cooking

Perfect Brownies from Scratch: They’re So Hard to Make as Good as the Boxed Mixes

Image from Pixabay

Brownies rule! Of course, you shouldn’t eat them all the time. But they’re delicious in moderation—just like everything else is, including healthy foods.

You know how people say everything tastes better homemade? Well, that is true for most things. Except…brownies. I don’t understand why. But brownies from scratch almost never taste like the boxed mix. I wonder why no one has found or created a kopy kat recipe for boxed brownie mixes.

I’ve experimented with so many brownie recipes from scratch. Nothing came close to the boxed mix nor did anything taste nearly as good. That was…until the end of 2017. I found a recipe which I liked. So, I used it to make brownies. They were almost like the boxed mix.

But the baking soda made the tops too crunchy. I don’t mind crunchy-topped brownies but these were too crusty. Luckily, at the New Year’s Eve party I went to, people enjoyed them very much. They said that those brownies were better than any other dessert there.

But to this day, I have still yet to find a brownie recipe exactly as good as the boxed mixes. Maybe I could try a flourless brownie recipe. Flourless chocolate cookie recipes often worked out for me. So, I see no reason why a flourless brownie recipe would not.

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Sneaking in Veggies… Still So Delicious

Image from Pixabay

Who disliked vegetables in their youth? Many of you? I didn’t. But I’ve always had a stronger craving for carbs and sweets. Sometimes, in recent years, I didn’t even eat enough fiber.

But then I discovered that you can sneak in vegetables into your favorite meals, including sweets. Yes, you read that right.

Now I chop vegetables pretty small and put them in pasta dishes, mac and cheese, eggs, and more. I have also tried putting beets in brownies, which can actually work. But that one didn’t turn out good.

Anyway, if you’re going to sneak in vegetables into your food, whether it’s savory or sweet, here are some tips.

1: If you find chunks distracting in some dishes (which I do), you can chop them fine. But not too much—otherwise, they make the texture of your meal grainy. For instance, if you put overly finely-chopped veggies in mac and cheese, your cheese sauce becomes rough instead of smooth. I’ve used a blender, but unless you don’t mind the change of texture to your food, I would not recommend this. Honestly, you are better off chopping them on a cutting board. I know—it’s old-school. Yet, it gives you more satisfying results (this varies).

2: If you are making a dessert, be aware that some veggies work and others don’t. For example, while beets are okay in brownies, I would recommend against putting spinach or broccoli in desserts. They don’t mix well. You can use sweet potatoes or carrots, though.

3: Depending on your tastes, you can microwave, steam, or sauté your vegetables before you add them to your favorite foods. Like them firmer? Skip this step.

So, there you have it. You can still enjoy your favorite carbs and sweets (in moderation, of course) and sneak in veggies, whether it is for you, your kids, or anybody else. They may not notice at times.

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Everything is Better Homemade, Including Cream-Filled Cupcakes

I used to like commercial-made cream-filled cupcakes. Now I don’t because they taste artificial. There are, like, so many chemicals in them. I won’t even eat Twinkies anymore because of that.

Anyway, I have baked homemade cream-filled cupcakes in the past. They didn’t turn out as well as the most recent time. That was when I went to a New Years Eve party this past winter. That is why the cupcakes say 19 or 2019.

The writing there was done with commercial icing. However, the ganache on the tops was cooked from scratch. Some of the cakes were made from scratch too. But the others came from a boxed mix. Why, you may ask? I ran out of the homemade batter. So, I bought a boxed mix.

Regardless of what I said in the title, the boxed mix kind of tasted better. Don’t worry, the filling was also created from scratch. It had marshmallow crème. That was probably a crucial ingredient for the texture.

These cupcakes turned out to be popular at the party. Not like crazy, but people enjoyed them, including myself.

Now how did I fill them? Well, technically, you’re supposed to squeeze them into the bottoms from a pastry bag. But I didn’t have that patience. So, I scooped up the tops, spooned the filling in, removed the bottom halves of the parts I pulled out, and put the tops back on. Then I frosted them with the ganache and wrote on them with the icing.

There you have it. Do you love cream-filled cupcakes? I do!

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Why I Microwave My Potatoes Before Cooking Them

Image from Pixabay

Many of us enjoy potatoes in various forms: roasted, mashed, baked, fried, and so forth. We eat them at home, in restaurants, and more.

However, when you make them at home, do they take longer to cook? Are they not as soft or crunchy as commercial potatoes?

If the answer is yes, I have a trick for you: microwave them before you cook them. Okay, this obviously depends on how you cook them. If you’re baking or boiling them, then microwaving is unnecessary. But if you’re frying or roasting them, it saves you a ton of time and impatience, especially if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

When the potatoes are already soft, they cook faster. You may have crunchier fries, hash browns, or roasted potatoes. If you like scalloped potatoes, they will be softer when you put them in the oven. Say goodbye to undercooked potatoes.

So next time you make French fries for you or anyone else, consider microwaving them as you heat the oil or oven, depending how you prefer to cook them. I hope this trick works for you as it does for me. Also, if you can, try to use not-very-old potatoes. They get crystalized after some time.

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Cookie “Dough” Balls and How I Made Them

Have you ever eaten cookie dough? I used to, even though I wasn’t supposed to. Luckily, I never got sick.

But there is a way to make cookie “dough”. And no, I don’t mean the mysterious stuff ice cream parlors use. I mean crushed cookies and cream cheese. That’s right.

You can use store-bought cookies. Or you can bake your own. I’d recommend the latter more. Why? Because homemade is always better, of course.

You could bake the cookies longer than instructed, although they may burn a bit. Or bake them soft and let them harden, which I wouldn’t suggest unless you don’t like soft cookies. There are people who prefer crunchier cookies. You might be one of them.

What I do is bake them soft. If I find them just okay or get tired of them after a while, they end up hardening. So instead of tossing them, I crush them, mix them with cream cheese, and roll them into little balls. Then I refrigerate them. Sometimes, I dip them in chocolate or colored sugars. And guess what? They taste delicious. They taste like cookie dough, except that they’re not raw.

So if you want to make your own cookie “dough” without getting sick or trying to find the strange ingredients ice cream shops use, just crush your hard cookies and mix in cream cheese. You can use a blender. In fact, that’s probably better because it expedite the process.

Your cream cheese and crushed crumbs should measure about the same volume. After you mix the two, roll them into balls, like the size of a gumball. Then refrigerate them for about a half hour or so. Then take them out and enjoy, or dip them in chocolate, sugars, sprinkles, nuts, or anything you’d like. Believe me, you’ll feel like you’re eating cookie dough.

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Cooking for Those with Dietary Restrictions

Image from pixabay

Do you enjoy cooking? I most definitely do. However, I know a few people with dietary restrictions. One has a peanut allergy. The other has a dairy allergy.

Although I’ve never had to cook for the person with the dairy allergy, the person with the peanut allergy has come to my parties in recent years. So I had to be very, very careful with what food I served and their ingredients. I ended up doing a lot of cooking from scratch as many commercial-made products are not safe for those with peanut allergies.

Sometimes, I’ve contacted companies for a definitive answer on, whether or not, the products were safe for those with peanut allergies. The one with dairy allergies ended up not being able to come to any of my parties. But I did go to one of his. His mom had baked him a special, dairy-free cake from scratch. I ended up not having it since I wasn’t feeling well. I left early.

Although it may seem like a bummer that you can’t serve something you enjoy because a guest has a certain food allergy, you can still figure out other ways and be creative. It worked out very well that I learned to cook from scratch when I was twelve. Otherwise, I would’ve had to travel far for a peanut-free cake (the bakeries near me are not safe for those with peanut allergies) or would’ve had to have my mom bake the cake. That would’ve meant giving up control.

Aside from cake, I’ve also learned to make ice cream from scratch as well as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and much more. I, myself, have a mild tomato allergy. So my mom has come up with alternatives for certain recipes traditionally made with tomatoes. For example, she replaced tomato sauce with canned pumpkin. It still came out delicious.

Whether you have to accommodate for those with dietary restrictions or not, there is always room for creativity, like for health reasons. It can work.

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Mmmm… Mac and Cheese Made of Brown Rice Pasta

Doesn’t that look delicious? If you say so, then you’re with me. In fact, as the title says, that is not regular macaroni in the picture. It’s made out of brown rice. It tastes pretty good, believe it or not.

And best of all, the pasta is only a few ingredients, such as brown rice and water. That is certainly a lot different from traditional boxed pasta brands, need I also say healthier too.

The cheese sauce recipe, however, was pretty typical. Shredded cheddar, milk, butter, flour, and so forth. The mustard powder, however, is the key to making the sauce taste good. I’m not kidding—this all depends on your tastes, of course. At least I prefer cheese sauce with mustard powder. In fact, I am starting to like mustard the condiment. But that’s a different topic.

Where do they sell brown rice pasta, you may ask? Specialty grocery stores, like Whole Foods. I have never seen them in typical supermarkets, such as Stop & Shop. Yup, many specialty stores sell products other mass-market places do not. You could probably also buy it off the Internet too.

Brown rice pasta may cook more quickly as well. I don’t really remember, honestly. Often times, I mix in the brown rice macaroni with the regular kind. In fact, that was what I did most recently.

However, I’m starting to consider cutting down on the white pasta. Pasta has been harder to enjoy since I’ve developed a mild tomato allergy anyway. Bell peppers can be good substitutes for marinara, vodka, or meat sauce. But it’s not the same. So aside from alfredo, pesto, and garlic and oil sauces, cheese sauce is my most preferred option.

In fact, I like my mac and cheese baked more than stove top. I’ve experimented with many different recipes. Few have become irresistible.

One thing I’ve learned to avoid were mac and cheese recipes calling for eggs. It’s only good the first time and then it’s like scrambled eggs. Flour is the winner—at least if you like to bake your mac and cheese. And the post stops here.

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Who Struggles With Yellow Cake From Scratch? Me

Above is my college graduation party cake that I made from scratch. Everything, including the icing you see and the cake and filling you do not see. The cake was half chocolate with chocolate buttercream (the biggest hit) and half yellow with strawberry filling (which, by the way, tastes a lot better than the commercial kind in my opinion).

I could discuss more about the cake’s design and filling. But, as you can see in the title, that is not what this post is about. It is about the struggles I’ve gone through with baking yellow cake from scratch.

Yes, I get it. You can’t see the cake on the inside, because I hadn’t cut it yet. However, I will say that this recipe, is perhaps, the best yellow cake recipe I could find.

It’s a chiffon kind. You use egg whites to make meringue as well as cream of tarter. It tasted delicious. In fact, I was the only one to eat the yellow cake section at my graduation party.

For years, I would make different yellow cake recipes from different sources whether it was the Internet or print books. Not one has tasted as good as this one. For a while, I wouldn’t make yellow cake from scratch. In fact, I’d preferred the boxed mixes a lot more. I’m not kidding. The other recipes tasted bad.

I learned to revisit making vanilla cake from scratch because one of my friends has a peanut allergy. I was surprised to learn how limited people with peanut allergies are when it comes to food, including unexpected places. So I had to be extra-careful with what I served at my parties.

You can search the vanilla chiffon cake recipe on Google. You may love it.

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Healthy and Happy Blueberry Muffins

Image above from Pixabay

Blueberry muffins are delicious. Many of us love them. However, did you know that there is a healthier way to make them?

You read that correctly. I’m not kidding. There is a delicious blueberry muffin recipe made with no flour, but almond meal, and no sugar, but pure maple syrup (not Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup).

I did not make the muffins in the image above. This is a picture from Pixabay as you can see in the caption below. However, it does resemble the almond meal muffins closely enough. Want to find the recipe? Search “Almond meal muffins” in Google.

Not only are those muffins healthier, they are also irresistible. At least as much as the traditional kinds with flour and sugar. If not, more.

What else about these muffins, you might ask? You got to eat or freeze them as quickly as possible. They spoil rapidly. I’m not joking. I actually had to throw some away because they’d gone bad. And that was only after a few days since I’d baked them.

So there you have it. Wish to try baking these, yourselves? Go ahead. Want to substitute eggs? You’re in luck. You can use applesauce in place. Then they are vegan.

Hope you enjoyed discovering that you can make some of your favorite desserts healthier.

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My Life with Making Steak

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Image above from Pixabay

Cooking steak is no piece of cake. I’ve been cooking since I was 12 and it wasn’t until recent years that I made full steaks by myself. Before, I would ask my dad or I would cut them up into strips.

If you like steak, you probably know that steaks are cooked rare, bloody, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, or well-done. I like mine medium-rare.

That can be challenging in order to avoid salmonella-poisoning. One trick I learned is to press lightly on a cooking-steak. If it bounces back immediately, it’s cooked and safe to eat. You don’t necessarily have to stick a knife into the steak and check the inside. You can, though, especially if you’re new to culinary arts. Another thing to know is that steak should sit a few minutes to let the juices out before you serve or eat it.

As soon as I knew how to cook a full steak, my method is patting it dry, seasoning it with salt and pepper, cooking on the stove in butter, and putting it in the preheated oven for as long as necessary. Recently, I’ve learned that meat cooks best if you let it sit to room-temperature. It really does make a difference by becoming more tender and cooked.

I would like to marinade my steaks, too. However, that requires a lot of time. My problem is that I decide to cook things last minute. I want to change that habit, though.