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Beef, Shiitake, and Snow Pea Stir-Fry

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When I was a kid and we went out to eat, my sister always chose Chinese when it was her turn to pick. She has tried everything on the menu at every restaurant and buffet, and she also always kept her fortune cookie paper slips. She just loved everything about the experience.

I’m pretty sure she was meant to be born in China. She was fluent in the language after a few months of teaching herself Chinese, and was then able to communicate with the waitresses. So it was no surprise when she abandoned the idea of going out to eat at Chinese eateries, and started making it all from scratch when it was her night to pick.She would even set the table with chopsticks, herbal teas, and tea lights to make it look fancy.

My sister really got a kick out of cooking her own Chinese food. I don’t really know how to describe it, but when she was cooking, she was in the zone. She could have been having a bad day, but cooking dinner completely changed her attitude for the rest of the night.  

One day my sister called me crying and asking to come over. I didn’t know what was wrong yet, but I knew she wouldn’t want to discuss whatever it was over the phone, and told her to go ahead and start driving over. I knew a favorite meal and binge watching her favorite show on Netflix would take her mind off of it so I got started as soon as I got off of the phone.

I ran to the grocery store down the road to get everything I needed to surprise her with a beef shiitake and snow pea stir-fry. I knew exactly what I needed so I grabbed the organic snow peas, some nice steaks, and shiitake mushrooms. When I got to checkout, I went on my phone to re-read the recipe so that when I got home I could just execute it without having to double check the recipe so often.

At home, the steak got cut into even sized strips for even cooking, and as the oil started heating, I sliced the mushrooms, adding them to the pan as I went. By the time my sister had arrived, I had finished adding the rest of the ingredients to the pan at proper intervals and was ready to serve. I scooped some into our bowls and then sat at the couch to eat and listen to her vent.

Oh my word! It was as good when I made it as when my sister used to make it! The beef was perfectly juicy, and had a wonderful flavor to it. The mushrooms were tender, and had absorbed some of the spicy/sweet sauce, while the snow peas were crisp-tender, and contributed a sweetness to the dish.

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9 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Cooking Fried Chicken

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When you hear the words “fried chicken”, what image comes to mind? For me, it’s the vision of summer picnics complete with a basket and red and white checkered blanket. The fried chicken was always the star of my mother’s beautifully packed picnic baskets, with a supporting cast of potato salad, fruit, and of course pie for dessert.

Maybe you don’t have idyllic memories involving fried chicken, but everybody can enjoy the inimitable flavor of a perfectly fried batch, with a crispy, flavor-filled exterior giving way to tender, moist and juicy meat.

Fried chicken isn’t always such a fine specimen, though. Many things can go wrong during the cooking process, resulting in chicken that is unevenly cooked, lacking flavor, or that comes out soggy and leaden, lacking the signature crispy exterior. Luckily, it’s easy to overcome these possible pitfalls once you’ve learned some key steps in preparing fried chicken.

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8 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pork chops

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Pork chops are one of my favorite foods. To illustrate my devotion, I actually even named my little pug “Pork Chop”–such is my enduring love of the classic meat cut.

The fact is this: when pork chops are made well, they are a thing of culinary beauty: unctuous, flavorful, moist, and filling. However, pork chops are not always executed with such panache. There are plenty of poorly prepared specimens out there, which come out stringy and dry, unevenly cooked, or bland and flavorless.

Making perfect pork chops doesn’t require a diploma from culinary school, but it does require some key steps in preparation. Luckily, it’s not difficult to master the right methods.

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Banana Pancakes with Pineapple and Whipped Coconut Cream

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When my baby brother was turning eleven, he planned out every detail of his birthday. He started organizing and thinking about how exactly he wanted everything to go down about a month before his actual birthday.

He gave me a few pieces of paper stapled together, and said he had a “few” ideas. He’d decided on a specific guest list, the look of the invitations, who would sit where, the decorations were sketched out on one of the pieces of paper, a strict schedule of activities, and a menu with a side note saying, “Please don’t burn anything this time!” As you could imagine, that last part did wonders for my self esteem.

Don’t worry! I didn’t burn anything. I simply managed to forget to go grocery shopping the night before. So when I woke up in the morning and there were no chocolate chips, or blueberries for his pancake breakfast, I flipped out. I rummaged through the cabinets and fridge pulling out everything that might go good in a pancake so I could come up with some sort of game plan.

I collected the ingredients on the kitchen table, and started to run through ideas in my head. I had strawberries, bananas, a pineapple, a can of coconut cream, and cinnamon that figured I could do a cinnamon bun version of a pancake with.

Strawberry pancakes were a no go, because I figured the strawberries would get watery and mushy by the end of the pancake cooking time. Cinnamon was also out because there wasn’t enough for the amount of pancakes I needed. So I decided on a piña colada inspired pancake. I made a pineapple marmalade and a batch of whipped coconut cream. While the first pancake was cooking on the first side I figured why not throw some of these bananas in? I sliced one of them up and in it went!

My brother ran down the stairs once he smelled the pancakes cooking, but when he saw what was on the table, he looked at me like I had totally messed something up. Frustrated, he cut into it with his fork and took a bite. He chewed it slowly, critiquing it so he could complain, but instead grinned and forked more onto his plate!

Once I knew that they were that good I sat down myself and started eating. I couldn’t believe how well the bananas turned out!  They were soft and pudding like which made the texture of the pancake creamier, and sweeter. When I got a bite with the pineapple marmalade and whipped coconut cream, the bright flavors hit me in different waves, and I was transported back to my vacation in Hawaii.

If you prepare the marmalade, and put the can of coconut milk in the fridge the night before, then you can pull this breakfast together in 30 minute or less.

When picking your ingredients, it’s best to grab the more yellow pineapples for sweeter softer fruit, and as always, organic is the way to go. As for the coconut milk, I have found that Whole Foods brand works the best for making whipped coconut cream.

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How To Make Tender Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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When I think of a good meatball, I think of the platterful that I devoured at my graduation party in a nice little Italian restaurant in my hometown. They were perfect! They were juicy, tender, and had an amazing meaty flavor.

Ever since that party, it has taken a lot more that a bag of frozen meatballs to satisfy this foodie! I went on a quest to find the perfect recipe. Of the million recipes I tried, none of them quite met my standards. They were either too dry, not flavorful enough, or too flavorful in the WRONG direction!

Eventually, I had a breakthrough! The flavor was spot on after a making small adjustments a couple of times until it was spot on. Everything was there. The flavor, the juiciness, and most importantly, the tenderness. So, what makes a meatball tender? It’s all about the ingredients, and how they work together.

The meat used obviously plays a large role in the meatballs, so it’s important to get the mixture right. By mixing pork and beef, you get the best of both meats for texture and flavor. The beef has great flavor, but can be a little chewy, while the pork (especially from the shoulder) has a nice tender texture.

If you wanted to be fancy, you could use lamb too. That would add depth of both flavor and texture.

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8 Mistakes to Avoid for Roasting and Carving a Chicken

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I have fond memories of Sunday suppers featuring roasted chicken. My mother would slow cook the bird, and over the course of the afternoon, it would gradually infuse the entire house with a homey, comforting aroma.

Once it was finally ready, my dad would use what seemed to a child’s eyes a dramatically huge knife to carve it at the table, serving us each a generous slice. The process of roasting, carving, and eating was an all-day event that brought together the family in a most joyful way.

Unfortunately, roasting and carving a chicken is often far less idyllic a scene. Poorly roasted chicken can result in a lackluster meal: nobody likes a chicken that is over or undercooked, bland and flavorless. But how to avoid kitchen calamity with roasted chicken? Luckily, it’s easier than you might think.

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8 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pesto

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To call pesto a topping or sauce feels like an understatement. In my opinion, when pesto is in a dish, it makes the dish. Made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese, it has a rich, assertive flavor that commands attention: when paired with pasta, it’s the pesto that keeps you coming back.

When it’s made well, pesto is a flavor wonder: rich, assertive, vibrant, and making everything around it taste better.

Sadly, perfect pesto isn’t always the case. There are several things that can go wrong: it can be made overpoweringly garlicky, distractingly oily, or it can be browned and soggy about the edges. None of these versions will make for a delicious meal.

Luckily, most of the common causes for mistakes in pesto are also easily remedied.

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7 Common Mistakes When Caramelizing Onions

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When I was younger, I actually thought that caramelized onions were a sort of allium-infused dessert. Needless to say, I wanted nothing to do with this bizarre-sounding foodstuff.

Luckily, it didn’t take too long for someone to set me straight by serving me a most delicious French onion soup, which is perhaps one of the most famous caramelized onion dishes. I could taste how the slow cooking had brought out a subtle sweetness and a soft texture in the onions, which made them perfect for absorbing the beefy broth. While caramelizing makes the onions sweeter, they’re still far from dessert.

When made well, caramelized onions add an inimitable flavor to any dish they touch, from omelettes to burgers to soup and beyond. When made poorly, they can be abrasive and too-pungent. Here, we’ll discuss what makes great caramelized onions–and how to attain the perfect batch at home.

What does it mean to “caramelize onions”? While most people think of onions first and foremost as being pungent, they’re actually fairly naturally sweet. There are many types of onions; all of them are appropriate for caramelizing.

Typically, to make caramelized onions, you cook the onions slowly, over low or medium-low heat, with some sort of fat: butter, oil, or a combination. During the cooking process, the natural sugars in the onions (there is not actually any added sugar) caramelize, releasing an intense flavor and rendering the onions to a soft consistency with a shimmering, translucent finish and a deep brown hue.

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Cooking Eggs: 6 Methods for 6 Meals of the Day

Eggs are a staple breakfast and brunch food, but have you thought about serving eggs for any other meal? Eggs make a great afternoon snack, lunch, dinner, or even dessert. From deviled eggs to meringue, read on for 6 different methods for serving 6 different meals of the day.

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The Best Baked Ziti

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Back in my college days there were two ways for my friends and I to spend what little grocery money we had. The first option was to live off of ramen noodles, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After a while, this diet gets extremely boring and you crave more sophisticated food like you never knew you could.

The second option was to spend my Sunday cooking food from scratch, store it in the fridge, and reheat it through the week. Now I don’t know about you but I always found the latter more appealing than the former.

One of my favorite meals to make ahead was baked ziti. It was warming, filling, and satisfied my craving for my grandmama’s Italian cooking. Studying out of state, a taste of home was exactly what I needed during an all night study session.

The tomato sauce and the white sauce are both very easy to prepare, and the noodles take hardly any effort at all, so overall I would rate this a super easy dish, which is probably why I made it so often.

Another reason would probably be the tender, yet chewy pasta, the creamy, savory white sauce, and the summer like tomato flavor in the tomato sauce.

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