Category Archives: Tips

Don’t Throw That Lemon Out!

lemons'nlimes

Citrus costs have skyrocketed.  At Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering we use alot of citrus.  It’s a major flavoring agent and provides depth and background to many dishes.  It’s not cheap, though, so we save wherever and whenever we can.  Buying bags of lemons or limes instead of the one you need at a time can save well over 50% and you don’t have to waste a drop (or a curl).

You can zest your citrus and freeze it, and after it’s zested, you can squeeze all of the juice out into a bowl (and depending on what method you’re using you won’t even have any seeds to contend with!).  Keep a plastic ice tray for just such occasions and you will always have a measured supply of citrus on hand.  Each “cube” spot holds the juice of approximately one lemon or lime.  Fill your tray, freeze it, and pop them out into a baggie to keep in your freezer for easy, measured access.

If you want to know the best way to get maximum juice out of your citrus, you can search “lemon, citrus, or juice” at blog.lulasforlunch.com and a previous “how-to” will pop up!!  Now SMILE, sourpus!!  – Lula

Crystallized Honey

Does this ever happen to your honey?  Grainy, clumpy, not pretty…but there’s an easy fix or two…my favorite and seems to yield the best results:  NEVER let anything touch your honey.  Pour it into/onto a spoon or measuring device.  Crystallization is mostly caused by moisture, and next, bacteria (not necessarily bad stuff that will hurt you).  If you keep your honey moisture free you probably won’t have crystallization.  If you do, however, just put the whole jar in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.  That’ll do the trick.  You can use the microwave, on-and-“off”ing every few seconds and stirring, but that’s way more trouble!  Now, go enjoy a good cup of hot tea with some honey. – Lula

Instant Macaroons

Well…not really.   BUT….I have good news regarding egg whites.  You don’t need to throw them away when you’re separating eggs for the yolks in baking.  FREEZE THEM!  Yes, they thaw perfectly fine and you can then whip up your whites for meringue whenever you want!  YAY!  If you don’t have any on hand right now, please enjoy

IMG_0310

this pic of Fleuri’s (one of our faves in Charlottesville VA) Meringue and Puff Swan!

 

Yummy, Dirty Leeks

Leeks are grown in sandy soil.  Most tutorials talk about slicing a leek lengthwise, removing the root and dark green portions, and rinsing the exposed portion under water.  This is appropriate if you’re grilling or roasting the halved leek as a dish in and of itself, but a much CLEANER and very easy way to clean leeks if they are an ingredient is to fill a bowl with cold water, slice off the root and dark green, cut the leak in half lengthwise, then lay the cut sides down on a cutting board and slice through the leeks at 1/4 to 1/2 inch intervals.  Dump the slices into the water and swoosh around with your hands, let them sit and settle, then gently lift out the floating leeks and see all of the dirt at the bottom of the bowl!    If you’re sauteeing you can just lay them on a towel or paper towels to drain; if they’re going into a soup or stew just dump them right in – the extra moisture won’t harm a thing.  Here’s to “clean eating”!  For more tips and tidbits you can subscribe to Lula’s blog here.

The Value of Saffron

 macrosaffron_flower

By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and more expensive than many precious metals…this is due to the fact that saffron must be hand harvested from a special fall crocus flower.  Each crocus flower only produces 3 stigmas (strands of saffron), and it takes over a quarter million strands to produce a pound!

Saffron has been around multi-tasking since about 1000 BC – as I wrote in a previous post – it used to be scattered on the floor of gathering halls and theatres in Greece and Rome to help cover the “scent” of humans :).  Other uses are medicinal – as with most yellow and red foods, it’s really good for you!

As far as food goes…saffron is prized for its honey-hay like flavor and aroma, and of course, the golden yellow color it produces with just a pinch into any sauce, rice, soup, etc.  Buy your saffron in tiny amounts in whole stamen form.  The ground stuff isn’t nearly as good as it has more stuff from the flower to make it weigh more.  If you just can’t bring yourself to spend the $$ when a recipe calls for saffron, try substituting turmeric (VERY good for you).

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses saffron in bread, soups, stews, risottos like our Saffron and Orchid Petal Risotto, and even desserts!  Have you tried saffron in a dish?  Tell us how you liked it here !

Make your own Herbed Vinegar!

app Baba Lula Ganoush

Wanna be fancy?  Wanna “look” fancy at your next get together?  Pick your vinegar:  Apple Cider, White, Wine, or Rice …let’s stop there and keep it simple.  Add 3 tablespoons fresh herb or mixture of herbs of your choice (mix a couple and make it a “house” vinegar”) for every quart of vinegar.

Don’t use ground herbs or spices because the vinegar will get cloudy.  Store it at room temperature, with a lid on, making sure your herbs are covered in the vinegar.  It will be ready in 24 hours, and after you use some, you can top it off again with the same original vinegar.  Just make sure your herbs stay covered.  If you’d like, you can remove the herbs after a couple of days.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses our Tarragon Vinegar to make pickles that we put in several recipes ( see pic of our Baba Lula Ganoush garnished with them!)

Vinegar is a preservative, but it does have its limits.  The word itself is derived from the French “vin aigre” meaning  “sour wine”.  Don’t use more than around 3 tablespoons of your herb mix per quart because too much foreign “matter” can result in food poisoning.  Happy Creating!

What do Toothpaste and Tomato Paste have in Common?

The way you can squeeze every bit out of the tube…these days there are quite a few condiments in tubes that look a lot like toothpaste.  Whatever you call it – the “toothpaste winder” or the “tube squeezer”, you can use it for the condiments just like you would on a tube of toothpaste!  Frugal, anyone?!?  For more tips and tidbits  like these you can subscribe to Lula’s Blog here.

Some Lent Learnin’

Entree Curried TilapiaLula’s Curried Tilapia

So, for lots of us (and the grocery stores) fish is in store for the next few weeks – and I want to give you a helpful tip to keep your at home fish from being tough and dry.

Fish (any kind) contains ALOT of water and has a very loose protein structure that makes cooking fish a delicate process.  You just don’t want to over cook fish, because fish, more than any other protein, has dramatic “carry-over” cooking.

What is carry over cooking?  Well…you follow instructions when roasting meet to “let it rest” to re-absorb juices, right?  Well, it’s also finishing the cooking process right there on the counter.  That’s why most cookbooks/instructions tell you that medium rare is 130 degress…but they tell you to pull your meat from the heat at 125 degrees.

Same for fish, and funnily enough, when you cook your fish at a higher temperature, the carry over cooking is much more dramatic (ex. salmon at 250 degrees reaching a 125 temp will raise another 7 or so degrees sitting on the counter for 5 minutes, but salmon cooked at 450 degrees to 125 will raise another 27 degrees after 5 minutes!!  SO…..UNDERCOOK your fish at a LOW temperature and let it rest just like you do meat, and you’ll have moist, flaky, perfectly done fish!!  You’re welcome.  -Lula

It’s Rhubarb Season!

I love Rhubarb.  Every year I make a big batch of Raspberry Rhubarb Preserves and use it in various applications till it’s all gone (usually end of summer).  Sometimes though, I run across Green Rhubarb, and because I use it in savory applications as well, I researched a bit about this “twin” (think of it as a fraternal twin) – it only lacks the anthocyanin pigments which gives certain rhubarb its red hue.  This pigment is flavorless so there’s no difference in taste between red and green rhubarb (sour!!).

…AND I’ll say it again…DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!  Do not try to cook the leaves or eat them raw – they are not innocuous like beet greens – they are poisonous to the point of DEATH!!!  If you’d like occasional tips, fun facts and cooking info click here!