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Tortellini & Broccoli Chowder

1 pound Italian sausage – mild or spicy – your choice!
1 package JJ’s Pantry Cream of Broccoli Soup
5 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1 package (20 oz) cheese tortellini, homemade or from your grocers refrigerated section
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

In a skillet, cook and crumble sausage until no longer pink; drain off grease.
In a Dutch oven, combine the Soup Mix and water. Bring to a boil; add the tortellini; reduce heat. Let simmer 15 minutes.
Stir in sausage, let simmer another 5 minutes.
Stir in cream and Romano cheese heat through.
Serve.

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Helpful Hints: Cookies, Brownies & Bars

Cookies:

  • Unbaked cookie dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen in an airtight container for up to 9 months.
  • Bake one cookie sheet at a time on the middle oven rack.
  • Decorate cookies with chocolate by placing cookies on a rack over waxed paper. Dip the tines of a fork into melted chocolate and wave the fork gently back and forth to make line decorations.
  • Some cookies need indentations on top to fill with jam or chocolate. Use the rounded end of a honey dipper.
  • Dip cookie cutters in flour or powdered sugar and shake off excess before cutting. For chocolate dough, dip cutters in baking cocoa.
  • Tin coffee cans make excellent freezer containers for cookies.
  • If you only have one cookie sheet on hand, line it with parchment paper. While one batch is baking, load a second sheet of parchment paper to have another batch ready to bake. Cleanup will be easier.
  • When a recipe calls for packed brown sugar, fill the correct size measuring cup with sugar and use one cup size smaller to pack the brown sugar into its cup.
  • Cut-up dried fruit often sticks to the blade of your knife. To prevent this problem, coat the blade of your knife with a thin film of vegetable spray before cutting.

Brownies & Bars:

  • Instead of folding nuts into brownie batter, sprinkle on top of batter before baking. This keeps nuts crunchy instead of soggy.
  • Only use glass or shiny metal pans. Dark or nonstick pans will cause brownies to become soggy and low in volume.
  • When making bars, line pan with aluminum foil and prepare as directed. The bars can be lifted out, and cleanup is easy.
  • Cutting bars is easier if you score the bars right as the pan leaves the oven. When the bars cool, cut along the scored lines.
  • Use a double boiler for melting chocolate to prevent it from scorching. A slow cooker on the lowest setting also works well for melting chocolate, especially when coating a large amount of candy.
  • Parchment paper provides an excellent nonstick surface for candy. Waxed paper should not be used for high-temperature candy.
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Helpful Hints: Desserts – Cake, Pie, Cheesecake

For Pie:

  • Keep eggs at room temperature to create greater volume when whipping egg whites for meringue.
  • Pie dough can be frozen. Roll dough out between sheets of plastic wrap, stack in a pizza box, and keep the box in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge and use as needed. Use within 2 months.
  • Place your pie plate on a cake stand or a lazy susan/turntable when ready to flute the edges of the pie. The cake stand will make it easier to turn the pie plate, and you won’t have to stoop over.
  • When making decorative pie edges, use a spoon for a scalloped edge. Use a fork to make crosshatched and herringbone patterns.
  • When cutting butter into flour for pastry dough, the process is easier if you cut the butter into small pieces before adding it to the flour.
  • Pumpkin and other custard-style pies are done when they jiggle slightly in the middle.
  • Fruit pies are done when the pastry is golden, juices bubble, and fruit is tender.

For Cake:

  • Keep the cake plate clean while frosting by sliding 6-inch strips of waxed paper under each side of the cake. Once the cake is frosted and the frosting is set, pull the strips away, leaving a clean plate.
  • Create a quick decorating tube to ice your cake with chocolate. Put chocolate in a heat-safe, zipper-lock plastic bag. Immerse it in simmering water until the chocolate is melted; or microwave for a few seconds. Snip off the tip of one corner, and squeeze the chocolate out of the bag.
  • Achieve professionally decorated cakes with a silky, molten look by blow-drying the frosting with a hair dryer until the frosting melts slightly.
  • To ensure that you have equal amounts of batter in each pan when making a layered cake, use a kitchen scale to measure the weight.

For Cheesecake

  • Prevent cracking in your cheesecake by placing a shallow pan of hot water on the bottom oven rack and keeping the oven door shut during baking.
  • A cheesecake needs several hours to chill and set.
  • For a perfectly cut cheesecake, dip the knife into hot water and clean it after each cut. You can also use a length of dental floss or sewing thread taut and pull it down through the cheesecake to make a clean cut across the diameter of the cake.
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Helpful Hints: Basics for Better Breads

  • When baking bread, a small dish of water in the oven will keep the crust from getting too hard or brown.
  • Use shortening, not margarine or oil, to grease pans when baking bread. Margarine and oil absorb more readily into the dough.
  • To make self-rising flour, mix 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 2 tablespoons baking powder. Store in a tightly covered container.
  • One scant tablespoon of bulk yeast is equal to one packet of yeast.
  • Hot water kills yeast. One way to test for the correct temperature is to pour the water over your wrist. If you cannot feel hot or cold, the temperature is just right.
  • When in doubt, always sift flour before measuring.
  • Use bread flour for baking heavier breads, such as mixed grain, pizza dough, bagels, etc.
  • When baking in a glass pan, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F
  • When baking bread, you can achieve a finer texture if you use milk. Water makes a coarser bread.
  • Fill an empty salt shaker with flour to quickly and easily dust a bread pan or work surface.
  • For successful quick breads, do not over-mix the dough. Mix only until combined. An over-mixed batter creates tough and rubbery muffins, biscuits, and quick breads.
  • Most quick breads taste better the next day. Nut breads are better if stored 24 hours before serving.
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Helpful Hints: Casseroles & Veggie, Pasta and Rice Side Dishes

For Casseroles:

  • When preparing a casserole, make an additional one or two to freeze for when you’re short on time or guests show up for dinner.
  • Green pepper may change the flavor of frozen casseroles. Clove, garlic, and pepper flavors get stronger when frozen, while sage, onion, and salt become more mild.
  • Souffle dishes are designed with straight sides to help your souffle rise. Ramekins work well for single-serve casseroles.

For Pasta & Rice:

  • To prevent pasta from boiling over, place a wooden spoon or fork across the top of the pot while the pasta is boiling.
  • Store dried pasta, rice (except brown rice), and whole grains in tightly covered containers in a cool, dry place.
  • Refrigerate brown rice and freeze grains if you will not use them within 5 months.
  • A few drops of lemon juice added to simmering rice will keep the grains separated.
  • If your pasta sauce seems a little dry, add a few tablespoons of the pasta’s cooking water.

For Veggies:

  • Boil all vegetables that grow above ground without a cover.
  • Never soak vegetables after slicing; they will lose much of their nutritional value.
  • For an easy no-mess side dish, grill vegetables along with your meat.
  • When cooking greens, add a teaspoon of sugar to the water to help vegetables retain their fresh colors.
  • To dress up buttered, cooked vegetables, sprinkle them with toasted sesame seeds, toasted chopped nuts, canned trench-fried onions, grated cheese, or slightly crushed seasoned croutons.
  • A little vinegar or lemon juice added to potatoes before draining will make them extra white when mashed.
  • To avoid toughened beans or corn, add salt after cooking.