Miranda’s Tips and Tricks

ATTENTION: Informational post, no pictures.

Since I have had several requests for tips and tricks when I am cooking/faking, I figured I’d better start brainstorming. First off, I’m sure these aren’t all of tips and tricks but these are the ones I use pretty frequently. Secondly, they all work! I will never share something that isn’t of use or won’t work when you try it but with that being said; follow the instructions. Many of mine will be up for debate until you try them for yourself. I’ve tried alternatives that I have come across through the internet and through others. If there is a tip you are questioning or one you don’t see on my list, feel free to ask me below in the comments. I’d be happy to test them or may have a direct answer for you!

  1. Hard boiled eggs– Completely cover in cold water. Add 3 tbsp white vinegar and cover. Bring them to a boil on the stove, lower to a simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave covered for another 5 minutes. Place the eggs in an ice bath for 5 more minutes. The skins should remove easily in the ice water and the yolk is perfectly cooked with no gray ring.
  2. Pasta water– Bring water to a roaring boil and place 1-2 tbsp salt in the water. Add the pasta and wait until the water is boiling again. Stir the pasta and turn the heat down at least half way. The water will continue to boil just not as frantic. Cover and with a low boil, the water does not boil over.
  3. Cutting onions-Refrigerate the onion a couple hours prior to cutting and place knife in the freezer 5 minutes before chopping. It may not stop you from completely tearing up but it will minimize the effects.
  4. Thickening soups, stews, etc.– Gravy: 2 tbsp corn starch and 1/3 cup of warm water. Mix until smooth and no lumps. Soups and stews: 2 tbsp flour and 1/3 cup warm water or milk. Mix until smooth and no lumps. Macaroni and cheese: always use flour to conduct the rue. Cornstarch does not act the same and you will have a much thinner consistency.
  5. Fresh herbs-chop small enough to fit in ice cube trays. Fill with olive oil or melted unsalted butter. Freeze and use in different recipes such as oven baked chicken or pot roast.
  6. Tomato based foods– for soup, sauce, or any tomato filled dish; store in plastic containers or zip lock bags. Steel or aluminum will break down after the acid in the tomato is on it for so long. Wooden bowls will begin to absorb the tomato and it makes it almost impossible to remove that tomato stain.
  7. Excess cookies or brownies– freeze in air tight containers or zip lock bags for up to six months.  I freeze all of my Xmas cookies so I can enjoy them months later. (you’re welcome 😊)
  8. Cast iron pots and pans– never, ever, EVER put them in the dishwasher. Always wash by hand with warm soapy water and oil after every use. This will ensure that they remain a true cast iron with no rust. Put a couple drops of oil in the dried pan and rub the pan with a paper towel.
  9. Bacon– Yup! Let’s talk bacon! Bake it, don’t fry it! Why? More crispy, completely flat, little to no mess. Line a baking sheet with non stick foil. Preheat the oven to 375° and bake until crispy (about 20 minutes). You’ll never go back to pan frying ever again.
  10. Prepping fruits and veggies– Why? It makes for a quicker and smoother transition when cooking a meal. How? Chop, dice, peel, etc. to the same size. They cook evenly and look pretty when serves.
  11. Prevent fruit and veggies from turning brown– toss in 1 tsp or lemon/lime juice or vinegar. It won’t flavor anything but it will keep it from turning brown and looking old. Also, sanitize the same way. Add a cup of water with the lemon/lime juice or vinegar. Toss the veggies/fruit in and place on paper towels to air dry.
  12. Melons– how to tell if they’re ripe? Cantaloupe and watermelon should have a yellowish color on the skin. A watermelon will have no smell but a cantaloupe will have a sweeter smell to the skin. Pineapples will not be bright green. They will be starting to turn yellow and if you gently pull on a leave it should easily come loose.
  13. Buttermilk– if you can’t make it to the store, just combine 2 cups whole milk, 2-3 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tsp cooled melted butter. Stir it together and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. It should thicken a bit.
  14. Sinking chocolate chips or berries– toss them in 1 tbsp of flour and add them to the recipe. They won’t sink to the bottom.
  15. Hot peppers– place the peppers in an ice bath for at least 15 minutes prior to cutting. This will help with watering eyes, or in my case, choking from the spicy fumes. Remove all the seeds since they contain additional heat. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and lemon juice. Avoid contact with eyes for at least an hour.
  16. Small lemons and limes– place them in the microwave for 10 seconds and roll with your palm. This with allow you to get as much juice as possible from them.
  17. Garlic– if raw garlic is too strong, roast a couple cloves in the oven. Place the cloves in tin foil with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Form a packet and bake it for 20 minutes and 350°. The garlic will be less intense, a little sweet, and just squeeze out of its skin.
  18. Restaurant style home fries– bake the potatoes for 25 minutes at 350°. Cut them into squares and fry. Season with seasoned salt and they will taste like diner style home fries. You can freeze them after they are cooked for a quick breakfast during the week or for additional filling for burritos.

 

I hope these tips, tricks, and ideas help you in the kitchen as they have myself. Please, leave me comments of you have questions abut any you see here or any for the future. As always, enjoy!

Triple Berry Pie

Homemade pies always seem to take people back to their past or even to childhood memories. My grandmothers both make amazing pies and nothing I could do, would match the taste, warmth from smiles, and love that each bite holds. My favorite pie, growing up was strawberry but as an adult, there are too many to count. I have made this triple berry pie for several years and this has truly become a top favorite just because there are so many textures that take your taste buds in different directions. Please, give it a try and it may give you a glimpse back to your past for a few moments.

 

Triple Berry Pie

Approximately 8 slices

 

Crust (Optional)

  • 2 Cups AP flour
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Crisco (Butter flavored)
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tip Cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Ice cold Water (maybe more or less)

Mix all ingredients together except the water in a large bowl. The dough should turn into pea size shapes. Add the water slowly and then use your hands to combine into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 4 hours. * Feel free to use store bought crust.*

Once the dough is cold, flour a flat surface and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough. Depending on the pie plate size, the dough should be rolled into a round shape approximately 10″ in diameter.  Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and roll back off onto the pie plate. The dough should hang over all the side. Pinch the sides or use a fork to crimp the crust.  Prick the insides about a dozen times all over to let steam escape when baking.

 

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups of each berry- blueberries, strawberries (sliced), cherries (pitted and sliced)
  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup White sugar
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla
  • 2 tbsp Spiced Rum
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/3 cup corn starch or tapioca (according to directions on back)

Mix all the ingredients together and let sit for 45 minutes to an hour. If the mixture is very soupy, add more corn starch to thicken it before pouring into the pie crust. After the filling has set and is fully combined, add to the pie dough in the pie plate.

 

Brown Sugar Topping

  • 1/2 stick Butter (cold and cubed)
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp AP flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Oats
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Pour into the pie crust with the berry filling and press down slightly. Make sure the topping goes to all the edges. Preheat the oven to 325° and bake for 60-65 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for one hour. Place in the refrigerator for another hour or so. This should make the pie easier to cut and solidify. Cut and serve.

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*Heat in the microwave for 15 seconds to warm before adding ice cream or whipped cream. As always, enjoy!

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Cozy Rice Pudding

This rice pudding is so easy to make and an awesome dessert to entertain with. People will think you spent hours making it when it really took minutes. When I was a kid, this was my favorite dessert because it was like no other.  Give this recipe a try on a week night or a cool, dreary evening. You’re family will be begging you for more!

Cozy Rice Pudding

4-6 Servings

  • 1 cup Instant Rice (uncooked)
  • 4 cups Whole milk
  • 1 box Vanilla cook and serve Jello (small box)
  • 1/3 cup Raisins
  • 4 tbsp Spiced rum
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla

 

First, soak the raisins in the rum for 1 hour or until the raisins have absorbed the rum. Next, In a medium kettle on medium to high heat, add the milk, Jello, vanilla, and rice. Stir until the pudding starts to thicken. Add the egg, remaining spices, and the rum soaked raisins. Stir the pudding together and remove from heat to cool. Serve warm with additional cinnamon. Enjoy!

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Add orange zest for additional fresh favor

 

 

Crabby Ragoons

I am so excited to share this recipe because these ragoons are delicious, super easy to make, quick to put together, and are so versatile! Also, unlike traditional regions, these are baked with eliminates a majority of fat from not having to fry them. They are a great side dish to your favorite Asian style meal or serve them at your next party or gathering. From start to finish, it takes about 45 minutes to make these yummy delights and about 5 minutes to devour. Follow the recipe below or change the ingredients your liking. Either way, they are awesome!

Crabby Ragoons

Makes approximately 24

  • 24 Won Ton sheets (usually comes in a large package of 75)
  • 1 pkg Neufchatel cheese or low fat creak cheese  (room temperature)
  • 1 cup Chopped imitation crabmeat (use real crab if available)
  • 2 Green onion (chopped)
  • 1 Garlic cloves (grated)
  • 1 tsp Fresh parsley (chopped)
  • S & P to taste
  • Dash of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup Water (on the side in a bowl)
  • Cooking spray (coconut oil preferred)
  • Sweet and Sour sauce

 

Preheat the oven to 350°, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spray them lightly with the cooking spray and set aside.

Next, mix together the cream cheese, green onion, garlic, parsley, s & p, sugar, and crabmeat in a bowl until completely combined. Place all 24 won ton sheets out on a flat surface and with a teaspoon, scoop the filling onto the middle on the won ton sheet. Then, dip your index finger into the water and spread it along the outside portion of the won ton. The water will allow the won ton to stick together during the next step Do about three or four at a time and then take the opposite side of the won ton, pinch them together and pull towards the middle. Repeat with the other side. This will form your ragoon.

 

When all of the ragoons are filled and formed, place them on a baking sheet and quickly spray them with the cooking spray. This will help them to become nice and crunchy. Place the baking sheets into the oven and bake from 15-20 minutes or until the ragoons are crispy and slightly brown. If the filling starts to come out, you know you have over filled them but they will still be just as delicious.

 

Finally, once the ragoons have cooled, place them on a serving plate with a side of sweet and sour sauce. As always, enjoy!

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Try the ragoons with jalapeños for a Mexican flare or with Nutella and powdered sugar for a sweet dessert

Simple Cream Puffs

What can I say? These little desserts are light, airy, simple, creamy, and delicious. They are perfect for a party or a sweet date night in. Share them or don’t! Cream puffs look so hard to make but truly they are so simple! Although, I love the traditional ones, (that are pictures above) my husband, would prefer chocolate on the inside. You can add orange cream to the center and dip them in ganache or make cannoli filling for an Italian night. Any way you decide to make cream puffs, they are so good and the recipe below will show you how simple they are to make! Even for those not too good at baking. Give them a try!

Simple Cream Puffs

Makes approximately 20

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Dough

  • 4 Eggs plus 1 egg mixed for glazing tops
  • 1 Stick unsalted butter
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 cup AP flour

Filling

  • 1 Large box of cook and serve pudding (vanilla)
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 pint Whipping cream
  • 1 tsp Confectionary sugar
  • 3 tbsp Confectionary Sugar (decoration)

 

First, in a medium size kettle, pour in the milk, the contents of the pudding packet, and the vanilla. Stir and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once the pudding has thickened, remove from heat and let cool. Transfer the warm pudding into a container with a lid, and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Next, in a large mixing bowl, add the whipping cream and 1 tsp of confectionary sugar and whip on the highest speed. You should only have to whip the cream for about a minute or until a light fluff has formed. If you over mix the whipped cream, it will look like butter.  Place the whipped cream into the refrigerator until the pudding is cooled.

Once the pudding is cooled, gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding. This is your filling aka pastry cream. It should be light and fluffy. Put the pastry cream into a zip lock bag and cut a tip off to insert into the bottom of the puff.

For the puff, in a medium pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add in the water, sugar, salt, extracts, spices, and flour. This should make the dough into a tight ball. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand for 3-4 minutes. Then add the 4 eggs, one by one and stir quickly. This will loosen the dough slightly. (The dough will look like blobs until it is completely mixed) Scoop the dough into a separate zip lock back and cut a tip off to pipe the puffs onto a baking sheet.

 

The puffs should be about 1 inch by 1 inch and need to be on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Mix up the additional egg and brush on the top of each puff. This will give them a glazed look. Bake the puffs for 28 minutes at 375°.  Let them cool for 10 minutes before filling.

 

Now that the puffs and filling are made, poke a small hole with a butter knife on the bottom of each puff. Take the zip lock, with the filling inside, and slightly press to fill the puff. Once it is filled, you should feel slight pressure to pull it out. Place on a flat surface and sprinkle confectionary sugar on top. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. As always, enjoy!

 

Feel free to use instant pudding, if you choose. The cream puffs won’t have the same taste but they will still good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Not only is cooking food a passion of mine, but cookies are as well. They are atop all the rest of my food and desserts. The reason? They always, ALWAYS make you smile! It takes some people back to their youth, makes you think of a distant memory, and/or may create a new one. I have always believed, learning to cook and bake is mandatory because you eat to live. But, why not enjoy what you put in your body? For all those that may not agree with that, that is totally fine. It’s mine and I’m here to share this heart warming cookie recipe that is quick, easy, and so worth it!

 

Miranda’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Make approximately 24

  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Rolled Oats (Old fashion not instant)
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 cup White sugar
  • 1 cup Brown sugar
  • Dash of Salt
  • 3 Eggs (beaten)
  • 2 sticks Soften unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Raisins

 

** 1 hour prior to baking, take the vanilla, 3 eggs, and raisins and place them together in a bowl. Put in the refrigerator to keep cool. This infuses the raisins with amazing flavor and keeps the cookie moist**

Preheat the oven to 325° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner.  In a mixer, with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugars. Mix until this has become creamy (about 1 min) Add uin the remaining ingredients except the oats. Mix to combine all the ingredients. Finally, add the oats and let the mixer run for about 15 seconds on low. If you do this step too quickly, the oats will become ground up.

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Next, with a tablespoon, scoop up the dough and form into a lightly pressed ball. Place on the baking sheet. Make sure the dough balls aren’t too close together because these cookies will spread out. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and cool. Enjoy with milk or a hot cup of coffee.