True Apple Cider:
Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Americans, they have been hoodwinked by the Apple Producers and Juice Manufactures, in order to sell excess stock, and make more money. True Apple Cider, true Cider from any other fruit is HARD, which means it contains ALCOHOL. Without Alcohol, it is just Unfiltered Apple Juice or Blended Apple Juice. The U.S. is the only place in the world that you have to put the word HARD in front of your Cider to informs folks that it is Alcoholic. Shame on us!
How to Prepare the perfect serving Lasagna:
Please note this is not a recipe for MAKING the perfect serving Lasagna. How many times have you cooked or known someone that has cooked Lasagna, and went to serve it and has a saucy gloopy mess? Probably more times than you want to either admit or remember, right? Well, Mom has two versions of a method to resolve that problem. Well, there is actually a third and I will mention it as well. The first two methods call for refrigerating the Lasagna overnight, why overnight? By letting your Lasagna rest overnight, it allows all the noodles and sauce to set up and avoid the over sauciness that happens when Lasagna doesn’t rest long enough. As I stated earlier, there are two variations or versions of this method, the first one and the one that Mom prefers is to assemble and bake the Lasagna the night before, let it cool, then refrigerate it overnight. Just reheat it the next evening and voilà Lasagna that cuts and serves perfectly. The Second variation is very similar, only instead of baking the Lasagna the night before, you just refrigerate it after assembling it. Then take it out of the refrigerator an hour before it needs to go in the oven, bake it and then let it rest ten minutes or so before serving. Again, perfect cutting and serving Lasagna.
Now as to the Third method, it is really a stipulation of how important it is to let Lasagna rest and setup after baking. No less than fifteen minutes and preferably half an hour. While most recipes say to let the Lasagna rest covered, you will get better results, leaving it only loosely covered. You want to trap heat, but not the moistures.
Ricotta vs. Cottage Cheese:
A lot of folks don’t use Ricotta Cheese in their Lasagna for several reasons. First, the taste, second the dryness, and third the cost. I used to not use Ricotta Cheese for all three reasons, however; I have been educated and have a solution to these reasons. Plus, as an added benefit, I will solve the extra moisture problem that occurs when using Cottage Cheese. To solve all three issues, I now use a mixture of half Ricotta Cheese and half Small Curd Cottage Cheese. If I am making a lot of Lasagna, or Manicotti (I will revisit Manicotti later.) I will stretch my money by adding some finely shredded dry cheeses. I buy the Stella Four Cheese Italian Blend on sale. If Small Curd Cottage Cheese is too sweet for your taste, you can use Large Curd, just drain it in a colander lined with Cheesecloth. You can adjust the ratio of cheeses to fit your family’s taste. Ricotta adds a richness that you can’t get with just Cottage Cheese.
The Manicotti Debate:
To set the record straight Manicotti is plain old Manicotti not Cheese Manicotti! Manicotti is cheese-filled Pasta Noodles commonly called Manicotti Noodles and is usually served with a White Sauce! However, Americans have muddied the issue by serving the cheese-filled noodles in a Red Sauce. Cannelloni is the same noodles filled with a meat filling and served in a Red Sauce. Cannoli is the dessert version and completely different. So, the names are very easy to remember, Cheese Filled is Manicotti (Red or White Sauce), Meat Filled is Cannelloni. I don’t think you will have a problem remembering the difference for Cannoli once you have eaten one or three. To avoid any confusion, if you are serving Manicotti in a Red Sauce, just call it Manicotti in Red Sauce. Why am I bringing this up? Well, I made the mistake many years ago by telling an Italian Grandmother from the Old Country that I loved her Cheese Manicotti! I might just still have the mark from her Wooden Spoon, I washed the sauce off a long time ago.
Garlic & Onions in Pasta Sauce for Finicky Eaters (Kids):
If you are like me Pasta Sauce without Onions or Garlic, especially Garlic isn’t worth eating. Well, there are several methods (tricks) to put Garlic and Onions in your Pasta Sauce and get everyone to eat your sauce and want more! The first one is to finely dice or mince your Onions and Garlic and put them in your sauce at the very beginning that way they will dissolve while cooking. (I add mine to the meat and Bell Peppers while browning it.) Another method is to use Garlic & Onion Powder, not Granulated Garlic or Onions some kids can see the flecks in the sauce or at they claim they can. The last method is to put you diced Garlic and Onion in a cheesecloth bag and remove the bag before serving. If you put your Bay Leaves in that bag, you won’t be lying when your kids ask what in the bag and you answer Bay Leaves. These methods will give you the base flavours of Garlic & Onions without the evidence. You can also try Elephant Garlic, it has a much milder flavour. By chance, if you like extra Basil or Garlic, Flavour just add them five to ten minutes before serving. You can also sprinkle chopped Basil on each Pasta Bowl before you serve it.
Top Secret Pasta Sauce Tips:
Mom also has some Secret Tips to take your Pasta Sauce to another level. Around five to ten minutes before serving add a pinch or two of Cinnamon. Don’t add it any earlier, it just becomes muddy. You can also add a teaspoon of Better Than Beef Bullion anytime while your sauce is simmering. Don’t use any other Bullion unless they are Low Sodium, or your Pasta Sauce will be too salty. You can also add diced Sundried Tomatoes to your sauce in the last fifteen or twenty minutes for a bit more tomato taste. Adding a bit of Tomato Paste near the end of will also kick up the tomato flavour.
Mom’s Cupboard Question:
Several of you have written asking why Mom doesn’t have Tabasco on her Cupboard Necessities List? The answer is simple the regular Tabasco Sauce has an overpowering vinegar taste. Tabasco provides heat but no additional flavour or depth, other than Vinegar.
Mom doesn’t usually believe in Name Brand Snobbery as in a lot of cases Store Label Brands or even Second Tier National Brand work or taste just as well. Except in the case of Dishwashing Liquids, yes, Mom is her own Dishwasher. Over many years of trial and error, Mom has come to rely on Dawn Dishwashing Liquid over all the others mainly for its outstanding Grease Cutting Ability, in Mom’s opinion it wins hands down over all the others, in Second place by quite a bit is Ajax Dishwashing Liquid.
Dawn Dishwashing Liquid also works great removing grease and oil stains on clothing. It works especially well when washing items in Cold Water, just put on a few drops rub it in wait a few minutes then launder as usual. You only need a drop or two, too much and you will over suds your machine.
Now as to those Citrus SCENTED Dishwashing Liquids, don’t waste your money on them. The scents don’t offer any cleaning or grease-cutting prowess. They just smell like citrus, and to be perfectly honest your dishes don’t have a sense of smell. If your Dishwashing Liquid just by chance has actual Citrus Oil in it then it might work a little better.
Contrary to popular myths and misconceptions, opening the door of your refrigerator during a heatwave will not cool your domicile! In fact, just the opposite will occur, the reason is that Refrigerators and Freezers do not work by chilling food. You see Refrigerators and Freezers work by removing heat from the air and then dumping that heat back into the air outside of your refrigerator or freezer by way of the heat exchanger on the back of your refrigerator. By leaving the fridge door open, you will actually be dumping more heat into your domicile. If you have a Refrigerator or Freezer with an exposed heat exchanger, you should clean them at least every six months, they will work much better not covered with dust and lint. It is also very important not to overfill your Refrigerator or Freezer if they are too full, they limit airflow and that will reduce the ability to remove the heat. Try and keep the back several inches of each shelf clear.
Well, that’s all for this month, come back next month to see what Mom pulls out of her bag of tricks. Don’t forget if you have any tips, tricks or recipes for Mom just email them to MOM.