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  • The Chopping Blog

Homemade Corn Tortillas

  When I go to a Mexican restaurant and they ask me “Corn or flour tortillas,” I am always going to choose corn. I think they are so much more flavorful! In Chicago, you can go to just about any ...

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Food Comics: Steak Techniques Part 3

We are pleased to introduce Food Comics from The Chopping Block where our resident Cartoonist Tom O'Brien illustrates his cooking adventures. In this final part of a three-part series, he ...

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Every Day Can Be Fry-Day with an Air Fryer

I never really considered myself to be a cook obsessed with gadgets. Sure, I have had a CrockPot since I graduated from college, the Instant Pot has truly changed my life, and I use my Vitamix ...

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Stop Using Unsalted Butter

Conventional wisdom tells us a lot of things when it comes to cooking: searing meat seals in the juices, salt your water to make it boil faster, don’t cut raw meat on a wooden cutting board, add oil ...

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Food Comics: Steak Techniques Part 2

We are pleased to introduce Food Comics from The Chopping Block where our resident Cartoonist Tom O'Brien illustrates his cooking adventures. In this second part of a three-part series, he ...

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New Ideas for Breakfast

It is 7am as I write this. I woke up this morning as I usually do, ready for a cup of coffee but not breakfast. In fact, I rarely wake up ready for breakfast. I’m pretty sure some of that might be ...

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The Art of the Vinaigrette

  I remember the first time a house-made salad dressing rocked my world.  It was the summer of 1988, and I was bussing tables at a swanky new bistro in town. I was 17, and just beginning what would ...

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The New Way to Cook Tofu

  One simple step when cooking has changed my tofu life. This method may not be new to everyone, and it certainly isn’t revolutionary, but I’ve been seeing it popping up on the food media scene ...

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Don't Knock Mushrooms until you've had them Cooked Properly

  I often hear from students in our cooking classes about the foods they say they don’t like. When I hear this, my next question is always “What don’t you like about it?” As a nutritional chef, I run ...

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The "S" Words of Cooking

  I remember as a child I always had one friend that liked to experiment with cursing. The scenario was always the same: my friends and I would be somewhere out of the listening ear of an adult, ...

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The Time Machine in your Kitchen

  We are all time travelers. We all go about our daily lives traveling into the future at a rate of one minute per minute. As far as we can tell though, time just sweeps us along toward some ...

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Salt 101

How on earth did salt get so complicated? I’m sure some of you have got to be thinking that! Growing up in my hometown in Iowa, there were two kinds of salt: table salt and salt for the deer… oh, and ...

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Choosing, Understanding and Making the Most of a Recipe

  Have you ever looked up a recipe online and ended up buying $70 worth of ingredients to make it? It's so common these days with the millions of recipes available on the internet. Although some ...

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How to Make Homemade Mexican-Style Chorizo

  I love chorizo, and I am honestly baffled when I meet someone who doesn’t. When I ask people what they don’t like about chorizo, they often say it is because it is greasy. I’ll admit it can be ...

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Don't Waste Food, Preserve It

Food waste is a huge issue in our society, and can be a huge issue for your pocketbook. Finding out what to do with those leftover veggies or extra filet of salmon can sometimes be difficult for home ...

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How to Make it through Winter: A Guide to Making your own French Fries

  I rarely eat French fries. When I go out to eat somewhere that most people would typically order fries, say to get burgers, I’ll almost always forgo the fries, or if the burger comes with them, I ...

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What’s the Difference between Stock, Broth and Bone Broth?

  One of the questions that seems to perplex both culinary professionals, avid and novice cooks alike is: “What’s the difference between broth and bone broth?” For most of the 22 years The Chopping ...

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6 Things You Didn’t Know About Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

Arguably the most important meal you’ll eat this year is rapidly approaching. Turkey Day. The Gobble Feast. Thanksgiving. Every year, Thanksgiving becomes a friendlier holiday to me, especially when ...

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How to Make Fresh Cranberry Juice

  My friend and colleague Liz Songer recently brought me the most beautiful gift of two giant bags of fresh cranberries from her annual trip to Hayward, Wisconsin. She usually takes her trip to ...

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A Little “Peppering” of Knowledge

  Extremes of spice, in food, around the world are baffling. Whether you like a little cracked black pepper on your eggs in the morning, or you pop pickled jalapenos like they are marshmallows with ...

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How to Cook Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

  I'm in mushroom ecstasy as this is a banner year on my property in Michigan for wild mushrooms! My Hen of the Woods mushrooms have returned in abundance so I have been busy cooking and preserving ...

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Pears: The Other Fall Fruit

I have always loved the in-between seasons of Spring and Fall. Everything is changing, from the weather to what we wear. I don’t know about you, but I love getting out my “sweater weather” clothes – ...

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Put your Food Preservation Fears to Rest

Local farmers markets are bursting with late-summer produce right now. Wouldn't it be great if you could enjoy this bounty in the middle of a frigid Midwest winter? You can, simply by canning, ...

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The Flat-Pack-Taco-Stack, Freeze-n-Broil Technique

When I cook at home, I want to make my life as easy as possible. On my days off, I tend to prepare things in bulk, and freeze them in Ziploc bags. I arrange the bags so they are as thin and square ...

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Embrace the Whole Chicken, and Then Cut it to Pieces

Chicken was a staple in our house when I was growing up, however, the only time I ever saw an entire fowl was the Thanksgiving turkey. Other than that, the chicken was already cut up into its white ...

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The Chopping Block's Herbs de Provence Salt

I have been growing a tremendous number of herbs in Michigan and experimenting with different preservation methods for them. It's been revelatory for me! Before I started drying my own herbs, I had ...

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5 Things Everyone Should Know How to Cook

  I'm not a chef. I've only worked one job in a kitchen... well, it was more of a garage, and all I did was chop fruit and vegetables for a salad bar. When I started at The Chopping Block I could ...

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How to Cook with Pancetta

  Now that you know how to make pancetta, I wanted to provide a few tips on cooking with it and recipes that highlight those techniques. Although pancetta is edible in the same way bacon is, its high ...

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A Quick and Easy Chicken Terrine

The thing I really love about cooking, and specifically charcuterie, is taking humble ingredients, and turning them into something special. A terrine is the perfect example of this idea. Today we are ...

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Get Saucy with our New Sauce Guide

How many of us grew up on broiled bland fish, dry pork chops or sautéed chicken that could have used just a little something extra on the plate? All of these proteins can easily be improved with a ...

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How to Make Pancetta

  What is pancetta? Basically, it is the unsmoked Italian form of bacon. Bacon is almost always smoked and has a salty taste, but sometimes it has a sweet and/or peppery taste as well. Pancetta is ...

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Experimenting with Pulses

  One of the things I like about working at The Chopping Block is that our team shares their culinary experience and encourages everyone to experiment with different ingredients and cooking ...

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Insta-Party: How to Throw a Party with your Instant Pot

  Whenever the newest gadget or electric device comes out for the kitchen, it's usually poo pooed by chefs. But that's definitely not the case with the Instant Pot. This miraculous time-saver has ...

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Great Eggspectations: Making Scotch Eggs from Scratch

As a recent arrival from the good old United Kingdom (Wales to be precise), there are many things I love about Chicago, and a few that I miss about home (pubs, hills and valleys, and the Metric ...

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Weeknight Surf and Turf

  One question I get asked over and over on my social media channels is how do I cook a meal from scratch nearly every night of the week? I have a full time job in the city. My commute is about 90 ...

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For the Love of Crêpes

  Making crêpes sounds like an intimidating culinary task, but believe me when I tell you that they're as easy as, well… crêpes! They definitely have that “oo-la-la”, fancy French flair, but there's ...

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Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Whole Steamed Fish

  As you know from my last post, Chinese (Lunar) New Year is a big deal at our house: it’s the one holiday we brought back with us from China to celebrate with family and friends, ringing it in with ...

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Whole vs Ground: A Spice Guide

  Open up your spice cabinet right now and take a good long look. How old are your dried herbs and spices? Have some followed you from one apartment to the next? Unless your jar of oregano has ...

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Hooray for Purée

  Garlic, ginger, chillies and herbs are some of my very favorite things! I like to use them liberally, and often. I want them to be near me at all times, with the minimum effort on my part.

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Sous-Vide Steak in your Kitchen Sink

There are many ways to cook a steak, but this one is my favorite. By combining a little modern thinking (i.e. sous vide) with the ancient power of cast iron, we can achieve world-class results with ...

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Ginger Liqueur Part 1: The Experiment

Every chef instructor’s biography on The Chopping Block's website lists the five ingredients they can’t live without. As a chef assistant, I’ve haven’t had to think about that. That’s a really tough ...

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Understanding Butter and Making Brown Butter

Let's talk about butter. Is there anything like it? Rich, smooth, salty, or sweet, there is nothing as satisfyingly decadent. Butter sometimes gets a bad reputation, but I think that when used ...

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Fresh Fig Jam in the Fall

  I love figs; they are sweet, tangy, and temperamental. Figs are truly a wonder, as they are only ripe for what seems like half a second. The cooler temperatures this summer have extended many ...

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How to Get your Husband to Cook

One thing I believe is that so many of us could not do the work we enjoy doing so much without the support of our loved ones. I know for certain that is true for me. Without my husband’s support of ...

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Homemade Sauerkraut in Just Two Weeks

  If you've read any of my other posts before, you know I love quick, cheap, easy recipes that aren't really recipes at all. I like the freedom of knowing the rules and ratios so I know where I can ...

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Keep Your Steaks Simple

  As a rule, I try to make sure that when I go out to eat, I order something I cannot or would not make at home. Dining out in Chicago can be expensive, and I want to make sure I get the most bang ...

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An Easy First Ferment: Preserved Lemons

  Back before refrigerators were commonplace in homes, preservation was important if you wanted to eat come winter. That's why every culture has recipes and methods of pickling or fermentation.

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Mama Mia! Learn How to Make Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

  My Italian immigrant grandfather had the most amazing vegetable garden – there was even a fig tree and concord grape vine! My sister and I were just talking about how there are so many “taste ...

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The Whipped Cream of Your Dreams

  Fluffy, light, sweet whipped cream. Is there anything better? During a recent birthday party at The Chopping Block's Merchandise Mart location, we had a whipped cream contest! Two teams of thre had ...

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Easy Farmers Cheese

  Making farmers cheese is a really cool first recipe to try your hand at cheese making. It's incredibly versatile as you can add in anything you have on hand to doctor it up. Stir in some herbs, ...

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Where There is Smoke There is Fire

Summer and grilling just go together. How about this summer, you step up your grilling game and add some smoke to the mix? By lowering the temperature of the grill and adding some wood chunks to any ...

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Ribs are a Cut Above the Rest

If I ever have to decide upon a “last supper,” it will be ribs – probably accompanied by cheesy pasta of some sort and a decedent crème brulee, but that’s for other blogs -  today we dedicate to the ...

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The Art of the Croissant

Every year, I take the week of my birthday off to travel. I then spend the next 358 days getting excited for the next trip. I say this every year, but the trip this year my favorite. We spent 4 days ...

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Eat a Pita: How to Make Homemade Pita Bread

  Isn't homemade, fresh bread always better than anything you can find in the store? That's a rhetorical question. I have been thinking about making fresh pita bread for some time now, and I finally ...

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Under Pressure: Pressure Canning for Advanced Preserving

Having homemade staples around the house, like stock or broth, marinara, barbecue sauce, or even precooked beans can make it so much easier for a home cook to whip up a quick meal on a whim. When you ...

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Is Rinsing Rice Really Required?

  Even though it's a staple the world over, making a really good pot of rice is harder than it looks. There's a reason those boil-in-a-bag things took off, you know. Let's assume you don't have a ...

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Making Extracts: The Essentials

  Extract (noun): a preparation containing the active ingredient of a substance in a concentrated form.

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A Cheesy Valentine Meal That Can't Be "Beet"

Valentine’s Day is just under two weeks away. Did you forget? It’s easy for this holiday to sneak up on a person, and next thing you know it, you are scrambling to find a dinner reservation. Do not ...

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Macaron Mania

  They’re petite, delicate, colorful and come in endless varieties that melt in your mouth. Yes, I’m talking about macarons! Macarons seem to make any occasion more special, and we’ve certainly found ...

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Acid and Fat: The Yin and Yang of Cooking

Understanding how acids and fats affect the flavor and texture of our food can be an ace card in your cooking game.

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The Simple Way to Cook a Simple Steak

One of our more popular classes at The Chopping Block is Steakhouse DIY. Many of our students sign up for this class for the simple reason that cooking a steak at home can be a terrifying experience. ...

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The One Chef Everyone Should Know

                              It is impossible to begin to teach people how to cook without referencing something or someone from the past, whether it be a technique, a recipe or enlightened culinary ...

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The Dish to De-Stress: Homemade Pasta

  I have three great loves in my life:  my husband, my puppy and making homemade pasta. Okay, okay… maybe there are a few more things and loved ones that rank above making homemade pasta, but it is ...

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Impress Your Guests with This Easy and Elegant Appetizer

Because this is the time of year when a lot of us are hosting holiday parties, I'm inspired to share a very simple and impressive recipe for your next party that your guests are sure to love.

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A Holiday Horn Of Plenty: The Cornucopia

The cornucopia, a symbol of abundance and nourishment used to grace many a Thanksgiving table but seems to have fallen on hard times these days. Be it made of bread, woven wicker or something a ...

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Bao Down to Yummy Steamed Buns

  I recently taught one of The Chopping Block's more popular classes, Dim Sum and Then Some. One of the recipes in this class is Bao, which is a steamed bun filled with chicken, pork, vegetables or ...

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For the Love of Pasta

  Flour + Water + Eggs + Salt + a pinch of magic = True love!  I absolutely love making pasta from scratch.  How can something so simple be so delicious?!  I find it remarkable that you can make one ...

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Your New Favorite Fried Chicken

  I am an absolute fiend for using leftovers. In fact, my mania for using every last bit of EVERYTHING in the kitchen has been known to make a few eyes roll around the house. But when I looked into ...

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Building Confidence with a Late Summer Harvest

  One of the best parts about being a member of The Chopping Block team is that when you work for a place that is so passionate about education, you end up learning quite a bit along the way! So when ...

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Spatchcock and Roll

Ya’ll like chicken? Of course you do, it's like the official bird of America (Editor’s Note: No, it isn’t)! Chicken is so good that we will tell people that whatever exotic food is on their plate ...

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Quesadilla to the Lunch Rescue

 What are you eating for lunch today? If the answer is "I have no idea!" then how about a quesadilla?  

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Facing a Fear of Cooking Braciole

  Braciole is an Italian dish that has always had a very soft spot in my heart. This is a dish of meat worthiness for those who aren’t aware. It’s a thin slice of top round, flank steak or even pork ...

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How to Make a Pan Sauce

What's not to love about a pan sauce? It looks (and tastes) fancy but takes virtually no effort, can be made with pantry staples (especially if wine is considered a pantry staple), and is made in the ...

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Honey Mustard Roasted Chicken

My husband and I love honey mustard. When given the opportunity, we will slather it on just about anything and everything. So it should be no surprise that it’s the centerpiece of one of our favorite ...

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Use the Right Oil for the Job

Since I started teaching cooking classes at The Chopping Block, one of the most common questions I get from students is why we use two different types of oil to cook with. So I decided to take a ...

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The Endless Variations of Homemade Vinaigrettes

  Making food from scratch versus buying prepared products has so many advantages: not only do you have more appreciation for the finished product but you'll enjoy the process of creating it. You can ...

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How to Make Fresh Pasta without Eggs

I was recently craving fresh pasta for dinner, but my oldest son has developed a problem with digesting eggs. I did some research and found a number of eggless pasta dough recipes that I liked parts ...

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Braciole: Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

Braciole, pronounced bra'zhul, is a soul-satisfying dish that hails from Italy. It consists of a thin piece of meat, breadcrumbs, prosciutto, cheese and sometimes, but not always, hard-boiled eggs, ...

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Cheese Making at Home Part 3: Labneh "Yogurt Cream Cheese"

I will be honest. I had never actually heard of Labneh prior to my cheese making classes at the Ploughshare Institute in Waco, Texas. I was not only intrigued about the cheese making process but also ...

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How to Pickle a Peck of Peppers

One of my favorite things about working with food and cooking is that there is always something new to learn. There are so many ingredients, styles and techniques that we have virtually endless ...

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No Ice Cream Maker? The No Churn Ice Cream Trend is For You

I've noticed a lot of articles about no churn ice cream lately. From the Huffington Post to Martha Stewart, food writers proclaimed their love of these ridiculously easy-to-make recipes that require ...

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Cheese Making at Home Part 2: Cream Cheese and Yogurt

I must say I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t know that cream cheese was made from sour cream when I arrived at my two-day cheese making class at the Ploughshare Institute in Waco, Texas. ...

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The Amazing Roasted Red Pepper

"That's my favorite smell, and I want it in a candle!"

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Kale Chips Reinvented

I am often inspired by the students who take cooking classes at the Chopping Block. Let me give you an example.

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Papa's Hot Peppers: No Canning Required

As much as I hate that summer is coming to an end, this time of year does bring back a fond childhood memory. No, not back to school… but my Papa’s Hot Peppers.

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Easy Canning at Home: Making Savory Pepper Jelly

Our Summer Canning and Preserving class, which features a new menu, is coming up in a few weeks! Because it’s a new menu, I went ahead and tested a couple of the recipes to ensure they worked well, ...

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Cheese Making at Home Part 1: Butter, Buttermilk and Sour Cream

I just got back from a two-day cheese making class at the Ploughshare Institute in Waco, Texas. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the class. When I take classes, I am always looking for ways to ...

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How I Became Brave Enough to Cook Fish

I am a forgetful person. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to overcome it. No matter how many post it notes I make or how many ‘reminder’ apps I download for my phone, I will forget something.

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The Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg

I recently bought LeCreuset Egg Cups. Why? Because they are so cute! Then I had to figure out how to make the perfect soft or hard-boiled eggs so that I could use them.

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The Dangers of Lacto-Fermented Foods on Your Nasal Passages

I am a preserver by nature. I pickle, I can, I cure. But what most people don’t realize is that vinegar is not the only way to preserve vegetables. You can also make lacto-fermented foods, which is a ...

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A Pretty Pickle: How to Pickle Grapes

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