Ask Momma

Ask Momma

Welcome to our first issue of Ask Momma! This is your opportunity to ask a chef what you’ve always wanted to know to up your kitchen game.

Chef Madonna gets asked questions all the time about everything from cooking methods to baking to kitchenware or recipes. If one person has a question, others must be wondering the same thing! So we’ve decided to share your questions and Chef Madonna’s answers.

Thank you to everyone who has sent questions in already! We have so many we can’t possibly fit them all into this first issue, but I promise your questions will be answered.

Have more questions? Add them in the comments or submit them here!

No one is born a good cook, one learns by doing.

Julia Child

What is your favorite sweet and savory combination? – Jaime

Chinese crispy honey prawns and pecans. Recipe coming soon!

When baking, how do you make sure your cakes stay moist and don’t get dry? – PJ

PJ, baking is similar to chemistry – you must add the ingredients in the specific order given in your recipe. Use ingredients as listed, substitutions can affect moisture. For example, butter with salt contains a higher level of water than unsalted butter.
Another common cause for dryness is over baking. Your cake should spring back at a touch, and you should be able to insert a toothpick and have it come out clean.

I always make a huge meal and then remember there are only 2 of us – what is the best way to store leftovers long term, so we don’t have to eat the same thing for a week? – Lorraine

Lorraine, making large meals is a fantastic way to prepare for quick, simple meals during busy weeks! The best way to store leftovers is with a vacuum sealer. I prefer the Seal a Meal Vacuum Sealer, but there are many others out there.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, then a freezer safe zip lock bag works great! Place your food in the zip lock bag and use a hot water bath to eliminate as much air as possible. This simply means dipping the bag with the contents into hot water (not boiling, hot water from the tap is fine) and sealing the top before pulling it back out. Most meals will last 3-6 months in the freezer. Don’t forget to date and label your food!
The most efficient way for storage space and thawing is to spread the meals in a flat, even layer this allows you to stack in your freezer and takes less time to thaw. Package your meals in portions that you’ll eat at one meal, so in your case 2 servings. If you have guests coming, you can always thaw multiple packages to accommodate more people!

What 3 ingredients do you keep on hand at all times to make a casserole? – Latonya

Latonya, casseroles are a terrific way to use up ingredients in your pantry and fridge after a long day! They are also a fun way to experiment with flavors – make sure you write down what you use in case you want to make it again or try something different. Too many times I’ve thrown together an amazing casserole that the family wants again, and I have no idea what I put in it by the end of the meal! I always keep chicken, mixed veggies (fresh or frozen), and rice or pasta on hand. These make a good base for any casserole. Have fun cooking!

What is the best way to ensure proper cooking temperature for meat? – Jess

Jess, the best way to ensure proper cooking temperatures for meat is with an instant read thermometer. You want to insert the probe from the side of the meat rather than the top.
For slab meat like steak or pork chops, you want to lift the meat off the heat source and insert the probe from the side as close to the center as possible for the most accurate reading.
For roast style meats, it’s often more difficult to reach the sides of the meat so just make sure you are getting as close to the center of the roast as possible.
I prefer to use probes that can stay in throughout the cooking process for roasts or loins. These probes allow you to check the temperature without opening the oven door which effectively stops the cooking process.
Regardless of what kind of probe you use, you need to stick the probe into the center of the meat. Typically probes have a 1-inch area that must be inserted into the product to receive an accurate reading.

I’d like to be better at experimenting and making new recipes. How do you know what flavors work well together? Is there a spice bible somewhere? – Cecilia

Cecilia, as a matter of fact there is! A couple that I recommend are The Spice Bible by Jane Lawson and The Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg. Don’t be afraid to experiment! All recipes started from an idea and some of the best recipes come from tossing this and that together. Make sure to write down what you’re using so when your family asks for an encore you remember what you did! Or when a recipe doesn’t work you can look back and decide where to make changes.

Thank you for all your great questions!! Please continue to Ask Momma and we will answer your questions as soon as we can. Ask your questions in the comments or submit them here!

Chef Madonna and Momma Made It are not affiliated with any of the recommended products and do not receive compensation for recommending them. These recommendations are based solely on Chef Madonna’s personal use and experience.