Holidays

Cooking Ham

April 4, 2015

Cooking Ham

Ham is a great choice for spring gatherings. It’s simple, feeds a crowd and provides wonderful leftovers.

Keep Servings In Mind. Allow for 1/2 to 3/4 pound per serving for bone-in ham, and 1/4 to 1/2 pound per serving for boneless ham.

Before Cooking make sure to let ham sit at room temperature for approximately 1 hour.

Scoring The Skin adds to a beautiful presentation. Cut 1/4 inch deep crosswise into 1 to 2 inch squares to create classic diamond shapes.

Glaze The Ham during the final hour of cooking to avoid burning.

Keep The Flavor Going. Buying bone-in ham leaves you with the ham bone, which is great for flavoring soups and beans.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen

Making The Best Candy

December 11, 2014

Making The Best Candy

Candy is not difficult to make. Some candy recipes require little or no cooking at all. Other candy recipes need only careful timing and adequate beating. For some types of candy, however, special care is necessary. Follow these basic instructions and you can become a successful and versatile candy maker. 

Always read a recipe through from beginning to end BEFORE starting to cook. This is important with all recipes, but especially candy recipes. You never will know if you need special equipment or a special ingredient until you read the recipe. 

Always use the best quality, freshest ingredient available.

Measure ingredients accurately, using standard measuring spoons for small amounts, a fluid measuring cup for liquids, and graduated measuring cups for dry ingredients.

Follow recipes carefully. Use only the ingredients specified and add them in the order and by the method given. 

To prevent sugaring, carefully follow directions about stirring and about covering the pan.

Use moderate or low heat, according to instructions in the recipe, so the syrup does not reach the boiling point too quickly. 

Always use a saucepan large enough to allow space for the candy to bubble up when boiling. A 2 quart pan is large enough in most cases, but sometimes a 3 quart or even a 4 quart pan is preferable. A pan in which candy is made should be a heavy gauge metal, which holds heat evenly and will prevent sticking.

Candy making involves a lot of stirring and beating. Although an electric mixer may be used in some stages of preparation, such as beating egg whites for divinity, for most candy mixtures a spoon is best. A long handled wooden spoon is preferable, since it will never get too hot to handle.  God bless wooden spoons!

A candy thermometer that clips onto the side of the pan is almost a necessity for successful candy making, since it is critical that the candy be removed fro the heat at the moment it reaches the proper temperature. It is best to use a clearly marked, easy to read thermometer with a mercury ball that is set low enough to measure the temperature of the boiling syrup, but does not touch the bottom of the pan.

To use a candy thermometer, be sure it is at room temperature before putting it into the hot syrup. Lower the thermometer gradually into the candy mixture AFTER the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has begun to boil.

The cold-water test is an alternative to a candy thermometer. Many cooks still rely upon this test, although it is not as accurate as a candy thermometer (hard ball/soft ball).

 

Temperature Tests For Candy

 

Temperature of Syrup     Test                    Description of Syrup When  Dropped Into Very Cold Water                                                                    

234° to 240 °                 Soft Ball              Forms a soft ball that flattens on removal from water                                                              

244° to 248°                  Firm Ball             Forms a firm ball that does not flatten on removal from water

250° to 266°                  Hard Ball             Forms a hard ball that, on removal from water remains hard enough to hold its shape yet pliable

270° to 290°                 Soft Crack            Separates into threads that are hard, but not brittle, when removed from water

300° to 310°                 Hard Crack           Separates into threads that are hard and very brittle

To water-test, use very cold, but NOT ice, water. Use a clean cup, spoon, and fresh water for each test. Remove the pan from the heat and drop a little of the hot mixture into the water. Use your fingers to gather the drops into a ball and feel its consistency. If the candy is not yet ready, immediately return the pan to the heat. 

Avoid making candy on damp or rainy days. High humidity is the candy maker’s enemy. If for any reason you cannot postpone a candy making session, cook the candy 1 or 2 degrees higher on the thermometer than indicated in the recipe.

Altitude also affects candy making. Temperatures given in recipes are typically for sea level. At high altitudes the candy must be cooked about 2 degrees higher. 

Be patient and always allow sufficient time. Most candy does take time to make, and there is no way to rush the cooking with disaster. 

"Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen

 

Thanksgiving Emergency Strategies

November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Emergency Strategies

Help, help, I have extra guests coming!  My gravy doesn’t look right!  What to do?  These are some holiday entertaining questions that I have been asked over the years. Whether this is the first time you’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner or your 20th time there are always things that seem to come up that feel like emergencies.  From lumpy gravy to unexpected guests the pressure can just be too great at times.  Not to worry, these are some good strategies that have helped me cope and make everything run smoothly. 

Dear Victoria: “My turkey is still a bit frozen and my dinner is in a few hours.  What should I do?”

Put that bird into a large pot and run tepid water over it for at least an hour.  You can butterfly the turkey so that it cooks faster which should take about an hour and a half at 400 degrees.  You can then roast it or grill it.  In the future you may want to consider purchasing a fresh turkey and not a frozen one.

Dear Victoria:” I called everyone to the table and started carving the turkey to find that parts of it are still raw or undercooked. How embarrassing!  What should I do?”

This situation has happened to most of us at one time or another.  Don’t skip a beat and just carry on carving off any parts that are cooked, serve those and put the remaining pieces back in the pan, cover with foil, and cook until done.  Most likely the breast meat will be done.  Your guests can get a bit of turkey along with your delicious sides while waiting for the rest of the turkey to come out of the oven.  In the future you may want to consider carving the turkey first and then cooking it. 

Dear Victoria: “I always seem to overcook the turkey.  I just don’t know how I keep doing this.  Please help!”

For the immediate remedy I suggest you have LOTS of gravy on the table to pour over those dried out pieces of turkey.  In the future make sure to invest in a meat thermometer.  Insert the thermometer into your cooked turkey through the thickest part of the breast until it hits the breastbone.  Remove the turkey from the oven when it reads 160 degrees.  Let your turkey rest for about 30 minutes before carving. 

Dear Victoria: “I have a small kitchen and don’t have much room in my oven to cook everything. How am I going to get everything done?”

Tiny New York Kitchen knows this situation all too well! First of all there are plenty of things that you can get cooked in advance.  Check your menu and see what you can prepare before needing to place your turkey in the oven.  If you have an outdoor grill, then by all means grill your bird.  Hey, you can play it off as the “hip thing to do.”  Let your side dishes cook in the oven while your turkey is grilling out there in the fresh November air!

Dear Victoria: “I made stuffing and it is pretty soggy.  How can I make it un-soggy?”

This is a super easy one.  Scoop it out of the turkey and/or the baking dish and spread it out on a baking sheet.  Place it in the oven and bake it at 350 degrees until it is how you want it.  Scoop it back into the serving dish and serve.  No one will be the wiser. 

Dear Victoria: “Before I call my guests to the table the food starts to get cold.  How can I avoid this?”

Cover serving dishes with lids or foil to keep them warm.  If a dish actually gets really cold, that is supposed to be hot, then just put it back in the oven for a little bit.  Don’t be too concerned, however, as most Thanksgiving dishes are perfectly fine at room temperature. 

Dear Victoria: “My side dishes aren’t browned on top? They just don’t look that appetizing. What should I do?”

If a dish is fully cooked, but doesn’t have that delicious looking brown surface (Potatoes, Vegetables, Stuffing, etc.) then simply put them under a hot broiler at least 4 inches away from the heating element.  You may want to turn them as needed until browned on top.  MAKE SURE that you watch them carefully.  You really don’t want them to go from pasty to burned up!  Always put the food too far from the broiler rather than too close.  If you follow these instructions then you will get a nice browned crust on top of your dishes. 

Dear Victoria: “My gravy looks way too lumpy. I can’t serve lumpy gravy!  How do I fix it?”

Not to worry.  You will just need to put some hard work into it with a good whisk.  Whisk those lumps out.  It may take a bit of time, but it can be done.  If you have really stubborn lumps add just a bit of hot liquid to coax them out while you whisk. If you STILL can’t get them out take a medium weave strainer and set it over a bowl.  Pour the grave in and stir.  Smooth gravy will flow through the strainer and the lumps will stay behind.  For the future make sure you whisk the flour or cornstarch constantly while you are adding the broth or turkey juices to keep lumps from forming. 

Dear Victoria: “Help, my gravy is just way to thick.  It looks like brown jelly. How do I thin it out?”

This one is super easy.  Drizzle in a bit of hot broth or hot water while whisking and then heat up your gravy until it’s piping hot. 

Dear Victoria: “My gravy is too thin.  It looks watery. I’m horrified. Is there a good solution to this hot mess?”

This problem is just a bit trickier.  Brown 1 tablespoon for every cup of gravy by stirring it in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until it turns a nice deep golden brown.  Have your gravy in a wide pan on the stove over a medium high heat.  Whisk the browned flour into your gravy and cook.  Make sure to whisk constantly until your gravy thickens.  This should do the trick. 

Dear Victoria: “The top of my pumpkin pie is all cracked and looks horrible.  What happened?  How can I serve a cracked pumpkin pie?”

Your pumpkin pie was over baked which is why it is cracked on top.  Not a soul needs to know, however, if you dollop on whipped cream and carry it to the table like the prize pie it is!  Sometimes cooking is like acting.  If you flub a line you just carry on like that is how it is supposed to be. 

Dear Victoria: “My sister called and asked if she could bring extra guests. My goodness, what am I going to do?  Dinner is in an hour!”

I’ve certainly encountered this situation plenty throughout my dinner party throwing life.  I’ve always kept an open door policy because I figure that not everyone has a place to go on the holidays, which can be very sad and lonely.  The good news is that most of us make way too much food for Thanksgiving.  Having unexpected guests can impact a meal however.  First of all, forget any leftovers that you were counting on.  Make more mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.  These items take 30 minutes or less to make.  Slice the turkey thin.  Make a quick soup by combining chicken broth, pureed cooked vegetable(s), fresh herbs, salt and pepper. As soon as you get the call immediately put bowls of nuts and snacks out before dinner. 

Dear Victoria: “I have quite a large group coming for dinner and I don’t have enough room at the table.  What do I do?”

You can set up dinner buffet style or you can set up multiple tables as auxiliary eating areas.  Living room coffee tables and game and/or card tables work.  You can let everyone sit where they want or you can seat people by age or alphabetically or however you decide to seat people.  Thanksgiving is about spending time with friends and family.  People will have fun no matter where they are sitting.  Relax and enjoy yourself. 

 

10 Steps For Staying Happy Through The Holiday Season

November 18, 2013

Vintage Christmas Lights

10 Steps For Staying Happy Through The Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is almost here which marks the beginning of the holiday season. With so many holiday pressures often times we forget what truly is important.  We are busy shopping, cooking and wondering how to deal with some unsettled family business.  Over the weekend I came down with a nasty flu, which is in full swing as I write this.  To be sick is no fun to say the least, but I do take it as a sign to slow down and reflect.  Here are some ideas for staying happy through the holiday season.  I hope that you take time to enjoy the holidays. 

Do Something Random For The Fun Of It

What have you always wanted to do, but came up with an excuse not to?  What made you happy as a kid?  Think about things you did, during the holidays, which were fun during the holidays and relieve them as a grown-up.  If you have children then introduce your fond activities to your kids. Go ice-skating, go to a hokey play, watch your favorite movie or read a favorite children’s book. 

Give Back

Doing something for others is a powerful thing.  Volunteer your time or donate money to a favorite cause or something that speaks to your heart is important.  It’s a good thing to do and trust me it will make you feel good. 

Take Care Of Yourself

It’s important to do things for yourself.  Schedule a mani-pedi or a massage.  Take a nap, take a day off and read in bed.  Do whatever it is that you need to do to recharge.

Commune With Nature

So often we forget to go outside and do something for nature.  Pick up garbage, feed the birds, start a compost pile, rake up leaves or whatever needs doing.  You will be doing something good for nature and by being outside you will feel better. 

Get Active

It may be chilly outside, but go out for a walk or run anyway.  We need the vitamin D and to get our blood pumping.  Ride your bike, go skiing or sledding.  If you can’t get outdoors then go to your local gym and take an exercise class.  It’s important to get those endorphins going. 

Try Cooking A New Recipe

Choose a recipe that peaks your interest and try making it.  If it’s a big success then perhaps you can duplicate it for a holiday dinner.  Even if you don’t make it for a holiday dinner you have it in your back pocket of recipes.  If it doesn’t turn out then oh well at least you tried it. 

Favorite Childhood Food

Everyone has a favorite childhood food.  Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska my mother used to make something called Runzas.  Whenever I need a “childhood comfort shot” I will make Runzas (thank goodness my mother left me the recipe).  My husband grew up Italian in Castro Valley.  During the holidays his aunt would bring an Italian rum cake to the family gatherings.  My husband has been searching for this cake for over 40 years, but can’t seem to find it.  I’ve tried several times to duplicate it from his description.  The point here is, think about what your favorite foods were as a child.  Try and duplicate them and share them with the people that you love.  Trust me…food and memory are powerful things. 

Honor Your Ancestors

Holidays can be emotional.  We all have both happy and sad memories of people who have passed away.  One way to honor those who have passed away is to make their favorite foods. Another is to watch an ancestor’s favorite movie.  My father-in-law’s favorite movies was, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” After he passed away we would take the whole family and go to see, “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the local movie theater.  Not one of us walked out of the theater with dry eyes.  It was powerful, healing and an important holiday ritual.  Take some quiet time to reflect and to be grateful for those people who are gone and were important in your life. 

Forgive Friends & Family

Oftentimes living friends and family can be an emotional challenge.  Forgive them.  Lift the weight off of yourself and simply forgive them.  This doesn’t mean that you should get right back into dysfunction (set boundaries and limitations).  Deal with conflicts from your highest level of goodness and love. 

Make Amends & Forgive Yourself

We have all wronged people that we love. Examine your past emotions and motivations in situations that are nagging your heart.  Make amends; tell that person you are sorry. There is no need to go into “yeah but.”  Simply “I am sorry I did fill in the blank.” Forgive yourself as well.  Most of us are hard on ourselves, which creates stress whether we know it, or not.  We all make mistakes.  Forgive yourself.  At the end of the day, at the end of the holidays the happy memories will not come from presents or material things as much as from genuinely connecting and appreciating your family, friends and yourself. 

 

 

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