Browsing Extra Helpings

The Best Baked Potato Bar

November28

The Best Baked Potato Bar EverThis is a great idea for when you have a lot of leftovers: 

Set up the BEST BAKED POTATO BAR EVER.

A lot of us (especially kids) love a good Baked Potato Bar… and with leftovers in your fridge, dinner is almost ready.

Pull out leftover taco meat and the steamed veggies. Chop up the remaining rotisserie chicken and warm it up. Got some salsa? Add that, too.

I’ve never tried leftover pie on a baked potato, but, heck, why not? Don’t forget the whipped cream!

Here are a few more suggestions for your potato bar buffet:

 

  • Chopped crispy bacon, feta cheese, steamed broccoli
  • Shredded rotisserie chicken, salsa, cilantro, sliced jalapenos
  • Taco-seasoned ground beef, Monterrey Jack cheese, chopped tomatoes,
  • Canned chili (or homemade, if you’ve got it!), shredded Cheddar cheese, diced onions
  • Pepperoni slices, pasta sauce, Mozzarella cheese, shredded basil leaves

So think: Thanksgiving Leftovers = Baked Potato Bar

For more ideas on how to achieve Baked Potato Perfection, click here!

How To Cook Spaghetti Squash in a Microwave in 5 Easy Steps

November13

Spaghetti squash can be a bright, beautiful drop of sunshine in your autumn kitchen.How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in a Microwave- Mama's High Strung

After it’s cooked, those long yellow strands of flesh are a brilliant substitute for pasta. It’s also one of the best vitamin-packed vegetables you can eat. With a little seasoning, it’s a perfect side dish for whatever you’re serving.

Like most winter squash, these babies can be hard to open… but preparing them is so very easy. If you’ve got a microwave-safe dish with a lid, you’re all set. Some recipes call for covering the squash with plastic wrap… but that bothers me. Here’s my method and all you need is a pie plate and a microwave.

Ready? Here’s how to cook spaghetti squash in a microwave in 5 easy steps:

1. Wash and dry the 3 to 4 pound squash thoroughly.

2. Place the squash on your cutting board. Insert a large, heavy-duty chef’s knife lengthwise in the middle of the squash. Carefully slice the squash towards the end. Remove the knife, turn the squash. Insert the knife again and slice toward the uncut end until it opens.

3. With a metal spoon, scrape out the seeds and pulp until you reach the hard flesh. (Be sure to save the seeds and roast them!)

4. Pour ¼ cup of water into the bottom of a microwave-safe pie plate. Place one half of the squash face down in the water. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes on high in the microwave. You’ll know it’s ready when the squash is soft and you can easily squeeze or press it. (Note: If your microwave doesn’t rotate, turn the dish ¼-way around after 8 minutes of cooking. Continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes until cooked). Remove the cooked squash half from the pie plate. Place remaining squash half on the pie plate with ¼ cup water if necessary. Repeat.

5. When both squash halves cool, remove the yellow “spaghetti” flesh with a fork.

Pretty easy, don’t you think? So don’t avoid these beauties! Bring a little sunshine into your kitchen this week… spaghetti squash is in season now!

10 Tips for Making Caramel Apples

October23

10 Tips for Making Perfect Caramel Apples

So you’re ready to make caramel apples, eh? Well knowledge is power, so here are some ways to guarantee success.

10 TIPS FOR MAKING CARAMEL APPLES

1. BUY INDIVIDUAL APPLES. You don’t know what you are getting if you buy apples in a bag. Yes, buying the bag is cheaper, but you want to bite into a hard, crisp apple… not one that’s soft with bruises.

2. WASH THE APPLES. Apples produce their own wax naturally. Many growers (even organic) also add another layer of USDA-approved wax to give them shine and retain moisture. You’ll want to remove this wax so the caramel will stick. Simply place the apples in a colander and pour on boiling water. Dry completely to remove the white film.

3. USE FOOD-SAFE STICKS. Chopsticks, craft sticks or pop sticks are perfect for holding the apples. It’s very Pinteresty to use sticks you’ve gathered outside. Unless you’re going to boil these twigs and let them dry out thoroughly, pass up this idea. Do you really want to use something that a squirrel sat on earlier in the day?

4. CHILL YOUR APPLES. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, put the sticks in the apples and then put the apples on the tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip. This will help the caramel stick!

5. USE THE RIGHT POT. Use a heavy pot. A heavier pot distributes the heat evenly so you won’t get “hotspots” and burn the caramel.

6. GET A THERMOMETER. A candy thermometer is absolutely essential. Many recipes give you visual clues, but what I may consider “dark amber” someone else may find to be “already burned.” Don’t risk it.

7. USE A SILICONE SPATULA. A heat-resistant spatula allows you to really scrape the sides of the pot so the caramel doesn’t overcook and burn.

8. HAVE THE DECORATIONS READY. This goes back to basic mise en place; have everything in place before you begin. You want the decorations on plates and ready to go before the caramel on the dipped apples cools too much.

9. DECORATION PERFECTION. When decorating the caramel-covered apples, roll the apples in the decorations (nuts, candy, whatever) or put the decorations in your palm and press them gently into the apple. If you try to sprinkle on the decorations, they will just fall off. Get ‘em to stick the first time.

10. HAVE PATIENCE. Making caramel apples takes lots of patience. Waiting for the caramel to reach the right temperature. Waiting for the caramel to cool before decorating the apples. Waiting for the decorated apples to set before you can dive in and finally eat them…

Now that you’re armed with these 10 Tips for Making Caramel Apples, click here to find the Perfect Caramel Apples Recipe. And if, by chance, you have any leftover caramel… pop some popcorn and pour it on top. Now that’s enchantment! Mama's High Strung - 10 Tips for Making Perfect Caramel Apples

 

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How To Roast Brussels Sprouts on the Stalk

October8

How to Roast a Brussels Sprout Stalk- Mama's High Strung

I’ve been waiting all season to get my hands on a whole Brussels sprout stalk so I could roast the entire thing at once.

Have you ever tried doing this? I am telling you the truth: It’s so easy and the presentation is out-of-this-world.

But wait… you say you HATE Brussels sprouts? That’s because you’ve never had them prepared like this: crisp, caramelized and free of that nasty sulfur taste.

 

How to Roast a Brussels Sprout Stalk - Mama's High Strung

Brussels sprouts on the stalk are available right now (obviously).

Here’s what to look for: tightly closed sprouts that are bright green in color on a solid, heavy stalk. The stalk shouldn’t feel rubbery. For more tips on how to select beautiful, loose Brussels sprouts, click here.

I Instagramed a picture of a stalk before I roasted it and I was surprised at how many people said they’ve seen whole stalks in the super markets, but just kept on walking by because, as one reader asked, “How could I make them taste good?”

Well, here’s a recipe to show you how…

 

This recipe was featured on:

 

Not up for roasting a whole stalk? Try this recipe: Hot Bacon Salad (made with Brussels Sprouts… yum!).

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Hi…
I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: mamashighstrung@gmail.com