Monday, September 22, 2008

Cookware what you need and what you don’t !

Cookware what you need and what you don’t !
by: mark Brading

Cookware is always a rather contentious subject. I have seen chefs turn up to even the simplest of cooking jobs carrying more than it would take to maintain your average oil tanker (though maybe this is not the best use for your cookware), when all that was really needed was a knife and something to sharpen it with.
So what are the real ”cookware essentials”, the things that you really can’t do without? Well surprisingly you actually need only a very small amount of things to get you going. Probably considerably less than you have already.

All the cookware you actually need is a good knife, a means of sharpening it, a chopping board and a couple of pans.You may prefer a bit more cookware but you can cook with just that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as partial to a kitchen full of mixers, blenders, electrical appliances and assorted useful, and otherwise, gadgets as the next person.
But although good quality cheap cookware ( yes it is possible )like grinders and blenders give you a lot more scope there are plenty of things that you can cook without them, but a good knife, or three, is absolutely essential.

The first and most essential piece of cookware you need is a cooks knife, thats as large as you feel comfortable with, an 8 inch knife with a blade that curves slightly to allow a rocking motion is a good start, then a smaller knife, about 4 inches, for cutting small vegetables and a carving knife.

If you buy one about 10 inches long it can also double as a bread knife. Although there is no point buying extra knifes just to line the pockets of the large kitchen eequipment manufacturers. A set can actually be quite good value and give you more for a similar amount of money. But check carefully what is in the set first.

If you cannot find a set with what you think will be useful to you, don’t buy it. Many sets come with extras like a case or wooden knife block but try to see past the free gifts. Its much better to have a few good knives in your drawer than a fancy polished beech wood block with fifteen designer knives, fourteen of which you never use, and one that is not the right shape for your hand and gives you blisters.
I have a small, not very expensive set of French Sabatiers that are comfortable but not as posh looking as some of the more fashionable makes like the Japanese globals which I find too light which makes chopping a lot of veg for example much harder work.

If you learn how to use them properly then steel or grinding stone is a good way to keep your knives sharp otherwise there are a good choice of proprietary sharpeners that keep the knife at the right angle while you pull it through the sharpener. Pans also need to be good quality, nothing over the top, no need to spend a fortune. Just make sure they are of a good solid construction.

This promotes good even heat distribution and helps to prevent things burning. Stainless steel is a good option. A good wok on the other hand should be made of a thin light steel and cost very little, but always check that it has a good well-fixed wooden handle. The best place to buy this most useful of pans is (perhaps unsurprisingly) usually the local Chinese supermarket. A good chopping board is another necessity though two are better than one as this helps to prevent cross contamination if you designate one for uncooked meats/fish etc.and another for things like fruit and salads.

No matter how much you think you will always be careful and wash them between uses this is the best single way to prevent contamination between foods. Mixers can be useful if you intend doing a lot of baking. But unless you make bread on a regular basis (always a good idea), then buying a simple, good quality hand held mixer rather than a heavy stand alone version could save you a couple of hundred dollars in as well as a lot of space on your worktop.

A blender is always useful for soups and the occasional smoothie, and a grinder will give you a lot more options in your use of nuts etc.and will also provide a constant supply of fresh coffee for the more manic cook. A good way to combine the functions of all three is to buy a food processor.

A good quality machine such as a Moulinex or Robot coupe will save space and allow you to buy a much better processor than if you bought there items separately. There is an almost unending list of kitchen equipment that you could buy (if in doubt walk into your local cookery shop and ask the owner what he thinks you need!), but make sure you get the essential good quality cookware right and it will make your cooking easier and more enjoyable.


About the author:
"http://nearlyhealthy.com" is a new quality easy recipe, cookery tips and information site, for great tasting food that is also easy to cook. Cooking should be a joy not a chore. Using the best ingredients and keeping it simple means your food tastes good with the minimum of fuss. . Cookery book reviews, we choose the best in current and classic recipe books and food travel writers. Also product and good food suppliers.

Need to know the best food processor we take the time to choose so you don't have to. Need to know where to find the best organic pork? We bring you the best suppliers and information.

We have started small but will add more and more content over the coming weeks so do keep checking back. We look forward to seeing you and listening to your comments and feedback.
http://www.nearlyhealthy.com

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chinese Food

Chinese Food
by: Marci Crane

Now holds a popular place among the entire population of the world. You can find a Chinese restaurant in every major city and in many smaller areas of the world as well. Why is Chinese food so popular? Is Chinese food healthy? What is the history of Chinese food?

The History of Chinese Food

The history of Chinese food1 is an interesting one. Unlike many cultures the Chinese believe that the preparation of food is an art and not simply a craft. The art of cooking Chinese food can include dishes and food preparation techniques which are difficult to develop and may require the expertise of a chef with lots of experience. One such technique is noodle pulling (scroll down to the bottom of the page to learn more about this technique). Noodle pulling requires skill and lots of practice and results in a delicious noodle dish. This article will refer to noodle pulling later on, but for now, let’s go back to the history of Chinese food.

Chinese food and the way it is prepared is very much influenced by the two major philosophies, which influence the entire Chinese culture. These dominant philosophies are Confucianism and Taoism. Both have these philosophies have influenced the way that the Chinese people cook and the way that they enjoy their food..

Confucianism and Chinese Cuisine

Confucius was the man behind the Confucianism beliefs. Among many other standards Confucius established standards for proper table etiquette and for the appearance and taste of Chinese food. One of the standards set by Confucius (you might have noticed this at an authentic Chinese restaurant) is that food must be cut into small bite size pieces before serving the dish. This is a custom that is definitely unique to the Chinese culture.

Knives at the dinner table are also considered to be a sign of very poor taste by those who embrace Confucianism beliefs. The standards of quality and taste that Confucius recommended required the perfect blend of ingredients, herbs and condiments--a blend which would result in the perfect combination of flavor. Confucius also emphasized the importance of the texture and color of a dish, and taught that food must be prepared and eaten with harmony. Interestingly enough, Confucius was also of the opinion that an excellent cook must first make an excellent matchmaker.

Taoism and Chinese Cuisine

Those who follow the Taoism beliefs focus on the health benefits of particular foods vs. the presentation of the same. Taoists search for foods that will increase their health and longevity. They search for foods that have healing powers. Many times these benefits were often referred to as ‘life giving powers’. For instance, the Chinese found that ginger, which can be considered to be a garnish or a condiment was found to be a remedy for upset stomachs or a remedy for colds.

Is Chinese Food Healthy?

Chinese food, when authentic is probably the healthiest food in the world. Some restaurants, which are not authentic, prepare their menu with highly saturated fats or with meats that contain unhealthy amounts of animal fat. These Chinese restaurants are not recommended and they are both neither authentic nor healthy.

Good Chinese food however, is prepared and cooked with poly-unsaturated oils. Authentic Chinese food does not require the use of milk-fat ingredients such as cream, butter or cheese. Meat is used, but not in abundance, which makes it easy for those who love authentic Chinese food to avoid high levels of animal fat. Many believe that authentic Chinese food is really the ideal diet.

Chinese Restaurants in Every Part of the Nation

Whether it is in a Tennessee Chinese Restaurant to a New York Chinese restaurant you are going to find culinary dishes that are both healthy and delicious. Savor the flavor with Chinese food!

1 The majority of the information found in this article can be referenced at the following website: http://asiarecipe.com/chicookinghistory.html


About the author:
To find out more information in regards to delicious Chinese food, or noodle pulling in Tennessee, visit http://royalpandarestaurant.samsbiz.com/page/18jcr/Home.html

Friday, June 13, 2008

Converting a Recipe for your CrockPot

Converting a Recipe for your CrockPot
by: tony buel


Crockpots vary but the low setting is typically around 100
degrees and its high setting is around 300 degrees.

Knowing this, it is fairly easy to convert most recipes for
use in your slow cooker. Some adjusments to cooking times
will be a judgement call on your part, but some simple
guidelines should help. Just follow a few simple rules
and you're on your way.

You should decrease the liquid since it does not boil away
in a crockpot.

Add cheeses and other milk product towards the end of your
cooking since they tend to break down if they are cooked
for too long.

Brown any ground beef before adding to the crockpot. It
will taste better and have better texture this way.

Add rice and noodles at the end of your cooking as well.
They will turn mushy if they are cooked too long. You can
cook these separately and then combine them when it's time
to serve.

Add your spices at the end.

If a stovetop recipe calls for 15-30 minutes, the crockpot
should cook it for 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hrs at a high temperature
and 4 - 8 hours at its low temperature setting.

If a stovetop recipe calls for 35-45 minutes, the crockpot
should cook it for 3-4 hrs at a high temperature setting
and 6 - 10 hours at its low temperature setting.

If a stovetop recipe calls for 50 min to 3 hours, the crockpot
should cook it for 4 - 6 hrs at a high temperature setting
and 8 - 16 hours at its low temperature setting.

Following these guidelines will allow you to be
able to convert a stovetop recipe to its delicious
slow cooking counterpart!


Tony
http://www.my-crockpot-recipes.com

About the author:
Tony has been working diligently to provide
free cooking related resources for the chef
in all of us. His website www.my-crockpot-recipes.com
is a labor of love which provides delicious and easy
to make crockpot recipes and related tips and advice.

www.my-crockpot-recipes.com

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cantonese Regional Cuisine

Cantonese Regional Cuisine
by: Kirsten Hawkins


Easily the most well-known of the Chinese regional cuisines, Cantonese cuisine comes from the region around Canton in Southern China. Simple spices and a wide variety of foods used in cooking characterize Cantonese cuisine. Of all the Chinese regions, Canton (Guangdong province) has the most available food resources. Its proximity to the sea offers a veritable marine cornucopia to be added to its dishes, making possible such delicate matings as Seven Happiness, a dish that includes shrimp, scallops, fish and lobster along with chicken, beef and pork. The light, delicate sauce, quick cooking and subtle spicing allows the natural flavors to shine through rather than being overwhelmed and blending together.

The spices used in Cantonese cooking tend to be light and simple: ginger, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, spring onion and rice wine. For many who are used to the more rich, spicy and complex flavors of Hunan and Szechwan cooking, Cantonese cooking may seem bland – but the subtle blends of flavor and aroma are created by the hand of a master chef.

All Chinese cuisine takes far more into account than the flavor of a dish. Chinese cooking is a presentation of texture, color, shape and aroma with even the name of the dish contributing to its overall presentation. In true Oriental fashion, a meal is poetry, with every part of it contributing to the overall effect. Chinese courtesy demands that a guest be treated with honor, and to present a guest with anything less than perfection is the height of rudeness.

As an honor to guests, freshness is one of the ultimate ‘ingredients’ in Cantonese regional cooking. In many restaurants, guests can choose their meal from a seafood tank in the dining room. It’s not unusual for a patron to be brought a live fish or crab at the table as proof of the freshness of the meal about to be prepared. Vegetables are likewise fresh, crisp and sweet, and the quick cooking methods preserve each flavor separately to play against the others.

Light sauces with subtle seasonings bring out the natural sweetness of seafood – but the Cantonese chef will only use the very freshest seafood in those dishes. For ‘stale’ seafood, Cantonese cuisine offers thick, spicy sauces meant to mask the characteristic odor of fish. Pungent/sweet dishes like sweet and sour butterfly shrimp might be served this way.

There are few Cantonese desserts that are indigenous to the region, though many restaurants serve a mango based pudding or tapioca. Most meals are served with plain boiled rice, and accompanied by either tea or rice wine.

Wherever in the world you are, you’re likely to find restaurants that serve Cantonese cuisine. It has been carried across the world by emigrants from the Quangdong province, and its light, delicate flavors are easy on the Western palate. To truly appreciate it though, takes more than the taste buds. Cantonese cuisine is a treat for the eyes and the nose as much as for the mouth. Appreciate it.

About the author:
Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food. Visit http://www.food-and-nutrition.com/for more information on cooking delicious and healthy meals.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How to Brew Your Own Beer

How to Brew Your Own Beer
by: Bill Kaplan


Beer brewing has become increasingly popular because it produces a large amount of beer for a very little amount of money. There are three things to consider when brewing your own beer from home - equipment, ingredients and procedure.

Equipment Needed: Ingredients

• A 20 quart brew pot ● Water
• Large stirring spoon ● Malted Barley
• A basic tablespoon ● Hops
• Measuring cup ● Yeast
• Glass jar
• Fermenter (plastic bucket)
• Air lock
• Sanitizer
• Thermometer
• Rolling pin


Procedure:

1. Preparing the Ingredients – Crush the malted barley into suitable sizes using your rolling pin. This will break the grain into pieces and will extract the goodness of the grain when it’s inserted into hot water.

2. Boil the Wort – The ingredients for the wort are mixed with the amount stated on the beer recipe. This is called the “mash”. The mash is mixed together in the boiler and hot water is added. The mash is brought to a boil for approximately half an hour. Once it’s finished boiling, you must filter out the grains and add the hops. Boiling the hops will eliminate its bitter flavor. Boil the hops for approximately 10 minutes.

3. Fermentation – This is the most important step to beer brewing. Insert the yeast into the wort and leave it for approximately one week. If you use the correct amount of yeast, you will notice foam throughout the liquid within the first 24 hours. This foam indicates that the beer is fermenting accordingly.

4. Storage – Store your beer in tanks or package it in bottles or kegs until it is ready for consumption.

About the author:
Bill Kaplan spends most of his free time researching and practicing the art of beer brewing and wine making and serves as a contributing editor for the Beer Brewing and Wine Making website. The site offers information on different types of beer making supplies, supplies for making wine, the history' target='_blank' class='navigation'>http://www.winemakingandbeerbrewing.com/beer-history.aspx">historyof beer and more.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Choosing The Best Ice Cream Maker

Choosing The Best Ice Cream Maker
by: Sharon Chennault


You can make delicious ice cream at home, as good as any premium store brand, if you choose a good ice cream maker and follow a few tips. Ice cream makers can range in price from under $100 to over $500. The more expensive models contain built in freezing compressors. The less expensive models are perfectly suited for use in the home and come in two basic types. There is the type that uses rock salt and ice to cool the ice cream mixture and the type that has a canister that is placed in the freezer. Each of these is equipped with an electric crank or a manual crank. Your particular needs will determine which is right for you.

If you want to make a large quantity of ice cream, you will need to purchase a model that uses rock salt and ice. The canister models will only make up to 1.5 quarts at a time. If you would like to turn ice cream making into a family activity, you can choose the hand-crank model, which will also use rock salt and ice. The crank must be turned manually for a fairly long period of time, thus allowing each family member a turn. An electric crank is quite a bit easier than the manual crank models. You will also get more consistent results due to the bowl turning at a constant speed. Most electric crank ice cream makers will have an automatic cut off feature that will stop the motor when the ice cream reaches the desired consistency. The consistency is judged by the amount of resistance while the bowl is turning.

After you choose which type of ice cream maker is right for you, you will need to find the perfect ice cream recipe. Remember that the faster the ice cream freezes, the better it will taste and the smoother the texture will be. It will be best to pre-mix all your ingredients and let them chill for several hours before placing them in the ice cream maker. When your ice cream is done, it will resemble soft-serve ice cream. You can place the canister in the freezer for a few hours and you will be much happier with the results. If your canister is plastic, consider removing the ice cream as soon as it is done, and placing it in a metal bowl covered with foil. The metal will allow the ice cream to freeze faster and become firmer more quickly than in a plastic container.

You can purchase a mix that is quite easy to make into ice cream very quickly. While the mixes are convenient, the best homemade ice cream is made from fresh ingredients. Milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa if you desire will give you the best results. You can find numerous ice cream recipes, some which require cooking some which require no cooking. The ice cream recipes that do not require cooking are generally just as good as the cooked type, and require a lot less time. The best ice cream recipes usually contain eggs, however there are many recipes that do not use eggs if you or someone in your family is allergic to eggs.

About the author:
This article has been provided courtesy of Kitchen Junkie, http://www.kitchenjunkie.com/

Monday, February 25, 2008

Culinary Traditions Of France

Culinary Traditions Of France
by: Kirsten Hawkins


French cuisine is the amazingly high standard to which all other native cuisines must live up to. The country of France is home of some of the finest cuisine in the world, and it is created by some of the finest master chefs in the world. The French people take excessive pride in cooking and knowing how to prepare a good meal. Cooking is an essential part of their culture, and it adds to one's usefulness if they are capable of preparing a good meal.

Each of the four regions of France has a characteristic of its food all its own. French food in general requires the use of lots of different types of sauces and gravies, but recipes for cuisine that originated in the northwestern region of France tend to require the use a lot of apple ingredients, milk and cream, and they tend to be heavily buttered making for an extremely rich (and sometimes rather heavy) meal. Southeastern French cuisine is reminiscent of German food, heavy in lard and meat products such as pork sausage and sauerkraut.

On the other hand, southern French cuisine tends to be a lot more widely accepted; this is generally the type of French food that is served in traditional French restaurants. In the southeastern area of France, the cooking is a lot lighter in fat and substance. Cooks from the southeast of France tend to lean more toward the side of a light olive oil more than any other type of oil, and they rely heavily on herbs and tomatoes, as well as tomato-based products, in their culinary creations.

Cuisine Nouvelle is a more contemporary form of French cuisine that developed in the late 1970s, the offspring of traditional French cuisine. This is the most common type of French food, served in French restaurants. Cuisine Nouvelle can generally be characterized by shorter cooking times, smaller food portions, and more festive, decorative plate presentations. Many French restaurant cuisines can be classified as Cuisine Nouvelle, but the more traditional French restaurant cuisine would be classified as Cuisine du Terroir, a more general form of French cooking than Cuisine Nouvelle. Cuisine du Terroir is an attempt to return to the more indigenous forms of French cooking, especially with reference to regional differences between the north and south, or different areas such as the Loire Valley, Catalonia, and Rousillon. These are all areas famous for their specific specialty of French cuisine. As time has progressed, the difference between a white wine from the Loire Valley and a wine from another area has slowly diminished, and the Cuisine du Terroir approach to French cooking focuses on establishing special characteristics between regions such as this.

As part of their culture, the French incorporate wine into nearly every meal, whether it is simply as a refreshment or part of the recipe for the meal itself. Even today, it is a part of traditional French culture to have at least one glass of wine on a daily basis.

About the author:
Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food. Visit http://www.food-and-nutrition.com/for more information on cooking delicious and healthy meals.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cooking With Fresh Herbs

Cooking With Fresh Herbs
by: Mary Hanna


Herbs are fun and easy to grow. When harvested they make even the simplest meal seem like a gourmet delight. By using herbs in your cooking you can easily change the flavors of your recipes in many different ways, according to which herbs you add. Fresh herbs are great in breads, stews, soups or vegetables. Every time you add a different herb you have completely changed the taste.


If you are a beginner start slowly, add just a little at a time adjusting as you go along until you have it just right. You will see in most instances that an individual herb is associated with a particular food item. Basil is paired with tomatoes, Oregano with sauces, Rosemary with lamb and Chives with butter or cream cheese. Of course, none of them are limited to these items, but you will see them paired most often with that particular food. Use your imagination and experiment, experiment, experiment!


You can make herb vinegars for salad dressings, marinades, or soups. Herb oils are very useful in cooking whenever a recipe calls for it.


Fresh herbs as garnishes dress up any dish making it look truly spectacular. Lay individual sprigs of rosemary over broiled lamb chops. Chop fresh parsley and sprinkle it over the top of your potato salad. The combinations are endless and the outcome delicious.


Fresh herbs will keep in the refrigerator for several days but then you must freeze them. They can be frozen by laying them a paper towel and putting them in a plastic bag. Once they are frozen only use them in cooking not as garnishes. A friend of mine washes them, puts them an ice cube tray, covers them with water and then freezes them. When she needs them for soup, stews or sauces she just drops a cube in.


My favorite herbs to grow are basil, oregano, lemon balm, parsley and mint. Mint is great but be careful, mint can over run your garden. A tip here would be to bury an empty coffee can and plant the mint in it. The can prevents the mint from “creeping” all through your garden.


I love to make herb butters. Take a half of a cup of softened butter and mix in about 4 tablespoons of a fresh herb. Lay out a piece of saran wrap, place the butter in the middle roll the saran wrap up to form a “log” out of the butter. Put in the refrigerator and anytime you need a pat of butter just cut it off the “log”. (Hints for “log” butter: potatoes, bread, steaks, noodles or any kind of sauce).


A fresh herb in any salad dressing really makes it sparkle. You can use any herb or a combination, be creative.


I learned a trick a long time ago using basil, lemon and avocados to create and instant natural face mask. Put a big handful of basil in a blender and run it on high. Once the basil has been pulverized, throw in a half of an avocado and a large teaspoon of lemon juice, mix until smooth. Wash your face, pat it dry and gently rub the avocado mixture on. Leave it on as long as you like, then use warm water to it wash off.


These are just a few ways you can use fresh herbs from your garden. I am sure you will come up with many more. Happy cooking


About the author:
Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows her to grow gardens inside and outside year round. She has published other articles on Gardening and Cooking. For more information on gardening go to http://www.gardeninglandscapingtips.com,http://www.gardeningoutside.com,or http://www.gardeningherb.com for more information on cooking go to http://www.gourmetchefathome.com or contact her at mhanna@gardeninglandscapingtips.com

Friday, February 8, 2008

Barbecue Basics for all

Barbecue Basics for all
by: Laura Kjer



Since the Stone Age, man has been perfecting the art of cooking using a direct flame. If you were to ask someone about the history of barbecue, you would most likely get a response similar to the statement above. However that would not be quite right as there is a fundamental difference between simply cooking with a flame and having a barbecue. If you don't add some sauce, to the direct flame method, you are grilling, not having a barbecue. To truly barbecue is to baste and slow cook meat 5 or 6 hours at a low temperature (around 200 degrees), over wood or charcoal.



Today when you think of going to a barbecue, you may conjure up the idea of a hamburger or steak, so big and juicy, it melts in your mouth. Alternatively, perhaps a hot dog grilled to perfection with all the toppings. The phrase barbecue has evolved to mean either the meat served or the social event where the meat served
has been specially prepared to represent a barbecue taste. Regardless of which area of the US you choose as your favorite for barbecue, the barbecue is an American Tradition, handed down from generation to generation. There's no chance the barbecue party will lose it's appeal anytime soon.



While there's no question that the barbecue is an American delicacy, there are many different theories as to where its origins lie. The state of Texas, Virginia, the Carolinas, or Georgia, each area has it's own definition and history of barbecue. It may well be that each area has it's own rightful claim to the barbecue history as each uses different methods and sauces to make their own unique barbecue.



And there would be no BBQ without a Texas barbecue sauce, which is thick and sweet with a rich tomato flavour. Texas sauce also uses a dry-rub mixture of seasonings which is applied to the beef and then the meat is hung over the BBQ to slow cook.



The southeast barbecue sauce, is a thinner sauce, with more of a vinegary taste. Their meat of choice is likely to be pork. The method used here is to`use a pit or enclosure to concentrate the cooking heat and smoke around the meat whilst it is being prepared.




Almost every family has their own unique taste and method used to get just the right barbecue. At your next barbecue, if you want to rev up the conversation between barbecue connoisseurs, just casually ask, Do you know the difference between barbecue and grilling? Or, where did the barbecue originate? Of course, it may depend upon the number of drinks you have served as to the answers you get. But the responses are sure to be varied and interesting.




About the author:
Laura Kjer is the webmaster of
Shop Barbecue which is a
premier source of information about Barbecue. For more
information, go to: http://shopbarbecue.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Recipe for Rye Bread

A Recipe for Rye Bread
by: Kit Heathcock


The more I make bread, the more I am convinced of the importance of the kitchen being in the best position in the house. When we designed and built our house, I was determined that the kitchen should have a view and be on the front of the house. Now that it’s six-fifteen of a summer morning and I’m up early, kneading bread, because we’ve run out again, I’m especially happy to be looking out over a sun-soaked landscape to the distant mountains. Every time you make bread you’re guaranteed a good ten minutes of contemplation as you knead it, the mechanical rhythmic activity frees the mind to wander or switch off…very therapeutic. Having a view thrown in as well is just an added bonus.

I haven’t always made bread. It is a comparatively recent development. Making jam was the first breakthrough into self-sufficiency, then came the day when our local supplier of rye bread, who made a loaf that (miracle of miracles), all the children would eat, decided to switch recipes and use caraway in it…instant rejection by the whole family.

We’d stopped the wheat bread to try and help my son’s allergies and found it helped most of us, so apart from the occasional indulgence of fluffy white bread, I wanted to stay off it. There was no alternative; I would have to take the leap into bread making. The main reason that I’d resisted was that it seemed to take so long. First the mixing and kneading, then the rising, then knocking down and forming loaves, a second rising and finally the baking. Who could keep track of all that in the chaotic life of a three-child family?

So eventually I take the plunge, turn to my friend Nigel (Slater, not namedropping but he and Nigella (Lawson) are ever-present in my kitchen, in book format of course) and find a foolproof recipe for a white loaf, simpler to start off with white I think. Well the first try produced a reasonable, if huge, loaf, though my son still remembers that it was a bit doughy in the middle. Second try, I got two pretty perfect loaves and I was on a roll.

Now to find a recipe for rye bread. It seems that 100% rye is usually made by the sour dough method and I couldn’t see my family going for that, so settle for a half and half rye/whole-wheat recipe… triumph. Ok, my son the food connoisseur complained it was a bit too sweet, so next time round I reduced the amount of honey, but this recipe has been our staple diet ever since, and I am now truly ensconced in my kitchen, looking at the view, every other day, while I endeavour to keep the supply level with the ever increasing demand.

Any way, finally to the recipe:

500g rye flour
450g whole-wheat flour plus more for kneading
50g plain flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 10g sachet of instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons oil
670 ml milk
125 ml water

Warm the milk to lukewarm. Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and put in the yeast, then honey, then oil, pour on the warmed milk and water and mix. When it gets doughy turn out on to a well floured surface (it will be extremely sticky) and knead for 10 minutes. You will need to keep adding flour as you knead. It is better for it to be too sticky than too dry – you can always add more flour, but too dry will make a dry, hard loaf. After 10 minutes, put it back into the bowl with a plastic bag over it and leave in a warmish place for two hours or so. Then knock down, firmly pressing out the air, but not over kneading, then form into two or three loaves on a baking sheet, cover again and leave to rise for another hour. Then bake for 30 minutes at 190C until they sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaf. Cool on a wire rack

So how do I keep track of the bread making, in between school runs, mealtimes and the rest? Well I don’t always. There are times when I optimistically start the bread off, leave it to rise and four hours later remember about it, knock it down, forget to switch on the oven so it has had an extra day or so in rising time by the time it gets cooked. It does seem to be very forgiving though – whatever you do to it, you do generally get bread out at the end, it may not always be the perfect loaf, but then variety is the spice of life after all. There was one time it hadn’t quite finished cooking by the time I had to do the school run, so I asked my husband to take it out in ten minutes….. By the time I got back we had a very useful weapon against intruders. We didn’t eat that one…I think it was ryvita for lunch…!

Good luck with yours.

Copyright 2005 Kit Heathcock

About the author:
Sometime flower photographer, keen observer of the resonances of life and fulltime mother. Born in the UK but now living on a farm in the southern hemisphere. Contributor to the creation and maintenance of http://www.aflowergallery.com one of the homes of chakra flower art.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cooking Lesson: Seasoning Cast Iron Like The Pros

Cooking Lesson: Seasoning Cast Iron Like The Pros
by: Michael Lansing


In the days before we had non-stick cookware, we had the next best thing - seasoned cast iron cookware. While non-stick cookware has certainly outdone cast iron cookware in the non-stick category, cast iron pots and pans are still favored by many chefs, including the professionals because of their durability and ability to retain flavor.

But, if you're not lucky enough to have a hand-me-down from Grandma, you may find yourself confused about how to become a cast iron chef. Have no fear - you can learn to season cast iron cookware with the pros and keep them in great shape for years to come.


Seasoning New Cast Iron Cookware

The process is actually quite simple. When done correctly, your pans will last a long time and may even become your own hand-me -downs in the future.

1. Heat your oven to 300 degrees.
2. Coat the pan with lard or grease. (Be sure that you do not use vegetable oil or commercial cooking sprays. While they may seem easier, they will not only cause your cookware to be seasoned incorrectly, but they will also leave a sticky film on the outside of the cookware that is impossible to remove.)
3. Place the pan in the oven on the middle rack and allow it to bake for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the pan and pour out any excess grease or lard.
5. Put the pan back into the oven and bake for another two hours.
6. Repeat as needed

Many cast iron enthusiasts will swear upon repeating the seasoning process several times before ever using the cookware the first time. Each time you season the cookware, the seasoning bond becomes stronger. Many people will recommend that the first few times the cookware is used it should be used to cook greasy foods (bacon, fatty meats, etc.) to again strengthen the seasoning bond.


Re-seasoning Cookware

If you find that you seasoned the pan improperly the first time, or if food starts to stick to the pan after a period of time in use, you may want to re-season the cookware.

1. Wash the cookware thoroughly with a steel wool pad (doing this while the pan is warm and still safe to touch is best).
2. Make sure the pan is fully dry (use a towel if needed).
3. Follow the seasoning steps above to re-season the pan.


Cleaning Your Cast Iron Cookware

To make your cookware last the test of time, be sure to take proper care of it. Remember the creed of every enthusiast of cast iron - no soap and no steel wool. Soap and steel wool will cause a breakdown in the seasoning bond and should not be used to clean your cookware on a regular basis. If you're baffled at this moment, have no fear. Cleaning cast iron cookware is a breeze.

1. You'll need to rinse your cookware while it is still hot. If food is stuck to it, then scrape the pan or pot as needed.

That's it! Remember not to store food in your cast iron cookware because it may attach a metallic flavor to the food. In addition, store your pans with the lids off to prevent moisture from accumulating and rusting from occurring.

Now that you know the ins and outs to cast iron cookware, you can start creating your own family heirloom - as well as some great food!

About the author:
Mike Lansing is a retired chef who spent most of his time as a Head Chef in New Orleans after training in France. He spends his free time cooking for family and friends, as well as serving as a contributing editor for CookingSchools101.com which offers information on Cooking Schools for those wishing to enter the trade.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chinese Food

Chinese Food
by: Marci Crane

now holds a popular place among the entire population of the world. You can find a Chinese restaurant in every major city and in many smaller areas of the world as well. Why is Chinese food so popular? Is Chinese food healthy? What is the history of Chinese food?

The History of Chinese Food

The history of Chinese food1 is an interesting one. Unlike many cultures the Chinese believe that the preparation of food is an art and not simply a craft. The art of cooking Chinese food can include dishes and food preparation techniques which are difficult to develop and may require the expertise of a chef with lots of experience. One such technique is noodle pulling (scroll down to the bottom of the page to learn more about this technique). Noodle pulling requires skill and lots of practice and results in a delicious noodle dish. This article will refer to noodle pulling later on, but for now, let’s go back to the history of Chinese food.

Chinese food and the way it is prepared is very much influenced by the two major philosophies, which influence the entire Chinese culture. These dominant philosophies are Confucianism and Taoism. Both have these philosophies have influenced the way that the Chinese people cook and the way that they enjoy their food..

Confucianism and Chinese Cuisine

Confucius was the man behind the Confucianism beliefs. Among many other standards Confucius established standards for proper table etiquette and for the appearance and taste of Chinese food. One of the standards set by Confucius (you might have noticed this at an authentic Chinese restaurant) is that food must be cut into small bite size pieces before serving the dish. This is a custom that is definitely unique to the Chinese culture.

Knives at the dinner table are also considered to be a sign of very poor taste by those who embrace Confucianism beliefs. The standards of quality and taste that Confucius recommended required the perfect blend of ingredients, herbs and condiments--a blend which would result in the perfect combination of flavor. Confucius also emphasized the importance of the texture and color of a dish, and taught that food must be prepared and eaten with harmony. Interestingly enough, Confucius was also of the opinion that an excellent cook must first make an excellent matchmaker.

Taoism and Chinese Cuisine

Those who follow the Taoism beliefs focus on the health benefits of particular foods vs. the presentation of the same. Taoists search for foods that will increase their health and longevity. They search for foods that have healing powers. Many times these benefits were often referred to as ‘life giving powers’. For instance, the Chinese found that ginger, which can be considered to be a garnish or a condiment was found to be a remedy for upset stomachs or a remedy for colds.

Is Chinese Food Healthy?

Chinese food, when authentic is probably the healthiest food in the world. Some restaurants, which are not authentic, prepare their menu with highly saturated fats or with meats that contain unhealthy amounts of animal fat. These Chinese restaurants are not recommended and they are both neither authentic nor healthy.

Good Chinese food however, is prepared and cooked with poly-unsaturated oils. Authentic Chinese food does not require the use of milk-fat ingredients such as cream, butter or cheese. Meat is used, but not in abundance, which makes it easy for those who love authentic Chinese food to avoid high levels of animal fat. Many believe that authentic Chinese food is really the ideal diet.

Chinese Restaurants in Every Part of the Nation

Whether it is in a Tennessee Chinese Restaurant to a New York Chinese restaurant you are going to find culinary dishes that are both healthy and delicious. Savor the flavor with Chinese food!

1 The majority of the information found in this article can be referenced at the following website: http://asiarecipe.com/chicookinghistory.html


About the author:
To find out more information in regards to delicious Chinese food, or noodle pulling in Tennessee, visit http://royalpandarestaurant.samsbiz.com/page/18jcr/Home.html

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Garlic: A Quick Guide

Garlic: A Quick Guide
by: Tim Sousa


Garlic, there's nothing like the smell of garlic. It's great in soups and sauces, roasted with meats or on it's own, and it's wonderful mixed with butter and slathered on bread and then baked.

The scientific name for garlic is Allium Sativum. It is related to the lily and the onion. Although related to the onion, and having a flavor that very slightly resembles that of an onion, garlic does not bring tears to the eyes when chopped.

When buying fresh garlic, be sure that the head feels very firm when you squeeze it. Over time, garlic will soften and begin to sprout, which turns the garlic bitter. To store fresh garlic, keep it in a dark, cool place, such as the basement. Do not refrigerate or freeze the garlic, as it will begin to loose it's taste.

To peel a clove of garlic, place it on a cutting board, and put the flat of the blade of the knife against it. Press down on the other side of the blade with the heel of your hand, flattening the garlic slightly. The skin will come right off.

The strong flavor and odor of garlic come from sulfur compounds within the cells. The more cells that are broken, the stronger the flavor of the garlic will be. For the mildest flavor, just use a whole or slightly crushed clove of garlic. For a bit stronger flavor, slice or chop the garlic, and for the strongest flavor, mash the garlic into a paste.

Cooking garlic tames the strong flavor, and changes it in different ways, depending on how it's cooked. If using in a sauce, it can be sweated or sauteed. In sweating the garlic, it is first chopped finely, and then added to a cold pan with some oil, it is then gently heated, causing the oil to become infused with the garlic flavor. To sautee garlic, heat the oil in the pan first, and then add the chopped garlic, stirring frequently, and being careful not to let the garlic burn and become bitter.

Roasting the garlic softens the flavor, and makes it soft and perfect for mixing with cream cheese to spread onto toast, or just spread on the toast itself.

To roast the garlic, take a whole head of garlic, and remove the papery outer skin. Place the garlic on a piece of aluminum foil, and drizzle with some olive oil. Loosely wrap the garlic in the foil, and place it into a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the garlic and let it cool. When cool enough to handle, separate the cloves of garlic, and squeeze each one. The flesh should pop right out. The roasted garlic is great mixed with cheese or potatoes, or on it's own.

Don't be afraid to use garlic in your cooking. Garlic is flavorful, and healthful, and of course, it will keep those pesky vampires away.

About the author:
Tim Sousa is the webmaster for http://www.classy-cooking.com an online directory of free recipes.