Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An Organized Kitchen: A Peek Inside the Fridge, Part 2

As promised in my previous kitchen organization post, today I'd like to show you how I keep my refrigerator door organized. My fridge door has four deep, yet somewhat narrow shelves, where I can fit very tall objects, but nothing much wider than a mayonnaise jar. There is also a covered butter compartment, which is just out of sight at the very top of the door. I regularly keep a box of unsalted butter, a package of cream cheese, an airtight butter dish (for storing cut sticks of butter), and sometimes a stick of garlic butter in that compartment.

Underneath the butter compartment is my salad dressing and mayonnaise shelf. What you see tucked behind the salad dressing bottles is a package of flour tortillas. They were always getting bent or squished in the main part of the fridge, so I started storing any flatbread items in the backs of each of my fridge door shelves, held upright by the bottles. This really helps keep them flat and also makes them easy to spot, instead of getting buried underneath a container of leftovers or something.

The next shelf is where I store all of my bottled sauces: barbeque sauce, salsa, marinades, Asian sauces like Hoisin  sauce, Thai Fish sauce, etc.

The third shelf houses all of my ketchup and mustard. Yes, I have SIX different bottles of mustard in my door right now. What can I say - I really love mustard! I usually make sure to have at least a bottle of Dijon, Brown, and Honey Mustard on hand at all times. I also currently have some Country Style, a Honey Dijon blend, and some Dipping Mustard.

And finally, the bottom shelf is for keeping dessert sauces, like chocolate syrup and caramel, as well as a bottle each of Limoncello and white wine.

The labels on each shelf make it really easy for everyone to remember where to put back any of the various condiments, so the fridge door really does tend to stay organized.

If you missed the first part of this kitchen organization series, click below to read more:

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Organized Kitchen: A Peek Inside the Fridge, part 1

I have a very tiny fridge. Not quite college dorm sized, but still much more narrow and crammed than I would like. I have four tiny shelves in the upper portion of my fridge, with only two small bins (no slim meat & cheese drawer like I am used to having). I have to get really creative and purge my food supplies fairly regularly in order to keep everything clean, tidy, and orderly in there.

My top shelf is designated for all of my big beverages - my jugs of milk, juice, soda cans, coffee creamer, etc. During the school year, it is also where my daughter stashes her lunch bag.

Since I had a lot of short, tiny, odd shaped jars and bottles of jams and other miscellaneous condiments that always seemed to get lost behind all of the other food, I decided to add a two-tiered lazy Susan to the second shelf. This makes it so much easier to find exactly which jelly I want when I am half asleep in the morning. The narrow strip of the shelf not taken up by the lazy Susan is where I store a row of pickles and relishes.

The third shelf is for all of my dairy containers - tubs of butter, sour cream, dips, yogurt, etc. On the fourth shelf, I keep my eggs, Canadian bacon, and any containers of leftovers. I also let my meat thaw in a sealed plastic container on this shelf.


I placed a dollar store plastic drawer off to one side of the dairy shelf to corral all of my packages of cheese and deli meats.


I eat loads of fruits and veggies, so in order to keep things tidy and visible, I try to prep some of my veggies when I get home. It is hard to tell in the photo, but I have several items prepped and cleaned and stored in small clear containers and bags. I keep veggies in the top bin, fruit in the bottom bin.

Next time I will show you the contents of my fridge door....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Old Fashioned Nilla Wafers Banana Pudding

Being from the Northeastern US, there are so many classic recipes that I only discovered once I moved away from home. Banana Pudding is something I had never even heard of when I was a kid. Shocking, I know. I can hear you all gasping and imagine a lot of head shaking. One of my friends, Jenny, from whom I pried many great recipes (but unfortunately not this one), first told me about banana pudding, her eyes rolling with pleasure at the thought of scooping out a nice fresh portion of creamy, warm, cookie studded banana pudding. I knew I had to try some, and once I did, I was definitely a fan.

The best version of this dessert that I ever tasted was at a cute little family style restaurant, The Rainbow, in North Carolina. Every once in a while, the owner's mother would make up a batch and bring it to the restaurant as a special secret dessert of the day. Only the regulars and locals knew it existed, as it was not displayed in the huge dessert case that greeted you as you entered the dining area, nor did it appear on the menu itself. You just had to ask and hope they had some. And if they did have any, you knew to order it immediately, before you even had your dinner, because that stuff always seemed to vanish fast. Sadly, the last time I was there, I learned that there would no longer be any banana pudding served, as the lady had passed away.

I have been trying out different variations of banana pudding ever since, hoping to one day recapture the essence of The Rainbow's secret version. The following is my most recent attempt, which is essentially the same version found on the side of the Nilla wafers box. I have tried this recipe twice, first using the Cool Whip variation, and this time topped with a golden meringue. I enjoyed it both ways.

Nilla's Famous Old Fashioned Baked Banana Pudding (adapted from their official recipe, found here)

for the custard:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 dash salt
3 egg yolks (save the whites for the topping)
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

additional ingredients:
Nilla wafers cookies, about 45, (save some for the garnish)
3-5 ripe bananas, peeled, sliced into thin rounds (save some slices to garnish)

for the meringue topping:
 3 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Have a 1 1/2 quart deep baking dish ready. You will also need either a double boiler, or you can use a heat-safe bowl set on top of a saucepan.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of  the double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk, whisking to combine. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water 10 to 12 min., or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. 

Spread small amount of custard onto bottom of your baking dish. Cover with layers of 1/3 each of the cookies, bananas and remaining custard (saving some cookies and banana slices for the garnish). Repeat layers 2 times.

Beat the egg whites on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over the top of the baking dish, sealing all of the edges.

Bake uncovered 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool slightly. Decorate with reserved cookies and banana slices just before serving.

**NOTE: This is very good warm, but we liked this even better after it had chilled and the cookies had time to soak up some of the custard. To help keep your banana slices from browning, you can briefly soak them in some lemon flavored soda (like Sprite), which doesn't leave you with the tangy flavor of lemon juice. Be sure to drain well before using.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fast, Cheap, & Easy Dipping Donuts

My boyfriend loves donuts and had been asking me to make him some for a while now. After poking around on Pinterest, I was reminded of a really easy recipe for magically turning canned biscuits into quick donuts. If you have ever been to an Asian buffet in the US, you have likely tried them before - plain biscuit dough dropped into hot oil, and coated liberally with cinnamon sugar.

They don't taste exactly like "real" donuts, but they are really quite addictive just the same and they are dead easy to make. You don't even need a deep fryer or any other special equipment to make them!  A simple deep saucepan and a slotted spoon will do just fine.

Since my boyfriend isn't a huge fan of cinnamon sugar donuts, I decided to make a chocolate glaze to dip the donuts into instead. The glaze was a big hit and will be my go-to recipe for dipping donuts in the future.  I tried a version I found on Food Network.com from Paula Deen. 

Easy Chocolate Dipped Biscuit Donuts (adapted slightly from a recipe by Paula Deen)

2-4 cans refrigerated biscuit dough (I used Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits), as many as you feel like making
oil, for deep frying

for the chocolate glaze:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dark chocolate cocoa powder)
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
colored sprinkles

Fill a deep medium-sized saucepan about halfway with cooking oil (or use a deep fryer), approximately 2 inches deep. Heat the oil to 350 F (check using a candy thermometer or until you can drop in a small piece of dough and it sizzles and starts to brown right away).

While the oil is heating, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Set out a clean plate to set your dipped donuts on, as well as a plate lined with paper towels or a clean paper grocery bag for draining. You will also need a slotted spoon handy to scoop out the donuts from the oil.

Drop a few canned biscuits carefully into the hot oil and let cook until golden on both sides, flipping over the dough with a slotted spoon to make sure both sides cook evenly. They brown really fast, so don't go wandering off to fix yourself some coffee or something.

Remove donuts with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towel lined plates. Repeat with remaining dough. Tip: You can drop the biscuits in whole, or use your fingers to pull them into the more familiar ring shape of a traditional donut. Tear the dough into smaller pieces to make "donut hole" shapes instead.

Once the donuts have cooled slightly, dip them into the glaze, then set onto a clean plate and decorate with colored sprinkles. Eat while still slightly warm.

**Note: These don't keep well beyond the first day, but usually they get gobbled up fast enough that there are no leftovers. Extra glaze can be chilled for a few days in the fridge.