Q: How do I use the new silicone pans? I have some that have individual Christmas trees, and I want to bake brownies.
A: These are available at a lot of stores now, and you have to be careful to get the good quality. In this case, price does probably does make a difference. So I don’t recommend buying them at the dollar store. First, wash the mold with lukewarm, soapy water and dry completely. Here are five tips to help care for your silicone molds and make them last:
1. Do not pile your silicone molds on top of each other. This warps the mold and deforms the design inside. Once it warps, you cannot straighten it out.
2. If you plan to store the mold for a while, pour wax into the mold to help maintain its shape. This tip works well for seasonal molds, for example, Christmas and Easter.
3. Store molds in a cool, dry place. They break down fast in humidity.
4. Do not cut or pierce the design in the mold. It starts a tear in the mold and shortens the shelf life.
5. You can clean your silicone mold in lukewarm water with dish soap. Dry your mold well, and do not store wet.
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup pasteurized egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 cups mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a 2-quart bowl in the microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring every 20 to 30 seconds until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and mix well with a spatula. Add the flour and stir to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
While the brownies are baking, make the frosting. Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl in the microwave on high for 3 minutes stirring every 20 to 30 seconds until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the egg substitute, vanilla and sugar, and stir with a spoon until smooth. Stir in the marshmallows; they will soften but not melt completely.
Spread the frosting over the warm brownies. The frosting will set up when the brownies are completely cooled.
Q: I see cranberries in the store, and I would like to make fresh cranberry sauce. Can you give me a recipe to do this?
– Fred M.,
A: There is a simple recipe on on the back of most bags of fresh cranberries that is very easy to make, but this one is a little more ingredients and tastier.
1 pound (4 cups) fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 whole orange, unpeeled, seeds removed, and chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
A sprinkle of ground cinnamon
Wash cranberries and set aside.
Bring sugar and water to a boil. Add cranberries, oranges and cloves. Simmer over a high flame, stirring frequently, until berries pop open.
Add crushed pineapple, walnuts and cinnamon, and blend. Cool and serve.
Q: Can you freeze pasta and beef stew?
– Carla H.,
A: Yes, you can. It is a very convenient way of preparing meals in advance, and during the holidays, you can always use some extra time.
How to freeze pasta: You can use either freezer bags or plastic wrap to freeze. The advantage of a freezer bag is that you can shake out just as much pasta as you want to use, and reseal the excess.
If using freezer bags, be sure to press or suck out the excess air from the bag with a straw before sealing. This helps prevent freezer burn.
If using plastic wrap, freeze little packages of individual servings on a metal tray to speed freezing, then put the packets inside of a larger freezer bag or airtight freezer container for longer-term storage.
Frozen pasta will taste best when used within one month of freezing but can technically be held indefinitely as long as the freezer temperature is below 0 degrees F (not Celsius), and the pasta is well wrapped to prevent freezer burn.
Beef stew can also be frozen very easily. You can either use freezer bags or plastic containers. When you are ready to serve it, the best thing to do is let it thaw naturally in the refrigerator and then either heat it up in a microwave or sauce pan.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Stirred by a culinary question? "Ask the Chef" by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.tricityhospitality.com or write Chef Richard Erskine at Southeast Culinary & Hospitality College, 100 Piedmont St., Bristol, VA 24201. Include your name and hometown for publication. A phone number which will not be published should be included for clarification purposes.