaw a frozen hot dog.

Step 3Set the microwave timer for 15 to 20 seconds at high power, using the lesser time for high-wattage microwaves. For jumbo hot dogs, start with a cook time of 25 to 30 seconds. Microwave in additional increments of 5 to 10 seconds, if needed, until the hot dog is heated through and steaming. This gradual cooking process reduces the chance of an overheated hot dog exploding in the microwave.

How to Cook Barley

Barley's hardiness and short growing season have made it a vital food crop for much of human history, providing a nutritious staple in climates ranging from subarctic to tropical. Barley fed the Greek heroes of Homer and Rome's gladiators, and it remains a nutritious and versatile -- if under-appreciated -- food. You can select from several ways to prepare barley, and most involve simmering it in water or a more flavorful liquid, such as broth.

Barley has a tough and inedible hull that must be removed before the grain can be eaten. The simplest way to do this is by friction, a process called "pearling" that also removes its bran. Pearled barley is the familiar small and pale grain used in soups, missing the germ and bran but still nutritious. Health food stores often stock whole, hulled barley, which is the most beneficial because it retains its bran and germ. Pot barley is an in-between stage, pearled but still retaining some of its germ and bran. The three cook differently, but -- because barley contains high levels of fiber even in its starchy interior -- all can be considered a healthy grain option.

The simplest way to cook barley is to simmer it in water, as you would with most other grains. Highly absorbent, barley requires more water. Pearl barley requires 3 cups of water for every cup of grain, and although it's less absorbent, hulled barley requires at least 2 1/2 cups and can require more. Simmer pearled barley for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender and chewy, and hulled barley for 40 minutes or longer. Drain any excess moisture, in the case of hulled barley, then let the grain rest for 10 minutes to absorb the remaining surface moisture and become slightly firmer.
You can vary the base preparation in several ways. Add flavor by substituting broth for the water, or by adding herbs and fresh spices. Saute aromatic onions, garlic or other vegetables before adding the grain and liquid, and the end result is a tasty barley pilaf. Adding another cup or more of hot broth to the pan, and stirring continuously, and your pilaf becomes a creamy-textured barley risotto. Add a cup or more of additional liquid to your plain barley to make barley polenta -- the standard version until maize was brought back from the New World -- or add milk to make barley porridge as a cold-weather breakfast.

Hulled, pearled or pot barley can all be used in salads as a substitute for bulgur wheat, rice, quinoa or couscous. Toss the grain with greens, diced vegetables, chopped herbs and an appropriate dressing, for a healthy and pleasantly chewy alternative to your regular grains. Simple simmered barley makes a fine base for stir-fries or stews, and barley pilaf or risotto is perfectly at home alongside grilled, broiled or roasted meats. Barley flour lends an interesting depth of flavor to breads and multigrain pancakes or waffles, or can be used on its own to make flatbreads or cookies.

Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Cook Squash

Summer and winter squash give you lots of choices in cooking methods, from quick sauteing in a skillet to roasting in a hot oven, and many methods in between. Make your choice based on what else you're cooking on the stovetop or grill or what you plan to make with the cooked vegetables. For most cooking methods, toss either type of squash with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before cooking. Then, go bold with more flavorful spices and herbs or let the natural flavors of the squash shine through.

You can roast squash whole, but slicing them first, into chunks or slices, allows more flavor to form on the cut surfaces when the sugars in the squash caramelize in a hot oven. Roast a whole or a half squash in a medium, 350-degree Fahrenheit oven until you can pierce it easily with a sharp knife -- a whole winter squash, such as acorn or butternut, takes up to an hour to become tender, while a summer squash, such as zucchini or crookneck, takes as little as 15 minutes.
Either type of squash cooks more quickly diced or sliced, and baked in a 400 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes for summer squash and 20 to 30 minutes for winter squash. Roast squash works well as a side dish or as part of a room-temperature, roasted vegetable salad. Summer squash doesn't need peeling or skinning, but even though roasting softens the skin of a winter squash enough to be edible, most people like winter squash peeled.
In a well-oiled skillet, slices or pieces of summer squash cook in 3 to 4 minutes per side and winter squash 5 to 10 minutes per side. Leave the pieces plain, dredge them in flour for a light crust or bread them by dipping them first in a beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs. Grated summer squash cooks in only 2 to 3 minutes in a pan with a few teaspoons of oil.

For unbreaded squash, add dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme or rosemary, after tossing them with oil. Or, save the seasonings for after cooking and sprinkle on fresh, chopped herbs; parsley and chives pair well with either variety of squash and the flavor of basil is a good match with summer squash.

Both types of squash take the same time to cook on the grill as they do sauteed in a skillet. Cut the squash into strips or slices to place directly on the grill, or cut them into chunks for skewers. Either squash takes well to bold spices, such as a jerk seasoning, citrus-flavored marinade, curry marinade or barbecue sauce. Sprinkle on fresh chopped cilantro to finish.

Microwave cooking works well when you're in a hurry because summer squash takes only 2 to 3 minutes, and winter squash 6 or 7 minutes, when the vegetables are cut into 1-inch chunks. Sprinkle the squash with a little water, cover them loosely and cook them on high heat. You'll know they're done when you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife. Stir in a teaspoon of butter, salt, pepper, fresh chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

You need to pierce whole squash in a few places with a knife before cooking. According to Marian Morash, author of The Victory Garden Cookbook, a 1-pound summer squash cooks in 4 to 6 minutes on high and a whole winter squash, such as a 3 1/2-pound spaghetti squash, cooks in 15 minutes.

Using a steamer basket placed inside a pot, with a few inches of water underneath, large chunks of winter squash cook in about 15 to 20 minutes. You can mash these as you would potatoes, or serve them whole with butter and a sprinkle of smoked paprika or cinnamon for a side dish to serve with chicken. Large chunks of summer squash steam in 5 to 10 minutes; season them with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. 

Pizza Stone Cooking Tips

Pizza stones are used at home and in restaurants to give pizzas a crisp crust. These kitchen tools are effective because the hard material that makes up a pizza stone heats evenly in the oven. This allows the pizza to cook on a surface that's free of hot spots and other inconsistencies. The porous pizza stones absorb oil and moisture, wicking it away from the crust. Cooking with a pizza stone is a fairly simple process, as long as you are aware of the basic rules that govern using one.

Pizza stones may be made from heavy stone or ceramic material, but they are actually quite delicate in nature. Sharp changes in temperature can cause the stone to shatter. Before using a pizza stone, brush it off with a dry cloth. Place the pizza stone in a cold oven, then turn on the heat. Allowing the pizza stone to heat with the oven decreases the risk of thermal shock. Generally speaking, pizza stones should not be treated with oil or nonstick spray.
Homemade and frozen pizzas can be prepared on a pizza stone. If making a frozen pizza, slide the pizza straight onto the cold stone, then turn on the oven. Place the icy pizza on the hot stone could cause the stone to buckle. If making a homemade pizza, prepare it as you normally would. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal onto the heated pizza stone, then slide the pizza onto the stone using a pizza peel. A peel, which is shaped like a paddle, is necessary because the stone will be far too hot to handle. Sliding out the oven rack to place the pizza on the stone is also dangerous, as it may not be able to fully support the weight of the heavy stone.
Plan to bake the pizza for the recommended amount of time, but check on it every five minutes or so to ensure that the bottom isn't burning. To remove the pizza, slide the pizza peel between it and the pizza stone and lift it out of the oven. Never cut a pizza on a pizza stone, as the sharp edge can damage the stone.
Before doing anything, it's important to allow the stone to cool naturally. Turn off the oven and remove the stone using either the pizza peel or some heavy-duty heatproof gloves. Remember that the stone will be very heavy and hot; it can easily transmit heat through thin potholders. Place the pizza stone on a heat-resistant surface and allow it to cool completely. This may take a few hours, but is necessary to keep the stone from breaking.

After the stone is cool, lightly scrub the surface with a stiff, dry brush. If desired, wipe it down with a damp cloth. As pizza stones absorb moisture, it's important to never submerge the stone in water or clean it with soap. Additionally, washing the stone can ruin the natural seasoning that it gets from absorbing oil during use.

How to Cook Beef Loin Tri Tip Steak

Beef tri-tip is a member of the sirloin family of beef. It is a lean, boneless, tender cut of beef that can be sliced into steaks from a tri-tip roast. It is affordable and easy to work with. A 3-ounce serving packs about 30 grams of protein and 250 calories. Like any sirloin, it lends itself well to a few methods of cooking. It can be grilled, broiled or stir-fried in a skillet.

Step 1Heat the grill or grill pan to medium heat.

Step 2Season the steaks with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 3Place the steaks on the grill for 9 to 13 minutes for medium rare to medium. Turn once halfway through cooking. This timing is based on a 3/4-inch steak. Allow about 4 additional minutes for a 1-inch steak.

Step 4Remove the steak using kitchen tongs and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Using tongs instead of a fork assures that the juices will not escape through punctures in the tissue. Resting time allows for the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.

Step 1Raise the oven rack to 4 inches below the coils and preheat the oven to the broil setting at 500 degrees.
Step 2Line the bottom of the grill pan with aluminum foil to allow for easy cleanup.

Step 3Season the steaks with salt and pepper to taste and place on the grill rack without overcrowding.

Step 4Broil 3/4-inch thick steaks 6 to 9 minutes for medium rare to medium. Add 3 minutes to the cooking time for 1-inch thick steaks. Turn steaks once halfway through the cooking time.

Step 5Use tongs to remove the steaks and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Do not pierce the steaks with a fork or the juices will escape. Resting time allows those juices to redistribute throughout the steak.

Step 1Cut the steaks into 1/8-inch thick strips and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 2Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. If the skillet is not a nonstick variety, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Step 3Stir the steak strips constantly for about 60 to 90 seconds. Transfer to a serving platter.