Dear Barbara: I was watching Sandra Lee on the food channel and she was using poultry seasoning on chicken. It’s always been like a mystery ingredient to me because I don’t know what’s in it. What are the ingredients and can you only use it on poultry? — Meg from Lodi
Dear Meg: It can be a mystery ingredient if you make it at home. It seems every recipe is different, but most have some basic similarities. McCormick poultry seasoning contains thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper and nutmeg. To this basic combination, some people add other ingredients such as onion powder, cloves, oregano, celery salt or parsley.
If you would like to make it at home, the closest I could find to McCormick was at Recipezaar.com. You can mix 2 teaspoons of ground sage with 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of ground thyme, 1 teaspoon ground marjoram, 1⁄2 teaspoon ground rosemary, 1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1⁄2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper. Mix well and store in a clean, used spice bottle, tightly sealed. If you don’t have the spices on hand, it would be to your advantage to just buy a small container of poultry season on the spice aisle of your market.
As you can see from the recipe, there are no highly unusual ingredients, so you could also use it on other meats, fish, casseroles and whatever you think would benefit from the above spices.
Dear Barbara: I still get confused when a recipe calls for chicken breast or chicken breasts. What are they talking about? Are they calling the two breasts joined together, one? Or is that two? — Pat from Spokane
Dear Pat: Most all recipes tell you which one they are talking about. It may say four chicken breast halves, or one whole chicken breast, split. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are usually already halved. I didn’t know you could get whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but my daughter said where she lives in L.A., they have boneless, skinless chicken breasts, connected. I have not seen them around here, but I haven’t shopped everywhere!
If the recipe does not mention half or whole, they will usually mention weight. It might say four 6 to 8 ounce chicken breasts. This would tell you they are halved, because a whole boneless, skinless chicken breast would weigh 12-19 ounces. A recipe may ask for one whole chicken breast, which would, of course, mean both halves.
Dear Barbara: This isn’t exactly a cooking question, but I thought you might have an answer. I took my children trick or treating last year and rationed out the candy. Several of the little candy bars that they opened had a whitish film on them. I put them in a sandwich bag and eventually threw them out. Were they OK to eat or were they spoiled or stale? Now the same question arose again. Are they OK to eat? — Lisa from Galt
Dear Lisa: What caused them to turn a whitish color is what they call “fat bloom,” or just bloom. This is when the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa and rises to the surface of the chocolate. This is mostly caused by a quick temperature change.
I once made over a hundred pieces of assorted chocolates to use as gifts and let each batch set up in the refrigerator because it was quicker. When I got up the next morning, they all had bloomed!
This affects the appearance, but not the taste. They are perfectly fine to eat.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.