Check out these great tips for making a great cup of coffee, using crescent rolls to spice up chicken salad, and prepping asparagus to be your perfect side dish.

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April 2007: From Our Kitchen
Check out these great tips for making a great cup of coffee, using crescent rolls to spice up chicken salad, and prepping asparagus to be your perfect side dish.
| Credit: Beth Dreiling / Styling Buffy Hargett / Food Styling Mary Allen Perry, Vanessa McNeil Rocchio

Grind for Goodness
A superb cup of coffee is the perfect accompaniment to warm, buttery rolls or a rich dessert. For the very best taste, that means freshly ground beans and boiling water. Ground coffee loses flavor quickly, especially once it's exposed to air, so even the tastiest brands go stale shortly after opening. Grinding right before brewing is absolutely the best method. But when this isn't possible, grind a two- or three-day supply, and keep it in a tightly sealed container.

For short-term storage (two weeks or less), place coffee beans in an airtight bag or container in the pantry or other dry place. If you have extra you want to keep longer, you can freeze coffee beans for up to two months by storing them in two layers of plastic freezer bags to keep stray flavors from getting in.

Burr grinders offer the most even texture but are more expensive and require more maintenance than a simple blade grinder. I find that shaking a blade grinder several times during processing helps produce an even grind.

Coffee Rules
Whether you prefer a drip pot or a French press, The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook offers these basic guidelines for producing the most flavorful cup.

  • Grind only as much coffee as you plan to brew
  • Use 2 Tbsp. coffee for 6 oz. (3/4 cup) of water.
  • After brewing, serve coffee immediately or transfer to a thermal carafe for up to 15 minutes. Don't leave in coffeemaker where it can develop a scorched taste.
  • Don't boil coffee, boiling destroys flavor and makes it bitter.

Hot and Crusty Chicken Salad
Here's an easy and novel way to serve chicken salad: Bake it in a crescent. "These rolls offer a nice, economical way to serve chicken salad," says Associate Foods Editor Mary Allen Perry. "One cup of the mixture will fill an 8-oz. can of crescents. Use finely chopped chicken salad that has only a small amount of mayonnaise for best results. You can flavor it with curry or even add raisins or pecans, if you prefer." Mary Allen likes serving these rolls with a green salad.

Chicken Salad Crescent Rolls: Unroll 1 (8-oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls; separate each dough portion along center and diagonal perforations, forming 8 triangles. Spoon 2 Tbsp. of your favorite chicken salad on the wide end of each triangle. Starting at the wide end of each triangle, roll dough over chicken salad, pinching edges to seal. Place rolls, seam sides down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle tops of rolls evenly with 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds. (Seeds will stick to rolls without a binder; you don't need to brush with egg.) Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Try These Tips
Tender green spears of asparagus are phenomenal when they have been properly prepared. Before you begin cooking this fresh springtime treat, however, you will want to follow a couple of simple steps that will make it the perfect side dish.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer portion of the stalk.Snap off the tougher portion of the asparagus stem by hand. Just grip the vegetable 1 to 11.5 inches from the stem end and bend it slightly; it will break right off.

Creative Ways With Crescent Rolls
Many readers love crescent rolls served alongside lunch dishes or chicken salad served on crescents. Canned rolls are extremely versatile, making them the basis for some delicious variations. Few other ingredients can be used so easily in cinnamon rolls or beef casserole. Try these warm, crusty, and tender delights.

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"April 2007: From Our Kitchen" is from the April 2007 issue of Southern Living.