Mash with dash
Want to spice up the standard side of mash? Grab a whole bulb of garlic, cut 1 inch off the top and place in a small oven-proof bowl or in a piece of foil large enough to cover the bulb. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, enough to coat generously, and cover with foil. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. The garlic cloves should just slide out when squeezed at one end. Mash with a fork and add to your favorite mashed potato recipe.
Some recipes specify flat-leaf parsley also known as Italian parsley. This is because many cooks prefer its complex taste to the curly variety's sharp, slightly bitter taste. Curly parsley also has a real image problem as the garnish for a lackluster style of American food. Flat parsley can be confused with Chinese parsley, which isn't parsley at all but the herb coriander or cilantro. The leaves do look similar, like mini-maple leaves, but flat-leaf is darker green and coriander is more delicate and fanlike.
Heat things up
Experienced bakers know there is more to working an oven than remembering to preheat it. Where the food is placed in the oven affects the results, too. Foods cooked on the lowest rack brown on the bottom quicker - great for pies and tarts, bad for lasagna. The top shelf is great for crusty gratins, but would be disastrous for a cake or souffle; they do best in the center of the oven, as do roasts and braises. Rotating pans during cooking, particularly when baking cookies, helps them cook evenly. Over crowding an oven slows down cooking and can cause foods to steam not brown.
After the marathon cooking and baking sessions of the holidays, many of us still may be reluctant to get back into the kitchen. Still, winter entertaining doesn't need to be difficult.
Here are some tips from Hillshire Farms:
Capresso takes boiling water to a new level with its one-quart H2O Glass Water Kettle.
The kettle is faster than stove-top teapots, uses less energy and the curved-glass body lets you see when the water is boiling. Safety features include a hinged lid permanently connected to the kettle and an automatic shut-off when water reaches a boil.
The kettle has a suggested retail price of $59.99. To order or find a retail store near you, call Capresso at (800) 767-3554 or visit www.capresso.com.
To keep a cheesecake from cracking, be careful not to overbake. The oven should be at 350 degrees or less. The cheesecake should be baked in a springform pan placed in a water bath. To keep the water from getting into the cheesecake itself, wrap the outside of the pan tightly with aluminum foil. When you remove the cheesecake from the oven, the center should have a bit of a jiggle. It will continue to cook from carryover heat even when it's out of the oven.
Finally, once it's out of the oven and on a cooling rack, quickly run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides of the pan so it doesn't crack when the sides contract during the cooling process.