Category Archives: How-To

Shake shake shake – shake shake shake – shake your garlic

So, I don’t usually link to videos, but a friend showed me this a while ago. Tonight was the first time I actually needed to peel more than one or two cloves of garlic at a time. (I’m hoping to tell you later this weekend Here’s the recipe that I made that required me to peel 4 heads of garlic.)

Take a look at the video. Basically, just shake around your garlic in a bowl until it’s peeled.

It works! Kind of. I decided that the only vessels I had that were the same size were plastic containers, so I tried vigorously shaking my garlic around in a plastic bowl with a lid. This works, but the shaking also releases the oil so the cloves become sticky. I had the most success with the first head I shook, and less with subsequent heads. I bet I would have had better luck if I’d used a bigger container so there would be more movement and more friction.

Even though I still had to peel some cloves by hand, it was much faster than trying to do them all manually.

Has anyone else tried this? Were you successful?

How to Make Vanilla Extract

I make a lot of desserts. In fact, no fewer than 78 of my recipes have been desserts. And that doesn’t necessarily count the 15 posts I’ve tagged “brownies” or the 41 posts I’ve tagged “cookies.”

Thus, I use a lot of vanilla extract. Real vanilla extract is expensive in the grocery store. Sometimes you’re lucky and you find a sale on it; the best sale I’ve ever found has been a dollar for a 1 ounce bottle. If you’re a baker, you buy about 5 bottles to stock up.

I don’t know exactly how I came across the how-to on making vanilla extract. I don’t even remember what gave me the idea, but once I learned that I could make vanilla extract at home, I had to.

I first started making my own vanilla extract two and a half years ago (May 2009, to be exact). I got the tutorial from Vanilla Review, which doesn’t seem to be updated very much anymore. It’s a nice walk-through that I’ve linked to, with lots of great pictures. I ordered my vanilla beans (both then and now) from a store on eBay, but you could get yours from Amazon.com or other places.

Regular vanilla beans that you buy in the grocery store are usually for baking or cooking. For extract, you actually want extract grade beans, which have less water content and aren’t as plump or nice-looking – and they should be cheaper. You could make vanilla with regular vanilla beans, but it would kind of be a waste unless that’s all you could get your hands on.

So, you know what vanilla beans are. What makes them extract? Basically, you steep vanilla beans in alcohol of some kind (usually vodka, sometimes rum or another clear liquor). The extract you buy in the grocery store usually has a little sugar or corn syrup added to it as well, but it’s really not necessary.

Doesn’t that sound simple? Yes, it is actually that easy.

Vanilla extract, after about 3 months. This is minus some extract decanted into 1oz bottles, but plus some extra vodka

Continue reading How to Make Vanilla Extract

How I Like to Make Ribs

In this food blog, I chronicle what I make, how I make it, and if I like it. I like sharing with anyone who reads this blog, but one major reason that I continue writing here is because it’s a great resource for me. If I want to make something, I almost always search for it on my blog. I can usually remember if I made something before, but I can’t always remember specifics.

Right now, I want to be sure to write down how I like to make ribs. I’ve made ribs a few times before, and overall, they’re pretty satisfying, but I’ve got a preferred way to make them.

1. I make them in the oven, from start to finish.
2. I make my own spice rub. BBQ sauce optional but tasty.

I know that die-hard bbq enthusiasts out there will say that ribs shouldn’t be made in the oven. I don’t care. It’s tough to grill when you don’t have a dedicated space for it. Also, there’s simply a lot of not-good barbecue out there at restaurants. How I make ribs is delicious, easy, and not that expensive.

The oven method I use for ribs came from Emeril’s Oven-BBQ Ribs recipe (blogged about here). However, it was a fuss to make his spice rub – first you make one spice blend, then mix part of it with other spices – and I really didn’t like it more than a spice rub I made last year. The original recipe for that rub is on cooking.com [link no longer works]. I haven’t tried other spice rubs, but I’ve been pretty satisfied with this one.

BBQ Ribs Spice Rub

1.5 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons paprika (if you’re oven-roasting your ribs, I bet a little smoked paprika would be nice too)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dry mustard

This rub is a little peppery, which I like. I grind this together, but you don’t need to if your ingredients are already ground. This yields enough rub for about 4 pounds of pork back ribs. Another nice thing about this blend: it’s easy to make a half batch.

Cut ribs into pieces so they fit easily into a baking pan. Rub spice blend on all sides of ribs. Line baking pan with foil long enough that you can wrap the foil around the ribs. Wrap up the ribs and seal the ends of the foil together, folding the foil over as if you were rolling up a paper bag. Bake at 300F for 2.5 – 3 hours.

Next, roll back the foil to expose the ribs. Brush the meaty sides with a little barbecue sauce; or not, if you don’t want to! Barbecue sauce gives the ribs a nice sheen, and will caramelize when you put the ribs back in the oven, but the ribs will still be tasty without sauce. Either way, bake the ribs for another 20 minutes. [I suppose you wouldn’t have to, but I like the texture this exposed baking gives the ribs.]

Oven Barbecued Ribs

One other thing I like about roasting ribs in the oven this way: very little prep. You prepare the spice rub, but you wouldn’t even have to do that if you had a rub on hand. Simply season the meat, wrap in foil, and let the oven do all the work.  And although it cooks for 3 hours, there’s very little hands on time.  That said, clean-up isn’t perfect; last time I made these, liquid seeped underneath the foil and made the foil stick to the pan. However, it’s nothing that a little dish soaking time won’t take care of.

Overall, this is an easy and tasty recipe for lazy, cool weekends. It’s something I’ve made several times, and foresee myself making often again this fall and winter.