Update

My peer, Josh Wang, will be joining me in posting recipes to dish-gracepoint. Keep an eye out for his recipes!

Butter vs. Margarine

To most people butter and margarine are interchangable when it comes to cooking, but is there really a large difference between the two? Butter tends to cost 2x-3x more than margarine...is it worth it?

Short answer: They are similar enough to substitute for cooking, but you shouldn't subsititute when baking.

Long answer: Butter is made of milk fat and starts with a 30% fat mixture called cream. The cream is beaten until it breaks emulsion and separates the fat and water. The result is buttermilk (water) and butter (about 80% fat with emulsion of 20% water). Margarine on the other hand is vegetable oil that is hydrogenated to trans-fat to solidify. Butter flavoring and color are added to mimic butter.

The difference is that the fatty acid composition is very different between the two. Butter is very diverse as it exist naturally. Margarine is much more homogenous in it's fatty acid profile.

Within fats, there are differences in chain length. Some are short like this: >C-/\/\/\/ while others are longer >C-/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/. Short fatty acids melt at lower temperatures while the longer ones melt at higher temperatures.

In butter, there is a range of different types of fats, some short and some long. During baking, as the mixture heats some of the butter melts and some of it stays solid at low temperatures. As the temperature rises, more and more of the butter melts. This is manipulated to produce different textures within baked goods. The remaining solid butter early in the baking process can provide support while the melted portions coat or penetrate before the mixture hardens...and so forth.

In margarine, the more uniform fatty acid length all melts within a similar temperature. So it remains solid early in baking and then all melts at once. Sometimes this is desirable as in pie crusts. The sudden melting of crisco shortening leaves a gap where it once was and within the crust are many gaps which make the crust surrounding it appear "flaky" as it is separated from the nearest crust pieces where the fat once was. Here's an illustration: F= fat, C= crust

FCFCFCFCFCFC + baking ->
CFCFCFCFCFCF

_C C C C C C
C C C C C C

and the crust can now easily be torn, appearing flaky. It really depends on the recipe which is appropriate. In baking, if it says to use butter, you should use it and so forth with margarine. Just follow directions on this one.

In cooking however, fat rarely is needed for structural support, but used for flavoring, which butter and margarine can both do. There are differences in flavor, but if you substitute one for the other in stir-fry or fried rice, the results will be less drastic.

Then there's the whole debate over trans-fat vs saturated fat... which is a whole other topic in itself... there's a lot of points and counterpoints and I'd rather not bring it up here.

Banana cream pie / banana pudding

Quick Look_______________


I love eating at Nations. They have great burgers and great pies. Our a2f group ate at the one on University in Berkeley after service one Sunday and had their banana cream pie last year. Afterwards, I was determined to learn to make it on my own. After many failures, I finally came up with a recipe I was happy with. I made it for different groups at Gracepoint Fellowship Church and in general people really liked it. It's not the same as Nations - I think they use gelatin and carrageen (algae) to give it thickness and body. I prefer using cream and flour to develop a very thick and rich flavor. I also use this recipe as a topping for my banana bread. This recipe will make 4 (8 inch) pies, with 1/8 slice per person. You may want to make more just incase people want seconds.

  • Prep time: 15-20 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate. Getting the lumps out and the right consistency may be difficult.
  • Labor Intensity: Could do by yourself.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 20 ripe bananas (about 2-3 bunches) (about $5, depending on sale price)
  • 4 (9-inch) pie tins (about $2 per pie crust)
  • 1 + 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream (about $5-6 for 8cups at costco or $5 for a quart at safeway)
  • 3 yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • Total: $ 10-15

Directions_______________

  • Pour 2 cups of cream into a blender.
  • Chop up 8 bananas into 1-2 inch pieces and add to blender
  • Add sugar and salt.
  • Blend on low until bananas are finely integrated into cream- be careful not to overblend. You may get whipped cream or butter!
  • Pour into skillet with remaining cream.
  • Put on medium heat until bubbles form. Stir occasionally
  • Reduce to low heat once bubbles form
  • Pour 2 cups of flour into a separate bowl.
  • Add a few tablespoons of flour into a cup
  • Add the hot cream a spoonful at a time and mix with the flour
  • Add until a watery paste is formed and all flour is dissolved. Beat out all lumps. Don't over stir, just enough to mix everything.
  • Pour the paste back into the skillet and mix it in.
  • Repeat above steps until all 2 cups of flour is used.
  • If the mixture is still too watery, add cornstarch to cup and add a little cold water and stir. Slowly add little water until completely dissolved.
  • Pour cornstarch into skillet and stir around, a couple tablespoons at a time.
  • The final consistency should be thick pudding
  • Heat on medium until bubbles form (or at most 5 minutes) and then turn off stove.
  • Add egg yolk and stir for a few minutes to mix thoroughly.
  • Add vanilla and stir.
  • Pour filling into a bowl and place in fridge/freezer until cool.
  • Bake pie crust in oven (or use ready made crust)
  • Cut bananas into 1/3 inch coins
  • Line the bottom of the pie crust with banana slices. Pour the cooled filling over the bananas.
  • Add another layer of sliced bananas over the filling and pour filling over that.
  • Place a final layer of bananas on the top.
  • Cover with whipped cream. You can use the aerosol can or omit this step.
  • [Optional] top with sliced/slivered almonds and sprinkle the center lightly with cinnamon.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

Depending on size and depth of pie tin, size of banana, and how much you decide to fill, you may need more filling and/or more banana. This recipe is just an approximate. I would err on the side of having extra bananas. You can buy an extra bunch or two and eat it on the side if extra. Or you can top the pie with the extra bananas.

Each pie will have 3 sliced bananas and 2 bananas in the filling.

[Possible side dish] This will go great following any salty, meaty dinner.

Chicken Enchiladas

Quick Look_______________

This is part 2 of enchiladas on dishgracepoint. I recently posted beef enchiladas. They look good, but I think this recipe should save a little more time. It's very similar, but with chicken as the filling.
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Labor Intensity: 3-4 extra people should really help.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 6 pound boneless chicken breast (chicken breast is about $2/lb on sale at safeway)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 quart sour cream (about $3-5 smart and final, safeway)
  • 2 (6.5 lb) cans of enchilada sauce ($7.39 per can @ smart and final)
  • 72 white corn tortillas ($3 for 30 or $3 for 90 at costco, smart and final)
  • 12 cups (3lbs) shredded cheddar/monterey jack cheese mix. (5lbs for $14 at smart and final, 1/2 lb for $2.50 at safeway)
  • Total: about $50.00

Directions_______________

  • Cut chicken into 1/2 - 1 inch cubes.
  • Heat some oil in a large skillet.
  • Stir fry chicken with salt and pepper. Add more or less to taste
  • Add garlic and fry with chicken.
  • Wrap corn tortillas in a wet paper towel and heat for 30 seconds (this is so the tortilla is soft) in the microwave.
  • Lay tortilla flat, add the chicken, 1/2 of the cheese, and sour cream into each tortilla
  • Roll it up, so it looks like a mini burrito.
  • Place in a baking tray and cover with "enchilada" sauce--I always like to use chile verde, but there are also chili rojo and others.
  • Cover sauce with cheese (be generous)
  • Bake in oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes and you're done!

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

Not much else to add here. I think you can use flour tortillas as well, but not sure.

Serving size is 2 tortilla's worth per person. Depending on side dishes and how hungry the audience is, I would adjust the quanitity as needed.

I would even suggest shredding 1 head of lettuce and adding it to the tortilla for texture.

[Possible side dish] Serve with tortilla chips, salsa, spanish rice, refried beans...etc

Beef Enchiladas

Quick Look_______________

I posted a request for an enchilada recipe and I got a response from Alison from SF. Thanks! I enjoy cheesy, saucy enchiladas and now I got a recipe to share. Today's post is on beef enchiladas. The next post will be on chicken enchiladas.

  • Prep time: 45 minutes
  • Cook time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Labor Intensity: 3-4 extra people should really help.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 6 pound lean beef chuck (beef chuck is about $2/lb on sale at safeway)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 (6.5lb) can diced tomatoes (about $3-4 at costco or smart and final)
  • 2 (6.5 lb) cans of enchilada sauce ($7.39 per can at smart and final)
  • 72 white corn tortillas ($3 for 30 or $3 for 90 at costco/smart and final)
  • 12 cups (3lbs) shredded cheddar/monterey jack cheese mix. (5lbs for $14 at smart and final or 1/2lb for $2.50 at safeway)
  • Total: about $50.00

Directions_______________

  • Cut beef chuck into 1 inch cubes.
  • Heat some oil in a large skillet.
  • Brown beef cubes for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Transfer to a large stock pot.
  • Add garlic, salt, cumin, tomatoes
  • Heat to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • When cooked very tender, cool, then shred the meat using 2 forks. Place back on heat and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Wrap corn tortillas in a wet paper towel and heat for 30 seconds (this is so the tortilla is soft) in the microwave.
  • Lay tortilla flat, add the spicy shredded beef and cheese
  • Roll it up, so it looks like a mini burrito.
  • Place in a baking tray and cover with "enchilada" sauce--I always like to use chile verde, but there are also chili rojo and others.
  • Cover sauce with cheese (be generous)
  • Bake in oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes and you're done!

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

Not much else to add here. I think you can use flour tortillas as well, but not sure.

Serving size is 2 tortilla's worth per person. Depending on side dishes and how hungry the crowd is, I would adjust the quanitity as needed.

I would even suggest shredding 1 head of lettuce and adding it to the tortilla for texture.

[Possible side dish] Serve with tortilla chips, salsa, spanish rice, refried beans...etc

Fresh garlic vs processed

Are all garlic forms the same? Can you use fresh minced garlic, pre-minced garlic, whole peeled garlic, dried garlic, garlic powder all interchangeably and get the same results?

[Science lesson of the day] Garlic, like onions, get their characteristic flavor through an enzyme working on compounds in the garlic. Alliin in the garlic react with the enzyme alliinase to form allicin. Alliin is odor and flavorless, but allicin is what causes the characteristic pungent smell and taste of garlic. It is only formed when the cell is broken, as the enzyme combines with the alliin to create allicin. If you don't use the crushed garlic right away, these compounds break down and the flavor decreases. That's why if you mince garlic, leave it in the fridge/freezer for a long time, it will be much weaker than fresh.

Garlic conversion:

  • 1 fresh clove = about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic (though I personally would use a little more)

What about peeled garlic? If you look at peeled garlic, you'll see that it is slightly off white. It has a bit of a yellow tint to it. Minced garlic is practically light yellow. There's some damage to the cells that occur as the garlic is peeled and processed. The enzymatic reaction occurs and the flavors start breaking down in the store, resulting in off flavors. Rather than sprouting, like fresh garlic, pre-peeled or minced garlic produces sour flavors as it ages. There is really no substitute for fresh peeled and minced garlic from the bulb.

Dried garlic and garlic powder is processed even further and therefore much weaker per spoonful. But is there any situation you would want to use it?

Fresh peeled garlic is a hassle and time consuming. If you just need a few cloves, it's not too bad and worth it. If you need alot, you may want to go with pre-peeled and mince yourself. Some recipes even call for dried or powdered garlic. I would stay away from pre-minced. After cooking with it, I often notice a sour flavor and there isn't that pure, unadulterated garlic flavor.

Baked pasta (part2)

Quick Look_______________

I posted last time on 2-step baked ziti. This time, I'm going to post on the traditional way to prepare this dish. Technically it should take less time, but because of the extra steps, I'm not really sure if it saves a lot of time. I'm just posting another method to give more options.
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: You can do on your own or with a couple of friends.
  • 20 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 4 lb ziti pasta ($5 at Smart and Final, you can substitute Penne or Rigatoni)
  • 104 oz pasta/spaghetti sauce ($5.29 for 6.5lb Romanella pasta sauce at Smart and Final or $8-$12 for 4 bottle of Ragu on sale)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasonings
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 32 oz ricotta cheese ($2.99 at Smart and Final, $6-$8 at Safeway)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese ($2-$3 at safeway or wherever)
  • 10 (2.5lbs) cups shredded mozzarella (5lbs for $14 at Smart and Final or 1/2lb @ $2.50 on sale at safeway)
  • Total: about $25.00

Directions_______________

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Mix sauce, salt, pepper, seasonings, ricotta, parmesan and put aside.
  • Boil a large stockpot of water.
  • Cook noodles to al dente according to directions (usually about 9-13 minutes).
  • Drain noodles and pour 1/3 of the noodles on baking tray.
  • Pour sauce mixture over noodles.
  • Set aside 1/2 the mozzarella chese and sprinkle some over the noodles.
  • Add more noodles on top of the layer, add sauce, and cheese.
  • Repeat layers until full.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes
  • Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on the top.
  • Bake uncovered for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove when cheese is bubbly and starts to brown on edges.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

You can sprinkle cheese and broil it at the end, just watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. Or you can just let it sit and melt in the oven under "bake".

This method involves many steps. Honestly, I'd do the other method even though it will take a little longer. It requires less effort than this way. It's probably 90% of the quality for 33% of the work.

[Alternate variations] You can add 5 lbs of any kind of meat and stir it into the sauce. You can do sliced chicken breast (pan fried first), Italian sausage (don't add salt and italian seasonings to the pasta, the sausage will provide the flavor), cooked ground beef...just about any meat.

[Possible side dish] Serve with garlic bread, salad...etc

Baked pasta (part1)

Quick Look_______________

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs go like this: "Christ is amazing. Believe me, I've taste and seen He's more good than baked ziti." It's an interesting reference to scripture... after hearing it, I just had to try baked ziti. I had it at Sbarros and it's pretty good. It shares alot of the same ingredients with lasagna so it has a similar taste. The traditional recipe calls for boiling the noodles to al dente and then baking it with cheese and sauce in the oven. It's a good recipe but a little labor intensive. I'm going to modify it to cut down the work and reduce the clean up, at the cost of extending the time in oven - a fair exchange. This recipe is different from normal because it yields 20 servings. That's just how the bulk ingredients are packaged. You can double it to make 40 servings and have leftovers.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 60-75 minutes
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Labor Intensity: You can do on your own very easily!
  • 20 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 4 lb ziti pasta ($5 at Smart and Final, you can substitute Penne or Rigatoni)
  • 104 oz pasta/spaghetti sauce ($5.29 for 6.5lb Romanella pasta sauce at Smart and Final or $8-$12 for 4 bottle of Ragu on sale)
  • 10 cups water
  • 1.5 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasonings
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 32 oz ricotta cheese ($2.99 at Smart and Final, $6-$8 at Safeway)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese ($2-$3 at safeway or wherever)
  • 10 (2.5lbs) cups shredded mozzarella (5lbs for $14 at Smart and Final or 1/2lb @ $2.50 on sale at safeway)
  • Total: about $25.00

Directions_______________

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Pour the sauce, ricotta, Italian seasonings, salt, pepper, parmesan, water, and half of the mozzarella into a large baking tray(s) (aluminum tray will work) and mix. Add pasta and stir it evenly.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1hr
  • Check pasta after 1 hr. If it is still undercooked, bake again 10 minutes. Repeat so forth as necessary.
  • Sprinkle remaining half of shredded mozzarella on top of the pasta and bake for another 10 minutes uncovered. (or broil it, just don't let it burn)
  • Remove when cheese is bubbly and starts to brown on edges.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

To bake this volume of pasta, you may want to use aluminum trays. I would recommend using the half size trays instead of the long ones. The smaller ones expose more surface while the longer ones may have a greater chance of uncooked pasta in the center.

Due to variations in oven strength, baking trays, and volume of food, you may have to adjust cooking time. It may take anywhere from 1hr to 1.5 hrs.

You can sprinkle cheese and broil it at the end, just watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. Or you can just let it sit and melt in the oven under "bake".

[Alternate variations] You can add 5 lbs of any kind of meat and stir it in at the beginning. You can do sliced chicken breast (pan fried first), Italian sausage (don't add salt and italian seasonings to the pasta, the sausage will provide the flavor), cooked ground beef...just about any meat.

[Possible side dish] Serve with garlic bread, salad...etc

Update

I've been really sick for the last couple of weeks and getting lots of bedrest. I'm not feeling well and don't have the time or strength to write new posts for now. I'll start posting again soon....

Chicken with chipotle apple glaze

Quick Look_______________

We had this for a welcome back dinner for a summer mission trip this summer. People seemed to like it and I gave the leftovers to some Praxis, ISM, and other people from Gracepoint Fellowship Church and they liked it as well. It's a smoky, spicy, sweet glaze that's perfect over grilled/roasted meat. You can use this sauce on pork loin, chicken breast, chicken thigh... get creative. I made this by putting random ingredients and adjusting it as it was cooking and it turned out ok. You may want to adjust to your tastes according to spice and sweetness.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 45-60 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/easy - It takes a little experience to know when the glaze is ready, namely by looking at the quality of bubbles or temperature if you have a thermometer. If in doubt, cook the sauce until it's very thick and water down at the end if necessary.
  • Labor Intensity: You can make the sauce on your own. You may want help with the chicken.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.

Ingredients_______________

  • 15-18lbs boneless chicken breast or thigh ($1.99/lb on sale)
  • 3 cans frozen apple juice concentrate (about $2-$2.50)
  • 2 (7 oz) cans of chipotle in adobo sauce ($2 at lucky. Also @ smart and final, I like Embasa brand)
  • sugar
  • soy sauce
  • vegetable oil
  • vinegar [apple cider vinegar optional]
  • Total: about $35.00

Directions_______________

  • Open frozen juice concentrate and pour into blender
  • Add chipotle peppers and blend.
  • Pour into a large pot. Heat on medium/high or high and stir occasionally
  • Add 3/4 cup soy sauce, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup oil
  • Boil for about 30-45 minutes until thick and bubbly. Stir occasionally.
  • Add 1 cup vinegar and cook for 15 more minutes
  • Split the chicken breast and spread apart open.
  • Cook chicken breast over a grill or whatever method you prefer (pan fry, oven roast).
  • Dip/submerge the chicken in the sauce or brush it on and serve.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

The ingredients contain too much water and we need to reduce it down to a thick sauce. That's why we use apple juice concentrate rather than the juice. If you have a candy thermometer, it should cook until 108C. You can tell by the large thick, tar like bubbles. If in doubt, cook until very thick and add water if too thick at the end.

Since we want to remove water from the sauce, it would speed things up to pour the sauce into a wide pan and stir constantly. The large surface area of the pan will boil off the water rapidly. To speed thing up even more, you can use mulitple pans to utilize all burners on the stove. The end result is a thick, gooey, tar like sauce. Add vinegar to thin it out a little and serve with meat.

[Possible side dish] Serve with rice, salad, potato salad...etc

Dish-Gracepoint Berkeley kitchen tool of the month: Chef Knife


For September, a good chef's knife is the tool of the month for Dish-Gracepoint Fellowship Church.

A key tool in any kitchen is a sharp knife. Believe it or not, a very sharp knife will actually reduce the probability of cutting yourself. How? A sharp knife will cut things in one smooth motion where a dull, cheap knife can get stuck halfway and require you to really work at it and increase the odds of accidentally cutting yourself.

The chef knife is a versatile, all-in-one knife that could be used in almost any situation.

What's my personal recommendation? I like the Henckel Twin Signature 8 inch Chef Knife. The 6 inch knife is good too, but I like the longer 8 inch blade.

What should I look for in a knife? If you get the Henckel, get the one with 2 men on the blade. The twin version is German made and the single version is made in China. There is a big difference in the two.

How should I care for the knife? Store it in a wooden block or a magnetic bar to keep it sharp. If you just throw it into a drawer, the blade comes in contact with other metals and will become dull as they move around.

Tip: As you cut, hold the meat with your left hand and instead of pressing straight down, move your knife forward as you go down (like a saw). If the blade is sharp, it will cut through most meats like a lightsaber.