Posts Tagged ‘Butter’

In my younger days in high school, I had to literally suffer through chemistry. I had a teacher who resembled a walrus: Bald head and huge mustache. He spoke in a monotone and no, his incisors were not protruding down his face, but thinking about it now, I could draw those in and chuckle!

Walrus – Photo by DK Images

He was as dry in his lectures as an August day in the Mojave Desert. Do I remember anything I learned in his class? No. I passed with a C.

Why am I telling you this? Because if this class had been taught around the chemistry with food, it would have held my interest. All these years later, I have come to realize that there is chemistry in cooking. And, I have discovered that this is now a subject taught in colleges. Maybe it was a student of Food Chemistry that came up with the meat glue!  Anyway, the topic is worthy of a blog. Chemistry is involved in our lives in a number of ways, but the focus here is food. So here are some interesting facts that involve chemistry and food.

Cooking is all about chemical reactions. Chemistry is all about how things react. Therefore cooking is chemistry! Now let’s take a look at some of these reactions.

**If you put chopped red cabbage into a hot pan, the heat breaks down the red anthocyanin pigment in the vegetable, which causes the cabbage to change color to a blue. This reaction causes the the acids in the vegetable to turn to alkaline. To regain the color, if you add vinegar, you increase the acidity, and the color will go back to the red.

**Cooking green vegetables by dropping them into boiling water causes a unique reaction. When the tiny air cells in the vegetable hits the boiling water, they become a brighter green. Quick cooking of green vegetables keeps the green color, and the longer you cook the green vegetable, the cells break down and shrink, causing a release of acid turning your vegetable the color of canned green beans.

Canned green beans – Photo from Food.com

**All the years of fishing on the ocean has taught me one thing regarding food on a boat: Bananas are not allowed! Why? Because the bananas give off ethylene gas which causes food to spoil.  Bananas on a boat with limited space in the galley in the olden days caused a lot of spoilage of foods! Why they do not mind apples is beyond me, because apples do the same thing.  If you need an avocado ripened, put it in a brown paper bag with a banana or an apple and it will be ready to use the following day.

**Have you ever cooked a lasagne, had leftover’s and then covered it with aluminum foil to store overnight in your refrigerator? The next day, have you noticed that the surface of the foil has been eaten away where the foil touched the tomato sauce? This is a chemical reaction from the acids in the tomatoes with aluminum. Acidic vegetables and fruits react negatively with aluminum. And the aluminum can poison you. Acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus, and do not forget pineapple, should be prepared in glass.

**Thawing frozen foods, melting butter, dissolving sugar, salting meat or fish involve chemistry. The components of each of these processes creates a chemical change in the structure of these foods.

Melting butter

**Heat, no matter what method you use, increases the speed of the molecules in the food. The greater the speed, the more the molecules collides. This leads to changes in the molecular structure of the foods, which creates different characteristics, colors, flavors and textures.   Don’t you just love chemistry?

**The Maillard Reaction: This occurs during grilling. An amino acid in the food and a reduction of sugars in the food creates new compounds, resulting in foods that are very tasty.

**Caramelization results from breaking down proteins into simple sugars creating a sweeter flavor.

**If you do not incorporate the dry ingredients equally for a cake, or a bread, you will end up with a cake or a bread that doesn’t rise properly.

**While cooking, you might prefer a wooden spoon to a metal spoon. Why? Because the metal spoon will transmit more heat, known as thermochemistry, than a wooden spoon.

**”A watched pot never boils.” You have heard that statement haven’t you? Leaving the lid off of a pot of water that you want to boil takes longer to boil, ergo the statement, as heat is lost with the lid off…You knew this already, didn’t you? Putting the lid on the pot actually lowers the boiling point. This is known as the Third Law of Gas.

A watched pot – Photo from BarefootKitchenWitch com

**Boiling causes foods to become more tender.

**Adding salt to water that you need to boil  lowers the boiling point.

**If you add too much butter or oil to a dish, you will see it pooling around the surface of what you are making. You have overrun the saturation point of what it is you are trying to create. Just another example of how chemistry works in the kitchen!

**50% of meat products and 95% of vegetable products are water. This makes an excellent growing stage for bacteria. So, a key in preservation of food is to reduce the amount of water in a food. Dehydration removes the water and creates foods that can be reconstituted later.

**Other items of chemistry in food: Carbohydrates; Lipids; Proteins; Enzymes; Vitamins; Minerals…and the list goes on.

So, if you have a child, who is suffering with chemistry, maybe you might want to take some time and take them on a trip around the kitchen!

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On our return from Hawai’i, we were to eat at one of my favorite restaurants. However, our plane was late in taking off, and the airline was a bit disorganized with where our bag could be found. Needless to say, my favorite restaurant was closed by the time we got there. So we ended up eating at a place called “Original Joe’s.” I ordered their Chicken Saute Sec, and it was absolutely yummy! So, I had to try making this myself. Here is what I came up with!

4 chicken breasts
3/4 cup of flour
4 good shakes of garlic powder
2 good shakes of Hungarian paprika
2 good twists on your salt and pepper mills
1/2 cup butter, divided in half
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup white wine (I used the Lava Cap Chardonnay)
1 cup chicken broth
8 oz. thickly sliced mushrooms
2 good shakes of dried parsley flakes

Ingredients are ready

I started by pounding the chicken breasts to about 1/3 of an inch thick. Then I got my pan ready and added 1/2 of the butter. I put the flour, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper into a bag and then shook it to mix. The I added the chicken breasts. Heat up the pan until the butter has melted and make sure that you coat the pan. When the butter bubbles, add the chicken breasts. Cook until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan.

Browned chicken

Add the remaining butter to the pan along with the shallots and the garlic. Cook until just soft. Then deglaze the pan with the wine. Make sure you get up the bits left by the chicken. Let this cook down until it reduces by half. Then add the chicken broth.

Sauce is cooking

Bring this up to a boil, and then place the chicken back into the pan. Top with the mushrooms and parsley.

Add the mushrooms and parsley

Cover and turn the heat down to low. Let this cook for about 30 minutes.

Serve this with rice and a vegetable.

Dinner is served!

And, don’t forget the wine used in this recipe…pour a glass or two!

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I am all for simple in the kitchen on a Friday night! To start off the weekend, and after a tiring work week, what could be better than a meal cooked in one pan on the stove top? Pour yourself a glass of Pinot Noir, take a sip and then let’s get started!

4 pork sirloin steaks
2 russet or Yukon gold potatoes
A generous handful of baby carrots
1 cup fresh mushroom sliced (I forgot to get these and will used canned instead! 😦 )
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 package of frozen artichoke hearts (or canned if you cannot get frozen)
3 TBS butter
Fresh ground salt and pepper

Take the pork steaks and trim some of the fat from the sides of the steaks.

Trimmed pork steaks

Place the pieces of fat in a deep frying pan. Next peel the potatoes and carrots and cut them into chunks.

Cut up carrots and potatoes

These will need to be par-boiled before we use them. So get a pot of water going with these added and par-boil for 7 minutes. Before draining the water off the potatoes and carrots, place the frozen peas in the bottom of the colander. Rinse in cold water when done. While these are par-boiling let’s get the fat going. Turn the heat up on the pan to medium high. We are going to render this fat for use in our dish. Stir the fat so that all sides become a beautiful golden brown.

Browned pork fat

When this is done, remove the pieces from the pan and set aside on paper towel to drain. Then add the pork steaks and brown on both sides.

Start to brown the pork steaks

Then remove the steaks from the pan. Next, add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and peas to the pan and stir to coat the vegetables.

Coat the vegetables in the pork fat

Then move the vegetables to one side of the pan and add in the steaks,

Move the vegetables to the side and add the pork

moving the vegetables around so that the meat ends up on the bottom and are covered by the vegetables. Next, use a couple of really good shakes of dried thyme leaves over all, and then follow this with a couple of grinds of salt and pepper, then dot with the butter.

Top the vege's with salt, pepper, thyme then butter

Cover the dish, turn the heat down to medium low and cook for 30 minutes.

During the cooking process - smells great!

Turn the meat over, and re-cover with the vegetables. Using a baster collect the juices and spread over the top. Cover again and cook for another 25 minutes then serve this up!

Dinner is served!

This is one of those comfort food dinners that is so good on a wet a rainy night like tonight!  Oh, and the rendered pork fat, cut it into small pieces and give this to your dog as treats!  It will add luster to the coat!

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Want something different to do with salmon? Well, the other day while perusing one of my Mother’s old cookbooks, I came across her recipe for salmon croquettes tucked away between the well worn pages. Start this one earlier in the day so that you have time to let this sit and the flavors to permeate through the mixture before making the croquettes.

1 lb. fresh salmon, I am using Coho
4 cups of water
1 cup of Chardonnay
2 TBS Old Bay Seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of Progresso garlic bread crumbs
1/2 onion chopped finely
3 green onions finely chopped
1 tsp dill weed
Dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper
1 1/2 TBS butter and extra virgin olive oil

Place the water, Chardonnay and the Old Bay Seasoning into a skillet. Heat this up to boiling.

Water, wine and Old Bay

While waiting for this to boil, wash off the fish and remove any fish scales that might be apparent. When the mixture boils, turn the heat down to low then add the fish with the pan, skin side down.

Add the salmon

Let the fish cook in the liquid for approximately 10 minutes.  Carefully remove this from the pan and place skin side up on a plate and let this cool. When cooled, slide off the skin and discard. On the salmon, you will notice a brown coloration under the skin.  I took most of that off too!  After this is done, flake the fish in a large mixing bowl. Then add the eggs, bread crumbs, the onion and green onion, dill weed and salt and pepper. Using your hands combine and then cover and let this sit in the refrigerator for an hour or more, so that the flavors meld together. Then using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop into the mixture and form into patties, or the croquettes.

Croquettes are ready to cook

Lay each of these on a plate until ready to cook. While this recipe always served our family of five, if there are only two of you, allow two per person and freeze the rest. Next we will fry these up in butter and olive oil. Use about 1 1/2 TBS of butter and an equal amount of olive oil.

Croquettes starting to cook

Turn them over

When done drain on paper towel

Serve these with jasmine rice and a couple of slices of lemon! Don’t forget your green vegetable!

Dinner is served!


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Temperatures are dropping, clouds are coming in and if we get any precipitation it will snow overnight. With the cold coming, I wanted to make an easy dish in the crockpot. I love the all in one dishes! This takes a bit of prepping, but it is well worth it!  Start this early in the day as cooking time is 9 hours, and prep time is about an hour.

4 cups of low sodium beef broth
1 onion, sliced and separated
8 beef short ribs
1 cup of flour
1 tsp fresh ground salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp rosemary leaves crushed
1 tsp thyme leaves crushed
1 tsp marjoram leaves crushed
1/2 tsp basil leaves crushed
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 – 12 oz. bottle of a stout beer
1 TBS butter
5 cloves of garlic crushed
1 bay leaf

Get your ingredients ready…


Put the beef broth into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce this to approximately a cup and a half.  This concentrates the beef flavor in the broth.

Cooking down the beef broth

While this is cooking down, slice the onion and lay the pieces in the crockpot making a “bed” for the short ribs. Next in a zip lock bag, add the flour along with the salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and basil. Shake the bag to mix up well. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot dredge the short ribs and add to the pan.

Dredged short ribs added to the oil

Sear the meat on all sides.

Sear all sides of the short ribs

About half way through searing the ribs, the beef broth should be done. Turn off the heat and set aside. As the ribs get browned, move off the completed ones to the crockpot until all have been added. Try to get them in bone side down.  This will add the flavor of the bones to the juices that you will use to drizzle over the finished dish!  Next pour the beer over the short ribs. Dot them with the garlic. Add the bay leaf and butter. Then pour in the drippings from the pan. Then take the broth and pour a bit into the pan to knock up the bits that are stuck to the pan. Pour this and the broth into the crockpot.

Everything has been added to the crock pot

Cover the crockpot and turn the heat on low, and set the time for 9 hours. Do not lift the lid once this has started cooking!  I cannot possibly describe for you how wonderful the aromas are in the house!  If you want to impress folks and make them think that you spent all day in the kitchen slaving over the stove, this is the dish for you!

Tonight I will be serving these over jasmine rice, although mashed potatoes or buttered noodles are also good. Don’t forget to steam up a vegetable, and maybe a bit of crusty sour dough bread. Serve this up with a good stout ale, or try it with a Cabernet Franc.

Dinner is served!

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I used to cook salmon using dill and lots of butter. But experimentation created this recipe which uses Vermouth and tarragon. The combination of the salmon with the tarragon and Vermouth is incredible! A squeeze of a home grown lemon is awesome!

1/2 of a Wild or Wild-Caught Salmon, filet, cut into four pieces, skin on one side
Vermouth, I like the Italian Vermouth
3 tsp. of dried tarragon, divided
1/4 pound of butter
1 homegrown lemon, large

Ingredients for the Salmon

Take the half of the salmon and rinse it and dry. Then cut this into quarters, and make sure that the sections are even. Place the fish skin side up in a baking dish. Drizzle the Vermouth over the fish until it is 1/4 of the way up the fish. Take the tarragon and put 1 1/2 tsp. into a mortar and crush the tarragon to aid in releasing the flavors. Sprinkle over the fish and then dot the center of each serving piece with 1 TBS of butter.

The salmon is ready for the oven

Let this sit while you get the rest of your dinner together, but do preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Tonight I am having brussel sprouts with mine, and my husband is eating my least favorite vegetable: Lima Beans. I am also making Jasmine Rice with this dish as it is a lovely compliment of flavors.

The fish will take no more than 20 minutes to cook, so time your side dishes accordingly. One quarter of the way through, baste the fish. Then half way through the cooking time on the fish, remove the pan from the oven, turn the fish, and spoon some of the pan juices over the fish, but add a bit more Vermouth, not much, just a bit.

Turn the fish

Sprinkle with the rest of the crushed tarragon, and top again with 1 TBS of butter on each piece. Don’t worry about the butter and think that this is a fatty dish, at the end you will see that it is not. Put the pan back in the oven and bake about another 10 minutes. Again, baste the fish. By now the aromas in the house will be making the stomachs grumble, and the short wait is worth it!

Dinner is served!

Sit back and enjoy all the wonderful flavors!

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I love acorn squash! And, I have converted non acorn squash eaters into acorn squash lovers with this easy recipe! One acorn squash makes 2 servings. The recipe is for two servings. Cooking time is one hour.

1 acorn squash
brown sugar or real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the acorn squash. Cut it in half.

Cut the acorn squash in half

Scoop out the seeds and rinse them, the dry them on a paper towel.

Squash with the seeds removed

You can plant these in your vegetable garden!

Save the seeds for the garden!

Take a cookie sheet and line it with aluminum foil. Grease the foil with butter. Lay the acorn squash cut side down

Butter your pan and lay the squash face down on the buttered foil

and bake for 30 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, remove the pan from the oven. Turn the acorn squash over so that the bowl in the squash is right side up. To the bowl add 2 TBS. of butter and a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar or maple syrup. If using maple syrup, fill the bowl about 1/2 way with syrup.

Butter and maple syrup added

Place the pan back into the oven and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Acorn squash is ready!

You can serve this with a number of dishes, but I really like this with my rotisserie ham!

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My friend Kat recently had a blog contest for cookies and having wrenched my back I was unable to participate. I had a hankering for one of my favorite cookies since reading all her contest recipes and took an old recipe that was in my Mom’s collection of recipes: Greek Butter Cookies, or Kourabiedes! This is a good Christmas cookie! The cookies were developed around 1200 B.C. when baker’s struggled to find ingredients that they could put together for a sweet confection for the table.

Greek Butter Cookies

1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 pound of powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 TBS coffee flavored brandy (or use plain, but the coffee flavor is a really nice addition!)
2 1/2 cups of flour, sifted
1/8 tsp of baking powder, sifted into the flour
1/2 cup of finely chopped almonds or walnuts – you choose!

Get your oven going by preheating it to 350◦. Combine the flour and baking powder. Put the butter into your mixer bowl and slowly add the powdered sugar. When fluffy, stir in the coffee brandy and the egg yolk. With a fork, start to mix in the flour mixture a bit at a time. About half way through I stop using the fork and switch to my hands. It seems to blend the flour in better at that point. Knead the dough until it is smooth and can be shaped into balls.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease with butter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and roll in a bowl of powdered sugar. The sugar will react with the butter to stick to the cookie. Place them in a single layer on a plate. When you are done, using a sifter, sift some of the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies. Let them fully cool before eating!

Makes about 36 cookies.

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I was so tired yesterday after the day in the kitchen, that this recipe had to wait until this morning! This recipe is a good balance of sweet from the sugars and tart from the apples. The topping is a bit crunchy!

Apple Cobbler

Apple Cobbler

8 large Granny Smith apples
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup of melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel apples. Core and cut into slices. Add the slices to a 9 x 13 baking pan and spread evenly.

Apples in the pan

Mix 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Spread evenly over apples.

Apples covered with sugar/cinnamon mixture

In a mixing bowl add the remaining ingredients except the melted butter. Combine until crumbly.

Crumbly mixture to go over apples

Spread evenly over the apples. Drizzle the melted butter over all.

Butter is poured over...

Place in oven and bake for 50 minutes until golden brown.

Cobbler is ready to eat! Serve with ice cream!

Cool and serve topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

This recipe got rave reviews! Most yummy!

This recipe is courtesy of Land ‘o Lakes Butter.

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Matzo is unleavened bread. It came about during the time of exodus when the Jews were fleeing Egypt. They did not have time to let their bread rise and when it was baked it remained a hard flat bread. Who came up with the idea of soaking the stuff, adding eggs and frying it up, no one knows for sure. Whoever it was, thank you!

I grew up eating this dish, and any reason to eat it was good enough for me! This is really easy to make and is really good for breakfast or on a cool night for dinner. A lot of recipes call for adding herbs, but I like mine plain. My dad loved Matzo Brei served up with grape jelly; my husband likes this with raspberry jelly. This recipe is for two.

6 pieces of Matzo
4 eggs
2 tbs butter
Jelly, or Jam

Take the matzo and break into pieces and put in a large mixing bowl.

Break the matzo in a bowl

In another bowl, break the eggs and whisk.

Beat the eggs

Take the bowl with the matzo and add water to cover.

Matzo soaking in water

Let this sit for about 3-4 minutes. Drain making sure there is minimal water in the bowl.

The water has been removed from the matzo

Add the eggs, and stir well.

Add the eggs to the matzo

In a pan, heat the butter.

Melt the butter

Swirl it around the pan to make sure you have the surface covered. Add the matzo mixture and stir continually until the eggs are cooked through.

Fry up the matzo in butter

Serve with jelly, or salt.

Serve it up with jelly!


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