Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Types of Glasses

Is it possible to have too many glasses? Maybe, maybe not. I became more educated on different styles of glasses as we worked our way through the beverage section of the Columbia Restaurant Cookbook, and I figured I should pass along that knowledge.

Most glasses can be categorized as tumblers or stemware. Stems were added as handles to prevent the temperature of your hand from affecting the temperature of your drink. The shape can make a difference as well, but since I have no desire to become a wine afficianado, I'm not going to bother figuring it out.* If you want to increase your knowledge further, this site was quite helpful.

During our multi-month experiment, we used (or will use) the following glasses:

large wine glass
tall tulip glass
martini glass
champagne flute
collins glass
highball glass
old-fashioned glass

I didn't have to buy the last two; apparently we've been using highball glasses as water glasses and an old-fashioned glass for our morning milk as long as I can remember. I also learned that our crystal goblets (used for water for Sunday dinner in the dining room) are, indeed, water goblets and not wine glasses. (See here.) Wine glasses are thin and smooth and water goblets can be thick and etched. Did you know that? I was thinking I could use them instead of buying a tall tulip glass, but apparently not!

*Here's a sample of what you could learn: "A white wine glass is small, designed to keep the wine cooler longer. White wines have a less intense aroma, and their glasses have smaller mouths and bowls because they don't need the extra surface area for the best flavor and aroma as red wines do."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tri-Tip Roast

Wayne's next Dutch oven recipe called for a tri-tip roast, which meant that I had to do some research and find one. The book described it as the butt end of the sirloin, with the grain going in three directions - hence the name tri-tip.

I looked at these sites as well -

Just a Pinch:

The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut. It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs per side of beef. In the United States, this cut was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the late 1950s, when it became a local specialty in Santa Maria, California, rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other seasonings, cooked over red oak wood and roasted whole on a rotisserie, smoked in a pit, baked in an oven, grilled, or braised by putting a pot on top of a grill, browning the meat directly on the grill surface before and after the braising. (The tri-tip is still often labeled the "Santa Maria steak".) Most popular in the Central Coast of California and Central Valley regions of California, it has begun to enjoy increasing popularity elsewhere for its full flavor, lower fat content, and comparatively lower cost.

The TriTip Guy says it's also called

  • The California cut
  • Bottom sirloin tip
  • Triangle cut
  • Bottom sirloin primal cut
  • Santa Maria cut
  • Newport steak
  • Bottom sirloin butt (but not a rump roast)
The Weber site:

Due to its triangular shape, tri-tip also goes by the name "bottom sirloin butt" and "triangle roast". Tri-tip is nicely marbled, tender, and one of the most flavorful cuts of beef you'll find. As a whole, untrimmed roast, tri-tip may weigh about 5 pounds. The tri-tips you're likely to find at the supermarket will weigh 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds and measure 2-3" thick.


Apparently I ought to be able to find it at Costco, maybe Publix, or at Charlie's Gourmet Meat Market, which is now found inside The Butcher Shop Beer Garden and Grill restaurant at 209 6th street, West Palm Beach (561) 622-9988. Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm. [6/19/2017 Note: called the butcher shop - they can order it with a day's notice -$12.99/lb.]

Amici Market, located at 155 N. County Rd. in Palm Beach (next to Green's Pharmacy), carries tri-tip, although it must be ordered at least a day in advance. Call 561-832-0201, or visit

However, I also heard that Trader Joe's carried tri tip, and since that's closer than all the other options, I tried it first. Success, they do carry it! And that's nice, because I think we have several recipes that call for that cut of meat in our Dutch Oven Cookbook.

The first one was basically a pot roast. The entire tri tip was browned on all sides in a bit of bacon grease along with some sliced mushrooms. That baked in a low oven for an hour. Then we added quartered onions, potatoes and carrots and cooked it for another 1 1/2 hours. Although it took a bit of time, it was simple and delicious!

Alcohol Substitutes

We're starting the "Drinks" section of the Columbia Restaurant Cookbook. Unfortunately, these are alcoholic drinks, and since we don't drink alcohol, we're going to have to make some major adaptations. I figured there would be a resource to help me and I was right. Here's one from What's Cooking America. Of course, the first one I'm trying to find is gin, and it's not on this list! So, I'll have to keep looking. Here's another list from Gourmet Sleuth. Below is my compilation from the two. Use your common sense on deciding if it should be a 1:1 substitution or not. For example, apple juice could probably be the equal amount, but an extract should probably be mixed with grape juice or something. You would treat needing 1 tablespoon differently than needing 1 cup.

Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Alcohol in Cooking

Amaretto – 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for 2 tablespoons.
Anisette – Anise Italian soda syrup or fennel. Also use the herbs anise or fennel.
Apple Brandy - Apple juice or apple cider.
Apricot Brandy - Syrup from canned apricots, or apricot preserves.
Beer or Ale – Chicken broth, beef broth, mushroom broth, white grape juice, or ginger ale.
Bourbon – 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of non-alcoholic vanilla extract for 2 tablespoons. 
Brandy – Water, white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice, diluted peach or apricot syrups.
Champagne – Ginger ale, sparkling apple cider, sparkling cranberry juice, or sparkling white grape juice.
Cherry Liqueur (Kirschwasser) - Syrup from canned (Bing) cherries, Italian soda cherry syrup or cherry preserves.
We'll use the syrup from these bottled cherries when the recipe calls for a cherry liqueur. And then we can eat the cherries!
Claret – Diluted grape juice or cherry cider syrup.
Coffee Liqueur – To replace 2 tablespoons of liqueur, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chocolate extract mixed with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, which has been mixed in 2 tablespoons of water. Can also substitute expresso, non-alcoholic coffee extract, or coffee syrup.
Cognac – Juice from peaches, apricots, or pears.
Cointreau – Orange juice or frozen orange juice concentrate. 
Creme de cacao - Powdered white chocolate mixed with water; vanilla extract mixed with powdered sugar.
Creme de cassis - Black currant Italian soda syrup or black currant jam.
Creme de menthe – Spearmint extract or oil of spearmint diluted with a little water or grapefruit juice.
Gewurztraminer – White grape juice combined with lemon juice. 
Gin - Basically an infused vodka, flavored with juniper berries. (This was complicated enough that it deserved its own post.)
Grand Marnier or Orange-Flavored Liqueur – Unsweetened orange juice concentrate or orange juice.
Grappa – Grape juice.
Kahlua – Substitute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chocolate extract for 2 tablespoons. 
Kirsch – Syrup or juices from cherries, raspberries, boysenberries, currants, or cider.
Maraschino Liqueur – Syrup or juices from canned maraschino cherries, or almond extract.
Mirin - White grape juice mixed with lemon juice or zest.
Peppermint Schnapps – Non-alcoholic mint or peppermint extract, mint Italian soda syrup, or mint leaves.
Port Wine, Sweet Sherry, or Fruit-Flavored Liqueur – Orange juice or apple juice; Concord grape juice with some lime zest added, cranberry juice with some lemon juice added, or grape juice concentrate.  
Red Wine – Red grape juice, cranberry juice, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, clam juice, fruit juices, flavored vinegar. 
Rum (light or dark) – Water, white grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice or apple cider, or syrup flavored with almond extract. Note: golden rum is also known as dark rum.
Sake – Rice vinegar.
Sherry or Bourbon – Orange or pineapple juices, peach syrup, or non-alcoholic vanilla extract. 
Southern Comfort – Peach flavored nectar combined with a small amount of cider vinegar. 
Sweet White Wine – White grape juice plus 1 tablespoons Karo corn syrup.  
Tequila – Cactus juice or nectar.
Triple Sec – Orange juice concentrate, orange juice, orange zest or orange marmalade.
I found a non-alcoholic version of triple sec in our local grocery store. Basically it's an orange-flavored syrup.
Vermouth, Dry – White grape juice, white wine vinegar, or non-alcoholic white wine.
Vermouth, Sweet – Apple juice, grape juice, balsamic vinegar, non-alcoholic sweet wine, or water with lemon juice.
Whiskey – If a small amount is called for, it can be eliminated. Whiskey generally tastes like oak barrels and malt/wheat.
White Wine – Water, chicken broth, vegetable broth, white grape juice, ginger ale, white grape juice. For a sweet white wine, add a bit of white corn syrup as well.
Vodka –  Vodka is theoretically not supposed to taste like anything. You could use white grape juice or apple cider combined with lime juice or plain water in place of vodka.


Finding a non-alcoholic substitute for gin isn't as simple as finding one for Cherry Liqueur (just use the juice from canned cherries) so I figured it needed its own post. Basically you need to infuse some liquid with the flavor of juniper berries. Because apparently there are different varieties of gins, flavored differently, I also came across many different recipes for making your own. I don't have a "favorite" gin, and really don't even know what one tastes like, so I'm just going to make up my own recipe and see if it does the job!

Gin - Basically an infused vodka, flavored with juniper berries.Try soaking juniper berries in white grape juice with a bit of lime juice. Check out this blog post or even this one for a non-alcoholic version of a gin and tonic. To me it just looks like a lot of work when water would quench thirst just fine. And another one. And another one.

As you can see, while the common ingredient is juniper berries; there's no consensus for the remaining ingredients. Here's what I'm going to do the first time we try a recipe that calls for gin, based on some bartender's suggestion: “Mimicking gin is pretty easy. Simply infuse water overnight with the botanicals used in your favorite gin. You’re going to need juniper berries, and you’re probably going to have some citrus peel and various herbs. The water draws out all the flavor of the aromatics, so when you strain it, you basically have a clean tea ‘gin’ infusion.”

By the way, I actually found juniper berries locally, at a store called Fresh Market, on the "spice" end cap with other pre-packaged "bulk" spices.

Juniper Berry Infusion or Syrup 
Gin Substitute

2 tablespoons juniper berries
lemon peel strips from 1 lemon
8 coriandor seeds*
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup turbinado sugar**

Place juniper berries, lemon peel and coriandor seeds in a heat-proof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let steep for at least 15 minutes, or even overnight. Strain the liquid. That makes the infusion. If you want a syrup, return the liquid to a boil and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

I also found the intriguing history of gin here:
The name "gin" is derived from the French and Dutch words for juniper: "genièvre" and "jenever," respectively. This spirit was created by Dutch physician Dr. Sylvius, who redistilled pure alcohol with juniper berries in hopes that the berries' therapeutic oil would manifest in a low-cost medicine. The medicinal project was a success, though it came at the price (or gain, if you look at it that way) of a spirit with a flavor that effectively hid the harsh taste of alcohol. If you've ever used the phrase "Dutch courage," or liquid courage, you can thank Dr. Sylvius -- before charging into battle, British soldiers would down a shot (or two, or three) of gin.

*If I had cardamom seeds I'd use those instead. Some sites say that coriandor and cardamom aren't substitutes for each other, but one website did suggest it. Since apparently coriandor seeds have a citrus overtone, I think they'll work fine in this experiment.

**Really any sugar would work. My inspiration recipe called for demerara sugar, which I don't have on hand. I do have turbinado sugar in the cupboard.

We have a bunch of juniper berries in the pantry now, so I googled how to use them. Maybe someday we'll give one of these recipes a try.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Glazed Chicken

Here's a simple recipe that is quick and delicious. We originally tried it on boneless chicken breast pieces, but then had it later the same week on salmon. Both versions were terrific.

Glaze for Chicken or Salmon

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon water

Combine all ingredients. Spread 1/2 the glaze on some chicken or fish, then sauté in non-stick pan for a few minutes. Flip and spread with remaining glaze. Cook until done.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Japanese at Home

After hearing two rave reviews in less than a week, we had originally planned to try out Tokyo Bay Buffet for our Friday night dinner. However, plans changed and we decided against it. We still needed to eat dinner, though, so I figured I'd try some new recipes, keeping the Japanese theme. In addition to some simple sushi - a summer roll - from the local grocery store (which is actually pretty decent), we tried Teriyaki Salmon and Sunomono.

Teriyaki Salmon for Two
For two small salmon filets, make a marinade of 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sake or sherry, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger. After marinating the fish for just a few minutes, saute the salmon until done, then remove and bring the remaining marinade to a boil to turn it into a glaze. Pretty simple!

Sunomono for Two
Peel, remove the seeds, and thinly slice 1/2 a large cucumber. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and let sit for 5-10 minutes, then squeeze dry. (I rinsed as well first.) Combine 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon soy sauce. Mix with the cucumbers. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds and serve.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Baked Lobster

Technically I guess this is Baked Lobster Tail, but I wanted to remember the procedure I used because it worked. I got the directions from this site.

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut the top of the shell lengthwise, starting from the base and going toward the end of the tail.
  • Crack the bottom of the shell using your hands, but be sure that you don’t smash the shell.
  • Reach inside the newly opened shell and gently remove the meat from the shell, but don’t detach the meat from the base of the tail. After pulling the meat out, lay it on top of the shell.
  • Remove the darkly colored vein from the meat and throw it away. (I didn't bother with this step.)
  • Place the tails on a baking pan with enough water to shallowly fill the bottom of the pan. This water will help steam your tails quickly and thoroughly!
  • Base the tail with clarified butter and top it with seasoning of your choice – we recommend paprika for great flavor and color.
  • Bake your tails for exactly 1 to 1 ½ minutes per ounce. You’ll know that your baked lobster tails are done when the meat is white and firm with no gray coloring or translucency.

I did 3 ounce tails for six minutes, because that's how long the steaks were in the oven and it just made things easy. They tasted just fine, and 3 ounces was actually the perfect size when paired with steak.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Shrimp Tacos - Another Version

We enjoy shrimp tacos, and like our usual recipe, but last week I had the thought to try something different. I read a tip to "dry-brine" shrimp (see below) before cooking to make it taste better. I don't know if it made a huge difference, but it was delicious. Our tacos themselves were pretty simple, just the shrimp, with a bit of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream and salsa.

Serious Eats:
There's one technique that we've found improves all shrimp, regardless of cooking method: a quick brine of salt and baking soda. It may sound minor, but the combination works wonders: the salt helps keep the shrimp nice and moist as they cook, while alkaline baking soda delivers a crisp, firm texture. You're looking for about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every pound of shrimp; give it a quick toss and rest the shrimp in the fridge for anywhere from 15 minutes to about an hour.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Looking for a Chicken Pasta Recipe?

I was, and this is the one I chose to try. Of course I had to adapt it a bit, but the finished result was given the "thumbs up" so we'll have it again sometime.

Chicken and Pasta with Tomato-Butter Sauce
(scaled for 2-3)

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. chicken breast, cut as large or as small as you wish
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
4 oz. dry spaghetti, cooked and drained

Sauté the chicken in the olive oil until golden brown, then remove from pan and set aside. Add the tomatoes to the pan. After a bit add the garlic and seasonings. Just before serving, stir in the butter, add the chicken back and toss with cooked spaghetti. Delicious!

Cheesy Mashed Pumpkin

I still have pumpkin sitting in the freezer from when we cooked up our Halloween jack-o-lanterns, and I've decided there has to be another way to use it that isn't a pie or a quick bread. We made Pumpkin Rolls a week ago, but that only used half the container. Google came to the rescue with Creamy Mashed Pumpkin. Our pumpkin pureé is already pretty liquid-y so I didn't add a lot of cream, but I did stir in a fair amount of cheese. When I asked Wayne what he thought he said, "Yum. Reminds me of grits, just more smooth." So, there you have it. I'm always grateful when an experiment is successful. We'll most definitely have this again!

Cheesy Mashed Pumpkin

1 cup of pumpkin pureé
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
dash of Tabasco sauce

Mix together. Heat through. Serve. It's that simple.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Birch Syrup and Berry Jams

Here's another Alaskan delicacy that we decided to try before our trip, which we purchased online from here.  It's definitely an interesting item. However, we decided we prefer maple syrup on pancakes.

Maybe I should have read this description first!

Birch syrup is a savory mineral tasting syrup made from the sap of birch trees, and produced in much the same way as maple syrup. It is seldom used for pancake or waffle syrup, more often it is used as an ingredient paired with pork or salmon dishes in sauces, glazes, and dressings, and as a flavoring in ice cream, beer, wine, and soft drinks.

After my first taste on pancakes, I decided it would be better in a sauce, but never got around to finding and trying a new recipe. Wayne took one for the team and used it on his pancakes until the bottle was empty!

We also ordered a jar of lingonberry jam and a jar of salmonberry jam at the same time. Isn't it interesting that jams can be so different. Lingonberry jam doesn't really taste good on toast, but it tastes absolutely delicious as part of a sauce for chicken. Salmonberry jam, though, did taste good on toast.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Creamy Peach Blueberry Pie

As I was fixing Turkey Divan (separated) and Pumpkin Rolls for dinner last night, I realized I had a Thanksgiving theme going, so a pie for dessert made sense. However, I wanted a summer pie, not a winter one, but since it was Sunday, I needed to already have all the necessary ingredients. This peach pie was on my pinterest board, but I didn't have fresh peaches. I noticed this blueberry version on the same website and decided I would combine the two. It turned out to be delicious and I'll definitely add this to our pie repertoire!

Creamy Peach Blueberry Pie

1 unbaked 9" pie crust
2 cups canned, sliced peaches, drained
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
dash salt
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
Topping: Combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter

Place peaches and blueberries in pie crust. Combine sugar, flour, salt, eggs and sour cream and pour over fruit. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle topping over pie and return to oven. Bake an additional 35-34 minutes.

It almost looks prettier during the baking process.