This Oct. 3, 2011 photo shows speedy chicken noodle soup in Concord, N.H. This soup can be partly prepped ahead in batches to make weeknight soup easy. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Your Questions - Your Recipes

It’s time! This is the week I answer your food and cooking questions, and share your favorite recipes.

Since it’s the last Tuesday in 2013, let’s look back at some of my favorite questions that you asked and recipes that you shared.

Your Questions:

What’s the big deal with fresh ground pepper? – Jim in Lancaster

It’s all about freshness and shelf life. Pre-ground pepper purchased from the store will last about 6 months. Peppercorns can be stored in the freezer for years.

It’s economical to purchase peppercorns in bulk and grind them in a spice mill or pepper grinder as needed. I love using my pepper grinder because I can adjust the grinding size. My husband likes big pieces of pepper, and my son will refuse to eat his eggs if the pepper is larger than a piece of salt. So having an adjustable grinder is handy.

Many people use a spice grinder to grind small batches of pepper they then keep in a small bowl or pepper pot.

Every so often, when someone is talking about making food, I hear the term ‘deglaze,’ as in, “I deglazed the pan and used what was left to make a sauce.” What is deglazing and how can I use the technique with my cooking? - Justin in Morgantown

Deglazing is pouring a cold liquid into a hot pan that you just cooked meat or veggies in. This loosens all the delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pan and creates a pan sauce.

You can use broth, alcohol, water or juices to deglaze a pan. Before pouring alcohol into your pan, remove it from the burner to avoid flare-ups.

For example, you can make gravy by deglazing a pan that you used to roast a chicken or beef roast. After removing the meat from the pan, pour or spoon off any excess fat and remove any burnt bits. You want brown, not charred.

Place the pan over high heat (you may need to use two burners if it’s a large pan). When the drippings are simmering, add cold broth, white wine, or any other liquid. Scrape the bits from the pan as the sauce boils. Turn the heat to low, and reduce the sauce, or add cornstarch to thicken. You will never be satisfied with packet gravy again!

How do I tell if a veggie or food is genetically modified? I want to avoid them, but am not sure how to spot GMOs. – Sarah in Denver

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are food crops or animals that have been genetically altered in a laboratory for higher yield or resistance to pesticides and disease.

According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “GMO’s can cause infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.” Yuck.

To avoid genetically modified foods, buy organic produce and look for the “Non-GMO Project” seal. The biggest genetically modified food crops are corn, soybeans, canola, wheat, cottonseed, sugar beets and papaya from China or Hawaii. Sugar beets are turned into sugar and used in many processed foods. If “sugar” is listed in an ingredient list, it is probably from genetically modified sugar beets. “Pure cane sugar” is ok.

Many dairy and beef cattle are injected with genetically modified bovine growth hormones. Buy organic dairy and beef or look for labels stating no rbGH, rbST or artificial hormones.

Visit www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com for more info.

Your Recipes:

Chicken Egg Drop Soup

From Michael in Honey Brook

Michael enjoyed reading the article about chicken soup and thought we might like this recipe. His mother made a similar recipe when he was growing up.

14 oz can fat-free chicken broth

One egg

2 Tbs grated cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl combine the egg and grated cheese. Mix thoroughly. Set aside. In a saucepan bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the egg and cheese mixture to the boiling broth. Continue to cook until the broth comes to a second boil. (Egg should appear scrambled.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 1 large serving. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Balls

From Irene in Millersville

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup crispy rice cereal

3/4 cup uncooked oats

3 Tbs instant cocoa mix

Combine honey and peanut butter. Add cocoa mix. Mix until well blended. Stir in rice cereal and oats. Shape into balls. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Serve.

Pumpkin Cookies

From Elizabeth in Morgantown

1 cup cooked, pureed pumpkin

1 cup of shortening

1 cup of white sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 to 1/2 tsp rum extract

Frosting:

3 Tbs Butter

4 tsp milk

1 tsp Vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

Cream shortening, sugar, pumpkin and egg. Add rum extract and spices. Mix in flour, soda, and salt. Drop from a spoon on to a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

While cookies are baking make icing: Cook butter, milk and brown sugar until dissolved. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread on warm cookies just as they come out of the oven.

The last Tuesday of the month I endeavor to answer your questions and share your favorite recipes. Send them to me at ThroughMyKitchenWindow@gmail.com.