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Kitchen Shrink

Food Safety: Is the food coloring in Red Velvet Cake safe?

I recently got an e-mail from Alberta saying, “Years ago there was a warning about using too much of a red food dye (#4 if I remember correctly).  I never made red velvet cake for my family because of this warning.  Since red velvet cake has made a comeback, I…

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Cheese: Fresh or processed mozzarella?

I recently got a question from Frank who wanted to make fried mozzarella cubes that are light, smooth, and stretchy “like eating a toasted marshmallow” rather than heavy and chewy. I told him that the secret is in the mozzarella and he may have to try several kinds before he…

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Pumpkins: How do you cook a pumpkin?

Pumpkins can be peeled, cubed, and boiled or steamed, but because they are very hard to cut when they are raw and very easy to handle once they are cooked, my favorite way to cook  pumpkin is to roast the whole thing until it is tender. Just rinse it and…

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Peppercorns: All about peppercorns

When I am freshly grinding pepper during a demo I often get questions about the different types of peppercorns and their origins. Real peppercorns are the berries that grow in grapelike clusters on the Piper nigrum plant, a climbing vine native to India and Indonesia. They are processed differently to…

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Cookware: Caring for Cast Iron

I recently got an e-mail from Terry asking why I often recommend cast iron skillets. She said she finds hers hard to take care of. I am such a fan of cast iron that I devoted a whole page in Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Mealsto it. Here’s an abbreviated version…

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Eggs: What do eggs do in baking?

Karen e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “What do eggs do in baking?” In addition to their nutritional value, eggs can provide structure, leavening, richness, color, and flavor to baked products. The height and texture of baked goods is determined by the balance between eggs and flour which provide strength,…

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Potatoes: What is the best way to store potatoes?

I am often asked, “what is the best way to store potatoes?” “Should I store them at room temperature, refrigerate them, put them in an open bowl, or a tight plastic bag?” Potatoes keep best when placed in a well-ventilated container and stored in a dry location, away from sunlight,…

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Yeast Breads: Why do my cinnamon rolls shrink after baking?

I recently got an e-mail from Carol saying, “I’ve made cinnamon rolls for more years then I can remember,but lately they seem to  shrink after I take them out of the oven. By  shrinking I mean they get wide spaces between the layers. I’m wondering if maybe I’m letting them…

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High altitude baking: What can I do to bake successfully in high altitude?

I recently got an e-mail from Nancy asking, “Why are my cookies always flat?” It turns out that she lives in Calgary and the increased altitude is affecting her baking. Fortunately there is lots of help these days. A recent book by renowned baker, Susan G. Purdy, is devoted to…

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Tomatoes: Can I freeze tomatoes to use in pasta sauces or soups?

I just got an e-mail from Gloria entitled “Tomatoes Everywhere.” She explained that she was overwhelmed by the abundance of tomatoes her garden had produced and wondered if she could freeze some. I have had that problem myself (check out “Too Many Tomatoes”) and have been asked practically the same…

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Pork Ribs: How do you select spareribs?

When you are shopping for ribs, there are a variety of choices in the meat section of your supermarket.  Here are some clues to the differences. Spareribs: The lean, lower portion of the rib bones held together by a piece of cartilage and bone. Usually sold in whole or half…

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Flour: What is the difference between bread and all-purpose flour?

Sharon e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask,” What is the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour?” The difference is the percentage of protein (gluten) to starch in the flour and that is determined by the type of wheat the flour is made from. Bread flour is made from high-gluten…

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Cooking on wood: How do you select wooden planks for cooking?

I recently got an e-mail from Coley asking about cooking salmon on cedar planks and adding, “I’ve researched it enough to know there is more than one type of cedar and that means different flavor to the food. Also, there was enough information available I’m confused. Could you point me…

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Won Ton Skins: What are won ton skins?

Won ton skins, also called won ton wraps or wrappers, are ready-to-use thin squares of a flour-based dough designed to be filled with a meat, seafood, or vegetable filling and shaped into won tons. However, they are so similar to fresh pasta that they can be a great shortcut when…

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Artichokes: How do you cook artichokes?

Fred recently e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask , “How do you cook artichokes?” I have been asked that so frequently that I included my favorite way in Sara Moulton Cooks at Home. I always steam whole artichokes rather than boil them. They lose some flavor and get watery when…

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Herbs: Substituting fresh for dried herbs

Callie e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “I am growing my own herbs this Spring and want to use them in all my recipes! However, most recipes call for dried herbs. Is the measurement of dried herbs the same for fresh herbs or should I uses less since the herb…

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Caramel: Is there an easy, fool-proof way to make caramel?

Norma recently e-mailed the KitchenShrink to ask, “Is there an easy fool-proof way to make caramel?”  I had been asked this question so often over the years that I included my favorite way to make caramel in Sara Moulton Cooks at Home. You can find it on page 54 and…

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Pine Nuts: Do pine nuts really come from pine trees?

Betty recently e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “Do pine nuts really come from pine trees?” Yes, pine nuts (pignoli, piñon) are found inside the scales on pine tree cones. They vary in size and only the seeds of several pine varieties are large enough to process for the market.…

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Safety: Hand Washing Tips

I recently received a post on Facebook saying that I don’t wash my hands enough when handling raw protein foods. I answered that hand washing is a problem when shooting a show because even if the sink is working (not just a set), you run into the problem of touching…

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Search: How can I find the spice tins and other information on this web site?

I have just received several e-mails asking for information on purchasing the Spice Tins that appeared on my show and just wanted to let you know that you can find answers to many of your questions about the show right here 24/7. Information on equipment, all Kitchen Shrink features, recipes…

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Cheese: What are good melting cheeses?

Blondell recently e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “Which cheeses can be melted and poured?” While most people know that processed cheeses melt smoothly and easily into sauces, selecting a natural cheese that behaves as well isn’t always easy. Many hard grating cheeses don’t melt well and those known for…

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Eggs: What is the best way to store eggs?

Egg quality changes gradually during storage with the white getting thinner as they age. Eggs stored at room temperature age four times as fast as eggs stored in the refrigerator. Although most refrigerators come with a special egg tray in the door, that is not the best place to store…

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What is a good way to serve black-eyed peas?

A viewer recently e-mailed me that she wanted to cook black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day but wasn’t sure how to prepare them so that her family would like them. Serving black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity has been a tradition in the South-East since…

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Leavening: What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?

A new baker recently asked me, “What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda! When do you use each of these two ingredients!” Both baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents; they release carbon dioxide to make baked products rise. Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda. It is an…

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