Originally created 07/10/02

Small portions



Secrets to souffles

Souffles have a reputation for being very temperamental. However they are more resilient than one might think; they don't fall if you talk too loud, walk too hard, or open the oven to take a peak.

Perfecting schnitzels

Schnitzel meat will be more tender and won't buckle when cooked if cut against the grain. Look for meat with a smooth surface, not pieces where the string-like fiber is obvious. If less than a 1/4-inch thick, the cutlet will get dry and over cooked.

Pineapple bits

Color is a clue to pineapple's texture - a golden shell indicates a softer fruit, better for desserts. A greener hue points to firmer flesh, better for savory dishes. Hawaiian pineapples have a predictable balance of acid and sugar, and Costa Rican and Mexican are reputed to be sweeter.

Twinkie shortcake

Hostess has one-upped our childhood dessert of choice during summer - frozen Twinkies - with some, well, rather colorful dessert suggestions. (What the heck, perhaps the antioxidants in the fruit will outweigh the preservatives in the Twinkies?)

Twinkie a la Raspberries: Place a Twinkie in a "nice" dish and top with raspberries, whipped cream and fresh mint.

Make mini desserts

When an entire pie, crisp or cobbler is just too much, scale down the recipe and bake individual portions in custard cups or ramekins. You will need to cut the baking time by at least 10 minutes.

Reliable ruler

One of the most reliable kitchen gadgets is a 39-cent plastic ruler.

It has no confusing timer, annoying beeps or fragile LCD and it's far more reliable than just eyeballing. It tells when a pie crust is thin enough, that a pan is eight and not nine inches square, and whether that Chateaubriand is thick enough to need five (as opposed to three or seven) minutes in the oven after being seared.

It can be used as a straight edge, guiding a knife as it cuts a slab of shortbread into perfect little squares.

Best oyster recipe

If your world is an oyster, you might want to give the National Oyster Cook-off a try. Top prize is $1,000 for the best recipe.

Original recipes must be submitted by Aug. 5. Twelve finalists will compete in the cook-off Oct. 19 in Leonardtown, Md. To get a copy of the official rules, write to goinsam@mda.state.md.us.

The contest is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, St. Mary's County Department of Economic and Community Development and the Rotary Club of St. Mary's.

Organic eggs

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Eggland's Best, a Pennsylvania egg producer, sides with the chicken. The company always has fed its chickens a hormone-free vegetarian diet so they would produce eggs with lower cholesterol than ordinary eggs.

Now Eggland has two new varieties of eggs laid by hens that are not caged - Best Cage Free eggs and Best Organic Eggs. Both are from hens that are "free to roam in a pleasant, natural environment," the company says. The organic eggs come from hens fed an organic version of the vegetarian feed the other hens eat.

The eggs are available in local grocery stores at the suggested retail price of $2.79 a dozen.