I thought I’d pass along some of favorite cooking woes and tips as we enter the months of November and December. There are some things in the kitchen/culinary world that just blow my mind, ok, here goes:
- People who think a high end kitchen in a $400,000 dollar home makes the ‘cook’. The best cooks are usually little old ladies cooking on a stove worth about $250! I filtered through a local kitchen magazine a few weeks back and every kitchen featured was in a home over $500,000. Insinuating that you have to have an expensive home to be a good cook.
- Realizing that you don’t have to have gadgets galore and a ‘kitchenaid’ to cook adequately for your family. My mom still doesn’t have a kitchenaid and she’s a wonderful cook. (FYI, I have a passionate relationship with mine!)
- Understanding that the overuse of some kitchen appliances can render poor outcomes. Use all things in moderation.
- Learn as much from your mother and grandmother NOW, time is of the essence!
- A good cook should be ‘well rounded’, this statement goes both ways. It should really imply that a good cook has food knowledge in many subject areas. If you’re only good at appetizers and salads and not well versed in grilling, bread making, desserts etc. there’s more work to do!
- Never, under any situations do you not have enough food to go around. This should have been my #1 ‘woe’.
- Have a good understanding of special dietary needs. If you’re cooking for
large groups of people consider how you will meet the needs of a diverticulitis patient, diabetic or someone with celiac disease. Consider calling guests in advance.
- Allow guests to have ‘ownership’ in a meal. This means you allow them to bring a dish or even the wine. Secondly it means there are dishes being served they are familiar with. I’ll expand on this in #9.
- Don’t get all ‘foo phooey’ with every dish. There needs to be dishes present that you haven’t twisted too much. One day I was told by a guest how their new daughter in law totally destroyed their Thanksgiving last year. Instead of bringing in 1-2 new things she ‘messed’ with every Thanksgiving tradition, even the mashed potatoes. (That’s just a sin right there!)
- Lastly make your guests feel comfortable. If you’re running behind let them jump in and help you. If you’re serving burgers make sure you have all the condiments. I usually say something like this: ‘If there’s something else you would like with your eggs just say the word because I’ve probably got it.’ Be ready with the ketchup, and try not to be offended.
As the holidays approach keep the kids in mind. Usually macaroni & cheese with chicken nuggets or all-beef hot dogs are perfect. Kids enjoy a beautiful table just as much as an adult. When our son, Phillip, was about three he looked at the table set for Thanksgiving and said: ‘When can we set at the pretty table mommy?’ Real napkins everyone, not paper!
Teach the kids NOW how to use the silverware at the table. Remind them just to follow you and to work their way in starting with the outside of the line-up first.
Remind the kiddos to ask to be excused & show them how to thank the host/hostess in an appropriate way. At family Christmas I usually take a hostess gift to the family who is hosting. This can be anything, let’s see some of my favorites are: good wine, canned specialty foods, homemade bread, a good magazine and truffles!
Party follow-up, yes my friends; party follow up is imperative!!! This shows you have some ‘class’ and you truly appreciated all the work that went into the event.
Send a simple notecard in the mail to reiterate how much you enjoyed yourself.
This makes the host want to ask you back over and over again.
Don’t overindulge on the alcohol. If you think you’re going to enjoy lots of libation then pack an overnight back and just spend the night. (Even if it is on the floor, ha!)
Pfew…..that was exhausting. Some of you may want to share this column with some of your family/guests who need a little help in the etiquette area.
I hope you enjoy the orange cinnamon rolls I’m sharing with you today. I really like the use of a large zester/microplaner in the rolls because it makes the orange zest pop. You can freeze the rolls after cutting them. Usually I freeze them on a cookie sheet and then the next day I put them in a Ziploc bag. The night before you simply set the frozen rolls in a greased bake pan, cover with a lint free towel and go to bed. They’ll be ready to bake in the morning.
Have an outstanding week. I’m working around the house cleaning closets, garages and pantry’s so I’m ready for the hectic holiday schedules. Enjoy each day! Simply yours, The Covered Dish. www.thecovereddish.com
Orange Cinnamon Rolls
1 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 – 8 cups bread flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
2 packages of active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup warm (105-115 degrees) orange juice
1 1/2 cups warm skim milk (105-115 degrees)
1 average size orange, zested
Additional flour for rolling out the dough
1/2 – 3/4 cup softened butter
1-2 cups Light brown sugar, may use granulated sugar instead
3-4 tablespoons cinnamon
8 ounces cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
Place the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. (Usually I suggest only about 7 cups of flour to start.) Using the regular beater head cut the 1/2 cup of cold butter into the dry ingredients. Stir the dry yeast into the cup of warm orange juice, allowing the yeast time to dissolve. While the yeast is sitting warm the milk. Switch the beater head to the dough hook. Place the yeast mixture, milk and eggs into the dry along with the orange zest. Continue with the dough hook allowing it to work the dough to completion. If the dough is too sticky add the remaining flour about an eighth of a cup at a time.
This dough is very delicate and leans toward the sticky side so be careful not to add too much additional flour.
Place the dough in a well- greased metal or glass bowl. Spray the top of the dough as well. Cover the bowl with a lint free tea towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Prepare (2) 9 x 13 baking pans to receive the cinnamon rolls. Grease the pans on the bottom and sides.
Once the dough has risen punch the dough down and prepare to roll the dough into two equal portions. Each half should yield approximately 12-13 cinnamon rolls. Place parchment paper on the counter and liberally shake down flour. Work each half of the dough into a log; using a rolling pin roll out to about an 18 x 9 inch rectangle.
Spread the softened butter over the dough coming within about 1/2 inch of the edges. Next sprinkle down the brown sugar and cinnamon. (These measurements can vary depending upon the cook.) Begin rolling the dough jelly-roll style. At the end be sure and pinch the seams together to seal. Cut the dough with a serrated knife, dental floss or thread. Each slice will be about 1 1/2 inches wide. Spray the rolls with vegetable spray, cover allowing the rolls to rise a 2nd time until doubled in size. This will take about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and while warm drizzle the icing/glaze over the rolls, spreading as you pour.
Yield 2 dozen + cinnamon rolls
Options: Some recipes call for using orange marmalade in the cinnamon roll center. Raisins or chopped nuts are also options. Additional zest could go in the glaze if the cook desired.