Domestic Goddess Cooking Tip: Vanilla Sugar

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When I make my Monkey Bread I like to roll the dough balls in my own homemade Vanilla Sugar which is mixed with Cinnamon.
Of course, this sugar is great in application you’d want that hint of vanilla with your sweetness: Hot Cocoa, Cinnamon-Sugar Toast, Sugar cookies, Shortbread, Pie Sweetners, etc.
I’ve been working on switching from refined white sugar to organic cane sugar, but I noticed that some brands are more coarse than the standard traditional white sugar we normally find. So that my family and guests don’t get the impression I’m adding sand to my sugar, I improvise and ‘refine’ the sugar a bit finer, myself.
First, grab your Vitamix. I assume a blender will work also, just work smaller batches so that it has a chance to turn over the sugar without turning the bottom to powdered sugar before the top has a chance to mix in.

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Scrape a couple of vanilla bean guts into your sugar, and then give a quick whiz in the mixer. I use the tamper to really force the top to the bottom and I pulse it with my other hand.

Here, you can see the difference in coarseness in a before:

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And the after:

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Your not aiming for powdered sugar, which your Vitamix CAN DO, so don’t over do it! Pour the sugar into a mason jar or airtight container, add the stripped vanilla beans and let sit for at least a month.

If you have standard C&H white sugar, you get to skip the refining process. Just add the scraped vanilla bean insides to the sugar. mix well, add the beans and let it sit.


Domestic Goddess Tip: Selecting Eggplant

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Did you know that eggplants are either male or female? I was watching Alton Brown one day while he was cooking eggplant and learned this tip that really has come in handy: When you select an eggplant, try to find a male.

Why?

Because it will have fewer seeds! Why would you want to reduce the seeds in your eggplant based dish? Because they can be bitter. Not only do females have lots of seeds but the older the fruit, the more bitter the seeds.

How do you determine if your eggplant is a male or female, without cutting it open? By the blossom end. A female will usually be indented like a belly button, and oval shaped. A male will have a smoother, flatter blossom scar and be more circular. Also, younger eggplants will have fewer seeds than older eggplants.

The eggplant above is a male, and as you can see, has very few seeds. This tip USUALLY works but fair warning, I have picked out what I THOUGHT was a male, but turned out to be female. The scar on this one is more ovoid shaped, but it was flat, not indented. I have found that to be a better indicator than the actual shape.

One more tip: Allow time to salt your eggplant. Not only will it reduce the moisture, which can affect the way it cooks, but it also draws out any bitterness that might be in the fruit. I cut mine into discs or slabs, salt and let drain on a cookie cooling rack over my sink for at least 15 minutes, up to an hour. Then I lay on paper towels and press firmly to extract as much moisture as I can. Once this is done, they are ready to cook according to your recipe.


Domestic Goddess Tip: Peeling Garlic

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Peeling garlic can be tedious and messy. One day, while contemplating the daunting task of peeling two heads of garlic for a recipe that needed 40 whole cloves, I recalled a commercial for a garlic peeler I had seen on TV. They were peddling a tube made of rubber that you put the garlic into, roll, and voila! Out came the peeled garlic cloves all pretty and naked!
Well, I’m not a fan of gadgets and I’m kind of a kitchen minimalist. I’m not a big fan of single task tools, (unless I use them quite regularly) which is why I have never thought to buy one.

It dawned on me however, that the rubber gizmo was made from material no different than my Silpat mat. I grabbed my baking mat (You can find off brand non-stick baking mats but the original is called a Silpat) and gave it a whirl:

Simply lay the cloves in a line parallel to the edge, and then ‘roll’ them gently, pushing down slightly while you roll. Use the palm of your hand to roll and keep the pressure firm but light as you feel the cloves turn under your hand.

I found I could process quite a few at a time if I kept them about the same size. I would remove the ones that were peeled and if needed, rub a couple more times to remove the stubborn skins.

This may sound almost simplistic, but trust me, it works. It saved me a good chunk of time and more than a few pennies for a product that I would have to store and only use once in awhile. And clean up is a breeze! Simply wipe down your mat with a damp cloth and let dry. If the garlic was juicy and you pressed too hard, you might need a bit of soap, but still…what a breeze!

I use this method for large quantities of garlic. You can use it for one or two cloves, also. I have an amazing garlic press which I use for one or two cloves which ‘minces’ the garlic and leaves the skin behind. Not the same result as whole cloves, but a tool I found worth the investment for minced garlic. That tip might be for another post.

Or maybe I should start a product review category?

Your thoughts?