Dear Barbara: When I make cupcakes, they look so little! The cupcakes that I see in magazines are nice and big and hold a good amount of frosting. I have tried filling the liners almost to the top with batter, but it just makes a mess, and the batter rises up over the edge of the tin and connects with surrounding batter and bakes that way. How can I make my cupcakes larger when all of the cupcake tins seem to be the same size? — Haley from Lodi
Dear Haley: Try using oversized cupcake liners. That should help somewhat. They sell them in most supermarkets. Some supermarkets, such as Raley’s, also sell oversized foil cupcake pans that come with 12 liners. I believe there are three pans, each holding four cupcakes. Still fill them two-thirds full of batter just like you would if they were regular size. Being foil, I assume the pans are meant to be disposable, but if you are careful, you can wash and reuse them. I have had mine for at least a year and they will still be used many more times. The larger cupcakes are especially nice if you plan to make filled cupcakes.
Dear Barbara: Someone told me that you should rehydrate dried herbs, like you would dried mushrooms, to get the most flavor from them. Is this correct? — Lani from Lodi
Dear Lani: It is not necessary, or advisable, to rehydrate dried herbs. They will soften when mixed into the recipe. To get the most flavor from dried herbs, rub them between your fingers right before you add them to the recipe. This will release any oils left in the herb. Of course, I don’t advise you to do that with dried rosemary or you could hurt yourself! I use a spice grinder (coffee grinder used only for spices) for that. It is very difficult to try to chop dried rosemary without it flying all over the kitchen!
Dear Barbara: I finally made my first attempt at making homemade chicken stock. I thought it was really easy to make and I will start making my own since we eat chicken frequently. My question is: How long can I keep it in the refrigerator? Can I freeze it, or will it change the quality? — Pat from Lodi
Dear Pat: Good for you! You will find the quality far superior to the stock you purchase, and you can control the salt content.
It doesn’t really keep very long in the refrigerator; I would say no more than three days. It is also a good idea to bring the stock to a rolling boil again before using it. What you can do is decide how much you would need in the next few days and then divide the remaining stock into portions and freeze it. I use freezer bags and double bag the stock just in case it leaks. Be sure to date it and mark what it is on the bag. Lay the bags flat so you don’t have one big rock when the stock is frozen. After the stock is frozen, you can stack them. I don’t keep mine any more than six months. They say you can keep it longer, but I think the quality starts deteriorating after about six months.
Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products.