Friday, March 8, 2019

16 Tips for Grocery Store Etiquette

I believe the two groups that frequent the grocery store the most are those that work in food and women with children. That leaves me in both groups and nearly qualified to receive mail at my local store. Shopping for groceries can be a relaxing, therapeutic experience when all goes well and nothing short of maddening when it doesn’t. If only all shoppers brushed up on their manners before filling up their carts, grocery shopping would be more enjoyable for all of us.


1.  If you want to pass in front of another shopper while she is looking for an item, saying, “excuse me,” is absolutely necessary.
2.  Do not wander the store talking to friends using a cell phone earpiece. Every other shopper thinks you’re talking to her. No one is so important that they can’t make it through the store without communicating with the outside.
3.  When a mother is desperately trying to calm her crying baby, please be extra sweet to her. I promise, she wants the child to calm down just as much as you do. 
4.  Control your children in the store. Running kids and moving carts do not go together.
5.  If a woman is shopping with more than one child, be overly courteous. Until you’ve shopped with small children, you don’t understand how much easier it is to buy groceries alone.
6.  Look before pulling out at the end of the aisle. It’s a crash waiting to happen.
7. Do not choose produce and then snack on it as you shop. When you're paying by weight, that's stealing. 
8.  Do not begin unloading your cart on the conveyor belt until the person in front of you has completely emptied her cart. 
9.  If someone is behind you in line with one or two items, be kind and let them in front of you.
10.  Do not write a check. If you don’t use credit cards, get cash out of the bank. Others behind you would like to check out in a timely manner.
11.  Clip all coupons at home. During check out is not the time to organize, clip, or choose coupons. 
12.  For those with massive three ring binders of coupons that impressively turn saving money into a job (whom I have the utmost respect for), please tell those behind you in line that they may want to choose another line. It’s going to be a while. 
13.  While in your car, give the right of way to those walking in and out of the store. It’s easy. Just stop your car and wait for shoppers to pass.
14.  As in any other parking lot, turn on your blinker when aiming for a spot. If you see a car waiting with a blinker flashing, that spot is taken. 
15.  Put your cart in the designated place in the parking lot. I don’t want to go home with a ding in my door and neither do you.
16.  Offer to take another’s cart in as you pass by in the parking lot.

(c) 2019 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC
rebeccalangcooks.com




Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Divinity for Christmas


No-Nuts Divinity

No Southern candy has played a bigger role in my life than divinity. My grandmother Tom made it often, without a recipe in sight. She always added pecans, but I prefer it without nuts. I like to eat divinity without having to chew. I know now that divinity is not for the candy-making novice. You have to watch the clock, the thermometer, and the weather report. It will not set up if the humidity is too high, so wait for a dry, sunny day.

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
11/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Wax paper

1. Combine first 2 ingredients and 3/4 cup water in a 2-qt. heavy saucepan. Bring
to a rolling boil over medium heat without stirring; cook, brushing down any
sugar crystals on sides of pan using a pastry brush dipped in hot water, until a
candy thermometer registers 254° (about 19 minutes). Remove from heat.

2. Place egg whites and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer,
and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. With mixer running, slowly add
half of hot syrup in a thin, steady stream, beating constantly at high speed
(about 3 minutes).

3. Cook remaining half of syrup over medium heat until a candy thermometer
registers 270° (soft crack stage; about 4 minutes). Slowly pour hot syrup and
vanilla over egg white mixture in a thin, steady stream, beating constantly
at high speed until mixture holds its shape and begins to lose its gloss (5 to 7
minutes).

4. Working very quickly, drop mixture onto wax paper using 2 stainless-steel
spoons. Cool completely (about 10 minutes).

Makes: 11/2 lb. 

Hands-on Time: 50 min. Total Time: 1 hr., 5 min.

Photo by Jennifer Davick from Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2012).
Copyright 2012 Rebecca Lang. All rights reserved. 
Please visit rebeccalangcooks.com for more information.

Friday, June 29, 2018

It's Finally Corn Season!


We can thank the Mayans for the crop that is now the third largest grown in the world for human consumption. The Native Americans educated pilgrims on how to grow Maize, as they called it. Hundreds of years later, Southern cuisine wouldn’t have been the same without it. Not only do we rely on corn for our all-important staple of grits, we like to cream it, fry it, eat it raw in salads, and add it to stews. Keep the husks attached to use as handles with eating corn on the cob. Use a clean toothbrush to gently remove silks from the kernels.
Choose corn with silks that are blonde. The silks darken as the corn ages. Most shoppers check the plumpness of the kernels by peeling back the husks to see the kernels. It’s best to leave on the husks to keep the corn as moist as possible. If you can give the corn a squeeze and see if the kernels are plump, try that method.
Corn should be cooked as soon as possible after picking because the sugars convert to starch very quickly. Store up to one day in the refrigerator in an open bag.

Corn-and-Crab Chowder

My family and I love to stop at our favorite roadside stand for fresh Silver Queen corn on the way to the beach. It doesnt take long to simmer the sweet kernels with fresh-from-the-Atlantic crabs for a summer soup tradition.

MAKES 10 CUPS 
HANDS-ON 20 MINUTES 
TOTAL 1 HOUR, 15 MINUTES

6 bacon slices
2 celery ribs, diced
1 medium-size green bellpepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seededand diced
1 (32-oz.) container chickenbroth
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups fresh corn kernels(about 6 ears)
1 lb. fresh lump crabmeat,drained and picked freeof shell*
1 cup whipping cream
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1⁄2 tsp. table salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground blackpepper
Oyster crackers
Garnish: chopped freshcilantro

1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes
or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels,
reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in Dutch oven. Crumble bacon.
2. Sauté celery and next 3 ingredients in hot drippings 5 to
6 minutes or until tender. Whisk together broth and flour until
smooth. Add to celery mixture. Stir in corn. Bring to a boil;
reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Gently stir in crabmeat and next 4 ingredients; cook 4 to
5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve warm with crumbled
bacon and oyster crackers.
*1 pound peeled cooked shrimp or chopped cooked chicken may
be substituted.

Creamed Corn

Real creamed corn should be milky, creamy, and perfectly salty. If the corn isnthe freshest possible, you may need to add a little water at a time as it cooks to keep it from drying out. 

MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS 
HANDS-ON 40 MINUTES 
TOTAL 40 MINUTES

13 ears fresh corn, husked
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1⁄2 tsp. table salt
1⁄8 tsp. freshly ground blackpepper
Minced chives (optional)

1. Cut kernels from cobs to yield 6 cups; discard cobs. Cook
kernels in a small Dutch oven over low heat, stirring often, about
30 minutes or until corn is tender. (To prevent corn from drying
out, add up to 10 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time as
needed, during last 15 minutes of cook time.)
2. Stir in cream and butter, and cook, stirring occasionally, about
5 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency. Stir in
salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chives, if desired.

Balsamic Corn Salad

When corn is at its peak, there are few things better. With just a simple dressing, a colorful and bright side dish is created. This salad can be made ahead, so it’s ideal for warm weather parties and picnics. The light hue of white balsamic vinegar keeps the colors vibrant.

MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS 
HANDS-ON 14 MINUTES 
TOTAL 4 HOURS, 44 MINUTES

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
31⁄2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears)
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1⁄4 tsp. table salt
1⁄8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup packed arugula

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté
pan. Add corn kernels; cook 4 minutes, stirring often. Cool to
room temperature.
2. Whisk together 1⁄4 cup olive oil and next 4 ingredients until
combined.
3. Transfer cooled corn to a medium bowl. Add tomatoes.
Pour dressing over mixture, and stir well. Chill for 4 hours.
Add arugula just before serving.


Photo by Iain Bagwell from The Southern Vegetable Book by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, 2016).
Copyright 2016 Rebecca Lang. All rights reserved. 
Please visit rebeccalangcooks.com for more information. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

How to Polish Your Silver


You probably own silver that you tucked away in a felt-lined box when you married and put it away to stay safe. Take that silver out of hiding! Pull out your sterling or silver plate and actually enjoy all the wonderful pieces that rarely see the light of day. Silver stays in better shape with less tarnish the more often it is used. So celebrate Christmas with a really good fork in your hand!

Before the holidays get in full swing, set aside just a little time to make sure all the pieces of silver are in their shiniest condition. I like to do this near a sink. It's best if you can also be close to a kitchen hood for ventilation or simply open a window as the smell is pretty unpleasant.
1. Place the silver flatware in a disposable aluminum roasting pan set on a kitchen towel on a heat-proof surface. Don't worry, you can pile them all in the pan together.
2. Pour 1 1/2 cups of baking soda on top of the silver. It will be mounded on top of the silver and you'll think you are using too much.
3. Very carefully pour boiling water over flatware. A massive eruption of bubbles will work away the really deep tarnish. Let sit for about 5 minutes or a few minutes more, if needed.
4. Remove the pieces from the hot water with tongs and rinse with cool water and dry.
5. Polish the silver with a cream silver polish. I have used Wright's Silver Cream for years. Rinse the flatware well and dry with a soft towel to prevent water spots.

To keep your silver in top condition throughout Christmas, hand wash only (do not put in the dishwasher) and dry after each use. Remember, if you never use the silver, you won't enjoy it. Merry Christmas!

(c) 2017 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved. Please visit rebeccalangcooks.com. Photo credit Jennifer Davick

Friday, September 29, 2017

Saving Refrigerated Foods During a Power Outage


Irma crashed her way through Georgia and took much of the electricity with her. Many homes in my neighborhood were out of power for over four days. It’s during this aftermath of her wrath that I was determined to keep each and every morsel of refrigerated and frozen food fresh and safe until the lights glowed again. We have two refrigerators with freezers, and both are normally full of groceries. To lose the inventory of both appliances would be a very expensive and time-consuming endeavor to replace.

Keeping in mind that a refrigerator will hold a proper temperature for 4 hours only (if the doors haven't been opened) and a full freezer will be fine for 48 hours (or 24 hours if it's not full), I made a plan.

I started filling coolers in advance knowing that the storm was coming. The wind started with a vengeance and the electricity went quickly. After about 3 hours with no power, we moved all food out of the refrigerators and into iced coolers. As almost five days came and went with no power, keeping the food cold became a real chore of draining coolers of water and repacking with ice daily.

We have good friends that loaned us additional coolers and brought more ice to help. I went through 520 pounds of ice and am proud to say I saved each and every tablespoon of food. I frequented Twice the Ice locations a lot and it was very economical and convenient. I spent less than $50 on ice the entire time.

Having a good set of resources helps when the power is out and you're trying to keep your kitchen as normal as possible. These helped me.




If using dry ice, calculate how much you need.


(c) copyright 2017 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved. 






Friday, May 19, 2017

Designing a Kitchen that Works

Photo by Craig Sheridan
Before you ever think about the reality of a new kitchen, focus on the way you cook. Everyone cooks differently. It's important to work through how you will use your kitchen so it becomes a room that is the most efficient and as functional as possible. After building a house and spending much of my time on the kitchen design, I thought about this all-important room differently and much more than I ever had before.

Do you use your stove, your oven, or your microwave the most? I cook on my stove the majority of the time so it’s best in the very center of my kitchen. I use my microwave most often for softening butter and cream cheese, so it’s under my biscuit counter where I work on baking recipes.
You may rework your plans tens of times. That’s a good thing! The more time you have to think about it, the better. We changed appliance placement several times on the plans and the cabinet design was in constant motion for a few months. 
If at all possible, don’t let an inch go to waste. When planning out cabinets, think of where you will be in the kitchen when you cook certain types of recipes and what equipment you’ll need for those. I planned for a knife drawer near my stove and then placed a cutting board storage area below it. I keep baking sheets in a drawer under my ovens and the cooling racks within arm’s reach. 
Plan out where you will come in to the kitchen with grocery bags. Place the pantry and refrigerator as close to that location as possible. I have my pantry a few steps from the back door and right at the entry into the kitchen. I don't need any excuse to avoid putting up groceries, so if I walk right up to the pantry, I'm more likely to put them away in a timely manner. The bags don’t have to go far into the house. The refrigerator is at the entrance to the kitchen so chilled items can be put away without extra effort.
Traffic is a huge factor in how a kitchen functions. Is the main walking path in front of the fridge or the ovens? I have double ovens so I moved them to a location in the kitchen where there isn’t a lot of traffic. I chose French doors on my refrigerator because it’s in our path to and from the back door. One large door would have been been an expensive barricade to little people running in and out. 
Plan for cabinets to hold plates, glasses, and silverware close to your dishwasher. These everyday items are the most likely to be in the dishwasher more than anything else. If they are stored nearby, it’s faster to unload. 
Deep drawers are more space efficient than small cabinets. I took the largest pot I own to the cabinet shop to make sure we had drawers deep enough to accommodate it. I also did the same for my gigantic mixing bowls. You ultimately want a kitchen that has a place for everything to be put away neatly. If you have any unusual sized items, make a good home for them by planning.
You can’t have too many outlets. I have 12 outlets in my kitchen. All areas of the counters should be within reach of an outlet. 
Plan for a grilling area outside that is a direct path from the kitchen. We added another door to the patio so I wouldn’t be running through the den with raw steaks. Try to think through worst case scenarios (like a steak falling on the sofa) and plan so they can avoided.
Involve an expert when choosing ventilation and the specifications needed. No one likes to wake up to the smell of last night’s supper. We purchased all of my appliances from The Cook's Warehouse in Atlanta. They worked diligently to make sure every detail of my hood (and all the other appliances) was perfect. I was lost when it came to ventilation pipe diameter, degree of turns, and CFMs, but luckily they were experts.

My appliance installation company was Beautiful Installations. Unlike a lot of appliance installers, they made a site visit before we even ordered the appliances to make sure that all was in place and I didn't need any non-standard accessories. It also made the installation day much easier because they already knew the logistics of the kitchen (and to be ready to hang a enormous hood on a brick wall). They registered all our appliances and even provided binders with all the owner's manuals neatly organized and tabbed.

Lighting is so important! When planning lighting, make sure work areas are well lit. A dark spot in the kitchen is a waste of countertop.

It is impossible to overthink the planning of your kitchen. You have one chance to make it just the way you want it, so take your time. Cooking in a kitchen that's personally made for you makes every minute of construction worth it.

Resources that made my kitchen a reality:
Architect: JP Curran
Builder: Athens Building Company
Designer: Lauren DeLoach Interiors
Cabinets: Smith Cabinets, Athens, Georgia
Appliances from The Cook's Warehouse
Appliance Installation: Beautiful Installations

(c) copyright 2017 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.