Best Ways to Soften Butter for Baking

There are few things in this life better than a warm, home-baked cookie fresh from the oven. Even the aroma evokes pleasure (just witness the amount of candles with cookie scents). But when you get the hankering to bake cookies, there’s one ingredient that might slow you down: softened butter.

Unless you leave your butter out of the fridge, chances are you are going to have to get your butter from cold and hard to slightly warm and softened. Ideally, the butter should be around 65 degrees, not on the verge of melting but rather just enough to leave an imprint if you were to press your finger in the butter. Too warm and your cookies will melt on the pan like a snowman in summer.

Here are five ways to get your cold butter to the perfect baking temperature.

1. Shred the butter with a cheese grater. This is my preferred method; it’s messy but it works. Place a box grater over a plate and grate the butter using the coarse grating side (so, not too finely shredded). Once shredded, the butter will come to the right temperature in 10 minutes or less.

2. Cut the butter into pats. As with shredding it, this method basically breaks the butter down into smaller sizes so that it will soften faster. The smaller and thinner the slices, the more quickly it will get to the proper temperature.

3. Beat it. If you have a high-speed, stand mixer, you can basically whip your butter to the correct temperature. Just place the stick or sticks of butter in the mixer with either the flat paddle or whisk and turn the speed to medium high. The butter will disperse along the sides of the mixer, so use a spatula or spoon to press it back down periodically. Don’t add other ingredients until the butter is at the correct temperature, though.

4. Microwave it. If your microwave has varying temperature settings, you can try this method. Cut the stick of butter into halves or thirds and microwave it for one minute at 20 percent power. If it’s still too hard, microwave it in 20-second intervals, still at 20 percent. This is my least favorite way to get the butter to the right temperature because it’s easy to go from almost-there to melted. And if you melt the butter, there’s no going back. Which brings me to my final point…

5. Give in and melt it. Softened butter allows for cookies that are just the right texture–soft and not too crumbly. But there are some recipes out there that utilize melted butter and the addition of more flour or another dry ingredient to keep the cookies from melting out of shape. Christina Tosi, the chef/owner of Momufuku Milk Bar, adds powdered milk to her melted-butter cookie dough batter to produce a chewy, perfect cookie; other recipes call for cornstarch.

And one final tip: To keep the butter the right temperature for every batch of cookies you make, be sure to let your cookie sheet cool down. A hot cookie sheet will melt your butter before you begin the baking process.

Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I love to be in the kitchen, maybe because I don’t get enough time in there, but regardless when I have the chance, I get in there and bake or make cookies for my grandchildren, cook dinner for my kids or prepare some tasty treat for my co-workers. It gives me great pleasure to spend time in the kitchen because I know that many will enjoy the outcome of my time there.

Of all of the tasty treats that I will make or bake, the one that seems to get the most comments and compliments is the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. They love these cookies at work, at home and at parties. Many times people will ask me to make the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies for a wedding or shower, at a graduation party or even at a church social.

I started make the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies at a young age. When I was a child, my grandmother made these cookies for our family reunions. They were in BIG demand by everyone. She would have to hide a stash of them so that they were not eaten all at once and when everyone thought that her No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies were gone, she pulled out the stash, only to see big smiles yet again.

Sadly in 1979, my grandmother passed away and somehow I obtain her recipe and started making them for the family reunions. I found that I, too, had to put a stash away for a later time in the day (or weekend) so that they would be spread out for the group to enjoy. Since that time, I’ve been requested to make them for many occasions.

Do I think my recipe is special? No. Do I think there is anything different in my No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that is not in other recipes? No, not really, but I do have a few handy tips that can help you to make good No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

Before I give you the recipe, please let me give you a few helpful hints:

1. Do not double the recipe. It never seems to work for me because of the formula of the ingredients and the amount of heat and boiling that it requires. If you need to make more than one batch, simply make them individually. It really doesn’t take any more time and they will be perfect each time.

2. Be sure to use the timer. The recipe will call for bringing the ingredients to a boil. Make sure it comes to a complete full boil and then start the timer for one minute. You do not want to over cook or under cook these cookies. Over cooking them will result in crumbly, dry cookies. Under cooking them will give you a runny mess.

3. Let Stand for One Minute: I typically let my cookies in the pot for about one minute before dropping them by spoonful on the wax paper. This gives it a little cooling time and will not drip as much.

4. Shape them for appeal. After dropping them by spoonful on the wax paper, I take a fork which has been dipped in cool water, and press them around the sides to give them a more round appearance and eliminate the round oatmeal edges that tend to spread. Then I press the top lightly to flatten the top without squishing the cookie. Dip the fork in cool water often to keep it from sticking to the cookies.

5. Lift the Wax Paper to loosen. After the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies have hardened (several hours later), you can remove them from the wax paper more easily, if you list the wax paper off the counter or table top so that they are not stuck. They will easily peel from the wax paper.

6. Store in air tight container. For longer lasting cookies that will not dry out, keep them in an airtight plastic storage container. Keeping them on a plate with plastic wrap is good, but a container that is air tight works better.

The recipe for No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that I make follows:

1 stick of margarine
2 cups of sugar
½ cup of milk
Combine in a sauce pan, cook ingredients and bring to a boil. Once the margarine is completely melted and the sauce comes to a hard boil, boil it for one minute, stirring occasionally.

Add:
½ cup of peanut butter

One melted, add:
4 tablespoons of cocoa
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix well and add
3 cups of 1-minute oatmeal.

Stir well. Let stand and then drop by teaspoons on wax paper. Yields approximately 42 cookies

Enjoy.

Vegetable Lasagna With Parmesan Sauce

Summer vegetables are available in the winter, but they don’t taste like summer. Only farm-fresh vegetables taste like this season. I love to see the arrival of summer vegetables in stores: firm zucchini, green asparagus, red and orange peppers, and others. This recipe takes advantage of summer’s bounty and also helps you meet your daily quota of veggies.

For extra flavor, the vegetables are roasted before they’re added to the lasagna. Roasting them at 425 degrees removes moisture, and this causes shrinkage. I roasted a large zucchini, large onion, one red pepper, two cups of cut and peeled baby carrots, and about one and a half cups of asparagus. After roasting, I had two cups of produce.

So if you love veggies, you may wish to roast more than the recipe calls for. Defrosted and drained frozen leaf spinach may be substituted for the asparagus. To reduce preparation time, roast the vegetables the day before you plan to use them. My family loved this recipe and I think yours will too.

VEGETABLES

1 large zucchini

1 red pepper

1 yellow onion

1 cup fresh asparagus tips

2 cups cut and peeled baby carrots

1 teaspoon garlic salt

olive oil

SAUCE

1 stick salted butter

1/2 cup regular flour

1 packet salt-free chicken bullion

4 cups skim milk

1 teaspoon salt

dash of nutmeg

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

LASAGNA

9 whole grain lasagna noodles

1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

METHOD

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise into fourths. Cut across the slices to make chopped zucchini. Cut the red pepper into half-inch hunks. Cut the onion in half and peel each half. Remove the root and cut onion across the grain into crescent shapes. Cut the asparagus tips, and part of the stalks, into one-inch pieces. (Discard the woody parts.) Finally, cut the carrots in half.

Transfer veggies to a rimmed baking pan coated with baking spray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt. Toss with your hands to distribute olive oil and salt. Roast for about half an hour, stirring once, until veggies start to brown.

Cook lasagna noodles until they are almost tender. Remove and place in colander. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Take lasagna out of the colander and lay flat on wax paper. Dab any extra water with paper towel.

For sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add flour and cook over medium heat for about one minute. Add bullion cube and milk, whisking constantly, and cook over medium heat until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add nutmeg and Parmesan cheese.

Coat bottom of a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Place three cooked lasagna noodles in pan. Scatter some of the roasted vegetables on top. Spoon some sauce over the veggies. Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese. Repeat this process, ending with three lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with remaining Mozzarella cheese. Cover pan with release foil. Bake at 350 degrees for a half hour. Uncover and bake for about 20 minutes more, until sides start to bubble and top begins to brown. Makes 8 servings.

Tips To Become A Better Chef

Millions of people are fond of preparing their own meals. Cooking maybe time-consuming for busy people but for those who love to cook since it’s a passion, not a task. What makes cooking a very pleasurable task? For one, it arouses senses that are associated with taste and smell. Once the sweet aroma of cinnamon fills the air, people feel hungry. Even just visualizing a pot of beef stew can make you look forward to having dinner at home. However, most good cooks learn how to cook at home. It all begins with experience as their parents allow their children to participate in some chores like peeling potatoes or placing icing on cake. This creates an interest in kids as they see yummy dishes prepared right before their eyes. Eventually, they develop a taste for honest to goodness meals that reminds them of special occasions.

Even at an early age, children dream of becoming a world-class chef one day. It starts with using cookie cutters to assist a busy mom one day. Before they know it, they are already participating in cooking contests or selling their homemade goodies to families and friends. While this is the most normal course of events for people who became good chefs, there are other ways to develop one’s cooking abilities. Experience is very helpful but cooking good food for commercial purposes requires certain set of skills and knowledge.

First, an aspiring cook should learn about food safety and preparation. Food contamination should be avoided at all costs since it can bring health problems that can even lead to legal issues. Cooking begins as far as handling and storing raw food. Great meals begin with having choice ingredients that are properly prepared. On a business level, cooks are required to comply with government regulations on food safety. Inspections are carried out by government agencies to ensure that a certain facility is maintaining hygienic practices.

Second, cooking means versatility in the kitchen. It means chopping or peeling vegetables at one time or carving meat the following day. One must be indispensable by learning various tasks that are useful in the kitchen. Before one could even become a sous chef, a person must be equipped with different culinary skills. Specialization happens only after some experience in doing general tasks in the kitchen. Behind the sumptuous dishes served in a restaurant is group effort that requires many skills under the strict guidance of a head chef. Additionally, it is not enough just to familiarize oneself with recipes. Depending on the type of business, some customers have a preference for some cuisine. Vegetarian, kosher, or peanut-free dishes must be considered when preparing food.

Third, cooking is just one aspect of business operations. It is essential to understand fundamentals of costing especially if one’s goal is to set up a diner or restaurant one day. Business requires crunching numbers to have a cost efficient operation. Even as an employee, a cook must know how to minimize expenses while producing dishes. More so is expected when running your own restaurant. Marketing is another aspect of management that must be learned by people who want to make money out of their cooking skills. It means creating a business system that will bring in money by getting more customers and minimizing expenses.

Cooking as an interest can be very fulfilling if you know how to enhance your skills. Many people have been successful cooks who have traveled around the world through cruise ships. Some end up as a chef of a well-known restaurant while others establish their own businesses. Indeed, it all begins with the love for cooking meals that are satisfying. If you can acquire the rights skills and enough knowledge, then cooking can lead to a very rewarding career.

The Secret of Truffles

Truffles are a delicacy that only a few have ever experienced. Described as having an intoxicating smell, the mere scent of truffles increase the appetite. While we know that salt and pepper have a compelling feature that gives dining a more memorable experience, it is said that truffles go one step further and unleash emotions upon taking that first bite.

So why aren’t we all stuffing ourselves on Thanksgiving with a big platter of truffles? Truffles are rare. The best black truffles are only found in France’s Perigord region. Many chefs consider their texture and aroma exquisite to any other truffles. White truffles are even harder to find. Located in the Alba region of Italy, they have a sharper, peppery flavor. Truffles are only found during the months of October through February and are best when prepared fresh. Auctions can be found where thousands of dollars exchange hands for one meager truffle that is of the right consistency and size. Fresh truffles typically retail for $300-500 per ounce. Powders and oils are also offered for those that just want a taste of the succulent treat.

Truffles are a type of underground fruit resembling a mushroom that develops from the roots of trees. Black truffles (Tuber magnatum) are found next to oak trees and yes, the old stories of dogs and hogs rooting up the ground to find the precious black diamonds is true. Hunters have to be very cautious of an animal team lest they find the day’s prize consumed. Commercially grown truffles are now being pursued in France, Chile, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, USA and South Africa by using offshoots of oak trees containing truffle spores.

The preparation of truffles is a delicate matter. Only the finest chefs are trusted with blending the flavors of these underground mushrooms with cuisine that intensifies the aroma and taste. Few restaurants in the United States are creative enough to master this craft. One establishment, Le Bernardin on 51st street in New York, uses the magnificent cuisine of Chef Eric Ripert to bring truffles the glory deserved. Excitement surrounds the kitchen during black truffle season that immediately follows the white truffle season. February is a great time to try out this restaurant’s newest displays of sensual truffle dishes.

Truffles are considered one of the most esoterically ingredients found on earth. Select a restaurant with four stars that have an artistic reputation for serving the succulent morsels or shaved pieces of truffles in a truly magnificent dish for a memory you will never forget.

Truffles are the ultimate experience in taste. Find a restaurant that is noted for meal preparation with truffles for the best results.

Experiment with powders and oils, once you know what type of taste you are looking for. Introduce this tantalizing flavor to family and friends for a special treat.

Reasons For Home Canning and Preserving

There are a number of practical reasons for home canning and preserving but I’d like to share with you my personal top five reasons why it is a good idea to can or preserve food at home. These are in no particular order, but are chosen simply because I think they do a great deal of explaining why I enjoy home canning. They also will tell you a little more about the inspiration I use to keep me filling my pantry with home canned goods.

Reason #1 – I Can Get Creative

It may seem a little on the corny side to some of you who buy and consume canned preserves but I wonder how many of you actually stop and take a long look at what is in that jar you are enjoying. I have carefully chosen recipes that result in not only a tasty food item, but also produces something visually appealing. I love the way a jam or jelly can set with ingredients trapped in suspension. I also enjoy the different colour hues I can create just by altering the type of pepper I use in a recipe. These are a few of the tricks that allow me to be creative in how the finished product will look. Some of them take time to execute properly.

Reason #2 – Taste The Quality

When it comes to home canning and preserving there is no better taste than something that is homemade. In fact, what I like most about canning my own jams, jellies, hot sauces and salsas is that I know exactly what ingredients go into each jar. That means there are no preservatives or chemical compounds that have names that end with “… ose” in my products. So this means the jar of preserves will be healthier for me. I really think that comes out in the taste of each product I produce in the kitchen in my home.

Reason #3 – A Sense of Accomplishment

One aspect of home canning and preserving I truly appreciate is the feeling I get after an afternoon of working in the kitchen. The personal satisfaction I get from putting down a batch of my favourites or from trying a new recipe is exciting and fun. I find that even if I only end up canning a small batch of jellies I still get a sense of accomplishment. It’s as if I had completed a task that is not only challenging but rewarding as well. For me, one of my top five reasons would have to be this one because of how it builds my confidence and adds to my inventory at the same time.

Reason #4 – Cost and Availability

As a practical reason, cost is a strong argument in favour of home canning and preserving. It really does not cost very much at all to set yourself up for canning at home. You only need a few essential tools of the trade including a large canner for boiling water, a rack to put inside the canner to set filled jars for processing, jars, lids and seals. As I live in an area of the country where organically grown fruit and vegetables are available in season, I purchase what I need for whatever recipe I am working on. Near the end of the season I will purchase my last ingredients (usually at a reduced price) and can them so I can enjoy the harvested crops later in the year when there is no fresh produce available. It means I can just go to my pantry any time during the year for something fresh that isn’t full of chemicals or has been mass produced.

Reason #5 – Inventory and Gifts

Because I have turned home canning and preserving into a small home-based business, each time I can a batch of something the majority of the finished jars go into my inventory. If I wasn’t stocking up for business I know I would be using some of my favourite recipes as gifts. I even do this with some of my special products and have used them as home warming gifts, something to take to a dinner at a friend’s as well as for birthdays and special occasions. I think giving a gift that is homemade has special meaning and if that gift is a jar of preserves, it’s even more of a personal gift of sharing.

That completes my top 5 reasons for home canning and preserving. They are not the only reasons why I choose to can fruit and vegetables in my kitchen but they are the main ones. Regardless of why you like to preserve, I’m sure you will agree that when it comes to making something in the kitchen, home canning and preserving is one activity that brings the greatest rewards.

Tips To Make Meal Prep A Breeze

If you’re looking to maintain a healthier eating plan, one thing you will want to be doing as often as possible is preparing your meals in advance. Preparing meals up ahead will both help you stay on track and help save cooking time during the week when you tend to be most busy and less likely to squeeze meal preparation into your busy day.

The important thing to note in all of this, however, is not all foods prepare as well as others. In fact, particular foods will only last a day or two while others may hold up quite well for 4 to 5 days, or, freeze very well so can be used at a later time. These are the foods you might want to focus on when doing your meal preparation.

Let’s go over the main foods you need to focus on…

1. Chicken Breast. On the protein side of things, you can’t beat chicken breasts. They’re a firmer protein source, so can do very well in the freezer for weeks at a time. Grill up a batch of 10 to 12 breasts and serve them throughout the week.

Unlike other protein sources such as fish, for instance, they won’t lose their texture when reheated.

2. Brown Rice. Brown rice should be another staple in your menu. Not only is it slow to digest so it won’t impact your blood sugar levels all that much, brown rice is also an excellent way to promote long-term energy.

It’s easy to whip up a large batch and keep it in a Tupperware container until you’re ready to use it. As it is a heartier grain, it should stand-up to microwaving very well also.

3. Peppers. When it comes to vegetable options, many of them won’t stand up that well to reheating. Broccoli, for instance, will turn mushy, as will cauliflower.

Peppers, however, tend to do quite well. Provided they are cooked to be slightly firmer in the first place when you reheat them for meal two; they should work just fine.

4. Hard-Boiled Eggs. Finally, don’t overlook hard-boiled eggs. Boil up a dozen eggs and grab these as you need snacks throughout the day. While most egg variations won’t taste all that good when cooked ahead of time, hard-boiled eggs are one exception to this rule.

So there you have some of the top foods to consider as you get ready for your meal preparation. Use these and you’ll find meal preparation is easier than ever.

Although managing your disease can be very challenging, Type 2 diabetes is not a condition you must just live with. You can make simple changes to your daily routine and eating plan, lower both your weight and your blood sugar levels. Hang in there, the longer you do it, the easier it gets.

Eggs Sunny Side Up With Garlicky Kale

I have been cooking up some healthy meal ideas in 2016 and this is one of my favorites. Nutrient dense and full of protein, good fat and healthy carbs, this eggs and garlic kale dish paired with charred tomato is also flavorful and satisfying. Healthy cooking doesn’t mean making boiled chicken and plain brown rice meal after meal. Cooking healthy food is actually really fun but can require a bit more thought at times. That doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. I prefer to come up with recipes that are easy to execute for anyone.

Eggs are one of my favorite forms of protein. They can be made in a number of ways like soft boiled, poached, fried and more (hard boiled eggs are great to have on hand as a grab and go snack). Plus, eggs are cheap so you get more “bang for your buck” with eggs. We like to use the whole egg (you certainly do not have to) because the egg yolk contains so many valuable nutrients. Actually, the egg yolks contain 100% of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as all the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin found in an egg. So you lose all of that nutrition when you omit the egg yolk. In addition, they give great flavor to a dish.

Ingredients:

2 Eggs (we like pasture raised, organic)
4 Small Campari Tomatoes Cut Into Quarters (or 1 medium tomato)
1.5 Tsp Olive Oil
3 Cups Baby Kale Roughly Chopped (or chopped kale)
1/2 Clove Garlic (minced)
1/4 C Short Grain Brown Rice (uncooked)
*Omit the brown rice for paleo or to reduce calorie intake. Add extra kale + olive oil to replace.
Salt + Pepper To Taste (we used smoked black pepper for added flavor)

Directions:

1. Make your rice (according to the directions on your rice box or packet) – Set aside
2. Heat a pan on medium with the olive oil until hot
3. Saute your garlic and kale in 1 tsp olive oil until kale is slightly al dente, season with salt and pepper – once kale is sautéed, set aside
4. Place tomatoes into pan that you cooked the kale in and let charr, season with salt and pepper (allow them to char on each side – about 1 – 2 minutes on each) – set aside
5. Make your eggs – sauté in about 1/2 tsp olive oil – let set to your desired “tenderness”

Plate Your Dish:

Place the rice on the bottom of the plate with the kale on top. Top that mix with the eggs and surround the dish with the charred tomato.
The perfect bite includes a bit of each ingredient – egg, kale, tomato and brown rice.

Easy Substitutions and Add Ons:

– Feel free to substitute with spinach for kale or use any spices you see fit.
– Add protein – grilled chicken or fish instead of eggs would change the flavor. Grilled beef tenderloin would also be a wonderful combination with the spinach and tomato.
– A sriracha drizzle would provide a nice spicy aspect to this meal.
– Please note that additions and or substitutions may change the calorie count of this dish.

Calories Per Serving – 490, Servings Per Recipe – 1

How To Fry a Turkey Indoors

I remember when I first heard of fried turkey, on the Food Network all I could think of doing was replicating it myself. But the way it was demonstrated on TV, just wasn’t doable in apartment living, with it’s outdoor requirement and ‘hazmat’ like preparations. The taste of fried turkey eluded me for many years until one day in November of 2010, close to Thanksgiving. That year, I bought two small turkeys rather than a big one. The first one I cooked for the holiday, laboriously. It was a pain. Handling red hot turkey to separate the pieces on my apartment sized counter, and then putting it back in the oven, all so I could take pieces out as they were perfectly cooked. I thought to myself that there had to be a better way. So for the second turkey I cut it in to pieces. Now we usually buy whole chickens and end up piecing them out so butchering poultry was nothing new. I decided to try it on a larger bird and it’s just as easy. After cooking turkey pieced apart, I wish I would figured this out a long time ago. Here’s why:

Turkey in Separated Pieces Can Be Fried Just Like Chicken

Frying pieced turkey is just like frying pieced chicken, with a few minor adjustments. Bottom line is you don’t have to create elaborate frying contraptions or do it outside. Fry each piece of turkey like just as you would fry chicken. I recommend brining the turkey pieces and frying the pieces alone, without a coating or batter. Frying turkey pieces so the skin has a delicate crispness and the meat is done thoroughly requires two stages of heat. You want to start at 325F degrees. The first cooking period will have a consistent heat that will not burn the skin and will make up most of the cooking duration. Depending on how fast your oil recovers from the drop in temperature you’ll cook the pieces anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes per side, depending on the piece – use judgement and safe handling technique. For the second stage of cooking, raise the heat to 375 and fry until golden brown. Turkey skin is thicker than chicken skin and to get it crispy, the two stages of heat is key. Also, use an oil that can tolerate high heat, such as peanut oil.

Comes out Better Fried in Pieces

I had the opportunity to try fried turkey in a restaurant setting, a year later in Brooklyn and I was underwhelmed to say the least. My fried turkey, at home was far crisper, juicier and far more flavorful than the fried turkey I had, which was fried whole and didn’t taste too different from roasted turkey from the oven. They also didn’t brine or attempt to flavor it at all.

Piece Your Own Turkey

So unlike chicken I usually only see either ground turkey, or turkey breasts available so if you want to fry turkey on your range, you need to learn how to cut it yourself.

Note that it is crucial, for your health when doing any kind of frying to use a kitchen range hood. While this can be done in an apartment setting, it’s important to have adequate ventilation. Inhaling airborne particulate from frying at high heat is harmful to your health.

Ways to Cook for Two

Are you tired of having too many leftovers when you cook at home? There are quite a few ways to cook only two portions, or four if you want lunch the next day. It’s frustrating when you see a really good recipe on Pinterest but it calls for 6 servings. In this article we will look at five different ways that you can cook at home and save money but not end up with a ton of leftovers. The first method is cutting a recipe in half.

Halving Recipes

No one ever said you couldn’t take a regular recipe and cut it down. If you want a quiche, look into making a smaller one in a muffin pan. You don’t need to buy a full sheet of pastry dough that you cut up and waste most of either. You can make the crust using hashbrowns. You can also make egg cups by buying Canadian bacon, and using that as the bottom of the cup. Again you would assemble this in a muffin pan.

If you want to make more egg dishes, but don’t know how to halve an egg, buy liquid eggs. You can easily pour out 1/8 of a cup instead of 1/4 for smaller recipes. Eggs aren’t the only thing you can get smaller portions of.

Get Friendly with Your Butcher

Supermarket butchers are happy to recut and repackage meat for you. Most meat sections have a small bell that you can ring for help. Ask the butcher to slice you a smaller chuck roast for pot roast or beef stew. You will save money by only buying what you can easily use. Whole chickens are cheaper than cut up chicken packs. Ask the butcher to cut up the whole chicken for you, and then use the pieces in different meals throughout the week.

Slow Cooker Convenience

Most of the common slow cookers hold 6 quarts. You certainly don’t need to make enough soup for 10-12 people. Yes, it can be nice to have leftovers for another dinner or lunch the next day, but you don’t really need or want that much.

Slow cookers offer a major convenience as well as saving money. You can buy a cheap cut of meat and cook it slowly for a wonderful pot roast. You could buy a 3-quart size slow cooker. But if that’s still too large, or if you have a 6-qt hanging around, put a 1-2 quart ceramic or Pyrex dish inside of the slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker insert with water up until approximately halfway up the side of the smaller dish.

You may want to start with something simple like some seasoned chicken breasts that could be finished on the stove if needed. As you gain knowledge, you can start quartering down standard recipes and test them.

Pressure Cooker

The new electric pressure cookers are fool-proof. They are sometimes called “multi-cookers. ” You can use them as a pressure cooker, steamer, rice cooker, and slow cooker. If you’re short on time, they can help you craft an all in one meal like beef stew. The other nice thing is that you can cook smaller portions more easily.

Let’s say you have a bag of frozen chicken breasts in your freezer. You can pour in a cup to a cup and a half of water or broth and then put the chicken directly in or on top of a trivet and pressure cook on high for six minutes. You then have a completely cooked chicken breast that you can serve with just about anything. Add teriyaki sauce or barbecue sauce or make your own honey dijon mustard sauce.

Foil Packets

Foil packets are where you take a piece of foil and place in it a protein like fish or chicken, some vegetables like thinly sliced potatoes and asparagus, and then put in some seasonings. There are a tremendous amount of recipes out there if you Google terms like “chicken packet meal” or “fish foil packet. ”

You then cook the packet in an oven (or better still, a toaster oven) for the set amount of time at the given temperature. You get a well cooked meal with perfect portion sizes without messing up too much of your kitchen, and no leftovers to deal with.