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Hello my Foodie Friends. Among my “many talents” is the natural ability to tell a good story. Many of my stories are from my parents, relatives and siblings and are based on gatherings of family events that have occurred over the years. Getting the scoop on family stories is something we do beginning in our childhood and continues through our years with our own children. Family stories are a collection of tales about people, places, and events related to your family and your ancestors. Every person has a story to tell.
The memorable stories of our lives and of others in our family take on special importance, even if everyone tells different versions of the same event. These tales are family heirlooms held close to the heart. They are a gift to each generation that preserves them by remembering them and passing them on to future generations, and will become some of the most valuable and exciting information you can document about your family history. By getting the scoop on your family stories, and learning more about the personalities and heritage of your ancestors, they become more than just names and dates. They become real people with real struggles and dreams and triumphs in their lives just like you.
This week’s top cooking tool is the portion scoop. This is one item that we love in the kitchen. Portion scoops are standard-sized scoops used to measure out food, both cooked and uncooked. They look like ice cream scoops and have a spring release that scrapes your food/ice cream/cookie dough out of the scoop once it has been measured. The odd thing about them is that they come in strange sizes, like #16 and #24, rather than in sizes that you might ordinarily associate with cookie baking, such as “a 1-inch ball” or “a rounded tablespoon.” The numbers on portion scoops refer to fractions of a quart (32-ounces), or the number of scoops of a particular size it takes to make 32-oz. With this system, you know that a #16 scoop is 2-oz and a #24 is 1.5-oz. The general rule is the larger the number, the smaller the scoop, and when you are picking out a scoop you can simply choose one based on the size of the cookie you’d like to make (or whatever else you might be portioning out).
Portion scoops are designed for kitchen professionals to standardize their products and to keep a handle on costs. These scoop sizes ensure that they get exactly the same number of servings (or balls of dough) per batch or per recipe without wasting any product – and that the customers always get the same amount of product for their money. And it is how they keep the cookies in a bakery display window looking so perfect, too.
There are so many innovative things to make with a scoop. Here are 10 things to make with a Scoop
1. Assemble sandwiches. Whether you’re making chicken salad sandwiches or ice cream sandwiches, a large scoop will give you just the right amount of filling. Smash it a little, and add the top of the sandwich. The same idea applies for homemade ravioli, enchiladas, stuffed zucchini or peppers, and pot stickers.
2. Form cookies. This works whether you’re making no bake cookies or ones that need to be cooked. All of the cookies will be perfect circles if they start out as nice balls, and since they’re all the same size, they’ll all be finished cooking at the same time.
3. Fill muffin tins. Whether you’re making muffins, cupcakes, or eggs in your muffin tin, a scoop will give you the same amount of batter in each cup. No one will fight over whose cupcake is bigger!
4. Make pancakes. It’s nice to not worry about the size of each pancake. If you use the same scoop for each pancake, the finished products will all be exactly the same size. Or, if you use a smaller scoop and a larger scoop, you can easily make a Mickey Mouse pancake.
5. Make easy truffles. Start with a simple chocolate ganache. I use 6-8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into small cubes), and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Mix that together and microwave in 30-second increments until you’re able to stir it into a smooth, creamy liquid. Then let it cool, just enough that it will hold its shape. Use a scoop to form balls of chocolate, and then roll them in powdered sugar, colored sugar, chopped nuts, sprinkles, cocoa powder, or whatever you want.
6. Brownie lollipops. This is a fun recipe where you start with a slightly cooled pan of brownies. They need to be warm enough to work with, but not so hot that they fall apart. Using a small scoop, form brownie balls (avoid the hard edges; eat those instead). Insert a stick into each one, and then dip it into melted chocolate. Finish the lollipops off with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, colored sugar, sprinkles, or other garnish.
7. Dessert balls. What little athlete wouldn’t like a baseball made from Rice Krispies? Or a soccer ball made from a brownie and decorated with frosting? Or even a basketball made from cantaloupe? Use a scoop to make the balls.
8. Meatballs. Honestly, Paula makes her meatballs by hand. However, when she has to make large amounts for a large gathering, she uses a scoop to form them into perfect balls. You can also use a scoop to form crab cakes (press the balls down a bit) and hamburgers (press them down a lot).
9. Form dumplings. When I was little, my mom made dumplings to go with stews. They’re basically balls of dough dropped into hot broth towards the end of cooking.
10. Fill your decorator. I use my smallest scoop to fill my decorator with frosting for making cakes and egg yolks for filling deviled eggs. I use a larger scoop to fill my cookie press. I use a scoop because the spring makes the sticky stuff pop right out into the decorator or press easily, and I don’t have to dirty a bunch of spoons.
Here is a delicious recipe that many of my Italian family members would make using a portion scoop:
Orange Drop Cookies
2/3 Cup Shortening
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Orange Juice
1 Zest of California Naval Orange
2 Cups Flour
1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp. Salt
Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees
Mix shortening, sugar and egg
Stir in orange juice and orange zest
In a separate bowl, stir dry ingredients together
Add dry ingredients slowly to wet ingredients, gently mix by hand
Scoop mix down with a spoon and drop onto an un-greased baking sheet
Bake each tray for 8 - 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on edges
Mix 2 1/2 Tbsb. of soft butter, 1 1/2 Cups Confectionary Sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsb. Orange Juice and drizzle over cookies
These are so yummy. I remember as a child, loading my pockets with these cookies and handing them off to my brothers and sisters while my mother and aunts were in the kitchen making tons of Italian cookies for a family event. Well, that’s another family story I have!! Stop by Compliments to the Chef located at 46 Marion Avenue. We have a variety of scoop sizes to meet your culinary needs. During the times you are in the kitchen cooking and eating with your family, get the scoop and share family stories. Your family stories are guaranteed to become absolutely priceless possessions in your family for many generations to come. Remember: “Life Happens in the Kitchen.” Take care, John and Paula
Trusts come in many different forms and serve multiple different purposes. Whether a Trust should be included in your estate plan is something you should discuss with your attorney. To aid you in your discussion, here is a primer on the most common types of trusts used in estate planning.
What is a Revocable Trust?
A revocable trust holds property for you during your lifetime. You can revoke the trust and take back ownership of the property at any time that you choose. Revocable trusts are sometimes used in the place of Wills in order to avoid the probate process. If avoiding the probate of a Will is your goal, you should take care to ensure that all of your property is held by your revocable trust or is otherwise held in a non-probate form, i.e. as joint property with a spouse.
What is an Irrevocable Trust?
An irrevocable trust cannot be revoked by the creator, and is often used in asset preservation planning to assist the creator in later qualifying for Medicaid. Anything transferred into a properly drafted irrevocable trust more than five years before a Medicaid application is filed will not be counted as an asset of the Medicaid applicant.
What is a Supplemental Needs Trust?
A supplemental needs trust can be set up for the benefit of a disabled person by a third party. For example, a father may set one up for his disabled child in his Will, so that money will be available for the child’s care after the father’s death. A supplemental needs trust does not affect the eligibility of the disabled child for governmental benefits, such as SSI or Medicaid. One of the advantages of a third party supplemental needs trust is that the principal of the trust can be left to other family members after the death of the disabled person.
What is a Special Needs Trust?
A special needs trust is similar to a third party supplemental needs trust in that it does not affect the eligibility of a disabled beneficiary for governmental benefits. In contrast to a third party supplemental needs trust, a special needs trust is set up with the disabled person’s own funds – sometimes from the proceeds of a personal injury settlement. In addition, funds left in the trust after the disabled person’s death must be used to pay off any lien Medicaid has for providing medical care during the disabled person’s lifetime.
What is an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust?
An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) is often used to assist with the payment of potential estate taxes. When the ILIT is established, the creator gifts money to the Trust to purchase a life insurance policy on his or her life. Over the course of the creator’s life, he or she gifts additional money to the ILIT to pay annual premiums, keeping the annual gifts below the annual exclusion amount for federal gift tax purposes. This allows the value of the insurance policy to grow outside of the taxable estate of the creator. Upon the creator’s death, the death benefit paid under the life insurance policy is not part of the creator’s taxable estate and is therefore available to help pay any estate taxes that are levied on the creator’s estate.
In addition to the trusts mentioned above, trusts may be used by estate planning attorneys for a variety of other reasons. Quite commonly, trusts are used in Wills to control the distribution of money to children. For example, you can set up a trust in your Will to hold money for your child until they reach the age of 30, while allowing your Trustee to distribute funds to your child for purposes that are worthwhile, i.e. for education or the purchase of a new home. This control of funds on a child’s behalf can help prevent money from potentially being dissipated on less worthy “needs” like sports cars or luxury vacations.
Whether a trust should be part of your estate plan is a discussion you should have with your attorney. As you can see, trusts come in a great variety of types and serve many purposes. An experienced professional can help you make the right decisions based on your personal circumstances.